It's been a while since I've been on here, but since getting back into school, I've become a lot more dependant on mobile headphones. I listen to music more frequently now, but most of my listening happens when I'm away from home, in between classes, or just 'going somewhere'.
My current setup is:
[FLAC] --> Cowon S9 --> Sony "MDR-EX32LP" Earbuds
So far they've treated me fairly nicely, but the more time I spend listening through these, the more I begin to crave a more detailed presentation. I love these little buds, and for $20 or so, they've served me well. But it's time for an upgrade. My price range, ideally, would be about $100 CDN give-or-take; I wouldn't mind spending more if I thought the additional cost would be worthwhile.
Looking for a pair of IEMs
Price range: ~$100 CDN ± $25
My budget is subject to change pending a conclusion.
My musical tastes do vary based on my mood, and week-to-week, but overall I find myself following approximately this trend:
*Metal – 65%
Technical Rock – 17%
Jazz/Experimental – 8%
Classical – 5%
Dubstep/House/Psychedelic – ~4%
Else – ~1%
* I'm not talking Iron Maiden or Black Sabbath. I listen to extreme metal.
What I'm looking for in an IEM:
- Speedy presentation – I listen to a lot of extremely technical music
- Smooth but crisp treble – Typically guitar tone has quite a bit of treble, plus I like to pay attention to drums
- Deep yet balanced bass – I find a lot of headphones tend to over-emphasize bass, and although I do feel bass is important in a lot of my music, I do not want to be overwhelmed by it, nor do I want my headphones to feel 'shallow'
- Rich, authentic mid-range – Given the complexity of the music I enjoy, I would prefer a somewhat balanced presentation. No mid-range 'scoop' please.
- Detail and presentation – Kind of the point of hi-fidelity audio, right? I'd like them to prove their worth in terms of detail and presentation, but I would like a pair of headphones that doesn't over-do it and make my MP3s sound absolutely unlistenable. In addition to high-fidelity recordings, I listen to a variety of underground musicians, and as such would like to be able to enjoy these artists, whom don't necessarily have access to the best recording equipment.
Headphones I have owned and/or enjoyed:
- Grado SR225i – I bought a pair of these just under 2 years ago, and loved their presentation of electric guitar. They had the right kind of treble to make the faster, angrier licks really stand out. Their only downside was the lack of bass depth and the lack of isolation. If I could get in-ears that sounded like these headphones, I would be exceptionally pleased. Sadly, the Grados have fallen into disrepair and I have not been able to use them for several months.
- Ultrasone Pro 900s – I bought these about a year ago, and while initially confused by their awkward bass presentation, I grew fond of these cans. I found they were exceptionally well suited for 'unaltered analog', and I've since been using them to monitor my own guitar playing. Although I do enjoy how these cans sound, they're too bulky to wear them around campus, not to mention their rather steep (read: theft-worthy) price.
- Monster Beats by Dr. Dre – I bought these a couple of years ago when they first came out, and promptly returned them. 'Nuff said.
- Sennheiser CX300B (previous model to the CX300-II) – For a long time, these used to be my go-to headphones for portable listening. I used them so frequently that they were stepped on pretty much once a week. Needless to say, they're broken now, which is a shame. Once these buds died, I was forced to switch to my 'backup pair', the…
- Sony MDR-EX32LP – Not bad for a $20 pair of earphones, unrepentantly bassy but otherwise fairly smooth. Evidently, they don't give one a very good presentation of the finer points to the music, but for general listening, they've served me well.
- UltimateEars Metro-Fi "7-something" – I owned these for like a week or two before the left bud conked out. Because my father had bought them in the states during a business trip (it was very thoughtful of him), I couldn't return them or inquire about a warranty. I'm not impressed, UE, not impressed at all.
- Skullcandy "Smokin' Buds" – The only thing I enjoyed about these headphones was their name. They broke instantly. Instantly.
Headphones (earbuds) I've been considering:
- HiFiMAN "RE-ZERO" RE-0 – I think it might have been Joelby who first recommended these headphones to me, and I believe he may have let me hear them once. I could be wrong, but I somehow recall them being easy on bass and having excellent treble presentation. I understand that these particular eadbuds have had some excellent reviews in terms of their sound, but I've seen a few complaints about their build quality. Nevertheless, I'd like to hear some opinions on these earphones.
- Etymotic HF-5s – I've heard that these are "really good headphones". I honestly don't know anything else besides their alleged "really good"-ness. HeadRoom's staff & customer reviews give this headphone five friggin' stars. Out of five stars. That's pretty good, apparently, but it's still HeadRoom (whom have 'recommended' Skullcandy) so I'm skeptical. These are a bit over my budget, so if I were to go for these, they would have to be worth it.
- Klipsch Image S4 – I haven't heard much about these, but HeadRoom's customer reviews seem to really like it. I'm mildly skeptical. Grado GR8 – I've scarcely heard anything about these at all, but given they're a Grado, I'm curious. (Can you say fanboy?)
- Monster Turbines – I've heard mixed reviews. My experiences with the Beats by Dr. Dre suggest that these would be a poor choice in terms of bang-for-buck, but I've seen a few positive reviews for them so I'm not going to dismiss them right away.
My knowledge of IEMs is pretty limited, and I've been out of the game for several months. Please let me know if you think there's an alternative that I haven't listed.