What I'm accustomed to is my Etymotic ER-6is and they're the only IEMs I can remember hearing (long story but I have amnesia). I like their clarity and to me they sound fairly neutral, but I'm not going to put much stock in my own observations at this point. Neutrality is important to me as I do some [casual] recording (piano, guitar, vocals, who knows what else in the future). I also like their isolation, and isolation is very important to me.
There are a few things I do not like about the ER-6i IEMs. Firstly, the microphonics are problematic. I loop the cords over my ears but I'm an active guy and they don't stay real well. Secondly, fit: if they're not inserted just right, say good-bye to clarity, neutrality, and a quite a chunk of treble. Even if they are inserted just right, a little bit of jogging can change that pretty fast. Finally, replacing the filters. I am meticulous about keeping my ears clean but I still need to buy replacement filters more often than I'd like. Oh and I wouldn't mind slightly more bass, but it's not important and I prefer quality over quantity.
Value is important to me so I'm looking for one inexpensive pair to use both for recording/editing and for listening during exercise, etc. I listen to all genres. No, seriously: it wouldn't be weird to see Enya, Frank Sinatra, Linkin Park, Mozart, Rachmaninov, and Slipknot next to each other on one of my playlists.
The order in which I prioritize is roughly:
1. Value (bang for the buck up-front and long-term including things like filters)
2. Consistently high accuracy/neutrality and isolation (without being overly finicky about insertion and movement)
3. Clarity, dynamics, soundstage, and microphonics
4. Build quality/durability
5. Comfort and style
I would be grateful for a "best choice under $100" and "best choice under $150" option, as well as suggestions for any higher-priced models you happen to spot at a truly exceptional price. Hopefully this post is intelligent and specific enough not to garner a bunch of "use the search button!" replies. I have searched and would just like some specialized advice.
Thank you Head-Fi gurus.
Edited by TIGR - 9/29/11 at 1:40pm