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Are We At The End Of The Line For IEM SQ Improvements?

post #1 of 48
Thread Starter 

I mean, really, what else is to be improved upon when cramming drivers into a cubic centimeter?

 

About 8 years ago, ER4 and E4 and Super Fi Pro were the best we could get.  Then came SE530 and TFPro which were clearly upgrades.  Then 2 years later came W3 and then UM3X, SM3, GR8, CK10, X10, etc  but I feel we have reached a plateau here.  Now GR10, W4.....I just don't feel these are improving on any IEM's released in the last 3-4 years.  Funny thing is, 98% of the general public has NO CLUE how good these IEM's even sound.  Yet us audiophiles still seek improvements in some sense.

 

When you take an amped ER4S, a W3/W4 and a UM3X and what you get from these, where else are we looking to feasibly improve? 

post #2 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spyro View Post

I mean, really, what else is to be improved upon when cramming drivers into a cubic centimeter?

 

About 8 years ago, ER4 and E4 and Super Fi Pro were the best we could get.  Then came SE530 and TFPro which were clearly upgrades.  Then 2 years later came W3 and then UM3X, SM3, GR8, CK10, X10, etc  but I feel we have reached a plateau here.  Now GR10, W4.....I just don't feel these are improving on any IEM's released in the last 3-4 years.  Funny thing is, 98% of the general public has NO CLUE how good these IEM's even sound.  Yet us audiophiles still seek improvements in some sense.

 

When you take an amped ER4S, a W3/W4 and a UM3X and what you get from these, where else are we looking to feasibly improve? 


Spyro, after hearing the EX600 and more recently the GR07 I would have to say there are still surprises in-store. I think the BAs are making some headway in the dynamic territory with the vented BA drivers (such as the two in my 1964-Q for bass). And from dynamics, I'm hearing details that were reserved before to the $300 and $400 BA iems, but at a fraction of the BA's price. I'm sitting here now with mouth wide open as details I'm hearing from the GR07 (clarity, transparency and micro details) and still believe it was only $155. It's worth double that easily. No, I don't think we're near the plateau yet. IMHO

Oh, but I also expect customs to get better too.

 

post #3 of 48

I think the real improvement will stem from the crossover implementation instead of how much drivers you can cram in an earpiece.

post #4 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tronz View Post

I think the real improvement will stem from the crossover implementation instead of how much drivers you can cram in an earpiece.


I like to see universal version of JH13Pro and then it willbe real improvement over todays highend dynamic and BA drivers IEMs. It would be interesting if we see separate crossover for universal IEMs too in future like JH3A.

 

post #5 of 48

I have to agree with Eric, the GR07 is amazing in my opinion and the technology seems to be new or just getting closer to the price point the masses can afford. I prefer it over my SM3, the Monster Turbine Pro Gold/Copper, and the Sennheiser IE8, between it and some of Sony's newer IEM's and JVC's FX700 and their and other companies dual dynamic efforts seems to suggest we are not finished in improving the IEM yet. I also suspect that some of the hybrid attemps between BA and Dynamic driver will hit the sweet spot musically and price point wise at some point as well.

post #6 of 48

I must be one of the late comers to new IEM such as the Sony EX line and GR07 as I can't comment on them, but of the ones I've owned, and I've most of the universal mid and top tier IEM, I kind of agree with Spyro that for universals, a plateau has been reached.   Case in point: to my ears, I prefer the ER4S over the W4 amped and on certain songs, the IE7 over the W4 amped or not.  The W4 proved to me that more is definitely not better, but there's always that perception that more is better and is priced accordingly.  On a philosophical note, I for one tend to be on the fence of less is better and simpler like the tried and true ER4S and IE7.  The consequences of complicating the implementations with extra drivers for this and/or extra crossover(s) for that has reached a boiling point where IMO it's become driven by marketing and hype regardless how it's implemented.  I recall when I was looking into the Livewires customs and asked about the difference between the dual and triple drivers, the response I got was that there wasn't much of a difference between the two sonically, and that the triple was created just because of other manufacturers were selling it.

 

I admit, I'm guilty of the "new factor" bug when new models and brands come out claiming this and that and like anything new, the excitement may cloud certain perceptions and due to sound differences (ie SM3), it may appear better for a little while - until things clear up and I find myself reaching for my single driver IEMs.  Of course this is my opinion and YMMV.


Edited by alphaphoenix - 7/24/11 at 10:12pm
post #7 of 48

I guess I may be more of the opinion that lower priced / higher quality sounding IEM's are still on the way. The GR07 compete easily with the top end gear I have owned for a fraction of the price. Now this may be more of an anomally than anything but generally when one company breaks the mold in regards to quality-performance/price ratio others will follow.

post #8 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by dweaver View Post

I guess I may be more of the opinion that lower priced / higher quality sounding IEM's are still on the way. The GR07 compete easily with the top end gear I have owned for a fraction of the price. Now this may be more of an anomally than anything but generally when one company breaks the mold in regards to quality-performance/price ratio others will follow.



X2

post #9 of 48
Thread Starter 

True, the $75-$200 range seems to be offering better sounding products, but I agree with alphaphoenix about hitting a plateau on the high end stuff.

post #10 of 48

I think in the future IEMs will also function as hearing aids. Imagine an IEM that automatically adjusts its sound signature to make up for notches and imbalance. Or maybe they will bypass our ears completely and send signals directly to our brains.

post #11 of 48

^think "Bionic Woman" and you got your golden ears for........12 million dollars (one for each ear)!!!

post #12 of 48

Meh, no universal I've heard is up to my ES5 or UERM.  The ES5 has more drivers than the W4 and is more coherent and resolving w/ the best Imaging I've heard in an IEM.  The UERM is still the most neutral and accurate IEM w/ a penchant for making spatial cues and micro detail obvious in a natural and not artificial way.  I even prefer the universal demos of ES5 over any universal I've heard.  I simply haven't heard a universal as resolving and detailed as those two to my ears.  Some can come close in certain areas or do one or two things better but overall they don't present a better package to ever make me want to take the UERM or ES5 out of my ears.

 

As for the future?  Dynamic Driver evolution like the EX1000.  The GR07 driver material was used by Sony for over 15 years already.  For BA's I think the key is crossovers like was mentioned and active crossovers w/ DSP.  They need to start using the larger BA woofers like in the ES5 and UERM more often.  Stacking tiny woofers for the low end is neither better or preferred IME.  I'd like MA's to evolve more.  They still don't quite offer the best of both worlds to my ears as I had hoped.  Still early.  

 

A proper hybrid would be great.  Give me the highs and spatial cues of the UERM, mids and imaging of the ES5 and bass presentation of the EX1000 w/ the quantity of the GR07 and a working JH3A box w/ a Smyth Realizer and I'm done.  

 

So yeah, there's room still.  wink_face.gif   

post #13 of 48

I think the biggest challenge is not a raw better.  I think the biggest challenge is personal preference.  None of us want the exact same thing.  All of our "perfect" earphones don't sound the same at all.  There are a lot of great earphones out there, but I will listen to one after another and not think "wow, this is better than everything else I've listened to."  Instead it is always "This is different but good."  The biggest challenge is not the absolute better.  It's the closest to my personal perception of "perfect."  That's all I look for now, my "perfect" earphone, or at least one that is as close as I can find.

 

I will think a major future step will involve personal customization on a scale we simply have not seen yet.  By this I mean custom driver selection based on personal preferences and custom crossover settings based on personal preferences.  This would be beyond swapping tips and filters but actual active processing allowing EQing, crossover control (frequency and slope), phase adjustment, and control we more commonly see in the scaled up home and car audio sectors.  I mean my car runs a purpose built 3-way setup with hand picked midbass, mid, and tweeters of my choice, and it's paired to a HU that can tune everything actively.  Realistically, I would love to see such customization and control scaled down to the earphone world.  The cost wouldn't be nice, but it would be an end-game scenario that would match what we already see in our other audio hobbies.  I really do think personal customization is our future.  We would just purchase an earphone shell that supports some sort of BA/dynamic driver package.  We would buy raw BA and dynamic drivers to put into this universal shell.  Then we would purchase either passive crossovers or an active processor to control the crossover and tuning duties.  We would effectively start doing what we've already been doing in the other audio worlds.

post #14 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by mvw2 View Post

x2

 

The headphone and IEM world is actually somewhat behind the rest of the audio world.

post #15 of 48

nah I think there is alot to do with crossovers and dyanmic style drivers still to come

 

The sooner universals are simply not purchased in favor of custom iems and tip will help the masses as well. 

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