Well, I thought I'd create some sort of IE800 overview by updating my first impressions with recent findings and a short comparison to the FX700. New additions are in blue lettering:
- As eaino has mentioned, these are designed to be worn downward only. I had a hard time getting an over-ear fit, it's doable, but the upper cables are very short. I was tempted to cut off the cable cinch to gain one more centimeter.
- To go from bad to worse, upper cables are rather microphonic and the IE800's deep-fitting tiny earpieces only exacerbate the problem. Probably would be best to wear them over-ear and tighten the cinch behind the neck, but I didn't get to try that.
I really cannot recommend wearing the IE800 over the ear. There are additional downsides, apart from their too short cable, like increased sibilance and disjointed soundstage. I've resigned to wearing them downwards and think that Sennheiser should at least include a shirt clip to tame cable microphonics (detailed explanation in this post). Microphonics is acceptable with a shirt clip, or when you just use the short cabled IE800 with a headset.
- Plug at the Y-split is 2.5mm, meaning no direct plugging into a 3.5mm wireless headset. Bummer.
The inexpensive Nokia AD-53 adapter fits perfectly (same low profile as the IE800 plug, suitable for the IE800's recessed socket). Despite being a 4-pole design, it works great with all HPOs I've tried. Problem solved.
- Tips are proprietory (as eaino has mentioned) and click onto the earpieces, so there's no nozzle to speak of and no way to use third party tips, except for mounting them on top of the stock tips (if possible - haven't tried it)
There are 5 sizes of tips included, so in all likelyhood they'll fit all ears. The largest tips are slightly smaller than the large UE TF10 silicons, but you can stuff foamies or silicons with a wide opening underneath, to achieve a better fit with very wide ear canals. (pics to follow)
The main problem I see with these proprietory tips, is that you have only one pair for each size. So if you happen to lose just a single tip, you'll need to buy spare parts from Sennheiser.
- Build quality feels top-notch overall.
- Bass: too much (not again, Sennheiser!). It's less boomy and better controlled than on the IE8/80 and probably peaks a tad further down (good extension!), but definitely still too much for a high-end phone, at least in quiet surroundings.
Ok, let's put things into perspective: low bass is significantly boosted, but mid/upper bass only to a lesser extent, and the mids are left completely unaffected. Compared to the FX700, the IE800's bass feels only slightly less punchy, but since more energy originates from deep bass than from mid/upper bass, the Senns' mids remain considerably less warm than the JVC's. While I still consider such a sound signature as too bassy for a high-end phone, it's on the other hand very well suited for outside use, where ambient noise tends to drown out bass above all else.
- Mids: Clear, detailed, smooth. Very nice and a significant step up from the IE8/80. Slightly more forward, but not in your face. Me likes.
Compared to the FX700, mids are much more neutral (less warm) and crystal clear. The JVCs mids are only slightly more laid back, but noticeably more veiled by upper bass warmth.
- Highs: Extended and extremely clear, but borderline thin, sharp and sibilant. Remind me a bit of the PFE232's, though the latter were less prone to sibilance when I tested them. Maybe playing with tips and fit will improve that impression (didn't have much time to try), but as it stands these sound potentially more problematic than the EX1000 to my ears.
Wearing the IE800 over-ear allows for a deeper fit, which results in slightly more forward and sibilant highs. I honestly think the IE800 may be tuned for cable-downward fit only, because the shallower seal that comes with it results in less sibilance. Since both the housing and tips feature a metal grill, it's easy to add additional dampening in form of a small piece of cotton swab or low densitity foam between the grilles (thanks to tomscy2000 for the suggestion!):
Compared to the FX700, both share similar treble presence and detail, but the IE800's highs are slightly thinner and sharper. There's a tad of splashiness with cymbals on the Senns that isn't there on the JVCs. Subjectively, I'd think the FX700's highs are ever so slightly more natural.
- Transparency: Pretty good throughout the midrange and highs, but noticeably impaired by exaggerated bass.
The IE800's exaggerated bass is much less distracting in a noisy environment, therefore perceived transparency is better outside than indoors. Compared to the FX700, the IE800 win hands down in transparency, due to a significantly less warm and more neutral midrange.
It's also worth mentioning that the IE800's earpieces are extremely lightweight and you can hardly feel them in your ears, which is an additional plus for perceived transparency.
- Isolation: It was too quiet in the booth to say for sure, but definitely better than the IE8/80.
The IE800's isolation is better when worn over-ear with a deeper fit, but (as mentioned above) there are downsides to that. With cable-down you get just about 15mm depth until the strain reliefs prevent further insertion, so that's a rather shallow fit with only medium isolation. I'd think, still a bit better than the IE8/80 (and of course, the FX700), but clearly below the isolation level of Westones and Shures.
- Soundstage: Sorry to disagree with eaino, but they just don't sound that extra spacious to my ears. I brought my IE8 along to compare and they sounded larger and more out-of-head than the IE800. Still nice width and depth for isolating IEMs though.
- Separation/Imaging: Excellent, courtesy of very clear mids and highs. Nice 3D presentation with good space around instruments.
Last not least, a personal note: people keep asking me "so you don't like the IE800, huh?". They couldn't be further from the truth. For my intended use, a short-cabled pair of IEMs to complete my wireless rig (SGS3 > HS3000 > IE800), they're almost perfect. Their slightly bassy signature is well-suited for commuting, and they sound clearly better overall than the IE8 and SE530 I've been using so far. I would have preferred an over-ear fit, but can live with wearing them downwards, since there's only little microphonics from the short cable between headset and earpieces.
But recommending them for long-cabled and/or home use, in consideration of their steep asking price, is another matter altogether. As is mostly the case, things aren't black and white with the IE800 either. Thanks for your understanding.
Edited by james444 - 11/26/12 at 6:49am