Just completely exhausted atm. Been up since 3am, drove 300 miles, pranced around CES for 7 hours. Only North and Central Halls. Not enough time for South and the Venetian so no high-end toys today. To be elaborated upon once I regain consciousness. Till then. Some quickies.
UERM v. ES5 - Heard both universal demos today. Holy mother of _______ (fill in preferred deity). For those wondering if customs are worth it? YES! For those wondering if there is a perfect custom that is THE answer. No. Got two impressions done by both today so it looks like a decision will be forthcoming at some point. Somehow in the process, my DBA's were removed from my possession. Not to worry, they aren't lost. I hope not. >.<
(Caveat-Unlike universal comparisons bear in mind these universal 'custom' impressions are more fractional differences largely speaking than whole integer levels. These are also UNIVERSAL custom demos, just to stress the point. As usual YMMV.)
Update: First listen was the UERM w/ M9 biflanges out of my 602/Arrow followed by the Westone ES5 via same chain. Bear in mind that Logitech and Westone were in separate halls so I had to travel between impressions rather than do a direct A/B. First thing to impress me on the UERM was the clarity and detail. Even above my DBA's which is to be expected but not by a large margin as that is the DBA's forte. I did hear nuances I never heard on an IEM before so the resolution is superb. I would say the bass quantity is just a smidge over DBA/CK10 levels. It has the CK10s better extension, the DBA's punch and that extra quantity to bring it up to more neutral presentation. Of the IEMs I have heard the UERM sounds most similar to my DBA-02 but just better at everything especially in the lowend. I do think the DBA's stike me as having a bit more forward mids and more energy, attack and aggression. I know those are controversial attributes but I don't have a better way to put it. It is very balanced, neutral but also enjoyable unlike more analytical phones such as the MC5/ER4, RE0, etc. My concern was that the UERM would be bass light, analytical and boring. It is not any of those unless you 'need' bigger bass. In that case there is an answer for you.
After having a satisfying, pleasing and revealing listen to the UERM I was off to Westone. While waiting for the demos I had a nice chat w/ Westone's chief designer about his phones, who he is, how he hears and the development of his house sound. Karl was fantastic and extremely generous w/ his time and knowledge. I raised concerns others have as well when terms like 'accurate' and 'balanced' get tossed around. I mentioned that hearing they used as single low end driver worried me, till I saw the picture of the actual driver which alleviated some concerns. He assured me as a Bass player and vinyl guy he prefers a slightly warmer, fuller, more 'natural' sound. Once we got the demos in hand it was time for the music. First impression? OH-MY-GOD! I seriously almost got thrown out of my chair 3-4 times. The sound was so realistic and present it was just impossible not to have a physical reflex. I had left my Arrow's BB at position 'I' to see what I could coax from the UERM. Big mistake! I had to turn off the BB for the ES5, in fact I think it's a smidge over neutral from my listen which isn't a bad thing. To be clear I had those 'wow' moments after BB was turn off. For those worried the ES5 would be bass light, lay your worries aside. I have some chime/cymbal tracks, firework samples, tidal sounds, Neil Peart's drum kit, etc., where the UERM lets you focus on the detail and resolution of the source the ES5 simply puts you there as if you weren't listening to music or sources. By comparison it's clear the UERM was designed as an audio monitoring tool. The ES5 was definitely designed by a Bass guitarist that likes to rock it and have a good time. In universal terms I would say the ES5 is like a crossbreed of the DBA-02 and SM3 w/ BETTER bass than both. While the SM3 had big bass quantity it was a tad 'one-note' for me. The ES5 has great quality bass, the best BA bass I have ever heard. It's quantity is less than the SM3 but that makes it more balanced and accurate to my ears. What is interesting is that despite less bass quantity the ES5 has better body and a more realistic rounded note from my recollection. I'd have to attribute that to it's greater resolution being able to better define each instrument and sound. The ES5 represents the biggest WOW I've ever gotten from an earphone. After this experience I knew what I had to do. Hoof it back to UE/Logitech to have another listen!
Determined to get a mental picture I hijacked the UERM once again for a better extended listen. Though I had to give it up twice to selfish consumers that wanted to hear them, the nerve! Another thing I noticed is that the UERM appears less hiss prone and seems to have a blacker background. After reconfirming my impressions it is clear to me these are two different monitors for two different clients. If I wanted a studio tool for producing music or a consumer that wanted that studio 'accuracy' and sound the UERM would be the way to go. The ES5 is a tad warmer than the UERM and presents detail less obviously but offers a richer more live sound that just blew my socks off. Depending on how one defines 'live' and 'natural' one could prefer either over the other. If I wanted just one IEM to do everything it's the ES5 w/o question in my mind. It engaging, fun, balanced, detailed and highly accurate beyond just frequency response. If I was planning on getting a polar contrast to compliment a LCD2 the UERM would be it. The question is, could I possibly pass on the addictive sound and toe tapping of the ES5? Other considerations like fit, support, costs, isolation, functionality all come into play as well. Synergy is big too, I could listen to either phone w/ the 602/Arrow combo endlessly. With something brighter like my DACPort I'm not sure fatigue wouldn't be an issue w/ the UERM.
Westone 4 - Westone 3 not fun enough? Here you go. Soundstage not wide enough for you? Again, Here you go. Drum Kits were literally playing in a 180 degree arc in front of me from left to right.
Sony EX1000 - Umm, got treble? So we have a massive dynamic driver that's thin and basslight and brighter than the sun? All for a lot of monies that could conceivably net you 2 customs. Why? If you still don't get it, imagine Kate Moss stabbing you in the ears while cramming two fingers down her throat to regurgitate her last meal all over you.
Sony Z1000 - If Beyer and Grado had offspring and extorted the family business from their parent you would have these headphones.
Sony XB1000 - Massive 70mm driver. Need bigger ear pillows? you got em! Surprisingly, the bass is cleaner and of better quality than the 500/700 and lacking that same 'fun' Honda Civic Subwoofer sound. Problem is the mids are the worst of the series. Slightly recessed and lacking in clarity. Prototype? Hope so.
Meelec - All I can say is a lot of their lineup has been posted already. Except one that is the best Meelec I have ever heard. Sorry, can't say more than that for awhile. This is the golden age of IEMs for sure.
Monster MD Trumpets - Still somewhere in limbo between Alpha and Beta, no listening possible. I got to see the hidden vault 'O treasure where they were stashed behind acrylic/glass. Forgot to check whether they used the same Supertips or new one for the microdriver. For those that wanted more bling to their Turbine Coppers, there is hope yet btw.
Monster Turbine Pearl - Supposedly slotting between the Trubines and Turbine Pros. No idea, don't ask.
Monster Studio Pros - Bass not so bad or big as their other headphones but is certainly capable w/ my Arrow. Colored a bit overall and the mids were quite dry, more so than the copper mids by far. Lots of ambient noise can't say much else.
Monster Trons - Didn't sound bad at all but for the money of couse arguments can be made and should be. It is what it is, you like that or you don't. Once again, ambient noise and lack of caring prevented me from really getting to hear them. I just wanted to hear the remastered Monster Audio Daft Punk Tron 5.1 soundtrack honestly. Was told they are still being pressed as we speak. Oh well.
Fanny Wang - Yes, they are real. No, they are not a joke. I would take them seriously. How serious? I'll find out if my review pair comes in. Suffice to say they had some competition lined up side by side to demo. Immediately noticeable differences, better clarity and mids, tighter, cleaner bass. More balanced than the 'competitor'.
General consumer electronics observations:Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Glasses free 3D - In a push to compete w/ Toshiba's glasses free 3D, Sony applied the glass free overlay onto their OLED screens. I was not impressed. The 3D image is below that of glasses and there is a problem w/ wider viewing angles blurring. Technology still too immature. IMO just ruined the 3D OLED display they had last year by contrast. Toshiba had their 4K display up to showcase the same thing. The line being as ridiculous as it was I simply didn't have the time. I was able to see from sneak peeks that their glass free 3D uses the same overlay technology so nothing to right home about. I also don't care about 4K TV's till someone makes content for them.
Alpine - New DSP using their 'Imprint' technology. The PXA-H800
Pioneer Navigation - Improving on the slow responsiveness of the original debut series, the new AVICZ130BT is a thing of beauty that fixes old problems and adds new features like built-in HD Radio, traffic tuner and Pandora support.
Kenwood - The new KIV-BT901 is not the first to have a 3" screen for track, art and videos in a Single DIN receiver. It is the first I've seen to offer back-up/rear-view camera functionality in that form factor along w/ its already impressive feature set.
Sony - Surpassing the current 55NX810 is the new 55HX929 using a new Bravia Reality Pro engine w/ brighter 'peak' LED techonology to better contrast w/ the already deeper blacks of local dimming. They are also building upon their 'true' 240hz motion flow to a simulated 960hz and offer media control and remote functionality using free apps available for iOS and Android devices. It also offers image processing up to 14bits. The only downside I noticed when viewing was enhanced 'grain' on non optimal sources. As you might know many blurays are not filmed in Hi-res but upconverted. This screen will enhance the flaws of lower resolution sources more so than any other LCD TV I have seen yet. Solid sources provide solid images here so check your content before buying this $10k monitor.
Samsung - Don't care, hate them.
Time for bed. Damn roasted Quail from Bellagio is kicking my butt. Maybe it's the Seabass....
Edited by Anaxilus - 1/9/11 at 12:43pm