These are my impressions from the brief auditions I've done at the Headzones stall from NAS'12 UK which took place over the last weekend on the 22nd & 23rd of September. Please do take my comments with a grain of salt as always as these are solely my opinions thus the resulting conclusions.
Source: iPod Classic 160GB (7th Gen)
Music: Jazz, Rock, Electronica and some Indian Classical ones
Comparison: UM custom moulded E500, Sony Z1000
Sennheiser IE800 In Ear Monitors. MSRP: £600
I started with these as I had spent about 5 years now with my Shure E500s and wanted something that I could consider as an upgrade. I fired up some of my favourite tunes. The first thing that strikes you is the 'V' shaped sound signature. They present you with deep bass and extremely bright highs with just a tad recessed mids. Recessed mids could be down to the fact that the extremes are accentuated quite a bit. As a result there's quite a bit of sibilance and makes music quite digital. Detail retrieval is good but at the expense of accentuated highs. Bass response is good and big. Although a little over powering to my neutral-ish head I did enjoy a bit of colour. Mids are adequate but you get this feeling of recessed mids because of the other two spectra being extreme. Unless I listen to Kraftwerk and Daft Punk all day long these aren't my cup of tea. Even then it becomes a bit fatiguing to listen to extended periods. Tips that come in the package are box standard rubber/silicone and no that comfortable. IMHO they aren't worth the price and at £600 I would go for a custom either by UM, JH or UE.
Senneheiser Momentum: Mid range closed cans (On ear). MSRP: £260
I did the same with these. This time I had my Sony headphones for comparison. I wasn't impressed at all. May be I've to do another audition as everything sounded muddy and veiled in comparison. I tried few different tracks but was not impressed. Quite dark sounding, veiled and the bass is bloated IMHO. I expected quite a lot because I like the HD-25s quite a lot. I feel this as a departure in some other direction. Z1000s have just blown these away and I didn't have to listen for more than 5 minutes to come to this conclusion. I would happily spend my money on HD-25s and then save some rather than go for these.
Ultrasone IQ/iq: In Ear Monitors. MSRP: £700
These are targeted straight at IE800s in my opinion. And this is the first time Ultrasone have made their way into IEM territory. Bass is comparable to IE800s and that's about it. Mids are quite recessed and highs are terrible. If you remember other HFI/Proline range from the past these are pretty much comparable to their signature. They sound like scraping metal of some surface. I myself have the signature pros and consider them to be the only Ultrasones that could compete with other highend headphones from other manufacturers. It might sound harsh but I wouldn't even pay £100 for these. Get UE700s and save your money. If you like these then you must be a hardcore fan for the Ultrasone brand. If you really want to spend £700 then get the Signature Pros which are way more decent compared to these.
In addition I've had a listen to the Audezes, Hifimans, Stax and HD 800/700s on few different setups. They are all outstanding as always in their own right. Like I said before make sure you do an audition before taking the plunge and the Americans should try and go for the RMAF this year where they should see all these for sure.
Edited by vkvedam - 9/26/12 at 4:49am