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IEM with the widest soundstage you know? - Page 2

post #16 of 25
Thread Starter 

I have the IE8 but it's not even close to my home theater system. Maybe headphones??? 

post #17 of 25
I think that's a bit of an unfair comparison, the IE8s are stereo IEMs and your home theatre system is 5.1 surround I guess, composed of at least 5 speakers and a sub-woofer, it's like saying a black and white photocopy looks nowhere near as good as an original color photograph.
post #18 of 25
Originally Posted by cn11 View Post

SM3 > DDM > IE8.

waaaaa?  DDM???  are you serious? 

post #19 of 25

SM3, IE8, DDM, FX700, TF10Pro.........

post #20 of 25

Hi mvw2!


I totally agree with your considerations as to what should be an IEM with excellent soundstage. And this is exactly what I look for in a headphone, before any other characteristic he possesses. If a particular phone is not capable of creating a nice soundstage/image of what's playing, he is not for me.

From the moment the Kiplsch Custom 3 is no longer manufactured, you indicate which other phone with these features (BA and dynamic)?





Originally Posted by mvw2 View Post

I see an earphone with an excellent sound stage to have a certain mix of qualities.

1) a natural sense of space, not too close or too far

2) excellent transparency where the earphone is not heard, just the sound

3) able to place sounds in pinpoint locations, the correct locations

4) limitless depth, should not sound boxed-in.  Something should be perceived as sounding 100 feet away if it is supposed to be 100 feet away.

5) limitless proximity, there should be an ability for sounds to be perceived as if it is an inch from your ear

7) a sense of space, area, the ability to provide enough ambient detail to recreate the recording area

8) if right, it should be good enough to fool you into believing a reproduced sound is a sound happening in the real word (ex. talking in the recording makes you think a roommate is talking to you in real life and you take the earphone off to see what he/she wants)


There really isn't much out there that does everything well.  Certain earphones do this or that great or a few things great, but most don't really pull everything off to get that "it's like I'm there" kind of presentation.  There's almost always one shortcoming or another that limits the immersion and illusion.  In terms of IEMs specifically, the Custom 3 has been my favorite and does the most stuff right.

post #21 of 25

With drivers firing right into your ear canals, "big soundstage" in IEMs pretty much just has to be a synonym for "response dip around 5 KHz".

post #22 of 25

While sticking drivers right in your ears isn't the greatest idea, the concept doesn't exactly limit you.  Your mind will still perceive sound as it does naturally.  It is up to the earphone to (a) be completely invisible to the listener (transparent sound, no physical vibrations of housing) and (b) and convey information in the correct way to accurately recreate what the mics picked up during recording.


As for the Custom 3, yes, it is no longer manufactured.  However, it is available on eBay quite readily and for just $99.


I think this thread will have a lot of fun arguments as to what is meant by a big sound stage and which earphones have that.  To some folks, it's perceptive size around your head or in cases inside your head.  To others it is the perceptive depth of the sound stage as in this noise actually sounds like it's far away.  To some it may just be a strong or maybe even weak left to right image.  It may depend on what "big" represents.  For me it can be two things: depth and perceived size. 


Depth is a big factor.  A lot of earphones can sort of make a small sphere or in cases a more football shaped space of sound, and most of the locational sense of the sounds in that music will be placed in that space or painted on the surface of that shape.  An earphone with great depth will have a sense about it that distancing is infinite where no sounds are walled into a limited proximity.  In this light, I see earphones like the UM3X as having a big sound stage.  Yes, you start effective up on stage with the singer right in front of your face, claustrophobic to some people, but the depth is perceptively infinite and without limits.  A far away sound sounds far away. 


The second measure is relative size.  This is more the sense of is it sort of in the head or outside the head kind of presentation.  It's the kind of thing where you hear what should be a distant sound from the left or right side and you perceive that sound right at the earphone or perceive it farther away beyond the earphones.  Something like the V-Moda Vibe was good about creating a big sound that was perceived as originating from outside of the earphones, sort of that "big can" sound as people say.  The sound stage was garbage with those earphones, but the sound was big. 


In the end, I value the concept of being able to portray proximity and distance well.  The inside the head, outside the head concept, I have mixed feelings for. 


I tend to find absolute transparency fixes everything as long as depth can be perceived.  Your mind will make it work.  Once the earphones are forgotten, the mind will create a believable space.  My OK1 earbuds are a good example.  The sound stage could be described as a little in the head, but transparency is outstanding and depth is limitless.  Once you forget the earphones are there, you just start perceiving the sounds at the mentally processed distances.  Absolute transparency is a hard thing for a lot of earphones.  Very few can really become what I describe as invisible.  I can think of only two earphones I've ever used that are really good at this, my OK1 buds and the SA6.  I might almost say the SE530 and RE252 as runner-ups, but neither quite did it completely.  By transparency I mean sound just exists, more like you're thinking or daydreaming the sound into reality than you hearing a device play or recreate that sound.  Most products out there retain the sense that it is playing the sounds you hear or at least a presenting the sounds in a way that aren't forgetable.  Absolute transparency alone doesn't mean everything either.  The SA6 is perceptively invisible, but the sound stage isn't super, at least in terms of placing sounds in a virtual space.  It's more like the sounds are just out there and you hear them but they aren't stuck somewhere in a multi-dimensional place.  Even earphones like the Custom 3, ER4S, or C700 which do have great sound stages end up lacking the transparency.  Sound stage greatness is the ability to do everything well. 


For me, the OK1 buds have been the only thing that's done enough of the right things well enough.  A slew of other products do a number of the right things and some do certain things incredibly well, but it seems so hard to have everything all at once.  Even the OK1 isn't perfect.  It's simply good enough in the right areas to be believable.  Earphones like the Custom 3, UM3X, ER4S, C700, etc. have a lot of the right stuff, and in various ways it is enough.  For a lot of folks, I feel it would be more than enough to be happy.  There are a lot of earphones out there that are crap.  For some, actually hearing a sound emitted from a perceived spot in space is neat in its own right.  To have an actual sense of direction, distance, a sense of the recording space (ex. room echos) is a big thing for some people.  To have it done with some relative accuracy or even linearity can be a big deal.  Earphones like the ER4S, UM3X, C700, and Custom 3 are some really cool devices in terms of creating this virtual space.  The ultimate goal is to have it created well enough to mistake it for reality.  That final step is a hard one, a step that most every product out there can't really do.  My OK1 buds have been the only thing that's been good enough to fool me on multiple occasion.  The RE252 has done it to be once.  Nothing else I've used has.

post #23 of 25



I only disagree over the Shure SE530, who I also have. The sound of this phone, directly plugged into the headphone-out of the player, sounds very condensed or enveloped. I can not "hear" the silence between the sounds of instruments. The phone is quite detailed, however, this lack of expansion sound just gathering all the sounds.
If you use a resistor with the SE530, like the "P" to "S" adapter, things are much better, because the sound is deployed or expanded. With this configuration, the space between sounds is much better and the perceived soundstage, imaging, separation and aeration, quite pleasant.
Nor do I agree with the clarity of the SE530 that you claim it has. For me, the phone is dark and his recessed treble do not help in the task of building this clarity.

The ER4, who I also have too, is another story. Absolute and perfect image and clarity. The soundstage is not very large, however, is very real and we can feel the size of the studio where the music was recorded. Moreover, in some songs, you realize the conversation away from the microphone, like the snap of the fingers and the beat of drum stick.
This phone is so special and has the right tonality, so that is possible to mentally remove any warmth placed by an amplifier or player.

I am very curious to test a Sennheiser IE8, though, that leaves me with one foot behind it is this huge soundstage (perhaps unrealistic?), and a dark sound that could compromise the tonality of the phone, another aspect that I greatly value.

Actually, I believe the concept of soundstage is not well understood by some here. Soundstage, to me, is the set of sound characteristics that allow riding, mentally environment where the music was recorded, as well as the position of each artist. Thus, soundstage would be the assembly of the space, imaging, separation of instruments and aeration among all sounds of the headphone.

Finally, as I understand, the Custom 3 and ER4 share the same sound signature?





post #24 of 25

Funny that MVW2 mentioned the OK1. While away last week, I was listening via the OK2 and once I got the 'presence' feeling right with careful use of the volume, I was absolutely stunned by its soundstage. It felt as though I was standing in the middle of the band and was so incredible, that I was riveted to the music and lost sight of the fact that I was listening on earbuds. Funny though, it worked far better with my eyes shut since with them open, I was far more aware of the room which didn't match the room I was listening to I suppose.


I normally use Klipsch X5 or X10 but the OK2 really was good and far cheaper. I don't normally hear much soundstage with buds if I'm honest and so tend not to listen out for it and focus far more on depth of sound and tone rather than the image other than immediate left, right and centre.

Edited by iancraig10 - 8/19/10 at 10:41am
post #25 of 25


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