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Audio Hiss with IEMs

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
Hi, there.

Brand new member here, but I've been skulking around as a guest for awhile. So I recently purchased some Audio Technica CKM500s and love them. That being said, I have now noticed that I'm getting a decent amount of hiss. Once you hear it, it's hard to ignore. I'm using a Note 3 with PowerAmp and Rocket player. What upsets me the most is that I don't notice the hiss on my boyfriend's iPhone 5. Has anyone else experienced this problem? My headphones are fine, but I'll assume that's because of the lower sensitivity. Is my Note defective? I'm still waiting for Kitkat which I hope will magically solve everything. If my phone is defective, I won't hesitate to hit up Verizon for a replacement. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
post #2 of 22
Thread Starter 
My over the ear headphones are Audio Technica ath-m50s. No hiss on those—only with the CKM500s.
post #3 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by lucky815 View Post

Hi, there.

Brand new member here, but I've been skulking around as a guest for awhile. So I recently purchased some Audio Technica CKM500s and love them. That being said, I have now noticed that I'm getting a decent amount of hiss. Once you hear it, it's hard to ignore. I'm using a Note 3 with PowerAmp and Rocket player. What upsets me the most is that I don't notice the hiss on my boyfriend's iPhone 5. Has anyone else experienced this problem? My headphones are fine, but I'll assume that's because of the lower sensitivity. Is my Note defective? I'm still waiting for Kitkat which I hope will magically solve everything. If my phone is defective, I won't hesitate to hit up Verizon for a replacement. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

 

The DAC/AMP on the Note 3 is poor :/  So it's not the IEMs, it's actually the how the Note 3 responds to an IEM that is low impedance or high sensitivity :/ 

 

A possible solution would be to add a resistance adapter (like the Etymotic P to S adapter) to them.  It'll make them a lot less loud though, but should solve your static hiss issue. 


Edited by tinyman392 - 3/13/14 at 10:52pm
post #4 of 22

Your phone is probably fine. Iems are just more prone to hissing than full-size cans. There are also music tracks that can cause even some very high-end iems on a good source to hiss. But yeah, hiss is usually caused by higher sensitivity or low impedance. Also, you should know that phones aren't the best audio sources and just because you don't get hiss on one phone doesn't mean you won't get on another, which might have high output impedance and bad EMI shielding. Generally, iems and headphones with higher impedance hiss less, so you might look into getting an attenuator like the etymotic adapters that increase the impedance - there are often ebay sellers that offer the option for the consumer to choose how much impedance to add - something like 50ohm will probably be fine but honestly you might just look for different iems coz there is no guarantee that it will reduce the hiss enough for you and I guess it will be a more relevant and cheaper option than changing your phone just because a pair of iems hiss with it.


Edited by kova4a - 3/13/14 at 11:03pm
post #5 of 22
The Note 3 has poor DAC/AMP? I thought it was supposed to be considered a solid audio performer when it comes to cellphones. Remember there are things that can be done to improve sound quality like using a better player (I use Neutron, PowerAmp should be a fine choice) as well as installing Viper4Android to fine tune the sound.

But Kova's right. It's not your cellphone, it's your IEMs. IEMs are notorious for hissing because of the impedance. I'm glad I have the Westone UM3X with its relatively high impedance.

Other thing to do is use an external DAC and/or amp. Not sure that'll prevent hissing because I suppose it'll depend on the DAC, but if there are audio quality concerns then there's that option.

Honestly, you're on Head-Fi... I think you must buy some new IEMs biggrin.gif.
post #6 of 22
Thread Starter 
Any suggestions for good IEMs with high impedance and low sensitivity? Price is somewhat of an issue, but I'm willing to dish out some cash.
post #7 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by hatefulsandwich View Post

The Note 3 has poor DAC/AMP? I thought it was supposed to be considered a solid audio performer when it comes to cellphones. Remember there are things that can be done to improve sound quality like using a better player (I use Neutron, PowerAmp should be a fine choice) as well as installing Viper4Android to fine tune the sound.

But Kova's right. It's not your cellphone, it's your IEMs. IEMs are notorious for hissing because of the impedance. I'm glad I have the Westone UM3X with its relatively high impedance.

Other thing to do is use an external DAC and/or amp. Not sure that'll prevent hissing because I suppose it'll depend on the DAC, but if there are audio quality concerns then there's that option.

Honestly, you're on Head-Fi... I think you must buy some new IEMs biggrin.gif.

 

I've ran IEMs that are high sensitivity low impedance on smartphones before (and iPods), they generally don't hiss.  Using a better player is not going to factor into anything if it's a hardware issue (which this technically is).  You can blame the buds, or you can blame the device, or you can blame both.  However, they don't hiss coming out of every device... 

 

If you use an external DAC/AMP, you'll fix the issue, it'll bypass the internal DAC and more importantly, the amp inside (which probably is causing the issue).  The cheaper solution is to use resistance. 

 

Quick note about the Note 3...  It's offered in two variants...  Uh oh...  Two different chipsets...  Uh oh again...  Two different DACs...  Uh oh a third time...  The Exynos variant probably uses the good Wolfson DAC...  The Snapdragon 800 variant...  Um...  Uses the Qualcomm chipset which probably uses a shiny Yamaha DAC (it's part of the chipset)... 

 

So to note, his phone isn't broken, but it's possible he has a poor quality DAC inside...  It's like plugging into a laptop (they're both computers after all) and getting hiss...  The headphones are too sensitive for the DAC/AMP... 


Edited by tinyman392 - 3/13/14 at 11:39pm
post #8 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by lucky815 View Post

Any suggestions for good IEMs with high impedance and low sensitivity? Price is somewhat of an issue, but I'm willing to dish out some cash.

 

You can get new IEMs...  I'd suggest testing out something like the Etymotic P to S adapter.  They're normally affordable...  If you do want to get a new set of IEMs (make sure you can return these first ;) if it's worth it...).  We do need a solid price range, genres/types of music/artists/etc. you listen to, as well as a preferred sound signature (if you have one). 

post #9 of 22

The impedance of Audio Technica CKM500 is 16ohms and more than likely the cause over your phone (although it is contributing) as been mentioned some IEM hiss with certain sources. You've stumbled upon some bad synergy. In reality you can try adding an impedance adapter however the real answer is either switching the IEM or source, there's not much you can do to make it magically dissapear unfortunately. I would recommend trying another friends pair of earphones on your Note 3 to confirm it's not hissing with everything then try to exchange the earphones for something like GR07 Classic which is 50ohms ,that should cure the problem (GR07 is just an example). Alternivately you could purchase a $30 Sansa Clip Zip and continue to use your CKM500, though I understand the phone is probably more convenient for your full time source. 

post #10 of 22
Thread Starter 

Thanks everyone for the help. This forum is spectacular! 

 

What would I expect if I bought the Etymotic p to s adaptor (I'm assuming the one on this page works)? Lower volume, which doesn't bother me; I'm all about listening at safe levels (~85db). Would it change the sound quality at all (besides getting rid of the hiss)?

 

I'm definitely willing to get some new IEMs if necessary. As far as prices go, I'm thinking I could spend $150...maybe $200. I like a good balanced sound as I listen to lots of everything from rap to classical. If possible, I like to avoid heavy microphonics, but most of the time I listen at my desk, so it shouldn't be a big problem. Noise isolation is key. 

 

Any suggestions are welcome. 

post #11 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by lucky815 View Post
 

Thanks everyone for the help. This forum is spectacular! 

 

What would I expect if I bought the Etymotic p to s adaptor (I'm assuming the one on this page works)? Lower volume, which doesn't bother me; I'm all about listening at safe levels (~85db). Would it change the sound quality at all (besides getting rid of the hiss)?

 

I'm definitely willing to get some new IEMs if necessary. As far as prices go, I'm thinking I could spend $150...maybe $200. I like a good balanced sound as I listen to lots of everything from rap to classical. If possible, I like to avoid heavy microphonics, but most of the time I listen at my desk, so it shouldn't be a big problem. Noise isolation is key. 

 

Any suggestions are welcome. 

 

Adding resistance to an IEM can change its sound.  The issue is, we don't know how unless we have a very specific measurement of the IEM (it's a 2D graph of impedance vs frequency; not just the impedance spec).  So do expect a possibility of changing sound.  YOu may or may not notice it though. 

 

As for IEM suggestions, it depends on what kind of sound you prefer...  I do have some suggestions below:

  • HiFiMan RE-400 (102 dB, 32 ohms) -> Higher impedance, warmer more neutral sound
  • Phonak PFE 0xx (107 dB, 32 ohms) -> Higher impedance, uses a filter system for customizeable sound (bassy, balanced, neutral).  You can buy filters separately, but Phonak IEMs are becoming more rare since they have stopped production
  • ThinkSound MS01 (96 dB, 16 ohms) -> Low sensitivity, bassy, fun sound.

 

You can fight microphonics by wearing the IEM with the cable up and around the ear.  All of the above IEMs are capable of doing that, the Phonak must be worn over ear.

 

Last note, you are not the only one with hissing issues.  It's been brought up on the Head-Fi thread about the Note 3 (I went ahead and did some research)...  Multiple times (about 9-10 total; this says it is a real problem, non-isolated).  The Note 3 has an adaptive sound feature (or something like that).  Once it's turned on, it can't be turned off without a reset.  If you have turned this feature on, reset (hard reset/restore) your device to factory settings (make sure you backup first) and test again.  This feature can add gain which makes the hiss more pronounced. 

 

Also of note, the DAC in the Note 3 is either a Qualcomm DAC (Qualcomm chipset) or a Yamaha DAC (Exynos chipset).  Neither of these are the best DACs, but as with any piece of hardware, there are other parts that come to play. 


Edited by tinyman392 - 3/14/14 at 9:59am
post #12 of 22
Thread Starter 

Thanks so much for the help! Sorry about the repost. I definitely did some research before hand, but not all on this forum. Plus, I'm kind of new to the forum community—don't know the etiquette. One last question, and I think I'll be set. Firstly, I'll do a hard reset of my phone tonight. Secondly, I think I can pick up either the hifi or thinksounds. Question, though...which is more important—low sensitivity or high impedance? 

post #13 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by lucky815 View Post
 

Thanks so much for the help! Sorry about the repost. I definitely did some research before hand, but not all on this forum. Plus, I'm kind of new to the forum community—don't know the etiquette. One last question, and I think I'll be set. Firstly, I'll do a hard reset of my phone tonight. Secondly, I think I can pick up either the hifi or thinksounds. Question, though...which is more important—low sensitivity or high impedance? 

 

The safe bet would be dependent on how the sensitivity was measured.  There are two well-used units for measurement using IEMs, dB SPL/mW and dB SPL/V.  If it's measured using V (voltage), then impedance actually means nothing :p  If it's measured using mW (watts, power), then impedance has an effect.  For the HiFiMan and ThinkSound, they are both measured in mW, so both become important...  There's no way of saying for certain unfortunately :/ 

 

Do test doing a hard reset first though, let us know how that goes.  DO NOT turn on the adaptive sound again XD 

post #14 of 22
Thread Starter 

Will do as soon as I get home. I turned it off, but if a hard reset is what it takes, I'll try it out!

post #15 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by lucky815 View Post
 

Will do as soon as I get home. I turned it off, but if a hard reset is what it takes, I'll try it out!

 

OK, make sure you back up first too XD  Apparently, that on-off switch for the Active Sound doesn't work (for some reason the Active Sound increases the gain, the on-off switch only adjusts the EQ, not the gain).  Must be a bug in the software. 

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