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M-Fidelity (formerly Starkey Norway) SA-43 Custom IEM Review: Expansive Space + Options - Page 2

post #16 of 101

Thanks for a great review. 

 

These are pretty relevant to me. My Westone 4's, bought more or less by chance really turned me on to IEM's, and I'm contemplating going for customs. 

 

I've been pondering the Miracle, but sending a mould to England takes time and is not as effective as getting a fit in Norway. I'd be very interested in a comparative review with those IEM's. 

 

I do think that if the S43's are within 5ish % of the other similarly priced customs, I'd probably go for the S43's due to the ease of the producer being situated in Norway. 

 

Wonder if I can get a test-listening from them. Have to investigate this further, I guess. Anyways, great review, thanks a bunch :)

Gear mentioned in this thread:

post #17 of 101
Thread Starter 

Starkey does have universal demos you can try, but I am not sure if they will give you the true sound as many demos seem to give more a glimpse into the flavor.

 

I don't have a W4 to compare and would love to be able to do so and when I heard the W4 I didn't have the SA-43, so no direct comparison.  And without a direct comparison I don't want to make comments and be wrong about them, but here are some experiences you can draw your own conclusions from:

- I compared the W4 with the Fabs and the Fabs had a wider soundstage.

- The Fabs had more detail than the W4.

- The W4 was warmer than the Fabs and had more low bass punch.

- Midrange and treble presentation were similar between the Fabs and W4 in frequency response.

- The W4 was a little more liquid to the Fabs slightly drier sound.

 

- Comparing the Fabs with the SA-43, the SA-43 has a larger and slightly better proportioned soundstage

- The SA-43 has more bass punch and a little more warmth than the Fabs

- The SA-43 has more detail than the Fabs

- The SA-43 sounds more neutral (with both switches off) than the Fabs

 

The SA-43 is technically competitive with other custom IEMs I have heard in the price range, so it is about the sound you want.  The SA-43 doesn't sparkle like the JH16 or LS8 and isn't as thick or as dark as the EM3 Pro and while the UERM is a reference sound, I find the SA-43 to offer good balance that sounds more natural to my ears due to the less forward treble.

post #18 of 101

 

I started listening to the SA43s with the bass switch on. Some impressions:

 

Lows

- Bass body is about twice as big with the switch off. 

- Impact is significantly greater

- decay is ever slightly longer but a lot more noticeable with the forward bass

- Less noticeable on bass light songs; on bass heavy songs, bass is definitely the first thing that you will notice

 

Mids

- Mids have a slight warmth added to them

- Vocals are richer/thicker compared to when the switch is off

- There is somewhat more emotion to the mids

- Unlike some other bass heavy universals, mids are not at all recessed or veiled by the bass, just a slight different flavour

 

Highs

- Treble is mostly unaffected

- Some micro-details are harder to make out due to the more pronounced bass

- Feels slightly darker (~5%) but is barely noticeable

 

Presentation

- Soundstage unchanged, still unbelievable size in all directions

- Imaging: drums, bass guitars, tuba and some horns are noticeably brought forward while others remain unchanged

- Tonality: overall richer, thicker, and warmer presentation compared with bass switch off. 

- Separation: mostly unchanged, although certain high frequency instruments can sound a tiny but muffled at times

- Also wanted to add that overall, instruments appears to have more "weight" to them 

 

For rap/hip hop/RnB, I greatly prefer the bass switch on while pop/techno sounds better with switch off. For rock/metal it was really a toss up depending on whether I wanted to focus on the guitars or bass guitars/drums or have a little extra weight in the guitars. 

 

I can easily tell the difference between the switch on and off and the more I listen the more I am happy with the SA43s as the versatility to change the sound signature is almost like having a different IEM.

post #19 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vargtass View Post

Thanks for a great review. 

 

These are pretty relevant to me. My Westone 4's, bought more or less by chance really turned me on to IEM's, and I'm contemplating going for customs. 

 

I've been pondering the Miracle, but sending a mould to England takes time and is not as effective as getting a fit in Norway. I'd be very interested in a comparative review with those IEM's. 

 

I do think that if the S43's are within 5ish % of the other similarly priced customs, I'd probably go for the S43's due to the ease of the producer being situated in Norway. 

 

Wonder if I can get a test-listening from them. Have to investigate this further, I guess. Anyways, great review, thanks a bunch :)


I too chose Starkey partly because of convenience (Starkey Oslo is located five minutes by foot from my doorstep) which made it very easy to try out CIEMs for the first time. Haven't regretted it for a minute. SQ exceeded my expectations by far, and the customer service is excellent.


At the time I received my SA-43's in mid October, they only had SA-22 and SA-12 for demo. Allthough these too sound great, they don't even come close to the SA-43.

 


Edited by clabbe - 12/21/11 at 10:24pm
post #20 of 101
Thread Starter 

Thanks for sharing.  The SA-12 is a far cry from the SA-43, plus I am sure the demo units don't sound as good as the real thing.  Let us know more of your thoughts as you get used to the SA-43.

post #21 of 101

Just got my impressions done at the Trondheim office. They can't get here soon enough.

post #22 of 101

You're in for a treat, that's for sure smily_headphones1.gif

post #23 of 101
Thread Starter 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by NorthernAvengeR View Post

Just got my impressions done at the Trondheim office. They can't get here soon enough.


Let us know your thoughts; the more impressions of the SA-43 the better ;)

 

post #24 of 101

Hey

 

My impressions up until now is not the best, my ipod is what i usually use for now as the AHA-120 is too smooth sounding and only the bass quality gets upped af bit but resolution overall suffers..

 

The ipod as source is inferior, and my CEC TLXR cd player is to dark as source too..

 

So now my AHA-120 is up for sale, but there isnt really any good reason to buy a different sounding amp, tho pico slim and 2Stepdance seems to better match for the Starkeys..

 

I would like to try out the Sony Z1060-70, but the volume cap is a problem and if i decide to stop using an amp the power the Starkeys need would be insufficient..

 

To me the Starkeys are very hard to please (or i am), but Joe already did a good job pointing out the pro and cons and i can surely relate to what the Starkeys sound like, but i havnt got them to sound close to what i prefer..

 

It could have been nice if the presence switch would add more detail and attack rather then "widening" upper range frequencies, i only use it for poor mastered black metal thats too enclosed...

 

But the Starkeys dosnt let low bandwith/poorly ripped off, so its not bad in this way for me, crap in crap out is still stands and should be so with good Ciems..

 

To sum it up: 

 

They need some power and harder to drive then most other Ciems and they demand a good resolving source, that handles the wide soundstage it can deliver, if not so it just seems a tad uninspiring to listen to..

post #25 of 101

cool review. i liked your ratings on 1-10

post #26 of 101

Just picked them up and... I can't stop grinning. Man, I've been missing out. Even out of this terrible source there's a world of difference. I can't wait until I get to plug this thing into proper equipment. First impressions and expectations; blown away.

 

 

The fit is maybe a little tight, but the Starkey in-house audiologist said that was to be expected in the beginning. Very pleased. Will post more detailed impressions once I get to run this through its paces.

post #27 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by NorthernAvengeR View Post

Just picked them up and... I can't stop grinning. Man, I've been missing out. Even out of this terrible source there's a world of difference. I can't wait until I get to plug this thing into proper equipment. First impressions and expectations; blown away.

 

 

The fit is maybe a little tight, but the Starkey in-house audiologist said that was to be expected in the beginning. Very pleased. Will post more detailed impressions once I get to run this through its paces.



 

I'm really pleased for you - buying CIEMs is such an expensive and (in terms of individual sound signature and in terms of fit) risky business. It's always nice when someone gets exactly what they want, in terms of fit and sound, in return for their substantial financial (and time) investment.

 

Having suffered my fair share with the pitfalls of CIEMs, I assure you, I can appreciate it when things go right, for a change!

 

Happy listening, friend!

post #28 of 101
Thread Starter 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hemshemems View Post

Hey

 

My impressions up until now is not the best, my ipod is what i usually use for now as the AHA-120 is too smooth sounding and only the bass quality gets upped af bit but resolution overall suffers..

 

The ipod as source is inferior, and my CEC TLXR cd player is to dark as source too..

 

So now my AHA-120 is up for sale, but there isnt really any good reason to buy a different sounding amp, tho pico slim and 2Stepdance seems to better match for the Starkeys..

 

I would like to try out the Sony Z1060-70, but the volume cap is a problem and if i decide to stop using an amp the power the Starkeys need would be insufficient..

 

To me the Starkeys are very hard to please (or i am), but Joe already did a good job pointing out the pro and cons and i can surely relate to what the Starkeys sound like, but i havnt got them to sound close to what i prefer..

 

It could have been nice if the presence switch would add more detail and attack rather then "widening" upper range frequencies, i only use it for poor mastered black metal thats too enclosed...

 

But the Starkeys dosnt let low bandwith/poorly ripped off, so its not bad in this way for me, crap in crap out is still stands and should be so with good Ciems..

 

To sum it up: 

 

They need some power and harder to drive then most other Ciems and they demand a good resolving source, that handles the wide soundstage it can deliver, if not so it just seems a tad uninspiring to listen to..


Thanks for sharing!  Yes, they are difficult to drive, especially in comparison with so many other CIEMs, and I actually think this is the most difficult to drive CIEM I own.  As far as the detail and attack, maybe you should try an aftermarket cable, which can help with that (I have reviewed several and posted my results with the SA-43).  I hope you get to the sound you want.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ryolith View Post

cool review. i liked your ratings on 1-10


Thanks!

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by NorthernAvengeR View Post

Just picked them up and... I can't stop grinning. Man, I've been missing out. Even out of this terrible source there's a world of difference. I can't wait until I get to plug this thing into proper equipment. First impressions and expectations; blown away.

 

The fit is maybe a little tight, but the Starkey in-house audiologist said that was to be expected in the beginning. Very pleased. Will post more detailed impressions once I get to run this through its paces.


Great to hear; they are very nice and really scale well with better sources.  Looking forward to additional experiences with the SA-43.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mython View Post

I'm really pleased for you - buying CIEMs is such an expensive and (in terms of individual sound signature and in terms of fit) risky business. It's always nice when someone gets exactly what they want, in terms of fit and sound, in return for their substantial financial (and time) investment.

 

Having suffered my fair share with the pitfalls of CIEMs, I assure you, I can appreciate it when things go right, for a change!

 

Happy listening, friend!


Exactly!

post #29 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hemshemems View Post

Hey

 

My impressions up until now is not the best, my ipod is what i usually use for now as the AHA-120 is too smooth sounding and only the bass quality gets upped af bit but resolution overall suffers..

 

The ipod as source is inferior, and my CEC TLXR cd player is to dark as source too..

 

So now my AHA-120 is up for sale, but there isnt really any good reason to buy a different sounding amp, tho pico slim and 2Stepdance seems to better match for the Starkeys..

 

I would like to try out the Sony Z1060-70, but the volume cap is a problem and if i decide to stop using an amp the power the Starkeys need would be insufficient..

 

To me the Starkeys are very hard to please (or i am), but Joe already did a good job pointing out the pro and cons and i can surely relate to what the Starkeys sound like, but i havnt got them to sound close to what i prefer..

 

To sum it up: 

 

They need some power and harder to drive then most other Ciems and they demand a good resolving source, that handles the wide soundstage it can deliver, if not so it just seems a tad uninspiring to listen to..



In my recent experience, everything you said also applies to Unique Melody's 'Miracle' CIEM, too. I suspect it is a combination of the low impedance and very-variable load a multiple balanced-armature IEM represents to the amplification/output stage of a DAP. Only a very well-designed (and low output impedance) amplification stage is able to really get to grips with such a CIEM, and keep it from getting out of control. This sounds a bit weird to anyone who hasn't experienced it for themselves - how can such a tiny, sensitive earphone be difficult to drive? Well, it's not about volume/SPL; it's about control, and if the CIEM is quite 'reactive', as a load, then control is not going to be easy unless the amplification stage is very well designed for the purpose. If a DAP has been designed for use with mass-market dynamic-driver earbuds then it should come as little surprise that it may struggle to handle a much more complex load, as may be the case with a multiple-driver custom IEM, to say nothing of the reactance of the capacitors and inductors of the crossover.

 

To be honest with you, I really doubt that a Sony Z-series DAP will have a sufficiently-decent amplification stage to really grab control of the SA-43s (or the UM Miracle), though it may do a reasonable job. Having spent so much on a very high-end CIEM, I would suggest you aim your sights higher than the Sony Z-series DAP (unless you are willing to use it with a portable amplifier). This recommendation has nothing to do with 'luxury' or egotism; it's about achieving what the SA-43 is really capable of, having already made a substantial investment in purchasing it.

 

Therefore, I would suggest you save for a better DAP, such as the iBasso DX100, HM 801, or Colorfly C4 - I don't deny that it's quite expensive but it's a serious audiophile DAP with a proper amplification stage, and it's actually not massively more expensive than the Sony Z-series. It is not much more than half the cost of your SA-43s and would be very, very likely to drive the SA-43s to within at least 90%+ of what they are capable of. A possible compromise might be the Hi-SoundAudio Studio V (lee730 is a big fan of the Studio V's sound, for example), but you'd have to check that for yourself before purchasing, as I'm not sure how serious the Studio V's class-A amp stage really is.

 

I'm not a wealthy man, but I am putting my money where my mouth is - having come to the above conclusions for myself, with my UM Miracles, I am making my finances stretch to an iBasso DX100 because I now know that anything less will make my Miracles a wasted investment.

post #30 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by "kiteki 
Oh and my best wishes to Norway in the hard times they're facing, I believe Starkey has a storefront in Oslo not far from the recent disaster.

Yes, Starkey in Oslo is not far away from where the bomb exploded, but luckily it seems that the building didnt get any damages. I got my first ear impression done there btw, which I sent to JH and five-six weeks later I was the proud owner of the JH13 Pro. Now I am considering buying the SA-43...
Edited by Oslo72 - 3/22/12 at 5:22pm
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Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Portable Headphones, Earphones and In-Ear Monitors › M-Fidelity (formerly Starkey Norway) SA-43 Custom IEM Review: Expansive Space + Options