A review and comparison of 22 earbuds
The Current contenders are:
The Sennheiser MX series ( 580, 880, 980)
The Yuin Series ( Ok1, Pk1, Pk3 )
The Sunrise Charm
The Final Audio Piano Forte II
Blue Ever Blue 328R
Audio Technica C770
Dunu 5x 150
Aiwa HP v151
Audio Technica CM700TI
-Sony MDR 414 / 557B VINTAGE!!!
-Hisound Paa 1 Pro
- Hisound earbud, something better than the Living if thats even possible!
It is important to know that my scores are based the combined totals of quality AND quantity.
*** Hisoundaudio Paa1 Pro ***
( $49 )
The Paa 1 Pro is the set you should be looking at if you enjoy the M2C, as all of its qualities are a noticeable step up. First and foremost, the Bass is clear and clean, there is a satisfying low end compared to pretty much everything I've reviewed in this topic up to this point. The MX980 has a noticeably less omnipresent low end. This means that there is simply a solid low end at all times compared to most other earbuds I've used which simply do not. The Charm does, but its bass quality is pretty terrible, definitely not worth the trade off to have the most bass of all but at the cost of quality. Its important to know my chart rankings and scores are based off an entire package which includes: quantity, quality and price to performance ratio and lastly broadness. In this respect, the Pro and the Live by Hisoundaudio seem to be the clear winners. The Live trumps the Pro in quality but may be a hair inferior in quantity compared to its little brother the Paa1 Pro. Definitely less broad and spacious, less clear than the Live. Definitely distorts more during very low instances on a track. A track called Solar Sailor by Daft Punk off the Tron OST for example boasts a super heavy and deep low end, the Paa1 Pro distorts and sounds choppy, however the broadness of the bass itself is noticeably better than say, the Mx980 or 880. Its responding to it, where as most other sets just dont. So long as your track doesnt employ some seriously low bass, this might be the best earbud for you when it comes to bass response. For $49? Definitely a killer deal.
Soundstaging is excellent all around, its open, spacious and flows very well, it does not sound stretched like the MX980 does, which has a wider and less tall experience with moderate depth. The Pro has a noticeably taller experience, hard to tell if its equal in width but I think it could be. Depth is also very good, not nearly as nice as its brother the Live and especially not as good as its Dad, the Living ( best depth of all by a significant margin ). All in all, this set is intended for rocking out and enjoying music. This is not a monitor, its not a reference set, this is a highly engaging, highly musical set of earbuds with a solid low end, large spacious sound and great midrange. By great, I mean nothing but the Live can best it. It is better IMO than the MX980 in the mids. Vocals are less distorted and hazy. Tracks by Naturescapes show most of the Hisound buds to smash everything around them. They simply do staging with a natural coherency that is not found anywhere else that I am aware of. The stage is just right, its not stretched yet is large and airy, its not lacking anywhere. The Pro is ever so slightly punchy, not as relaxed as the M2C by any means, there is definitely a little more punch and kick going on but I consider it extremely engaging and the best budget earbud available right now. Cant go wrong. If I had to whine about anything, it would be the highs. They are lacking clarity and dynamics. Treble heads should be looking at the MX980 or Hisound Living. Both have excellent highs but lack the fun lower end the Live and the Paa Pro offer.
The low end presence is important for a balanced type of a sound, you dont want to hear anything lacking between the lows, mids and highs. If anything is to lack of the three, I prefer it to be highs, they are the least important to me when I am on the go or want to rock out. This set shines most for me in Jazz, specifically Gypsy Jazz. One of the best guitar players and musicians on this planet, that I am sure not a single one of you know, named Adrien Moignard, has a self titled album in which an acoustic guitar duo is accompanied by a powerful upright bass. No earbuds except the Paa Pro and Live are capable of generating the correct sound in the lows, again that omnipresence, that constant low end deepness is present throughout the entire track where as on other models from other brands this low end is completely absent. Even the Mx980 has a lacking low end presence here. Upright bass is the best instrument to pick apart when trying to test bass quality and quantity. As it stands, the Pro is an all arounder. Classical is ideal due to the large stage with excellent upright bass and cello presence, to rocking out with a great vocalist midrange centered track, to a light Jazz or acoustic Gypsy Jazz track. Hisound Hulk Smashed everyone this year.
*** Hisoundaudio Live ***
( $99 )
Hisound knocks another one out of the park with the Live. It has an excellent balance of quantity throughout the spectrum and boasts a nice balanced sound in comparison to any other earbuds from this company. The bass is satisfying, ever present but not bass heavy. It extends well, but if you are a bass head I would look into the Paa1 Pro over this. The general sound type is something I wanted in its older and more expensive sibling: The Living. Where the Living was bass anemic, the Live has good low end presence. Definitely something a lot like the Blox M2C, in fact to my ears the presentation yet again ( has anyone noticed the M2C seems to be the benchmark for earbud comparisons these days...and for good reason!?) is similar to the Blox. It has that dry neutral type flavor to it, not nearly as cold and bright as the Living, but nowhere near the warmth of the Pro. This is middle ground to me and I enjoy it very much.
Mids are pretty great and once again make me not want to use a few other earbuds that are more expensive. Lively, satisfying, moderately forward but noticeably less broad than something like the Blox or the CM700. The mids are closer to the MX980 type, middle ground in height and distance, light and semi airy, not at all solid. The highs are very similar to the mid set up, also airy, not harsh but definitely in the brighter side with good extension.
The stage is very similar to the MX980, it is wider than it is tall, where as its brother the Living is a giant well formed box with insane depth in stage and airiness. The Live is more down the earth, more tonally balanced and scores good ratings on width, depth and height. It is moderately resolving with good depth in stage, more dynamic and spacious than the CM700ti, Blox and other similar buds. Again, build quality is excellent with the almost all aluminum housing, I do have to gripe about the faceplate as its plastic and looks like the Dunu series and the Paa1 faceplate. If the cheaper Pro can have metal grills, this should as well. Outside of that, I've no issues with this model and its would be the go to reference model if I wanted to relax and kick back.
*** Audio Technica CM700 TI ***
( $ Depends on how much the seller wants to price gouge you)
I've tried to get my ears on this model since before they were even released with absolutely no success. Back at release date I saw them go for $250+ on Ebay. Now, if you are lucky you can find them for $100-150. Anymore than that and you are getting screwed royally. However, if you are a psychopath like I am, then you are in business and are willing to pay up through the nose for them. I am not too proud to gloat right now in that i bought these with all the originals, even the warranty card all for $100 wampum. I've had a smile on my face since the instant I pressed the Buy It Now Button and have camped out in front of my door ever since, waiting for them to arrive.
When they did arrive and upon first listen, I was surprised to hear they are pretty much everything I expected them to be. A large stage, excellent mid range that is neither forward nor distant, lack luster highs that are not piercing but retain excellent responsiveness....and most important damn comfortable. They driver housing is really thin compared to the hulkish MX980 which simply pops right out of my ears every 15 seconds. Thankfully, the CM700 does not suffer from any comfort or fit issues for me, the design seems well tailored to fit and hang snugly on the edge of your ear. Thin ( lack of deepness ) housings are the way to go for earbuds. If they utilize this type of design, you can forgive a large diameter face plates, which of course they have. These are large earbuds. At 10-24hz, the lows are a bit lack luster where bass deepness is only present when you push them into your ears, definitely a notch or two below the Mx980 in quality and quantity but still retain good solid presence. The sound is colder than I hoped, but then again its Audio Technica, I know their "flavor" like the back of my hands and should have expected that type of sound in this model.
They seem like a step or two down in every way from the MX980. Smaller stage that feels extremely boxed, square shaped vs the very wide and tall MX980 stage. Depth seems to be about the same. The Hisound Living and Live smashed them both in depth and airiness. I believe the Hisound Living is like the more qualified older brother of the CM700. Its bright, kind of cold sounding in presentation and very dry, where the CM700 has more bass, the Living is just much more lively and dynamic. More so than even the MX980.
I am not at all a fan of the huge elongated housing stem here, why is that so long? Who wants a giant piece of metal hanging off of their ears? They could have cut 80% of that off and cut the weight down significantly, as this set is also a solid piece and built extremely well. At these price ranges they should have fabric cables with more protection, something much more protected and classy looking. Despite some of those flaws, the set is an excellent earbud and if the Hisound Live or Living did not exist, I would be using them as my main earbud. I cant use the Mx980, its too big! I can thank AT for designing a much thinner housing that rests well inside my ear.
*** Aiwa HP v151 ***
I remember a fellow student way back i 1998 wearing these v151s, rocking out with his giant hot yellow Sony walkman cassette player. Not sure what he was listening to, I can only guess it was something awesome by the sheer force of the headbanging being done in Study Hall that day. Anywho, believe it or not the frequency range on this vintage set is impressive at 8-25hz. You really dont see many earbuds extend that low even today. It gives off the impression of great bass, but then you realize its an Aiwa...which automatically means it doesn't have good bass. Despite the anemic bass, the experience was much better than I thought it would be. These could be the best budget earbuds I've ever had in my ears, I got them for a whopping $6US including shipping.
"But SWBF2CHEATER, the economy is terrible, how am I ever going to afford this!?"
"Well sir or madame or alien hybrid, if you cant afford it then may the audio gods bestow mercy upon you"
Sure, the earpads literally incinerated in the wind upon opening the package, but I can forgive that, I've got lots of foam spares :) The mid range is large and potent, vocals are sibilant but placement is excellent. Highs are bright and lively but are piercing at times. The sound stage is above average and clarity is somewhere around a step or two down from the stock ipod earbud ( which is not bad actually ). The fit worried me, as soon as I saw the oval shape I let of a heavy sigh and sank into my chair. I really shouldn't have been worried, the fit is the best I've ever experienced in an earbud. It fits my ears to perfection and is extremely secure. I did some weight lifting, went for a jog and used my Ab lounge machine without adjusting them once...not once. They are in and in for good. You can do backflips with them on and will never have to worry about it springing out or coming loose. I am not at all happy about the cable design, one side shorter than the other. Whoever came up with this needs to be stoned in public for crimes against humanity. Overall I enjoyed them, it was far better than I expected at this price range across the spectrum. Not a set I would recommend against anything else because it stands alone in its price tier, for under $10 I wouldnt stick anything else into my ears though.
*** Hisoundaudio Living ***
If you like AKG 701 you are going to love this model from highsoundaudio. The 701 this model share a few similar features, features that include overall presentation, set up and quantities across the board. This specific model, as well as the Live have a different sound signature from the rest of their siblings. Where the other models are moderately colored and offer a great fun sound signature,the two most expensive models will have more of an analytical sound, more reference grade. The downside to these two is that I feel that they are unbalanced, they are bass anemic to put it simply. Despite this flaw, the midrange is among the best I've ever heard in earbuds even rivaling the Sennheiser mx980. This set makes the M2C sound muffled, a little warped and uneven. The highs are very potent, bright and even harsh at times however they extend further than the Sennheiser MX 980, they are more dry and less sparkled. Build quality is solid 10 out of 10,aluminum housing and a really neat looking cable that has a textured and twisted feel. The overall soundstage is quite incredible, it is by far the most spacious and airy sounding bud I'm aware of or have ever used. It is both wide and tall with excellent spatial imaging,much better than the M2C or 980, which sounded almost two-dimensional with a very wide soundstage. Extremely airy with excellent separation. If you love big band ,classical, jazz or slow-paced vocal tracks were to love the Living. I found that it's not so good for rock or metal, anything with moderate bass quantity just doesn't play so well through this set. It lacks the fun factor. Overall, this is one of the most clear and clean sounding sets I've ever owned in the midrange and highs. If you're into that sort of thing, this is the set for you. I'm just not into this kind of sound, I look for a warmer more colored experience with fantastic bass.... Which just so happens to be found in the hisoundaudio Paa1 Pro. This set is more dry, slightly cold, bright, and a tad harsh in the upper regions. Still incredible, though. I hope hisound comes out with a new model that has an equivalent soundstage to this but happens to be warm and much more bassy.
Hisound is coming out with an upgraded model sometime in the next few weeks, an improved Living model. This set has been discontinued and will be replaced with this new model coming soon. I will be reviewing that as soon as I can get my hands on it, Jack at Hisoundaudio tells me it is pretty amazing.
*** Hisoundaudio Paa1 ***
( Paa1 in white )
A few weeks ago another member here at Head Fi recommended I attempt to acquire anything from Hisoundaudio, didn't matter what, just try to get something. Over the past few weeks I had gotten more than a few requests for a set of earbuds named the Paa1 from a company I had not previously heard of called Hisoundaudio. Once I got my hands on some of their gear, I was actually shocked at how nice all of their gear was. My goodness, this company is a true gem hiding in the bushes, totally hidden from the public eye. I had though nothing could compare to the Blox M2C and with the recent Dunu Mystery earbuds seen below, I was highly skeptical of anything sounding anywhere near as nice for a reasonable price. This model is not even the Pro version and it sounds excellent to me. Very nice midrange with good highs and a solid low end. Soundstaging is on par with the M2C which I never thought possible. If you look into this company or have experienced any of their gear, you will know that they design all of their audio products to have large sound stages. Their new wooden iems ( which I have reviewed here ( http://www.head-fi.org/t/593088/hisoundaudios-new-wooden-iems-the-popo-and-hiphone-4#post_8099492 ) are quite stunning. Both of them have excellent soundstages and are among the best IEMS I've ever heard sub $350. They also have a very nice small Dap with an excellent sound stage called the Rocoo D which I will post my impressions of later. Definitely has more bass than the Blox, proof in songs like Jamie Foxx's Digital Girl. Lots of Bass with a thick deep low end but also has some brightness and harsher highs compared to the likes of the Blox. Where the blox is smoother and sparkled, the Paa1 is more potent and extends higher. Make friends with the EQ and toggle the highs down a little and you will be in good shape.
The Paa1 is on the large side like the Dunu earbuds, in fact I think they use the same front plate housing. They retain a low end presence which is not common in earbuds today. Via my Fiio E10 with bass boost, there is a very satisfying low end compared to most other earbuds of the style. While not supremely clear like the Sennheiser MX980, the Paa1, the newest Dunu and the Blox M2C all are excellent buys. I think the low end is more smooth and clear and deep reaching than the Blox M2C. Impressive from a new and up and coming audio company. I am extremely excited to hear their gear in the future. Blox should be looking over its shoulder right now because if I had to recommend anything other than the MX 980 and M2C, it would be the Paa1. They are better than the Dunu in every way but might be a "brother in arms" type of thing with the Blox M2C, definitely its most significant rival in that price tier. You will enjoy the low end, there actually is one. The sound stage is on par with the blox in width and height to my ears but has better separation and imaging so it gets a half a point more, definitely better stage depth. Excellent earbuds. IMO, new king of the earbud world for being able to sound great with anything and not being closer to neutral like the M2C, but rather having a good coloration for rocking out ( as all Hisoundaudios gear has ) with a very well set up presentation that is not overly forward, not distant. Very smooth and relaxing with some grain to the vocals and highs but considering they likely will not be priced beyond $100 I have no complaints, they are worth every penny.
*** Dunu 5x Ex150 ***
I received this demo set from Dunu and I've not a clue what the model name is nor any of its specs. Honestly, these sound like the twin brother of the Blox M2C. Where the Blox has a nicer low end, this Dunu has a better high end, very engaging, clear and BRIGHT. Very responsive. Same magnificent mid range as the Blox.
They are relatively large but not uncomfortably so. Sitting here listening via my E10 and EF5, they are pretty damn good, color my impressed. They have a really nice airy spacious sound to them, I really did not expect this. Punchy sound in all three areas, bass, mids and highs. Widescreen sound type, great lively sound, very fun to listen to. They sound brighter, more colored a'la Pk3, wider, good slam, very bright uppper mids and highs. Tone it down with some EQ and it turns into something pretty great. I have no idea what price point these earbuds are going to be sold for, they came in a small plastic bag with nothing else. Expect great things from Dunu, this set can replace the Blox, a bit different in sound type but equal in quality. Literally 1 step right behind the blox and would be the set I would now recommend to try to buy since the M2C is very hard to obtain.
( $29 )
Well, it finally happened. Blox just nuked the budget earbud market with their new M2C. Color me impressed. Boasting a nice low end with 18-20hz, usually you don't ever see those numbers with sub $30 earbuds but in this case its real and the M2C puts out a nice low end. Great bass response, on par with the Sunrise charm but much more clean and enjoyable. It might have a little less in quantity but it certainly has more quality. They are light, comfortable, seemingly well built and have a fantastic balance of lows, mids and highs. Nothing outshines anything else, even with the fantastic bass the mids and highs are never over shadowed. None of the budget sets sub $50 compared to it. It is very fun to listen to, very clear sounding and never harsh in any area. It is also a very well rounded bud, I think it handles classical just as well as it does rock and metal, which is pretty amazing.
I would place the overall clarity nearer to the MX880. The Blox doesn't need an amp and didn't change much at all when I plugged it into my Cavalli CHT vs the sound produced by my J3. All the other earbuds scaled up and something changed in their experience: bass, overall stage size, separation ect ect. I didn't notice any real difference but the typical tube amp coloration produced by my tubes. If there were changes in bass, clarity and stage qualities after good amping, they were inaudible to me. Not sure if that is amazing or not.
The M2C is the only set I feel just fine with giving an astounding 10/10 value. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about it. For less than $30, this is without question the best deal I have ever witnessed. Blox just destroyed the market. Every other company needs to stop and rethink their future in producing earbuds. The M2C performs on a level 3x its own price and beyond. Amazing set of earbuds, if Blox is capable of producing this type of clarity and overall goodness in a package less than $30US, I am only imagine what is around the corner and may be produced from other companies.
***Audio Technica ATH-C770***
( $30-40 )
The C770 happens to be one of the few earbuds I've never gotten the chance to listen to, at least until recently. They were actually bundled with my Colorfly CK4 media player which was a surprise and a half. Didn't expect very good budget range quality earbuds to be included with an mp3 player. Anywho, the C770 is an average performer most areas but seems to excel with live vocals. It definitely handles Brian Mcknights latest live album better than the 9wave but only with vocals and nothing else. Pretty much everything is inferior. I would say their price difference it relevant to their sound quality. The 9wave is noticeable larger sounding, more spacious in the soundstage in terms of width, height and depth but somehow the C770 maintains a more noticeable sense of airiness despite the smaller soundstage. I am not sure if thats good or bad, due to it having just an average sound stage size AND having an airy sense, the music seems dry and boring, lacking that snap and kick the 9wave and Pk2 and 3 can achieve easily. I would rank its vocal ability in the excellent range. The soundstage is on par with the BeB and Pk3 in terms of height, a bit smaller in width and noticeably inferior in depth. Despite having a note worthy frequency response of 18-22hz, it still did not reach as low or sound as smooth as any of the other models in this topic. Even AKGs budget model the K317 had a bit more bass punch to it, and I really did not plan on including that cheaper model into this review but it seems pretty much everything on both the 317 and c770 are equals except some bass kick found in the AKG and the excellent vocals found in the C770.
The C770 is without question the most forward sounding earbud I've ever used, Vocals are noticeably closer on the c770 than any other earbud I have reviewed. Center placement is very nice. As I said the set shines with vocals, Mr. Buble and Mcknight sound very nice and VERY engaging. The c770 just set the new standard for upfront and lively sound. Bass quality is also average and I pretty much find the set to be average in every way except when it comes to those vocals. Some harsh highs and lack of bass presence is a problem for me, I much prefer the sound of the Yuin series over this. It lacks kick and punch factor in the Pk3 and BeB models. Despite that, I feel it worthy of inclusion into my guide and is you can snag one used I think any live performance or vocal enthusiasts on a budget will enjoy the set more than the Pk3 or BeB The Black. Build quality seems average but I do like the right angle plug, it feels solid. Comfort levels are above average as the set is slightly smaller than most. All in all its an average performer on par with the BeB model in terms of overall quality, the most upfront vocal experience out of all the sets in my review and offers good comfort for long listening sessions.With amping the C770 seems to stay the same until I feed it some serious power...in this regard the Pk3 would be a better choice as it scales up to nicer levels than the C770 is capable of.
For around $30-40$ I would prefer to use the Pk3 or BeB over this for anything but live music as it seems the C770 excels in this area. It could be a set to consider if you can snag one used.
( $20-30 )
I'm just going to come out and say it. I thought this set was going to be great, as most gear from Beyer sounds amazing...but I was horribly mistaken. This set is without question a failure and the worst sounding set I have used in a very long time. It's inferior to stock mp3 player buds, my Sansa Fuze and Zen stock buds are more clear than this. They sound immensely bloated, hazy and harsh beyond imagining. I am terribly disappointed and absolutely shocked. They are without question the worst design I've ever seen for a set this expensive. They are unusable, and shaped like an egg? Im pretty sure the human ear is more of am oval or circle. It really causes pain and discomfort immediately upon placing them on your ears. I am kind of upset because the weird pointed area cut my ear. Not sure what else to say except I am pretty upset.
I don't even want to continue with this review, odds are good that once I get another decent set to review I will move this review elsewhere, this doesn't belong at all. The new BeB is lightyears better than this, even the Pk3 is SIGNIFICANTLY better than this in every single way shape and form. What the heck Beyer? I feel like compensation for this would be in order,, I busted my butt trying to find this DTX for sale anywhere on the net for YEARS, I finally found someone on ebay with a set and purchased them new. I was robbed of my money. Avoid this set at all costs
***Blue Ever Blue 328R***
( $25 )
Companies like BeB are the future. Simple and Clean. Expect audio gear of the future to be in earbud form and as small as possible, heck, maybe even wireless. But it seems sets just get smaller and smaller and sound better and better. This 328R is no exception, it sounds fantastic for the price. Its made of a thicker, heavier plastic than the yuins for example, feels much more solid but again, it is still plastic. Its thicker than the Yuin series or the Mx580, however it maintains excellent overall comfort. Upon first listen I noticed the bass was actually pretty great, I must be honest that when I first looked at the frequency range specs, I expected less. However, the set continues to impress me as its bass is quite deep for such a price. Nothing on the market for this price exists with this type of bass that I am aware of. If I had to rate it on a scale of 1 to 10, id give it a solid 5, where something like the mx980 would be a 8 or 9, the pk1 being a 3 and the ninewaves being a 4.
*The set is using a newer technology based on ETL called HDSS which basically means it is designed to avoid make heat and pressure remain constant.*
It has a nice, lively VERY upfront soundstage. Separation is average at best Highs are also noticeably more sibilant than I am comfortable with. They are the two most upfront, lively and natural sounding sets ( with the Forte II a bit behind them ) . I would choose this set over all the yuins, yes, even the Pk1. Why? Well, the bass and the price. It doesn't require any amp to sound nice and retains a good deep resonance to it. Impressive to say the least for a $25 set of earbuds.
BeB is again the window to our future, companies like them at going to be the norm', employing new tech in their audio gear and striving hard to do something nobody else is doing all while maintaining a great price for their product. The set has "good bass" and is on par in sound quality to the PK3. However, its more upfront and lively with again, more bass. Its an excellent set, consider the price at $25 and it may be a great alternative to the Pk3 or the MX580
EDIT July 23rd 2011
Sadly, the set seems to have some bass issues lately. There is a rattling going on that appeared suddenly, the bass is horrendous but everything else seems the same to my ears. I am not sure what to say, but I am not at all happy.
Made of stainless steel, very heavy and sturdy. Amazing adapter head quality and a unique one at that, as it converts from L style to straight by rotating it at the hinge point at 90 degrees. Cable quality is average and a bit intrusive if you are short. The cable could be a little bit shorter in my opinion. They feel extremely heavy compared to other buds of this style. Unrivaled Bass quality and quantity. Bordering incredible and unbelievable bass. When I first listened to them, I was in disbelief that it is now possible for earbuds to have this much bass. It is clean, powerful and very punchy. The most clean and beautiful sounding highs of all, extremely powerful and sparkled. They almost glisten in the sun, so to speak.
Their soundstage is extremely large and tall, with a more distant typical sennheiser feel. It is more neutral sounding. Immersion is average which is this sets only downfall. . The stage itself is massive rivaling some full size sets. Amazing separation qualities. I will try to describe it compared to the Mx880. The mx980 is incredibly wide, tall and deep, much more so than any of the others. The stage is also presented more on the neutral side that is typical of a sennheiser sound, meaning it is not forward and is actually kind of distant sounding. The Mx880 is not colored the same, it is a little dryer and a few steps down in terms of width and height but the shape remained the same. It took me a while to realize the stage is wider than it is tall and my original statement that it was equal on both fronts was incorrect. Its a little wider than tall and extends way beyond your ears, but the height never extended up and over my head. None of the earbuds are that tall, earbuds usually present a personal stage, none of which again have ever extended above my head.
The best sounding set is actually the least comfortable. The driver housings are massive and the set is very weighty. It was near impossible for me to get comfortable with them on, I do not see how such a thick housing can be comfortable. Anyone who is very tall will enjoy the hell out of it and should disregard this rank at the bottom.The mx980 fails miserably with comfort. It is just too big, its not only long and wide, but its too thick to rest on your ear comfortably.
Beast, untouchable in every way except immersing qualities, could be the best pinpoint accuracy set available ( beat the AD700 in pinpointing for gaming online). Even though they are still priced around $200US, they are a steal. Despite poor comfort and usability, they have a lot to offer. Check them out if you are a gamer who dislikes large full size sets. I used the 980s to game in Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 online for the pc for months and was able to pinpoint with more accuracy than the AD700 by audio technica. The stage is obviously not as wide or tall, but its ability to place sounds correct is UNRIVALED. If you have a budget of $150-200US or so ) and dont mind some discomfort, the MX980 is literally the best choice for you.
*** Sennheiser MX880 ***
( $69 - $80 )
It feels much more solid than any thing listed below even though it is made mostly plastic. The 880 is a few steps down in terms of quality and quantity from the mx980, still awesome and deep sounding. The Highs are definitely cleaner and more crisp than the Forte II, but it lacks that engaging quality the Forte II had. For the price, its an good value.
impressive presentation with excellent quality, poor comfort but while dreadfully uncomfortable, just like the Mx980, it still retains excellent overall value and has "very good" everything ranging from clarity, to bass, to soundstaging. Not much else to say really, its speaks for itself, the set didn't really impress me much, but its still pretty awesome, it just wasn't my cup of tea.
Although its housing is made of plastic, it has a solid metal grill and feels slightly more solid than most of the other Yuin buds. A more refined version of the Pk1 bass The Ok1 is lively, it gets the job done due to its refining qualities. It is very nice but certainly cannot compete with the MX980 or Blox.
Definitely has the widest stage of all the yuins but lacking height. Lacking immersion heavily for a set of this price. In terms of height, it is significantly less than anything else mentioned above. Direct comparison with the forte proved it was no where near as tall. However, it does extend a bit beyond my ears. Not much of an improvement over the Pk1 in the clarity department, it is noticeable though. Stock pads are vastly inferior to the inner ear tip pads.
*The Ok1 can be used as a normal hanging style earbud, or with its inner ear tips. With the inner ear tips being used, the ok1 smashes EVERYTHING on this list in terms of sound quality. However, used as normal style bud it is heavy lacking compared to the competition. This set is very unique and I really dont want people to mistake this set as poor in any way. Its not. Its just not quite as good of a bargain compared to the Pk1 when used as a hanging style. It has an 150 ohm impedance like the Charm does, thankfully the Ok1 sounds a lot better in that respect. If you can grab one used and have a good amp, go for it. When the tips are used, it offers one of the most natural and spacious sounds I've ever heard in an IEM. Hell, it was like a mini IE7 at least in my opinion. However again, without them the set falls short and you can do better.
*** Sunrise Charm ***
( $80 )
Its the a near identical housing to the Yuin Series, but for some reason it feels a little more solid feeling in my ears and in my hands when I hold it. Perhaps due to the weight. The Bass rivals the Mx880, surprisingly. Very thick and with poor clarity. I am unsure where to place this, it has a lot of bass, but its god awful in terms of quality for its price point. The Highs seem a little dull and dry. They are not sparkled at all and are not nearly as engaging as the higher end Yuins.
The Soundstage is wider than tall stage and is middle ground, not too distant but not forward. Both again, lacking immersion qualities. The Pk1 is a little bit smaller and less immersive, but not by much. It is still airy and punchy, where as the ok1 was more smooth and i guess refined is the word people use. I expected a lot more out of this set in terms of clarity, less clear than the forte, but more clear than the pk3 IMO.
In my opinion this set is a totally failure, I hated it. The bass was thick and muddy but it reached very very deep, overall clarity was below average and at 150ohms? Why? However,
with excellent amping they scaled up incredibly well. Clarity remained poor, but the stage size and positioning turned into something I might actually want to hear.
*** AKG 319 **
( $ 99 )
For this price range, I'd expect much more but they are still pretty good. The Bass is muddish and ugly, but there is definitely more of it than the higher end Yuin Series. For a $99 set from a reputable company, they fall short in clarity, quantity and how much they engage your ears but still outperform tthe Yuin pk3 and pk2.
The 310 has an odd feel to its soundstage, it feels unbalanced and is a bit wider than it is tall, the stage size is very good, but immersion is poor and on par with the Pk3 and mx580. Surprisingly, when I got it i expected it to not extend beyond my head, it does but not by much. Despite its muddy bass and lack of extension, its actually very clear sounding and more so than the Charm or the cheaper Yuins or MX580.
In a points game, this AKG would lose, the 319 is a set that also wont get much attention, it does everything just good, and nothing great. It wasn't my cup of tea at all but that doesnt mean others won't enjoy it.
***Sennheiser MX 580 ***
( $25-$30 )
The cheapest of the Mx series, they are on par with the Piano Forte II, both feel similarly hallow, lacking a sense of sturdiness. Definitely has more bass than the Forte and is a match for the Mx580 in terms of quality. Both the MX580 and PK3 highs are too close to call and are eerily similar in quality and quantity. Both do not extend very high but the pk3 seems to be more lively and engaging.
Immersion is abysmal and the stage is lacking height, but is actually not too far off in terms of width from the higher end yuins which creates a really weird euphoric sensation to me. I found the Mx580 and the Pk1 to be the same in shape, but maybe a half step down in height and width. It extends beyond the head, but only barely. Its almost the same as the PK3.
Overall clarity is too similar to tell, but they performed the worst in audio clarity tests. I compared the Mx580 with the Pk1 side by side for months, I did a review on the MX series vs the PK series...I know people might not like what I am about to say, or may not believe me, but the PK1 is a small step up from the Mx580. Overall clarity is very close unamped.
Extreme fun factor, excellent coloration for rocking out in terms of overall value, how can you do better? Even though they placed at the bottom of most of the areas I touched on, they remain significantly cheaper than all the rest and made it onto my list of the best earbuds I've used. Just because they are at the bottom doesnt mean they suck. They are still the powerhouse sellers and good performers in all areas.
*** Final Audio Piano Forte II ***
( $50 )
They are very light but feel very hallow. Heavily lacking bass, bordering an unbalanced sense due to its mids and highs being very large and spacious sounding. The quantity is small and the quality is the same as the stock sansa mp3 player earbuds. While it may not be the cleanest sounding, it has an impressive range in the highs. I found the highs to be more enjoyable here than on any of the Yuins, as well as the mx880. The forte is surprisingly clear, the "missing" bass helps boost the clarity of the highs and mids, makes them seem very clear.
Believe it or not, the stage is very large and spacious, immersion is excellent , It is a natural presentation that is very forward. In terms of soundstage size, it is very tall and not so wide. In terms of height, it competes with the big boys, but in terms of width it falls short and possibly extending beyond my ears. I still haven't decided if it is real or not, I cant tell. So, I gave it the benefit of the doubt and will show the image with slight extension.
Excellent presentation with great lively stage, considering the price, its very impressive for what it offered. Natural placement, above average sound quality, but off balance due to the lack of bass making the experience odd.
*** Yuin PK1 ***
( $120 )
The Pk1 has incredible slam factor in its bass, its airy and not very deep sounding, it has more bass than the Ok1. In terms of quantity, the Pk1, OK1 and Mx580 are all close. The pk1 has the most and cleanest bass by a narrow margin. The pk1 highs are extremely engaging but not so clear, they do not extend anywhere near the mx880 but remain very fun to listen to. If properly amped, the set can sound pretty damned great. Without an amp, its no better than the MX580 so unless you plan on investing $200+ or so into portable amp, skip it and get the Mx580.
*-Pk1/Sunrise Charm - Both are pretty similar, a wider than tall stage that is middle ground, not too distant but not forward. Both again, lacking immersion qualities. This is too close to call, as they are both very similar and it again took me weeks to find out if the ok1 had a bigger stage than the pk1, it does. The Pk1 is a little bit smaller and less immersive, but not by much. It is still airy and punchy, where as the ok1 was more smooth and i guess refined is the word people use.
if you can get it used, its a steal, if not, skip it, easily the most popular set out of the crop for hi fi budding. I felt the soundstage to be big but unnatural in the sense that it was oddly shaped and presented. With amping, it sounds pretty darn good, Im just not a fan of its punchy sound. It is definitely not a smooth sound.
*** Yuin PK3 ***
( $30 )
The Pk3 is without question a TITAN here on Head Fi, immensely popular and enjoyed by many. The set is an all around great set just like the Mx580. The problem here is that the Mx580 sounds better and uses better drivers, however it is less comfortable and a lot more clunky. Definitely has more bass than the Forte and is a match for the Mx580 in terms of quality. However, its bass is not as thick as the mx580, it is definitely airier. Highs are lively and bright, but lacking clarity.The Soundstage is near identical to the MX580. Im not sure what else to say, overall depth, width and height are virtually the same to my ears. They are an overall excellent value and sometimes sold for under $20. Snag em if you can get them used, if not, I would go with the MX580 over this set any day.
Edited by swbf2cheater - 3/30/12 at 12:15pm