All right guys! I have finished "burning in" my headphones... (I put in the quotation marks because I don't know if I really burned them completely in or not...)
Anyway, I used these songs to test their sound, and so I will use them again to put up a final review
White Winte Hymnal - Fleet Foxes (Lossless)
So originally, the "muddy" bass that seems to be in discussion above did come out. The best way to describe this is that the bass sounded like it was bottoming out, like pushing air past the magnets' limits, giving this not only grainy sound but also an unclear sound. Imagine eating a chocolate milkshake, and while you eat it, little bits of ice and chocolate powder mix are constantly making the shake very unclean.
However, after putting in more time to listen and working these magnets/armatures (did I use the right word?), the bass sounds much more controlled, almost like they have been significantly stretched out more to give them more room to move. And man, the bass is rich and warm, but not overpowering like one of those beats headphones; bottom line: they don't give you a headache.
The mid-range frequencies were also somewhat an issue before; again, the dirty chocolate milkshake analogy kicks in here, because quite frankly, the singers in this song sounded unprofessional, like their folk voices were that of someone who just had a few episodes of coughing. His voice sounded rough, but not exactly to the degree that it is immediately bad. Rather, I find that it sounds clearer now, where the guitars, voices, and everything else in this range is able to come out strong now and noticeable, not only just in the background, but much more upfront about things.
Monster - Kanye West (Lossless)
This song was hard to use as a test, because the original recording sounds dirty; every speaker and stereo system I've run this through, the musicians definitely placed some sort of overdrive/distortion on the voices and the bass drum as well as the treble electronic instruments.
However, after testing this after the burn-in, definitely noticing some improvements. The bass, again, doesn't taste like a dirty milkshake (this analogy is getting old). It sounds more supporting than annoying and grainy.
As for everything else, not much difference except that there is a better balance overall with the music. However, hip-hop music tends to lean towards the frequency extremities, meaning that the treble and bass frequencies tend to be always overpowering the mid. That's where this headphones work well; they help the rapper's voice come out, and not let it get overpowered by a droning bass track and bad-sounding electronics.
Really, these headphones take the imbalance out of hip-hop and just give it a smoother ride. I'm sure hip-hop listeners will get turned off by this, but then again, at least these headphones have a good-enough bass compared to the Ultimate Ears TripleFi 10 Noise-Isolating Earphones (more explaining will come... I promise).
Pins and Needles - Mutemath (mp3)
Immediately, the audience sounds super real (I'm listening to the live album). Now, I know that live sound systems and microphones use dynamic setups, that the microphones don't sound as good, and there is a drop in quality when it comes to the speaker quality, as well as a reverb from the stage.
And yet, the ride cymbal, the brush sticks on the tom, the up-right bass, the electronic keyboard, and the voice, all sound extremely sweet and clean, like as if the instruments all have room to breathe, not stuck in a cage, like most earbuds do to sound. I'm not saying these are the most amazing headphones ever, that they make the music breathe like open-can headphones, but they do make a wonderful replication of live sound, and these headphones' treble really comes out here, making the music sound exceptionally sweet.
Gratitude - Earth, Wind, and Fire (mp3)
Mmm... classics. I grew up listening to this not because I actually grew up in this time, but because my dad made sure my brother and I listen to everything he ever did (the Beatles, the Animals, the Cars, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, Kiss, the BeeGees, Pink Floyd, even ABBA, and SO MANY OTHERS). Honestly, I love EWF; they are talented, got that relaxing groove with energy interlaced within their music, and wow, it's just good stuff. But because my dad is into music and speakers just as much as I am, I listened to EWF on some good speakers growing up, and it's hard to replicate that kind of quality with earbuds.
These headphones sound great with this song; a great balance with a shimmering electric guitar and sassy brass instruments with a funky bass line all work out great, but I can't say it's amazing. It's good, above par, but I just heard too many good sounds from speakers and better audio equipment to know what it's supposed to sound like, and although these earbuds have been doing well up to this point, it kind of felt, well... hollow. There just wasn't that same character from these earbuds than I wanted, a better blend of frequencies and voices. Everything kind of sounded slightly separated, like they weren't a band but just independent instruments playing at the same time. I guess one could argue that I have a problem with the musicians, not the headphones, but I did listen to these on a large variety of audio equipment, and I know what I'm looking for.
Another might say that speakers would of course have a better blend because they have more air to work with before the sound reaches me. True; earbuds/IEMs do not have as much air. However, this is my opinion, that these didn't do as well with EWF as it did with the more digitally produced songs, maybe because these tracks were originally recorded with different electronics than nowadays' artists. I don't know, but I'm just not satisfied with this performance. As a matter of fact, I am listening to more of their songs as I type this, and my critique is consistent with their other songs as well.
Hurts Like Heaven - Coldplay (lossless)
Before, the bass drum would always distort a little every time it was hit. Now, I tested this on my own audio system as well as a car stereo, and it distorted on all of them. Even my HD 595s had a hard time with the bass track, so I know it can't be these headphones.
(What is it with these new artists and their distortion? I want a clean sound; at least the EWF songs sounded clean, but these artists sound just too wrong and broken haha...)
I still love this song, and these earbuds deliver on this track; great bass, awesome handling of reverb, great attention to detail (I'm hearing sounds that I didn't hear from other audio systems... good stuff). These headphones are perfect with this style of sound.
Derezzed - Daft Punk (lossless)
That really, almost subsonic bass note, where the kick drum drops its frequency range and gets this extremely low rumble, does come out. Awesome. So the bass on these earbuds are quite decent, able to play really low frequencies.
When I first played this song, it was a bit less clean, but after burning it in, everything got slightly better. I got a cleaner sound, better balance, and a bit sweeter tweeter.
I guess this is it, or is it... Nope, I mentioned earlier that I compared these to the NuForce NE-700X. So, I listened to them with the same songs, and I have to say that the NuForce are definitely a good tier below. Their mid-range sound stuck... weird right? It sounds as if someone took a cup and sang into it (I'm talking about how the Fleet Foxes track sounded), and it doesn't have that brilliance and warmth that the OCX 880s have. Secondly, these headphones do pretty well with hip-hop music and the lower frequencies, but what that means is that this is not exactly a versatile earbud. They are good at playing hip-hop and low bass notes, but that's kind of it... balance wise, the OCXs are so much better. With the live track from MuteMath, again, that breathing issue really comes into play. When he makes an "s" sound, like in the lyrics, "pins and needles", it sounds like he has a lisp, like the sound went out of his mouth, back in, and out his nasal cavity, like he's singing with a circular head voice. What in the world... what a difference.
Finally, I said I would explain my Ulimate Ears reference. I tested my UEs' ability to play a really bassy song, Thom Yorke's solo work, remixed, called Skip Divided [ModeSelektor Remix], and they couldn't play it. They couldn't play a low-enough frequency to replicate the music accurately enough. That was my main issue with my UEs; they couldn't play my more bass-intense songs. I am a bit of a hip-hop lover myself, but I also love a large variety of sounds and music, and although the UE's couldn't play my more bass-heavy songs, they conquered everything else, and then some. So of course, I would say they are better than OCXs, but for the price, I don't know if I can confidently stand by the UEs that well...
Here's the price break-down:
Ultimate Ears TripleFi 10 Noise-Isolating Earphones: $400.00 (I got mine for 100)
NuForce NE-700X: $65.00
Sennheiser OCX 880: $200.00 (I got mine for 35)
When it comes to comfort, all three of them are not amazing, though I think that is simply the nature of headphones... The pressure they build up in my ear canal to create noise isolation sometimes hurts my ears. The UEs feel like they're falling out of my ears, causing me to constantly re-adjust the cords around my ears and pulling them up. The OCXs are a bit big (they can't go all the way in because the hole in them is really long and pushes against the inside of my ears), and so I don't get a really snug fit, making it more comfortable for me because then I don't get that weird pressure feeling. However, I'm sure it could sound better with a better fit. The 700Xs fit the best, but I still get that annoying pressure build up.
When it comes to walking and breathing, this is when I get most frustrated with these headphones. I hear all the air passing through my lungs and throat, sometimes even feeling my heartbeat. The headphones that was least annoying were the OCXs because they don't go in all the way and dangle on the top of my ears. The UEs needed constant adjusting while walking, and the 700Xs are in so well that every step made a bass sound and every breath sounded like an ocean.
I honestly think that I got lucky when it comes to prices; clearly, if you can avoid it, don't get forced to buy the NuForce. Get the OCX 880s, be patient, and break them in. I promise you, I'm just getting sadder as I continually compare my 880s to my 700Xs. But, if you can grab a pair of UEs, get that (if you have the money).
Really, what this settles down to is what kind of music do you like? After all, all these headphones are about the best music reproduction. If you're like me and like genres and genres and styles and world musics and stuff like that, OCX all the way; you don't get that kind of neutrality for that kind of price ever (I'm talking if you can get it for 35). But if you don't really listen to electronic, experimental, hip-hop, dance, R&B, etc. and other bass heavy songs, then get the UEs, but I recommend only get them if you are serious about the price commitment and honestly want only the best natural sound reproduction (i.e. violins, pianos, orchestras, etc.) in the IEM market.
Thanks guys for reading this, and I hope this helps a lot. I spent a good amount of effort, and I hope it satisfies.