james444’s review with comparisons to the FX700, e-Q7, and GR10 (also in that link is various links to videos of unboxing the EX1000 and other reviews):
My previously written impressions in regards to the EX1000 and the EX600 (specs are included in there):
Back in November, when the EX1000 first came out, I wrote an impression on it based on a demo. This was due to the lack of information provided about the EX1000 and I was hoping to provide an insight to these earphones that everyone was afraid to try due to the price tag. A few months down the line, I now own them and could fully write a proper review for these earphones.
To be consistent with my impression, I listened to these earphones through a collection of 320kbps mp3 and FLAC quality files from varying genres. However, this time, I also managed to listen to these earphones amped and unamped. So, hopefully, this will extend to whether the EX1000 will make a wonderful portable earphone or a proper sit-at-home investment. However, whether this competes with other similarly priced full-sized cans is not something I am willing to compare though – mainly due to my lack of experience in that field.
Just for a small disclaimer, I have read the various reviews of the EX1000 and thus am quite aware of the reputation they have gained in the short amount of time since their release. However, I will most definitely try my best to not refer to those reviews. This is to ensure that what is written is solely based on what I heard and how I compared them to the other earphones I owned. As the usual saying goes, your mileage may vary.
First thing, Sony most definitely did not hold their hands back when it came to boxing their new flagship or accessorizing it. The box’s design was simple yet eloquent – it didn’t even have a picture of the earphones on the box, just silver typography indicating that the box houses the EX1000. The additional black and slightly glossed with a gunmetal-like finish on the box made it screamed class.
Inside of the box, with the luxurious earphones is a hard leather case with a fancy interior to hold the earphones. The interior was designed in the manner that I wonder if Sony perceived its flagship earphones to be showcased like diamond rings are. Not necessarily a wrong thing to perceive considering its price.
Along with the leather case is numerous sets of tips that are almost generously given to you. Almost because you’ll probably only find usage for only one set… but hey! If you feel like showing off your $500-worth earphones, you don’t have to ever worry about the earphones not fitting into someone’s ears properly due to ear canal sizes! Of course, they are all the same tips in varying sizes only. People with a preference for other tips will have to, unfortunately, look elsewhere or think up some clever alternatives.
When I first wrote my impression, the first thing I noted was the solid casing these earphones have. Now that I own it, my opinion still hasn’t changed. These guys feel durable and solid. The joint where the cable can be disconnected from the main bodies is held by something similar to a bolt. This is a rather smart design from Sony; allowing for detachable wires yet avoiding the seemingly loose snap-on design from Shure. Shure users of the XX5 models will understand a frustrating aspect of their new cable design is the rotating cable joints. In the EX1000’s case, the cables are thus held tightly and snugly, easily removable yet won’t budge a single centimeter unless required by the user.
Aside from the memory wires, the cable feels a little weak and fragile since it is actually ‘squishier’ than most wires I have dealt with. In this case, it probably is a good thing that Sony decided to make the cable detachable. At least if the wires do fall apart, I won’t lose my entire investment.
Unfortunately, the design of the IEM causes the main bodies of the IEM to remain mostly outside of your ear. You might be getting a few odd looks when people noticed these little metallic flaps that are extending out of your ears. However, that is barely a minor flaw compared to astonishing effect that the comfort of the design offers.
First time wearing a fresh EX1000, the memory wires were a pain. They refused to loop my ears until I forcefully over-bent them to adjust them to my ears’ shape. Too good of a memory wire, I suppose.
Aside from that one time displeasure of agonizing over the wire, the IEM then became very comfortable to wear – and to listen to. The EX1000 sits in my ear almost like if they are non-existent, while providing an amazing flow of music. I have to constantly remind myself that I am hearing through them and not from my environment. That’s how comfortable they are.
In addition to comfort, the EX1000, among my tiny list of IEMs, has the best microphonic. In fact, I can’t really imagine how any IEM will top this kind of microphonic. They are practically non-existent to me unless I rub the wires after the Y-section of the cable.
Combining that kind of comfort and the non-existent microphonic creates the only IEM that I have ever tried that I can’t ‘hear’ my footsteps when I am wearing my IEM. A thrilling display of design from Sony.
Of course, I have not checked if this effect is limited only to me. However, one way or another the fact that they are able to produce this effect on a population that has my kind of ears is most definitely a bonus.
Unfortunately, the non-existent feel of the IEM goes both ways -- isolation is one of the failing points of the EX1000. Due to the main bodies sitting outside of the ear for most part, insertion isn’t very deep. Thus, isolation suffers.
Among my tiny list of IEMs, the EX1000 has the worst isolation. Period. I sometime found myself wondering which IEM has the worst isolation; the CX300-II, EX1000 or the long forgotten ADDIEM that I used to have. Unfortunately, I no longer own any of EX1000’s competitors for that category.
A nudging part of me believes that the EX1000 would probably win hands down even if I can compare them however. Fond memories of the CX300 did include people entering my room or talking to me without my knowledge. The ADDIEM was a little less isolating, because I remember being vaguely annoyed at the people in the train and then turning up my volume down the line to drown them out.
The EX1000 however has memories of me keeping them on, with music playing, and still managing to hold a slightly coherent conversation (though it featured a lot of “mind repeating that again?”). There was also the irritated look to the side -- at the arguing couple beside me. Am I spoiled by the Ety’s? Who knows. But for one thing is for certain, among my current owned IEMs, the EX1000 has the worst isolation and I won’t sugar coat that.
The fun part is to decide whether this fault is worth the sound signature of the EX1000 -- something I agonized over and over and over again.
The EX1000 was exposed through a 100 hours burn-in by using a playlist composed of brown, white, and pink noises.
When I first listened to them, the first thing that popped into my mind is, “oh whoa, the bass!”
As I have noted in my impressions, the bass is easily EX1000’s selling point. It is well-controlled, tight, powerful, and precise. From my time with them (listening to only them for a month – at home or on the go), I can easily tell you that with the EX1000, you’ll never miss a single beat in music again.
That’s not to say the EX1000 is a bass monster like the MTPC though. It isn’t despite of all its qualities. Yes, it is powerful, but it is definitely not overwhelmingly powerful (skull-thumpingly powerful). The presence of its ‘power’ actually comes into its extremely well exhibited sub-bass. In my opinion, the sub-bass have the right amount of ‘feel’ to it. It isn’t weak where you are left questioning whether if it really is there or not, but it isn’t powerful where it will overwhelm everything else in its sound spectrum. It is just right in the sense that the bass has its proper texture to it. The resounding of the bass drum being kicked; you’ll not only hear it, you’ll have the imagination of the moment of it being hit as well.
On the note of texture and imaging, this is another of EX1000’s selling point; the clarity. The entire sound spectrum of the EX1000 has this clarity that reveals all sorts of details from a music track. It is also very accurate and fast at the same time; contributing to the entire belief that I doubt you’ll miss a single beat with these IEMs.
Additionally, the timbre is, in my opinion, very realistic. Not only is the bass textured, the mids and treble are also well-textured in the sense that I feel like I am there in a concert, listening to the music being played in real life. The string instruments’ presence is exactly how I remember it to be realistically and I was able to pick the distinct, yet subtle bass guitar from my tracks – something I haven’t been able to do unless I was listening to a performance in live. Along with, in my opinion, a slightly above soundstage, the presentation of the EX1000 is almost nothing short of being entirely deliciously sounding.
Now, does that mean the EX1000 has a winning recipe? Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks that make the EX1000 a subpar IEM (in terms of a top-tier IEM) to certain musical genres that I have tried.
The EX1000 has a bit of a grainy treble – sad, but true. This becomes prominent in tracks that require great treble energy; the EX1000 will lose control over it.
The mids and trebles are also not very forward, making certain genres (in my case, metal and a very small selection of rock tracks) seemingly ‘soulless’ despite of the pros it is still offering. All the details and texture from all the other instruments were drowning out the voice, making it seemingly flat.
Now, that sounds like a deal breaker, but I am saying that all in terms of a top-tier IEM. The EX1000, in the end, is a very capable IEM. Most music tracks I have ran through has caused me falling in love with the EX1000 over and over again.
I feel like I must create a separate section for portability in regards of the EX1000 because it is such a conflicting IEM in that regards.
Unamped, the EX1000 is easily driven and I found myself not extremely fussed to walk out of my house without an amp. However, considering my setup (which can be found in my signature), the treble and the mid sound even more recessed than when amped. That is pretty much the only difference I could see and it is only when I am listening to very certain tracks.
So, it is not necessarily a deal breaker. However, the isolation is really poor, and for an IEM that’s so focused on making all the instruments come to life, it is a rather bad hit. The EX1000 loses some of its charm when you are in an unfortunately loud train (one of those cases when you are sitting beside a person loudly talking into his cellphone).
If the EX1000 is being used solely as a portable/traveling setup, then I feel like the EX1000 is losing a lot of its value. You won’t be getting your money’s worth as a strictly portable IEM. I found the EX1000 the best when I am sitting in my home or in my lab, just quietly listening to music. In this situation, the pro is obviously you can hear someone calling your name then (like your boss).
Of course, just to let my readers know though, I have often found myself choosing the musical qualities of the EX1000 over the isolation comfort of my ER4B or the DBA-02. This is even when I found myself irritated that I was wishing the bus or train is a little bit more quiet during my travels.
I remember when I first wrote my impression, I was a skeptic. I questioned the logic behind the pricing and whether if it is worth it from the demo.
Now that I owned it (and yes, I bought it at that price), I think most of my skepticism has just melted into musical bliss. I am still a bit of wary and I think this IEM isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. For such a hefty price, I believe you should be getting an IEM that you are almost certain that you’ll enjoy.
The EX1000 actually slightly reminds me of the ER4, if the ER4 was more bass-centric. They both share roughly the same accuracy level, though the EX1000 is warmer being bass-centric and the ER4 is brighter for focusing on its upper sound spectrum.
If you are in for an IEM that is accurate in all levels while providing you one of the best musically textured IEMs, the EX1000 is definitely worth every coin.
Edited by MaxwellDemon - 4/10/11 at 1:58am