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Why do higher end IEMs have poor build quality?

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

I've read here that a lot of more expensive IEMs have worse build quality than cheaper IEMs. I got my first taste of that with the TDK IE800s, which are built far worse than my Sony MH1Cs even though they cost 5 times more. 

 

I understand that you're supposed to take care of nice IEMs, but even so, a well taken care of well made IEM last longer than a well taken care of poorly made IEM. Plus, when I spend that kind of money, I expect a quality product through and through so that the feel not just the sound justifies the money spent. When you hold, for example, a Leica camera you feel quality, when you close the door of a nice car, the sound and feel says quality, etc. 

 

So why is it that high end IEM manufacturers don't concern themselves much about build quality? The flip side is why do we as consumers tolerate 20 dollar IEM build quality on our 150 dollar plus IEMs? I would think that most of us would be willing to pay a little extra (the MH1Cs are only $30 total) for improved build quality that increases the period of time we can enjoy our great sound quality.


Edited by Stuff Jones - 12/26/12 at 8:22am
post #2 of 18

so what is wrong with the build quality on ie80?

post #3 of 18
Thread Starter 

Very thin chord. Plastic housings with a visible seam. Straight plug that doesn't appear very robust. They look to be worse build quality than both the Mh1C and the Brainwavz M2 that I've owned previously.

post #4 of 18

I don't know. You can't just make the statement "higher end IEMs have poor build quality" based on your experiencie with only 2 or 3 IEMs.

 

Anyway, in this particular case, I guess it's because TDK sacrifices a little bit of build quality in its IEMs in order to have a more competive price. If Sennheiser or Shure made an IEM that sounded similar to the IE800, it would probably have a nicer build quiality, but also it would cost over $400 for sure.

 

Just my 2 cents.

post #5 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fernito View Post

I don't know. You can't just make the statement "higher end IEMs have poor build quality" based on your experiencie with only 2 or 3 IEMs.

 

Anyway, in this particular case, I guess it's because TDK sacrifices a little bit of build quality in its IEMs in order to have a more competive price. If Sennheiser or Shure made an IEM that sounded similar to the IE800, it would probably have a nicer build quiality, but also it would cost over $400 for sure.

 

Just my 2 cents.

 

Fair point, I am probably over-generalizing. ClieOS however warned me not to expect great build quality on a high end IEM, so I thought this was something pretty common. Plus I've read reviews of a number of more expensive IEMs that get poor scores on build quality.


Edited by Stuff Jones - 12/26/12 at 9:12am
post #6 of 18
This thread discusses build quality and perception as one and the same. Whether something is well built may be known out of the box or a few months down the line when it falls apart in your hands.

Conversely people cannot confuse actual build quality with their perception. Take the example of 'thin cables' automatically labelled as bad. I would take the westone and pfe cable every single day of the week over the reassuring thick shure cable. They may be thin but that means they are more portable, flexible and without perceptible microphonics. They have not snapped in half before so in my experience cables being "thin" is not the negative others assume it to be. Where cables are most likely to fail is at the connection points due to poor strain relief and build but this is less of a concern with the prevalence of modern replaceable cables
post #7 of 18

I think it has more to do with use than build quality. With a home setup, you pretty much just use the stuff in the comfort of your own home. Never wrapping it around your mp3 player, putting it in your pocket, exposing it to cold temperatures, abnormal humidity, etc. None of these habits are good, but undeniably happen with many users. I think IEMS are generally treated differently than full sized cans which would be the main reason for their perceived poor build quality, but that's just my opinion.

post #8 of 18

There's probably something to be said about R&D budgets, volume production, etc. 

 

Something like the MH1C, while relatively cheap to manufacture on a per unit cost, likely eclipses many higher end IEMs in this regard.  IIRC it's the default unit shipped with Sony's higher end DAPs.  


Edited by bobeau - 12/27/12 at 8:49am
post #9 of 18
Is Because 80% Go to driver left 20% 10% to Cable left 10% for casing and others so don't complaint if u want good sound and good build IEM remember nothing is perfect in this world even Humans
post #10 of 18

What.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jrwong28 View Post

Is Because 80% Go to driver left 20% 10% to Cable left 10% for casing and others so don't complaint if u want good sound and good build IEM remember nothing is perfect in this world even Humans
post #11 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by LFC_SL View Post

This thread discusses build quality and perception as one and the same. Whether something is well built may be known out of the box or a few months down the line when it falls apart in your hands.
Conversely people cannot confuse actual build quality with their perception. Take the example of 'thin cables' automatically labelled as bad. I would take the westone and pfe cable every single day of the week over the reassuring thick shure cable. They may be thin but that means they are more portable, flexible and without perceptible microphonics. They have not snapped in half before so in my experience cables being "thin" is not the negative others assume it to be. Where cables are most likely to fail is at the connection points due to poor strain relief and build but this is less of a concern with the prevalence of modern replaceable cables

 

The PFE cable is Kevlar reenforced while the Westone Cable is basically like 2 cables wrapped in a strong double-helix shape.  Of course you'd prefer it over the rest.  Materials matter as well as thickness.  I would take a thicker rubber cable over a thin rubber cable any day (straight PVC).  

 

To answer the OP, not all high-end headphones are done with poor build quality.  The lesser-known bang for the buck companies will have poorer build in general.  Ultimate Ears, Westone, Phonak, Denon, even Heir Audio and Aurisonics all have respectable build quality in their headphones.  

post #12 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by tinyman392 View Post

 

To answer the OP, not all high-end headphones are done with poor build quality.  The lesser-known bang for the buck companies will have poorer build in general. 

 

Right, but I think that's what the OP was getting at, value high-end can apear to be of poorer build than a commodity item at 1/10th the cost.  The main reason is marginal cost to make something more robust is much higher for something of lower volume production.  It's an issue of scale of manufacturing and up front R&D expenditure vs. per unit cost.

post #13 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by tinyman392 View Post

The PFE cable is Kevlar reenforced while the Westone Cable is basically like 2 cables wrapped in a strong double-helix shape.  Of course you'd prefer it over the rest.  Materials matter as well as thickness.  I would take a thicker rubber cable over a thin rubber cable any day (straight PVC).  

 

You are preaching to the converted however my point about people confusing their perception with reality remains valid. Nothing is 100% perfect and in any consumer product you are bound to have a customer with an imperfect experience. But posts based on nothing more than a Google image browse such as "the PFE 232 has poor quality because it is made out of plastic and the cables are thin" exist on this site. It raises a side point as to whether manufacturers should use artificial measures for the sake of consumer perception. If we use a working example there is no real real why properly made housing in plastic vs metal should be any different in real world durability. One also has to be aware with it being the internet people are motivated to express negative experiences more so than they are for positive experiences. 

post #14 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bobeau View Post

 

Right, but I think that's what the OP was getting at, value high-end can apear to be of poorer build than a commodity item at 1/10th the cost.  The main reason is marginal cost to make something more robust is much higher for something of lower volume production.  It's an issue of scale of manufacturing and up front R&D expenditure vs. per unit cost.

 

This is interesting and would seem to apply to cars as well - a Toyota is probably more reliable than a Ferrari. On the other hand you have something like a Leica where an expensive high quality, limited quantity product is known to be very durable...

 

I wonder if more expensive products being less durable is also because people who go for premium products obviously have some disposable income and make purchase decisions more based on the immediate payoff in pleasure as opposed to the long term financial advantage and utility that a more reliable product brings. Someone buying a Toyota Corolla is probably much more likely to care about the car lasting 10 years with low repair cost than someone buying a Ferrari. And of course the Ferrari owner is much more interest in the performance and luxury of the car rather than its durability and so when shopping for a car compares products at a similar price range based on those characteristics. Likewise most higher end IEM consumers look chiefly for sound quality when comparing similar priced units and so manufacturers don't really have the incentive to add cost by adding durability. 

post #15 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stuff Jones View Post

 

This is interesting and would seem to apply to cars as well - a Toyota is probably more reliable than a Ferrari. On the other hand you have something like a Leica where an expensive high quality, limited quantity product is known to be very durable...

 

I wonder if more expensive products being less durable is also because people who go for premium products obviously have some disposable income and make purchase decisions more based on the immediate payoff in pleasure as opposed to the long term financial advantage and utility that a more reliable product brings. Someone buying a Toyota Corolla is probably much more likely to care about the car lasting 10 years with low repair cost than someone buying a Ferrari. And of course the Ferrari owner is much more interest in the performance and luxury of the car rather than its durability and so when shopping for a car compares products at a similar price range based on those characteristics. Likewise most higher end IEM consumers look chiefly for sound quality when comparing similar priced units and so manufacturers don't really have the incentive to add cost by adding durability. 

I havn't seen a Ferrari break down in the middle of the road... have you? I highly doubt a Toyota is more reliable than a Ferrari, the engineers take extreme care in assembling a Ferrari, same can't be said for a Toyota...

 

Also one would expect a Ferrari to last well over 10 years, vintage Ferrari cars costs a fortune, whereas Toyota cars tend to be turned into scrap metal.

 

Have you considered that the plastic casing is required? If you replace the W4 with a metal casing will definitely cause strong resonances, without the plastic dampening the reflected waves, it will be a nightmare to work with. Since you can't fit the contents of the W4 into MH1c, and you can't just fill the casing of the W4 solid, there is not much you can do to make it feel more durable.

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