First of all, this site is the bomb. In my search for a new pair of iem's, 90% of the time I've come back to head-fi.org. The community is large and dedicated and friendly, and the reviews are excellent.
My descent into IEM madness began after I'd gone through about 5 pairs of stock ipod earbuds and decided I needed something better. After much searching I settled on the Klipsch Image S4's as good value, comfortable, and forgiving of low source quality (the last point isn't an issue now). They didn't disappoint in the SQ department, but I had issue with fit and durability. Firstly, the only way I could get a decent fit was to wear them upside down and over ear. Secondly, the stress reliefs on both sides split all the way until the cable gave out on one side. They cost AUD$139 and lasted 4 months.
That was 3 days ago, and I'm deep in the throes of iem withdrawal. I spend 6-12 hours a day using them, and often sleep in them too. I really can't live without a decent pair. After agonizing over the choices, I finally caved and settled on the HiFiMan RE0's due to the overwhelming amount of positive reviews and comments on the net. They seem to fit the bill in all respects (value, comfort, durability, SQ) however I'm still worried about the reported lack of bass, esp. coming from the S4's. Will they more than meet my expectations?
I only just ordered the RE0's from Head Direct, and I'm currently after a second pair that will make up for what the RE0's lack (if they indeed lack anything). The RE0's will be my portable ipod iem's, while the second pair will be mostly used at home for movies/music/gaming on my laptop.
My budget is about US$100-200. I'd like good overall sound quality, perhaps leaning a little towards bass. They need to be comfortable and not have major issues when lying down in them (the S4's were a little annoying in this regard, but I got by).
Now a major concern. The output on my laptop is a Creative X-Fi Surround 5.1 USB soundcard. I know this is in no way an audiophile setup, so will I even hear the difference in a $200 pair of phones without a DAC or amp?
These are the models that have come to my attention:
Radius DDM - I was contemplating these as my first choice, but I was held back by possible fit, and comfort problems and poor isolation. Otherwise they seem perfect SQ-wise, and I'm still quite keen on these (very intrigued by reviews). I've heard a new model is coming out this year, better to wait? (I'm steadily reading through the 55 page appreciation thread... so tempted now).
Fischer Audio DBA-02 - These seem like a good alternative to the DDM's in SQ, but with a more practical design. Problems: difficult to find, lack of stress relief? (Turns out I can get these at treoo.com, based is Singapore. They're back ordered til October tho).
Panasonic RP-HJE900 - SQ might be slightly lower than the other two, but they look awesome, are made out of fake diamonds, and have detachable cables (love this feature). Also difficult to find, but less expensive.
Ultimate Ears SuperFi 5 - Similar thoughts to the Panasonic, but without the cable feature. Easier to find.
I think there were others, but I can't remember them. Please comment/suggest/advise.
Finally, since the Aussie dollar is so strong against the USD atm, prices for premium iem's are ridiculously overpriced here, so I'm pretty much set on importing. I don't mind having to ship overseas for returns, I'm just worried that some warranties may not be covered overseas. If you can suggest something, I'd appreciate a good online store to go with it. I've found AccessoryJack.com and they seem quite good w/ international warranties.
Mammoth first post, I know but you're still here, thanks for reading