Originally Posted by Aethernum
So basically what you're saying, in a nutshell, is that my setup is only as strong as its weakest link. I mainly use an iPod classic for mobile listening, simply because the ability to use the iTunes interface has always been the most convenient, and I've not used earphones before that would have benefited greatly from a better source. But I gather from the comments that, essentially, getting better custom IEMs will always improve my sound quality, but I would improve it MORE by pairing those with a similarly high-end source/amp. Let me know if I'm wrong.
I guess what my question comes down to at this point, then, is whether it is best to spend all of my money on a high end, custom IEM, or to spread out my money between an "okay" custom IEM (which will still sound better than any IEM I've used before, though) and a new source/amp. I said earlier that budget isn't a problem, but if I go too far over $1,000 I'm pushing it. Over $1,000 still seems to put the majority of these custom IEMs within reach, or close to it. Not so if I'm spending another $500 on other equipment.
In regard to what you were saying about how the sound is presented, I like audio that sounds like you're standing in the middle of an ensemble. Or up front on the podium, conducting, from a classical perspective. Because it's what I've been doing my whole life, pulling out different details of the sound isn't really a problem for me. I can hear the tuba versus the trombone part, or the flutes versus oboes versus clarinets, etc. I don't really have any experience comparing the two sorts of IEMs, but based on what you're describing I think I'd like the sound to be all presented to me at once. Unless doing that muddies the overall sound, I think hearing it all at once will sound more like what I'm used to on stage. I like that sound of standing in an ensemble - where you can really feel the sound, including the bass. But, the bass doesn't overshadow the treble, which usually has the melody (from a classical perspective).
Everything you've said is really helpful. Thanks again for taking the time to make this kind of resource. I said it was all a little overwhelming, which is true, but just having the option to see all of this information laid out is incredible, and the more information the better, if I can learn to make sense of it. Thanks again, both for this thread and answering my questions.
Yes, precisely, the setup is only as strong as the weakest link. If your total budge is $1K of so, would you be willing to spend more later on a source? I ask because if you spend that amount on the CIEM and at a later time upgrade your source, you will probably spend less than if you get a lower cost CIEM and then a higher cost CIEM down the road. Something like the O2 amp or Neco amps can help the iPod at a lower cost, but both, especially the O2 are not very portable. Something like an Arrow can help your iPod, but the cost is relatively high. IMO, there are some major tradeoffs in the portable sources available today.
From your description, it sounds like you would prefer something mid-forward, and the SE420 is also mid-forward, so that makes sense. If you go to a V shaped CIEM I think you will be in shock, at least initially!
Here are some recommendations from CIEMs I have reviewed/heard:
Alclair Reference - neutral but not the most resolving or capable, and doesn't benefit from higher end sources like other CIEMs.
Dream Earz aud-5X - very capable but the midrange is a little on the thicker side. Very capable, especially for the price.
Rooth LSX5 - Not quite mid-forward, but presents details to you and is very capable across the spectrum. (I have only heard the demo)
ACS T1 - Midforward and detailed with a very musical and involving sound, but on the higher end of the price spectrum.
Rooth LS8+ - While I think you probably want a more mid-forward presentation, the LS8+ has very high resolution and great smoothness wrapped in musicality. (I have only heard the demo)
I can recommend the LSX5 with the RoCoo BA, if you can live with the BA UI and limitations, but it sounds excellent for $250.
Originally Posted by project86
Good discussion here folks!
Aethernum, since your specific uses require a portable or maybe transportable setup, I'd take a good look at the Leckerton UHA-6S. It's one of the best portables I've ever heard and it also happens to be somewhat reasonably priced. You can use a line-out dock to connect your iPod and have a very usable system that isn't too massive to carry around.
At that point your weakest link would be the internal DAC in the iPod. In my humble opinion, Apple does a pretty good job with their D/A conversion. It's certainly a stronger point than their amp section. People like to throw around "Wolfson!" as a buzzword, since the older iPods used that brand, but the Cirrus Logic chips used in many of the newer Apple products are just as good if not better. I don't know which iPod you are using but here are some test results from a few models that should be similar. This level of performance is on par with what you'd generally expect from an entry level CD player like NAD or Cambridge Audio. Once it isn't held back by the amp section, the DAC is very respectable.
The upside is that if/when you get the chance to settle down a home setup, even just a DVD player in a dorm or a laptop, the UHA6S has a great onboard DAC which can be accessed through USB, coaxial, or toslink. So it's a device that can grow with you over the years.
I agree that the chip manufacturer doesn't make a huge difference, but the other components internal to an iPod are critical. Having modded iPods, I know how much the line out can improve by bypassing the internal circuitry, and yes, the newer iPods sound better than the older ones. However, iPods are all different (as are iPhones) and have been hit or miss. The Touch 3G has a pretty poor HPO and LO IMO while the iPhone 4 is better than the 4S. I have been using the line out from the iPhone 4S and comparing it with my modded iPod and the difference is quite significant.
I do keep hearing many good things about the UHA-6S but haven't heard it yet, so that may be a very good choice, thanks for bringing it up.
Originally Posted by piotrus-g
I should have Rocoo BA next week. I'll post some comparison between BA and studio-V
I will be interested to read about your comparison and see we hear them the same. I think Hisound finally got it right for high sensitivity BA IEMs/CIEMs with the BA...no hiss and musical at a reasonable price and tiny size.
Originally Posted by yancem
This is a really cool thread and even though it took me a couple of days to get through all 106 pages, I have learned a lot about CIEM's. I'm not really an audiophile but do enjoy listening to a wide range of music. I currently own a pair of UE 600's universal IEM and Sennheiser PXC 250 noise canceling headphones but I have decided to look into getting a set of CIEMs. Before discovering this thread, I had no idea that there were so many options out there or that some of them are actually affordable. Since I'm not a serious audiophile and I have no idea what sound signature I would prefer, I don't want to go off the deep end and spend too much money but I also wan to make sure that if I make this kind of investment, I get something that I will really enjoy so I don't want to just get the cheapest custom I can find.
Initially (before I discovered this thread) I was considering either the Alien Ears C3's or the Dream Ears Audio Ears 2x. I have decided against the Live wires because I don't like the bolt cable connector. After reading this thread, I'm hesitant about the Alien Ears and have decided to consider the 1964 T, Alclair Duals, Heir 3A, and Clear Tunes CT200. Since some of these models have 2 drives and some have 3, one question I have is how much of a difference will that make? The Alclair Duals are only $250 which seems like a great deal but is it too good to be true? Will I really be able notice a big difference between them and what I currently have? the 1964's and Heir's are a little more expensive but like I said, if I'm going to make this kind of investment then I want something good. I've read Jokers reviews of the 1964 T and CT200 and it sounds like they are both pretty good. It also sounds like Heir is putting out good products but I haven't seen a review of the 3A and Joe seems to like the Alclair reference model but I'm not sure I'm ready to spend $500. Anyone have any suggestions/advice? Oh and since Heir is in China, anyone know how much extra I would be looking due to shipping/customs?
Thanks to everyone for making this thread such a great resource!
Originally Posted by project86
Shipping your impressions to Heir will cost anywhere from $20-50 depending on who you use. They charge $55 for return shipping of the finished product. Customs is a gamble - you may have to pay or you may not. I've ordered literally dozens of of products from foreign countries and always escaped any extra charges..... until a few weeks ago.
Dual driver and triple driver models all have the potential to sound really great, or decidedly mediocre. I'd shoot more for the one that fits your preferred sound signature rather than just assuming "more drivers = better". It can be better, but it isn't necessarily a guarantee.
Of the specific choices you mentioned, I enjoy the 1964-T and I think it's a good buy. 1964 Ears is a great company to deal with, local in the USA, and have a strong track record. But you should really be thinking in terms of what sound you want - massive bass? Neutral even sound? Treble emphasis?
I don't have experience below $500, but if a company makes a good $500 or $1000 product there is a very good chance the lower end will also sound good as these are tuned in part by ear. From what I gather talking to many people that own lower cost CIEMs, I would say take a closer look at the CTM, Alclair, and Heir models in the price range, and the Rooth demos I have sound quite good. Of course whatever project86 is also an excellent resource and very well versed!