The tour has started.
Impression Set #1: Shotgunshane
Well I was going to post these impressions in the main H-100 thread but it seems to be locked, so I'll post them here:
I had a chance to borrow a well used H-100 for while and put together some impressions. My impressions are not favorable; in fact, I just don’t like the H-100 at all, so I’m going to keep it fairly brief.
The first thing that struck me was the extreme V signature I was hearing, not the slight U shape most have reported. I don’t hear them anything like the first graph posted on Golden Ears in there review here: http://ko.goldenears.net/board/2159080 but rather the 3rd graph, for diffuse field compensation, which is closer to how I perceive the V.
This deep V makes for very recessed vocals that are best described as sounding as if they are coming from a tunnel. Also it seems the H-100 has a spike at approximately 3,600 hz, which is an extremely sensitive resonance area for me. I’m ok with an elevation, if it is surrounded by elevated frequencies well before and after this area but a lone peak is not pleasant for me. It makes vocals and guitars harsh and echoey (the MG6Pro does the same thing to me).
The other aspect that jumps out at me is the disconnect between the bass and treble. It comes across very disjointed to me, especially considering the thinner, almost tinny treble presentation. I just don’t think the marriage of the two driver technologies have been blended very well and is pretty distracting.
I tried various insertion depths and tip material, shapes and sizes. Some attempts fared better than others, sometimes reducing the V a bit but never making for a pleasant listening experience.
All this being said, there is one owner, whose ears I respect and trust, that doesn’t even remotely hear the H-100 the way I do. Being that our impressions are so far apart, I have to wonder if QC and extreme product variance are at play. Either way, the H-100 is just not an earphone I can recommend. I decided to post these impressions to show prospective buyers the 'other' side of the coin. I’m in no way trying to denigrate any owners’ enjoyment of this product and do not wish to get in any arguments of the merit of various impression. Please take these impressions for what they are, one man’s honest take. I don’t plan to post anymore on this earphone but if someone wishes to ask me any questions, please feel free to PM me.
Impression Set #2: Ishcabible
For years, consumers had to choose between the technical prowess of balanced armatures or the organic sound of dynamic drivers. At around 2006, Ultimate Ears came up with the brilliant idea to combine the two and released the Super.fi 5 EB. For whatever reason, there weren’t very many other dynamic+balanced armature IEMs after it. Fast forward to this year, and T-Peos released their own hybrid IEM. But does it sound good?
The H100’s packaging is the best I’ve come across for an IEM. They come in a gorgeous wooden box, with a good amount of accessories inside. There are six additional pairs of silicone tips and a very nice case. There is also a carabiner (for whatever reason), an “earphone necklace,” and an airplane adapter.
The H100 is rather sturdily made. The IEMs themselves are pretty large and made completely of metal, which makes for a weighty combination. The cable is a strange combination of rubber sheathed and fabric sheathed. The plug has a knurled section which makes for a nice grip. I do have a problem with the strain reliefs though. The strain relief on the plug is decent, but the one on the IEMs themselves is pretty mediocre.
Now on to the sound. The H100 seems to be greatly loved at Head-Fi; their appreciation thread has gotten over 1000 replies, with some selling all their other gear because the H100 has left them obsolete. So the H100 must sound fantastic right? Well, I don’t like them. At all. (With stock tips). This is a great exercise in emphasizing that sound signature preferences can cause one to love or loathe a headphone.
The following is just with stock tips, because I’m going to assume not everyone has an assortment of tips at their disposal. I’ll have a section comparing tips later on.
This particular pair of H100 is a part of a loaner program, so these are probably burned in.
First off, the stock tips are elongated, which means that there will probably be a good amount of bass because of the longer chamber created. There is definitely a lot of bass. Possibly too much bass. That’s the dynamic driver doing its job. My main test track for bass is the JLE Dub Mix of Puscifer’s Indigo Children. (If you haven’t heard of it, I implore you to listen to it. It’s absolutely fantastic as a bass test track.) Throughout the track, there is a low, rumbling beat that on most headphones, is basically inaudible. In fact, the only piece of audio gear I have that replicates it as a rumbling is my Monster Turbine Pro Gold. Sadly, the H100 doesn’t compare very well. The upper bass is taut and well separated, but going down from there, the bass kind of muddles up and becomes less audible. The H100’s portrayal of the upright bass isn’t much better either. In the compilation album The Goat Rodeo Sessions (A highly cool set of songs by Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile), the bass’ timbre is rather awkward and the separation I found to be great on electronic songs was missing. Hopefully T-Peos improves the dynamic driver for future iterations because for other songs, like electronic music that doesn’t involve very low bass, the H100 sounds fantastic. For most other music, it sounds very slightly muddy.
The midrange is my biggest issue with the H100. It just isn’t very “there.” Listening to Hayley Westenra’s Pure, I found a distinct valley in the sound. Her voice was very veiled and distant in comparison to the accompanying instruments, which sounded especially bright. I thought that the album might just be an anomaly, so I Eye Alaska’s Genesis Underground, an overproduced, poppy album. Well, there was a lot of bass…not much midrange. Hmm. This is a bit of a problem; the main reason I gravitate to balanced armatures is for a clear sound. With the veiled midrange, there’s not too much reason to ditch my Turbine Pro, which I feel have both better, more realistic bass and honestly, a better midrange. Maybe the treble’s better…
…nope. One of the other features of the T-Peos tips is a very wide opening. This allows for the treble to shine, if the treble was good. Sadly, I’m not the biggest fan of the H100’s treble. Yes, it extends pretty well, but there’s just too much of it for me, and that’s coming from a Sony SA5000 fan. It’s the combination of excessive treble and slightly muddy treble make for a bad time to my ears. That and the tinge of sibilance leave me with a bad taste in my mouth. In fact, the excessive treble can interfere with vocals at times. A lot of female vocals sound nasal due to the odd emphasis on certain treble frequencies.
Now, this doesn’t seem right. How can an IEM I detest so much get so much attention? Well, one of my hypotheses (and it really is just a hypothesis; I haven’t read a single post in the Head-Fi thread) is that the people that love them so much use aftermarket tips. Since I wasn’t a fan of the treble, I figured that the answer would be to use a tip with a smaller opening.
Naturally, my first choice was Sony hybrid tips. Somehow, the sound got more fatiguing. The grating upper treble was extinguished, but the strange lower treble was emphasized, making all vocals nasal. Okay, so no go on the hybrid tips.
I was recommended to try Ultimate Ears tips, and I happened to find a pair. Those didn’t work for me either. They increased sibilance despite their taming of the treble. I didn’t bother listening to more than one song with these.
I was getting desperate. I tried the MEElectronics double flange tips. They were better than the hybrid tips, but there was still the incredibly annoying nasal quality. Plus, the sound got a little thinner.
I remembered I have some spare Comply TX tips, and those are very well known for reducing treble. Maybe these were my saving grace? They were a little better. Actually, they were the best out of the group. But I was still missing a certain something. Maybe the Comply T…
Ooh, now we’re getting somewhere. Now they sounded much more natural than the stock tips. There’s a bit of a haze though. My last chance was the Comply TS tips, which were my favorite because they have the treble-reducing qualities of other Comply tips, but also increase midrange slightly.
Aaaand with this, I have found my favorite tip for the H100. The treble is reduced just the right amount, the midrange is finally more audible (still recessed, but much less annoying), and the bass happens to be more controlled. I like this a lot. There is a bit of a problem with this though. They’re still not as good as the Turbine Pro in terms of musicalness. They’re technically superior to the Turbines, but…that’s like comparing sedans and choosing the one with a better drag strip time. The H100 is definitely not an analytical IEM, so to me, they lose out because I simply couldn’t find a tip combination that made them sound both as “correct” as possible, while also being as fun as possible.
All in all, the H100 was a bit of a disappointment to me. They try to be a jack of all trades, master of none, but honestly I can’t even say they’re that. They just…aren’t that great. For $170, I expect much more than an IEM with excessive treble, clouded midrange, and slightly muddy bass. There really isn’t much I can say that’s positive about the H100 other than that their box is nice. I sincerely hope T-Peos reads this review and takes my issues into account, because I’m not the only one that’s not happy with the H100.
So this also begs the question, how reliable is hype? With most of the headphones I’ve tried that have been hyped up, like the Audio Technica AD700 and M50 and Panasonic HTF600, I’ve been pretty disappointed. Does this say that hype is a bad thing? Not necessarily. Hype does tend to bring heightened expectations that are impossible to live up to, but there are also times when products live up to the hype to my ears, like the Fostex T50RP. And that’s the main problem. Something can sound good “to my ears” and absolutely horrid to someone else’s ears. When looking to buy a piece of gear, especially if it’s on the pricy side, read as many opinions as possible. Or better yet, try it yourself.
I'll have pictures up on the Headfonics review, so if you could post the link to that on the first page when I get that up, I'd be greatly appreciative!
Impression Set #3: Soundstige
I was very happy to get a spot on the H-100 Tour, and I thank eke for the chance, and all others before and after me for their participation.
Where do I start with the H-100? Beautiful presentation, first of all. The wooden box and fitted packaging give a good sense of quality and intent. The build quality and feel of the H-100 is certainly above average, but I wouldn't quite say top-notch. The cable is a little prone to kinks, and the housings – while very sturdy – unfortunately reminds me of a “stock IEM housing”. The tips included were a good assortment, but as you'll read, ultimately didn't serve their purpose.
But none of that really matters, right? What's really important is the sound. Ha... maybe I should say first that I completely understand how shotgunshane and Ishcabible find the IEM disappointing. My first impressions were, without a doubt, those of disappointment – especially considering the $180 or so price tag. What I did was try my best at looking past the flaws and see what the H-100 had over the competition.
As alluded earlier, I have to tell you that I found all of the silicone tips included to render the H-100 unlistenable. Even with a perfect, deep seal using normally great hybrid-style tips, the treble spike in the H-100 was far too outlandish to let me listen without literal pain. Indeed, the treble spike (at what sounded like around 3-6kHz, no scientific measurements done) is the main flaw of the H-100. It is accentuated by the long, semi-rigid bore of a silicone tip like that included in the package. It gives a very harsh, loudspeaker-in-a-tunnel sound.
So, one of the first things I did was use a pair of Comply T200 foam tips on the H-100. What a difference! The hot treble was still a dominant force, but it was pushed back enough to let me focus on the entire sound signature. It's too bad I don't think the H-100 sound could be tamed any more with tips, because the T200 are the shortest and softest (both aspects taming the treble) tips I know of.
There is a ton of detail in the treble. It's probably a factor of T-Peos trying to make the H-100 as resolving as possible that it has such a strong treble spike. To my ears, there is real detail beneath the exaggeration. However, even with the T200 tips, the treble was still prone to sibilance. Fortunately, it is song-dependent. Many flat- or warm-sounding recordings benefited from the extra detail and brighter signature. Anything hot-sounding, though, was a constant teeter between blissful detail and painful sibilance. A good example of something literally unlistenable still with the T200 is the very first second of the song “Love In An Elevator” by Aerosmith. Any cymbal crashes had the ability to be painful with the H-100. Depending on the music you listen to, this alone could rule them out entirely.
The upper mids were prominent to my ears, around 1-3kHz. The energy bled into the treble, leading to the issues with sibilance. The sub-1kHz mids were another story all together. They sounded completely sucked out. All the energy normally present in tenor voices was gone. Ripping guitar solos were rendered boring. In the strange dichotomy that is the H-100, though, I found that if I focused intensely on the now-distant lower-mids sections of music, I could hear more timbre and detail than in other similar-priced IEMs I've heard. An Etymotic-like level of detail. It seems as though the quality is there – somewhere – but the tuning is way off and the whole lower-mids section is recessed beyond enjoyability.
I've said a lot of negative things about the H-100 so far... let's lighten up with the positives. There's good instrument separation. A hair better than my TDK BA200 in some aspects. It may be an artifact of the treble energy, but I found it easy to pick out the notes of different instruments mixed together. The bass is also a strong performer; it's very tight and fast with a great life-like tone. The actual presence of the bass is what I'd call “normal”. It's not recessed like the mids, nor overbearing like the treble. I also found electronic synthesizers of all things to sound very lifelike (ironic, I know) in a fascinating way, different from how most organic instruments were presented.
Let's make some conclusions from the observations. The combination of tight, fast, high-quality bass, a life-like and fascinating quality to synthetic instruments, and high-energy, shimmering treble only useful when treble is not prominent in the song, all comes together to sound like a recommended usage for electronic music. This is without a doubt the genre I think the H-100 would perform best in. The sad truth is for most rock/metal/jazz music – anything with organic drums and guitar – these are a real disappointment. There are flashes of brilliance in the technical merit of the H-100, but it's all overshadowed by what is either poor tuning or poor development. Can one learn to love the H-100? Absolutely. Treble spikes fade slightly over time with purely mental burn-in, and maybe a filter or resistor can be sourced to tame the treble more, and maybe you only like electronic music. There's just too many faults for a lover of any variety of music to be fully satisfied with their mid-tier $180 purchase. I firmly believe if tuned differently, the H-100 would be a top contender. Until then, its boutique pricing belies its faults.
Oh yeah, I saw a really intuitive way of rating IEMs that's used in a Japanese magazine in another thread, so why not do that here too?
Balance (FR) Deep Bass |---|---|---|---|---|-■-| Mids / Highs Soundstage Deep |---|---|---■---|---|---| Wide Presentation Powerful |---|---|---|---|■--|---| Delicate Rock ★★ Jazz ★★ Classical ★★☆ Club ★★★☆ (Out of 5 stars)
Impression Set #4: MuppetFace
Okay, I'm currently sitting at a cafe having a bite to eat. I figure this would be as good a time as any to talk about this T-Peos H-100.
For those who don't know about this thingamajig, it's a hybrid balanced armature and dynamic ear monitor from S. Korea. There's an appreciation thread here on head-fi with something like 80 pages, and quite a few head-fiers seem to really like them. Quite a few head-fiers seem to *really* like them. Not too surprising honestly as right now hybrid designs are the it-thing of the IEM world, and these have something of that giant-killing heavy hitter vibe about them.
First off, it seems obligatory to mention just how nicely these things are packaged. It surprised me in a pleasant sort of way. You get a substantial wooden box with nice staining, the company's logo engraved on the lid with a rather charming slogan: "The Premium Earphones of Shinwoo." Nice. Open the lid however, and the luxury abruptly stops. Inside there's a plastic insert with the earphones and tips; nothing fancy, but it gets the job done. Also you get a bunch of accessories with these, including a secondary travel pouch, a cleaning brush, and even a tiny carabiner to hook the travel pouch onto your person like a dork boss.
Build quality seems decent. The cable above the y-split is rubber-jacketed, while below it gets the fabric treatment. The plug is straight rather than angled. Overall it reminds me of a cheaper version of the K3003. The earphones themselves don't have much of a strain relief to speak of, though they seem fairly substantial without being too heavy. The construction seems to be metal yet has a somewhat cheap feel to it. There's a splash of color in the form of an accent stripe, and I think this contributes to the "just came out of a plastic capsule vending machine" look:
On the loaner tour pair, there's actually a small spot on the right earpiece where the paint has flaked off (I didn't do it, eke!). The included tips look very similar to Sony's color-coded assortment; I used my own tips however, so I don't have any further comments on those in the package. The fit of the T-Peos didn't give me any issues.
As I indicated in previous posts, I wanted to take my time with the assessment of the way these sound. Essentially I wanted to make sure my ears and brain weren't playing some kind of trick on me, because quite frankly the T-Peos H-100 is rather awful. There's an obi strip type of outer jacket that slides over part of the wooden box, and on it there's a graph with the H-100's supposed frequency response; I halfway wonder if this pair is defective in some way or if the T-Peos folks have abysmal quality control, because I'm definitely not hearing what that graph suggests I should be hearing.
What I am hearing is bad. In fact, upon hearing the H-100 for the first time my initial reaction was to stop about a minute later and remove them from my ears. After the initial shock I tried once again. I lasted maybe five minutes before the overwhelming urge to hurl a brick through the window of T-Peos' office took over, and I could no longer concentrate on the music. So just where does the H-100 go so terribly wrong? More than anything it's the midrange (or lack thereof) that bothers me. Everything sounds recessed as if I have excessive earwax buildup, yet at the same time this distance is coupled with an intensely irksome shouty quality that makes it seem like everyone is talking through a cardboard paper towel roll. There's also a fair amount of treble glare, and in general the treble is very thin and tizzy sounding. This combination is a recipe for trouble: the weak midrange naturally compels me to turn the volume up to compensate, yet this action brings with it more high frequency related pain.
The overall timbre of these has that metallic quality less than stellar balanced armatures often possess. What about the dynamic driver? Frankly, the bass is nothing to write home about (though hopefully you have more to talk to your family about than bass). It's neither overblown nor omnipresent mercifully enough as it would completely overwhelm the timid midrange if there were more of it. In terms of quality, it seems fairly well defined and textured and doesn't sound sluggish. Unfortunately the signature as a whole is V shaped in an obnoxious sort of way.
The only thing "flat" about these earphones to my ears is their presentation. The horizontal field---left and right relative to my head---has some width to it, yet there is next-to-no depth. It's like pressing one's face up against a wall. Or in this case, a small sheet of paper. Everything is diminished in scale, sounding tiny and unconvincing. There's also no inner depth to speak of, and to my ears the H-100 is a decidedly poor performer when it comes to capturing the subtle dynamics present in music.
I spent a few mornings listening to nothing but the H-100. If you spend enough time listening exclusively to something, you acclimate. It started sounding halfway decent to me.
Then I switched to the JVC FXT-80. Reality check: the H-100 just sucks.
Now when I was formulating my opinion of the H-100, I assumed the price was around the 100 USD mark. Perhaps 150 USD at most. When I discovered it was nearly 200 USD? My opinion of it soured even more. There's a lot of stuff out there I'd recommend over these, including the previously mentioned JVCs which can be had for less than half the price of the T-Peos.
Edited by eke2k6 - 3/4/13 at 10:18am