This is my first review of my first two IEMs. My experience is very limited, but I have good ears and will be expanding my palette as time passes.
I'm getting ready to jump into higher end gear soon and would appreciate any feedback you have on my review or of equipment I might enjoy based on my tastes.
Out of the box, these seem a bit cheap, because they were. I picked them up for about $75 USD at a local store. They come with several tips, none of which fit my large canals very well. The closest fit for me are the two-flanged rubber guys. The rest are cheap foam that is hard and painful to wear. The foam comes right off of the little tube in the center - these tips are really useless. No case, either.
The headphones are lightweight, but they aren't really long enough for my taste. I had a hard time getting a seal initially, but I can do it with the dual-flanged tips and by turning them upside down so that the wire doesn't jam into my ear lobe. Generally, these are pretty uncomfortable. Again, they feel cheap but have held together for the 4 months I've had them.
Compared to the Hf5's, the overall sound is much less pleasant. Generally, they are much less analytical and the sound stage is very narrow.
Specifically, the lows are overpowering in terms of volume, which creates an imbalance that isn't compensated elsewhere. The lows, although loud, lack depth and feel flat and papery. The grip is good. In some cases, the emphasis on the bass is OK - such as in hip hop or rap music. Otherwise, it's very distracting. I can't hear ANY reverb in any range through the igi's.
Likewise, the highs are a bit harsh, shrilly, and bright. Despite this, they don't come through as clear or airy. Again, there is no balance with the mid range. The definition of the highs is pretty good, though.
The mids are congested and closed. What does come through is overpowered by the highs and lows. None of my music with vocals sounds very good through these, which is disappointing because otherwise, these headphones actually work pretty well for rap and hip hop.
Overall, I'd only recommend these for hip hop and rap music. But, plan to replace the tips immediately.
Etymotic Research Hf5
The Hf5's have been my go-to IEMs for about 3 years. Overall, they sound pretty good but I have had 3 pair break on me. The first two were replaced under warranty, but after the 2 year period, Etymotic requires that I ship them the broken pair and $90 to replace them, which I have not done. All of them have broken in the same spot, with a faulty connection to the left speaker. I do not tug on the wires and I treat them nicely, so I'm disappointed that they've broken again and again.
However, I have many great things to say about the sound of the Hf5s.
Overall, these are much more analytical than the igi's. The sound stage is much wider and the overall feel is airy and clear. The balance is much further to the highs than the lows, which is great for hearing the cymbals (my favorite instruments) but does create a moderate imbalance. I really enjoy the detail these headphones provide, but I feel that there is room for improvement in depth and body, leaving them a bit thin.
The highs are clear and crisp, but not harsh. For me, the highs and upper mids are the highlight of the Hf5s. If there is any reverb on the vocals or drums, you it will be very pronounced. It's all about clarity and definition, which I really enjoy.
The middle range is also analytical and clear. The excellent transience is a special treat for me because I can hear the precision of the musician's I listen to.
The lows are very full and warm, but the range seems a bit narrow. I really like the detail of the lows combined with the warmth, and how the lows are not overpowering (which is all too common). They don't feel punchy but rather smooth and even airy.
For the price, I'd say these are great and well worth the money. They sound great with my favorite style of music, jazz fusion. However, I suspect that many listeners will crave punchier and louder lows.
Again, I'm getting ready to step up my gear and get another pair of IEMs, so any suggestions would be appreciated. Also, I'd like to know if there is anything I can do to improve my review here.