Hey I'm just wondering what current iems are great with vocals without distorting or compromising anything else. So far I have gathered the SM3, Ck10, EQ-7, maybe FX700.
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Best current IEM that is great with vocals (Decided to go with DBA-02)
Gear mentioned in this thread:
I've heard all four and to my ears the e-Q7 and FX700 are the most natural with vocals. CK10 are a bit too cold and SM3 a bit too warm for my liking.
I think it's best explained in my A/B listening notes in this review. Both have strengths and weaknesses that make them overall on par in my book.
Thanks for that review James444. I guess my decision will be to buy the Ortofon e-Q7 because from that review it seems to indicate that vocals sound more emotional and thats what im trying to get at. Thanks again
I have not used the SM3, e-Q7, or FX700. There are certain a couple of those I wouldn't mind getting to know. I have used quite a few other products and a majority of the top contenders, and I'll share my thoughts on those.
Well, you're shooting for an earphone that is not recessed in the mids so no V shaped responses. You may even opt for something that's a bit mid-centric if you are specifically focusing on vocals. It sounds like you seek balance. You want to avoid the common V presentation and you want a package where the whole spectrum is presented equally. You may have the side focus if emphasizing vocals a little bit.
An obvious choice would be the SE530 or SE535. A great benefit of the Shure earphone is that the mids and vocals are dominant. Dynamic very high and effortless. The only downside is that notes are very short. It makes the earphone sound very clean, but you lose some texture and articulation within the note and some nuances are lost. There is also a lack of fullness and weight in lower frequencies.
I might lean you more towards something like the RE252 instead. While this isn't centered around the midrange, it is linear in response and very well balanced. One trick of a good earphone is to be able to portray both subtlety and explosiveness in the music. A whisper or quiet exhale should have that light, feathery presence. When a singer really belts out a note or guitar or drum played hard, there should be gusto, impact, a sense of power behind the presentation. Very few products out there are good about presenting that kind of range. The concept of subtlety alone is hard for a lot of earphones. Many either present the softness too loud, almost a medium presence or not at all and gets lost. It's also somewhat rare to have an earphone that is robust, energetic, and hearty in note and presentation and can actually present a sound with authority. It's extremely rare to have both traits. The RE252 is an earphone that shows that spectrum well, and this helps convey emotion and context within the music. The only other earphone I've personally used like this is the UM3X, but that is a bit of a V shaped earphone. The only downside with the RE252 is that note weight is slightly thin and doesn't carry the body that some other earphones offer. The greatest benefit to the RE252 is that it is exceptionally well balanced with zero effort, the most balanced and well presented earphone I've used. There may be a couple other options I would opt for in the end, but I would need EQing to choose them.
The UM3X is an interesting earphone. It is a device that will show you everything. It will let you hear sounds within the music you won't hear with any other earphone. It is very direct, personal, almost claustrophobic to some because it puts the singer pretty much right in front of your nose. I shy away from this earphone to some extent because it can stand to use some EQing if mids are a key focus of yours. The bass is emphasized, albeit flat. It drops down a number of dB through the midrange and comes back up in the lower treble. The earphone sounds decently balanced but with a specific bass and treble emphasis. It's an earphone that does an array of things a little bit better than most everything else out there. The frequency response isn't perfect, but it's smooth and flowing and fixable with EQing. The only major downside with this earphone is that it sounds a bit, artificial. It doesn't really present a sense of realism. It will show you music in naked truth and not falsely enhance anything. It will not make a bad recording sound good. It will not make a boring recording sound fun. It will show you wants there, everything that is there, in the plain, plain truth. These can sound boring and unrefined on poor recordings, but they can also sound amazing on good recordings. The RE252 and UM3X are the only two earphones that are so sensitive to the source quality. This goes to show you true to the source these devices can be. So many earphones out there simply hide or improperly play information and don't really show you what is there or color and present it in a more fun way. I do tend to lean you more specifically towards the RE252 though because the response is much flatter and the midrange and treble much better presented with no additional effort by you.
The CK10 was mentioned. This is an interesting product. The micro detail is outstanding. The life-like sense of realism is outstanding. This is a very, very good earphone. It can portray subtlety. It can portray texture and articulation. It is well balanced through the midrange. Treble is a little hot due to a moderate yet narrow spike at 12kHz. An open cell foam tip like a Comply T-400/T-500 can go a long way to help soak up some of this, but an EQing cut is beneficial to keep it from sounding slightly spitty and hot with some music. I personally preferred listening the RE252, but I would logically define this earphone as better. It offers a whole lot and in just the right way. If you want something that starts to approach perfections, this is getting close.
Now for vocals, specifically vocals, the best product I've used personally is not an IEM. I'm a big fan of the OK1 ear bud. It offers such a direct sense of sound that's more like daydreaming what you're hearing than hearing it from a device. It is extremely transparent, very aggressive, energetic, textured, heavily detailed, can portray subtlety and explosiveness, has excellent impact, decent body, excellent realism. It's just not an IEM and it both needs a powerful amp and a good EQ to really shine the way you seek. It needs quite a bit of EQing. It is a bit bright with a significant treble emphasis and the bass rolls off a bit early. Yet if you want to know the best product I've used that portrays vocals, it's this. I've been through a lot of earphones and one thing I kept doing is step back down to one. I'd buy a bunch, test, and work back to one product. I keep ending back at the OK1 as my keeper, but I do it knowing full well and need to dedicate a strong amp and a robust EQ to it to portray it in its best light. I will tell you for an IEM, my #2 would be the RE252, at least for personal preference, plus it requires nothing from you, no amp and no EQing. From a logical standpoint, I'd pick the CK10 as my #2 as I could technically argue it does a lot more things correctly than every other IEM I've used. A runner up from a logical standpoint would be the Triple.Fi 10, but it is one that needs EQing to balance out and shine in a balanced light. The Triple.Fi 10 is also a "fun" type earphone which comes with some unique traits, yet it is exceptionally refined and does a lot of key things really well.
In the end, you want an IEM. In the end you want something that will not throw vocals into the background and where everything in the music is presented equally. If you want a no fuss product, my suggestion is the RE252. If you have an EQ on tap, the CK10 is the logical winner. If you don't mind a hot top end or can at least live with it, the CK10 is the better choice. If you don't mind EQing whatever you run, I could add in the UM3X and Triple.Fi 10 as options. These offer a lot of good qualities and capabilities if you don't mind working to get them balanced. I may still lean you towards the CK10 or RE252 over them, but I would certain suggest them as options if their sound signatures and presentation favor you more.
- Best current IEM that is great with vocals (Decided to go with DBA-02)
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