Today I was able to get together with Rob (vorlon1 in Head Fi) to compare some IEM’s and to some degree small portable amps. This was not planned and it was just a last minute idea. We met in a quiet Starbucks in South Miami which ended up being a very good choice, since stuffed my fat face with some pastries. We had the following gear available:
- Two 160 Gb iPod Classic, one loaded with Apple Lossless and the other with high quality MP3’s.
- A Head Direct HiFiMAN HM-801 with a Kingston 32 Gb SDHC card loaded with FLAC files.
- Two ALO docks, one an older (and still my favorite) Six Shooter, and the second an SXC 18 gauge unit.
- iBasso T3 amp.
- iBasso D4 amp/dac with HiFlight’s TopKit.
- Xin’s Reference with a C5 amp module.
- RSA P51 Mustang.
- UE TF10 iem.
- Head Direct HiFiMAN RE-252
- Westone UM2
- Westone 2
- Earsonics SM3
- Audio Technica CK10
- Ortofon eQ7
- Yuin PK1 and OK1.
We spent about 2 and 1/2 hours going back and forth and I really appreciate Rob’s time since it allowed me to compare several IEM’s that he owns and which I am thinking of purchasing. I will not spend a lot of time describing the differences I heard but I will say that my overall favorite unit was the Audio Technica CK10. Its high and mids are IMO top notch and surpass all the others. Sadly this unit is discontinued and hard to find.
I also found the Ortofon eQ7 to be as good and depending on the mood/song it would get ahead of the CK10 or just fall behind. Either unit would have made me happy, like the AT it demands attention due to its high level of detail. I would rank the AT and the Ortofon as top tier of the units I listened too.
The second best for me was the Westone 2. Here I will say that the Westone 2 becomes the top performer if I plan on listening for long periods of time. It is a bit warmer and it does not demand the attention that both the CK10 and the eQ7 do. I would most likely buy the Westone 2 and will look to get the CK10 on the used market.
Many have praised the Earsonics SM3 and to be honest I was not too impressed by it. I would choose either of the AT or Ortofon as being more detail, clear, wider soundstage, and overall better presentation. BTW, the cable from the split to the earpieces is a bit short in my opinion and it could benefit from a couple of additional inches. Of course we all hear differently and YMMV.
Here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure.
Hopefully Rob will drop by and add his impressions. BTW, I borrowed his Westone 2 and they may end up being mine.