This summer I spent three months teaching sailing off the Mediterranean coast of Egypt to the west of Alexandria. It was a summer I thoroughly enjoyed even through Ramadan and the vanishing act all the booze in the vicinity does (What’s that in the hipflask????). Anyway, more relevant to this forum I was to spend quite a proportion of my time watching not much happening on the water while topping up a tan so I took several earphones with me. This is my story of how they fared when faced with my music. Remember, these are only my opinions, YMMV.
I don’t have a favourite genre of music, I listen to everything apart from bassline and metal (although I have been known to dabble). I do listen to a lot of Runrig though and a lot of electronica. My most listened to tracks over the Summer were:
Runrig – Maymorning, Heading to Arcadia, Big Sky
Tensnake – Coma Cat
Labrinth – Let the Sun Shine
Mistabishi – From Memory (Matrix Remix)
Phil Coulter – Lake of Shadows
Pendulum – Encoder, Streamline
Courteeners – You over did it Doll
Ludovico Einaudi – Divenire, Lady Labrinth
Sebastien Tellier – La Ritournelle, Divine
Giveway – The water is wide, Lost in this song
50 Cent – Crack a Bottle, 21 Questions
Mimo – Will you be there (Seamus Haji Edit)
Seth Lakeman – Hearts and Minds, Kitty Jay, Race to be King
DJ Medhi – Signatune (Thomas Bangalter Mix)
The Draymin – Hold your Position, Heart Attack
Zapp & Roger – Computer Love
Ben’s Brother – Let me Out, Let the Ladder Down
Brett Dennen – San Fransisco, Make you Crazy
If you’re familiar with any artists there you may take my point, if you’re not familiar with at least 10 then you should be and Google will be your friend. How many are you familiar with?
A word about sources: I have been a long time user of sony mp3 players and at the moment I have: a818,a729,a816,b133 and b142. Since the only unlimited source of new music while there was itunes I also took an ipod nano 3g, my favourite of the nano designs. Anyway, on to the earphones in question.
(sorry about the stock pictures, I don't own a camera at the moment)
These are my favourite Earphones of the last year. They just sound good with every type of music and don’t have any real weaknesses. This being said I have had them now for nearly a year and notice the flaws in them I didn’t at first, they are not perfect by any means. After a while you start to notice the little things about them. Certain tracks expose a slightly uncontrolled very low end that isn’t as strong as twice the frequency range. There’s a bit of a hump in mid-bass which doesn’t sound that natural. The mids occasionally feel a bit recessed and vocals aren’t as sharp as perhaps they should be. I also sometimes wish comply’s worked better with them as isolation isn’t a particularly strong point but I always feel something of the sound vanishes whenever I use them. One of these days I will try modding/shortening some comply’s to see if it sounds any better. I still like them well enough to have bought a used pair as a backup off the bay of E and they are still not showing the amount of use they’ve had. I didn’t use them on the water at all over the summer. I doubt they’d survive but I wouldn’t put it past them.
There’s been a lot written about these of this forum. I like them. Microphonics are rather too present for my liking but they sound good. They are a bit dangerous when walking around and I’m occasionally left wanting for more bass but I just listen to different music. I’ve used ety grey foams, comply’s, ety gliders, ety tri-flange and shure olives with them, I’m using klipsch gels at the moment. These spent most of the summer in a UE box.
h2o audio Surge Mini-Pro
For a summer on the Mediterranean I needed some waterproof earphones after going through about 6 pairs last summer. I found these in a chandlery and I’d bought them within five minutes. They do what they say on the box, they are waterproof earphones that sound good. I’ve been a member of head-fi long enough to know that company’s I’ve never heard of are capable of producing good iem’s so I took a punt, still I wasn’t actually expecting good sound with the phrases that were written on the box. Bass is not quite as controlled as the beyer or ety but is by no means woolly. Mids I would describe as wholesome, or rich and textured, they make these nice to listen to. Highs aren’t the best around but they sparkle brightly enough without too severe a roll off. The included foam tips are IME completely worthless as the standard tips sound and fit better. Isolation isn't that strong but quite adequate on the water, in fact it was lucky the console of the RIB lit up like a Christmas tree whenever anyone was in trouble or I’m sure I’d have missed more people. Fit is very easy and the cable is fairly low-noise and fairly sturdy though I’m still not sure on the blue-ness of it all (I swear they almost glow in the dark). They’re good earphones.
Fischer Audio Eterna v.1
This is one bass heavy earphone, probably too much so for my tastes although it is fun. The midrange is nice and smooth and the whole sound is very engaging but after about half an hour I tend to miss the detail I get with the beyer/ety and even the pro-surge. Design is good in my ears/eyes and usability is great too. Due to the bassy sound and lack of detail and me having too many earphones I will be selling these here on head-fi if I can’t convince a friend to take them off me, as soon as I’ve found the box that is. They’re good, just not my style and underused, they have 100 times as many miles as hours on them, (they went to Africa and back).
There has been a fair bit written about these on head-fi and I think for the price they’re not bad. They’re not in the same league as my more expensive earphones but I was fairly pleased with them until I lent them to a fellow instructor in August and she had to dive in to rescue a worn out serial-capsizing crew, they were drowned quickly and humanely (or the iem equivalent). They had a burial at sea followed by a day of mourning.
Not bad, not exceptional. They sound better than sennheiser’s of yore. They look better too and usability is improved. Having said that they are £20 earphones for a reason, detail is lacking, highs are rolled off, bass extension isn’t brilliant. I will probably sell/give these away at some point in the near future.
UE super.fi 4
These cost me £17 in June, quite the bargain. They’re bassy for a single BA earphone. The stock tips are the least suitable collection I’ve had bundled with an earphone, I’m half convinced they included so many to round up the weight of the box or specifically to annoy me. These iem’s don’t work with comply’s at all, the stock silicone’s leave a lot to be desired in fit and isolation. I didn’t have any orange shure foamies (e2, se102) left so I tried Sennheiser tips for a while but they produce quite a bit of pressure behind them, metro.fi 100 tips had the same problem. At the moment I have two different tips on them, one is a Beyerdynamic tip, the other I think is a Sony Hybrid, though I can’t ever remember buying any of those. Once you’ve played around with the tips they produce a nice sound, sure bass extension isn’t the best and it’s not the most exciting sound ever but you could do worse. If these are at retail price leave them alone on the shelf. I think the basic problem with the tips is they need to be placed quite deep in the ear and most of the supplied ones are too big/deep.
UE metro.fi 220vi
Another bargain internet buy at £10. These are in pretty much every way the poor cousin of the super.fi 4. They have similar fit problems (although don’t come with as many tips), look like a cheaper version and try to produce the same sort of sound. The big problem is it doesn’t really work as well, highs are quite rolled off, bass is muddy, soundstage/imaging isn’t bad but overall I really wasn’t convinced. I gave these away over the summer, she likes them but I haven’t missed them.
Not much needs to be said about the M9 that hasn’t already been said. I had the M6 first and sold them to a friend and promptly missed them so bought the M9. I don’t have the soundest financial mind I think they were on one of ME’s many special offers at about £15. Like the M6 they’re a solid punt for anyone looking around the forums at that price. I still have mine, although I admit they have taken a bit of a back seat on exercise duty with the arrival of the Surge, I think they’re in one of the ubiquitous plastic UE cases somewhere.
One of these days I will stop buying earphones long enough to buy some really good earphones as I am starting to become dissatisfied with increasingly more of them. Maybe I should go for one with a really good warranty (MMD’s?) and the er4s. The big problem for me is in almost all cases in a “top-tier” iem discussion there are generally one or more people who prefer an earphone of £100 (generally the RE0 and I wasn’t particularly impressed with that one, particularly the build). If you want to discuss this, berate it or put my mind at rest/unease please feel free, I might very well ignore it but it may make you feel better if you can defend/big-up your own earphones….
Edited by Marcus_C - 3/5/11 at 12:45pm