Disclaimer: I've got my RE272 as a review sample for free.
Conclusion first: RE272 is the best IEM I tried.
Tried, in order of preference (not just SQ): RE262, RE252, RE0, ER-4P/S, MTPC, E500 (SE535), CK10, SA6, RE-Zero, ER-6i, E4c (wow, this is ancient!), UM2, some more. Note: order may change depending on the source.
Too sugary? You’ve probably read someone’s complaints on shy bass or excessive brightness. Well, I made my best efforts to fit and amping, more later. And I was awarded with
Very realistic, fast, neutral, accurate, clear, detailed while engaging sound.
+ Flat frequency response, no evident peaks or dips to breach neutrality.
+ Frequency extensions are very good on both ends. Highs are perfection!
+ Tonality is neither cold nor warm, it is just right.
+ Details are better than with ER-4P (eek!), long time details king.
+ Instrument separation and positioning are top notch.
++ And what I like most in RE272 are the speed, clarity and accuracy. RE272 provides that rare sense of realism, “wow, singer in my room” effect like fastest cans I tried before – ER-4P/S, Tesla T1, some STAX.
++ At the same time RE272 is musical. Listening to the dance tracks, I rather want to dance than to admire certain musician’s skills or fanciful effects.
There are some whishes also, though not at the expense of any of the “+” above:
- I like to have more bass, well weighted - the deeper is the bigger.
- RE272 bass accuracy is excellent, but I like to have it perfect.
- Soundstage size is good for IEM, but I like to have more.
Comfort – please, release version with standard cable.
+ Very comfortable in ears, both over the ear and wires down styles.
- Cable extension joint adds weight.
Fit and tips – go deeper, seal tighter.
Deep fit and perfect seal are must to unleash RE272. It was not obvious for me, since RE272 uses the same shells as RE262, which sounds good with shallow fit. And it was not easy to get the proper fit, until I tried RE272 over the ears with smaller tips. This let me put it deep, reducing brightness and making sound fuller. Of course, this also squeezed the soundstage, but I am OK with this size.
My favorite tips are Monster MTPC foams and Shure E2C silicon tips. I may also recommend Monster MTPC triple flanges, Jays silicon tips, Sony hybrids, stock medium single flanges, and Etymotic ER6-14F foam tips.
- Stock set of tips is not good for deep fit. For, only medium single flanges fit. Small bi-flanges goes deep and seals well, but it is scratchy.
+ Microphonics are almost non-existing.
+ Shells and strain reliefs are solid, finish is unpretentious, just how I like them.
- I do not like joint cable with those balanced plugs. Version with standard cable and plug will be a winner. White jack on balanced-to-single-ended-reversed looks horrible. Unfortunately, this is a cable I need to use RE272 over the ear. Most likely I will recable my RE272 to get rid of this extra black and white joint.
Amps / sources matching – RE272 likes more current?
+ Sensitivity is excellent, RE272 works well with any of my sources, down to the Sansa Clip+. No loss of speed/attack/clarity or any other typical “not enough gain” symptoms. It easily pulls out background noises from noisy chain or live record.
! RE272 prefers sources driving low-impedance loads well. It blooms with more juice - bass gains depth and weight, mids gain more natural tonality.
Synergy: HM-602 >= Yulong D100 > iPhone 3G = Recommended > Clip+ >> iPod 5.5gen.
Nothing surprising here. iPod 5.5gen headphone is known as faulty with low impedance loads. It sounds too thin and bright with RE272. Clip+ amp circuit is better, but battery is tiny. So Clip+ is just OK. iPhone (and I bet, all modern Apples) surprises me with good body and warmth, few if any of digital harshness – recommended. D100 > RE272 is an excellent rig for those who prefer precise detailed sound from well-built sigma-delta DAC feeding neutral powerful amp. HM-602 has the warm amp as well as analog-like DAC, and this is a match made on heavens - Highly Recommended!
+ With price of $249, RE272 represents excellent value, considering SQ only. I doubt there are any similarly priced IEMs with a same or better SQ. I believe all of them costs $100+ more. Why I rate value as just "good" then?
- Because of inappropriate selection of stock tips. This is not a huge problem for experienced head-fier, but it takes time and money to get 3rd party tips.
- Finicky cable system also reduces value to me.
And to be honest, HiFiMan set the expectations of value for money pretty high with their previous models. Both RE0 ($79) and RE262 ($149) represent "excellent" VFM. If RE272 will be priced $199, then it will deserve "excellent" VFM with no regards to both "-" mentioned above.
Brief comparison to HD650 - drawn game.
Note: I compared these using Yulong D100 stationary DAC/Amp. Its DAC section (AD1955 based) is on par with HM-602, considering “sigma-delta vs multi-bit” matter aside. But D100 amp is better and more powerful, so I gave my HD650 a handicap. Looking at the results, I think I have to give HD650 another try sometime. HD650 is known to scale up well, so with better DAC > amp combo it will have a chance to revenge.
SQ: RE272 = HD650. HD650 has bigger bass and soundstage. RE272 gets the upper hand in clarity and attack. Otherwise these are on par. Hey, what about famous HD650 mids, you say? Well, my beloved HD650 mids aren’t better to RE272 mids, just voiced differently. HD650 is warm and romantic, RE272 is vivid and clear. And there is rather a choice based on personal preference or mood, than any evident genres dependence. Both are nice all-rounders for me and I am happy to have them both as a complimentary pair.
Musicality: RE272 = HD650! Nice, now I have one more musical can with alternative, complimentary sound signature. I would prefer HD650 for longer listening session with relaxed music while RE272 - vice versa. Though both are no slouches while reversed.
Long comparison to ER-4P – good bye, first love.
I was an Etymotic fan for years until I met RE272. It has cured my Etymotic bug finally – I do not miss for ER-4P clarity, speed and accuracy anymore.
SQ: RE272 > ER-4P.
Preference: RE272 >= ER-4P.
Yes, I already preferred previous HiFiMan IEMs over ER-4P, such as RE0, RE252, RE262. But it was tough decision for me every time, because I missed for Etymotic realism, feel of live performance. Now I just change tips on RE272 to get the very same sound. Stock single flanges with wide hole are those tips.
Why do I compare to ER-4P so much? First, RE272 sounds like ER-4P reincarnated into dynamic driver version. And because ER-4P was my love & hate for the years. I loved it for the best realism from portable / affordable cans. And I hated it for the ethereal, dry and occasionally harsh sound. I tried to live with it. I replaced the cable with OFC (stock is silver plated, thus bright), gone through numerous universal tips (gliders are the best), got the custom tips, choose the most synergistic portable amp (XIN Supermicro IV) …
No luck. So I sold ER-4P. But it has returned into consideration when I’ve got HM-602. Analog-like NOS DAC with warm darkish onboard amp made ER-4P sing. So I was going to re-shell ER-4P into the hard acrylic customs soon, re-cable with the copper and let it stay in my inventory forever ...
RE272 came in time! It turns out a step up over ER-4P, rather than a side steps presented by former HiFiMan models.
Well, ER-4P is still better with low-power sources, say some weaker than Sansa Clip+. With Clip+ they are on par, and I prefer RE272 for better comfort / usability / microphonics.
Probably, ER-4P is still a better option for those who analyses the music. I can’t tell with confidence because I am not a music pro. I am a music lover and I prefer RE272 for more emotional and engaging sound. I bet some pro will also appreciate this.
Yes, Ety still has better speed and bass accuracy. But these advantages yield to RE272 benefits of fuller, livelier and smoother sound. With all my respects to the “golden standard for 20 years” history of ER-4P, I am finally out of Ety fans crowd.
Fang @ HiFiMan, you are my hero! Again.
Comparison details: I have been choosing IEM for my portable needs with HM-602 as a source. I have P-to-S converter, but I prefer ER-4P over ER-4S with HM-602. ER-4S was too thin and bright. I choose stock tips for both: triple flanges for ER-4P and medium single flanges for RE-272. With these tips sound signatures were most close, so it was easier to recognize the differencies.
Highs: RE272 > ER-4P.
Highs weight: ER-4P > RE272. ER-4P highs are too much even with HM-602.
Highs extension: RE272 > ER-4P. ER-4P sounds schematic, like upper highs are missing, not just recessed. In busy moments of symphonic metal, cymbals (or high hats?) sound rather like a noise than a separate familiar instrument. RE272 extends up excellently, portraying highs-focused instruments realistically.
Sibilance: ER-4P > RE272. This is negative quality, so I prefer RE272 again.
Mids: RE272 > ER-4P.
Female vocal: RE272 > ER-4P. ER-4P is dryer, RE272 is more natural.
Electric guitars: RE272 >= ER-4P. ER-4P is a bit thin.
Acoustic guitars: ER4P > RE272. Extra aggression gives extra liveliness.
Male vocals: ER-4P = RE272. Timbre is a bit better with ER-4P, but occasional s-s-sibilance spoils this benefit.
Bass: RE272 = ER-4P.
Bass quality: ER-4P > RE272. Though RE272 is excellent in attack / accuracy, but ER-4P is simply perfect. I yet to hear a better can. Otherwise, both are excellent, neither bass intrudes into midrange.
Bass depth: ER-4P >= RE272. Minor difference, but it is here.
Bass impact: RE272 > ER-4P. Bass weight in overall frequency response is slightly bigger, but RE272 also brings real feel of moving air, while ER-4P just makes sound, not feeling.
Imaging: RE272 >= ER-4P.
Soundstage: RE272 >= ER-4P. Width is the same, depth is better with RE272.
Instruments separation: RE272 = ER-4P.
Instruments positioning: RE272 >= ER-4P.
Details: RE272 >= ER-4P. Wow, how can it be possible?! RE272 details are more detailed :) They are reproduced with more subtlest details, richer decay. Things like finger plucks on a strings are more realistic with RE272. ER-4P details are schematic in comparison.
Clarity: RE272 = ER-4P. At a first listening, ER-4P is clearer, but its clarity seems artificial in comparison, based on a dismissing of some sound info. With RE272 background is not as black, but is filled with some info from the record, not a veil. RE272 presents instruments with greater details and pulls more of background noise from live records. All these go against extra blackness and for better contrast. But I do not consider this as a better clarity.
Speed: ER-4P > RE272. It is not bad to be slower comparing to one of the fastest headphones. RE272 is the 4th headphone in my speed rating after STAX (404 or 4070, can’t recall model), ER-4P and Tesla T1. EDIT: actually CK10 and ER-6i are also faster than RE272, but I can not tolerate their sound signature.
Musicality: RE272 > ER-4P. I do not like to monitor a rock-n-roll song with ER-4P, I like to enjoy it with RE272, sing and dance it (when nobody looks or listen).
Isolation: ER-4P >> RE272. Etymotic isolates much stronger. I yet to hear universal IEM which can compete with ER-4P in this area. But pay attentiion: this is with 3-flanges on Etymotic and single flanges on RE272. Isolation improves with MTPC foams or 3-flanges on RE272. In this case ER-4P > RE272 - still stronger, while not "much stronger". Note that RE272 is semi-open, while ER-4P is closed. I have no needs in strong isolation, like commuting or frequent flying, so I am OK with RE272 isolation, which is the pretty good for dynamic IEM.
SQ, Preference: RE272 > Audio-Technica ATH-CK10
In short, RE272 sounds very same to CK10, closer than to ER-4P. Sound signature differences are minor, except some strong spike somewhere in CK10 highs/upper mids. This exact spike puts me off enjoying CK10, which is a terrific IEM in other respects. YMMV - my friend, who is less sensitive to brightness, likes CK10. Despite having dynamic driver, RE272 offers slightly more refined sound with better mids tonality, microdetails and sense of speed.
Bass: RE272 = CK10.
Bass impact: RE272 >= CK10. Weight is on par, but RE272 is better on "pumping the air" feeling.
Bass quality: RE272 = CK10. This surprised me. I expected BA drivers of CK10 will have better attack and accuracy. I was wrong.
Bass depth: CK10 >= RE272. Same as with ER-4P - "Minor difference, but it is here".
Mids: RE272 > CK10. CK10 are tad warmer and smoother. RE272 mids are more neutral and present better textures and micro-details. This was another surprise - these two sound like CK10 has dynamic driver, while RE272 has BA.
Highs: RE272 > CK10. Spike in upper mids/highs let CK10 down. Get ready for sibilance.
Speed: RE272 >= CK10. And this was the biggest surprise to me! How dynamic driver could be faster than BA? Well, I have edit my earlier assumptions on how the speed of RE272 compares to CK10.
Isolation: RE272 = CK10. CK10 has tiny hole, which looks like a vent (port). This is rare feature for BA IEMs and it is likely a reason of moderate isolation.
Comfort: RE272 >= CK10. Both are very good, but RE272 sit better in my ears.
Built quality: CK10 > RE272. I've never seen IEM built better than CK10. I wish RE272 had CK10 cable - simple, flexible, soft-touch.
RE272 vs Sennheiser IE8 - apples vs steaks.
These two are completely different. So choice is simple - if you like meaty, fat, huge bass, go with IE8. If your source is weak on bass (say headphone out of iPod 5.5 gen) then IE8 may be helpful. Otherwise get RE272 because it is better in any other aspects. Or get both if you hesitate.
Bass weight: IE8 >> RE272. Is this good? I doubt so. IE8 bass is too big even on its lowest setting and mids sound very recessed in comparison. Listening to the songs, I struggled to hear vocals well. When I increased the volume to hear the singers well then bass became painful and dangerous to the hearing.
SQ: RE272 >> IE8. IE8 bass is huge, but that is all. Its quality is subpar, slow and less detailed in comparison. Midrange of IE8 is not bad itself but it is not even close to RE272, highs are the same story. I see no sense to dig into deep term-by-term comparison in this case.
Genres versatility: RE272 > IE8. Disproportionate bass and recessed mids let IE8 down.
Imaging: RE272 >= IE8. I've read before that IE8 is a king of soundstage size. RE272 soundstage size is about 25% smaller. But RE272 beats IE8 with excellence in terms of instruments separation and positioning. So I prefer RE272.
Built: RE272 = IE8. IE8 looks more robust, but somewhat plain. Cable is made of material which will not stiff with usage. RE272 looks better and seems more fragile, but it is built exactly the same to RE262 which already proved its durability. If RE272 cable will stiff up soon like RE262 did, then I will re-evaluate to "Built: RE272 < IE8".
Comfort: RE272 > IE8. IE8 is big and squarish. My ears are not small, but IE8 does not fit them well and sticks out.
Isolation: RE272 > IE8.
Edited by kostalex - 11/9/11 at 11:16pm