I'll start off with the equipment I have now to give everyone a better insight. My home setup is a bifrost dac and Asgard 2 amp running sennheiser hd600's. I am happy with this setup.... However I do use dsp to tailor the sound to my liking. Not much but just a couple of slight notch filters here and there. It's obviously not practical or possible on the go lol.
I am very picky with the way things sound. I build speakers and do custom audio systems both home and car audio. All of them use dsp to correct frequency response, phase, crossovers, etc... Easy to do at home on stationary equipment.
I have a need for iem's. I travel for work a lot. For on the plane, out and about, the gym, etc... A good iem is nice to have. That being said about 6 years ago is when I acquired my first set, the set I still use today... Etymotic er4's. I use an iphone 5 and I listen to a wide variety of music . Everything from classical to dubstep. A lot of rock, alternative, hip-hop, country. Yes everything. I listen to spotify a lot. That leaves using a dsp app out of the question. I have tried several on this phone and some of them work quite well but none with the control I ultimately desire or can be used with spotify anyway.
Let me talk about the er4 for a minute. I like them for pretty much one certain thing... Listening for details. It does that well. It pretty much forces you to do that. On a great recording they do sound damn good.
The er4 to me is just not that great for enjoying music. I can't say anything bad about them. They are what they are. (On a side note etymotic has the best customer service I have ever encountered. I am on deployment now and forgot my spare filters for my er4. I went to order some but didn't see the option to ship them here . I contacted ety about this. They asked me what address to ship them to, and they will gladly send me a few filters and a tool to get me back up and running. A week later they arrived figured I would share that). I will never get rid of them and will get another set if they fail. They are ultimately a listening "tool" for me.
I will never find exactly what I want in an iem because the perfect one doesn't exist. I can't really use dsp on the go . My best option is to get one that sounds close to as good as it gets to my ears.
I want something "natural" sounding. Not overly detailed, not too bright, no mid bass boost. Take the er4 and push all the sound away from me and that's about perfect but it shouts in my face... Well in my head anyway.
I ventured out a while back and got pair of mee a161p's. Got it cheap and gave them a try in hopes for something different. I got a little more bass (not nearly enough) but it just didn't do anything great, nor bad. They are a little bit better for music but being quite flat they still quite force a more critical listening experience and they are far away from the er4. Their bass is a little more "there".
Bass and iem's just don't go hand in hand I suppose... I could be wrong. Good bass to me is powerful. Completely opposite of the er4. No I'm not a bass head... But when a track is loaded with powerful low frequencies then yes it should make itself well know when listening. I desire an iem with powerful bass response that does not over do the mid bass and bleed into the midrange. I very rarely design a speaker system that uses passive crossovers anymore. I'm a big fan of active crossovers. Obviously that is not practical in a headphone and certainly not iem's. That being said I always looked at single driver units, until now. I don't see how I can get powerful bass and good resolution in the midrange without separate drivers. So i definitely see a multi driver option opening up. I do listen to a lot of bass heavy music so that is a priority to have a powerful bass presence. Not first on the list but quite possibly second.
Now I don't want a v shaped response . The midrange is the most important. Ears are more sensitive to midrange than highs or lows. Midrange needs to be fluid, and detailed. No peaks dips or spikes. Not too far forward. ( like the er4 ) and not recessed like a v shape response.
Treble should not be overdone . I'd rather have it too little than to much. Nothing worse to me than a speaker that is to bright. Natural and smooth with no emphasis.
Soundstage is a big priority. Depth more than width. While the er4 is a detail monster it doesn't have the body to produce a very wide or deep stage. Though there is some dimension to it with its supper aggressive forward midrange it does leave instruments in the back and has very noticeable instrument placements. It's just compact. A bigger soundstage is very desirable.
Ok now that I'm done describing the perfect pair of headphones for about 90% of the people out there let's get into the sacrifices to get a more realistic goal in hand. They are iem's so you don't use your natural hearing method properly. Emphasizing bass to a realistic level would probably throw everything way off. That being said I want a phone with great bass. Great impact. Doesn't have to be to the extent of some over the ear phones but enough to make a powerful presentation. Midrange may have to be less forward but not recessed. I'll give up some of the micro details and sheer quickness of the er4 to get more powerful bass without it being bloated, muddy.
An iem that can give me great bass with a good 3d soundstage with very fluid midrange would be ideal. Transparency and dynamics are more important than ultra high detail.
After all I still have my er4 for detail listening. I don't want to exactly downgrade but just looking for different.
As far as design and comfort etc. I like the er4's for that. Don't care for the over the ear cord designs. If I can get the sound then so be it then I'll get an over the ear design. Isolation needs to be there for the plane flights. Yes I fly a lot! Microphonics don't bother me much I work around that. Tips I prefer the shure olives and comply foam . Compatibly with those would be great. I have rather larger ear openings and non of the tips that the a161p came with gave me a good seal.
On to the suggestions budget around $400
Edited by 12v - 3/14/14 at 2:54am