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(Finished!!!) Review Set: UM3X, e-Q7, RE262, Triple.Fi 10, RE252, CK100, RE-Zero, Custom 3, OK1,...

post #1 of 152
Thread Starter 

Yep, I said finished!  You heard right.  Everything's done.  In case you looked back a ways, pretty much everything's new since a week ago.  What was up previously was revised or reworked, so it's mostly new content. 

Read, take a break, read, nap, read some more, and comment when you're done.  I'd like to hear some feedback on it in it's completed state.  Like the format?  Not working for ya?  Let me know. 

I'm always looking for better or more helpful ways to do things.  I'm hoping this gives a little more insight into the products.  The attempt is to always be comprehensive but hopefully concise.  At some point you can sort of write a book and still not fully describe things.  Hopefully you find this to be helpful.

 

Introduction:

First off, this is probably one of the bigger undertakings I've done.  There are a number of earphones I've already reviewed but have again purchased to help review and compare some of the newcomers as well as reaffirming which ones I might keep (new or old).  I have 10 earphones I am reviewing at one time.  I am not separating this by price point at all.  There are simply a number of earphones I have personally been interested in and most of which are popular to various people.  The point of this review isn't so much a comparison.  Rather I simply want to list my listening impressions and leave you to decide.

 

I am taking a partially new approach to this review.  In the past I simply listened to a wide range of audio and jotted down sound characteristic notes relating to dynamics, bass, mids, treble, sound stage, etc.  As I listened to more audio tracks, I revised the notes by adding, subtracting, or revising info until I felt it accurately reflected what I hear.  With this past method, you have no reference to what I hear.  Many of you find specific audio track comparisons popular, so I figured I'd give it a shot although with a slight twist.  For this review I am purposely selecting Youtube videos, specifically HD videos, that you can watch and listen to with your own hardware and compare.  Everything I am using is 1080p or 720p video and I am selecting a number of specific test mediums to measure the earphones to portray various abilities and shortcomings.  The visual reference should help create a visual expectation of the sound you hear that should in theory help scale the audible representation to the visual expectation.  In a sense, your eyes should help you gauge right and wrong in the audio.

 

The earphones:

The test group:

TestGroup.jpg

 

Oh no! Haha.

OhNo.jpg

 

The lineup:

UM3X - e-Q7 - RE262 - Triple.Fi 10

UM3X.jpge-Q7.jpgRE262.jpgTripleFi10.jpg

RE252 - CK100 - RE-Zero - Custom 3

RE252.jpgCK100.jpgRE-Zero.jpgCustom 3.jpg

OK1 - HJE900

OK1.jpgHJE900.jpg

 

The list:

For this list I intend to do one thing only: list listening impressions.  These impressions are a representation of what I hear from the earphone for that video.  They are responses to the key questions I'm asking of the video.  The goal is to simply jot down what I hear and is simply what stands out that is good, bad, odd, or special, what the earphone excels at or is lacking in relation to what I expect from watching the video.  I want to create something where you can view the video on your own and compare what you hear with your own products and compare against what I've jotted down.  Hopefully you will be able to scale your own earphones to what I've listed hear and have a basic idea of how they compare.

 

Number One:

Trombone solo.  I played this instrument in high school and am well familiar with the sound it produces.  This video is a good example of the range and variations of sound of this instrument.  It is a simple recording, and it's easy shows the subtleties of the instrument and should show the abilities and faults of the earphones relatively well.

 

Xenakis:Keren for solo trombone(1986)-Ryoma Takaoka

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ST2sXw1R9h0

 

Number Two:

I've always liked this drum solo.  It was actually pulled from Youtube a while ago but has managed to pop back up for now.   I am familiar with the sound from band and I've always had roommates that have played drums.  Recording and mixing methods vary a ton, so much of what I'm looking for from this video is testing frequency range, dynamics, impact, decay, etc.

 

Neil Peart Drum Solo - Rush 30th Anniversary - HD

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHkucr1jJpQ

 

Number Three:

I've sort of fallen in love with the cello.  It's vibrant and robust and there's a great natural sense to the instrument with the twang of the strings and resonance of the wood body.  This is a fun example I've run across that attempts to portray a good variety of presentation of the instrument.  This should highlight the level of detail, texturing, and decay of the earphones, how well they can present the presence and reverberation of the instrument.

 

Sulic Hauser- Smooth Criminal

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlVbEclPj4c&hd=1

 

Number Four:

I've used Linkin Park for a while to test earphones in their ability to deal with less than stellar audio quality and noisy information.  I find many products have a hard time with separation and retaining good individuality of everything that's going on.  Linkin Park's older tracks were gritty and colored and can sometimes be hard for an earphone to present well.  This should highly the earphone's ability to cope with less than great audio quality, gritty information, and the earphone's ability to separate and individualize a noisy mix of sounds.

 

Linkin Park - Crawling

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ID7wobIgys

 

Number Five:

Who doesn't like Stevie Wonder.  This is a live recording of Superstition with a wide range of percussion instruments, brass, and singers.  Part of the challenge of earphones is to present a balanced experience, not emphasizing any one thing and offering a clean, detailed, and well separated presentation.

 

Stevie Wonder - Superstition @ live

http://www.youtube.com/user/AntonyHDVProducer#p/c/618118AA6599679D/5/kTpt49GAIWM

 

Review:

The review will be like my other reviews.  I will break each earphone down into its parts:

bass:

mid:  

treble

stage:

location:

clarity:

tone:

dynamics:

 

This will reiterate what was already listed in the listening sessions but in a more coherent manner that's easier to follow.  I will follow up with a short impression of the earphone stating in short what it does well, what it may lack, and what type of person the earphone might fight, just sort of a final thoughts section to highlight some key points.

 

Frequency response graphs:

I will upload frequency response graphs of all of the earphones.  The graphs are not absolute.  They are just how I personally hear the frequency response.  It is more a useful tool for gauging relative differences between the earphones rather than an absolute response.  It will also help differentiate some aspects of sound.  For example, an earphone may have the frequency response sensitivity that runs to 50Hz but has a thin note or the earphone may have a well defined note but rolls off on the low end.  Along with the listening impressions, this helps show how the earphone operates and offers some indication of why it may sound the way it does (presence, emphasis, coloration, etc.).

 

Final thoughts:

 

I will briefly comment on each earphone and list a few unique things about each, basically what makes each special or unique or what surprised me most about them.  These are just little personal comments including some info that I may not have included or hinted to in any of the impressions or review.


Edited by mvw2 - 3/21/11 at 1:05am
post #2 of 152
Thread Starter 

Xenakis:Keren for solo trombone(1986)-Ryoma Takaoka

 

 

Listening Goals:

 

Brass instruments are noisy things.  Notes are created through resonance of the instrument body, and the instrument is sensitive to the intentions of the player.  A good earphone should convey the mechanical nature of the instrument and the variations of the person playing.

 

Key things I'm looking for:

  • How well does it sound like a Trombone?  This relates to basic things like frequency response, tonality, dynamics, texture, energy, etc.  Basically, does it sound like that instrument?  If so how well?  If not, off in which ways?
  • Does the earphone present the mechanical nature of the instrument?  This pertains to level of detail, clarity, texture, basically how well the earphone presents details.  It also depends on the ability to remain clean with good separation and not muddying together details.
  • How well does the earphone portray the variations of the individual playing the instrument as in how well do you notice the variations in breath and facial changes in relation to the instrument's output sound?  This is again a matter of detail, transparency, texture, etc.  It correlates to how resolving the earphone is in presentation.

 

Listening Notes:

 

UM3X tiny.jpg

UM3X – The presentation of the trombone is powerful, a spaciousness to the presence of sound, but slightly dark in nature.  Lower notes sound more natural and life-like than mid frequency and high frequency notes.  Bass presence is natural, powerful, energetic, however the earphone doesn't maintain the same kind of presentation up through the mids and highs.  The UM3X doesn't really shine or sparkle and creates a darker sense of the trombone instrument than natural without an expected metalic ring or shimmer.  Despite excellent energy and presence, the visceral sense isn't really there until you get the volume relatively loud.  This tends to be a common thing among many BA based earphones, but the UM3X is on the better end of the spectrum and can become visceral with moderate volume.  The UM3X presents a lot of detail and portrays the player's breaths and mechanical noises of the instrument well.  The vibrations of the instrument body are well presented during blats and loud low frequency notes, and you can hear the air being pushed through the instrument to make the sound.  The UM3X has a pretty easy time showing the player's breath, spits, and variations.  The only real shortcomings overall with the UM3X is that its frequency response isn't the flattest and the the presentation isn't equal across the spectrum.  It creates a somewhat bass driven presentation that is open and clean but also dark without the top end sparkle and shimmer which in turn short-changes the instruments presence and metallic nature to some extent.  This eaprhone also really only opens up with presence and details once you get to louder volumes.  Played too quietly, and the trombone becomes a little lifeless.

 

e-Q7 tiny.jpg

e-Q7- The trombone has a very natural tone with clean yet light presentantion and excellently textured notes with a lot of fine detail, but the e-Q7 lacks slightly in trying to create a believable visceral sense which does deter from the power and authority of lower notes.  While low frequency notes and blats lack believable power and presence, they do come across cleanly and the vibrations of the instrument body are excellently textured albeit not visceral.  .  Things becomes more natural once you start heading up into the midrange.  High frequencies are open and well extended but don't shimmer and sparkle, rather simply stay clean and dry but missing some edgy pazzaz one may expect from a brass instrument.  The e-Q7 relies on conveying a lot of information through texture but not so much through dynamics and articulation.  Small details are abundant and one can easily pick up the player's breathing, air through the instrument, instrument vibrations, and mechanical noises.  The variations of the player are pretty aparen in relation to the variations in sound.  The only real shortcomings of the e-Q7 here is that it falls a little short on dynamic range and well-defined articulation of note which deters a little bit from really being able to flesh out the sound completely.  The top end is well extended by isn't edgy nor articulated enough to put any shine into the instrument.  The whole presentation is clean, excellently textured, but ultimately light in presence and dry.

 

RE262 tiny.jpg

RE262 – The trombone has a moderately mid-centric sound with weaker emphasis on lows and highs although not specifically lacking.  The sound is effortless detailed, even sweet.  Bass has a sense of power and presence but is quiet, not via sensitivity but lacks heft/thickness and raw sense of power that would normally fill the sound.  Bass doesn't so much come across lean as it does light.  Mids are are also light, almost bright but again not specifically lean sounding.  Treble is delicate, highly detailed, and even sweet but again more of a lighter sense.  The development of the trombone revolves more around the depth and detail of sound, all the micro details and breadth of emphasis/dynamics rather than raw presence and authority.  The sound is extremely detailed and extremely transarent.  Other than the mid-centric coloration of the presentation, the trombone sounds immensely real and other than the lack of note body in lower frequencies does end up very fleshed out.  The RE262 is effortless at presenting a wealth of information with seemingly limitless dynamic breadth, articulation, and speed.  This allows the RE262 to portray the metallic nature of the instrument so well you can hear the harmonies within the vibrations of the instrument body.  The player's breaths and minute variations come across crystal clear.  Presence does scale with volume, and the RE262 gets loud cleanly.  As more details become heard, it becomes more real and life-like.  The mid-centric coloration of the earphone and the lack of note thickness on the low end are really the only two real shortcomings. 

 

TripleFi10 tiny.jpg

Triple.Fi 10 – The trombone has a slightly smooth and lushous signature, hearty, with a real sense of power and presence to notes.  Low frequency notes and blats are robust and carry a believable amount of energy.  Hearty is a good word and there's am excellent amount of decay, unusual for a BA based product, which helps transmit the metallic ring of the instrument body and flesh out the low frequency notes.  It sounds like a brass instrument.  Mids are open and natural for the most part, although higher mids brighten a little bit due to treble emphasis.  The mid frequency notes of the trombone lack some crispness and detail.  The smoother, thicker note gives up some of the texturing and micro detail.  Higher frequencies are over emphasized due to stronger high frequency sensitivity.  High frequency notes carry the same strong energy and continues with the smoother yet still clean signature up into the high end.  High frequencies shine and helps bring out some of the shimmer of the instrument.  The Triple.Fi 10 is good about conveying the mechanical nature of the instrument.  The thick note with excellent decay helps flesh out the notes and show through the resnances of the instrument body.  Some of the smaller details and texturing is smoothed over though.  The sounds are clean but noticably smoothed, and some of the little details are lost.  The subtle variations of the player blowing through the mouthpiece and instrument aren't as noticable nor crisply defined as some other earphones.  More information is shown as volumes increase, but there is a limit of micro details and some of the small variations in how he breaths, puckers his lips, and so on are lost.  The Triple.Fi 10 relies on articulating thicker notes, presenting a lot of decay (for a BA), and speed to convey information rather than high texturing, dynamics, and micro detail.  This helps create a hearty, fleshed out trombone sound that retains a lot of life-like qualities, but some of those finer details are lost and ends up creating a slightly smoothed over and almost muffled sense of the instrument.

 

 

RE252 tiny.jpg

RE252 – The trombone comes across well balanced, mechanical and highly detailed, but ultimately lean in presence.  The RE252 does extremely well with texture and details and portrays a very high amount of sound information of the instrument and player, but the RE252 is constrained dynamicly and ends up lacking some of the breadth of sound that really brings the trombone to life.  It is life-like with pretty much all the key information with a lot of detail, texture, presence, and even frequency range, but the effortlessness of the sound isn't there.  It sounds somewhat constrained, tighter, and ends up making a lean interpretation of the instrument that doesn't have the vibrato that one would expect to hear.  For the most part, the lack of dynamics pulls sublte information forward and tones down some of the explosiveness and volume of louder information.  The overall presentation of the instrument is forward yet controlled, very highly detailed and clean.  Low frequency notes and blats are full and textured but simply lack the dynamic breadth to really bring forth the power and create a high sense of realism.  Mid and high frequencies fair better but share a similar fait.  The treble energy of this earphone is extremely good, piercing, powerful, and can let the trombone sing on the high end with a clean but dry signature.  One thing the RE252 excells at is the ability to portray details.  Note thickness is good, frequency response and presence is extended, and note texturing is very high.  This allows the RE252 to portray the mechanical nature of the trombone very well.  You also very easily hear the player's breaths and changes in breathing.  The RE252 is extremely revealing, and there is so much information audible in the sound, clean, detailed, well articulated.  You are very aware of the instrument and player.  The only shortcoming is the low dynamic range which does suck some of the liveliness out of the sound.

 

CK100 tiny.jpg

CK100 – The trombone sounds very correct, balanced, and refined.  Balance and refinement are key words.  The trombone sounds correct, but doesn't entirely flesh out.  One key shortcoming of the CK100 is in its lack of texture, a not entirely uncommon thing for BA based earphones, but it tends to show through in certain ways in music.  Low frequency notes and blats are well represented, good presence, power, even good decay for a BA based product.  They sound robust and full but simply lack some texturing.  Mid frequency notes are natural and clean.  Higher frequencies are very refined, balanced, and carry good presence.  They are piercing, strong, clean, but they don't specifically shine or shimmer, almost too refined but also non-offensive despite their strength.  The partial lack of texture and articulation takes away some edginess and grittiness of the sound and subsequently loses some of the micro detail.  The CK100 retains good frequency range, presence, dynamics, and even note thickness, but fall short to a partial degree in texture and articulation.  This leads to a somewhat ghostly sense of reality rather than a fully fleshed out sense of reality.  The trombone sounds like a trombone, but a slightly transparent version of itself.  This has an effect on bringing the mechanical nature of the trombone to life.  A lot of the little noises and vibrations reside in that textured realm, and some of that information is lost in the CK100.  We hear it's a trombone, built of metal, vibrating, making sound, but it's softer in nature.  The CK100 is highly dynamic, highly detailed, and does convey a lot of details still.  We still pick up on variations in the players breath and small changes, just more subltely.  A lot of our sensation of the instrument and player come through an excellent portrayal of energy, dynamics, and note thickness rather than a high amount of texture and articulation within the notes.  It's very correct with excellent balance in presentation but in a slightly translucent interpretation of reality.

 

RE-Zero tiny.jpg

RE-ZERO – The trombone comes across lean and clean with a slightly energetic and powerful presence.  The lower end is noticably quiet and does create a slightly bright signature to the trombone.  Low frequency notes are a little lean, a little quiet, and with very short decay that seemingly stops on a dime, putting some BA based earphones to shame.  Low frequency notes and blats sound well textured and clean though but just not as drawn out as some might expect.  Mid frequencies and high frequencies sound balanced and natural.  Higher frequencies carry good air with an excellent amount of treble energy, not sweet but not dry either and enough extension to shine.  The presentation is natural, clean, and powerful.  The RE-ZERO presents a slightly softened presentation of the trombone and portrays a sense of delicacy to the notes rather than a gritty, heavily textured note.  The RE-ZERO has excellent speed and is very clean with it's short decay.  Texturing is good but moderately controlled and not the most articulated and detailed, again why it presents a sense of delicacy.  Mechanical sounds, instrument resonances, and variation in the player's breath are quite noticable and uncluttered, very clean.  The driver does seem a little over damped although powerful, enough so that very fine details and articulations end up extremely short or lost from perception.  One can still pick up the mechanical nature of the instrument, the air passing through as the player blows, the resonantions in the instrument body, and so on.  The high level of cleanliness and good speed and dynamics shows through a lot of this information, not the most resolving but still very good.  As a listener, you get a very good sense of the trombone being played, the player playing the instrument, and the trombone sounds like the mechanical device it is.  The only real shortcoming is super short decay that prevents some development of the notes, great for cleanliness, not so good for articulating notes and filling out presence.  In terms of reproductino, it only creates a somewhat lean and delicate signature to the trombone, but otherwise remains quite good.

 

Custom 3 tiny.jpg

Custom 3 - The trombone is thick and full-bodied, very powerful presentation, but it has a smoothed, somewhat veiled signature.  Low frequency notes and blats are hearty, very dynamic and powerful.  Mids are natural in tone, hearty, and powerful like the lower end.  Higher frequencies are warmed and roll off on the high end due to the Custom 3 rolling off in sensitivity,  This prevents the earphone from really letting the trombone shine, but energy and presence matches the lower frequences, and other than the lack of extension, it doesn't come across really as lacking other than missing that top end air.  The Custom 3 is very dynamic and has a thick, hearty note that's unusual for a BA based product, similar to the Triple.Fi 10 but with a broader dynamic range, shorter decay, more texturing, but smoothed more.  The notes of the trombone sound powerful, robust, and energetic.  The detailing is actually quite high, but it's covered by this veil that smooths and thickens the presentation.  The little bits tend to become lost in the thickness.  The sound is oddly clean, not muddied, and the smoothness is more an overlay hiding what is actually there but very hard to notice.  The actual drivers of the Custom 3 float in a silicon coccoon, and I often wonder if that softens the signature some versus a more rigidly mounted driver and sound path routing.  Regardless, the end result is that the earphone is very revealing, but a lot of the smaller details that bring the mechanical nature to life kind of gets hidden in the smoothness.  The trombone loses some of it's metallic nature.  It sounds like a trombone, just less mechanical and metallic in material.  The high dynamic range and texturing conveys a lot of information still, showing through the variations in breath and instrument resonances.  The smaller variations in the player's breath, little spits, and minor variations do get lost though.  Despite the smoothed sense of detail, the short decay keeps the trombone sounding clean and open.  The high dynamic range and thick, textured note creates a very powerful presentation that extends from the low notes to the high with unnusually good balance.  The roll off on the high end isn't really missed with this instrument, and the only real shortcoming is the smoothed over details which unfortunately hides those finer details that would really make this earphone excel and bring the trombone to life.

 

 

OK1 tiny.jpg

OK1 – The trombone is very life-like, textured, detailed, powerful, and even sweet.  The presentation is crisp and clean, aggressively clean with a very short note decay and a little constrained in breath.  This is another dynamic driver that is powerful yet heavily controlled, much like the RE-ZERO but with a good deal more micro detail.  Low frequency notes are clean, sound powerful, but are ultimately lacking body and resulting raw presence.  For the most part, low frequency notes simply sound quiet.  Some of this is due to the sensitivity rolling off on the low end of the earbud.  There is a good energy, and visceral sense to the notes.  Mids and high notes sing and remain very textured and detailed.  High notes even sound sweet and shine like one would expect from a brass instrument.  The Ok1 does speed and texture extremely well.  It's fast, clean, and super detailed.  The mechanical nature of the trombone shows through with ease.  It sounds metallic and resonantes with enegy.  It's very easy to pick up the variations in breath, small facial/lip changes, spits, and so on of the player playing the instrument, and you get a good sense of the air passing through the instrument.  The end result is a very believable presentation, life-like, and well fleshed out trombone sound.  The only minor shortcomings is the quieter low end due to some sensitivity roll off and the very short decay, and a slightly overly controlled driver that feels just a little too constrained dynamicly that short-changes the dynamic breadth a little bit and creates a slighty tamed, less lively musical experience.  The highly energetic and powerful note is the one thing that prevents this earbud from sound laid back, and the lower dynamic range lets the earphone remain aggressive and engaging, and helps promote those smaller details in the instrument.

 

HJE900 tiny.jpg

HJE900 – The trombone is hearty and powerful but muffled and warm or bright depending on frequency.  The HJE900 has a somewhat V shaped frequency response, balanced but V shaped and lower notes can come across a little warm and higher notes a little bright.  The response curve is smooth though and the trombone, while a little colored is still relatively balanced.  The HJE900 is a very smoothed over earphone, hearth, powerful, but ultimately smooth, and this does create a bit of a muffled trombone sound.  There is a good sense of realism to the trombone despite the smooth signature.  The earphone is thick but clean, and you get a good sense of the brass instrument.  Low frequency notes are hearty but lacks some presence/authority due to a somewhat small dynamic range.  Middle note are largely natural in tone and a little more naturally pronounced than the lower end.  High frequencies carry good energy and remain relatively open sounding due to good frequency response extension but do come across smoothed and prevents the trombone from really shining with higher notes.  The HJE900 presents a well bodied note with good decay, and while smoothed in details, the trombone sounds open and clean.  Much of the perception of the instrument comes via the thick note and extended decay rather than from a highly textured, highly detailed note.  The trombone ends up having a reasonably life-like presence but still lacking of the mechanical subtleties.  The small variations in the players breath, the air passing through the instrument, and mechanical sounds of the instrument are largely lost, and this makes for a somewhat muffled and less revealing sound signature.  It's not bad enough to sound muddy or slurred though.  The HJE900 actually comes across relatively clean and open in note, oddly so, and allows it to retain a reasonable sense of detail and openness in the sound.


Edited by mvw2 - 3/20/11 at 11:58pm
post #3 of 152
Thread Starter 

Neil Peart Drum Solo - Rush 30th Anniversary - HD

 

Listening Goals:

 

Drums have good range of response from the punchy kick drum to the crashing cymbals.  Neal has a rather significant assortment of percussion instruments which offers a wide range of sounds.  He is also very clean and quick.  Drums can provide a unique challenge to earphones.  It can be hard to convey the impact of the hit, resonance and decay of the device, and the visceral presence of the sound.  This listening piece highlights a few aspects of the earphone, mainly speed, dynamics, decay, and frequency response.

 

Key things I'm looking for:

  • Does the earphone convey all the frequencies well?  I want to hear the kick drum and bass drums thump and carry weight, the snare to sizzle, and the cymbals to shimmer.  A good earphone needs to have the range to cover all the basses from the visceral inducing lows to the shimmering highs as well as balance the presentation.  This helps the presentation to be broad and robust with impactful bass, crashing highs, and everything in between.
  • How are the sound of the drums and cymbals presented?  Is there a good sense of impact/hit, is there enough texture and micro information to have the drums fleshed out, and does the earphone present enough presence/decay to give the hits weight and authority?  For something like a snare, I expect to hear the whack, sizzle, and decay.  Cymbals should crash and shimmer as they fade out.  Bass drums should thump with presence and reverberate a little as the sound fades out.
  • How clean and separated is the information presented?  I want to see good clarity and individuality to the notes.  I want to hear sounds separate and unique rather than blurred together.  I want to hear everything spaced out, and this includes the audience cheering along.  Cleanliness, spacing and individuality, and depth are important in developing the dimensional space.  This helps keep things clean, individual, and identifiable.  If 3 different cymbals where hit in quick succession, one should be able to hear 3 individual cymbals crashing and fading out, not muddled together as one "thing" but 3 individual instruments.

 

Listening Notes:

 

UM3X tiny.jpg

UM3X – Bass goes deep.  The kick drum and bass drums are full and visceral.  Mids are slightly recessed, slightly dark and bassy.  Highs match the lows in level but shimmer is warm/bassy and you don't really get a sense of air.  The presentation is more V shaped with focus on bass and the lower treble.  Bass drums have excellent impact, a hearty thud that's hefty but clean.  Bass is visceral and powerful.  The snare is a bit warm.  There's a natural texturing, but tonality is darkened and the snare is more heavy than lively.  Cymbals crash and decay well, but again the warm nature creates a heavier sound with less shimmer.  Openness and air of the presentation suffers some for the tonality.  The presentation sounds natural, clean, and not forced in any way but warmer/bassier in signature.  The UM3X does clarity extremely well with effortless speed, high dynamic range, and excellent texturing.  Sounds are clean, individual, and well fleshed out.  The sound stage is more wide than circular but depth is excellent making good use of perceived proximity and distance which helps space out the sounds well.  All sounds are easily perceived as unique in their own space. The bassy signature does keep the overall presentation sounding thick, not blurred but still unusually thick. 

 

 

e-Q7 tiny.jpg

e-Q7 – The kick drum and bass drum have good presence with emphasis on the whack with great impact.  The sensitivity and texture is there, but the decay is short making for a subtly full sound that's clean rather than heavy.  The snare drum is lively and energetic.  Tone is excellent, hits are great, and the snare sizzles due to the e-Q7's great texturing.  Higher frequency drums are clean and open with great on hit impact.  Cymbals crash and shimmer well but with a slight softness, less edgy and shiny than they could be.  The drum details are presented casually, discernible, but not etched in stone for you.  Articulation of details is softly done, and the level of micro detail is slightly limited from this.  The entire presentation is energetic and clean with specific emphasis on hits which keeps the drums upbeat and engaging.  The e-Q7 is very good about creating a well spaced sound stage with its great amount of texturing.  The sound stage is also well rounded and well distanced.  Articulation of information isn't as chiseled as some and does make for a slightly softer sense of position and individuality.  It isn't blurred, but is perceived more casually.

 

RE262 tiny.jpg

RE262 – The kick drum and bass drums have a well bodied sound, natural impact that's there but not over emphasized.  The actual hit of the drum head is well perceived in detail, and the change in volume as the thump quiets is noticeable.  The RE262 is extremely dynamic and conveys a great sense of volume change.  It shows through variations in the hit and decay of the drums easily.  The RE262 is also effortlessly articulated and very highly textured and detailed.  All instruments are heavily developed in great detail, and the sound creates a great level of realism from this.  You get the physical hit of the stick, the thunk and decay of the drum head, and the reverberation of the drum body, all easily discernible.  The snare drum has a great smack, rattle, and sizzle.  Cymbals crash and shimmer in a slightly sweet signature.  The level of detail is outstanding.  The dynamics are outstanding.  The texturing is outstanding.  The decay is excellent.  The driver in this earphone is really freaking good, and it shows through so strongly portraying the level of detail it does with the drums.  Any shortcomings?  Slight.  Low frequency notes are subtle without as much body as one may want, and this creates a clean but perhaps slightly lean bass drum note, although the decay and dynamic range is excellent.  The treble is also sweet, extended but mild up top.  It doesn't come across warm, but it doesn't shine and pierce the air as much as it could.  The cleanliness and separate is outstanding.  The RE262 is effortlessly fast and effortlessly detailed.  Dynamics are high, texturing is high, and subsequently the sound stage and separation is extremely good.  All the instruments a clearly placed and very individual.  Distancing is excellent, and there's a good sense of both proximity and distance.

 

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Triple.Fi 10 – The kick drum has a great thud, clean but full, a great visceral impact, and natural tone.  Bass drums are gutheral, articulated, and with a lot of decay.  The Triple.Fi 10 offers good texture that is well articulated and a very significant amount of decay for a BA based product that provides a lot of energy and presence to the bass drums.  It sounds heavy but still clean, driving but not overbearing, thick but not muddy.  The snare drum has great sizzle, and you get a good sense of the sticks bouncing off the drum head.  It's open but there's a slight thickness and smoothness to it.  The thickness creates a warmer sense of the instrument.  Higher frequency drums also have this slightly warm sense of sound.  Cymbals are sweet and warm, but shimmer with a good sense of air.  Despite the treble emphasis of the Triple.Fi 10, the cymbals do  not sound overpowering.  There's an openness to the sound, a velvety overally to everything from the thicker note that's colored but very likable.  The sound stage is open and spacious, but the Triple.Fi 10 has a limited dynamic range that doesn't convey a high amount of depth.  The instruments are pinpoint in space, highly directional, but distant information is limited with close not quite in your face and far is pulled in.  The good clarity and chiseled articulation keep things clean and separated but not as spread out as some earphones.  The various drums overlay themselves a little more, individual, but not in their own spot in a 3D space.

 

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RE252 – The kick drum is clean with a good on hit presence.  The sound is dry, not lean, not full, there, but not dominant.  The decay is very short on the RE252.  Bass drums are pronounced and clean but with fast decay.  There is some fullness to the note from good texturing, but the decay prevents the creation of serious heft.  The snare drum is heavily textured and natural in tone.  The RE252 is limited in dynamic range and sucks away some of the pazzaz from snare.  It's textured, detailed, but tamed.  Higher frequency drums are natural in tone, clean, and highly detailed, much of the same..  Cymbals crash, decay well, and carry good energy and extension.  The entire presentation is textured, detail, clean, but dry and tamed by the heavily damped driver.  Everything is very well balanced.  No range overshadows the other.  The RE252 is slightly over controlled though, and the slightly tightened and tamed presentation will mean slightly lifeless for some.  Yet the control is good for maintaining clarity.  The level of detail is extremely high, texturing is high, and there's good articulation of information within the given dynamic range.  All of this makes for a highly revealing presentation.  The instruments are clean and accurate.  The sound stage is circular and well separated.  Depth and distancing is sublte, hinting more than flat out telling.  High control means everythig remains clean, individual, and unique, but the 3D space isn't used well and is more hinted, whispered to than clearly defined.  For the drum set, this means instruments share mental space with one another with just the clarity and cleaninless to keep things separate to which the RE252 does well.

 

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CK100 – The kick drum has good impact and is punchy.  The presentation is clean with some weight and good sense of variation of volume as it quiets thanks to the CK100's high dynamic range..  The bass drums are well filled and hearty with a good amount of decay for a BA.  There's good sense of the impact and fullness of the drums, but the information isn't heavily textured.  The snare drum sounds natural in tone and expectedly lively.  The whacks are there, the pizzaz, and it sizzles.  The lack of texturing from the CK100 does lessen the amount of micro detail of the drum though, not excessively but noticably versus more textured products.  Cymbals crash and shine.  The overall balance is very good with no frequency really overshadowning the other and tone being correct across the instruments.  There's a lot of dynamic energy which provides good emphasis on hit as well as conveying the strength of the hit well and the decay of the drum after the hit.  The CK100 is effortlessly fast, but simply lack texturing which in the end prevents the earphone from presenting some of the finer detail.  Dynamic range is important for conveying energy of the hit and sense of power, and earphones like the CK100 does this well.  Balance helps keep all the sounds balanced and of the correct tone which the CK100 does.  For a BA based product, decay is decent and not overly short and "analytical" which helps fill out the presence and give some helft to bass drum hits.  The CK100 only really falls short in texture, and this to some degree pulls some of the reality from the drum sound, the little bits that bring the drum to life and sound like a real, mechanical thing.  There is texture, but it's noticably light and does deter some from the otherwise very good presentation.  The CK100 is highly detailed, highly dynamic, and does very well with sound state.  The drum instruments exist at pinpoint locations in a circular 3D space.  Distancing is excellent with a good sense of proximity and distance with the drums well spread out and individual in their presence.

 

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RE-ZERO – The kick drum is light and clean.  On hit is natural but there is little decay and heft.  RE-ZERO does roll off some on the low end, so a lean bass sound is expected.  The RE-ZERO also runs another heavily damped driver which does make decay very short and tends to limits dynamic range unless the motor is very strong.  The presentation is a little more natural than say the RE252 though but also more lean, less textured, and less filled out on the low end.  Bass drums present a good hit but quick decay after and a lean signature.  The snare drum is clean and well textured.  The hits aren't super dynamic but acceptable, and the snare sizzles with good detail.  Cymbals carry good energy and continue the lean and clean signature.  They crash and shimmer very well.  The overall presentation is slightly bright yet still tonally good, linear, well balanced short being lean, and not too dry.  The presentation is very clean, slightly delicate in nature from softer texturing, limited dynamics, and quick decay.  The sound stage is well rounded, and the drum instruments are pinpoint and indivudualized well from the cleanliness of the RE-ZERO and good level of detail.  Distancing is somewhat constrained, forwards and with a subtle sense of distance.  The instruments overlay each other as one would expect from the lower dynamic range and the sounds are brought foward.  There is very good directional sense and placement, and the cleanliness keeps all the instruments individual.

 

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Custom 3 – The kick drum has excellent impact, decay, and texture.  It comes across only slightly thickened.  The bass drums are excellently textured with great body, clean.  Again, these's a sense of sounding just slightly thick.  The snare drum is highly textured but bassy.  There's good dynamic range with a good sense of variation in the hardness of hit.  Decay is very good for a BA earphone yet still clean.   Higher drums sound well textured and dynamic but again warmed in signature.  Cymbals crash with excellent presence, sound open, but have a slightly warm signature and muffled up top slightly although expected due to roll off of the top end on the Custom 3.  The entire presentation is excellently textured and quite dynamic.  The drums energetic and detailed.  The on-hit whack is good as is the visceral sense.  The overall balance is slightly bassy, slightly thick, and warm but still open and and clean.  The sound stage is spacious with a good sense of proximity and distance due to an excellent dynamic range.  It is slightly wide.  The instruments are well separated in their own spots in space.  The thicker note and heavy texturing does seem to make things blur together slightly during complex passages.  Instruments overlay each other a little bit in both space and details but not much.

 

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OK1 – The kick drum has excellent impact with an excellent sense of the whack and energy.  The decay is quick, and the sensitivity does roll off on the low end of the OK1 which does lighten the depth of the kick drum note.  Bass drums follow a similar theme.  There is an excellent perception of the hit, great energy, and excellent texturing and detail, but again decay is quick and the bottom end is overly quiet and leans out the bass note.  The snare drum is snappy and energetic.  Again, there's an outstanding sense of the hit from the stick and a high amount of texturing and details.  The snare sizzles.  The presentation is slightly bright without the filled out low end.  Higher frequency drums anre crisp, energetic, and well textured.  Cymbals again have a good sense of the hit and crash very, very well.  The decay is short and the sound is clean and well textured with energy and shimmer.  The entire presentation is very highly impactful, energetic, and detailed.  Texturing is great, speed is effortless, and this makes for a highly detailed, highly realistic sound.  The presentation ends up a little bright and lean only due to the low end roll off and the short decay.  This is another heavily controlled driver, but the motor seems very strong and forces through a high perception of impulse and energy from the drums as well as a very high amount of detail.  Texturing and dynamics are taute but have good range.  The sound stage is spacious but forward.  The level of clarity is very high and all sounds are very pinpoint and individual.  The presentation ends up being more in-head but with a lot of depth.  Complex passages are effortless and heavily detailed.  The drums have a lot of energy and realism, but isn't quite fully fleshed out due to the short decay and the quieter bottom end.  Starting in-head does condense the space some for closer sounds.  They remain individual but share a small circle.  Farther sounds spread out more nicely though.

 

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HJE900 – The kick drum thumps with authority offering an excellent hit and decay.  Bass drums sound deep and well textured with an open presence.  The snare has good hit and presence.  Texturing is good but smoothed and lacking the finer details and the sizzle is softer.  The good decay creates an open and well bodied sounds to the drums that's very likable.  Higher frequency drums are impactful but smooth and slightly full/warm in nature.  There is a richness to the drums, but tonality remains good and the individual drums stand out with unique pitches.  Cymbals crash with good presence, decay gradually, and also carry a slight thickness but shimmer well from the HJE900's good treble extension and decay.  The overall presentation is open and full bodied with very good decay from the HJE900 but not too much where it ends up sounding sloppy.  The response emphasizes the bass line a little bit, and the smoothed detailing does warm the signature slightly.  The sound stage is open, well rounded, and spacous.  The HJE900 offers decent dynamic range and high decay.  Texturing is there but smoothed moderately.  The instruments have good location, spaced out well, are strongly directional, and distanced well with a good sense of proximity and distance.  The smoothed presentation does blur sounds together some on complex parts, and the drums sound together in an area, clean and not really muddy, but not completely individualized in the space as well as some other earphones.


Edited by mvw2 - 3/21/11 at 12:00am
post #4 of 152
Thread Starter 

Sulic Hauser- Smooth Criminal

 

Listening Goals:

 

I like strings.  They are both simple and complex.  They are simple in that you hold and play a single note.  They are complex in that they are very organic with a lot of resonance in the string, body of the cello, and the echo from the room.  It's very organic.  String instruments require an earphone to portray the complexity within simplicity and convey emotional context within the sound.  An earphone will need to be well textured, well detailed, and have good decay.  Dynamics will be important too to convey variation in power and emotion.  Frequency response should be less important, although the cello may sound warm, lean, or in some way colored, but it's more about note development than note range unless you're looking for a specific sound.

 

Key things I'm looking for:

  • How is the cello presented?  Lean, full, warm, bright, lively, laid back?  In a basic sense, this indicates the earphone's range in response, texture, decay, dynamics, etc. to even sound like cello.
  • How materialistic is the cello?  Does the earphone convey it well as a stringed instrument with a wooden or in this case a carbon fiber body(a more plastic signature)?  This relates to the earphones level of detail and texturing.
  • How strongly does the earphone pull you into the presentation, as in how emotionally involving is the presentation?  Does the earphone present enough dynamics, range of energy, and presence to convey emotion?  This can be a hard thing for an earphone to do.  Some simply have a hard time really pulling you into the music so completely.

 

Listening Notes:

 

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UM3X – The cello is powerful, bassy, and lushous sweet.  The presentation has a driving bass line, heavy and powerful, somewhat overbearing with the presence of any low notes and a general warm and sweet note otherwise.  The UM3X is heavily textured and highly detailed which helps it show the hits on the string, bowing, and plugs very plainly.  The vibration of the cello body is easily heard, full, and with excellent presence.  There are many mechanical noises like the ticks of the player's fingers.  Short the overly bassy signature, the cello is very well developed and a natural environment for the UM3X.  This earphone presents a high amount of presence and energy with a fully developed note and high dynamic range.  Emotional context is picked up effortlessly, and you get sucked right into the music very easily.  In the end, the only shortcoming is the earphone is quite bassy, heavily so.

 

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e-Q7 – The cello has has excellent presence and energy, comes across well balanced, perhaps slightly less full on the low end but a clean bass signature.  The presentation is thickly textured with a volume driven energy, and notes are open but perhaps a touch dry and don't specifically sing.  The e-Q7 offers a lot of texture, but it doesn't heavily articulate that information, and the details end up being presented more subtlety and only casually perceived.  The details of the string hits, plucks, and physical thumps of the instruments aren't emphasized.  The cello body reverberates and thunks but the perception is more casual in the mix.  The e-Q7 is a bit odd at portraying emotion.  It relies on volume and presence to convey range which can be delicate or powerful when necessary, but the sound isn't as deep and involving as it could be with the more casual take on dynamics.  It's aggressive, engaging, and powerful, and with that you do get into the music, just not as effortlessly as a more heavily resolved sound.

 

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RE262 – The cello sounds somewhat mid focused, very clean.  Lower frequencies are comparatively quiet but with full and with power due to great decay.  The highs are powerful and with a great piercing sweetness.  The presentation is effortlessly represented: dynamic, articulate, textured, detailed.  You hear everything, plainly, transparently.  The coloration is pretty easily forgetable, and you just get sucked into the sea of information.  With the extremely high level of detail, texture, dynamics, etc. the RE262 has an effortless time showing you all the mechanical noises of the instrument.  The whack of the strings, string vibration separate from the vibration of the cello body, plucks, ticks and hits of the body, everything, in resounding depth.  The emotional involvement is effortless.  The RE262 presents the sound so transparently, so dynamically, detailed, effortless, so much information, you just get sucked into the experience with no effort at all and it's powerful, sweet, energetic, and engaging.

 

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Triple.Fi 10 – The cello comes across robust and articulate.  The presence is slightly bassy, powerful, impactful, but not overly thick.  The sound is rich, playful, energetic.  Low notes have a very high level of authority and impact.  Highs sing with a lovable sweetness.  Mids are a little bassy.  The Triple.Fi 10's excellent clarity and articulate conveys the instrument in a playful manner with a powerful delicacy.  String whacks and plucks are powerful.  The cello body is full.  Physical ticks and hits pierce the air.  It's a very rich, detailed presentation of the physical characteristics of the instrument.  The emotion is easy to get into.  The Triple.Fi 10 conveys a ridiculous amount of note energy, and the texturing of information is heavily articulated, and the rich, playful presentation is just mindlessly fun to listen to.  You just have a lot of fun listening and can't help getting into it.  The Triple.Fi 10 does fun really well, and if you give it something that can make good use of it's energy and note presence, it will run with it like nothing else on the market.

 

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RE252 – The cello is aggressive, powerful, crisp.  Low notes have good thickness, sound hearty, and carry good impact due to the RE252's excellent texturing and good decay.  Mids are impactful and detailed.  Highs are edgy and highly powerful and can become piercing and aggressive, overpowering at higher volumes.  The overall presentation is very well balanced, highly detailed, but the limited dynamic range makes it somewhat aggressive.  The RE252 presents a lot of information, often aggressively so.  Bass is impactful, highs strong.  When it comes to presenting the mechanical bits, the information comes easily and in full force.  Bowing is powerful, plucks and hits are sharp.  The phyiscal ticks and thumps are right there up front to hear.  The texturing and ok decay flesh out the cello body in a clean, lean sense.  The sharp bits show through the most, the whacks, ticks, thunks, the noises, more so than the presence reverberation of the instrument.  The emotional context comes through via the forward, aggressive nature.  The sound is resolving enough to create a lot of information and then present it aggressively.  The experience is powerful and stark.  It's hard not to be pulled into the aggressiveness and amount of information.  The performance is grating and fatiguing though and can be overwhelmingly strong and stark, but you can't really take a back seat either, and for this it is emotionally evolving as long as you're not overwhelmed or off-put by the aggressive nature.

 

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CK100 – The cello comes across light but aggressive and clean with this subtle robustness .  Low notes are deep due to good frequency extension and well bodied with some decay, but aren't heavily textured to create serious presence and end up somewhat light or ghostly.  The CK100 favors higher frequencies or sustained notes.  Higher notes sing beautifully though with great energy and detail.  The overall presentation is dynamic, brilliant up high but simply lacks the presence down low, and ends up sounding sort of light in presence with this oddly aggressive leading edge that just sounds kind of...weird.  The mechanical noises, plucks, whacks have a a strong initial hit, but don't flesh out well afterwards.  The reverberation of the cello body is very subtle and not easily perceived through the rest of the information.  A lot of the presence type information ends up being overshadowned by the stronger parts and largely missed or ignored, and the cello ends up a ghostly sheel rather than a fully fleshed out thing.  The CK100 is somewhat emotionally passive when it comes to information it poorly presents, i.e. heavily textured things like a cello.  The drawn out bowing and higher frequencies will grab your attention well, but the rest end up too subtlely presented to really hold on to your attention, and you don't really get into the music easily.  The CK100 is somewhat sensitive to what you listen to in terms of really grabbing a hold of you and creating a really engaging experience.  The cello is an obvious weakness.  The violin may be another story, or things like the flute, female voices, etc make the CK100 really shine.  The cello?  Uh...not so much.

 

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RE-ZERO – The cello is clean, well bodied, playful.  The RE-ZERO has good decay but the sensitivity does roll off some on the low end giving lower notes a hearty but lighter presence, and mids and highs come across a little more pronounced.  Highs are powerful and naturally sweet.  The feels naturally at home with the cello offering good body, articulation, detail.  In many ways the RE-ZERO is like the Triple.Fi 10, impactful, robust, playful, just a leaner, cleaner version that's just a little tamer.  The good texturing, dynamics, and decay present a well detailed and fleshed out cello.  The plucks, hits, ticks, the reverberation of the cellow body, and physical noises are well perceived.  The RE-ZERO isn't the most detailed nor most dynamic, but it's well balanced and not realy lacking in key areas, and this creates for a pretty thourough representation of the instrument.  Emotional context is good.  The RE-ZERO creates a well formulated presentation that's dynamic, textured, impactful, well bodied, sweet, energetic, and this creates a presentation that you can quite readily get right into.  The sound isn't the most effortless or transparent, but it's likeable enough to not care and simply enjoy the music and becomes good fun to listen to.

 

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Custom 3 – The cello comes across heavily textured and powerful.  Decay is noticably lengthy and along with good dynamic range creates a strong presence. Low frequency notes are heavy and poweful, textured.  Mid notes retain the texture and decay.  Higher frequencies are slightly warm and somewhat sweet, rich.  The cello isn't specifically too bassy or overbearing but full.and powerful.  The mechanical instrument fills out quite naturally.  The cello body echos and decays.  Plucks, ticks, and hits are soft in edge but have good presence.  The level of detail and articulation of information is smoothed, but there isn't much bad that comes from it other than the thicker presentation and lengthy reverberation that ends up being rather likable anyways.  The Custom 3 is fun to listen to.  The moderate dynamics, heavily textured note, and range of energy creates a powerful presence that is hard not to sit and just enjoy.  It's not the most playful or transparent and reveal, but the raw dynamic energy and bass line pulls you in quite easily.

 

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OK1 – The cello heavily materialized but lean.  The OK1 has a tremendous amount of speed, detail, texturing, and is excellent about reconstructing sound into a perceivable thing.  The only real shortcoming is the low frequency sensitivity rolls off and creates a lean image of the instrument.  For the most part you can look at the instrument, hear the sound, and pretty much say "yep, that's about right."    Low frequency notes have good presence, depth, and the texture and decay is good enough to sound adequately full, just a little quiet.  Mid frequencies are heavily textured and detailed, articulate, powerful.  High frequencies sing and are very well textured.  The mechanical sounds of the instrument are natural and abundant.  The whacks, plucks, ticks carry a good hit and natural sense about them.  The strings reverberate when played.  The strings and cello body resonant independently as their own things (only the RE262 is capable of this as well).  The texture, decay, impact, everything sounds natural and presents a very life-like interpretation.    The emotional tie comes pretty naturally.  The OK1 is highly transparent, aggressive, and the sound is well fleshed out.  The only slight shortcoming is the dynamic breadth is somewhat constrained in that the sound comes across controlled, tamed, and this deters slightly from you mindlessly falling into the music, but for the most part you don't care and just enjoy all that is there.  Something like the RE262 is more of an overload you can't escape, but the OK1 is a little more controlled and you retain the choice...if that makes any sense.

 

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HJE900 – The cello is robust, thick, smooth, but clean.  Low frequencies carry a lot of decay and makes for a thick presence, but it's not overpowering really overpowering.  Mids are smooth.  Highs are lushious and open.  The presentation is smooth but clean and open sounding.  The long decay creates a full presence.  Texturing is smooth, and details are few.  The HJE900 is about covering the basics, and it fairs quite well.  The mechanical nature is so-so.  The body reverberates from the good decay.  the plucks and hits have good impact.  However, a lot of the small details and texturing simply aren't there, and you can only created a limited perception of the instrument.  The HJE900 is robust with good impact, and this creates a decently energetic and spacious sound, rich and inviting.  From an emotional standpoint, it's a likable experience and fun to get into, but the presentation is relatively mild mannered in that it's not super dynamic, super detailed, aggressive, and it does simply pull you in.  The robust note, pleasantly smooth sound, good balance, and open sound is inviting but you don't just get lost in it.  It's passive enough not to get emotionally involved if you don't want to.  It's sort of the side effect of being too mild-mannered.  It can lose your attention if you don't want to be attentive to it.  To be emotionally involved, the earphone needs to grab you and take you for a ride that you can't take your mind from.  This earphone doesn't quite do that.


Edited by mvw2 - 3/20/11 at 11:55pm
post #5 of 152
Thread Starter 

Linkin Park - Crawling

 

Listening Goals:

 

I've often liked to use Linkin Park's old music as a tool for showing how well an earphone can take a rough, noisy sound and convey clarity and separation.  Crawling is a good example that I like to use.  It's gritty, messy, heavy.  To separate out the noise and make the singer, guitar, and drums unique entities rather than a jumbled mess takes an earphone with a high level of clarity, something dynamic, detailed, fast.  A sluggish, lower capability earphone will present the song as a jumbled mess all blended together, noisy.  This is also a good opportunity for the earphone to convey how forgiving it is.

 

Key things I'm looking for:

  • How well does the earphone separate and individualize the sounds?  Is the earphone good enough to pull out the singer, drums, and guitar as individual devices in the overall sound presentation?  How well or poorly is this done?  This will focus on the level of clarity of the earphone, how clean it is, how much speed it has, how dynamic and textured the presentation is.  An earphone with a bigger, more spread out, more pinpoint sound stage should also show improved clarity and individual presence of sound.
  • How forgiving is the earphone?  How raw and gritty is the audio track?  How many flaws are hidden or smoothed over?  This should indicate how forgiving the earphone is to audio quality.  Crawling is rough and gritty, colored, and should be presented so by the earphone.  If not, the earphone is hiding the flaws and making the presentation more forgiving.

 

Listening Notes:

 

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UM3X – The presentation is bassy and thick in energy which does make loud passages sound heavy, almost overbearingly powerful.  Clarity is very good though and separating of the instruments and singer seems effortless.  The presentation is aggressive from the body of the bass notes and noisy.  The UM3X isn't forgiving at all.  The song sounds gritty and aggressive.  It's a noisy experience.  The bass driven signature does help keep your attention off the roughness of the song to some degree, but it relies on overshadowing more than hiding which can be enough for a person to stop caring about the quality of the audio.

 

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e-Q7 –  The sound is clean, natural.  During noisy passages vocials, drums, and guitar are clean and unmuddled, however, the e-Q7 isn't stellar about pulling each part into its own.  Everything exist together, layered, but clean and controlled.  I think the abundance of texture but lack of crisp articulation of that infomratino prevents the earphone from really really separating the sounds into their own existence, but the speed and detail allows enough clarity to keep things clean and tidy.  This earphone is surprisingly forgiving.  The softness of the details lets the e-Q7 present the info without the roughness and grit in the source.  It makes for a more pleasant presentation that's still energetic, textured, but without many of the flaws.  It's quite forgiving but in a way that's also quite desirable.  You don't really lose things you want to keep but still get rid of the things you don't want to hear.

 

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RE262 – Clarity is effortless.  The singer, drums, and guitar are separate and well spaced.  High dynamics, articulation, and speed do that easy, and the RE262 is effortless in doing so.  Every little bit of sound is unique in its own space.  The RE262 is highly revealing and the high dynamic range does make the presentation aggressive and edgy.  It's abilities that allow it to separate and keep the sound clean also reveal the gritty and noisy nature of the song.  It's loud and relatively stark.  The lack of note heft and sweeter top end does tame down the sense of it though by a little bit in that it isn't overbearing, but the midrange frequencies are quite aggressively presented and unavoidably engaging.  It's light and clean but energetic and noisy.

 

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Triple.Fi 10 – The sounds are well resolved and articulated with an excellent amount of note clarity, but the details and edge come in a smoothed sense.  It has an easy time separating the sounds and putting them in their own existence in a lush environment.  The Triple.Fi 10 is forgiving in certain ways.  The thicker note and smoothed details get rid of the grit from the song, however the treble is strong and clear and does present a good amount of high frequency emphasis and detail, and some of the roughness shows through from that.  The presentation is aggressive but lush and the rough edges are smoothed some.  You maintain a lot of the clarity and energy, some aggressiveness and power, without being gritty or too noisy.

 

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RE252 – The presentation is highly detailed and aggressive, light in body but impactful.  The sound is edgy and stark, gritty but oddly not noisy.  There's a high amount of information but it come across tamed somewhat rather than a complete explosion of sound.  A lot of the grit and quality is shown through by the edginess of the sound.  It's impactful and sharp, almost gratingly so.  However, whole some earphones are simply noisily loud, the RE252 comes across controlled, softening that power into a less offensive sound.  Clarity is very high easily separating the sounds cleanly, and the earphone makes an extra effort to balance out the energy of the presentation so the noise isn't so in your face.  This isn't a very forgiving earphone.  It shows a large amount of the details and shows the gritty, dirty sound, but it does offer enough dynamic constraint to keep the presentation from getting overbearing or noisy which is interesting.  If you are sensitive to being overwhelmed a moderately controlled earphone like this can help keep things tame, but it just won't hide the details.

 

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CK100 – The presentation is detailed with good energy and power.  There is bite to the notes.  The guitar, drums, and singer are well separated in their own spaces.  The short notes of the CK100 keep things very clean.  The dynamic range and aggressive note does make the sound aggressive and energetic.  The presentation is edgy with some grit, powerful and noisy, but the roughness is softened.  You get a powerful presentation that's highly strung but isn't stark and a loud presentation that is aggressive, loud but not specifically overbearing.  It sounds rough around the edges but isn't too rough and revealing but not too stark.  It's a good earphone if you want some of the raw sense but not all of it.  It portrays everything but in a slightly lighter sense that takes some of edge off for a little more pleasant experience without losing it all either, the energy and edge without the fatigue.

 

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RE-ZERO – The presentation is open and clean.  There is a good natural sense to the sound, clean, detailed but not stark, aggressive but not overpowering.  The RE-ZERO offers a delicate sense of detail, squeaky clean, light, energetic.  The singer, drums, and guitar are unique and well separated, but it's not black and white separate.  The presentation is noisy but not offensive, energetic but not overloading.  The sense of grit and grim is subtle.  You can perceive it if you look for it, but it's not a dominant factor.  The RE-ZERO is forgiving in that the edginess, grit, and noise is more subtle, less plain as day, but it also doesn't completely get rid of it.  The presentation is aggressive, edgy but toned down, naturally so, lighter and not so in your face by use of it's cleaner, shorter note and controlled yet still not overly constrained dynamics.  It shows some of what you want but in a more subtle, refined, tamed manner, yet it doesn't sound overly done so the presentation sounds natural rather than forced or awkward. 

 

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Custom 3 – The presentation is thick but articulate, heavily bodied yet clean, and punchy.  The sound is resolving and open but smoothed in detail.  Separation of the singer, guitar, and drums are effortless.  The sounds are unique and well spaced.  The presentation is powerful and full but not noisy.  The smoothness does a good job hiding the gritty nature of the song and while thick and well bodied, it only comes across powerfully presented but not really noisy.  It's bassy but not overbearing.  The presentation is quite forgiving.  The grittiness and roughness is hardly perceivable, and the sound isn't edgy or aggressive, just thick and powerful which is engaging but pleasant.  The texturing shows some of the roughness, but it's subtle, and the thickness and smoothed detail simply hides a lot.  You get a robust and powerful experience that's non-offensive or fatiguing, just good clean fun.

 

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OK1 – The presentation is clean, detailed, crisp.  There is a high sense of energy and impact, but it's very short and controlled.  The sound is lean and heavily textured but very controlled, tidy.  The singer, drums, and guitar are unique, but the separation is subtle, spaced if you look for it, separate entities but otherwise casually coexisting in the same space.  The texturing is heavily detailed but not highly articulate, so details blend and become presented subtly rather than in a starkly cut out.  The presentation is energetic, noisy but controlled, clean, tamed.  You get the perception of aggressiveness, noise, and bite but all in a non-offensive package, quieted, likable, all simply a part of the background adding to the overall presentation and not thrown in your face.  The Ok1 has a way of presenting a lot of "bad" information in a very controlled and non-offending manner.  In a way, it's much like the e-Q7 with the detailed but not highly articulated texturing.

 

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HJE900 – The presentation open, smooth, and thumpy.  There is a strong bass presence and warm signature.  Detail is smooth but doesn't sound muddy.  Rather the sound comes across quite open, thick with heft but open.  The complex passages are a bit muddy.  There's a sense of separate and spacing, but the detail isn't clean enough to pull the sounds into their own when things get noisy.  Simpler sections sound good though.  For how smooth the earphone is, it is still decently revealing.  The grittiness and roughness on the top end come through, not completely smoothed over by the long note decay and thick presentation.  The presentation isn't aggressive enough to really be overwhelming or offensive, but the strong and extended highs bring through the flaws, not completely stark but easily noticeable.  The song remains rough sounding.  The presentation is powerful and noisy, and although the roughness shows through, the edginess is softened and less grating, less stark.  The HJE900 shows a surprising amount of information for a thick and smoothed note.  I feel the openness helps separate things out and keeps things from really muddying together into a mess, but the high frequency energy and sensitivity makes it a little less forgiving than it could be.


Edited by mvw2 - 3/20/11 at 11:53pm
post #6 of 152
Thread Starter 
Stevie Wonder - Superstition @ live

 

 

Listening Goals:

 

I wanted to pick a life recording, something with a broad spectrum of sound, instruments, singers, an audience.  Stevie Wonder has a great voice and a diverse band.  His music is also well rehearsed and polished so everything is set up well, balanced, and clean.  This piece focuses mostly on the balance of presentation and the ability for the earphone to create the presence, space, and layering of information.  It needs to be clean, detailed, textured, balanced, just a whole lot of things or the presentation suffers in some way.

 

Key things I'm looking for:

  • Overall balance of presentation.  How well does the earphone present the range of info?  Is it emphasizing anything specific or lacking somewhere?  This emphasizes importance of frequency response balance and balance of presence.
  • How well does it separate out and individualize the sounds?  Is it a noisy mess or actually a spread out band like it should be?  An earphone needs to be good with developing a well spaced and deep sound stage.
  • How big or small is the presence?  Does the earphone fill out the sound well?  Does the earphone actually fill the space and make it big like a concert?  An earphone should make a big production sound like a big production.  It's a performance on stage with many players and a big crowd cheering and singing along.  It should sound like that.

 

Listening Notes:

 

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UM3X – The presentation is warm and robust with thick bass, powerful, and driving presence.  Mids and high frequencies come across more recessed with the highs particularly coming across a bit rolled off.  The drums drive the presentation with a strong beat and heavy presence.  Stevie's voice is warm and bassy but still open and articulate.  All the instruments and singers are well separated but the space in which they're in is a thick, textured environment.  The UM3X is outstanding about creating a big presentation.  It's powerful, robust, thick, and there's a generous amount of size and depth.  You gain some sense of size of the arena, although the depth is more subtle and overshadowed by the presence of the band.

 

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e-Q7 – The presentation is open and clean.  The sound is lively and well balanced with a little focus on the midrange.  You retain a good sense of the drums and kick hit, but decay is short and not overly filling.  Cymbals shimmer well but come across warmed/smoothed a little bit.  Nothing's particularly lacking though, and the trumpet, sax, keyboard, etc. all show through well.  Stevie's voice is natural and varied.    The e-Q7's high texturing, good dynamics, and clean note let all the instruments show through well in their own places, and you get a good sense of size and separation.  As well, the earphone is great at portraying proximity and distance.  The stage is well sized and the audience is big and distanced really well.  You get an excellent sense of the size of things and the space and distance between things.  If there was a slight shortcoming it's in that the texturing isn't the most articulate and dynamic, and this does more softly define the space.  Perception ends up more subtle in the mix rather than pinpoint and absolute.

 

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RE262 – The presentation lean and mid-centric.  It comes across open and slightly bright.  The drums are there but the deep hits aren't there.  The whacks there but the thump isn't.  The trumpet, sax, and keyboard show through well but sound quiet, laid back, subtle in the mix.  Most of the focus goes towards the higher mids like some of the drum whacks, Stevie's voice, etc.  Everything sounds lean, bright in tone.  Separation of sounds are effortless.  All the sounds are unique and clean.  the RE262 does fall short in presence though.  The sense of spacing and depth isn't really there.  A lot of the information is forward without the depth and presence.  This isn't a heavily textured earphone, relying more on dynamics and detail, and this does seem to have the side effect of poorly creating a sense of space and distance.  Everything is pulled up, up front, even the crowd.  Things are heavily directional and in their own, but things just don't spread out well.

 

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Triple.Fi 10 – The presentation is robust with good impact and energy, some thickness, but still a clean sound.  Tonality is slightly warm through the midrange but a slightly emphasized high end.  There is some focus on midbass things like the bass guitar and high frequency things like the cymbals.  Stevie's voice is slightly warm on the low end but brightens up singing higher notes.  His voice is open and energetic with a healthy amount of presence from the long decay.  The trumpets, sax, and keyboard show through well, slightly warm with a likable rich signature, slightly recessed through the midrange.  Separation is effortless.  The details are clean and articulated.  All the instruments are spread out and individual in space.  The space is open and spread out.  The presence of the band is big.  The good energy and decay fill out the space well, and the band carries good presence, and information is articulated enough to create a good sense of depth and space.  Dynamic range is the only real limit of the Triple.Fi 10 and does deter from the depth of the presentation.  The ability to convey proximity and distance is shrunk and far information is pulled forwards some and close things pushed out some.  Directional sense is strong, and depth is ok, but things are compressed in depth some and the space ends up not being as open as it could be. 

 

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RE252 – The presentation is clean, well balanced, and lively.  Tonality is slightly brightm but the low end still remain hearty enough with good texturing and impact.  The bass guitar is pronounced and driving.  The kick drum thumps well blended with good on hit impact.  The trumpet, sax, and keyboard is natural, maybe a little dry, well blended not being recessed nor forward, and cymbals crash and shine well.  Stevie's voice is textured, natural in tone, and edgy.  The presentation lacks only slightly in heft on the low end but is otherwise an upbeat and energetic.  The limit in dynamic range brings the quieter bits forward and fills in the presentation making for a lively, energetic performance with a lot of noticeable bits to grab your attention.  The instruments are well separated, unique, and spread out.  The sense of depth is somewhat subtle but perceived.  The limited dynamic range does pull things forward some.  The sense of distancing remains although things aren't clearly placed at a points out far.  Far things are quiet and distant in signature but more subtle in placement.  You end up with a sense of size and space but not pinpoint placement and layout of that sizing.  The lively and forward nature does make the presentation quite engaging and filled.  Some earphones fill with thickness.  This fills by piling on information and lets you sort things out, and you sort of end up hearing what you decide to focus on. 

 

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CK100 – The presentation is well balanced with good edge and an energetic presentation.  Sounds are quick and clean but slightly ghostly from the short decay and limited texture.  High dynamics make the presentation energetic and powerful during loud sections.  The bass guitar has good drive.  Drums have good hit but lack the decay and heft.  The trumpet, sax, and keyboard continue the clean signature but decay and texturing is short.  Cymbals crash and shimmer well.  The entire presentation is well balanced and blended though.  The instruments are cleanly defined, separate, and unique.  Everything exists in a pinpoint place, but the lack of texture doesn't spread things out well.  The sound stays relatively in-head, but the dynamics do create a sense of proximity and depth.  The lack of texturing does present another hit against the CK100 in the form of not really owning the space.  The sound stage is well rounded and sounds separate, but texturing fills in the gaps in between and defines place and size.  When you're lacking, the presentation is more ghostly, discernible to some degree and your mind can make up the size and space on its own from the details and dynamics, but it's not actually described to you in detail through texturing.  You can tell there's size and distancing, but you're doing more mental processing to fill in the gaps to do it.  The CK100 retains a reasonable amount of heft and energy, and does convey an energetic and sizable atmosphere, so in a way it works.  It's just not described in detail to you.

 

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RE-ZERO – The presentation is quite natural with only a slightly lean hint.  The drums have good hit and presence.  The trumpet, sax, and keyboard are natural and well represented.  Stevie's voice has a natural signature.  The cymbals crash and shimmer well.  The only shortcoming is the level of detail isn't as high as some and the short decay gives a slightly soft, delicate sound.  The instruments are well separated and unique.  The RE-ZERO has an easy time separating the sounds and putting them in their own place.  There's a good sense of direction and depth.  The overall presentation is slightly delicate, not as big and robust as it should be.  The band doesn't quite own the space.  The perception of size and space is more delicate, light rather than heavily textured and fleshed out.  It's good enough but not great, and the band, audience, and such end up sounding just a little small, a little weak.

 

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Custom 3 – The presentation is clean and thickly textured, slightly smooth but open.  The drums hit well and carry good presence.with a clean thud.  The sax, trumpet and keyboard are well textured but a touch warm.  Cymbals crash but are also warm, and highs are gradually rolled off.  Stevie's voice is thick and textured, warm.  The whole presentation is well balanced but warmed from the thick sound.  Separation of the instruments are effortlessly separated existing well spread out in their own spaces.  The notes may be thick, but they're clean and well articulated.  The sounds are thick but not muddied or blended.  The only shortcoming is the lack of edginess and crispness, the sense of air.  The information is just too thick and smoothed for that despite being clean and spaced.  The sense of distance is limited.  There is an excellent perception of spacing, but distance isn't limitless and pulled in a little bit at the extremes.  The thickly textured presentation does create a good sense of presence, and the band sounds well sized and powerful.   The lack of clarity and detail does short change it slightly not quite opening up the space, and things end up a little aggressive and forward.  The Custom 3 has big sound, big space, but not big distance.

 

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OK1 – The presentation is slightly bright, very crisp and detailed up top, open and textured.  The drums have good hit but are lean.  The trumpet, sax, and keyboard are detailed, crisp, and well blended.  Cymbals crash and shimmer strongly.  The high end is a little strong and prominent.  Stevie's voice is lively, textured, clean.  The presentation on the whole is highly detailed, crunchy might be a good word, but a little light on the lower end that gives a somewhat smaller, lighter presentation.  Separation of the instruments is effortless and clean.  All the sounds exist in a heavily textured environment, busy with a lot of detail but well controlled and balanced.  The size of the space is good.  All the sounds are well spread out, and you have a good sense of size.  The audience carries good distance and size.  Depth is subtle but easy to hear.  It isn't super clear cut but sizing is easy to understand from the information.  The lean bottom end and a little heat up top are about the only thing that really stand out and makes for a slightly aggressive presentation and not completely filled out.  The stage space is energetic but not quite as robust as it could be and could fill out a little more with a little more on the low end.  The high detail and high texturing gives you a lot of information to work with to create the size, power, and details of all the things going on.

 

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HJE900 – The presentation is bassy but open with good impact and decay.  Tonality is a little warm.  The bass guitar is thick and driving.  The drums thump and carry heft.  The trumpet and sax are well bended but warm.  The keyboard sticks out a little bit.  Cymbals have good energy and air but are quite smoothed.  Stevie's voice is warm, bassy, and smooth.  The overall presentation is thick and smooth from the long decay, and this helps create the warm and bassy signature.  The instruments are well spread out and separated well.  The lack of detail limits how much information can be conveyed, so the sound stage is a little loosely defined.  There's an openness to the sound and things sound spaced which keeps a lot of the instruments and sounds spread out to decent degree.  The band is well sized and spread out.  The crowd has a reasonable sense of distance and size.  The HJE900 is pretty good about creating a well sized space even with a limited level of detail, and goes to show how much info comes through from a thick note.  It's not all about detail. 


Edited by mvw2 - 3/20/11 at 11:52pm
post #7 of 152
Thread Starter 

Earphone Review:

 

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UM3X

bass: bottomless extension, flat response through the range but emphasized over the mids, excellent body of note, heavily textured and very well articulated, raw sense of power

mid:  a bit recessed and overshadowed by the bass and treble, warm on lower notes, bright on the top end, excellent texture and articulation, highly detailed, open and natural presence

treble: peaky lower end that overshadows the mids but are well balanced with the bass, warm signature from low end emphasis. sharp and clean note, airy and extended shorted only by the warm gearing

stage: great sense of proximity and depth, excellent sense of space and layering, distant info sounds a little too subtle

location: pinpoint locational cues, all sounds are individual and well spread out

clarity: excellent texture and unusually high articulation for a BA earphone, highly detailed with effortless speed, natural and open

tone: bassy and powerful presentation, overall warm signature, mids are overshadowed and recessed, treble peak shows through oddly with certain songs or otherwise warm in signature

dynamics: excellent dynamic range, good linearity, shows subtlety and explosiveness well, real sense of power and presence

 

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e-Q7

bass: excellent extension, short decay and light dynamics can make it sound slightly lean, great impact and presence from the thickly textured note, well balanced with a light, clean, and well bodied note

mid:  natural and open, clean sound, excellent detail through texturing, excellent balance and natural tone, softly articulated

treble: clean and mild, slightly laid back on the top end with some lack of bite and air, can sound slightly warm or smooth from the lack of aggressiveness/edginess of note, excellent texturing, light articulation,

stage: open and highly spaced sound, excellent directional sense, softer sense of distancing from the softer articulation of notes but excellent layout of proximity and distance

location: high sense of direction, placement is soft but excellent in position

clarity: excellent speed and clean note, highly textured but softly articulated which can sound slightly laid back and subtle in detail, pleasant, non-fatiguing, quite forgiving and hides audio track flaws well despite offering a high amount of clarity and detail.

tone: slightly mid-centric presentation from the lean low end and soft top end but the frequency response is pretty much ruler flat

dynamics: thickly textured but softly articulated, dynamic range is presented through range of volume rather than impulse energy or articulation of note.

 

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RE262

bass: excellent extension and some sense of fullness but decay pretty much stops on a dime, very lightly textured, outstanding dynamic range and articulation, effortless sound, clean, powerful in energy but light in body and presence

mid:  open, very highly detailed, extremely dynamic, effortless, transparent, a good bit mid-centric with emphasis towards the high end, noticeably bright

treble: natural with a sweet and airy signature, somewhat laid back on the very top not being aggressive or edgy but highly energetic from great dynamic range, clean, very highly detailed, transparent

stage: open, dependent on the source material it can be quite spacious dynamically pretty in-head when texturing is needed to create space, well rounded and with excellent separation of sounds from extremely high clarity, great sense of direction

location: pinpoint location of sounds, excellent separation, but depth is only driven by dynamic (volume) cues with the lack of note thickness and texturing

clarity: extremely high detail, amazingly low distortion and transparency, extremely articulate but very thin note with minimal texturing

tone: quite mid-centric and somewhat bright due to lean bottom end and lower treble/high mid emphasis, low end notes have lack heft, high end notes a sweet and airy but lack edge and bite.

dynamics: outstanding dynamic range that is effortless and seemingly limitless even at very loud volumes, highly articulate, great sense of energy and impluse.

 

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Triple.Fi 10

bass: great extension with just some roll off on the very bottom end that lightens the visceral sense but makes it sound tighter, outstanding amount of decay for a BA that's borderline muddy, very highly impactful with a great sense of power from thick note and strong impulse, and well controlled and surprisingly clean sounding despite thick note, slightly emphasized and overshadows the mids somewhat

mid:  recessed at times being overshadowed by low and more so high frequencies, warm-natural-bright depending on frequency, well articulated and well bodied, clean, open

treble: excellent texture and presence, authoritative and powerful, sweet and crisp with a very refined sound, limitless extension, moderate emphasis overall that shares the dominance with the strong bass line

stage: open and well sized space, decent sense of depth but limited by compressed dynamic range which limits level of proximity and absolute distance, very directional sense of sound that really grabs your attention and moves it around

location: good pinpoint location and separation of sounds but existing in a thicker presentation of space that softens the exactness of the perception

clarity: a thick note for a BA with a lot of decay, retains excellent articulation which does help keep clarity quite high and provide a very refined signature, good detail through a robust and highly articulated note, good level of speed from the BA drivers, somewhat limited in capability due to limited dynamic range and thicker note causing finer details to be lost.

tone: both warm or bright depending on music emphasis, V shaped overall with a heavy and impactful low end and dominant high end, on average slightly bring/lean

dynamics: excellent articulation of note, lacks breadth and doesn't really portray subtlety nor serious explosiveness of sound, takes advantage of note thickness and strong impulse to convey sense of power and presence, .

 

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RE252

bass: linear frequency response and excellent extension, texturing is moderate but decay is short making for a hearty but ultimately light bass note, surprisingly good amount of note impact

mid:  natural and excellently balanced, very highly textured and detailed, aggressive and edgy

treble: uncommonly powerful presence, edgy and aggressive, highly textured and detailed, limitless extension

stage: somewhat up front and closed in, well rounded, good sense of space and excellent separation of sounds, sense of depth is present but more subtle/hinted in perception.

location: pinpoint placement and good separation between sounds

clarity: extremely high level detail, a bit aggressive in amount of detail from compressed dynamic range (onslaught of information), heavily textured, natural articulation, short decay effortless speed helps create a clean and highly revealing sound

tone: very well balanced, natural to slightly bright, even in intensity, a little dry

dynamics: good dynamic range but noticeably controlled and limited/reigned in on the high end, very revealing portraying subtlety very easily but not explosive and can come across somewhat tamed, high sense of energy, aggressive and edgy

 

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CK100

bass: bottomless extension, some sense of body and heft but ultimately light, definition of note mostly defined by strong dynamic range and some decay, poor texturing which gives away a lot of note heft/fullness, well balanced despite the short note, clean and energetic

mid:  excellent balance, energetic and clean, open and very transparent, low texturing leans out the lower end and places more focus on the higher end

treble: excellent refinement and control, well detailed and extended, great energy and air, can be a bit strong with some songs but surprisingly non-fatiguing

stage: well rounded space, excellent separation, very directional sense of sound, sense of depth driven by great dynamic range but lacks in texturing, can be well sized or in head depending on if source material relies on dynamics or texturing to convey the presence.

location: pinpoint and excellent separation

clarity: excellent speed, peak details but lacks texturing and resulting information from that, lack of texture creates a somewhat ghostly sense of sound, clean and controlled with a very refined treble range

tone: excellent balance, largely neutral in signature with reasonable sense of bass and treble, can be well extended or slightly mid centric or bright depending on source material

dynamics: excellent dynamic range, subtle information is poorly presented but loud information is energetic and sounds powerful, sense of power and presence from impulse and dynamic range rather than texturing and note heft..

 

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RE-ZERO

bass: excellent presentation of note with good texturing, articulation, decay, natural but lean with gradual roll off through the whole range, above average punchiness.

mid:  natural sounding with good texture, decay, dynamics, good realism, slightly bright due to the gradual roll off on the low end, playful in presentation

treble: natural and again good texture, dynamics, slightly light and airy but good level of energy, great extension

stage: well rounded presentation, good directional sense, excellent separation, distancing is a little forward and depth is slightly limited a little and more softly presented by the limited dynamic range

location: pinpoint placement and separation

clarity: excellent control making a tight and clean note, highly detailed but everything is presented in a slightly softened and delicate manner, forward but pleasant and playful, not the most revealing but natural and clean

tone: slightly bright with a quieting low end and short decay, main focus towards upper mids and highs with highs retaining excellent extension and energy

dynamics: good range, good articulation, just slightly softened and delicate due to highly controlled driver but still quite energetic, good sense of subtlety, loud sections are noticeably constrained, overall range is limited but has a natural sense about it, sense of power and presence is tamed but reasonable with good decay, texturing, and dynamics only limited by the taught driver.

 

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Custom 3

bass: very good extension, high amount of texturing and articulation making a thick but energetic note that has a lot of punch,  thick signature creates a warm presence, sound is thick but textured and clean

mid:  well balanced, heavily textured and well articulated, thick and warm but highly detailed

treble: well balanced, again heavily textured and articulated, again a thick and warm signature, thick presentation noticeably smooths details and softens the edge, rolls off on the top end although it's not particularly missed with the already smoothed signature

stage: outstanding sense of space and effortless separation from the highly textured and articulated notes, slightly exaggerated width, good sense of proximity and distancing

location: pinpoint placement and excellent spacing between sounds

clarity: surprising level of detail for a relatively thick note, a lot of detail shows through the high texturing and articulation, some of the details are smoothed/hidden for the thick and smooth note once you get into the upper midrange and high frequencies, high frequencies noticeably smoothed and lacking details, some of the finer details are hidden but can be found with effort within the smoothness of the note

tone: slightly warm from the thick note presentation although frequency response is well balanced, low end is tidy and not overbloated and despite the high end roll off it doesn't particularly sound lacking up top, just smoothed/warmed some

dynamics: great dynamic range, excellent articulation of note, excellent ability to portray explosiveness but subtlety is slightly mixed into the thicker note, sense of power and presence comes from the thick note, high texturing, and excellent dynamic range

 

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OK1

bass: very highly impactful with a very powerful note impulse, heavily textured, very highly detailed, decay is quite short from a moderately controlled driver, not the most articulate or dynamic, bass amount as an earbud is sensitive to placement and ear shape but my testing showed some roll off for my particular anatomy and placement, roll off is minor but does brighten the signature some

mid:  very highly textured, outstanding level of detail, very crisp and airy, excellent transparency

treble: very crisp with great bite, open, very highly textured and detailed, rolls off on the very top slightly softening the edge and warming the signature slightly

stage: well rounded, a bit foward and starting in-head, excellent separation, very good sense of depth and spacing but slightly subtle

location: pinpoint location and effortless separation, more distant information more subtle and harder to pinpoint

clarity: extremely high level of detail, very high speed, very high amount of texturing, very transparent, aggressive and with bite but at the same time constrained dynamically to create a non-fatiguing presentation despite the sharp and heavily detailed note.

tone: a little bright with the treble emphasis, tone sensitive to physical placement and ear shape of listener though, short decay does lean out the low end some, treble roll off does warm the top end some.

dynamics: a bit limited in range do to heavily controlled driver, only mildly articulate, very high impulse, sense of power and presence comes from raw motor power (strong impulse) and excellent texturing and note body

 

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HJE-900

bass: excellent extension, thick note with excellent decay, hearty and full, impactful and punchy, surprisingly clean and open signature for such a thick note, moderate emphasis and does overshadow and warm the mids some, dominant but well balanced and natural through the bass range

mid: a bit overshadowed by the bass and treble, somewhat recessed, thick and well bodied note, smooth in detail, surprisingly open for a thick note

treble: excellent extension, odod presence and bite, emphasized and dominant along with the bass, still and thick and smoothed note but retains an open and even edgy sound

stage: makes good use of the long decay long notes to convey information to define space and size, pretty large, excellent separation and good sense of distancing

location: slightly softened sense of placement due to limited amount of details

clarity: surprising level of information through the thick note making use of good dynamics and decay to convey big picture information, moderately smoothed and lacking real texturing and articulation which prevents the earphone from presenting a lot of details, good speed and clarity preventing the earphone from ever sounding muddy, very minimal in terms of fine details but very reasonable level of overall discernible detail.

tone: A bit V shaped with moderate bass and treble emphasis, well balanced at the extremes making for a reasonably natural overall signature

dynamics: quite good dynamic range, lacks articulation of details, excellent impact and punch, sense of power and presence comes from the long decay, thick note, and good dynamic range.


Edited by mvw2 - 3/20/11 at 11:47pm
post #8 of 152
Thread Starter 

Here's the frequency response graph of all the earphones in the comparison.  I will remind you this is simply my perception of the response, my ears, roughly the same loudness.  All responses are zeroed on the graph at 1kHz.  I also added +/- 3dB lines as a rough guide of the general balance of the earphones.  If it's within this range, the earphone is relatively flat.  Many do tend to present a V shape, but they are not all of that manner.  I should specially note the RE252 and e-Q7 as having the flattest response of the bunch.  The Custom 3 and CK100 are good runner ups. 

 

I will note that frequency response alone does not dictate sound.  Things like decay will thicken or lean the signature and make the sound more warm or bright by changing the amount of presence the notes have.  Two earphones of the same frequency response do not share the same sound.  Most are in fact quite different.  An emphasis or lack of sensitivity doesn't necessarily mean the earphone will straight out sound peaky.  This is just a general indicator and gives a hint towards the presentation.

 

I will repeat again, the graph is what I perceive, my ears, my brain, today at this time.  A number of these earphones I've EQed more than once and made similar graphs.  It's not always the same.  Our perception of sound tends to vary a bit.  The graph isn't absolute, so don't take it as such. It is however worth comparing against each other and fine as a general guide that is at least marginally correct. 

 

Frequency Response Graph:

 

Earphone Response Graph 3.jpg


Edited by mvw2 - 3/20/11 at 11:48pm
post #9 of 152
Thread Starter 

Final Thoughts:

 

UM3X: This is basically the most revealing earphone I've used.  The level of detail from the excellent texturing, articulation, and dynamics is outstanding.  The only real shortcoming is the frequency response.  Without an EQ, it can be a tough earphone to recommend.  It is unique and extremely capable but unbalanced.  This is the 3rd time I've owned this earphone and the 3rd time I will sell it too.  With EQing, it's one of the best earphones I've used and flaws are very minimal.  However, for a broad spectrum listening device (to which it wasn't geared for), it falls short pretty much only from the frequency response which is a shame.

 

e-Q7: This earphone has shown to be one of the best balanced earphones in the bunch and one of the most balanced earphones I've used.  As well, it really has few flaws which makes it one of the better choices on the market.  For a single driver, I'm surprised at how well it functions across the spectrum.  My personal preferences prefers a little more articulation like the UM3X, but it's hard to complain with this both very competent as well as forgiving earphone.  It simply offers an excellent mix of properties that suits a high spectrum of applications.  The sound stage is one of the best I've used, excellent size, very directional, excellent definition of distance.  It's just really good.

 

RE262: This earphone is a game changer.  The dynamic driver used in this earphone is the best I've heard.  The level of transparency, dynamics, and level of detail are godly.  It could arguably be the best dynamic driver in any earphone on the market currently.  The only downside is it has been packaged in a way that presents a rather colored signature.  It's likable and forgetable over time, but compared against others, it does lack balance, and that will make it suffer once you start using it across many genres.  It does great with some things and not so great with others.

 

Triple.Fi 10: I've owned this earphone twice.  I've owned in when I've owned pretty much everything else I've ever owned.  Alone, the Triple.Fi 10 doesn't impress much.  It's V shaped and colored.  It doesn't specifically stand out or do anything special.  However, against every other earphone I've put it against, it keeps showing me how broadly capable, refined, and absolutely fun it is to listen to.  This earphone would be in my top 3 list.  It is so good in so many ways that one can't even tell till they put it head to head with everything else out there.  It's not perfect.  It has some flaws.  However, the mix of what it offers makes it a very refined, very capable, and versatile product that in a grand view outpaces most everything out there.  It's also one of the most mindlessly fun earphones I've ever owned.  You just plop them on and enjoy the music.  The coloration, the little flaws, they just stop mattering.

 

RE252: This is one of the more "correct" earphones on the market.  Other than the ER4S, this has really been the only other reference level earphone I've owned.  When I think of a reference level product, this is what I think of: outstanding balance, detail, revealing, uncolored, controlled, refined.  It present information in stark truth and doesn't try to make things pretty or fun.  It just shows you what's there, like it or not.  I may not call it 100% perfect because, well, I don't like how constrained the driver is.  That limits what it could do meaning it could be better than what it is currently, and shortcomings are noticeable.  Yet outside of that it is very, very good but also very, very plain.  It's a love-hate thing.

 

CK100: Well this is the pricier brother of the much loved CK10.  I've used both and they're...quite different.  I view the CK100 as sort of a sister to the UM3X.  They share qualities, the UM3X being the meatier, manlier version, rugged and muscular while the CK100 the more dainty, delicate, and refined one.  As different as they are, the core sound is similar.  The CK100 is more balanced but lacks the texture and articulation, unfortunately two things I personally strongly seek from an earphone.  The CK100 has been an earphone I've liked a lot.  It's very refined, very well balanced, very pleasant and enjoyable to listen to while still offering a highly detailed and energetic presentation.  It has some of the things the CK10 didn't, like a more engaging presentation and a visceral sense of sound, but it doesn't have the CK10's texture and abundant micro detail.  The CK100 is a mix of things that I can see many people enjoying...if only the price tag was easier to swallow.

 

RE-ZERO: One of the biggest surprises of the bunch.  I've had this earphone for a little while.  I saw it as good but not stellar.  I see the RE252 and RE262 as better.  However, after this comparison, I question that.  One thing this review session has shown me is how balance and natural the RE-ZERO is, basically more so than anything else here.  It isn't stellar at any one thing, actually falling a little short everywhere, but it doesn't fall a lot short anywhere, and that makes it very, very good.  It's sort of a jack of all trades, doing a lot well with no serious shortcomings.  It ends up sounding very natural and appropriate playing everything.  With any shortcomings as minor, they can be easily ignored, and the rest is quite good, quite correct, quite natural.  At the reasonable $100 price tag, it's an outstanding product that does so, so much right.

 

Custom 3: I've long been a fan of this earphone.  It's sad Klipsch messed up the cord because it was the best earphone they made.  It's about a half step down from the best universals but it's also 1/3 the street price making it one of the better buys.  I see the Custom 3 and RE-ZERO as two of the best bang for the buck products out there.  Well I would add the Triple.Fi 10 too, but the pricing isn't very stable and quite expensive at times.  The Custom 3 is a lot like the UM3X but better balanced.  It's highy textured, very dynamic, and subsequently very detailed.  It's a part step down from the UM3X directly but the better balance makes it a serious buy even when you do put it head to head.  It doesn't do much wrong and has sold cheap as dirt.  It's also a great candidate for potentially one of the cheapest and quite good custom molds on the market using a set as a doner.  You get better sound, better isolation, better fit, and a better cord stepping to a custom,  and it's still cheaper than most of the high end universals.

 

Ok1: This has been my longest owned earphone.  I've used it and compared it to everything else I've owned.  This plane looking earbud has competed toe-to-toe with everything I've bought excelling in speed, clarity, texture, and detail.  The driver used in this bud is extremely good.  I've bought many IEMs, and every time I do I eventually sell back to just one.  I always keep the one I like the best, and the OK1 over and over stayed with me.  It has been a testament to how good it really is.  Will I keep this one still after this latest bunch?  I haven't decided yet, but it's still in the top group.

 

HJE900: I bought this because it was cheap and there were a lot of other happy hi-fiers using this earphone.  Initial impressions were off-putting.  The quality of sound, the level of refinement isn't the best, and I've been used to the best.  However, it did grow on me over time.  It has proven to be a quite versatile earphone doing a number of key things well.  It's a big colored and lacking detail for my taste, but as a budget level product that offers broad capability, I like it.  I simply haven't used enough budget level products to really suggest this versus other products at its price point.  I'm sure it excels at certain things.  The open and spacious sound is impressive and was better than what I was expecting.


Edited by mvw2 - 3/21/11 at 12:53am
post #10 of 152

Great Start, can't wait to read the rest.  I really like your choices in test material.  As a bass player, I'm used to locking into the drums, so that's where I start all my evaluations (The Professor is a hero of mine).  I also love the Cello, so that's another place I turn for testing (Yo Yo Ma is a favorite).  Linkin Park is perfect for judging congestion/overlap/separation, my test playlist includes "Lying from you".  Keep up the good work and I'll patiently wait for your conclusions.

post #11 of 152

popcorn.gif

post #12 of 152

Nice.

post #13 of 152

Like it!

post #14 of 152

Great job.  I really like the way you posted the music and the layout of your review makes it very easy to digest.

 

It helps that you are examining quite a few of the IEMs I've been considering.  Looking forward to the rest!

post #15 of 152
Thread Starter 

What do you guys think of the format?  It's a little different than what I typically do, but I think it might help people "follow along" with the reviews/impressions.  You can also listen to your own earphones and get an idea for what you hear or don't hear with the same information and how your particular earphones seemingly compare (although different ears/minds I know).  I haven't decided on picking "winners" for each selected piece as each tend to do certain things well.  I think it's more about what differences each individual prefers.  I may include some comments in my final thoughts for each earphone at the end that highlight certain strengths and weaknesses with each earphone, and that might help individuals pick and choose products for their own liking. 

 

I may end up adding some comments about each test sample discussing maybe what I'm looking for from each earphone, and that might help provide some key points that each of you should listen for while you go through it with your own hardware.  For example, brass instruments resonate.  They blat and ring at louder volumes.  There's a lot of texture in the notes that many earphones have trouble portraying.  The sound should have a warm, sweet sense.  Some earphones can't really make it sound like that object.  Do you or do you not hear the breaths of the player?  What about sense of the room he's in?  Does the earphone portray the reverberations of the room created from the instrument?  How does the earphone deal with subtlety and explosiveness of sound?  For the drums does the bass drum hit you?  Does it should hearty and well bodied?  During complex passages does the earphone keep all the sounds separated and unique?  Do all the instruments sound like they should?  Is there a good whack/thud?  Do cymbals crash, shimmer, and ring with a lengthy decay?  Are hits well textured as in do you hear the whack on the drum head from the stick and the vibration of the drum head and body? (drums are noisy devices)  How is the balance across the frequency spectrum?  Are deep bass hits as well defined as the midrange snare and crash of the cymbals?  Does anything seem lacking of overpronounced?  Did you notice the audience?  Did they sound well represented and distanced?

 

It may be these kinds of things.  I just haven't decided if I actually want to make you listen for specific things.  I think they might be things that you should or may not pick up on naturally as you listen.  Maybe me commenting might help you focus and think about some of the areas you might listen for in order to help determine if your own earphones over or under develop certain things.

 

Feel free to comment and make some suggestions.  I'm just toying with a slightly different format here and am curious what you guys might like to see from it that could be helpful.

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