The ASG-2 gives this song (to borrow vwinter's recent phrasing) amazing dimensionality. The background keyboard sounds like it exists some distance away from the singer and drummer. Reverb seems to echo off of wide walls. The strumming of the guitar is a just a bit harsher than I'd think it is in real life. But overall I'd say this song sounds amazing on the ASG-2, and much better than on the GR07 BE.
The GR07 places vocals a bit more forward to my ears, and less warm. Treble is also not as emphasized, and neither is midbass. I think this has the effect of narrowing the perceived soundstage, and the different elements of sound don't seem as well delineated from each other. I'm not sure it's just FR that accentuates different aspects of the recording, but the GR07 doesn't seem to have enough "definition" compared to the ASG-2 on this track. I've actually had this problem with the GR07 in the past, which is why I've sold it (twice).
There are other tracks that sound better on the GR07 to me. In fact, I prefer the GR07 for most music, but the ASG-2 completely excels at certain tracks in ways that the GR07 wishes it could someday when it grows up. I think this Ben Howard song is one of them. Of Monsters and Men is another, but to a lesser degree. Eke recommended them to me a few days ago, and their style indeed follows a pattern that shows the strengths of the ASG-2, namely the uncanny ability to separate and define instruments in a 3D space. I do have a few issues though with the ASG-2 and Of Monsters and Men, which is simply a lack of upper-mid emphasis and occasional sibilance. These two issues can make vocals sound oddly distant and simultaneously sharp, but only when there is a lot of other sound. More sparsely arranged music with only vocals, guitar and light percussion sound consistently great on the ASG-2 to my ears. It's when other instruments join the mix that I get an odd impressions of warmth, distance and sharpness, which all negatively affect my listening with almost all complex music on the ASG-2.
I'd like to take a small detour here and mention that I've compared these songs using a third iem (that isn't the ER4S lol). Yes I've mentioned which one in another thread; it's the Sony MH1. This iem has sparked at least some controversy around here, with initial graphs showing a very poorly performing product, with 20dB (yes 20freakingdB) bass emphasis. It was found later that the test pair was defective (sound familiar anyone?), and additional measurements were carried out, showing a much better performing iem, with much less bass, well extended treble and minimal distortion.
So how does the MH1 sound? As far the ability to separate instruments and define them as individual sounds in a 3D space, I'd put it in between the GR07 and ASG-2, but closer to the ASG-2. With somewhat simpler acoustic music, the ASG-2 is just very very good at creating a convincing sound environment, and it's flaws in mid-bass emphasis, lacking upper-mids and treble sharpness aren't very apparent. With more complex music however, I find that those flaws become very obvious, and they start chipping away at the beautiful soundscape created with simper music. The MH1 doesn't do this. While it doesn't sound as impressive with sparser arrangements, it holds up surprisingly well with complex rock, electronic, etc. Sounds exist in their own space, and are well defined. I'm not pulled from the music by any rising mid-bass or vocal unevenness. Vocal tonality is near Goldilocks perfect. Not too warm, not too cold. Just right. There is no sibilance, even from the king of sibilance, Freddie Mercury. Compare this to the somewhat too warm ASG-2 and slightly too cold GR07.
What about bass? There is more sub-bass on the MH1, and less mid-bass. In fact, I think that if the next revision of the ASG-2 is meant to have a better mid-bass to sub-bass ratio, then it will probably end up sounding closer to the MH1. The bass is emphasized, and how much depends largely on listening volume. The MH1 sounds flat at much lower volumes than the ER4S, for example. Bass is just as fast as on the ASG-2, with notes starting and stopping, and rising and falling with similar speed. Under most listening circumstances that involve higher volumes, I'd likely eq the MH1's bass down by a few dB at 125Hz. But because the MH1's bass is centered more on sub-bass than mid-bass, it actually sounds less warm than the ASG-2. As an example of the MH1's bass, I'd like to present these two graphs:
This should give an impression of how much bass emphasis exists on the MH1. Looks similar right? The MH1 actually has less bass than the (near) universally praised AKG K3003. The MH1's mids are also more linear, and notice the lack of peaks at 5k and 9k. Also of note is the increased treble extension of the MH1. Well, surely there's more to this than FR right? Okay let's look at the impulse response. Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but the impulse response should show how quickly the driver stops moving after a burst of sound (among quite a few other things including FR). A driver that stops more quickly has a faster settling time, and adds less after-the-fact sound information to a particular sound. I think this is partly where we get the term "fast" or "slow" drivers. Does the driver stop moving in time to play the next sound? Or is the driver still moving by the time the next note starts? We can see this information here:
We can see that the MH1's driver actually stops moving after a burst of sound a bit faster than the K3003. (There are some other issues with both IR's, but let's stay focused). Now, I didn't add the ASG-2 here because there may be issues with the measurements of that particular pair. But, let's just say that it might measure considerably worse than both the MH1 and the K3003. Now maybe you don't really go for measurements, so here's the kicker. These measurements line up with what I hear from the MH1 and ASG-2. A poor impulse response would partly explain why the ASG-2 does poorly with more complex music, not only because of the issues with FR, but also because the driver is a bit slow to stop moving after a sound is played.
So when we talk about speed, I'd say the MH1 is actually a faster driver to my ears, and by the measurements (so far). I will admit that the bass of the MH1 hangs a bit more than I'd like (which is visible on the third dip of the MH1 impulse response), but it really is such a simple eq fix. It will be very interesting to compare the MH1 with the K3003, to see exactly how irregularities in both the frequency and time domains will affect sound.
All in all, I think the MH1 is a fantastic iem. It has better and more linear treble extension than both the ASG-2 and K3003; it has better distortion performance than the ASG-2 (TBD), and similar distortion performance to the K3003. It is able to convincingly place instruments in a sound field better than the GR07 BE, and better than the ASG-2 during complex passages. It doesn't suffer from any sibilance or missing mids. Vocals are extremely tone accurate, 99% as accurate (and I hesitate to say this) as the ER4S.
I've spent about 10 hours trying to find flaws with the MH1. I've listened intently for flaws in driver speed, imaging, tonality, and FR. With most iems I can find at least a couple very obvious issues after only a few songs. Tonality will be off, treble will be spiked, or imaging sucks. With the MH1, I found none of this. I can only say that there is a bit too much bass emphasis for my personal taste. And I just realized I haven't even mentioned the price of the MH1: $20. I would be blown away at the performance of this iem at any price. I prefer it to everything I've heard so far, the IE800, UERM, ASG-2, GR07, F111, everything (bar the ER4S) simply because I can't find anything wrong with it. Maybe someone could point me in the direction of a flaw or two, but I'd request that you be sure that your model doesn't suffer from the 20freakingdB bass boost that existed on some models. Another user and I bought ours from amazon quite recently, and couldn't be happier.
I might be that "other" user he mentions who bought them on amazon. I've created a monster ;) hehe But seriously, I agree with everything he just said and wanted to add a few more things if I may.
First, the impulse response is exactly that gnarlsagan. And keep in mind the scale of the graph. The mh1 might have a slightly wider y-scale but just a tad, meaning it is actually a tad quicker even than it might seem. But it's hard to get exact numbers by the graphs. I just listened to that Ben Howard song, and it sounds excellent in the mh1. Another thing the impulse response, coupled with great FR, does is to create a very crisp and precise sound without sounding overly bright. The guitar in that song sounds metallic and has a great finger "ffffflick" crispness that almost sounds real and live. I haven't heard many iems that do that without sounding too bright. I think the mh1 even beats the er4s in that sort of "imaging" or "3d popping" effect.
In terms of flaws, the main thing is the bass weight as you say gnarl (can i call you gnarl?) :-P But I want to add that the bass never sounds bad. I completely agree with gnarlsagan that the bass is too much, and I EQ mine down around 120-130hz a few db. However, even stock with no adjustments, the bass doesn't really interfere that much with the overall sound. It's warmer and fuller, but the treble and mids are so good they aren't really that masked compared to most iems I've heard with mid bass bloat. However, once you EQ the mid/low bass down it starts to sound surprisingly accurate like the er4s with even more speaker like, flatter low bass.
I love my er4s, and place it as number one compared to any iem i've heard, especially with a touch of bass eq. However, this freaking iem for $20 is just wrong. I mean, I was skeptical and literally bought it to see if there was anything to the hype. I planned on doing a review and figured it would be pretty good, but nothing near the er4s. I have to say, it is either number two in my list of iems, or maybe even tied with the er4s but just different in presentation.
Anyway, I won't flood this thread with too much mh1 love (unless you want me to) ;-) Needless to say, it is the best "value" in the iem world, bar none, that i've heard. $20!!! And like gnarlsagan said, I sometime imagine what it would be like if I had heard the mh1 and it cost $300 or something. I can honestly say that I would still think it was an excellent value. It easily outperforms everything i've heard except the er4s and maybe the f111 with what appears to be the "luisdent only" perfect fit. haha The mh1 doesn't have the random bass flaws of the mh1c as well, so don't think it will be super boosted. It is bassier than neutral, so don't expect an identical er4s sound or something like that. But it is smooth, detailed, unoffensive, balanced, and with a bit of bass cut eq even more so...
Edited by luisdent - 11/7/13 at 4:00pm