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New IEMs for just over $100? Like you haven't heard this question before.

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

Hi guys,

 

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.

To clarify:

 

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.

post #2 of 6

Etymotic MC5, RE-ZERO, PFE112, Turbine and Hippo VB........

post #3 of 6

Flaming Max :D

 

Seriously though, I have both the Ety MC3's and the RE0's, both of which I consider some of the better options for metal - namely because metal requires both balanced and speed - which is a combination that people actually spend a lot of money for. 

 

I did a comparison review of the two, which I linked in my signature, but basically the difference is:

 

The RE0 is smoother, with an amazing airy treble extension and great speed, and shines with an amp. The MC3/MC5 has a drier, less forgiving sound, with great transparency, almost as much treble extension, much better bass extension, and leagues better build quality and isolation - 2 year warranty and a kevlar cable hoorah.

 

They both have a similar 'type' of sound, being balanced, and my metalhead friend who listened to both loves both a lot. The MC5 is probably overall a little more balanced, but you have to be a little wary of the slightly 'etched' sound they have if you are sensitive to sibilance. 

 

Both are going to sound a lot colder than your CX300, which I have heard. The CX-300's are warm and a little slow and mushy.

post #4 of 6
Thread Starter 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ZARIM View Post

Etymotic MC5, RE-ZERO, PFE112, Turbine and Hippo VB........


I'm considering the MC5s and the RE-ZERO. But this is the first mention of the PFE 112s. I looked them up and they do look promising. Could you tell me a bit more about your experiences with them? TrustedReviews.com seems to like them quite a bit.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by a_recording View Post

Flaming Max :D" width="" />" class="bbcode_smiley" height="" src="http://files.head-fi.org/images/smilies//biggrin.gif" title="" class="bbcode_smiley" height="" src="http://files.head-fi.org/images/smilies//biggrin.gif" title=":D" width="" />" width="" />

 

Seriously though, I have both the Ety MC3's and the RE0's, both of which I consider some of the better options for metal - namely because metal requires both balanced and speed - which is a combination that people actually spend a lot of money for. 

 

I did a comparison review of the two, which I linked in my signature, but basically the difference is:

 

The RE0 is smoother, with an amazing airy treble extension and great speed, and shines with an amp. The MC3/MC5 has a drier, less forgiving sound, with great transparency, almost as much treble extension, much better bass extension, and leagues better build quality and isolation - 2 year warranty and a kevlar cable hoorah.

 

They both have a similar 'type' of sound, being balanced, and my metalhead friend who listened to both loves both a lot. The MC5 is probably overall a little more balanced, but you have to be a little wary of the slightly 'etched' sound they have if you are sensitive to sibilance. 

 

Both are going to sound a lot colder than your CX300, which I have heard. The CX-300's are warm and a little slow and mushy.


(You're one of the first to get the reference. While other kids were watching pokemon, I was watching Sam & Max. Probably why I turned out so strange. )

 

I think the RE0s are taking a step down. Quality is a very big concern for me; I don't want to spend $100 or so only to have them fall apart or stop working. I thought about the MC5s, but I also considered the HF5s which is allegedly a step up. However, I have quite a bit of music that doesn't fit in the "high-fidelity" spectrum, such as pre-release demo tapes and 'underground' releases. Although my most-listened-to music is either FLAC or, at worst 256+ MP3, I still have some music that is below that. So, sibilance could be an issue, but I'm not entirely sure how much sibilance we're talking about here. Given I have a Cowon, I could turn on BBE to eliminate some MP3 artifacts, but if the sibilance is really that bad, then it might be cause for concern. In the same breath, do you think the HF5s would have a crisper presentation, or would it too strongly emphasize a poor recording?

 

I understand that both are going to sound more sterile than my current devices. But to be honest, I think that might be a change for the better. There's a lot of bass in my ears (Bass-boosted Sonys) but I'm interested in hearing more of the music. Although I do enjoy the bass to some extent, I think it's been messing with how I perceive tone. It'll be a big change, but I don't think it'll take too long to get used to.


Edited by Kayito-san - 9/16/10 at 10:06pm
post #5 of 6

^Haha well, I was playing Sam and Max when I was a kid. (I'm only 21 so it would make sense.) I was too young to even understand half of the references, but darn was that bunny rabbit hilarious. Absolutely awesome game.

 

The thing about the HF5 vs the MC5's is (and I'm not sure they changed this) but I think they switched to different cables and an angled plug for the MC5's out of durability concerns. Rawster who has a Cowon player didn't find the MC5s very sibilant when he used them on his J9 (I do on some tracks on my iPhone 4.) so it may just be my source.

 

The HF5 isn't a clear step up as far as I can gather, though there aren't many great direct comparisons atm. I do know that the MC5's have a pretty shocking review on Trustedreviews, but I'm not quite sure why.

post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 

I used to get up early on Saturday mornings to watch Sam & Max: Freelance Police. I downloaded the box set a while back and realized that this wasn't entirely a kids' show. Haha.

 

I think that pretty much seals the deal. I'm going to go for the MC5s. Thanks for your help!

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