Hello. I've been on this forum for awhile and have been through quite an amount of headphones considering my age aka the amount, or lack thereof, of money I have. I've found what I presume to be my perfect portable CIEM, the Westone ES3X (and the ES5 I presume due to it technically being an upgrade). Fits well with any genre I listen to. Fits best with female vocals, which are pretty much my main priority. For those of you who don't know, Westone IEMs seem to generally have an emphasis on mids. The ES3X are overall balanced with amazing clarity/airy-ness asides from the warmth/emphasis on the mids. Bass hits low but are not overpowering, yet hit with authority in songs that require/request it (which are most that I listen to). Treble is NEVER sibilant. Even when I hear the "SS" in songs, it does not fatigue or hurt one bit. They also have surprisingly decent soundstage and great imagery.
Do these sound like any circumaural headphones? I mainly listen to vocal trance with both female and male vocals, and various forms of EDM (from trance all the way to chill-out and heavy genres like dubstep / electro-house). Instrumentals, specifically pianos and OSTs like many of Hans Zimmer songs, are also a priority, and I love soundstage / imaging.
I've tried (in my recent quest to find the headphone I've liked):
HE-400: Main problem with velours is the weakness in female vocals, shrill highs, and lack of depth in soundstage/imagery. With Alpha Pads the female vocal part is somewhat remedied though still lacking by a fair margin to the ES3X and the depth in soundstage is more-or-less fixed and is essentially perfect for me. Realistic yet large and intimate and has amazing clarity/air. Bass is perfect, though I'm fine with slightly less too, sub-bass wise. Mid-bass / punch seems to be balanced, but sub-bass seems to be emphasized. Treble also seems to further amplify my tinnitus for some reason.
Mad Dogs: Too congested sounding/feeling. Literal vacuum seal for me. Mids were also not as what my expectations were. Overall seemed balanced though and somewhat retained the signature of the ES3X, though everything seemed too.. closed in / cluttered.
Others I've looked at:
K702 Annies: Seems to be great in the mids and soundstage by general consensus. Treble, I could not form a general consensus on. Some people say they were shrill, some say balanced. I also can't compare well as I haven't seen any comparisons to the HE-400 or the Mad Dogs w/ Alpha Pads, which are my two main point of references. Bass-wise, I'm scared they'd still be too weak because a 3dB boost doesn't sound like much considering how everyone says the Q701's are still lacking in bass quite a bit. And by lacking people make it sound like they don't have any, therefore I'm presuming they have the bass of AD700s (aka, none). I also don't want to demo because every site I've seen where I can get them for sub~$400 have a 10% restocking fee, whereas with other demos I generally just pay return shipping.
Price range is any really, though I'm looking more-so for one to use now (say around the $400 range) and I'll go end-game when I start working. End-game seems to be HE-500s for me or LCD2.2s / 3s. I'm also looking to get at most the Asgard 2 for amping as of now, though was looking more at the M&M combo.
And I know I'm comparing apples to oranges (in two ways, CIEM vs full-sized headphones and $800 CIEM vs $400 headphones), but hey, doesn't hurt to ask / to see if a $400 HP can compete with CIEMs.
Edited by AyeVeeN - 4/17/13 at 10:08pm