Welcome to The $999 vs $99 Challenge Tour!
In one corner we have the venerable Ultimate Ears Reference Monitor, a long standing pillar of neutrality. In the other corner stands the challenger recently born from the ashes of the Triple.Fi 10 and the sweat of Rin Choi, the Ultimate Ears Triple Fi Reference Monitor!
This tour has been in the works for a while, and is the brain child of long time member James444, and master measurement taker, Rin.
"First of all, huge thanks to you, Eke, for volunteering to organize the "$990 vs $99 Challenge Tour". Here's a short history of how I came up with this idea in the first place, and the background story so far:
In November 2012, my friend Rin Choi, one of the most knowledgeable audio experts I know, analyzed my Ultimate Ears Custom In-Ear Reference Monitors (UERM) and made the following statement: "Is it just me, or the frequency response of the UERM really resembles that of good old Triple.Fi 10 Pro? You be the judge, but as far as their frequency responses are concerned, the deviation here is a matter of a simple crossover circuit / acoustic damper modification."
Needless to say, I was more than just a little bewildered. The UERM is one of the most highly regarded IEMs I know and costs a whopping $999 (even more in the EU, where I live), whereas the TF10 can be had for as little as $99 during Black Friday sales. Had I been ripped off big time by Ultimate Ears? Well, I had no TF10 to compare to my UERM at that time, so I just told myself that measurements only tell part of the story and let the subject slide into oblivion.
About half a year later, I came across this highly controversial thread in a pirates' nest called Changstar and decided that the subject of measurements vs listening impressions was too interesting to let it slide a second time. So I came up with a plan: I'd buy one pirate's "unused artifact of IEM history" (aka the TF10) and simply present Rin with the challenge to mod it into an UERM. I'd also provide him with a universal UERM demo unit, so he could actually listen to both, the TF10 and the real thing.
Without further ado, I went to set my plan into action, and shortly afterwards sent the following PM to Rin: "Just bought a used TF10 to be sent to you for modding. Crack open whatever you want on them and do your wizardry. If you succeed without destroying them, they'll be included with the subsequent UERM loan tour. Then people can judge for themselves how similar you can make a TF10 sound to the UERM."
Luckily, Rin being a man of his word, accepted my challenge, and so the TFRM actually came into being. In the end it took him a whole month to finish his mod and his PMs went from "I won't crack open TF10" to "TF10 doesn't look pretty anymore", but I have to admit his final measurements look pretty darn similar to the UERM.
So, now that modding and measurements have been completed, how will our esteemed fellow Head-Fier's ears relate to Rin's results? Well, that's what the "$990 vs $99 Challenge Tour" is meant for, to collect a sizeable number of subjective listening impressions and let the collective mind evaluate whether the $99 IEM has really been turned into a $999 one. I sincerely hope participants will be able to leave price and aesthetic differences aside and just judge both IEMs by sound quality only. I wish you all an interesting and fun experiment and I'll be patiently waiting for my turn as the very last member of the tour. "
And so began preparations for this tour.
The results are here:
The members have been selected based on experience, knowledge and overall trustworthiness, given that the items are rather valuable.
The participants are:
A few guidelines:
1) Due to the long list of members, we're going to try to move the tour along as quickly and as smoothly as possible. We ask for each member to contain the length of his experience to one week, 2 weeks at the maximum.
2) We want to somewhat standardize the feedback system. Since we are comparing two IEMs, we thought it would be good to set it up on a scale of 1 through 10. The first scale will be for overall similarity, as in how close you think the two sound to each other in terms of signature, soundstage, technicalities, etc. The second scale will measure how you value each iem. For instance, do you think the UERM should be 3x or 10x more than the TFRM.
3) Also, you're more than welcome to add subjective impressions and your own pictures to the thread. I'll make a list of names in the second post of the thread. I'll add each set of impressions under the name of its contributor, similar to how the T-Peos H100 tour (click) was organized.
4) We'll also use this thread to keep track of the movement of the items. We ask that you reply here when you ship to the next member, and for the corresponding member to acknowledge receipt. Also, if possible, try to use a delivery service that requires some sort of signature for the members who may not live in the safest of neighborhoods. This is something that could be talked about privately between members.
Again, thanks for participating. Have fun!
Edited by eke2k6 - 2/12/14 at 8:16am