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Which earphones should I buy?

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

Hello, Head-fiers.


So I'm looking to buy a good pair of IEM's. It's not my first foray into good sounding earphones, but it is my first post. Guide me.


There is a TL;DR section at the bottom of my post.


So recently, I realized the joys of better-than-stock iems. Till date, these are the earphones (chronologically) that I've tried and what I felt about them:

  1. Stock low quality earphones: Was satisfied with various ones (Creative, Nokia, Samsung, etc) until recently.
  2. Creative EP630: I would consider this my stepping stone IEM. I thought they were great, coming from stock eartips. Now, I consider the soundstage very lacking and I find them very bass-heavy. However, they are extremely comfortable. Still, I had to move on.
  3. Skullcandy Ink'd: Bought these after my Creative EP630. Initially I thought it was an upgrade. It was better than my EP630 for movies, etc. But it was horrible for the music I'd listen to. Muddy. Then, they stopped working. No rough behaviour - they just stopped working. Didn't bother getting them repaired, threw them in the bin and went on the the EP630 for a few months.
  4. Soundmagic PL30: This was what I consider my first foray into good quality IEMs, and I absolutely loved these. The soundstage was to die for and there was a general airyness (not sure if I'm using the right adjective) to it that I loved. And it was detailed. Sadly, these got spoilt over one bus journey. Probably due to them getting pulled, one of the ears stopped functioning. I instantly had to buy another pair of IEMs and because really liked what this company was doing, I went for another one of their products.
  5. Soundmagic E30: I really really liked them. They were like the PL30s but with slightly more bass, a slightly less deeper fit, and a less airy soundstage. Overall, I preferred the PL30s for the comfort and soundstage, but I consider these more versatile because of their soundstage. These got spoilt too. Went back to using my EP630s for anther month.
  6. Sony XBA-3: Took the leap with these expensive ones. Stretched my budget. Killed my wallet (and I'm a university freshman, I really spent too much). My first balanced armature earphones, I didn't want to hold back. And I liked them. The soundstage seemed alright. More detailed than anything I had heard - miles ahead of the EP630, slightly ahead of the PL30. But I have two problems with these. Firstly, I didn't like the sibilance. Too much of the 'ss' sound, unbearable in the genre I listen to. Secondly, these are extremely uncomfortable. There's the y-shaped wire that I cannot get my head around (see what I did there), they keep getting pulled. Secondly, I like to listen to music lying down on my side - something that is fairly comfortable with the PL30s, E30s and EP630s, but unbearable with the XBA-3s. And it's crazy difficult to wear them over the ear. The Y-shape cable meant that the wire went from behind my neck and that causes too much microphonics. These things manage to become a dealbreaker. I actually uses the EP630s and these stay in my drawer. I abandon the good SQ of these and go for the bad SQ of EP630s because of these things. (BTW, the XBA's bundled Sony Hybrid tips did improve the EP630's comfort and fit even further)


So. Now, I'm gonna be selling the XBA-3s soon and replacing them.

First question (least important one) - Approximately how much should I sell the XBA3s for? I'm thinking somewhere between $150 to $200. 

Second question: Which IEMs should I buy? SE215? Vsonic GR06? My budget would be about 120$, but could be lesser considering my next question.

Third question: Should I buy an Amp or other tips? Note my budget for IEMs+Accessories is $120, so should I go all out on IEMs or buy cheaper IEMs and then put an Amp and idk, shure olives?


Music I listen to: Classical Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Rock n Roll, Progressive Rock, 80s Rock - So generally ranging from Led Zeppelin to the Doors to the Beatles to Pink Floyd to Guns and Roses. 

Rock aside, I also listen to Classical Music, mostly large orchestral pieces, some piano solos and the cello. 


What I am looking for in my next pair of IEMs are primarily comfort. The have to be comfortable. I'd prefer over the ears. A good soundstage is kinda important. I'm still just experimenting so I can't yet dedicatedly say that I like a particular sound signature. I really really liked the PL30 sound signature, and the E30 sound signature. I wouldn't mind just buying another pair of E30s (in fact, I just might), but I want to try something different while not wandering too far off. Yes, this habit will eventually end up with me spending too much money, but I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.


Also, I am located in Newfoundland, Canada.

Edited by tquickbrownfox - 1/13/13 at 7:41pm
post #2 of 23
Thread Starter 

TL;DR : I'm looking for new iems. I listen to rock music and classical music. I don't have any particular sound signature that I want, but nothing that is on the bassy side. Budget for IEMs + amps/tips is $150, though I'd prefer it I could get something good for lesser. I have tried and loved the Soundmagic PL30 and E30. I have tried and liked the Sony XBA-3, but the bad comfort and sibilance added up to be a dealbreaker. I value comfort and a good soundstage with good instrument separation. What should I buy? 


I know this is the TL;DR section, but please don't skip my initial detailed post.

post #3 of 23
What kind of music files are you using? I suspect the "ssss" sound of the XBA-3 is because of the music files; higher-iem tends to show all the microdetails in a recording, including the hisses in poor quality recording. TL;DR higher-end IEM makes bad quality music files sounds even worse.
post #4 of 23
Thread Starter 

I don't use FLAC, my mp3 player doesn't play that. I listen to .mp3 files, bitrate ranging from 192kbps to 320kbps. The sample rate is 44100 Hz throughout. But then again, despite the 320kbps, finding high quality recordings for classical pieces is quite difficult. 


This does make sense, because the sibilance was mostly clear only with my classical music, which is (probably) not as well recorded as my rock music collection. Regardless of that, I am selling them, if not for anything else, for their uncomfortable fit and large size. 


When you say that "high end IEM makes bad quality music files sound even worse", is the balanced armature to blame for that? Because neither of the Soundmagic IEMs (which were dynamic) had that problem... IDK. 


Thanks for replying.

post #5 of 23
Well, not necessarily BA's fault. I might be overgeneralizing, but higher-end IEM, dynamic or BA, usually picks up a lot of details in the recording/music file, aka "revealing". Breath of the vocalist, twang of guitar, resonance of concert hall, and so on. But sometimes, along with the "good" details, "bad" details like hisses is also present. This is especially true with lower quality recording. I still keep SE215 around for lower-quality files playback because it's not as "revealing" as my other IEM.

Hence why I said higher quality IEM makes poor recording sounds worse, because both good and bad details is amplified.

About classical recording, on the contrary, tend to have higher quality, which is why the also suffer the most when the file quality is low.

I hope eveything makes sense.
post #6 of 23

Xba 3 is a decent pair, too bad they did not fit you. Unfortunately for you, not long ago you could find them new for 150$ (even 120$ used) so nobody will give more than 100     :-( 

Get the Shure se215, however, they are not that small, nevertheless to lay down they should be ok

Amps are not necessary for IEMs most of the time. Don't waste your time.

Edited by squallkiercosa - 1/14/13 at 6:33am
post #7 of 23
Thread Starter 

@Deadlovestory - yeah, I guess that does make sense. But I can't abandon my lower quality recordings, some of them are rare, it'd be practically impossible to find higher quality versions. So, I was considering the Shure SE215 (maybe even the SE215 LE). If you say that they are a little more forgiving on lower quality recordings, that's just one more reason to go for them.


@squallkiercosa - really? Not even $150? Well, I did like the XBA-3, it's mainly the discomfort and the microphonics that I cannot deal with... Considering that the XBA3's MSRP is roughly 3 times that of the Shure SE215, does it mean that the XBA-3's are that much better?


Aside from the Shure SE215 and SE215 LE, I was also looking into the VSonic IEMs, but I don't know which one to consider. The GR06 seems right, but then there's some people who say the GR02 sounds better. While my budget is around $120, I'd be happier to buy a cheaper but not-too-bad IEM. 


How is the Phonak Audeo 012/022?


Can anyone tell me how the Shure SE215, Westone 1, VSonic GR06 and Vsonic GR02 compare to the Soundmagic E30/PL30? 


Is there a different IEM that I should consider?

What about amps?

post #8 of 23

If you want fiarly wide soundstage and good imaging, instruments separation with great overall soundquality then Yamaha EPH100, UETF10Pro(used), Sony EX600, GR07(highly recommended) and Klipsch Image X10 are recommended. But IEMs like RE0 (balanced, improve with AMps help and sound good without it too), Etymotic HF5 (bright little cold sounding) are neutral, more balanced and offers greater sense of clarity which match well for classical genres music.

post #9 of 23

@squallkiercosa - really? Not even $150? Well, I did like the XBA-3, it's mainly the discomfort and the microphonics that I cannot deal with... Considering that the XBA3's MSRP is roughly 3 times that of the Shure SE215, does it mean that the XBA-3's are that much better?


Price doesn't necessarily mean good (Monster turbines for example), in theory xba 3 should sound better, I haven't tested honestly. 

I'm telling you about the price because I was planning to buy a pair for my girlfriend, but I I thought she wouldn't like them for the same reasons it bothers you.


You could try with radians custom molded earplugs, it's cheap and i might give you a better fit.. It might improve bass response though


About selling them: You can always try at the sale/trade department

post #10 of 23



Sorry bro

post #11 of 23

Vsonic GR07 is the IEM for you, with your musical preferences, need for comfort and your budget.

post #12 of 23
Thread Starter 

@squallkiercosa wow. aargh. I guess I'll sell it for a 100. 

It's so difficult to sell non-bassy earphones.


@Zarim - most of those are beyond my budget.


1) GR07 seems out of my budget, so I'd prefer buying it where it is available at a discounted rate. I can wait, because I'll only buy them once I sell my XBA-3s. But I would buy them at full price if I have to. I'd rather avoid eBay. Is there any online retailer who ships from Canada? 


2) What about the Hifiman RE-Zero or the new RE400? 


3) The GR07 seem great. But most of my collection is in .mp3. Some people say that the Shure SE215 is forgiving on low quality recordings. Is that true for the VSonic GR07?


4) The VSonic series has some weird naming. Which particular model of GR07 should I get? How much worse are the GR06?


5) GR07 alone  vs  (GR06/Shure SE215) with amp.


6) Is the Phonak Audeo 012/022 PFE even worth consideration?



post #13 of 23

Get the Shures for 80$ using getfit coupon on earphone solutions... well 87$ because shipping was not included....


post #14 of 23
I have the Shure se215 and it is definitely a step back from your XBA-3's. I would personally suggest Vsonics GR04 Flagship Editions, they are very close to the GR07 in sound quality and go for only $55.
post #15 of 23
Originally Posted by bradlb View Post

I have the Shure se215 and it is definitely a step back from your XBA-3's. I would personally suggest Vsonics GR04 Flagship Editions, they are very close to the GR07 in sound quality and go for only $55.


It is a step back, but they are comfortable to wear lay on one side, not sibilance, most of the headphones our friend had were bassy and he didn't like the Xba-3 signature. Vsonic doesn't even have a decent website...

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