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[REVIEW] Philips SHE9800: Dynamic, or Dynamically Fun IEMs?

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

Yes, I'm fairly sure that I could have come up with a better title :))

 

Anyway, this time around I'll be reviewing a relatively obscure pair of universal-fit IEMs, the Philips SHE9800. I've only had them for a few days at this point, but I've been running them into the ground, so they have around 70+ hours of burn-in on them. Given that these are IEMs, that should prove sufficient, wouldn't you say?

 

For those of you who have read my review on AKG's K242 HD, you'll realize that the test tracks listed below are (almost) exactly the same as the ones used in my previous review, save for a few new tracks. That's because I happen to like these songs, and there's not much room in my budget for that many new CDs a month. You'll have to pardon my spartan set up as well ;)

 

Also, I vetoed using the Sony Home Theatre System this time around. That's because I highly doubt anyone would want to plug a pair of low-impedance IEMs into a source with that much power. I'll only be using my i9000 Galaxy S for this review. A Voodoo-modded i9000 is reputedly as good as a top-tier Cowon in terms of sure Sound Quality, without any sound enhancements enabled. I have never tried a Cowon myself, so I cannot verify these claims.

 

 

Test tracks:

1.) Achilles Last Stand (Led Zeppelin - Presence) @ 320 MP3 (Rock)

2.) When the Levee Breaks (Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin IV) FLAC (Blues Rock)

3.) Misery (Dave's True Story - Unauthorized) 96/24 FLAC (Lounge)

4.) Gods Bound by Rules (NieR Gestalt & NieR RepliCant Original Soundtrack, Disc 1) FLAC (Vocal)

5.) November Rain (Guns N' Roses - Use Your Illusion I) @ 320 MP3 (Rock)

6.) Green Dolphin Street (Miles Davis - Kind of Blue) FLAC (Jazz)

7.) Discipline (Nine Inch Nails - The Slip) 96/24 FLAC (Rock)

8.) What You Want (Evanescence - Evanescence) @ 320 MP3 (Rock)

9.) Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd - The Wall, Disc 2) FLAC (Progressive Rock)

10.) The Catalyst (Linkin Park - A Thousand Suns) @ 320 MP3 (Avant-Garde Rock)

11.) Dog Days Are Over (Florence + The Machine - Lungs) (Vocal)

12.) For No One (The Beatles - Revolver [2009 Remaster])

13.) In Bloom (Nirvana - Nevermind [2011 Remastered Edition]) @ 320 MP3

 

Sources:

a.) Samsung GT-i9000 Galaxy S (ICS ROM, w/ Voodoo Sound Mod) —> Philips SHE9800

 

About the reviewer:
I'm a college student who has only recently (recently being approximately three years ago) gotten into classical music, orchestral, classic rock, and the like. I like to think that my ears are in good condition, though I suffered from a perforated right eardrum when someone bumped into me while I was cleaning my ear out; whether that last bit of information will prove a discredit towards my capability as a reviewer remains to be seen, though I've noticed sounds coming in through my right ear to be slightly muffled. 

 

Anyway, I tried to include as many genres as I could while keeping the review to a manageable size. The fact that a lot of the review tracks are rock songs is probably due to the fact that I love rock and many of its subgenres. I also really enjoy instrumentals, orchestral works and choir music, which accounts for the inclusion of all the other tracks.

 

Review Proper:
In a single sentence, these are extremely fun to listen to. They have a heavy-hitting bass and a sparkling, though non-fatiguing, treble. However, as with most cans/IEMs with U-shaped frequency responses, the midrange is noticeably weak, tinny even. That's not to say that these are bad IEMs, and not worth listening to. They just cater to a slightly different audience than picky, exacting, elitist audiophiles.

 

Okay, that last bit sounded a bit mean.

 

As with the previous review, I'll only name specific tracks when these cans perform a part exceptionally well (or for that matter exceptionally bad). 

 

 

Treble:

"Passable" is the first word that comes to my mind when thinking about the treble on these IEMs; neither particularly bad or good, though still with enough sparkle and detail to keep me interested. For the record, I'm not much of a fan of treble (I actually tend towards dark/warm sound signatures), so I'm not the best judge of high frequency performance. 

 

There's perhaps the slightest bit of roll-off on the extreme upper end of the audible spectrum, but it's nothing you notice unless you go out of your way to look out for it.

 

Cymbal clashes in rock and jazz, as well as beeping sounds on techno are less fatiguing than on most other IEMs, which I find to be a blessing. They would be good for extremely long listening sessions if it weren't for the comfort, which I'll get to in a bit.

 

 

Mids:

Sadly, not these Philips' strong point. 

 

There's a reasonably good amount of detail and clarity in the midrange, or at least as much as can be expected from a single dynamic diaphragm design. They're noticeably recessed, though not so much that it'd ruin the like of vocal or instrumental bits. For example, on Gods Bound By Rules and Misery, the two of which are extremely vocal-heavy tracks, the singers' voices sound well-fleshed out, vibrant, and whole. My only major complaint (and to be honest, this is a pretty big one) is that there's the faintest hint of artifice to the tone.

 

I'm not saying that Kelly Flint or Emi Evans sound tinny, though I'll have to admit that the word passed my mind when trying to come up with a proper adjective to describe the vocals, but you won't likely be fooled into thinking that their voices sound entirely organic.

 

Then again, that's depending on the kind of music you're listening to. On the remastered version of Nirvana's Nevermind, Kurt Cobain's voice is thin and recessed enough without the help of the SHE9800s. Drums and guitars, on the other hand, sound extremely fun to listen to. There's a nice kick to the percussion and a thrum to the guitars that not many IEMs in the price bracket can manage to pull off. 

 

In a sentence: These are just barely passable for vocals, but they perform really well with instrumental music.

 

 

Bass:

The bass is a mixed bag, though it managed to impress more than annoy. 

 

For one thing, these being dynamic-driver IEMs, you'd expect that they'd have a bias towards the lower frequencies, and you'd be right. However, they're not so dark as to drown out too much of the midrange or treble, nor are they so bass heavy that you'll feel your ears depressurizing out of the blue. There's just enough of a punch to make it fun to listen to rock, pop, hip-hop, and the like, while managing to keep the spectrum clean enough to appreciate acoustic, opera, and classical. 

 

The latter genres aren't by any means these IEMs' strong suit, but they're still decent performers given the U-shaped freq. response.

 

 

Comfort:

Two things:

1.) I HATE earbuds with a passion.

2.) The fact that I normally forget to include a Comfort section to my reviews should be enough to warn people that I haven't much good to say about these. Then again, please don't let that bother you unduly, since my irritation with them stems directly from item number 1.

 

... These are interestingly shaped IEMs, seeming a hybrid between, well, IEMs, and your run-of-the-mill earbuds. The design is apparently intended to maximise the soundstage of these buds (I'll get back to that in a bit), though at the expense of sound isolation as well as, in my case, comfort.

 

My ears aren't overly sensitive, but wearing earbuds, the most common example of which would be the ever-present Apple iBuds, cause my ears to chafe a bit if worn for prolonged periods of time. Other people have found them to be extremely comfortable, so I wouldn't hold their causing me discomfort against them.

 

So unless you're similar to me in that you can't stand wearing earbuds, or have overly sensitive ears, there aren't really any issues with regard to comfort.

 

 

 

Isolation:
Despite their being IEMs, the SHE9800s aren't particularly good at isolating sound. That could be due to the presence of several vents on the inner and outer body shell. 
 
... Yeah, there's not much else to say, is there?
 
 
Soundstage & Imaging:
And here comes the deal clincher.
 
Philips markets these IEMs as having exceptional soundstage for the form factor, so if it were to fail in this category, then there wouldn't really be any point in buying these, would there?
 
Luckily, the SHE9800s really do have an exceptional soundstage. 
 
Don't get me wrong, though; these are nowhere near as good as a proper pair of full-size cans when it comes to head room. Also, there's a strange feeling of the music being partitioned when listened to closely enough. It's as if, rather than listening to a performer in person, you're listening to them through several hi-fidelity speakers placed just a little bit too far from each other. There are definite "blank spaces" to the listener's 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock positions, though it's not always apparent depending on what kind of music you're listening to.
 
Despite the semi-narrow presentation of the soundstage, however, there's an exemplary ("exemplary" being a relative term) depth to the stage; it's as if the listener is positioned a half-dozen or so rows back from a performer, with the spaces between rows being somewhat large. 
 
With regard to imaging, there's an unfortunate tendency for the sounds to get a bit jumbled up when too many sounds are playing simultaneously. It's nothing particularly bad since a lot of IEMs, and even a significant number of full-sized cans, have the self-same problem. 
 
All in all, apart from the slightly weird soundstage, the 9800s perform well in this area.
 
 
Overall Impressions:
There's a lot to recommend these IEMs for (Before I go any further, are there any other terms for IEMs, like how you call headphones "cans", "hp's", "'phones, etc? I'm getting tired of using the term IEM), particularly for rock enthusiasts and the like. If I were to use an analogy to try and describe them, I would say that the Philips SHE9800 is a jack of all trades that specializes a bit in some areas, and performs noticeably sub-par in others.
 
These are, as you may have surmised from the — admittedly inane — title of this thread, "fun" sounding IEMs. They do well for rock, jazz, pop, hip-hop, and similar genres. They are fully capable of orchestral music and vocal, but you may find the imaging and sound staging to be a bit lacking for those types of music.
 
Also, they are essentially incompatible with people who find earbuds uncomfortable. Bit of a shame really, since they make for a good pair of portable cans (I wanted to use that word at least once in this review; humor me, please).
 
 
P.S.
This review will be subject to editing later on, probably for correction of typographical error, addition of pictures, or revision of opinion.
 
Cheers!
 
 
Pictures:

700

The inner part of the housing, with visible vents.

 

 

700

The outer shell of the SHE9800s.

 

 

700

The included rubber/foam carrying case, closed.

 

 

700

*The three rubber nubs are located on the rear of the left earphone,

which helps orient the user even without looking at the labels.

 

 

700

The insides of the carrying case, empty.

 

 

700

Lastly, the SHE9800s in their carrying case.


Edited by ZetsuBozu0012 - 8/6/12 at 10:48pm
post #2 of 4

Pics would be Kewl...

 

Good review, Thanks for sharing.

 

Jim

post #3 of 4
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by AstroTurf View Post

Pics would be Kewl...

 

Good review, Thanks for sharing.

 

Jim

 

You asked for pics, so here are a few ;)

post #4 of 4

Very Nice...

 

I really like that case.

 

Thanks, Jim

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