Alright, I came back from demoing the ES5, UM Pro 50 and JH16. Keep in mind that the ciems have all been fitted with a universal adapter so they are not at their best during my testing. They should sound even better with a custom fit.
I am using my cowon D20 player for testing. A note is that the D20 output impedance is only 2 Ohms so it can drive any iem down to 16 Ohms with no problem (that's why they spec it at 16 Ohms) and is known to be powerful enough to drive 300+ Ohms can with power to spare. So the Player is more than enough to drive any of these iems
My control is a pair of Westone 4R with Silver Dragon Mk-II cable. I do not have my stock cable with me. Keep in mind that this has greatly increased the W4r performance.
The first thing is to look at the speculation that "UM Pro 50 is just the ES50 in universal form". Assuming the ES5 and ES50 is more or less the same (from others, there have been mentioned that ES50 might be a bit more detail and warmer in the mid range).
I can assure you that they are NOT the same. The sound quality of the ES5 (with the universal adapter) is simply MUCH better than that of the UM Pro 50. The bass is more heavy, the high more clear. There is no way anyone could mistaken these 2 to be the same once they have tested them.
The ES5 is a 20 Ohms IEM, the UM 50 has much higher Ohms. This is reflected in that the ES5 is much louder at the same output level.
In terms of Bass, the JH has the most power bass, I "felt", follow by ES5, then my W4r+SD2, and lastly the UM 50
In terms of overall clarity (which not everyone preferred) ES5>W4r+SD2 > JH > UM50
However, the ES5 mid is a bit more warmer than my W4r, it felt softer and not as impact-ful. I can understand why some had mentioned that they are not "wowed" the first time they put the ES5 on, I actually preferred the mid with my current setup. Then again, who knows what an ES5+ SD2 can do? maybe it will destroy the W4r in all aspect. The ES5 has good highs and it has much less sharp noise with some "ssss" sound in the sound track.
For the JH, it is really way too colored for my liking. Not that it is bad, as some would prefer this, but anyone who preferred Westone due to its accuracy and clarity will not like what the JH line can offer. They have great bass, but the mid and high are just too "masked" and what felt similar to "muffed" (But not actual muffed....).
So if you have the $ to get a ES5/50, I would suggest you also prepare for upgrading the cable as well. The reason I got the SilverDragon Mk2 is that it improved the W4r's bass impact, mid's sound stage and high's clarify. This might very well be why I felt my control iem has better mid and high clarity.
After doing some research from other forums, people mentioned that ES5 actually has a "warmer" mid and it is not "accurate" like its bass and high. I can understand this once I demoed the ES5 and felt how the mid is more soft. I don't know if I can overcome this with Cowon's EQing, haven't try it yet.
On the other hand, the Ultimate Ear ciem has been said to have the most natural sounding signal. I will need to find another time to demo this and see which one I prefer.
So where does this leave the UM Pro 50? Unfortunately, I feel that this is a far cry from being an alternative to the ES5 line. They are not "just" ES5/50 in universal form. They might use the same 5 driver set up, but clearly something else is different. Even the raw spec would suggest so. Keep in mind that I am not saying the UM Pro 50 is a bad iem, it is just that it is no where near being a replacement of the ES5. Perhaps if I also have an upgraded cable to test the UM Pro 50 with, it would sound better than my W4r. But somehow I doubt it. A higher impedance for these low impedance iems might signal that the component in the UM Pro 50 is cheaper than that of the ES5 and W4r.. but this is just pure specification.
That's my report. Hope it is not too hard to follow.
Edited by realgundam - 4/14/14 at 7:53am