Caution: this is a long post, so if skim it if you can't bear with it! Apologies in advance.
Well...where do I start with this? I've been on a little adventure the past week or two trying to figure out where I should go next. Sometimes, I feel like I'm no nearer to deciding what is my next step in my audio journey. I'm finally back in Singapore now, so the first thing I did was to get a set of speakers, and that's the M200MKIIIs. I've heard many good things about them, and so far, they haven't let me down. But that's just that. My focus is still on IEMs or CIEMs for that matter. So back to that. I have no clue where to go after my IE8s.
I know I waltzed in here a while back, after a hiatus, and found that people were talking about the Heir 8.As and the Merlins as the successor to the IE8s. One said that the Merlins were like the IE8s on steroids. Then I began to look at whether there was something more that I wanted, whether there was something else out there that could satisfy what I wanted. Then I found out things had changed a bit e.g. hybrids, and flagship universals coming out at the price range of customs. And that set me down the route I'm going now. What should I do next?
I hesitated on starting this thread because I know I should be doing my leg work etc. I've read a fair bit as it is. Trust me. I've spoken to some people via PM as well. I may be closer, but I thought, maybe I should pose the question here as well, in the event there are people wondering similar thoughts. Not to mention how difficult it is as well having to look at a variety of different threads etc just to find an opinion, so hopefully I can use this as my new reference point.
Where do I stand in all this? I'd like to stay portable, and by that, I'd like not to require a dedicated DAP or an amp to run my setup. I'd consider a very small DAP but I'm not sure one exists or it isn't at some stark crazy price. The main selling point of IEMs or CIEMs are that they are low profile. But then we decided to complicate things a little by adding this and that, here and there. There are many factors that go into making the sound come out "right". Before it all gets transposed to our ears to hear, we have the source itself which has a combination of factors such as the player itself, and the quality of the file we are using. Then after that, we need the IEMs to be "juiced" just right. Therein lies my issue, so to speak. There goes portability when we need to add the bulk to carry with us.
When I head out, when I use my IEMs, I want to be as light and as light-footed as possible. Sure, I could add an external amp as well (added cost), or a DAP (added cost), or both (shoot me already), but I feel we lose the point of portability there. All that aside, if I'm honest, I'd still like to stick to my mobile phone as the reference, though I would consider a low profile DAP, maybe. But the fact that a good one would set me back, would mean that the IEM or CIEM I then look at, would be restricted at a price point and mean the "scaling up" I would like, wouldn't be all that great.
What am I saying then? Well...let me get into what I listen to, and maybe, any sonic preferences as well.
I listen to lots of mainstream stuff, dance, pop, electronic, modern jazz, chillout etc. For example, I'd listen to stuff like Justin Timberlake's newest single - Mirrors. That's the sort of music I listen to when I'm out. Alternatively, I listen to stuff like Pendulum, Calvin Harris, rock like Nickelback, J-Rock e.g. Gackt, J-Pop, Korean stuff as well. It all just depends on how I feel. I basically don't want to listen to too slow a genre of music when I'm out. I still however, would listen to jazz (instrumental) e.g. Brian Culbertson, Chris Botti etc, depending on who and what. At the end of it all, I want to be engaged, I like being lost in the euphoria of music, and I like to feel the impact and rumble from the bass too. But I don't need to be listening to music that sticks stuff out and stabs me in my ears either, metaphorically speaking. I like detail so that doesn't mean I want to lose that in my music.
All that aside, I've got k702s as headphones at home, so no. It's not that I can't appreciate a clean, and more neutral sound either, though admittedly, I find it bass light, but I can still appreciate it for what it is, just not when I'm roaming around outside. But I have a tendency to just use my IEMs in general, especially when I'm doing work. I find speakers too distracting, God knows why, and headphones to be too annoying over time. Weird, I know.
So what have I heard so far? I've been down to Jaben to have a listen, told them my tastes, and obviously what I use, being my IE8s currently. I EQ out the veil to some degree to bring transparency and also bring forward the treble spark a little. So bass is brought down, however, I find that when the bass knob is at it's lowest setting, it just seems too thin and the sub-bass doesn't come forward, so well...I turn the knob up a little, but EQ the bass back down digitally. So I blind tested to some extent given that I wasn't told what I was listening to, nor the prices of what I was listening to. I believe that I tried EarSonics customs, though I somehow think I might be wrong on this. I didn't like it. I tried the JH5s, 10X3s and well, the 10X3s suited me more albeit I didn't feel that it presented a huge upgrade. It is an upgrade, don't get me wrong, but not that huge. Then, one of the guys decided he'd let me try one of the customs outfitted already for one of the staff members. I heard it, and I was blown away. I can't describe it. However, admittedly, I knew I would get fatigued over time, despite how much I enjoyed it. And I still felt it was bass light as well. I loved it. Then I had to ask, what was it. FitEars, 333s. Told them my reservations, and they told me, well, the 335s would suit me better. Well, after finding out the price etc, it's time I looked at something else, and for the FitEars to be my next upgrade, or something of the like.
So yes, then I came on the boards to have a look around, and figure out where I could go. I then realised that Jaben does their customs at such a huge premium as well, that I'm not sure I would be getting the right bang for my dollar. For example, I could get UM Merlins (at another store) for no more than what they are advertised in their parent company's site i.e. approximately just over 800 USD. However, the FitEar 333s, after conversion at Jaben, is more expensive than the 335s if I were to get that in Japan, for example. Okay, put that aside, any other custom as well, including JH10X3s which I was considering going for, which still lacked something in my opinion. Advertised as 799USD I believe, it would cost me 1200USD locally. So therein lies my other issue. I don't want to pay that premium if I can avoid it because I feel that I'd be losing out a lot on the potential gains in SQ I could achieve.
What's my budget? 800 - 1000 USD seems to be where I'm at. But I'm willing to go that little extra if necessary if the earphones are brilliant and worth shelling out for. The problem I have is that I'm being told that running it straight out of my Note 2 would likely be a "waste". I don't know. Those 333s sounded pretty darn good straight out from my iPhone 4S at the time, so yeah, maybe I'm missing out, but ignorance is bliss too. But I do have a home rig, I just don't want portable to become a "home" rig with the added bulk. The 333s just felt like it had a gap of a gazillion more than the 10X3s and my IE8s. Whilst the 10X3s felt like a step or two up, in my terms, from the IE8s.
So what's next? My options. Initially, the Heir Audio 8.As. At first I didn't want to look at them because of their cost, but the hype wasn't something I could ignore despite it's incredible price. Unlike some of you, I'm not blessed with an income to go forward to the extreme price ranges, or to take a risk and then sell it on and get another. I "need" to get something that sticks. I'm still some way before I can afford anything more. Why am I spending a bit now though? I just graduated. I've been through a lot in life to be grateful for what I have, what I've achieved, and what I've done, after being a school drop out. So this is, to some extent, my treat to myself, from where I've come, to where I am now. I enjoy music, but I'm not the most technically proficient to tell you everything about it, if my IE8 review didn't already tell you that.
So in some ways, the lingering questions may be, what IEMs, or CIEMs would be a significant step up from my IE8s? What would suit the genres of music I listen to? What would engage me? What wouldn't I lose too much on if I listen to it direct from my Note 2, instead of hooking up a "home rig" i.e. amp or DAP extra?
I want to go as far as I can now so it will tide me over for the next few or couple of years till I can make another upgrade. CIEMs or IEMs? Well. I like the custom pads on my IE8s, so it may be hard for me to move back to universals. It is just so comfortable and lovely. And in terms of what I'm sort of looking at as options, the 8.As, 1plus2s, IE800s, and the Aud-7X. But at the same time, I'm looking for recommendations. Have I looked at average_joe's thread? I have. But I'm still at a loss going forward. Plus, I'm indecisive. Of the four above, I've only heard the IE800s, and I feel that they are a cross between the IE8s and the HD800s i.e. tightening the bass, but adding the clarity and transparency i.e. losing the veil somewhat. Though I think, it was slightly sibilant as well, so that was a little worrying. I compared it with the k3003s, and sound sig wise, I'd go for the IE800s all the time. I nearly ended up with the Heir 8.As at a point, then maybe the seller pulling out at the last minute may have been a blessing in disguise, who knows. I just took it as a sign to perhaps, eliminate the 8.As from the picture.
So if after you've got through all that, and assuming you are still with me, what would you do, or what would you recommend? I want to be lost in music. Not analysing every single bit that I hear, but I do want to hear everything possible. Where or at what point, does "amping" become a necessity?
Your opinions are welcome and will be thoroughly appreciated. Though it might help that any opinions or recommendations are elaborated and if you could give your background into music tastes, or IEMs etc as some may go on about how great, for example, the bass is on something, but that may be coming from someone who doesn't like too much bass etc. It helps to have context!
Edited by cravenz - 3/2/13 at 9:47am