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[W/ PICS] Basshead Budget-fi Headphones Comparative Test, with Comparison to Expensive Audiophile...

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Thread Starter 

_UPDATES and GOODBYE TO IN-EARS_:

 

[2014/03/24]

Owing to Hawaiibadboy's gift of persuasion and impeccable legitimacy--in a world of wine-tasting bullsh!ttery--only this month did I discover that there exist full size headphones that can fulfill my insane bass cravings. It was my fault for listening to basshead recommendations in a place that takes its name from high fidelity ("head-fi," "hi-fi"), that it took me years of disappointment and hundreds of wasted dollars before I was convinced that there was nothing that could hit the low frequencies harder than my trusty Sennheiser CX500 in-ears (now discontinued). I was under the assumption that low frequency reproduction was beyond the capabilities of full size cans powered by a portable source, and that only in-ear technology had the efficiency to drive bass with very little power. I proved that assumption wrong in two ways: first, some hi-fi full size headphones such as the Sennheiser HD598, HD555, and Grado SR60 don't even require high voltage with average impedance, they simply could not drive low frequencies to non-laughable levels before distorting; second, that it is possible to reproduce that experience I had as a child in my uncle's SPL competition car system with the JVC HA-MR77X. Full size headphones can approximate the full body bone conduction of a loud speaker system, sending vibrations throughout the skull and felt across your face. While in-ears could deliver bass beyond my loudness threshold, the experience is almost purely auditory, and as such does not capture the complexity of basshead synaesthesia. I am awaiting my new JVC HA-SZ2000, which I imported from Japan for $260 and would be my biggest investment in headphones yet. This thread is officially obsolete.

 

[2013/01/19]

Previous update was more than a year ago. Reduced rambling ("passionate") impressions to straightforward pass/fail appraisals.

 

 

_Target Audience_:

 

Whenever a new head-fi member asks for headphones that can give "the most amount of quality bass," the poor inquirer becomes prey to audiophile recommendations that completely sidestep the demand at hand. While such feedback might be well-intentioned and could introduce the listener to a world of high-fidelity that she never thought she would've wanted, I say just give her the bass she wants. Tons of it. (You'll often see HiFiMan RE0 being solicited for bass, and just as frequently regretful threads are started because of it.) This compromise from the initial criterion is a "weighting mistake" prevalent in decision-making. This thread is strictly for bassheads who wish to live the car audio enthusiast's dream in their heads without the cops tapping to the beat on your window.

 

 

_The High Fidelity Contradiction_:

 

Audiophile headphones are associated with a flat frequency response to reproduce the original signal as accurately as possible, so headphones that emphasize the lower frequencies are, by definition, not hi-fi--and are usually (in my experience) not very welcome here. However, headphone frequency response is trivial to shape with the use of a digital/analog equalizer, and thus a flat frequency response is not worth putting a premium to me. To me, the most important definition of high fidelity is the lack of distortion. And this is what boggles me, because all of the hi-fi headphones that I've tried distort low frequencies at normal rock concert levels. Given that most modern music is bass-driven, and that our generation is used to listening loud, there is no reason for hi-fi headphones to be considered hi-fi when they perform so poorly in the reproduction of low frequencies at high intensities.

 

 

_Personal Music Preferences_:

 

Most people are slaves to what they unknowingly internalize as "original," "authoritative," "canonical." They grow a system of beliefs based on unchecked foundations, and within the hi-fi community, one such foundation is that there IS an "original" recording of music that needs to be reproduced accurately. Digital/analog filters as simple as an equalizer are generally considered taboo that you see veteran head-fi members prefacing a review to justify/apologize for their use of an equalizer. But most music in the industry are in fact mixed in the studio for optimal reproduction with particular categories of sound systems. This optimization ensures that the music would sound its best to as many of the target audience as possible. Since most domestic hi-fi systems notoriously roll off the bass at around 80Hz, mastering studios bump the bass a bit higher than that, which really sucks if your preferred bass kick is a deep 25Hz.

 

I listen to everything, and that means most of the music I listen to are bass-driven. I'm currently exploring the world of Denpa music (anisong, chiptune, the Akihabara musical), but a lifelong passion for metal has given me encyclopædic knowledge of the genre. I have particular fondness with double pedal drumming, and listening to explosive bass kicks at 300bpm is a transcendental routine, like laying flat on your back in cold mud as a stampede of hooves cave your face in. The problem is that not all bass kicks are recorded equal, with so many old music recorded before subwoofers became a norm. Modern metal and rock bands now follow a decent industry standard for bass kicks, a standard achieved only by a few albums in the early '90s such as Judas Priest's Painkiller, Blind Guardian's Imaginations from the Other Side and Metallica albums (Flemming Rasmussen), Nightwish's Oceanborn and Stratovarius albums (Finnvox studios), and so on. Kvltist black metal albums flaunt dismal production as a mark of authenticity; Emperor's In the Nightside Eclipse, while decently produced compared to its ilk, is still bass-shy.

 

 

_Post-Processing Filters and Equipment_:

 

To promote equality among the low frequencies of history, I use layers of post-processing filters. Imagine the sound of this bass, playing three hundred times per minute in a death metal track. It's like plunging deep into the earth only to find you're ascending to the other side.

 

My main portable player used to be a Cowon iAudio U3, and I loved the "Mach3Bass" effect that was also in the JetAudio player for PC. Since Cowon released JetAudio for Android, I just use an old LG P500 smartphone modded with Cyanogenmod 10 (Android operating system). Cyanogenmod has a built-in DSP Manager, and it is the most insane bass booster I know of. DSP Manager working together with JetAudio is my ideal setup. After looking so hard for a similar set-up with Windows, as DSP Manager is only for Android, I found the closest thing in Windows to DSP Manager: The built-in audio enhancements of Windows Vista, 7, and 8, together with Equalizer APO.

 

DSP Manager utilizes the built-in sound modules in Cyanogenmod, and Equalizer APO does the same in Windows. To enable the "bass boost" setting in Windows, watch but don't follow this video. In that video, ignore everything except the "bass boost" setting. My preferred setting is a 50Hz bump of 18dB. Next, my Equalizer APO settings for the JVC HA-MR77X is as follows:

 

Filter 1: ON PEQ Fc 25,0 Hz Gain 15,0 dB Q 1,000
Filter 2: ON PEQ Fc 3000,0 Hz Gain 5,0 dB Q 1,000

 

Filter 1 bumps up at 25 Hz with a wide curve. This is my preferred depth of kick, up to 50 Hz. Any lower, it sounds weak. Any higher it sounds bloated. Filter 2 compensates for the HA-MR77X's recessed midrange, and it does this decently.

 

Finally, I use a Fiio E5 with bass boost on.

 

 

_Headphones list_:

 

  • Sennheiser CX300 (genuine, $20 sold by Amazon.com, not marketplace)
  • Philips SHE3580 ($7 from ebay)
  • Sennheiser CX485 for small ears ($20 sold by Newegg.com; not related to CX400)
  • Grado SR60 ($50 sold by Amazon.com)
  • Sony MH1 ($25 from ebay)
  • Sony MH1-C ($28 from ebay)
  • Soundmagic E10 ($35 sold by Amazon.com)
  • JVC HA-FX101 ($15 sold by Amazon.com)
  • Sennheiser CX870 (genuine, $30 sold by JR.com)
  • Sennheiser CXL400 (genuine, $20 sold by Newegg.com; CX400 with lanyard/neck cable)
  • Sennheiser HD555 (borrowed from an audiophile engineer)
  • Sennheiser HD598 (borrowed)
  • HiFiMan RE0 (borrowed)
  • Audio-Technica ATH-EM9r (borrowed)
  • Fake Sennheiser IE8 ($27 from aliexpress.com)
  • Luda SL99 ($49.90 from staples) (I bought this because the only other basshead I seem to get along with in head-fi and many reviews at bestbuy.com swore that it is better than the Klipsch S4.)
  • Klipsch S4 (genuine, $42 sold by Amazon.com)
  • Creative EP-630i (genuine, $15 sold by Amazon.com)
  • Sennheiser CX400 (genuine by comparison to my authentic CXL400, $20 sold in Amazon Japan through Tenso)
  • Sennheiser CX500 (genuine by comparison to my authentic CXL400, $35 sold in Amazon Japan through Tenso)
  • JVC HA-RX500 ($12, sold by Amazon.com)
  • Sennheiser HD439 (genuine, $50 sold by VMInnovations.com)
  • Sony XB400 (genuine, $40 sold by Groupon.com)
  • JVC HA-MR77X (genuine, $60 sold by Adorama through ebay)
  • JVC HA-SZ2000 (genuine, $260 sold by Amazon Japan shipped through Tenso)

 

 

_Old Equipment_:

 

The following setup gives me a much better sound than my Cowon iAudio U3:

  • Phone and OS: LG P500 with Cyanogenmod 10 using DSP Manager (from Cyanogenmod) with Bass Boost set to extreme, Loudness Compensation set to strongest, and Equalizer set to Rock
  • Media Player: JetAudio for Android with X-Bass set to 100 and Equalizer set to Heavy Metal 2 X2 and volume at half.
  • Amplifier: Fiio E5 portable amp with bass boost turned on and volume at maximum.
  • 3.5mm Y stereo adapter for simultaneous comparison.

 

 

 

_Old Simple Test_:

 

Can the headphones drive lower frequencies up to my loudness threshold without distortion?

 

EDIT: I deleted some unnecessary ramblings and dashed my hit "beatboxing" bass description. Basically, the "TUUD" timbre represents the perfect 20-50Hz thud, "TOUG" is around 80-100Hz, and so on. However, experiencing the JVC HA-MR77X gave me an idea how English acquired the word "BOOM."

 

The first thing I look for in headphones is their ability to drive lower frequencies up to my loudness threshold without distortion and with minimal muddiness. A significant determinant includes the timbre of the bass, which I will efficiently communicate through onomatopoeia (the acoustic significance of this linguistic phenomenon is demonstrated by beatboxing). The timbre should be deep and full, like an explosion contained in an instant ("TUUD"), and it should not sound bloated from a boosted midtohigh-bass ("TOUG"). Once this requirement is passed, I proceed to judge the rest. You'll be surprised how HYPED HEADPHONES IN THIS WEBSITE FAILED THIS SIMPLE TEST. (LOL at this)

 

Some test music:

 

Double pedals:

 

 

Depth:

 

 

 

_Result_:

 

I PUT TONS OF DETAILED, RAW PICTURES BECAUSE A LOT OF PEOPLE CLAIM SO MUCH BS ABOUT OWNERSHIP AND CLAIM CREDIBILITY IN COMPARISONS

 

 

 

Sennheiser CX300 (genuine, $20 sold by Amazon.com, not marketplace; discontinued, but rebranded alternative by Creative available)

 

PASSED

Bass timbre: "TUUD"

Recommended.

 

The headphones I measure others by. Bass check: Deep? Deep. Punchy? Punchy. Booms when necessary? Booms wh-- Fast bass reflex for double pedals? Real fa-- Great! How about everything else? I can transcribe music by ear with this, no problem! Awesome, yeah!

 

What others call "a small soundstage" may mean "an immersive, intimate relationship with the music" to me. "Boomy" bass? What bass does not explode why would you want the sound of someone kicking a flat tire? The CX300 bass can boom and still stay tight (I noticed that most earbuds without vents are prone to boom). Muddy? My ears are more sensitive to the mid and high frequencies, so if I don't turn the mids relatively lower with an equalizer I would be overwhelmed. These are the main complaints about the CX300 that I've read, but since the CX300 is my first IEM experience, I love it unconditionally the way it is.

 

The CX300 pictured is my third pair, but that does not mean it is not durable. I'm just clumsy and I clumsily offered my first pair to the sewer while crossing the street. My second pair is missing, and this third is supposedly a backup. I gave it to my mom some time ago and she recently broke the wire. In the picture, the cord near the plug is broken.

 

 

 

Philips SHE3580 ($7 from ebay)

 

FAILED.

Bass timbre: "Tud"

Not recommended.

 

While the bass in here is disappointingly weak, it's still stronger than the HiFiMan RE0 (unfair comparison I know). The rest sounds lacking. While I got it for $7 open box, retail costs almost the same as the JVC HA-FX101 so get that instead.

 

 

 

Sennheiser CX485 for small ears ($20 sold by Newegg.com; not related to CX400)

 

PASSED

Bass timbre: "TUUD"

Not recommended.

 

While the bass has the same tonal quality as the CX300 and CXL400 ("TUUD" seems to be the Sennheiser "signature sound/color"), it is noticeably lacking in magnitude and size compared to the CX300. It has the same size inner tube as the CX300 and CXL400 but it has smaller buds which I now use with my CXL400, and it feels smaller and more comfortable due to the vents that equalize pressure and the extended body that rests above the earlobe to reduce tension in the canal.

 

 

 

Grado SR60 ($50 sold by Amazon.com; discontinued)

 

FAILED.

Bass timbre: "Tuhd"

Not recommended.

 

I got this before my IEM experience. Head-fi used to be about Grado SR60 vs Sennheiser PX100. I got both, and PX100 has better bass. SR60 is more comfortable though. Both the SR60 and the PX100 are leagues below the CX300 bass-wise (just look at the graphs at headroom). I still use this since IEM’s are just plain uncomfortable. The SR60 can also stand the tortures of time and transport, having survived several move-ins. I also once tripped from the wire, which is a very long 6 feet, and bent the 3.5mm plug. Still works.

 

 

 

Sony MH1 ($25 from ebay)

 

FAILED.

Bass timbre: "tUud"

Not recommended. Works for Black Metal, but not recommended for bassheads in general.

 

Perceived through my bass bias, the MH1 sounds balanced--and by balanced I mean it lacks bass. The bass quality is very similar to the Sennheiser's but lower in magnitude than the already bass-shy CX485. The soundstage--which I can describe as the perceived proprioception and separation of sources of sound--feels cozy. I'm not one to use a subjective adjective one sees in wine tasting reviews, but I didn't quite care about soundstage before since I sometimes use the Wide setting in Jetaudio or Crossfeed in RockBox when I felt like it until I went to head-fi and self-proclaimed audiophiles kept pointing at it. If you like that cozy sound with that hint of walnut afterthought, good for you. One extremely weird thing about the bass: in volumes just before it cracks, it echoes for a splitsecond. I don't know if the high pressure from the tight seal is causing that. As I shared above, I call BS on anyone mentioning the "veil" on the Sennheiser CX series; strangely enough, I am inclined to use that word on the MH1: the mids and highs are noticeably recessed compared to the Sennheisers. [I was listening to a track with a heavy bass guitar amplified over the vocals so I thought it was muddy. The CX870 behaved the same way.]

 

I am updating this review upon listening to Black Metal with the JVC HA-FX101. Many have reacted against my recommendation of the FX101, calling out on its sibilance problem. I have trained myself to like amplified high frequencies after getting the sibilant Sennheiser CX870, so the FX101 sounded "normal" to me. However, when I tried listening to Black Metal music after a long while--using the FX101--I felt massively violated. The grating high frequencies reminded me of the first time I tried listening to Death Metal LOL I had to exorcise the FX101 out of my ears. I don't know if, like my experience with Death Metal where I eventually learned to appreciate its harsh, Hellish environment, that I would soon get used to such noise coming out of the FX101.

 

And then I tried the MH1 with Black Metal. It was like the MH1 invited Satan to a book reading party and sat him the **** down to chill around a hearth on a winter's night. I never listened to Black Metal with such "warmth", so mellow and relaxing, taming the chaos of noise Black Metal aggressively flaunts its enemies. Of course this experience/illusion of "clarity" and "detail" is but interesting to me--Black Metal isn't supposed to be tamed: it should inhabit the territory of social discomfort (I'm not quite comfortable with noisecore yet). Now, when I listen to X Japan--where the main focus is, apart from the visuals/visual hallucinations (thus "Visual Kei"), is Yoshiki's godly histrionic metal drumming--MH1 fails to satisfy a stadium full of schoolgirls screaming Yoshiki's name. The bass simply just can't be driven up to the satisfactory level I require.

 

After further listening and comparing I am loving the MH1. It does have that "open"/"clairvoyant" sound to it that is very evident in many songs I've tried so far, as compared to my other headphones. I also love how the earbuds feel in my ears. In most songs, and when I'm not in an extreme mood for bass, I prefer using the MH1 as it can go loud enough for normal listening.

 

After much further listening, I am loving the deep, deep bass sound of the MH1. As I emphasized many times above, the bass in this can't be driven to party loud levels. I compared it again with the rest and the deep MH1 bass makes the CX300 bass seem "bloated", just as the SL99 bass sounds bloated compared to the CX300. I am changing the timbre for the MH1 from "tuud" to "tUud" to express a descent from "U" to "u" which makes it sound deeper. In defense of the CX300, it can drive the sub-bass with the same clarity as the MH1 but also at higher intensities.

 

Anyway, I thought the phone compatibility was due to an extra wire so I assumed it'd worked normally when plugged in any stereo jack. It turned out that the positive, negative, and ground wires were configured differently, so you will need an adaptor for this to work on mp3 players. It works normally if you hold the middle button. I mistakenly bought the MH1 first, and, after seeing that the frequency response graph of the MH1-C looked more bass-oriented than the MH1 (as measured and compared by Rin Choi), I relented and got both. They sound exactly the same. Great fitting earbuds; fits deepest than others I’ve owned. The MH1 has a different filter over the opening than MH1-C, and it also has the Sony Ericsson logo (see picture).

 

 

 

Sony MH1-C ($28 from ebay)

 

FAILED.

Bass timbre: "tUud"

Not recommended. Works for Black Metal, but not recommended for bassheads in general.

 

Sounds exactly the same as MH1. I actually like the cable; I think the flat cable design is currently the best solution for tangled cords. The cable might be heavier than standard but because of the wonderful fit of the earbuds it doesn’t weigh the headphones down.

 

 

 

Soundmagic E10 ($35 sold by Amazon.com)

 

FAILED because the bass didn't sound like bass to me even if it can drive that ... that sound loud

Bass timbre: "PFDT"

Not recommended.

 

This is the biggest disappointment in the list. Honestly, I stumbled upon a review recommending the E10 from a feedback left by an angry customer who got a fake Sennheiser IE8. The customer was saying (in Chinese) something like "THE E10 HAS MORE BASS THAN THIS ****." The E10 does have bass. Lots of it. It can even drive it to the maximum. But it's more like "bass". It has an airy and artificial quality to it that can only be efficiently communicated by the word "PFDT". Perhaps the small hole under the inner tube (see picture) and another hole beside the wire are one vent too many. There is also that boosted midtohigh-bass, which is absent in the Sennheisers, that seems to cater to some bassheads. If that is the sound you want, fine.

 

 

 

JVC HA-FX101 ($15 sold by Amazon.com)

 

PASSED barely near my loudness threshold, but failed to sustain the tonal quality of the bass at higher volumes

Bass timbre: "TUUD" and then "TUHD" at higher volume than normal.

Highly recommended. But check the older FX1X first.

 

Wow. If I were really on a budget I'd get this. I needed a can opener just to open the packaging, which I was happy to do because the packaging for my other headphones were either non-existent or not very tamper-resistant. The bass is loud. And actually sounds almost similar to the CXL400 (the champion of my list). Definitely bigger and deeper and louder than the CX300 bass. Except when you turn the volume up any louder than normal the deep “TUUD” bass sound becomes “TUHD”. The striking XX logo carved at the back covers a vent, and when the vent is blocked (by long hair for example) the bass cracks. The fit of this is similar to the CX870, with the angled tubes. I actually had my ear impressions and this angled design is accurate to the shape of my ears. I recommend the FX101 for normal listening. By normal I mean NOT ME LOL

 

I am updating this review to confirm the sibilance problem of the FX101, which only presented itself to me while playing Black Metal music. Please see the updated review of the Sony MH1 for details.

 

NEW EDIT: There are reports that the older FX1X is much better than the FX101. Also, as a recent fan of JVC, I am highly recommending their XX brand of products. But I'm still weary of the durability, since my JVC HA-RX500 died within a year, though those cost $12.

 

 

 

Sennheiser CX870 (genuine, $30 sold by JR.com)

 

PASSED

Bass timbre: "TUUD"

Recommended with bass boost (see my setup) but not recommended at normal price.

 

Discontinued but amazon.co.uk still sells them for US$91.05. Authorized seller JR.com currently has them on sale for $33. I was disappointed at first because it has slightly less bass than the CXL400, and I was hoping that it was going to be a significant upgrade after a long break of not using IEM's due to the pleasure of music diminishing below the pain of discomfort. Confirming the rumored sibilance problem in the reviews made it worse. I felt cheated. I regretted every decision I've made up to that point in my life except all decisions prior to me making that purchase. The next stage in coping with the death of a dream is denial. I told myself, no, it can't be. Just look at the model number: it's higher! So then I went (more) nuts, put on sunglasses and said "MAXIMUM THE BASS." This is how I got my test parameters.

 

After using my maximum bass setup I got the CX870 to sound as good as the CXL400. Although of course when I used the CXL400 in that setup I-- wait for it. About the sibilance, apparently it was a matter of getting used to (breaking-in, i.e. neuroplasticity of the corticofugal network in the auditory cortex, where persistent sound is memorized as a pattern where new sound would be compared). The best thing about the CX870 is the fit. I have unusually small ears, like, underdeveloped. So I had to stop using IEM’s for a long while. The CX870 has a smaller tube and earbuds than the CX485 supposedly for small ears. My ears no longer ache and I can listen for hours. I can also use the CX870 for my laptop because the CXL400 has like 6 inches of cable lol LITERALLY.

 

 

 

Sennheiser CXL400 (genuine, $20 sold by Newegg.com; CX400 with lanyard/neck cable)

 

PASSED

Bass timbre: "TUUD"

Recommended above all else.

 

The CXL400 completely destroys the CX300 bass-wise, and the former also makes the latter sound "muddy" with its higher clarity and more open soundstage (although both headphones still have a superstereo soundstage compared to the Sony MH1). The CXL400 is the top of my list. Discontinued but you can still find this on ebay for $50. I doubt you can counterfeit this easily since the craftsmanship is quite delicate, especially the threaded part of the cord. The bass is the best. It’s big. Deep. And the vibrant details are not muted while the bass is pounding. Double pedal? You can distinguish each full thump. Highs? When the Tölzer Knabenchor little boys choir are singing I feel like they’re singing to me and I’m Jesus. Details? You can hear the slightest friction between the pick and the guitar string much like violin rosin touching the bow. You will go deaf before you can figure out at what volume it cracks. Its smallest pair of stock earbuds were still too big for my ears so I had to find much smaller ones.

 

EDIT: I bought the CX500 and confirmed that it's just the CX400 with mic.

 

 

 

Sennheiser HD555 (borrowed from an audiophile)

 

FAILED at normal volume.

Bass timbre: "KRRRK$K%"

Not recommended for me I mean if I were to recommend myself a headphone I won't recommend this to me.

 

Perhaps if I were listening to the sound waves emitted by distant stars I would need something accurate and without the lower frequency alien grunts amplified to the terror of the whole Jet Propulsion Laboratory. But I want those lower frequencies amplified. I want each bass kick to sound like an explosion. The HD555 cracked when put to the bass test. Since it’s an open air headphone, my cousin heard it crack as well. Also, the HD555 feels like it’s squeezing my head. What I love about the Grado SR60 even today is that I can loosen the metal a bit around my gigantic hydrocephalic head.

 

 

 

Sennheiser HD598 (borrowed)

 

FAILED at normal volume.

Bass timbre: "KRRkkk"

Not recommended for bassheads.

 

I can’t discern the difference between this and the HD555?

 

EDIT: Apparently, I was right: The HD598 and HD555 share the same drivers.

 

 

 

HiFiMan RE0 (borrowed)

 

FAILED; never cracked but the magnitude and size and tone of the bass seemed like the moment you realize you need to wear hearing aids from now on.

Bass timbre: "tuh"

Not recommended for bassheads.

 

The quietest bass in the bunch. If I didn’t know it was famous and somewhat pricey I would’ve disregarded it entirely. The bass is a whisper.

 

 

 

Audio-Technica ATH-EM9r (borrowed)

 

FAILED at normal volume.

Bass timbre: "HA ha"

Not recommended for bassheads.

 

The hinges look like they go in the ear, but they’re just hinges for the mini folded speakers. You hang the speaker over your ear with a clip. They cracked during the test at normal volume.

 

 

 

Fake Sennheiser IE8 ($27 from aliexpress.com)

 

FAILED at higher volumes, but passed up to near my loudness threshold.

Bass timbre: "TUUD"

Recommended for normal listeners.

 

If I had $400 I'd get the Sennheiser IE80. I recently got my fake IE8 (I bought them knowing they're fake) and I was pleasantly surprised how genuine they look when put to the authenticity test (especially the red wires and the functioning bass dial). Even the sound signature is spot-on. They sound close to my authentic Sennheisers, but not quite at the dangerous volumes I normally listen to. They could've fooled me for sure.

 

 

 

SL99 by Ludacris ($49.90 from staples)

 

PASSED beyond loudness threshold.

Bass timbre: "TOUG"

Recommended for some bassheads who like that bass sound.

 

Before I added the SL99 to this list, I concluded that the Klipsch S4 is number one on my to-buy list. Since I love challenging convenient notions such as that celebrity endorsed products are bound to be poor, and due to the raving reviews at bestbuy.com swearing that they're better than the Klipsch S4, I decided to keep an eye on the SL99. Suddenly, the SL99 was put on clearance for half the price so I bit. I also love Ludacris.

 

The timbre of the bass is not deep at all. While the top of my list, the CXL400, sounds like a large, deep "TUUD", the SL99 sounds like "TOUG". The "TUUD" sound is a controlled low frequency response that is maintained at higher intensities, while the "TOUG" sound is a bloated midtohigh-bass. It is however capable of driving that bass sound beyond my loudness threshold. But I don't really like that bass tone quality. And I agree that the SL99 keeps the mid and high frequency details intact just like the CX400.

The WORST thing about the SL99 surprised me: The metal mesh that covers the tube came off easily! You'd think it was built like a full metal weapon of war but no; I simply tried changing the buds from medium to small--WHICH WAS HARD TO DO BECAUSE THE TUBES WERE RATHER THICK as if someone was trying to insinuate something--and when I removed the rubber tip the tip rubbed the mesh and came off with it. The metal mesh was so thin as well.

It is worth noting even if it is readily deducible from the previous paragraph that the fit hurts like rape.

The FX101 and the SL99 sound similar at higher volumes, and this is possibly because of the vents. But if I cover the vents on the SL99 I get a deeper bass sound while the FX101 crackles when covered. The FX101 however has a superior fit.

 

 

 

Creative EP-630i (genuine, $15 sold by Amazon.com)

 

PASSED

Bass timbre: "TUUD"

Recommended

 

I can confirm that the Creative EP-630i sounds exactly the same as the original Sennheiser CX300. See CX300 review.

 

 

 

Klipsch S4 (genuine, $42 sold by Amazon.com)

 

PASSED. FAILED at higher volumes.

Bass timbre: "TUUD" "Tuud"

Not recommended over the CX300/EP-630.

 

I'm used to being disappointed at this point, although I didn't expect the Klipsch S4--touted as bass kings by many--to lag behind be decimated by the CX300. Compared to the latter, the S4 bass significantly lacks punch, feels much smaller, and can't be driven to louder intensities. One peculiarly rad thing about the S4 is that it is the IEM that has reached furthest into my ear canals. The fit of the double-flanged earbuds is perfect and comfortable, and the seal is complete especially with my abnormally small macaroni ears. That said, even with the perfect fit and seal the bass is definitely not the royalty it was elected to be. So this thread about the S4 VS CX300 isn't all lies after all.

 

 

 

JVC HA-MR77X (genuine, $60 sold by Adorama (famous US retailer and authorized dealer) through their ebay store)

"BOOM"

GAME OVER.

 

I already wrote about the HA-MR77X in the updates so these focus on details and the negatives.

 

I did some deep searching to find this on sale for $60. Ebay was only returning results for $100 MSRP. I then unearthed a last year's Black Friday post about this going for $55 in Adorama with a coupon code. However, that was last year and Adorama currently has it posted for $100. And then, using the old trick of comparing prices between a famous retail store and its corresponding ebay store, I got this deal. Only 8 left in stock upon posting.

 

First of all, the HA-MR77X is UNLISTENABLE as is. Horrible, horrible sound, like listening to music coming from the drainage in a sink: It sounds like the gunk in there. I was so glad I got it so cheap ... however!

 

However, I value versatility. Frequency response is so trivial to fix with a good equalizer that it astounds me how it is given so much importance. To me, what is more important is if the defect is in the limits, such as maximum bass SPL before distortion. The 77's respond well to Equalizer APO (see post-processing and equipment), with the midrange boost fixing the sink effect magically. And the bass?

 

After binging on hard-hitting MOSAIC.WAV Denpa music with the 77's, I took out my treasured CX500 to compare. If the CX500 sounded like "TUUD," the 77's sound like the punch in the face I deserve to get after using uncool onomatopoeia.

 

I have to warn about that absence of ANY headband cushion! With the rubber grip directly in contact with your hair, the weight goes hand in hand with the rubber friction to pull your hair out. Wrapping the headband with a silk handkerchief saved my beautiful hair, but I had to buy an after-market headpad because a silk-wrapped anvil on your head is still an anvil on your head.

 

 

Coming soon:

  • JVC HA-SZ2000 (genuine, $260 sold by Amazon Japan shipped through Tenso) - will receive over the weekend (3/29/14)
  • Sennheiser HD439 (genuine, $50 sold by VMInnovations.com) - although the bass mod wowed me, the bass was still too weak. Not worth the price as they share the same drivers as the $30 HD429.
  • Sony XB400 (genuine, $40 sold by Groupon.com) - these were very, very comfortable despite being on-ear, but the bass was weak. Stronger than HD439, but I couldn't return the 439 so I returned the XB400.

Edited by PocketSmiley - 3/27/14 at 10:05pm
post #2 of 67
Amazing writeup. I laughed some time. I hope this is a joke.
You rate headphones only of bass quantity?
If idms have same nossle size that doesnt meen that it is fake.
SM E10 is sennheiser fake:)biggrin.gif
post #3 of 67

i disagree with the MH1C.

I think it's WORTH the price AT LEAST.

 

just one thing,

i used MH1C on my Fiio E10, didn't like it.

because E10 changed the overall sound, MH1C lost the depth, and bass texture.

more quantity yes, quality? nope, to my ear.

 

when they used on my Sony Xperia phone, NICE

post #4 of 67
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tomasskalnin View Post

Amazing writeup. I laughed some time. I hope this is a joke.
You rate headphones only of bass quantity?
If idms have same nossle size that doesnt meen that it is fake.
SM E10 is sennheiser fake:)biggrin.gif

 

This isn't a joke. My priority is stated in the topic: Basshead.

 

I can probably listen to low frequency sweep files all day lol.

 

Of course bass isn't my only concern, but they are the bare minimum. It must be able to play a deep bass sound loud. Then I judge the rest.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Seekky View Post

i disagree with the MH1C.

I think it's WORTH the price AT LEAST.

 

just one thing,

i used MH1C on my Fiio E10, didn't like it.

because E10 changed the overall sound, MH1C lost the depth, and bass texture.

more quantity yes, quality? nope, to my ear.

 

when they used on my Sony Xperia phone, NICE


I will agree if the MH1C falls in price as the FX101.

 

In the other thread I keep hearing about the harsh treble issue of FX101. Maybe it's the same as that of the CX870. It was harsh at first but I made my ears get used to it. I also tell myself that the highs are loud because the headphones can hit them.

 

Thanks for the reply you guys!

post #5 of 67
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tomasskalnin View Post

Amazing writeup. I laughed some time. I hope this is a joke.
You rate headphones only of bass quantity?
If idms have same nossle size that doesnt meen that it is fake.
SM E10 is sennheiser fake:)biggrin.gif


BTW, HAHA, yeah, actually I was LAUGHING EXCITEDLY when I was setting the bass to maximum I was like, "MAXIMUM THE BASS" with sunglasses on.

post #6 of 67

Haha very colorful review. I like that you threw in the RE0 which is clearly not an IEM for bassheads ;)

 

Interesting that you didn't like the Sonys... I find them to be extremely too bass heavy myself (bleeds into the midrange quite a bit), but they have good sub-bass rumble.

post #7 of 67
Thread Starter 

I posted this on another thread since people are replying on my review on that thread haha.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sparky191 View Post

 

I think you really need to preface a general comment like that, that you are primarily concerned with the Magnitude of Bass. At the expense of everything else. Its all you really talk about in your review. If I was rating earphones solely on that I would agree with you ratings of the headphone. But if was rating them on anything else, for example the Quality of the bass I would disagree with your ratings. 

 

Slightly off topic I wonder its to do with that you listen to. I notice on my Car head unit, which as a bass head EQ setting some modern CD's sounds great. Because the albums have been mixed for huge bass at the expense of everything else. Theres often no mids on the tracks at all, this is modern pop or dance tracks. Switch to some classic hard rock or classic or acoustic and this basshead setting destroys the music as its loses vast amounts of detail across the rest of the spectrum. You actually can't hear half the music at all. I notice the same thing with the CX300's I had many years ago. To the point where a review of the CX300 is my baseline for reviews sites. If they give it a general great view I know I won't agree with their options on other phones. If they give an accurate review, that its huge bass lacking in detail, then I'll consider their other reviews. I think you should do a reverse of what I do. because you are looking for the exact opposite of what I am. 

 

Okay just a preface regarding my tone I'm never angry but I may be slightly miffed but it's more like laughably harmless. Now I'm just happy that I get nontrivial criticisms and I really appreciate that.

 

I did write a preface in my (quick) review, but since it's TL;DR I really do need to put more sign posts.

 

I honestly am confused with the "audiophile" jargon of "boomy" and "muddy" bass as descriptions of the quality of bass (could you please clarify/give an example of its usage? I honestly don't know how). This is why I used onomatopoeia in my (quick) review such as "TUUD" and "TUHD" and "PFDT". Those aren't mere intensity; as I said, the onomatopoeia is very efficient in communicating the quality--even the approximate timbre--of the bass (if I wanted to be a smartass about it I would rationalize the acoustics of onomatopoeia). Perhaps the "UU" means boomy, and the tight "PFDT" means punchy but muddy?, and the "TUHD" means uncontrolled and airy boom.

 

The CX870 for example advertises "Precise Bass", as opposed to the "Enhanced Bass" of the CX300 and CX400. I did notice that the bass in CX870 is less boomy than the CX400 and the CX400 has slightly greater punch. I realize that I do want that boom in my music. So maybe this is where we diverge in our definition of quality.

 

My overemphasis on bass is just the bare minimum: It must be able to drive quality bass sound ("TUUD") and maintain its quality at the highest intensity that my loudness threshold allows. After that, I must be able to hear EVERYTHING ELSE (mids and highs) and they should not be drowned out. This seems like a pretty ambitious demand but the Sennheiser CX300, CX400, and CX870 meet my needs.

 

I listen to everything. I love different instruments. I love different timbres, especially the variety of voices. I mainly love Japanese composers such as Yoko Kanno, Joe Hisaishi, Shiro Sagisu, etc. I do listen to dance tracks a lot, but they are of a different nature: Denpa music. They are pretty much the audio equivalent of the Akihabara experience, and they mix chiptunes and kawaii singing with dance beats and electronica. I love piano, play piano, and my favorite is Debussy. Above all, I love Heavy Metal. I love the double pedal. I love the adrenaline rush. I love heavy metal voices that can sweep a wide range.

 

The test music I used is Blind Guardian - The Wizard (Uriah Heep cover). Uriah Heep is definitely classic progressive rock, and among the first to be. They were progressive rock while The Beatles were still playing. Blind Guardian is known for "over"production and filling all frequencies with orchestra and choir, but this particular file starts out acoustically, which is great for testing detail. When the bass comes in, you'll know if the intensity of this clarity drops. I noticed that the player plays a most critical role here, since in my Sansa Clip+ the mids drop when I turn on the bass, while in my old android phone that I converted to a dedicated mp3 player using Cyanogenmod and Jetaudio, it doesn't. The CX870 sounds perfect.

 

This other test file is a mix of Nightwish and a little Dream Theater, which is representative of the music I listen to and I plead you to try it so that we have more common ground other than the CX300 which renders our conversation fruitless. In Nightwish, each bass kick has an accompanying orchestral hit. That is just their style. Beautiful piano melodies are layered with orchestra and choir and power metal (chugging rhythm guitar, melodic leads, double pedals) and operatic singing. I know if the headphones drown out the delicate atmospheric piano.

 

I did say I made a quick review, and so it was not meant for people who wanted graphs and jargon. I honestly don't understand them fully anyway. I just followed my hunch that I am not alone in my bass preferences, and that my heuristic (Kahneman and Tversky) is efficient in helping bassheads like me.

post #8 of 67
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bhima View Post

Haha very colorful review. I like that you threw in the RE0 which is clearly not an IEM for bassheads ;)

 

Interesting that you didn't like the Sonys... I find them to be extremely too bass heavy myself (bleeds into the midrange quite a bit), but they have good sub-bass rumble.

 

I'M REALLY SORRY IF YOU EVER TOOK OFFENSE IN IT IT SEEMS THAT YOU REALLY LIKE THE RE0 AND MY COUSIN DOES SO AS WELL BUT AS I POINTED OUT IT WAS JUST TO MAKE ME FEEL GOOD ABOUT MYSELF THAT ONE CAN GET QUALITY BASS WITHOUT SPENDING THAT MUCH MONEY. As I said the comparison is unfair. I honestly am not yet learned enough to appreciate the flat frequency response sound.

 

What does "bleed[ing] into the midrange" sound like? And sub-bass rumble? I think the sub-bass rumble is self-explanatory enough but I'm not sure, as there are songs where you can clearly hear the bass rumble, I mean, when the bass drum is played with a bass guitar note. When I say that the CX400 bass sounds like "TUUD" and the CX870 bass without my basshead setup sounds like "TUud", what is the midrange in there? Because the FX101 bass sounds like "TUHD" at higher volumes--I don't know if that is considered bleeding? I'll read up on it I'm really sorry that I didn't take the time to do so on my own. I just thought that a quick comparative review is more useful as the buyer would have a point of reference other than theoretical jargon.

post #9 of 67

You need a set of IE8's with the bass screw turned all the way UP!

post #10 of 67
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ivabign View Post

You need a set of IE8's with the bass screw turned all the way UP!

 

LOL! THAT'S WHAT I DID! EXCEPT I JUST ORDERED A FAKE ONE FOR $27 LOL

 

I'll review it when it arrives and see if it passes the blind test for IE8 authenticity, since some of the reviews (of the fake IE8's) say it's as good as the real thing. Except I've never experienced an authentic IE8. But I can compare with the authentic Sennheisers that I have.

post #11 of 67

I have a pair of each - there is no comparison - other than looks, of course. I got my fakes about a year ago, the same time I got the real thing. The bass is thin and there is no soundstage with the fakes - the real thing? Amazing. Some of my old progressive rock recordings with the low frequency bass pedal - it can shake the fillings out of my head - while keeping the mids and highs onstage - they make their presence known. 

post #12 of 67

wish I would not browse through this thread...

post #13 of 67

It's too bad you didn't get a shot at the Amazon deal for the Audiofly AF56 - The more I burn them in, the more I like them - 13mm drivers for solid bass and the highs/mids are nice and crisp.

 

They were $27 - and now they're $99 w/o mic - $109 w/mic


Edited by Ivabign - 1/6/13 at 4:51pm
post #14 of 67
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ivabign View Post

It's too bad you didn't get a shot at the Amazon deal for the Audiofly AF56 - The more I burn them in, the more I like them - 13mm drivers for solid bass and the highs/mids are nice and crisp.

 

They were $27 - and now they're $99 w/o mic - $109 w/mic

 

THANKS FOR THE REC I'm a sucker for sale prices beside a much higher previous price. I wanted to get the Klipsch S4 for $35 and since I got a $5 Amazon gift card because they shipped an item late I could get it for $30. But now it's $55.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ivabign View Post

I have a pair of each - there is no comparison - other than looks, of course. I got my fakes about a year ago, the same time I got the real thing. The bass is thin and there is no soundstage with the fakes - the real thing? Amazing. Some of my old progressive rock recordings with the low frequency bass pedal - it can shake the fillings out of my head - while keeping the mids and highs onstage - they make their presence known. 

 

I'm a progressive rock fan as well, though more of the kinda recent ones like Dream Theater and Symphony X. Sometimes I listen to Rush, and try Pink Floyd upon recommendation. I don't know about contemporary prog bands though but I listened to a song by Coheed and Cambria and I was impressed. Do you think it's worth it for me to get an authentic IE8/IE80, I mean, say considering that I can only spend $400 for headphones in at least a year? I mean does the price difference reflect how much better it is than the CX series?

post #15 of 67

basshead.gif

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