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Sub-200$ IEM with good end-to-end extension and presence, tonal neutrality and detail? GR07?...

post #1 of 46
Thread Starter 

Hello,

 

Instead of crowding other threads and potentially derailing them as I have been coming close to doing over the past few days, I decided to create a separate thread about my IEM dilemma. I hope people with the experience and knowledge will chime in and help me out!

 

I thought I'd format this for maximum reading clarity and directness (I'm prone to rambling, as you can see). Hope no one misreads this as me sounding too demanding.

 

What I'm looking for:

 

  • Generally neutral response - it doesn't have to be industry-standard flatness like the ER4 or RE-272, but I want an IEM that's generally neutral, with equal presence through the entire spectrum, no exaggerated boosts. I dislike 'dark' or overly 'warm' earphones - I used a TDK BA200 for a week or so, and found the treble in general to be too laid-back and even a bit rolled-off. I also dislike bass-light IEMs, and a slight lower-bass boost might be all right, because it appears IEMs seem to need a small boost down there to help out with a natural-sounding bottom-end. Which brings me to:
  • Realistic bottom-end body, weight and decay. My previous IEM purchase was the Rock It Sounds R-50, which I loved for many reasons, especially the fantastic detailing, clarity and instrument separation. But I couldn't help but feel the overall presentation, was a bit unnaturally thin, and that percussion and bass instruments lacked a realistic weight and body to them. I want an IEM that is neutral but can still push out the bass that the track and production demands, when it is called for.
  • Well-extended on both ends - Again, the R-50 was fantastic with the treble extension and presence (maybe a TINY bit too bright in the lower treble), but it felt sorely lacking in bass extension to me. I would like something that can kick out some respectable lower bass and sub-bass when the track has important elements there. I'd like something that can reach well on both ends and has good, capable presence through the entire spectrum.
  • Detailed, transparent reproduction, great instrument separation - These are the things I fell in love with the Rock It R-50 for, and would like something that is in a similar league in these respects. I love hearing finer detail and nuances in productions, especially since I work with music production myself. And I hate congested sounding IEMs. Again, doesn't have to be godlike ER4 level, but definitely needs to be on the higher side.
  • Isolation above average. I use IEMs primarily when travelling, at home I am very satisfied with my Beyerdynamic DT880 Pro (which I pulled the trigger on only after excellent advice from this wonderful forum. Thank you, everyone!)

 

 

 

IEMs I've used (for reference points):

I thought I'd quickly describe what I felt about IEMs I own/have used extensively, to maybe make it easier for people to understand my reference points or standards.

 

  • Rock It Sounds R-50 - beautiful detail, separation and clarity, fantastic treble extension and sparkle, disappointing thin-ness to the overall sound, lacking some bass extension, could not really pump out convincing bottom-end presence when the track called for it, ended up sounding bass-shy to me.
  • TDK BA200 - a little more filled-out in the overall presentation, more realistically weighty percussion and bass instruments, but lacking treble presence, extension and air to my ears. In a word, dark.
  • Soundmagic E30 - I know this has no place here, but it's my current daily IEM, and I like it, but I find it a bit laid-back in the treble to be really neutral. Also sometimes comes across as 'slow' compared to the above two.

 

 

 

The CONTENDERS (so far):

 

  • VSonic GR07 MkII - This appears to be my best bet so far, but I am a bit concerned about it potentially sounding a bit too bassy or warm.
  • HiFiMan RE-400 - Everyone loves the RE-400, but from what I read so far, this might be even warmer than the GR07. Also, while it is definitely a FANTASTIC IEM at its price, my budget extends to double of the RE-400's worth, so I feel I can do better.
  • Ortofon e-Q5 (maybe) - Another good all-rounder, but it seems people are very divided on the treble extension and presence. Again, might be a tad too warm, but more importantly, I fear it might lack treble extension past 10k (as suggested by this measurement and some impressions among Head-Fi members).
  • Fischer Audio DBA-02 MkII - Appears to have some more body in the bottom-end compared to the R-50, but I'm far from convinced this will be a substantial enough difference, given the fact that they share the same driver and are supposed to sound quite similar.

 

In addition to these, I'm looking for anything else that might give me what I need, or come close to it, as long as it falls within a 200 USD budget.

 

I have to thank |joker|, ClieOS, FlySweep, AstralStorm, shotgunshane, tinyman392 and several others for helping me via PMs and responses in other posts, but I thought it best to take this to a new thread, lest I annoy the thread owners and readers.

 

I live in India and have to rely on friends from Europe visiting shortly, to acquire anything decent, so auditioning is impossible. Friends in question will leave Europe in two weeks, so unfortunately, my time is short. I hope the community here can help me soon!


Thanks for all the information and advice so far,

Daniel.


Edited by DanielKRego - 3/6/13 at 6:13am
post #2 of 46

Ortofon e-Q5 should pull ahead. I recently tried it and found it to be an upgrade to my TDK BA200. I can't say it's too similar of a sound signature, but it's certainly on the same level of detail and impact -- and a bit more. The treble is much better extended on the e-Q5. The mids are, more or less, similar between the two. The BA200's bass has a little more impact, but they both have similar speed and precision in bass. Sound stage is just a bit better with the e-Q5, more realistic with height instead of just width. Micro detail, especially in the mids and treble, I find to be superior in the e-Q5.

 

They both perform great, and somewhat similarly overall, but I would definitely say the e-Q5 edges ahead. The only issue I'm having at all is that the e-Q5 is very tip-dependent to sound its best, where the BA200 isn't as much; and, the e-Q5 is more amp-sensitive, I believe because of a low impedance. For example, the e-Q5 actually sounds more cohesive out of my Sansa Fuze than out of my desktop DAC+Amp combo.

Though, being tip dependent can be a pro, as foams tame the treble considerably (though I find that to be a con). Extension both ways is excellent with the e-Q5.

post #3 of 46

Well on the treble of the e-Q5 which I'm listening to right now its not as bright as the R-50 or GR07 but it does have more sparkle than the BA200 and SM3, personally I love the treble on the e-Q5 but if you really like the R-50's than the e-Q5 might not be bright enough for you.  Everything else about the e-Q5 I think you'd like so I wouldn't count them out.

 

I ordered a pair of the RE-400's yesterday (along with a pair of the HE-400 planar magnetic headphones) so I'll let you know how they sound but from what I'vread I think the might sound a bit like the e-Q5 with crisp but somewhat relaxed treble and warm mids.

 

I think either the GR07 MKII or the DBA-02 MKII would be good choices for you.  The one thing I didn't like about the GR07 is the lack of good soundstage depth, they really didn't have much depth to it at all.  I've heard the first DBA-02 but not the MKII which is said to be a bit more relaxed but not by to much with more bass than the R-50 but I still think it might not be enough for you.

 

Of the ones you have listed I think either the GR07 MK II or the e-Q5 would be the best choices.  You can EQ the treble on the e-Q5 up and it does give them nice crisp bright highs that aren't harsh but even with no EQ'ing I've had them go sibilant a few times but not much at all so the treble can get pretty bright at times.  I really love the sound of the e-Q5, it really is top-tier in every way.  So its up to you but I think you should choose betwwen the e-Q5 and GR07 which are both around the same price (the e-Q5 from Musica Acoustics is only like $20 more).  I do think you should wait tell I get the RE-400 so I can tell you how they sound.

post #4 of 46
Thread Starter 

Thank you for the responses, soundstige and Techno Kid.

 

The e-Q5 really does have a lot of fans and it seems to be a very well-rounded and refined IEM. I've heard about the GR07 lacking depth in its soundstage though, so that's something I should take into account.

 

Like you mentioned, Techno Kid, I feel the treble of the e-Q5, as per the reports of people who own it, might be a bit too-laid back for me. I should mention that I'm not looking for aggressive or over-emphasized treble. I want a neutral IEM, not a decidedly bright one, and not one that's too far in the warm camp either (although I understand that a slightly boosted bass to give the IEM a more natural bass presence would necessitate the IEM sounding slightly warm).

 

I look forward to your impressions of the RE-400, Techno Kid.

 

On another note, how do the e-Q5 and GR07 compare in terms of detail retrieval and instrument separation?

post #5 of 46

I honestly can't feel this way with silicone tips for the e-Q5. The treble is exactly what I'd call neutral.

 

On a scale from 0 to 10, where 0 is mud, 10 is unlistenably harsh treble, I'd say

 

BA200 = 3.5

e-Q5 with silicone = 5.5

e-Q5 with foam = 4.5

HE-400 = 6.5

 

I own all three concurrently and feel confident in that assessment. 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DanielKRego View Post

Like you mentioned, Techno Kid, I feel the treble of the e-Q5, as per the reports of people who own it, might be a bit too-laid back for me.

post #6 of 46
Thread Starter 

Thanks Soundstige. How would you compare the RE-400 and e-Q5 in terms of general neutrality, detail retrieval and instrument separation? I'm honestly equally torn between all three, the RE-400, e-Q5 and GR07.

post #7 of 46

I own the HE-400, full-sized planar headphones :)

Quote:
Originally Posted by DanielKRego View Post

Thanks Soundstige. How would you compare the RE-400 and e-Q5 in terms of general neutrality, detail retrieval and instrument separation? I'm honestly equally torn between all three, the RE-400, e-Q5 and GR07.

post #8 of 46
Thread Starter 

Damn, that visual similarity gets me every time. 

post #9 of 46

Me too -- for a while, I didn't even know HiFiMan came out with a new item, despite seeing RE-400 everywhere biggrin.gif

 

Have you ever heard, or have any interest in, the Etymotic ER6i, ER4, or HF5?

Quote:
Originally Posted by DanielKRego View Post

Damn, that visual similarity gets me every time. 

post #10 of 46
Thread Starter 

I haven't heard any of the Ety line, but I fear I'll feel similarly about them as I did about the Rock It R-50 - fantastic from the top till the lower-midrange, lacking presence, realistic body and weight in the bottom-end. Most reviews and comparisons seem to suggest so, too.

post #11 of 46

Sounds about right. They have the most ridiculous instrument separation though -- more of a "tool" than an all-around ear-speaker. I love them for dissecting parts to play on guitar. e-Q5 is quite a bit different sounding, by the way.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DanielKRego View Post

I haven't heard any of the Ety line, but I fear I'll feel similarly about them as I did about the Rock It R-50 - fantastic from the top till the lower-midrange, lacking presence, realistic body and weight in the bottom-end. Most reviews and comparisons seem to suggest so, too.

post #12 of 46
Thread Starter 

Yeah, I loved the R-50 for its fantastic instrument separation too, including figuring out some complex instrumental passages. The separation aspect is one thing I'm hoping not to lose out on too much, with my new IEM purchase.

 

Sso you're a guitarist too, hello there! Say hello to my guitar (and me playing and demonstrating it for a local music retailer) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkjCbBUkMO8.

 

:)

post #13 of 46

I think the treble of the e-Q5 sound quite natural and even and they can get plenty bright imo.  I just think its the best IEM under $200 hands down so if you got them I don't think you'd be disappointed.

post #14 of 46
Thread Starter 

Also, the ONLY graph I ever found of the e-Q5 seems to suggest rather steeply rolled-off upper treble, which further makes me worry about how some people hear the e-Q5 treble extension (well present upto a point, then rolled-off rather early):

 

http://en.goldenears.net/13706

post #15 of 46

Yeah but its the upper treble where most songs don't even have treble that goes that high like in the 16K and up range, the TF10 only went to like 16.5K or 17K on there IEM's and they were bright.  I'm just saying over all SQ is quite a bit better than the GR07 MKII and the DBA-02 MKII but get what you feel comfortable getting.

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