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A roundup of microdriver IEM's - Page 3
Head-Fi's Best Sellers
Lemme take a stab at this one. This post is almost 2 weeks in the making!
over the years I've come to prefer IEMs over overhead cans, and I believe part of that originates from the size of the drivers. The IEMs (and open earbuds) with their smaller drivers have a different balance in sound. To my ears they've got an energetic edge that the larger drivers lack. This sounds like extra force/punch, and it can also sound like better resolution/clarity. Back when Sony would make the same open earbud design in 2 driver sizes (13.5/16), I've also always preferred the smaller one; be assured it's not a fit issue!
Surely drivers can be designed and tuned to sound different (see JVC versus the MH1c), but my hypothesis is that size factors immensely into what these 5.8 or 6.5mm drivers bring to the table, versus the larger dynamic drivers.
More and more IEMs have smaller drivers. The 9mm was very common in the early noughties possibly starting with the (crap) Sony EX70, now 5-6mm is becoming prevalent, and then there's the 3mm Vsonic VC02. This goes against the audio rule of thumb that larger drivers always have more aplomb; in the past you'll always see people use driver size as a bottom line kind of performance guarantee (Sony still does), but that's really getting replaced by these smaller drivers. That's a very interesting advancement.
So, what I'm trying to say is, advancement in tech has made smaller drivers viable, given them better performance and made them a viable proposition, and that's allowed people to tap into the inherent characteristics of these smaller drivers. It's a curious about face from the previous, bigger is always better paradigm (which still persists at, well, Sony). That's the whole picture with micro drivers. Okay, got that clear.
JVC's promo literature (Japanese) for the FXC and FXD includes insertion depth as a positive, but isn't this also certainly part-and-parcel in their sounding closed-in or lacking sense of space? You don't need micro drivers to experience this, you can try any IEM with a smaller tip than what normally fits you, and just push them in deeper. On the other hand, you also don't need to front-load a micro-driver to experience its characteristics. Front-loading them is a trick to make them sound even better, by placing them closer to the eardrum, but will often result in the driver getting clogged up by earwax, which IIRC was a huge complaint in Japanese discussion of the FXC series.
I've owned the FXT90 and FXD60, but personally I'm still just lukewarm about the micro drivers. My own experience is that they're still a little bit rough around the edges, meaning they've got minor fatigue/consistency issues. You mentioned how you put the FXD70 back on and it seemed to sound all different -- that's been my experience too; perhaps the front-loaded ones at least, are very sensitive to fit and placement in a way that regular IEMs aren't?
I look forward to what JVC can do to advance (and imo, stablize) this technology, since they're the only one who kinda bet the house on it. I've got the feeling that micro drivers are cheaper for them than going BA... Oh and I don't see Sony doing this because the MH1c is a Sony Mobile product, did not originate from Sony proper which is still kinda hawking their large drivers and dated 2009-era bang for the buck concepts.
Thanks for reading
Edited by heatofamatch - 8/4/14 at 5:29pm
I agree totally with you that they are still rough around the edges. So far I've only heard JVC microdrivers. I am very curious If anyone else does them more pleasingly. No, wait I did own the se215. I liked those, but found them slightly dull sounding.
Vc02 has a 3mm microdriver? Wow. Is it a BA or is it a dynamic?
Edited by ThickT - 8/4/14 at 6:22pm
Edited by ThickT - 8/5/14 at 4:42pm
The MH1c seems to have more than enough discussion here on head-fi to warrant its quality. Sony's house sound (even over at Sony Mobile) tends to be darker and more bassy, while JVC's is more treble-y. That might be the main difference between them.
I'm not getting the MH1c, but I'll probably get the SBH80 very soon, which is a stereo bluetooth headset with the same micro drivers. ljokerl reviewed this product over at his site and said it sounds a lot like the MH1c, if I do get a pair I'll report back.
Several other "box-less" bluetooth music headsets, like the Plantronics BackBeat Go (both generations) use a 6mm driver. There's apparently one reference design going around that people then modify and badge-engineer. (Plantronics, Jaybird, JBL, etc.) On the other hand I bet the SBH80 is Sony Mobile's own work and not based on this reference design.
Etymotic's Japanese importer lists the MC2/3/5 driver as 8mm and the Ety-kids (EK3/5) driver as 6mm. The MC5's driver size is corroborated by this Best Buy page that lists the driver diameter as 0.31" (i.e. almost 8mm). So the MC driver is too big to be a micro-driver, while the Ety-kids may in fact have microdrivers on board.
The MC5 is probably highly similar, if not outright identical to the Altec Lansing im616/716, both of which were created by Etymotic. That means the design was launched in 2005, before this current wave of micro drivers came to market. Meanwhile the Ety-Kids' 2011 launch makes a micro driver plausible. The JVC FXC50 was launched in Japan in July 2008... and that's my internet sleuthing for the day, hope this helps
Edited by heatofamatch - 8/5/14 at 10:11pm
Would be cool to see a wooden JVC microdriver!
I really commend JVC. I think they use their engineering as part of the appeal to the headphones they produce. As a consumer/geek that speaks to me more than other things when considering a purchase.
I wonder if microdrivers measure better or worse as opposed to conventional sized diaphrams on things like square wave graphs and the such. I really don't know much at all about that stuff, but curious about it.