There we go!
First, many thanks for Sasaki-san & Fujiya Avic for letting us in early, that gave me a good chance to sample the Shure 846 for more than 3 minutes (there litterally were timers on the table to strictly enforce this) without having to lineup. I posted my impressions of the Shure 846 here (it was the first listen of the day): http://www.head-fi.org/t/663180/shure-se846-a-new-in-ear-flagship-from-shure-finally-impressions-p26-28/405#post_9428312 and clarified again they should be taken with a big pinch of salt here: http://www.head-fi.org/t/663180/shure-se846-a-new-in-ear-flagship-from-shure-finally-impressions-p26-28/465#post_9429884 .
The main listening purpose for me was iem so I really didn't sample much gear (nor could I really as I was on tight schedule + so many places being crowded). Because I haven't followed the iems closely in past couple of years, I spent the couple of hours after trying the 846 to hear a few iems I had in mind using the same music and gear (e.g. iphone 5, nothing else).
Soon after the 846, I briefly listened to the Shure SE535 to get a feel of the differences between the old and new flagship. In comparison I felt the mids were more prevalent, the bass quantity was just right for me but it was nowhere near as impactful or tight as the 846. Furthermore (driven from the iphone), I felt the highs were shouty in comparison (drums in particular). This is bizarre as I think most agree Shure isn't about shouty mid/highs. So to me, it must be that the 846 is special. Can't say more until I spend more time with them.
I managed to try the JHAudio JH13 Pro (freq. phase) and discuss a bit about time alignment with no less than THE man who designed it: Jerry Harvey. It was a cool experience because Jerry is really easy going and friendly to talk to. The hard part was that many Japanese people wanted autographed brochures, TShirts and what not so he was probably more busy signing stuff than getting people to try his gear ;). The impressions are quick: effortless, clean tight/bass (just the right amount for me), no shrillness and a more cohesive image than other stuff I tried on that day. I did not feel there was a left / right image and hole in the center, it was more of natural fill from left to right. I'd say this may be in my future but it's a lot of money in Japan so I am not quite ready psychologically ;).
I also listened to the Westone ES5 and I felt again the voicing was just right for me (in the sense of lows/mids/highs balance) but I sensed some lack of bass extension (probably the 846 spoiled me for the day). I am interested in the ES5 because of hybrid mold: a hard resin to prevent busting the drivers / solder joints and make it fully sealed from exterior moisture, while the part in contact with sensitive region of the ear canal gets softer. But at this time, if I was to go custom, I'd chose the JH13 from the short audition I made, because it gives me the good tonal balance of the ES5 and more (for instance no left/right/hole in the center imaging). However, what it boiled down to me is that it was extremely difficulty to tell these two apart from brief listening impressions using the iphone out. It might be the short time, and limited capabilities of the iphone dac/amp but my gut feeling is that these iems are simply in the same high end playground and difference may be in the range of subtle. It's also worth keeping in mind that I tried sampled units with universal tip, which just isn't the way to get the best out of these custom iems...
One earphone I tried without planning to before hand is the Etymotic Research ER4p. It's selling for less than 20,000 JPY (so 1/5th or 1/10th of all the other units I tried) and it simply sounded "great" out of the iphone. It was again well balanced although a bit mid-centric. I felt is was limited extension at both ends of the spectrum but that bass was taught and in the right quantity. I liked it was very tiny (they achieve such good sound from a single BA driver). It has been available forever and I've known about it for such a long time (I think I remember seeing it on headroom store over 12-13 years ago before I discovered head-fi ;) ) but never sat down and listen to it. It's done, and I feel it's a great bargain I should have checked long time ago!
I wanted to try the new Canalworks and some FitEar but the people were lining up so I just had to give up. Also wanted to check some 1964 and Miracle from Unique Melody but again didn't have the patience to wait in line. I will probably make a trip to the stores in the future to really have some time to compare.
Last, it was nice to see head-fi friends again even though I couldn't stay there for long and have proper chat. I think we get more chances to sit down and talk during the small meets so it's a matter of getting to it and organizing... Time is the thing I am lacking the most these days but I sure hope we can meet again more often!