NuFroce NE-700M v. Philips Fidelio S2 v. Lethal EARSUBS 5557 v. JVC FXZ200 v. VSonic VSD1 v. VSonic GR07 BE
NuForce NE-700M: These are "basshead" IEMs without a doubt, but this is where they differ from your conventional garden varieties. The bass quantity as well as quality is one of the most unique I have heard to date. There is some slight mid bass warmth to the bass but the sub bass region is the main focus of these NE-700s. Its bass texture has almost a thundering like attribute that rumbles deep, loud and surprisingly clear. Never have I heard any budget "bass" IEM with such a unique sounding sub bass. Despite the bass of these NE-700s comes in spades, their mids and treble comes through extremely clear as well. Nothing in the sonic spectrum is recessed on these NE-700s, in fact to these ears their mids are even more forward than the JVC FXZ200s. The bass quality and quantity is almost as satisfying as the FXZ200s but the overall refinement of the FXZ200s has a leg up over these NE-700s.
Maybe I am trying to justify my purchase and the money is talking but the FXZ200s have more of a powerful, smoother visceral presentation compared to the NE-700s. This is why I also find the FXZ200s more fatiguing as well because it just has so much power. The NE-700s on the other hand has a more laid back less fatiguing sound but it also has more rough edges overall, meaning that despite the mids are more forward than the FXZ200s it just lacks a bit of refinement which could be said for the treble as well. Soundstage of these NE-700 is amazingly large, in fact bigger than that of the FXZ200s with great instrument separation, hence this is why these NE-700s are able to have such cohesive mids, treble as well as massive bass quantity/quality without ever sounding disjointed. Totalphile IEMs these NE-700 surely are because nothing feels lacking especially if you love great bass!!!
Philips Fidelio S2: Neutral and dynamic are the two words that best describe the sound signature of the Philips Fidelio S2. These S2s have a very unoffensive sound meaning the entire sonic spectrum is just forward enough that nothing really feels lacking nor pops out at you. Despite its neutral sound, the bass on these S2s is no slouch either because unlike conventional bass IEMs, the lows on these only come out to play when called for. Sub bass quality and texture is pretty impressive for such a neutral sounding IEM, while there is just touch of mid bass which adds some warmth and weight to their very natural sound. It is true that the mids on these are a tiny tiny bit recessed as others have noted, but after burning them in for a couple of weeks it became slightly more forward and should be more then suffice for most. The treble is really well extended and I have never experienced any harshness nor sibilance using the medium Sony MH1C tips, though it does lack some sparkle. These S2s really does sound like a more dynamic and natural sounding version of the Balanced Armature Sony XBA-3s as Dsnuts have alluded to. Surprisingly enough I had expected the soundstage and sonic presentation of these S2s to be much bigger and more airy due to their semi-open back design but this was not the case. They have a large stage no doubt but I had expected it to be more grand in scale because even the closed back NuForce NE-700 has bigger stage while the Zero Audio Bassos has a more airy presentation when compared to these S2s.
There wasn't really ant WOW factor for me when I first heard these S2s, unlike the NuForce NE-700s with its unique amazing sub bass. Yet the longer you listen to them the more these S2s will grow on you, and no I am not just talking about brain burn-in and merely getting acclimated to it's sound over time. There is truth to mentally adjusting and adapting to a new sound the more you listen, but for me these S2s kinda took the opposite route. I was pretty impressed initially upon first listen, but the more I listened the more boring and flatter they became. Therefore, despite these S2s were a loaner and that I only had a limited time to audition them, I didn't really listen to them as much as I should have. Then I realized that my Nokia N9 was slightly under-driving them which made the neutral sound of these S2s sounded even more flat. After I switched to a source with more power these S2s finally started to impress again as it had during my initial listen. So Dsnuts was right on the money in that these Fidelio S2s scales beautifully with better and more powerful sources. I was able to experience this exact phenomenon despite my extremely limited resources. These Fidelio S2 is like an empty canvas of sorts because of its malleability. Due to their beautiful scalability, neutral and natural sound these S2s I would imagine should be a great IEM for the long haul because their sound will truly grow and amaze you over time and as your sources improve.
Lethal EARSUBS 5557: A little gift sent from our brothers up North, this $10 IEM is no joke. We like to refer to these EARSUBS as S2 lookalikes but can they truly hang with Philips Fidelio S2s, yes and no. Yes as in these are stupid good for the money, but they are not on par with the sound and resolution of the S2s sadly. What they are is a nice budget set of bass centric "beater" IEMs that does everything pretty damn nice and right. Yes these have an emphasis on the lows, but surprising there is only a touch of mid bass hump which adds some warmth and weight to the overall sound signature similar to the S2s. Akin to the NuForce NE-700s the sub bass of these EARSUBS are where the bass performs its magic, hence these are by no means overly warm or bassy. The bass only adds to their full bodied sound without much bleed into the mids or highs. Soundstage is also pretty large and is on par with the S2s so these also have a big sound as well. The bass end does sound more dry and less lush when compared to the S2s and the NE-700s but I would not call it bloated at all. Mids on these EARSUBS are surprisingly slightly more forward than the S2s like it was the case with the NE-700s when compared to the JVC FXZ200s, but again it just lacks the overall refinement of their pricier brethren. Highs on these are extended well enough with little to no sparkle, yet it does not feel lacking whatsoever and is pretty adequate. Giant killers these are not and some might even say these are FOTM (Flavor Of The Month), sure why not but these are damn good FOTM IEMS for ~$10 - $15 dollars shipped.
These EARSUBS has a more full bodied sound compared to the other budget-fi IEMS such as the JVC FX40s and the FX101s but without that crazy treble of the JVCs. The only things the FX40s bests these EARSUBS are their micro details and lusher bass. I would dare say these EARSUBS destroy the JVC FX101s on all accounts because it's a much better sounding IEM overall due to more forward mids, deeper sub bass and a less fatiguing non-sibilant treble. Can these EARSUBS hang with the ultimate budget king the Sony MH1Cs??? I would say yes in that these are just as satisfying to listen to but simply lacks some slight overall smoothness and refinement of the MH1Cs. The MH1Cs are no doubt a better sounding IEM but these EARSUBS are not THAT far behind in both sound and technical abilities. They also scales pretty nicely with better and more powerful sources as well, but it is not as big of a difference as the S2s. These EARSUBS are also Totalphile worthy material especially if you are on a tight budget and need a great sounding set of "beater" IEMs for daily use. Their flat cable is as bad as the MH1Cs but unlike the MH1Cs it is not of the annoying asymmetrical J-cord variant which constantly gets pulled loose due to the heavy attached mic. The dish housing design of these EARSUBS helps immensely in keeping them stay put and despite the bad quality of the cable, the cable seems to be really sturdy and can take a good beating. These EARSUBS are what the TDK MT-300s should have been TBH. So it looks like our Canadian brothers are upping their game in the cheapo discoveries so WATCH OUT nutman!!!
JVC FXZ200: I really have a love/hate relationship with these FXZ200s. They are one of the most natural sounding IEMs I have heard to date, even more so than the Philips Fidelio S2s to these ears, yet their sound is just so powerful which can get really fatiguing at times. It's a Catch-22 in that I love their natural presentation and amazing speaker-esque sub bass quality and quantity but you need to really up the power in order get these to their full potential/ hear them properly. This combined with their powerful sonic presentation is why these FXZ200s can be a fatiguing listen. These FXZ200s no doubt has a very unique sound signature in that some have described it as similar to a set of quality 2.1 speakers or full size headphones and I completely subscribe to those notions as well. This is why having heard the ATH CKS1000s and was blown away by how amazing they sounded, the FXZ200s are still more than enough to satisfy my "basshead" needs. The sound signature of these FXZ200s is meaty and powerful, yet transparent with a good amount of micro details and lushness to the lows and mids as well as the highs. The mid region on these is a tiny bit recessed but by no means does it sound inadequate because it is simply present unlike the overly froward mids of the ATH CKS1000s or VSonic GR07 BEs.
VSonic VSD1: VSonic claims that these VSD1's have ~80% of the sound of their GR07 BE flagship but to me it sounds more like 85% or more. Similar to its flagship brethren these VSD1's have amazing bass quality and texture. Sub bass reaches pretty deep, is hard hitting and is relatively fast and punchy, with only a slight touch of mid bass warmth. There is slightly more mid bass presence/ quantity compared to the GR07 BEs which makes their overall sound a bit more bassy and fun but slightly less transparent, yet it still retains most the best attributes of the GR07 BEs. Mids are literally all over your face because it is so lush and forward. Treble is very well extended with a touch of sparkle without sounding overly bright or sibilant. This combined with a nicely deep and textured lush sub bass makes the VSD1's one of the best, if not the best budget-fi IEM I have heard for under $50. These even best the Sony MH1Cs in overall value and technical abilities because despite their fun bassy sound signature, these VSD1's are pretty neutral sounding overall. By no means are these "flat" sounding IEMs but they surely are pretty darn balanced due to the forwardness of it's entire sonic spectrum. Therefore, nothing is recessed on these VSD1's and everything comes out to play in spades.
VSonic GR07 BE: The VSonic GR07 BE is one of the best sounding universals I have heard period. Their sound signature is unique in that not only is there a ton of texture, they are amazingly detailed as well. Most people that have heard JVCs carbon nanotube lineup was blown away by their lush and micro detailed sound, these GR07 BEs have all those attributes and then some. Not only are these GR07 BEs lush sounding with great micro details, they also have a more natural and full bodied sound when compared to JVC's more artificial and colder carbon nanotube IEMs. The GR07 BEs more natural and neutral sound also makes them less fatiguing for prolong listening sessions. Despite their fairly neutral sound signature the enhanced bass on the Bass Edition, especially sub bass regions of these GR07 BEs makes them much more "fun" compared to other more flat/ balanced IEMs. Yet this enhanced bass presence does not negatively affect the mids nor the treble, rather it makes the overall sound much more engaging. Nothing is recessed in the sonic spectrum of these GR07 BEs, so combined with it's very transparent sound, the lows, mids and highs all seems to coexist in complete harmony. The Philips Fidelio S2s being the most neutral while the ATH CSK1000s being the most fun yet technically capable, these GR07 BEs falls right in the middle of those two because of its similar sonic characteristics and presentation. This truly makes the GR07 BEs the best of both worlds due to its great balance of a fun yet neutral sound.
Big thanks to Double Ds (Danny and Dsunts) as well as nick and WAYNE!!! This tour de force could not have happened without all your generous help, much appreciated.
... May da force be with you.
Edited by sfwalcer - 9/2/13 at 11:00pm