Yes and no. I thought the bass great (specifically the thickness), mids very good and even and highs bi-shelved (reduced, but not rolled off) from the get go, even before the refit. The note thickness thing and sounstaging hit me later. No, I didn't measure their frequency response. I did equalize them later. Something similar to inverse RIAA de-emphasis curve makes them near linear (except subbass and extreme highs) - so they're quite easy to eq.
They do sound like BAs except in the bass.
From the get go I didn't have TWFK for comparison or RE-400, only RE-272 and that was apple/oranges, that being reduced bass and thinnish note presentation all around with some high midrange dips.
I specifically said they're not bad at all, just not neutral in either frequency response or note thickness. Definitely not what I expected after reading the reviews. I would definitely recommend this kind of sound at this quality for a die hard basshead (Yamaha EPH-100-class) looking for a CIEM, just not exactly at this price point - perhaps at half price at most. (like $600)
Each part of them taken alone is excellent technically (except the shelved highs), but the sum is nowhere near as nice. They're real picky about sources too - need 0 Ohm output impedance or get yet darker.
Driven by Leckerton, it gets neutral in FR sense and reasonably close to neutral altogether with this simple eq. It even then has very similar efficiency to RE-400.
That can't fix the piercing at times BA-style tone in low highs though, nor does it make note weight more even. The soundstaging is sometimes off still. One thing I have to give it: the bass, mids and extreme highs are superbly competent, speed and power immense.
The highs (4-8kHz) destroy it for me though - the result is residual shout and noticeable roughness. (It's somewhat less audible unequalized - but their balance is too atrocious - sometimes it gives the appearance of extra crispness or sharpening, but always sounds wrong.)
The roughness has a "quantized" digital crunchy feel to it - but it's 100% analog. (Yes, I've checked with a mixing console graphic eq to be extra sure.)
There's some slight but noticeable channel imbalance as well, on the order of 2 dB in places. I'd expect better matching in that expensive product.
The problem is that universals have come a long, long way with such as Fischer Audio DBA-02, Brainwavz B2, DBA-02 mkII, Rockit R-50, VSonic GR01 (all TWFK) and Hifiman RE-400 (sole superb dynamic driver). Each of these is around $100 and provides sound worth at least 3 times that and that's probably an understatement.
SE-5 is plain just not worth the money even for a CIEM with high other production values. It's not even diminished returns, it's a cliff. As you well know, it's the second most expensive CIEM out there, only UE PRM is more expensive and that comes with much more personalization.
Bah, having RE-400 for comparison makes sound of TWFK (Brainwavz B2) slightly and SE-5 notably rough, bit ringy and oversharpened. I bet comparing vs RE-272 didn't show this that well because that IEM has some shout of its own. Not to mention soundstaging is not as good. (Again TWFK is only slightly behind, while SE-5 is more than that.)
RE-400 yield only extremely slightly in bass - they're tiny bit drier (shorter decay) and very slightly less tactile than SE-5 there, which I suspect is due to custom fit - SE-5 have more occlusion effect. TWFK is actually worse than them too but in a different, worse way - it has some distortion and its bass is almost entirely non-tactile.
Edited by AstralStorm - 2/27/13 at 2:21pm