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Advice on getting some monitors under $400

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

I've been doing a lot of research of the past couple of weeks on in-ear monitors, and I am looking to make an investment; I have never had IEMs before. My current use is primarily for listening to music, but will be using them to record within the next couple of months. The conclusion of my research has lead me to consider 4 models at present, but I am more than open to suggestion.


I don't listen to a lot of electronic music, so bass is not a huge concern for me; however I like a warm, rich bass to what I'm listening to. Clarity and dynamics are of utmost importance. Sound isolation is also a bit of a big deal as I want to use my IEMs as earplugs if necessary.


During my research I have used the Top Tier IEM charts on this website and another IEM chart on anythingbutipod, but I haven't been able to find any other charts like them. If anyone could link me to to some it would be appreciated.


I heard from someone that "It takes a fair amount of time for your ears to get sufficiently used to this level of fidelity to make it really worthwhile to invest in (say) ER-4 Etys over mc3 or hf5 Etys." I was wondering if anyone could offer some input on this subject? It could make a huge impact on my decision of which IEM to buy.




I am currently considering the following 4 models (in this order):


Etymotics ER-4p ($225)/Earsonics SM3 ($360)

Ultimate Ears Triplefi 10 ($180)
Phonak Audeo PFE ($140)
Monster Turbine Gold Pro ($250) - I've heard reports that the bass may be a little over-power and am going to do further research on this model




I was recommended Etmotics ER-4p by a lot of other forums, and they seem like a pretty good model for their price.

Comparatively, the SM3 is reported as one of the best models under the $400 mark and got pretty much flawless reviews. My only concern is the cost. Both are said to offer excellent balance, clarity and dynamics.


Phonak Audeo PFE is made by a swiss hearing aid company but reviewed a being one of the most balanced IEMs out there, the only problem was that some listeners reported a lack in bass (this was consistent in all reviews).


Lastly, the Turbine Gold Pro IEM was reviewed very well on this site's chart and in many reviews (specifically a better buy for a better price than the Beats by Dre headphones); however as aforementioned they might be over-powering in the bass. All of your opinions and advice are appreciated. Thanks for reading.


Edit: Checked out the Ultimate Ears Triplefi 10s and they seem like a pretty decent buy for $180; any input?

Edited by bmasseur - 12/29/10 at 1:12pm
post #2 of 8

At the very upper limit of your budget (actually slightly over considering impressions), have you taken the JH5 Pro into consideration? Any problems with getting synergy with tips and such will be non-existent, and the sound quality will surpass universal options. 


As for universals, the EarSonics SM3 are in a higher tier than the rest of your selections. They will step up to the plate and deliver what you need. The Etymotics are a mainstay of IEMs. They have been around forever and will perform if you need them to, but the bass is lacking compared to modern offerings. It's all there, but you hear it and you don't feel it. 


Monster's Turbine Pro Golds may be less overpriced than Dre Beats, but you're still paying for the Monster name. You can do better for the price.


Ah just saw your Triple Fi edit, and I like these phones a lot. They are enjoyable to listen to, even if they're not transparent and all that nonsense. If you have smaller ear canals though, you may encounter problems with fit.

Edited by albertnam - 12/29/10 at 1:21pm
post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 

I took the Ultimate Ear UE4 and JH5 but decided (as you said) with impressions and everything that they would just be way over-budget.


When you say, the Etymotics are lacking bass, is that in electronic music, or like drum intensive music (say prog rock/metal, gospel, etc.)?


As far as the Triple Fi goes, what is transparency exactly? What is it that you like about them?

post #4 of 8

From what you're describing you want, I think you'd really like the Westone UM3X. Good clarity; warm, rich bass; lots of details; very comfortable and from what others have said, if you use the triple flange tips they're very good at isolation. I know its more than the Triple.fi but they are way more comfortable and emphasize bass and treble less. I'd say a great choice for you!

post #5 of 8

I'd recommend the EarSonics SM3.  I just got mine about a week ago and I can't put them down.  They seem to fit what you're looking for.  From what I've heard, they are similar to the UM3X, but crisper and more balanced. 

post #6 of 8
Thread Starter 

Well those two choices are pretty much what I'm looking at in the high end (SM3s or UM3Xs); however a lot of people have been recommending to start out with lower range IEMs to adjust my ears to the quality of sound (in the $200 range), and get custom tips and shop around until I find a brand I like, in case I make a huge investment and am unhappy with my IEM purchase. Does anyone hear have an opinion on this? Thanks.


If not I think I'm pretty much set on the SM3s... thanks guys.

post #7 of 8

I think SM3, UM3x, GR10 are very good to start with but you have some more options like if you want to try two different type of soundsignature IEMs under $400 budget like one bass heavy but detailed(Radius DDM) and other more balanced, neutral and detailed( DBA-02, CK10, RE-ZERO, RE0, MC5 and ER4P).

post #8 of 8
You are actually looking for IEM's that will be used for
Monitoring right? Then you may want to just rule out all the consumer type IEM's that you've listed. (ie: monster turbines, TF10) If you need something for studio monitoring the monitors are designed for neutral and linear response. So the UM3x, SM3, the cheaper Audio Technica CK90 Pro, ER-4P, etc are all professional monitors.)

The suggestion to start lower is generally just because of you buy something expensive and find out you don't like the sound signature its a bit of a loss. But since you actually want to get something that might be used for monitoring, if you get something cheap and unbalanced it will make your recording/mastering all a bit off.

So yes, I think the SM3 would be a good option, and cheaper would be the Ck90pro. That's my opinion though - I don't actually record music myself, but do recognize that the SM3 and 90pro are the most linear and technically accurate earphones I've heard.
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