IE800 vs. K3003 vs. EX1000:
Alanis Morissette - Versions of Violence
IE800: Bass has awesome kick and extension and stays well defined up to 30% volume, but gets too bloated at >=50%. Mids are extremely smooth and natural. Clear and detailed vocals, though the high range is slightly sharp and sibilant. Good dynamics! Soundstage somewhat limited, but well-defined and not closed-in. Overall a highly engaging presentation, very nice.
K3003: Much more "accurate" balance. Bass kicks in when called for and otherwise stays out of the way. Extension maybe a tad less than the Senns, but still goes very deep. No bloat even at higher volume. As a result, everything sounds better separated and more transparent, but also a tad more restrained. Excellent vocals, maybe ever so slightly less smooth and natural than on the IE800, but also less sibilant. Dynamics and soundstage on par with the IE800. Overall slight nod towards the AKGs over the IE800.
EX1000: About 2 volume steps less sensitive than the others. When volume matched, bass quantity is about the same as on the K3003 (maybe a tad less), but deep bass emphasis is more similar to the IE800. Extension seems bottomless, like on the Senns, but the Sonys kick less than both others due to less mid/upper bass. Slightly more laid-back vocals, conveying more sense of distance and contributing to a huge soundstage, but still great detail and no veil. Slightly less sibilant than the IE800 up to 30% volume, but mid/highs have more raw edge to them and sound less smooth than on the Senns. Highs get noticeably more agressive >= 50% volume and I can see the problem for those who are sensitive to treble and want to drive the Sonys with more juice. Least dynamics, but best soundstage of the bunch. Overall, I think both others suit the song slightly better than the EX1000.
Indigo Girls - Sugar Tongue (Band Version)
IE800: Thick, deep bass even at only 30% volume, too obtrusive for an acoustic folk/rock song. Spoils the fragile overall balance in my book, even though vocals remain quite clear and natural. Somewhat thinnish cymbals (and tambourine?) seem to be desperately fighting for air, while being mercilessly crushed by overwhelming bass. Not much desire to listen to this song any longer with the Senns... though, granted, vocals are very nice.
K3003: What a relief, everything is where it should be: bass is back to an accompanying role, cymbals regain presence and have nice, brassy timbre. Vocals are just as natural as on the Senns, but appear a bit lighter with less of a darkish hue from deep bass. Stellar dynamics, separation and imaging. Don't think it can get much better with this song on any other phone.
EX1000: Well, it does indeed not get better, but neither much worse. The Sonys sound pretty much on par with the AKGs, nicely balanced, detailed and clear. Percussion is a tad less brassy and dynamics are, again, ever so slightly more restrained, but 3D presentation is best in class. Overall maybe a slight nod to the K3003, but the EX1000 are pretty much at eye level.
Dave Holland Quintett - Metamorphos
IE800: (I've already covered part of this in an earlier post.) Again, the Senns are somewhat of a mixed bag. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, their enhanced bass gives Dave's bass more room than it should have, even though we're talking about well defined and textured bass. In contrast, cymbals sound rather thin and light, which leads to an overall slightly skewed balance and timbre. On the plus side though, while not being entirely accurate, the whole thing results in an engaging mix of weighty rhythms and feather-light details, which has a fascination of its own. The IE800's microdrivers are fast and clear, almost like BAs, but with DD like texture. Mids detail and timbre are excellent and sax, trombone and vibes sound marvellous. No complaints regarding separation and imaging. Overall perhaps not the most realistic, but still a damn great performance.
K3003: If the Senns have been great with this track, the AKGs manage to sound even a tad better, due to superior bass/treble balance, in both elevation and note weight. I'd also give a slight nod to the K3003 for instrument separation and pinpoint accurate imaging. Even though the Senn's microdriver seems to have some speed advantage over the AKG's bass driver, the latter actually produces clearer bass, due to less bloat. Mids and highs are extremely clear, detailed and about on par with the IE800. Sax, trombone and cymbals sound slightly more brassy (and even more lifelike, by my standards). While the IE800 may possibly come across as slightly more thrilling overall, the K3003 sound less artificially enhanced and suit my taste a bit better.
EX1000: Best bass in class, period. The difference may not be all that significant, but nevertheless, I still think nothing else here can touch the Sony's bass in its almost effortless superiority. Size seems to matter after all, and even though the EX1000's bass from their 16mm drivers has less quantity compared to the IE800's, it still carries more inherent "authority" than the latter's microdrivers can deliver. Anyway, bottomless extended and spot-on low end in my book, at least for the volume levels I usually listen at. Mids are a tad less present than an the others, but far from sounding veiled or missing detail. They're just more inconspicuously integrated with the rest of the frequency range, which adds to my impression that the Sonys offer the most holistic listening experience of the bunch. Cymbals are less brassy than on the K3003, but have better weight than on the IE800. Soundstage is extremely wide with maybe a little less depth than the AKGs, but overall the Sonys feel very 3D and large. Bottom line, a somewhat less energetic, but more realistic performance than the IE800's and about on par with the K3003's.
Brahms - Symphony #2 (Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Haitink)
IE800: The IE8 and IE80 have been excellent choices for classical despite their bass hump and midrange veil, and the IE800 not only follow suit, but raise the bar a good deal higher. There's still a fair amount of bass emphasis, but it rarely gets in the way with classical, and if anything, adds to an engaging and dramatic presentation. Combined with good dynamics, great sense of depth and an ulta-smooth and clear midrange and highs, the Senns offer nothing less than a stellar performance with this piece. Who cares that rendering of flutes and violins is ever so slightly on the thin side in their highest octaves, when everything else sounds simply wonderful and coherent. While soundstage isn't quite as generous and out-of-head than on their predecessors, the IE800 still offer a really nice 3D feel and good layering, combined with immaculate separation and realistic imaging. Overall the Senn's best performance in this shootout.
K3003: Almost there, but not quite... excellent dynamics, great depth and just as engaging as the Senns. Clarity and detail resolution are at eye level, if not a smidgen better than the IE800's. Separation, soundstaging and layering are at least on par. But mids and highs sound ever so slightly less smooth and seductive than on the IE800. Also, overall timbre doesn't feel quite as natural as the Senn's. For the record, I don't really have a problem with the K3003's coherence (like some other members here), but suffice to say that the Senn's single driver design has an advantage over any multi-driver setup in that regard. Long story short, turns out this is the one track in my comparison, that I'd rate the K3003 second to the IE800 with.
EX1000: The Sonys do everything the IE800 do, but in a grander, more effortless and better balanced way. By my standards these are the sole contenders that can render a full orchestra convincingly. Tonal accuracy in both timbre and weight is excellent and natural across the whole frequency range. They may not have the last bit of the Senn's treble smoothness, but still sound more lifelike, even in the highs (and far from harsh or grainy to my ears). Enough said, in my personal opinion, the EX1000 still rule supreme with classical.