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Budget IEMs review--Panasonic RP-HJE355 posted 18 February 2013

post #1 of 103
Thread Starter 

Intro


I am a firm believer in EQ.  Thanks to PiccoloNamek's EQ guide, and with some inventions of my own, these days I can spend less than an hour with just about any new pair of IEMs and tweak them to sound better than anything I've heard without EQ, at any price. (and I've heard up to $400 IEMs)  The main reason for this easy improvement is that I can use EQ to tame half-wave resonances, as explained for example by Siegfried Linkwitz, who's responsible for a lot of loudspeaker inventions:


http://www.linkwitzlab.com/reference_earphones.htm


A side product of this is that I can profile the frequency response of the phones much like a spectrum analyzer, but with my own ears.  A raw FR chart coming from e.g. headroom often looks like a stock market chart on Black Friday in the treble frequencies, because of resonances.  It is hard to translate such a graph into actual listening impressions.  The smoothed and compensated graph is easier to read but smoothes out some of the important resonance frequencies.  I believe my "FR charts" provide a happy medium: they show the main resonances in an easy-to-read chart, backed by the impressions of a human listener.  They also have the advantage of not requiring any measurement equipment that I don't have redface.gif The FR charts are, greatly simplified, generated by feeding sine tones through an equal-loudness compensation EQ filter that mimics the frequency response of the human ear listening to an external sound source placed in front, then I tune a second EQ filter until I hear a flat FR.  I then tune the EQ some more by listening to actual music, then the EQ is inverted to provide a frequency response graph of sorts compared to the ideal frequency response for my ears. (My own sound signature preference can be characterized as a W sound sig, with prominent mids, scooped out midbass to provide clarity to the rest of the spectrum (the opposite of what's usually termed a "warm" signature) and recessed highs at the sibilant frequencies to avoid sibilance)


Sound score will be on a 0-10 scale for unEQed sound and 10-20 scale for EQed sound, to reflect the fact that just about the worst EQed sound I've ever heard on any "proper" IEM (from any trustworthy brand, that can be bought for $10 and up) sounds better than the best unEQed sound I've heard at any price.


LIST OF REVIEWS TO DATE


(Prelude) Etymotic MC2/3/5


(C1) TDK Clef-P, vocal tune edition, $32

(C2) Panasonic Ergofit RP-HJE120, $7

(C3) Philips SHE3580, $10

(C4) Sony MH1C

(C5) Panasonic RP-HJE355, ~$20

 

(B1) Hifiman RE0, ~$49


... More reviews will be coming out soon redface.gif While you're waiting, here's a compilation of almost all the frequency response graphs I've made to date, all referenced against the original $10 headphones that could for me, the Philips SHE3580:



Quote:

Originally Posted by Joe Bloggs View Post

In this thread


www.head-fi.org/t/615417/how-to-equalize-your-headphones-advanced-tutorial-in-progress


I'm trying to detail my method to, in one fell swoop, identify your personal ear canal resonances for each pair of headphones with great accuracy, and equalize headphones with such ease that you can churn out FR comparison graphs like these for fun like one per hour



CKM50-vs-SHE3580.jpg

(red: Philips SHE3580, black: Audio Technica CKM50)

SHE3580-SHH3580.jpg

(red: Philips SHE3580, black: Philips SHH3580)

SHE3580-vs-SHE8005.jpg

(red: Philips SHE3580, black: Philips SHE8005)

SHE3580-vs-etys.jpg

(red: Philips SHE3580, black: Etymotic ER-4P)

SHE3580-vs-HJE120.jpg

(red: Philips SHE3580, black: Panasonic HJE120)


UE100-vs-SHE3580.jpg

(red: SHE3580, black: Ultimate Ears UE100)


...and tell people that you can make all your headphones sound 95% the same, to your ears, by dialing in these curves, and watch everyone stare in disbelief.


tongue.gif


Edited by Joe Bloggs - 2/17/13 at 7:14pm
post #2 of 103
Thread Starter 

Prelude: Etymotic MC2/3/5

 

Details: First dynamic-driver earphone from the pioneer of universal in-ear monitors
Bought for: $85 (MC3)
Driver: Dynamic

Impedance: (higher is better) 16ohm

Minimum volume setting required from Fiio E17 (lower is better): without EQ: 24/60 with EQ: 32/60

Cable: 4’ 45º-plug with apple controls (MC3), android controls (MC2) or plain (MC5)
Nozzle Size (widest part of tip): 3mm | Preferred tips: Shure Grey Flex
Wear Style: Straight down or over ear (straight down with shirt clip and chin slider engaged preferred)

 

[shamelessly copied from joker's review]

Accessories (4/5) – Triple-flange silicone tips (2 sizes), Etymotic foam tips, Etymotic Glider tips, replacement filters (1 set), filter replacement tool, shirt clip, and zippered soft carrying pouch
Build Quality (4.5/5) –Though the MC5 is lightweight and for the most part plastic, the outer (colored) bits of the housings are aluminum and the cables are Kevlar-reinforced and well-relieved all around. The slightly rubbery cabling is very flexible and doesn’t stick or tangle and the entry-level Etys really feel like a quality product all around
Isolation (4.5/5) – Typical of Ety earphones, isolation just doesn’t get much better than this
Microphonics (4/5) – Quite low when worn cable-down, nonexistent with over-the-ear wear
Comfort (4/5) – Depends on the eartips used but the included assortment should fit most people. With a good fit the slim housings don’t contact the ear and the cable exit angle actually works for over-the-ear wear, making the MC5 very comfortable for those who can handle deep-insertion earphones

[/shamelessly copied from joker's review]

addendum: with shure grey flex these are effectively shallow-insertion earphones for me and are very comfortable

 

Introduction

Etymotic ER-4P was my introduction to high-end headphone audio 10 years ago.  I was wowed by their detail retrieval (me and 1,000,001 others) but somewhat put off by their cold and analytical sound (again, me and 1,000,001 others).  As you may have heard elsewhere, I managed to break these 4 times over these ten years and finally gave up on repairing them.

 

These MC2/3/5 phones come at less than the cost of an out-of-warranty repair for the ER-4 and sound so close to the ER-4P as to be not worth quibbling about.  Etymotic was able to recreate the house sound of the ER series in a dynamic phone at a fraction of the price, and with dynamic drivers having less distortion in the bass and Etymotic solving the typical dynamic driver FR uneveness with their patent-pending acoustic RLC circuit (also known as a Helmhotz resonator) technology, the MC has the potential to outperform even the ER-series were they not positioned at the bottom of Ety's scale and QC'ed accordingly.  The first pair I bought had a very noticeable channel imbalance.  The second pair (that I own now) probably measures within spec, but (probably somewhat due to differing anatomy between my two ears) the two buds don't quite match each other in a sine sweep of the treble (not quite peaking at the same frequency) and the right bud sometimes sounds weaker to me on an off day (again, probably partly due to anatomy and insertion issues).

 

Sound without EQ: (8.5/10)

I have auditioned tens of phones, including the Sony XBA-3, Westone 3, Sennheiser IE80, JVC FXD80, and the etys are what I came back to for unEQed playback.  They simply have a natural timbre that cannot be found in any other phones I've heard (the closest I've heard were the Sony XBA-1 and JVC FXD80, with the FXD80 coming closer in timbre but putting me off severely with very tissy highs).  They are however admittedly not very fun-sounding (probably because of too-polite bass and treble) and still prone to a tissy sound without EQ and with a shallow insertion (like I am forced to use because of anatomy and simply not being able to tolerate a deep insertion).  As noted by Rin Choi (udauda on head-fi), inserting IEMs shallower than their designed plug depth causes the half-wave resonant peak to move down into objectionable frequencies, in my case 7.35kHz.

 

FR curve

Bass rolloff (to my ears) below 100Hz (seal dependent)

1 resonance peak at 7350Hz (listener, tip selection dependent)

 

Sound with EQ: (16/20)

As seen from the simple FR curve profile, the MC2/3/5 is very easy to EQ.  Just a bit of gradual bass boost, treble boost and most importantly, just one narrowband cut filter at 7350Hz (for me) will produce an almost-ideal sound sig.  The tissiness is gone, the sound is darker (as in less white noise) yet more detailed, the bass kicks harder... everything sounds just about perfect.  But.  Subjectively still a bit of lack of excitement.  Despite the low bass distortion figure measured the bass still feels somewhat forced.  Put next to bass demons like the Philips SHE3580 that I had to tame with a 10dB bass cut, the MC2/3/5 still sounds somewhat restrained even with bass boost.  Like I said above, I still sometimes have channel imbalance issues with these phones (in part caused by my anatomy) which detracts from the enjoyment.

 

Standard disclaimer: sound with EQ of course changes with the EQ used.  Despite the use of tone sweeps and the equal loudness filter standardizing much of the EQ process (and the resulting FR charts), it is still possible to get better sound with further fine tuning of the EQ to real music.  The score with EQ is affected by how well I've profiled the EQ for a particular pair of phones.  Still I find it worthwhile to dedicate a section of each review to EQ because phones always sound so much better with EQ (reason).

 

Value (no EQ available): 10/10

Value (with parametric EQ): 5/10

 

Pros: Stellar noise isolation; solid build quality; best unEQed sound I've ever heard

Cons: EQed sound does not match quality of some of the better budget phones about to be reviewed


Edited by Joe Bloggs - 10/23/12 at 9:51pm
post #3 of 103
Thread Starter 

1st review: (C1) TDK Clef-P, Vocal tuning edition

(pictured with extra small stock tips)

reviewed 2012-10-24

 

Details: 1 of 3 identical-bodied, differently-tuned budget IEMs by TDK released in 2011; vocal edition is advertised as mid-centric
Currently available at: $32 (ebay)
Driver: Dynamic

Impedance: (higher is better) 16ohm

Minimum volume setting required from Fiio E17 (lower is better): without EQ: 19/60 with EQ: 25/60

Cable: Y-split flat cable with i-plug, length down to trouser pocket (just)

Nozzle Size (widest part of tip): 6mm | Preferred tips: stock XS tips
Wear Style: Straight down or over ear

 

Accessories (2/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (4 sizes), string-closed soft carrying pouch; no chin slider or shirt clip
Build Quality (4/5) –The IEM housing is all metal and all cable joints are well-relieved.  Main build problem is the cable is a bit short--if you're taller than 6 foot 1 and wearing bulky clothing these phones may not reach down to your pants pockets.
Isolation (4/5) – With stock XS sleeves, a deep seal (for me) can be achieved and isolation is excellent
Microphonics deleted evaluation of microphonics as I find this subject too random for me to evaluate at the moment; sometimes a phone makes almost no sound, sometimes the microphonics are deafening... these days I find a shirt clip an essential accessory to any pair of IEMs.
Comfort (3/5) – Standard straight-nozzled fit with a long but thick nozzle and average sized housing.  Thick nozzle makes for a tight fit in my ears even with XS tips but otherwise quite comfortable

 

Introduction

These were recommended to me by a very budget-conscious head-fier (not in the sense of being a head-fi member) as having very clear vocals and recessed bass (which he likes) and great clarity all around.

 

Sound without EQ: (6/10) (expect to see some low scores even from many $200+ heavyweights here; I am not tolerant of sound not matching my sound sig preference here.  That's for sound *with* EQ)

 

Open box impressions were very positive.  I called them "warmed over Etys with more fun".  The sound is warm but detailed, with vocals about as clear as I've heard from budget IEMs.  Highs have almost just the right amount of sparkle.  Soundstaging (although I believe soundstaging to be a very personal matter, ie not really transferrable between different listeners) was slightly more expansive and involving than the MC2/3/5.  Bass was unexpectedly powerful, I even found the midbass a bit too much for my liking.  This may be explained by my achieving a tight seal with the smallest tips, or (less likely) the tuning by TDK may have changed between the pair my friend acquired and the pair I acquired.  Overall the sound is less refined but more fun than the MC2/3/5.

 

FR curve

Midbass hump ~100Hz (to my ears; others may like this amount of midbass)

Null at ~2.2kHz, small peak at ~5.1kHz (probably listener and seal independent)

Resonance peaks at 8.2kHz, 12kHz (listener, tip selection dependent)

 

Sound with EQ: (18/20)

The FR profile of the Clef-P Vocal tuning edition is moderate in complexity, not fully EQable with the (max.) 7-band parametric EQ available on mobile devices (10 band or even 20 band graphic EQ need not apply).  A wide cut at about 100Hz and a wide boost at ~2200Hz bring out about half the positive sonic qualities of EQ for these phones; this can be roughly achieved using widely available graphic EQ.  In particular, the bass cut removes a further veil from the sound, making it cleaner and more detailed, while the boost at ~2.2kHz greatly improves soundstaging (vocals and instruments gain more "definition" in my headspace).

 

With the full parametric EQ treatment, the Clef-P Vocal gains by leaps and bounds on the MC2/3/5.  It loses none of the excitement and forwardness from its unEQed sound while gaining greatly in "blackness" (lack of veiling white noise) and detail retrieval.  The high treble of the Vocal is well-proportioned for me in unEQed form but with EQ smoothing out the peaks and dips everything sounds more "real" and engaging.

 

Overall I find these two points ahead of the MC2/3/5 with EQ on. (duh?)

 

Standard disclaimer: sound with EQ of course changes with the EQ used.  Despite the use of tone sweeps and the equal loudness filter standardizing much of the EQ process (and the resulting FR charts), it is still possible to get better sound with further fine tuning of the EQ to real music.  The score with EQ is affected by how well I've profiled the EQ for a particular pair of phones.  Still I find it worthwhile to dedicate a section of each review to EQ because phones always sound so much better with EQ (reason).

 

Value (no EQ available): 6/10

Value (with 10-band graphic EQ): 7/10

Value (with parametric EQ): 8/10

 

Pros: Great noise isolation for the price (with deep seal using XS tips); solid build quality; good stock sound for the price, great EQed sound

Cons: somewhat complex EQ profile; still has a midbass hump to my ears despite claim of "vocal" tuning; cable may not be long enough for the tall (I'm 6', it's just enough for me)

 

(C2) Panasonic Ergofit RP-HJE120

reviewed 2012-10-24

 

Details: One of the cheapest IEMs one can buy, short of no-brand dollar stare IEMs
Currently available at: $7 (ebay)
Driver: Dynamic

Impedance: (higher is better) 16ohm

Minimum volume setting required from Fiio E17 (lower is better): without EQ: 21/60 with EQ: 25/60

Cable: Y-split 80s spaghetti cable with L-plug, length down to trouser pocket

Nozzle Size (widest part of tip): N/A (Ergofit oval nozzle) | Preferred tips: stock medium tips
Wear Style: Straight down only

 

Accessories (1/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (3 sizes), no chin slider or shirt clip
Build Quality (1/5) –All plastic construction with the cheapest looking 80s style cable I've ever seen (see picture).  Ample 80s style strain relief at plug, no visible strain relief at Y-split or driver housing (whether this is actually detrimental to durability is up for debate)
Isolation (3/5) – Shallow seal (mandatory because of dish with short nozzle design) and light build (understatement) contribute to lack of isolation; on the other hand there is minimal venting.
Microphonics deleted evaluation of microphonics as I find this subject too random for me to evaluate at the moment; sometimes a phone makes almost no sound, sometimes the microphonics are deafening... these days I find a shirt clip an essential accessory to any pair of IEMs.
Comfort (5/5) – Ergofit oval nozzles fit my ears like a glove; small dish shape does not put pressure on my outer ear, rather, takes what little weight there is off my ear canal and redistributes it on my outer ear; "disappears" in my ear in moments.  Very easy to put on (securely) and take off.

 

Sound without EQ: (5/10) (expect to see some low scores even from many $200+ heavyweights here; I am not tolerant of sound not matching my sound sig preference here.  That's for sound *with* EQ)

A wide bass hump covers up much of the details of the music.  Although going by my FR profile for these they have some treble sparkle it is still overwhelmed by the bass.  May be a good phone for EDM... The smaller than usual treble resonance peaks mean these suffer less from the typical tissy noisy fatiguing AND undetailed treble than usual but there is just too little of it next to the phat bass.  The best thing that can be said about them unEQed is that they are unfatiguing.

 

FR curve

Wide midbass hump ~100Hz (to my ears)

Small null at ~2kHz, small peak at ~4.8kHz (probably listener and seal independent)

Resonance peaks at 7.9kHz, 11.3kHz (listener, tip selection dependent)

 

Sound with EQ: (15/20)

The FR profile of the HJE120 is relatively simple.  The 7-band parametric EQ on Equalizer for iPhone will be able to make a good approximation; with only a 10-band graphic available, a cut at 125Hz, boost at 2kHz and slight cut of the 4kHz and 8kHz bands may be desirable.  The smaller than usual treble resonance spikes mean that one may get closer to the full parametric EQ effect with a 10 band graphic EQ.  With a general cut of 4kHz and above substituting the specific spikes of the parametric EQ, I hear a slight loss of definition and realism, but still the sound is much superior to unEQed sound.

 

On the other hand, these do not quite reach the usual heights of excellence with the full parametric EQ treatment.  Although detail retrieval, soundstage and enjoyability go through the 10/10 roof as usual (these big dish drivers trumping the MC2/3/5 with big effortless subbass power lending extra impact and fun over the etys), timbre seems a bit off no matter how the EQ is tweaked.  The sound retains a bit of the metallic taste that usually goes away with EQ.  Since nobody will ever put these $7 phones on the bench for measurements I wouldn't want to guess at the cause of these weakness.  Perhaps cheap buds are cheap? lol

 

Nevertheless, for someone on a shoestring budget and access to free parametric EQ software, these phones can provide the gateway to great sound.  The Philips SHE3580/3590/3500 family is almost as cheap though, and provide slightly superior build and (gasp) looks (IMO) and superior EQed sound.

 

Standard disclaimer: sound with EQ of course changes with the EQ used.  Despite the use of tone sweeps and the equal loudness filter standardizing much of the EQ process (and the resulting FR charts), it is still possible to get better sound with further fine tuning of the EQ to real music.  The score with EQ is affected by how well I've profiled the EQ for a particular pair of phones.  Still I find it worthwhile to dedicate a section of each review to EQ because phones always sound so much better with EQ (reason).

 

Value (no EQ available): 5/10

Value (with 10-band graphic EQ): 8/10

Value (with parametric EQ): 8/10

 

Pros: Top-notch comfort; still better with EQ than anything I've heard without EQ

Cons: bass hump smothers details without EQ;  craptastic build and looks;  EQed sound quality not quite up there

 

(C3) Philips SHE3580

(found a nice image online that shows the buds, the plug and the packaging; what's not to like?  Okay the real thing is not as pretty as this of course)

reviewed 2012-10-27

 

Details: The original "little IEM that could" that drew me back to head-fi
Currently available at: ~$10 (also available in different colours as SHE3581 (white), 3582 (light blue), 3583 (pink), 3584 (purple), and 3585 (red)

Driver: Dynamic

Impedance: (higher is better) 16ohm

Minimum volume setting required from Fiio E17 (lower is better): without EQ: 21/60 with EQ: 23/60

Cable: Y-split 80s spaghetti cable with i-plug, length down to trouser pocket

Nozzle Size (widest part of tip): 5.5mm | Preferred tips: stock medium tips
Wear Style: Straight down or over ear (slight assymetry makes straight down the designed wear style; over ear still very possible)

 

Accessories (1/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (3 sizes), no chin slider or shirt clip
Build Quality (2.5/5) – All plastic construction with the cheap looking 80s style cable similar to Panasonic HJE120;  however the cable is nicer looking and less spaghetti-like (if prone to retain a kink from the packaging); modern-looking (if less strain reliefed) i-plug; small strain relief at housing, which pretty (IMO) plastic teardrops with slightly angled nozzles, which make insertion easier.  Build quality has taken a drop in the successor 3590 series, with less polished housing and all around more shoddy looking housings, although they still sound the same.  They have in turn been succeeded by the new 3500 series, which looks to have better build and packaging (but I can't vouch for this as I haven't bought a pair)
Isolation (3/5) – Shallow seal and light build contribute to lack of isolation; on the other hand there is minimal venting.  Users have noted that these seem to block high frequency noises less well than mid frequencies
Microphonics (?) Others have complained of bad microphonics;  all I can say to that is that these days I use a shirt clip with every IEM
Comfort (4.5/5) – Light and small housing, medium sized nozzles and well-designed (if hard to put on) ear sleeves make for a very comfortable seal.  These have a medium-short nozzle for shallow insertion but the stock ear sleeves are longer than average while soft and supple (but not so soft as to lose shape when you're trying to put them on); makes for a secure fit (for me).

 

Sound without EQ: (8.5/10) (expect to see some low scores even from many $200+ heavyweights here; I am not tolerant of sound not matching my sound sig preference here.  That's for sound *with* EQ)

These phones have an exciting V-shaped frequency response, with equal emphasis on the bass and treble.  The sound is very engaging and will make for many positive open box impressions (if the unruly wires on open box don't put you off).  Aside from the Etymotic MC2/3/5, these are the only phones I've heard where I can enjoy the unEQed sound; so much so, that when I turn the EQ on and off for review, these are the only phones that make me question whether I'm actually making an improvement with the EQ, and resort to impressionistic tweaking of the EQ to try to overtake the sound stock.  The bass is very clean yet sharp and hard-hitting, with little bass bleed into the mids.  Treble sparkle gives a very "hi-fi" feeling to the sound.  Parametric EQ improves clarity and intelligibility but this is not apparent without A/B switching; the raw sound gives a great "impression" of clarity.  Sibilance can be annoying with the wrong recordings (but this is almost always the case with any decent amount of treble energy without EQ at this price point; there is simply no budget available to smooth out treble resonance spikes in the acoustic design.  Even with high-end phones, any slight deviation from the designed tips and insertion depth would throw off the sonic design and bring the resonances right back out.  A prime example for me is the Etymotic MC2/3/5 with its 7.35kHz spike that makes tissy recordings an ear-stabbing mess without EQ; that was NOT part of the design.)

 

FR curve

7b2005b3_SHE3580FR.jpeg

(astute readers will notice that the V-shape is shallower than my previously widely posted curve for these phones.  On re-listening to these phones with my current setup and current rotation of review songs I found my old profile for these phones (EQing down the bass and treble spikes by the amount shown in my previous graphs) made for a dull sound next to the unEQed sound; these Philips are the only phones that make me question my EQ for them on a semi-regular basis...)

 

Linear bass boost peaking at 100Hz and below

Peak at 2950Hz (listener and seal independent)

Resonance peaks at 5200Hz, 7750Hz and 11kHz (listener and seal dependent)

 

Sound with EQ: (18/20)

The above writing for sound with no EQ may make it seem like there's little improvement to be had with EQ.  On the contrary; the sexy V-shape of the 3580 made me question the overall bass/mids/treble balance of my old sharp A-shaped EQ for these; but it was never in doubt that taming the treble resonance spikes with EQ improves these phones by leaps and bounds technically.  A thick veil of treble noise is lifted from the sound;  this makes the phones go from giving an impression of Hi-Fi to true Hi-Fi.  Whereas a busy passage in a studio recording sounds like the crowd talking in a noisy restaurant without EQ, with EQ it's almost like you can decompose the recording into the original multitrack and pick out any individual instrument from the mix.  Soundstaging also becomes more concrete and spacious, especially with a bump around 2kHz on many phones giving extra presence to vocals.

 

The above observations are common across all the budget phones reviewed here and to a lesser extent the Ety MC2/3/5 (since it only has one audible resonance).  So what sets these apart?  The bass and timbre.  Like the HJE120, these are shallow insertion IEMs, giving more visceral impact to the bass (I can feel my brain matter compressing...).  Unlike the HJE120, these achieve the same bass with smaller drivers, making for less distortion at high frequencies.  There is none of that metallic taste to the treble with EQ.  It is still not quite as clean as the MC2/3/5 but the residual sound reflections can sometimes give an extra sense of space to studio recordings.

 

Standard disclaimer: sound with EQ of course changes with the EQ used.  Despite the use of tone sweeps and the equal loudness filter standardizing much of the EQ process (and the resulting FR charts), it is still possible to get better sound with further fine tuning of the EQ to real music.  The score with EQ is affected by how well I've profiled the EQ for a particular pair of phones.  Still I find it worthwhile to dedicate a section of each review to EQ because phones always sound so much better with EQ (reason).

 

Value (no EQ available): 9/10

Value (with 10-band graphic EQ): 9/10

Value (with parametric EQ): 10/10

 

Pros: awesome unEQed sound (for a V-shaped phone); responds well to EQ

Cons: cheap and (apparently) microphonic cable

 

(C4) Sony MH1C

1000

reviewed 2012-11-04

 

Details: budget IEMs bundled with Sony's MW1 ‘Smart Wireless Headset pro', apparently with more engineering effort than the usual budget IEM
Currently available at: ~$30

Driver: Dynamic

Impedance: (higher is better) 15ohm

Minimum volume setting required from Fiio E17 (lower is better): without EQ: 22/60 with EQ: 24/60

Cable: flat J-cord with mic and controls on left side, length down to trouser pocket

Nozzle Size (widest part of tip): 4.5mm | Preferred tips: stock small tips
Wear Style: Straight down (although I've seen one crazy person wear them over ear, the mic would simply not hear your voice that way)

 

Accessories (N/A) – Single-flange silicone tips (4 sizes) and shirt clip come with bulk packaging version I bought; no idea what would come in retail packaging
Build Quality (4/5) – Construction appears to be all plastic but appears sturdy enough; earpieces and plug have adequate strain relief; stock tips provide excellent seal and comfort;  looks are quite classy
Isolation (4/5) – Just a bit shy of ety level isolation
Microphonics (?) I don't attempt to review this subject; provided shirt clip works well to reduce microphonics and make J-cord style bearable if you clip it on the left side of your shirt high up to relieve and redistribute the weight of the cable on the earpieces
Comfort (4.5/5) – Light and small housing, medium-small sized nozzles and well-designed (and easy to put on) ear sleeves make for a very comfortable seal.  These have a short nozzle for shallow insertion but the stock ear sleeves are longer than average while soft and supple (but not so soft as to lose shape when you're trying to put them on); makes for a secure fit (for me and many others).  The only complaint is the J-cord, with the left bud branching DOWN from the split; if you wind it back up to your ear it naturally puts the mic forward nearer to your mouth so this may help with calls, although my experience with calls was that I still needed to hold up the mic for my wife to hear.  Again the shirt clip use and positioning is crucial to wear comfort.

 

Sound without EQ: (11/10) (expect to see some low scores even from many $200+ heavyweights here; I am not tolerant of sound not matching my sound sig preference here.  That's for sound *with* EQ)

When I started this review, I calibrated my scale to put the score 10 at the highest point at which I expect any non-EQed IEM to achieve; the main bottleneck to non-EQed performance was the presence of sharp spikes in the treble response, caused by half-wave resonance in the ear canal.  Since even Etymotic, the hi-fi company reputedly paying the most attention to actual "high fidelity" and diffuse field equalization produced an IEM with a sharp 11dB spike at 7.5kHz to my ears with the best insertion I could manage, I thought it was physically impossible to design phones that physically cancelled out all resonance peaks in the treble.

 

The MH1C proved me wrong, and for that reason alone deserves an off-the-scale score.

 

It would have scored even higher if not for the bass boost, which was designed into the phones on purpose and thus supposedly appeals to most people according to their market research.  So they may score even higher for you.

 

It's hard for me to describe how good these sound in a conventional manner.  The main point is that these achieve my usual parametric EQed near-perfection WITHOUT EQ.  The only major thing I need is add a touch of bass rolloff with EQ and these already score an easy 18/20 to my ears.  I know that's not strictly 'without EQ' performance but a bit off bass rolloff is easy to achieve with all manner of equipment, from 10-band EQs bundled with most portable players, to the "bass reducer" preset on iPods, to tone control knobs on receivers, to even a little passive hardware circuit you can knock together for $10.

 

Strictly without EQ, they sound like perfection... with bass boost.  It is almost a linear ramp up to the subbass region though so it is a good bass boost that many will enjoy.

 

FR curve

900x900px-LL-190d4f48_mh1cFR.jpeg

 

Linear bass boost peaking at 20Hz and below

Dip at 2150Hz about 2dB (but it's probably just me; I find a dip here with almost every phone;  official measurements do not show such a dip)

Gentle, well controlled resonance peak range from 7000-12000Hz (about 3dB)

 

Sound with EQ: (19/20)

With EQ (mostly just a bass rolloff), a veil of bass is lifted and the perfection that is the MH1C shows itself in its true colours.  I find it hard to describe the sound of perfection since I experience near-perfection every day with all kinds of phones with parametric EQ, I'm just so used to it that it doesn't wow me anymore.  But the big news is how easily and effortlessly the MH1C attain this level of performance.  It's like a master car mechanic used to hot rodding Mustangs and Mitsubishi Evolutions coming across the latest supercar from Ferrari or Lamborghini: I feel almost like I've been put out of a job.

 

Listening to actual music, it is evident to me that not only is the frequency response impeccable, the driver quality is phenomenal too with presence, impact and decay all done right.  If there's a better phone out there, I've yet to hear it.  Actually I'm pretty sure that the only way to make major improvement from here would be a Smyth Realiser to accurately simulate loudspeaker soundstage.  I've heard that those make your jaw drop with their soundstage portrayal but they have trouble measuring IEMs for making the PRIR profile.  Well these should make the perfect candidate for Smyth Realiser augmentation with their impeccable FR profile.

 

My impression of cheap IEMs has been changed from "possible to beat $300+ heavy hitters using precise parametric EQ" to "possible to beat $300+ heavy hitters without doing much at all" with these gems.

 

Standard disclaimer: sound with EQ of course changes with the EQ used.  Despite the use of tone sweeps and the equal loudness filter standardizing much of the EQ process (and the resulting FR charts), it is still possible to get better sound with further fine tuning of the EQ to real music.  The score with EQ is affected by how well I've profiled the EQ for a particular pair of phones.  Still I find it worthwhile to dedicate a section of each review to EQ because phones always sound so much better with EQ (reason).

 

Value (no EQ available): 10/10

Value (with 10-band graphic EQ or simple tone controls): 20/10

Value (with parametric EQ): 10/10

 

Pros: awesome sound without EQ, jaw-droppingly good sound with just simple tone controls or 10-band EQ, very comfortable, highly isolating

Cons: j-cord and flat cable make for somewhat awkward ergonomics

 

How appropriate that these get the designation "C4" in my review list as these are C4 dynamite in the budget IEM, nay, hi-fi IEM world...

 

Interested by JK1's recommendation of the HJE355 over the HJE120 and SHE3580, I got the HJE355 when I finally saw it on sale locally.

 

(C5) Panasonic RP-HJE355

reviewed 2013-2-18 (pictured with shure grey flex used for review put on the earphones, stock tips on the left)

 

Currently available at: ~$20

Driver: Dynamic, 10.7mm

Impedance: (higher is better) 16ohm

Minimum volume setting required from Fiio E17 (lower is better): without EQ: 23/60 with EQ: 29/60

Cable: Y-split rubbery plastic cable with 90 degree plug, length down to trouser pocket

Nozzle Size (widest part of tip): 4.5mm | Preferred tips: aftermarket shure grey sleeves
Wear Style: Straight down

 

Accessories (2/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (3 sizes), chin slider
Build Quality (3.5/5) – ample strain relief all around, respectable looking and handling cable
Isolation (3.5/5) – two small vents over the drivers decrease isolation but at the same time prevent driver flex
Comfort and fit (3/5) – I had a hard time finding the right tips that would seal properly with these.  None of the stock tips sealed my ears.  The nozzles on these are so small that my Shure grey sleeves which usually fit on Etymotics also fit on these and happened to give the best seal.  Once a good pair of tips was found comfort was good.  Thankfully these "Shure grey sleeves" can be had in Hong Kong for $5 a pair.

 

Sound without EQ: (5.3/10) (expect to see some low scores even from many $200+ heavyweights here; I am not tolerant of sound not matching my sound sig preference here.  That's for sound *with* EQ)

 

These have an inoffensive signature if you like thumping midbass that bleeds well into the midrange.  To me it sounds very congested and claustrophobic.  They just manage to squeak by the bottom-of-the-range HJE120 with better treble timbre, but the difference is not significant.  A pity because if it were not for that bloated bass, these should have been good sounding IEMs, with one of the better corrected IEMs in the treble range.

 

FR curve (on my ears, using shure grey sleeves)

10dB midbass hump

Two 5dB treble peaks at 5200 and 7600Hz (will vary by ear and tips)

5dB dip at 9000Hz (will vary by ear and tips)

 

Sound with EQ: (16.5/20)

I don't feel that the "sound with EQ" is a reliable differentiator of earphones on this review list these days, after I've been spoiled by the superior spatial presentation on the lowly Somic MH463 full size open-back headphones.  Nevertheless, this is a rough indication of the amount of improvement you can expect to find from these phones with an EQ tailored to your needs, in particular with treble spikes smoothed out with EQ and that big midbass hump taken out.  The soundstage fills out considerably.

 

Standard disclaimer: sound with EQ of course changes with the EQ used.  Despite the use of tone sweeps and the equal loudness filter standardizing much of the EQ process (and the resulting FR charts), it is still possible to get better sound with further fine tuning of the EQ to real music.  The score with EQ is affected by how well I've profiled the EQ for a particular pair of phones.  Still I find it worthwhile to dedicate a section of each review to EQ because phones always sound so much better with EQ (reason).

 

Value (no EQ available): 5/10

Value (10-band graphic EQ): 6.6/10

Value (with parametric EQ): 7/10

 

Pros: relatively low price for the build quality, well-behaved treble

Cons: midbass bloat

 

(B1) Hifiman RE0

1000

reviewed 2012-11-30.  Thanks to kalbee for exchanging these and a pair of Hisoundaudio Popo for a pair of MH1C!

 

Currently available at: ~$49

Driver: Dynamic

Impedance: (higher is better) 64ohm

Minimum volume setting required from Fiio E17 (lower is better): without EQ: 24/60 with EQ: 26/60

Cable: Y-split slick plastic cable with 45 degree plug, length down to trouser pocket

Nozzle Size (widest part of tip): 5.5mm | Preferred tips: stock biflanges
Wear Style: Straight down or over ear

 

Accessories (3.5/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (3 sizes), biflange silicone tips (2 sizes), replacement nozzle filters, shirt clip
Build Quality (5/5) – All metal housings and long strain reliefs, solid (but not too solid) plastic cable
Isolation (3/5) – two vents on the back of the housing apparently connect to the ear side of the housing as vacuum seal does not occur with any tip combination.
Comfort (4/5) – Light and small housing, medium sized nozzles and a generous selection of tips should mean that you will find a comfortable fit.

 

Sound without EQ: (9.0/10) (expect to see some low scores even from many $200+ heavyweights here; I am not tolerant of sound not matching my sound sig preference here.  That's for sound *with* EQ)

These phones have a very neutral sound signature, matching my tastes very well.  The lower mids and bass will tend to the lean side for most people, making for a cool note presentation.  The treble is not the smoothest (that crown currently goes to the MH1C) but it is very well proportioned.  The sound with and without my custom EQ for these share more similarities than differences, something that can not even be said for the MH1C (because of its bass boost).  The main difference lies in a higher tendency toward sibilance, mainly explained by a peak above 10kHz using the stock small biflanges.  However it is better in this regard than the Etymotic series with similar sound sig, mainly because the latter's main resonance peak is lower in frequency and higher in magnitude (unless you manage the past-the-second-bend deep seal that the etys were designed for.  kiteki calls it "Earrapic" I believe tongue.gif)

 

FR curve (on my ears, using small biflanges)

1000

 

Gentle subbass rolloff

Various small peaks and dips in the treble

Main peak over 10kHz (higher is better)

 

Sound with EQ: (19/20)

The RE0 finds the usual gains in refinement with EQ applied but the difference is less than with most other phones.  The main difference lies in a reduction of sibilance and an improvement of timbre, and a darker sound in the sense of better blackness between instruments for better detailing:

 

Quote:
They sound quite nice without EQ.  I'd even be tempted to say they sound airier without EQ than with EQ but the airiness makes and breaks the sound at the same time.  It is airy even when no air is necessary--like listening through Darth Vader's breath mask.  No offence to the RE0 though--every phone I've heard sounds like that to some extent without EQ, with the exception of the MH1C.

 

On the other hand, because of the ported design, there is more air to the sound and a more reliable seal (doesn't become muffled in the first few minutes as sometimes can be the case with completely sealed models) over the likes of the MH1C and the Etymotic MC5.

 

Standard disclaimer: sound with EQ of course changes with the EQ used.  Despite the use of tone sweeps and the equal loudness filter standardizing much of the EQ process (and the resulting FR charts), it is still possible to get better sound with further fine tuning of the EQ to real music.  The score with EQ is affected by how well I've profiled the EQ for a particular pair of phones.  Still I find it worthwhile to dedicate a section of each review to EQ because phones always sound so much better with EQ (reason).

 

Value (no EQ available): 9/10

Value (with parametric EQ): 5/10

 

Pros: fantastically neutral sound signature;  highly detailed;  quite smooth

Cons: not exactly budget


Edited by Joe Bloggs - 2/17/13 at 7:21pm
post #4 of 103
Thread Starter 

Added review of TDK Clef-P Vocal edition (previous post)

Available on ebay (I'm not sponsored for this review or anything, it's just that these are rather obscure phones in the h-f community and this is just to prove that you can actually buy these things)

post #5 of 103

Very nice work Joe. May I suggest EtyKids, looks like it performs like the ER4S with more subbass and a tad less treble when used with white dampers from knowles (same as MC series filters).

post #6 of 103
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the suggestion!  I think I'm more partial to dynamic drivers these days though, as they have lower bass distortion figures.  I also wonder how the etys perform below 20Hz?  Because I evaluate bass response all the way down to 10Hz, since that's what some of the better dynamic IEMs are capable of reproducing to an extent that I can feel.  The MC2/3/5 fades quickly after 20Hz...
 

post #7 of 103
Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Bloggs View Post

Thanks for the suggestion!  I think I'm more partial to dynamic drivers these days though, as they have lower bass distortion figures.  I also wonder how the etys perform below 20Hz?  Because I evaluate bass response all the way down to 10Hz, since that's what some of the better dynamic IEMs are capable of reproducing to an extent that I can feel.  The MC2/3/5 fades quickly after 20Hz...
 

Does that 10hz difference affects your music much?...

Pretty decent reviews thoughbeerchug.gif

post #8 of 103

The EtyKids are dynamic driver earphones.

post #9 of 103

suscribed! nice work!  something looks familiar.... joker's thread??rolleyes.gif

post #10 of 103

Great job Joe. will keep tabs on this thread. I am always looking for new greatness.

post #11 of 103
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by dustdevil View Post

Does that 10hz difference affects your music much?...

Pretty decent reviews thoughbeerchug.gif

10 to 20Hz is a whole octave...

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tomscy2000 View Post

The EtyKids are dynamic driver earphones.

Oh redface.gif Well the MC2/3/5 are dynamic too.  From what I've heard EtyKids are basically the MC with less efficiency.  My MC3 is quite inefficient enough already for me, thank you redface.gif I don't want to lug an amp with me everywhere I go...

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zelda View Post

suscribed! nice work!  something looks familiar.... joker's thread??rolleyes.gif

 

Well... from the OP

 

Quote:
I will be copying much from the format of a ljokerl review (apologies to joker)

 

So yeah biggrin.gif

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dsnuts View Post

Great job Joe. will keep tabs on this thread. I am always looking for new greatness.

 

beerchug.gif

post #12 of 103
Thread Starter 

Added Panasonic RP-HJE120 on 2012-10-24

 

Quote:

(C2) Panasonic Ergofit RP-HJE120

reviewed 2012-10-24

 

Details: One of the cheapest IEMs one can buy, short of no-brand dollar stare IEMs
Currently available at: $7 (ebay)
Driver: Dynamic

Impedance: (higher is better) 16ohm

Minimum volume setting required from Fiio E17 (lower is better): without EQ: 21/60 with EQ: 25/60

Cable: Y-split flat cable with L-plug, length down to trouser pocket

Nozzle Size (widest part of tip): N/A (Ergofit oval nozzle) | Preferred tips: stock medium tips
Wear Style: Straight down only

 

Accessories (1/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (3 sizes), no chin slider or shirt clip
Build Quality (1/5) –All plastic construction with the cheapest looking 80s style cable I've ever seen (see picture).  Ample 80s style strain relief at plug, no visible strain relief at Y-split or driver housing (whether this is actually detrimental to durability is up for debate)
Isolation (3/5) – Shallow seal (mandatory because of dish with short nozzle design) and light build (understatement) contribute to lack of isolation; on the other hand there is minimal venting.
Microphonics deleted evaluation of microphonics as I find this subject too random for me to evaluate at the moment; sometimes a phone makes almost no sound, sometimes the microphonics are deafening... these days I find a shirt clip an essential accessory to any pair of IEMs.
Comfort (5/5) – Ergofit oval nozzles fit my ears like a glove; small dish shape does not put pressure on my outer ear, rather, takes what little weight there is off my ear canal and redistributes it on my outer ear; "disappears" in my ear in moments.  Very easy to put on (securely) and take off.

 

Sound without EQ: (5/10) (expect to see some low scores even from many $200+ heavyweights here; I am not tolerant of sound not matching my sound sig preference here.  That's for sound *with* EQ)

A wide bass hump covers up much of the details of the music.  Although going by my FR profile for these they have some treble sparkle it is still overwhelmed by the bass.  May be a good phone for EDM... The smaller than usual treble resonance peaks mean these suffer less from the typical tissy noisy fatiguing AND undetailed treble than usual but there is just too little of it next to the phat bass.  The best thing that can be said about them unEQed is that they are unfatiguing.

 

FR curve

Wide midbass hump ~100Hz (to my ears)

Small null at ~2kHz, small peak at ~4.8kHz (probably listener and seal independent)

Resonance peaks at 7.9kHz, 11.3kHz (listener, tip selection dependent)

 

Sound with EQ: (15/20)

The FR profile of the HJE120 is relatively simple.  The 7-band parametric EQ on Equalizer for iPhone will be able to make a good approximation; with only a 10-band graphic available, a cut at 125Hz, boost at 2kHz and slight cut of the 4kHz and 8kHz bands may be desirable.  The smaller than usual treble resonance spikes mean that one may get closer to the full parametric EQ effect with a 10 band graphic EQ.  With a general cut of 4kHz and above substituting the specific spikes of the parametric EQ, I hear a slight loss of definition and realism, but still the sound is much superior to unEQed sound.

 

On the other hand, these do not quite reach the usual heights of excellence with the full parametric EQ treatment.  Although detail retrieval, soundstage and enjoyability go through the 10/10 roof as usual (these big dish drivers trumping the MC2/3/5 with big effortless subbass power lending extra impact and fun over the etys), timbre seems a bit off no matter how the EQ is tweaked.  The sound retains a bit of the metallic taste that usually goes away with EQ.  Since nobody will ever put these $7 phones on the bench for measurements I wouldn't want to guess at the cause of these weakness.  Perhaps cheap buds are cheap? lol

 

Nevertheless, for someone on a shoestring budget and access to free parametric EQ software, these phones can provide the gateway to great sound.  The Philips SHE3580/3590/3500 family is almost as cheap though, and provide slightly superior build and (gasp) looks (IMO) and superior EQed sound.

 

Standard disclaimer: sound with EQ of course changes with the EQ used.  Despite the use of tone sweeps and the equal loudness filter standardizing much of the EQ process (and the resulting FR charts), it is still possible to get better sound with further fine tuning of the EQ to real music.  The score with EQ is affected by how well I've profiled the EQ for a particular pair of phones.  Still I find it worthwhile to dedicate a section of each review to EQ because phones always sound so much better with EQ (reason).

 

Value (no EQ available): 5/10

Value (with 10-band graphic EQ): 8/10

Value (with parametric EQ): 8/10

 

Pros: Top-notch comfort; still better with EQ than anything I've heard without EQ

Cons: bass hump smothers details without EQ;  craptastic build and looks;  EQed sound quality not quite up there

post #13 of 103

subbed

post #14 of 103
Gj joe, subbed :P
post #15 of 103

Thank you for these reviews! They are certainly helpful. Looking to upgrade from my $7 Riptidz haha

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