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IEM or head phone around $ 100?

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 

Hi guys,

I'm new to this forum and I regret that I missed it when I previously did my mini-search for a good headphone or IEM. It's superb to see people putting their efforts enriching this community by writing reviews.  I would like to appeal to your expertise in choosing the right IEM (or head phone) for my iPod Classic 120 Gb with a budget around $ 100. I noticed many people advise Cowon or an amp for the iPod, but I'm more looking for a non-amp solution.


I currently have the following IEM's/head phones in my mind:


- Head-Direct's Re0 (because of the pure sound, but it's not durable according to some reviews on Amazon and in the Re0 appreciation thread)

- Bose IE2 (because it's said to be very comfortable and because it's Bose, it's probably also durable)

- Head-Direct RE-ZERO (better bass than Re0)

- Panasonic HJE900 (gives you the impression you are listening to a concert right in front of you, but seems to be a bit too agressive?)

- Brainwavz M3 (advised by Kadano, but no professional reviews or comparisons available yet. It seems to be good in build quality and comfort though)

- Sunrise Xcape (seems a good alternative to the RE-ZERO)


I'm listening to a wide range of music:

Classical (vivaldi, Beethoven,..)

Old and new jazz (Django Reinhardt, Nina Simone, Keith Jarret,..)

Electronical (Moby, Paul Kalkbrenner, Portishead),

(alternative) pop (Arsenal, Admiral Freebee,..),

Dance/trance/house. Explosive basses are less important to me.


What's important to me next to the SQ:

- no microphonics (altough I will probably carry them over the ear, I want to use them when I'm jogging)

- good comfort (I have small ear channels and have had problems with other iems like the Creative Aurvana and Nuforce NE-6)

- good built quality (I want to use them a couple of years)

I have had experience with the following simple head phones/IEMs:

  1. Creative EP-630: a very nice upgrade from standard Sony Ericsson K750 earbuds
  2. Creative Aurvana: since I was satisfied of the EP-630, I thought this 'expensive' newcomer from Creative would be great. But it was a big disappointment for me, it didn't fit well and I liked the sound of the EP-630 better.
  3. Sennheiser PX 100: I'm quite statisfied about the sound of this subtle head phone. Unfortunately no noise cancellation and the reviews of its successor (PX 100 II) are not so great.


Can an IEM produce a 'full and rich sound' like a head phone does? It seems to me that a head phone is anyhow superior to an IEM because of the space availability.





Edited by Skoj - 11/17/10 at 4:48am
post #2 of 24
Thread Starter 

Anyone? :)

post #3 of 24

Well the RE0 are difficult to drive so that wouldn't be a good choice in combination with a ipod. I owned the RE0 and thay sounded nice but lacked bass, which you seem to like.

The Bose could be a option, but I don't know anything about them apart from what I read on their website.

Recently I bought the Phonak PFE Perfect Bass to replace my RE0 which had broken (odd thing, but that's a different story). I like them more than my old RE0. Finally I got nice bass with enough clarity for me.

Problem with the PFE is a bit the same as the RE0. My little brothers ipod nano (3rd gen) couldn't drive them properly, sometimes the bass was good sometimes there was almost no bass (according to him). With my D2 he said it was way better.


But hasn't Bose a return policy if you don't like it? I thought they did have that in The Netherlands here.


Also, did you see the Sunrise SW-Xcape. That could be an option, as it's a warmer RE0 like in-ear.

post #4 of 24

I think that Brainwavz M3 could be a good fit for you (as you wrote you enjoy EP-630 more than Aurvana). They cost 90$, but there is a pre-sale until Sunday (10$ less). All previous Brainwavz earhpones have been reviewed as the respectively top of their class and all M3 reviews as of now are very positive. They are said to be somewhat similar to RE0, but with better build quality, higher bass quantity (and very good bass quality) and a general "fun", yet accurate sound. They are thus of course less analytical than RE0.


If you simply want earphones that are good for electronical music, I can clearly recommend Brainwavz M2. They are only 60$ (50 during presale, but they are in stock currently) and have great bass, really good mids and decent highs. Yes, I know that you wrote that an explosive bass isn't important to me, but for the price they really excel in the lower frequencies and electro/trance/dance/house sound very good on them, as well as most rock (but you don't seem to listen to them). Most classical music would definitely sound MUCH better on M3, and on your RE0 even more.

post #5 of 24

Consider the RE-ZERO, the elder brother of the RE0. For $20 more you get a better balanced sound with a smoother, more forward midrange. They're also easier to drive than the RE0. Look at the pictures in some reviews and see whether the adapter you have to use will be a problem for you; if not they're a very good option for $100 and a great hi-end IEM.

post #6 of 24
if you liked the re0 sound , you can go for the re-zero which many consider a different yet upgraded re0 (i bought one from amazon.co.uk for 90 euros) if you want sth cheaper/fun the M2 is a very good pick and you save some money sunrise is also a contender at that price it all depends on what are your sound priorities and likes
post #7 of 24
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the reactions! I'm currently listening to the Aurvana which I gave my mother a few years ago and I see why Brainwavz M3 could be a good fit, since the Aurvana kind of mutes some sort of basses (not all of them). I haven't tested the sound of Re0's, but I can imagine that it also lacks in bass and since I'm listening to electronical/dance/house/.. 30-40% of the time, I'm more leaning towards the M3 or RE-ZERO. I wanted to see how my classical and jazz music sounded like on a Re0, but if a M3 can give me an intersection between the two I think that would be the best choice at the moment. The M3 also seems to be more comfortable and durable than the Re0 and RE-ZERO, which is very important to me, it's still $100 and I'm planning to use them a couple of years :)


About comfort: I liked the way I could put my head phones on and didn't need to worry. But with these Aurvana's and the Nuforce NE-6 I tried the other day, it was a whole show to put them in my ears, the tips easily slip out again or are too big. I hope the foam tips and ear hooks that go with the M3 will be more comfortable.


The Sunrise is like a better copy of the Re0?

Edited by Skoj - 11/12/10 at 5:34pm
post #8 of 24

No, the Sunrise Xcape simply has a slightly different emphasis. It is slightly less analytical (which some consider worse, others better), and warmer. 


And yes, M3s will probably last very long. The onlybad thing about them is that they have no real strain relief on the phones. But as the cable is so sturdy, I don't think that really matters. The difference between RE0 and RE-ZERO is not big and if you are not a real audiophile who can afford just buying another pair for 100$ although he has a similar one, I'd rather consider it a wasteof money.

With the M3s I don't think you can do anything wrong; they should complement your RE0s really well, especially considering the genres you listen to. And in case you don't like them, I'm sure you can easily resell them to someonenear you for 5 € less or so :)

post #9 of 24

If you want clarity like the RE0 offers, but better durability, isolation, and natural sound, I would suggest the Etymotic Mc5 for $80. They use physical acoustic tuning to match the frequency response of their earphones to how the human ear hears. The triple flange eartips also offer a great seal and incredible isolation. From going to CanJam, the only 'phone better for this much realism was the Audeze LCD-2 at over $700.


Heres what I mean about tuning... Other headphones have mostly empty space inside them.



post #10 of 24

Hd555s seem to be a good all rounder and you can find them for like $85 on amazon new..you might get it even cheaper because its gonna be discontinued soon from what I've heard

post #11 of 24

RE-ZERO all the way. It will beat HD555 and Phonak PFE IMO and will sound better than RE0 unamped. But the new Etymotics - the MC5s - are no nonsense either. I really like Etymotic IEMs. If you can afford it, get both RE-ZERO and MC5 and keep the one you will end up liking more. If you can't afford both, I think RE-ZERO should fit your requirement of full, headphone like sound better.

Edited by Pianist - 11/12/10 at 9:24pm
post #12 of 24
Thread Starter 

The MC5 seems great for comfort, noice cancellation and it's a more known brand. But I see the review of the MC5 doesn't seem to be very good, nor the reactions?

Originally Posted by Pianist View Post

RE-ZERO all the way. It will beat HD555 and Phonak PFE IMO and will sound better than RE0 unamped.


Nice to hear that an IEM of $ 100 can sound better than a good head phone, it seemed to me weird because of the smaller build and space for little speakers? I'm a bit distant for the RE-ZERO because of the bad experiences of the Re0 for durability. According to Kadano and the Multi-IEM thread the RE-ZERO is like the Re0 with some small changes, the low end is slightly fuller, but I don't have an idea how this will sound then. More like my Creative Aurvana? I can always turn on the equalizer function, but it seems to me some what crazy to manipulate the sound for the more analytical RE-ZERO. I'm a pianist myself, so I think I will like the analytical sound, nevertheless I'm currently still leaning to the M3 for the comfort, durability and better bass.

Edited by Skoj - 11/13/10 at 3:34am
post #13 of 24

There are no detailed professional reviews of the M3s yet (ClieOS, ljokerl), so it might be a little risky for you, especially considering they might be too warm for you. I think the Sunrise Xcape would be great for you; it's a bit warmer than RE0 and not as treble-centered. ClieOS reviewed it with SQ 4.6 and Value of 5 (SDA(tm)), the build quality also seems to be nice. Price is 80$ too.


I think that you should go for M3 if you want to have earphones only to compliment your RE0 – they are already excellent for Classical and Jazz, so it seems reasonable to me to get earphones that are great for the other genres. If they really are similar in general sound to M2 (of course with btter all-around quality, especially on the highs), they should have a very amazing, euphoric sound that totally draws you into the music. If you want to have excellent instrument separation etc. on your second pair too, you should better go with Xcape. You can think of it this way: on one end of the spectrum are your RE0s, and on the other one M3. If you go towards M3, but take a slight sidepath, you'll land on the Xcapes. (That's only what I understood from reviews, I haven't heard any of them yet unfortunately)

post #14 of 24
Thread Starter 

Hmm, I could wait on the detailed M3 review of ljokerl and suffer a bit more with my Apple earbuds :) Btw, I tried to search for the website of Brainwavz, but could only find mp4nation?


Unfortunately I can't permit myself to buy a second pair :) I listen to classical/jazz 20% of the time, but mostly it's electronical, alternative pop or the techno genres. If I turn on the Dance eq on my ipod with Creative Aurvana's, the bass sounds awful (disturbed and stretched out). So I guess you lose sq with eq in any case.

The Xcape seems like a good all arounder and a good alternative to the Re0, but it's said to have the same built quality of the Re0..

Edited by Skoj - 11/13/10 at 6:00am
post #15 of 24

"you lose sq with eq in any case"

No, that's not true. It might be true that it's true for Apple EQ, though, but luckily I don't own Apple products. My Meizu M6TS' 10-band equalizer does its job really well, and most other daps also have good eqs.


Brainwavz is a brand created by MP4Nation. They have ViSang (a high-quality and pretty new Chinese manufacturer) and VSonic (the older manufacturer ViSang split off from) rebrand and slightly change their products and resell them for less (which is quite amazing imho; the ViSang equivalent R04 (special limited edition) costs 100$+ in China, whereas M3 is only 70-90$ (70 if you own M2)).


If I'm gonna buy one of those, it will most probably be the M3. However, you wrote that bass isn't important to you, so I thought that Xcape would fit better for you. It does seem pretty similar to RE0, though. 


The post you linked says that Xcape build quality is better than RE0. 

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