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Need Advice for First High-End IEM: Shure SE535, PFE 232, Westone 4R, Heir 4.Ai - Page 4

Poll Results: Which IEM has the best combination of sound quality, isolation, comfort, and sturdiness (most overall value)?

 
  • 21% (18)
    SE 535
  • 40% (34)
    Westone 4R
  • 27% (23)
    PFE 232
  • 11% (10)
    None of them, I have a better idea (see below in comments)!
85 Total Votes  
post #46 of 77

I think I have settled on the pfe232.  The main reason is the impedance differences.  My ipod touch or even a classic, which is where I spend most of my listening time, is the most "dull sounding".  The 32 ohm duet boosts the treble, however, in the same way accudio reduces the bass/mid bass to make the set more neutral, the treble boost of the duet has the same effect.

 

In fact it's almost half way between the ipod touch signature and the accudio "hi-fi" flat signature.  Nonetheless, on the ipod touch without eq or accudio the sound is fairly "dull".  It is flat in the sense that all of the frequency regions blend very smoothly into each other and there is nothing offensive.  It is very nice sounding as well, but it doesn't sound flat.  It sounds flat-like, but with a lack of realistic treble.  The treble is too soft and it sounds like the treble have padding on it softening it.  This is the best lack of treble I've ever heard though. Ha.  It sounds great and smooth still and reveals great details.

 

However, when you apply accudio, the treble opens up and the bass sounds more distinct.  I believe it is a little "too" bright with accudio personally but only by a small amount.  According to their graphs and changeability scale, the 4R isn't perfect after accudio is applied.  There is still a slight treble bump in the middle of the treble, which is probably the "slightly too bright" sound.  However, I wouldn't take any other setting over how good it sounds with accudio.  Treble bump is better than treble padding to me.  It isn't harsh or offensive, it just sort of takes the forefront of the audio by a very small margin.  Overall, with accudio though, the sound is very flat in general, much more distinct instrument separation from the eq changes.  Things "come to life" and open up.  Very nice.  Kick drums become tighter and kickier.  You hear more air in the soundstage.  Very nice.

 

However, the pfe has a lot of these attributes without accudio.  And they scale much better accross impedance sources.  The duet lowers the treble a bit, but by a smaller margin.  You could almost argue it makes them more flat even, which isn't really bad.  But on the ipod the treble is excellent and they sound "lively" and "open" with no modification.  Accudio also has a better adaptability scale rating for the 232.  I assume this is because they don't really lack any frequency production in the first place, so it's easier to reduce the humps than it is to make up the dips in the 4R.  So overall, the pfe232 is even more flat with accudio.

 

So for me personally, here is the rundown

 

PFE 232:

Pros:

- More lively

- More open

- Better bass in general

- Scales better (less difference) with impedance changes

- Requires less eq/modification to sound great "out of the box"

Cons:

- Less mid presence "out of the box"

 

4R:

Pros:

- Smoother "flatter" transition between frequency ranges

- Better mid range "out of the box"

Cons:

- Dull sounding on low impedance sources

- Scales o.k. with impedance changes, but actually improves with higher impedance sources to some degree/limit, which isn't really a plus as portable devices are aiming for low impedance

 

There are other factors as well, but in terms of audio, I'm finding the pfe 232 fits the bill better overall.  I'm giving it one or two more days, as I really want to break in my brain with the 4R, but I think I'm pretty much set.

post #47 of 77

Interesting note.  I didn't think the 4R tips fit the pfe232, however, they do.  To get them on you have to finagle them a certain way, but once I put them on the sound is very interesting.  It sounds more tame in the high, while still having good highs and the mids are much fuller sounding.  It's a lot more alteration than I expected from a tip change.  The sibilance has gone away for me as well.  I didn't expect a mid range boost though. :-)  Bonus!

 

However, the pfe232 tips, although looser, do fit reasonably well on the 4R and as I expected, boost the treble perfectly.  They should exchange their included tips ;)  The difference is staggering.  The difference between the included tips is noticeable but fairly small to me.  The difference between the included tips and the pfe tip is just excellent.  I think the wider hole in the tip lets the higher treble really come through.  It does a good job removing the dull-ness and/or lack of treble the 4r has.  I highly recommend anyone that has the 4r try the pfe tips.

 

Swapping the tips actually make each set sound much more similar.  The pfe is still more v shape and the 4r more mid centric, but the difference are so much smaller.


Edited by luisdent - 1/29/13 at 4:24pm
post #48 of 77

I wasn't really expecting this, but with the pfe232 tips on the 4r, the quality difference has actually noticeably shifted towards the 4R.

 

I've always found the 4R more balanced and smooth between frequency ranges.  Now they posses a more extended treble so they get more air and still have a smooth range all around.  The extra treble really helps make them a full range very smooth balance set.

 

The pfe232 on the other hand, while they sound great are much more noticeably V-shaped compared to the 4R when it has better treble extension.  I stress the extension.  It might ever so slightly boost the existing treble, but primarily the 4R gains higher treble while retaining what it had essentially.  With the pfe232 being more v-shaped I do notice more sibilance still, not that it is bad, but compared to the 4$ it is noticeable.  It's like the 4R displays the treble without any harm, even though it's clear and crisp.  The 232 on the other hand has less mid and more prominent treble, so the sibilance is simply more noticeable.  But not harsh really.  I would say it reminds me of the gr07 with the 4r tips in place, but with smoother overall treble region and better extension.

 

I'm finding every song I compare I prefer the smooth flatness of the 4R.  No bass pushes forward as it does sometimes on the pfe232.  No treble spikes, as it does sometimes on the pfe232.  Keep in mind, I'm speaking relatively.  These are still the two best iems i've heard.  But the tips make such a huge difference I have to re-evaluate these things.  It's just crazy.

post #49 of 77
Really interesting impressions. Are the pfe tips wider than the 4r tips by any chance?
post #50 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by gnarlsagan View Post

Really interesting impressions. Are the pfe tips wider than the 4r tips by any chance?

 

The opening in the tip is, yes.  It's hard to get a side by die photo, but here's a shot.

 

left is the 4r tip in photo 1 right is the 4r tip in photo 2

 

AppleMark

 

you can see the 232 hole is larger more easily from the back (right)

 

AppleMark

 

Again, the 232 hole is larger (left) although the photo is hard to capture.

 

 

AppleMark

 

The 4r tip is a little longer and less round

 

AppleMark


Edited by luisdent - 1/29/13 at 8:34pm
post #51 of 77
Looks like an even wider tip could be used for more treble emphasis if desired. I'm not sure which tip would fit though.
post #52 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by luisdent View Post

I wasn't really expecting this, but with the pfe232 tips on the 4r, the quality difference has actually noticeably shifted towards the 4R.

 

I've always found the 4R more balanced and smooth between frequency ranges.  Now they posses a more extended treble so they get more air and still have a smooth range all around.  The extra treble really helps make them a full range very smooth balance set.

 

The pfe232 on the other hand, while they sound great are much more noticeably V-shaped compared to the 4R when it has better treble extension.  I stress the extension.  It might ever so slightly boost the existing treble, but primarily the 4R gains higher treble while retaining what it had essentially.  With the pfe232 being more v-shaped I do notice more sibilance still, not that it is bad, but compared to the 4$ it is noticeable.  It's like the 4R displays the treble without any harm, even though it's clear and crisp.  The 232 on the other hand has less mid and more prominent treble, so the sibilance is simply more noticeable.  But not harsh really.  I would say it reminds me of the gr07 with the 4r tips in place, but with smoother overall treble region and better extension.

 

I'm finding every song I compare I prefer the smooth flatness of the 4R.  No bass pushes forward as it does sometimes on the pfe232.  No treble spikes, as it does sometimes on the pfe232.  Keep in mind, I'm speaking relatively.  These are still the two best iems i've heard.  But the tips make such a huge difference I have to re-evaluate these things.  It's just crazy.

 

Welcome to tip rolling! The pain sinks in more when you consider each pack equates to a new album on CD tongue.gif

 

In my experience instantly swapping IEM per 30 sec duration can lead to an exaggeration of the perceived difference between IEM. Better to just sit through an entire album or playlist, then change IEM. Allowing yourself to adjust to the flavour of an IEM may result in less harsh critiquing


Edited by LFC_SL - 1/30/13 at 12:27pm
post #53 of 77

How do the grado gr10s compare to these? Has anyone had them to compare? I am looking for a very clear sound.

post #54 of 77

luisdent you should try sm3 tips on W4. I think I already told you this. They have very large bore opening. 

post #55 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by LFC_SL View Post

 

Welcome to tip rolling! The pain sinks in more when you consider each pack equates to a new album on CD tongue.gif

 

In my experience instantly swapping IEM per 30 sec duration can lead to an exaggeration of the perceived difference between IEM. Better to just sit through an entire album or playlist, then change IEM. Allowing yourself to adjust to the flavour of an IEM may result in less harsh critiquing

 

I always do multiple comparisons.  I compared a few seconds.  Then I compare maybe 20-30 seconds.  Then I listen to a whole song and compare.  Finally, I just listen to each set for a bunch of songs each.  So I try to get as much of feel for the sets as I can.  In every instance the difference is noticeable, however, I find that short tests can sometimes make an IEM seem poor or undesirable compared to another set, when in reality if you use the set for a while alone that negative feeling is gone.  It is as though comparison can sometimes make a flaw seem worse than it is.  Or you might think there is a flaw in comparison that you don't really hear standalone...

post #56 of 77

Raise your voices!  Release the balloons!  Bake a cake and invite the friends and family!  I've made a final decision!!!

 

Finally right?

 

 

 

........

 

 

 

Ok....

 

 

 

 

Are you ready???

 

 

 

No really? Are you?

 

 

 

 

I

 

have

 

chosen....

 

 

No suspense huh?

 

 

 

Westone 4R!!!!!  (explanation and reasoning available upon request. :-P )


Edited by luisdent - 1/31/13 at 2:03pm
post #57 of 77
Is your real name M. Night Shyamalan? Because that's quite a twist. Did your taste change or did you were you able to further modify the 4r's sound?
post #58 of 77
Heir Audio 4Ai is very sturdy and sounds very good with high and mid. Bass is tight and deep (not a lot) which does not go along with bassheads. Tight seal in ear canals.
post #59 of 77
Quote:
Originally Posted by gnarlsagan View Post

Is your real name M. Night Shyamalan? Because that's quite a twist. Did your taste change or did you were you able to further modify the 4r's sound?

 

After switching to the 232 tips the treble just opened up enough that I started really liking them.  Also, The more and more I used the 4Rs the more and more I got sick of the fit issues with the pfe232.  If you've read my other posts, or possibly earlier in this thread, I talk about the fit of the 232 causing sibilance.  I can completely remove the sibilance without negatively affecting the overall sound quality by forcing the tips in further than they are designed to go.  However, this isn't as comfortable as the 4Rs, or the 232 for that matter if they were fitting normally.

 

So the fit is quicker, better, and more proper with the 4R.  The sound is more flat, as I've always noted, but I felt they were "dull" without the added treble.  The tip change fixed that.  None of these difference are really "night and day" to most people probably, but the treble opened up significantly enough that I can easily tell you which tips are in blindfolded.  Side by side comparison is just super obvious as well.

 

Also, the more I hear the 4R and really try a lot of different music, the more I prefer the flatness and thicket sounding mids.  The 232 just became too V shaped in my mind.  The treble opened things up and made them sound more realistic, but the lack really good even mids, which gives them the V shape.  I also, surprisingly, was starting to think the bass is a little too emphasized on the 232.  There are songs that I know very well on studio monitors and speakers that sound bloated in the bass on the 232.  Again, this is relative.  I don't think they're too much bass for a headphone, but I prefer the more neutral higher quality 4R bass.  It has more in the bass area that a bass instrument has on the 4R.  The pfe has more low bass, so it thumps more, but often times the "bass" sound of a bass guitar is missing more in the pfe232.

 

Also, in comparison to the 4R I was starting to think the treble on the 232 is just a tad too raised.  Perhaps it's my ear and the sibilance thing again, but even when I'm not hearing sibilance, it feels like the treble is almost boosted in a raspy region.  Maybe 12-14k or something near there.  In one way it makes drums and cymbals sound very metallic and realistic,  but in another way some drums and other instruments come across with a raspy-ness that it very un-realistic.  The 4R doesn't have this at all.  In fact, if I eq the 4R to have the same "level" of treble as the 232 it sounds higher quality.  It is just a smoother phone.

 

At first I was surprised that the 232 sounded so good with only two drivers, and sort of surprised the 4R didn't have more bass and treble with 4 drivers!  However, I believe the use of four drivers is strictly to make the transition between frequency ranges as smooth as possible.  I get the sense that the 4R has a low bass driver, a bass driver, a mid driver and a treble driver.  If they could add one more high treble driver they would just be mind bogglingly good.  But the 4 drivers each take a very nice region of frequencies and don't require a lot of dips and troughs with the crossing over between regions.

 

I feel like the more I listen to the pfe232, the more I can clearly hear there is a bass driver and a treble driver.  The mids, while high quality, are very low in the mix, because I think they tried to get the best crossover they could between the two drivers, but the mids are really the end of the treble and the end of the bass coming together.  I think a three driver 232 would be incredible as well  The did do a great job with two, but the 4R in my opinion is much smoother between ranges.  The mid is especially smooth.

 

Another aspect is mixing.  The more I used the 232 the less I found them ideal for mixing music, which I need to use headphones for in my apartment, and further more sound isolating headphones.  The V shape is simply not accurate enough.  There are literally things that I can't easily gauge in a mix, because they don't reproduce enough mid level to be used in that regard.  Sure, you can mix with anything, but it's just that much harder.  The 4R are not only flat, but they scale very well in quality on my sound interface.

 

Next is another aspect of the fr curve.  I prefer to use no eq, however, in the event that I do, I would like to use as little as possible and get the highest quality results.  I have found a few things.  Based on the measurement graphs at goldenears, I can fairly accurately "counter" the frequency bumps and dips with eq and achieve relative flatness on both sets.  However, with the pfe232, the raspy nature of the treble never goes away, even if I muffle the treble all the way down.  It isn't a bad raspyness, but it's there and I'd prefer not to have it.  The 4R has zero negative properties that I can hear so far.  EQing the 4R to flatness results in a very hi-fi sound.

 

I also tried accudio with both sets.  I find their "gradability scale" interesting.  They consider the pfe 232 a slightly more adaptable set with accudio.  I assume it is because looking at the graph the 232 appears to not "lack" any frequency, where the 4R has a dip in the lower treble and high treble.  However, I can honestly say that the 4R sound noticeably more flat and reference with accudio than the 232.  The 232 seems to have a nasaly tone in the mid/treble that you can't remove (unless manually eqing).  The 4R sounds excellent across the board.  They are a little treble  prominent with the accudio hi-fi setting, but only slightly and smoothly.  So it just sounds like a slightly bright hi-fi sound.

 

So basically I weighed my options and came to these conclusions:

4r scales better with my recording gear

4r is more comfortable with my ear situation

4r required less eq to sound better if needed

4r sounds better with accudio hi-fi flat setting

4r has zero sibilance or spikes in any frequency range

4r is $80 cheaper

4r comes with a better harder case

4r comes with more tips

4r comes with a volume adapter

in the best possible situation with my gear the 4r comes out sounding more reference and hi-fi

 

the pfe, while very very good will probably satisfy people wanting more bass thump.  even with the bass boosted all around on the 4r the pfe 232 is still more "capable" at thumping bass lines.  I think the 4R sounds better, but it takes more to get it thumping.  The pfe have a few optional filters, although they all go downhill in my opinion from the grey filters.

 

The things that were leaning me towards the pfe232, such as the depth and brightness and the overall details became much less of a difference with the 232 tips on the 4r.  Add to that the fact that I felt the need to eq the mids back into the picture and I feel i might as well just eq more treble and bass into the 4r and it will still sound smoother and better.  I also felt that in the event that I didn't have any eq, the 4r was more overall pleasing than the 232.

 

I can honestly say that i "have" been flip flopping, and this may seem like a switch, but I just post my thoughts as I go.  So, some things may not be familiarized and once I get used to them I realize my opinion has changed.  Or I find something new like the tips and that changes things.  But in the last 3 days I've probably listened to enough music to lose some hearing!  And not even loud music.  Ha.  I've been listening for hours and hours on end.  Comparing at different speeds swapping them and spending time with one each night and then comparing again the next day.  Resting and then comparing again.  Uber comparing sessions.  I can say I've probably spent over 30 hours in the last 3 days comparing. :-P  Literally.

 

They both have ups and downs, but I feel the 4R have less downs.  And i slowly came to the realization that to get a truly flatter sound, no set i've tried so far would work without eq.  So then if I had to eq, the 4r was the better choice requiring less eq and providing better results overall.

 

Add all that up, and that's pretty much how it went.  Some songs seemed better on the pfe because it revealed a sort of natural open treble that allowed things to breath.  Other songs sounded much more realistic because something in the mid range required the smooth more forward mid of the 4r and almost sounded hidden on the 232.  Other songs sounded great with the more thumping bass of the 232, while other songs still sounded bloated and more natural with the accurate bass of the 4r.  I was comparing and comparing and couldn't decide.  Since I was familiar with the 232 and not the 4r I think I was leaning towards the set I knew more and since they were fairly equally matched in different ways I was leaning that way.  However, with the advent of the tip change (in both directions) the 4r really opened up the possibilities.  And that lead to the eq stuff and etc. etc.  But basically now I am happy with no eq using the 232 tips on the 4r, however, eqing the 4r can improve the flatness and the sound gets noticeably better

 

accudio does  a great job, but there is one very simply eq adjustment that I found makes the biggest difference.  that is cutting the midd bass around 300hz or so down a few db. this makes things sound more open, cleans up the definition and actually improves the low bass as the mid bass sort of masks things a bit.  again, relatively speaking.  unchanged these are still the best iem i've heard, but the eq just improves them further if desired.  so accudio is a good option, but very similar results can be achieved by cutting the mid bass and making one or two very minor treble adjustments to counted the dip and hump in that region based on the graphs.

 

O.k.  now that i've written a novel, just let me know if you have any questions.  hopefully i wasn't too "all over the place". :)

post #60 of 77

I forgot to mention also, the headphone adapter the 4r comes with actually improves the treble a bit further if I turn the ipod almost all the way up and use the volume adapter to control the volume.  I'm not sure if it boost the treble or lowers the bass overall, but it is a very smooth transition as you turn the ipod up and the volume adapter down to keep the same relative listening volume.  If you do this simultaneously, you can hear the phones gradually brighten up just a bit.  I'm assuming perhaps the lower the volume adapter is the more the resistance the potentiometer has, therefore increasing impedance, which would be exactly the reason the treble opens up.  Maybe that's way off, but I know a potentiometer is essentially a variable resistor and therefore the small change in resistance (impedance) would in fact affect the sound.  It isn't drastic, but it's interesting to have that available.


Edited by luisdent - 1/31/13 at 6:37pm
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