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Do I not get it? A newbie's problem.

post #1 of 46
Thread Starter 

So, new guy question. Forgive the ignorance. I have tried some searching, but have not found too much (maybe I searched for the wrong stuff?).


Hey guys, I am relatively new to this IEM world but have always been a music lover (and a musician). Huge classical fan of music, so I decided to take a huge jump and buy a pair of Westone 4's.


I realize that from stock earbuds with my iPod (4th gen), this is a huge jump. The sound these delivered, from what was described, seemed to fit exactly what I was looking for.


So I finally got the W4's in the mail and stuck them in my ears and listened, but I was disappointed. It seemed like the signature was not too far from my stock earbuds. Bass was there and had good reverb, percussion was awesome, which is nice, and the sound seemed to open up, but I could find little more. I could not notice any clarity difference. And the midrange of the stock buds sounded similiar to the W4 in my ears.


To be quite honest, I was sad. I did not hear much of a change. I hear differences, but nothing that gave me a "WOW, much better than these stock things!"


Now I have to ask, am I missing something? Am I just not trained to hear what these new IEM's are doing right? Am I just not using the right equipment?


For the record, I am not using an amp. The player is (as seen above) a 4th gen iPod. I am listening to James Levine conduct the Boston Phil, and the Berlin Phil under Karajan (though I have listened to some current stuff). Are the recordings just too old?


They are relatively new, and I have everything set up to send them back for a return. This is that last stop before leaving.


May I please have some help?


post #2 of 46

Normally the downgrades are more apparent than the downgrades... give'em i few days then go back to the stock buds and see what you think

post #3 of 46

^ Sorry, that ignores a few important possibilities:

1. Westone 4 (W4) is a very neutral or "flat" IEM. OP, I'm sure you noticed that it isolates a lot better than the earbuds you had before, but the sound that comes out is unexciting. This is because we're used to exciting/"hyped" sound--think of car audio enthusiasts, and how they pimp the subwoofers so much. It may not be accurate but it gets your attention.

The W4 is not designed to grab your attention that way...it's meant to be accurate, and let you hear all the details in the music.


2. Old recordings may not be that good. You were right to suspect this--I have some Coltrane, Davis, and Reinhardt, and while the music is great the recordings are not always good (especially Reinhardt). I dunno how your recordings are, but that's a possibility.


3. Bitrate. If you don't know what this word means, then it's probably to blame as well. Do you know what bitrate you ripped your music at?

post #4 of 46

Yeap. Listen to it for a week or so, then head back to the i-buds for a listen. If you still don't like it, perhaps the W4 isn't your "flavor"

post #5 of 46
This is one of the weird paradoxes of good audio gear.

A lot of the really good stuff doesn't jump out and impress you on first listen. The colored gear does that.

The good stuff will sound a bit... boring. But then you start noticing how little it does wrong and when going back to lesser equipment, you begin to realize the problems it has.

This really jumped out with me when I got the Quad ESL-63s. They were a bit dull and lifeless at first. But they don't put a wrong foot anywhere and turned out to be one of the best purchases I've made. I can relax and know they get 99% of things right.
post #6 of 46
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the replies!


The music itself comes from iTunes, last time I checked, the rate was 256. I have been listening to them for about a week now, maybe they are not much in what I like, as you guys have said? I can listen to them some more, and we'll see what happens.


Appreciate the help.

post #7 of 46

Rabbit, the bitrate does not matter, if they haven't impressed you they haven't impressed you, a very subtle change in bitrate is not going to change that.


Sadly I haven't heard the W4's, but I think I know what you're talking about.


If you want a dramatic improvement from your Apple earbuds and you didn't get it in the first listen, or in the first week, it's time to send them back before it's too late and try a different IEM!


If you're willing to spend that kind of cash, perhaps you should try the Sony MDR-EX1000's, the difference will be much more dramatic and you'll be able to appreciate the difference from your apple earbuds more I think.  Also consider the JVC FX700's.


If you're a bit wary of the high-end now, try something like MDR-EX600 or perhaps Hifiman RE-262, or a Final Audio product!


Some of my IEM's I know if I lend them to a friend they won't be impressed with the subtle differences they offer, and a lot of the balanced ones offer nothing striking, but the EX600 is one IEM I own (or perhaps the IEM I own) that I know I can let an apple earbud user try for a couple minutes and they'll be really impressed.


Some users on this site may disagree with me, and tell you you're not listening to the W4's properly, but this is my advice.


Edited by kiteki - 8/19/11 at 6:31am
post #8 of 46

A couple of thoughts.  Play around with different tips for your new IEMs (I assume they come with a variety).  Getting a proper seal is essential and can make the difference between sounding very ordinary and very special.  Unlike speakers or earbuds, IEMS are not just a turn-it-on-and-listen affair.  They can take a while to learn how to use properly.  Then, try some music you know is recorded well and high quality.  Decent bitrate won't fix a poor quality original recording.  You may simply be using files that innately don't sound that great, so play around with that.  And, finally, no disrespect intended, but the headphone out on an early iPod is not the last word in sound quality; if you can, try some other players.  And rest assured that if none of that works, there are other IEMs out there that you will like - they really are miles better than regular earbuds.

post #9 of 46

For me, 256 or less is not quite enough to show the abilities of top IEMs. You can still prefer one but the cost effectiveness is diminished. Much of the goose bump factor is in the subtleties of intonation and expression that get compromised in compression. Things become pretty good at 320 or above but I've personally moved to lossless or above for all my portable music but player comes into play here too as many are also limiting for various reasons. 320 is probably all that's needed for many and is probably the sweet spot for size and quality fot most folks and DAPs. I don't nearly have the same issues with old recording(unless they've been enhanced/cleaned up) as I do with low bit rates. I don't know the w4 but I'd look at source before the phones if there's an issue and when listening, forget about the differences and see if you can better relate to what the musicians are trying to relate. Try some quartets or sonata's. May be enough to keep you a fan of better products.

Edited by goodvibes - 8/19/11 at 7:10am
post #10 of 46

I will also recommend to try some Dynamic IEMs like EX1000, FX700, RE272, EX600, GR07, IE8 and they all shows great details in mids, highs with wide soundstage and deep punchy bass. BTW if you add portable AMPs(like T3d, Fiio E11) and use line-out dock cable then the overall sound quality will improve much because iPod line out signal are much cleaner than it's HP jack.

post #11 of 46

Maybe you are just sensitive to crossovers in IEMs, like me. I personally haven't heard the W4, but I did own W3 and I found them AWFUL. They basically sounded totally incoherent to my ears, although it did take me some time to realize that. There were pieces of music scattered around like pieces of jigsaw puzzle, but they were all over the place and did not form a coherent picture of the sound at all. I would take a $50 single driver UE Super.fi 3 over W3 any day.

post #12 of 46

I'm not saying you're wrong just asking but Pianist how many multi-BA driver IEM's have you heard?




post #13 of 46


Originally Posted by goodvibes View Post

For me, 256kbps or less is not quite enough to show the abilities of top IEMs. [...]


come on...

post #14 of 46
Originally Posted by kiteki View Post

I'm not saying you're wrong just asking but Pianist how many multi-BA driver IEM's have you heard?



Ok, I heard:


Westone UM2, 3, UM3X, ES3X

Ultimate Ears Super.fi 5 Pro, Triple.fi, UE700

Shure E5, SE530/535

EarSonics SM3

Jays Q-jays

Fischer Audio DBA-02


Not a single one of these sounded perfectly coherent to my ears.

post #15 of 46

Can you use a synonym to coherent please?


I don't fully understand.

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