Thank you AJ for your lengthy and detailed reply to my post! Much appreciated!
Hi Aero Dynamic, thank you for asking your questions and seeking clarification.
I do get the distinct impression that despite your clinical approach and praise of the AKG K3003, you are after all promoting CIEMs in general both sound-wise and otherwise before the AKG K3003? They perform better technically, and I stated as much. Technical performance is important (and interesting) to a certain degree, but at the end of the day it is the IEM bringing me the most musical joy that is the winner, and the AKG K3003 brings me a lot more musical joy than my one and only CIEM, the EarSonics EM6, which by the way is no slouch technically (or in the field of musical joy), and I think you would agree with me on that. Well, maybe that was your intention and clearly obvious from the start to everyone but me!? As evident in your review both CIEMs and UIEMs in general have their advantages and disadvantages. I point out the advantages and disadvantages in my review. Yes you do, and that’s why I was so careful to mention it. I simply added a few important advantages and disadvantages that I thought were missing in the review. I would like to add the following comments to your review in this respect.
It is more common that audio stores carry universals (than customs) that can be tested and compared before they are bought. True, but do all those stores carry the K3003? I am asking because I don't know since there are no stores I know of in my area that carry anything to listen to. I guess it depends on where you live. The store I can recommend if you are in Stockholm, Sweden is “Audio Reference” (Click here). They carry many European high end headphones and UIEMs (no CIEMs though), and you can try them as much and for as long as you like, but you cannot not borrow them. Since Stockholm is a comparatively small city I would guess most major cities in Europe have at least one store of that caliber.
- Comfort, sound and isolation of CIEMs (at least in my experience) depend on the position of the facial muscles and the body as a whole. Reading your review I see a possibility that readers with no previous experience of CIEMs may be lead to believe that CIEMs are the be‑all and end‑all in IEM design. For those readers I think it may be of value to know that acrylic CIEMs are rigid, very rigid (think glass), while ear canals are not. This, at least for me, limits the use of CIEMs. As soon as I move my facial muscles (like when smiling) or deviate too much from the position of the body as it were when the impressions were made, like when laying down on my back in bed (my preferred position when listening to music), the shape of the ear canals changes and consequently affects the isolation, sound and comfort. I would say that (at least for me) CIEMs are ruled out whenever I’m not keeping my head in the upright position it was when the impressions were made. In this respect I find the flexibility of UIEMs to be a major advantage. Interesting, and this is the first time I have heard someone say anything about facial muscle position. I often lay down and listen before I go to bed, and I have slept in CIEMs before with no issues. I now realize that small fit issues can change sound and comfort. For example, I shaved down a CIEM recently and one channel was just right while the other was slightly larger and the sound of the tighter fitting CIEM wasn't as good as the just right one. I have experienced many other. No, I don’t think it’s a matter of fit! I’m more likely to believe it is a characteristic of CIEMs in general. UIEMs are simply more flexible, and as already stated I think that’s a major advantage over CIEMs. It would certainly be interesting to hear if there’s anyone else noticing a change of comfort, isolation and/or sound when for example lying down on your back in bed.
- It’s a bit of a shame that the stock ear tips didn’t work for you as it hard to completely ignore the suspicion that it might somehow have affected your perception of some of the AKG K3003’s sonic abilities. The AKG K3003 was no doubt designed to work very well with the stock ear tips. As reported by some, the stock ear tips seem to work very well for comfort, isolation, and sound. Anyway, what I want to say is that what happened to you in this respect probably wouldn’t be the typical situation or even a somewhat common problem for most buyers of the AKG K3003. Believe me, I tried to get the stock ear tips to work, but due to how deep they have to go in to create a seal and the housing shape, they just don't work at all for me unless I want pain. If I was a consumer, the fit would return them, and if I was an average Amazon reviewer, give them 1 star. I haven't checked into the tip issue, but I am not the only one I know of. Plus, I mentioned how the sound changed from the stock tips to other tips. If you were an average amazon reviewer you’d give it 5 stars! (Click here) You do admit having very large ear canals so I’d be very surprised if the fit issue would be anywhere near typical.
What’s problematic the way I see it is that there is a very real risk that people who are looking for a high end reference UIEM are a lot less likely to even try the AKG K3003 after having read your review as it in its entirety conveys a feeling of the AKG K3003 being inferior to CIEMs in general, sound-wise and otherwise. If so, I think that’s really sad! One evident example is the comment of "up late". People PM me all the time and I recommend what I think fits their wants, needs, and preferences. I have recommended the K3003, 334, UE900, SM3, FX700, etc. to people that were thinking of CIEMs because they fit what they were looking for better. My goal is to recommend something that will make the person happy. If you were on the lookout for a high end reference UIEM, would you be considering trying the AKG K3003 after having read your own review? I guess not, and that is what sparked me. I would have loved seeing at least something like this in the conclusion of your review, because I feel the AKG K3003 deserves it; “If you know, for one or another reason that CIEMs aren’t for you and you are on the lookout for a high end reference UIEM, then don’t take my word for it, listen to the AKG K3003 for yourself because it may just be what you are looking for.” Of course, you a free to think and write in any way you like about the AKG K3003, but that would’ve been my wish, because, and as I already said, it definitely and at least deserves to be listened to.
I have counted the number of times you return to the AKG K3003’s “coherence issue” in your review. Guess how many times? 10 times! I only have a vague notion of what is meant by coherence in general and what you mean by it in regard to the AKG K3003 and hybrid CIEMs in particular, so if you could elaborate on this in some more detail and perhaps give me an example of where this is “apparent“ when compared to my high priced all BA driver CIEM, the EarSonics EM6. I’d really appreciate it! The note presentation from the bass driver is different than that of the BA drivers, and I heard a bit of a dip where the crossover occurred, even with the stock tips. Dynamic and BA drivers use different types of force (Maxwell force for BAs vs. Lorentz force for dynamic drivers) to generate sound, and therefore they typically sound different. An exception is the 334 bass which to me sounds more like a dynamic driver than the Rooth LS5X, which is a hybrid and has very tight but capable bass.
As far as something that is readily apparent, different people can focus on different potential issues. I am very sensitive to soundstage presentation and 3D space for example, but I am not sure how you hear things. You could try to listen for the issues, but there is no need to. My ratings for the EM4 in coherence are 80 while the K3003 is 45 with the reference port, the TS842 (hybrid CIEM) is a 30, and the 334 scores an 80. The LSX5 demo is the most coherent hybrid I have heard and rates at a 60. Thanks for elaborating on this. It was instructive. In what musical genres is coherency inconsistency most easily heard or detected? I’d guess classical? After my four hours with the AKG K3003 I thought it was the most coherent IEM I’ve ever heard. Heavens, it was fantastic! I’ll let you and other interested readers know what I think in a couple of weeks.
I am not sure what I was responding to, but I believe I was saying the high boost port has the same bass and midrange as the reference port. Yes, that’s what I thought. Thanks for clarifying!
Originally Posted by average_joe
But, when I jump into critical listening mode, the K3003 isn’t perfect, and there are some issues that jump out at me. This is not to say the issues will jump out at you, but they do to me because I am a frequent high end custom IEM user!
Is there some way you can rephrase that to make its meaning (which I don’t really get) more clear? If I have been listening to my high end CIEMs, the issues with the K3003 really stand out to me. I can, however, just put the K3003 in after a long day and enjoy :) I’m very, very glad to hear!