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Most detailed, natural, balanced IEM's with a decent soundstage?

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 

I have attempted to shop around Calgary up in Canada but we have no stores that stock much in the way of high end audio. Lots of Sennheiser, some Grado, B&W, and Shure, and lower end Sony ($150 range IEM's).


I have tried a few IEM's in the stores but have no found anything even close to what I am looking for.


My go to song for "testing" sources is a Flac of "Hungry Like a Wolf" by Duran Duran. I always liked the song but when I heard it for the first time through my AKG 702's I was shocked to hear the very prominent electronic "popping" beat that is a major part of the song. Most EIM's and speakers it seems do not have the driver speed to isolate all of the sounds in what is a VERY busy song and give the detail and resolution needed to truly hear the full scope of that song.


I am looking for a IEM that is very close to the sound signature of my AKG's, phenomenal clarity, extremely detailed, very "open" soundstage (understanding I am not going to get to the 702 level on that with an IEM), neutral balance, and controlled balanced and not overpowering base. I want to be able to really hear the details, pick out each instrument and hear the pin that dropped during the recording. I want to avoid the various instruments getting blended together into a musical soup. That said, if a base drum is pounded it should sound like a base drum, I will admit that at times my AKG's can almost be too "hollow" on the base and that is never more noticeable then in Neil Diamonds "I am, I said", the base on my AKG's on that song is too weak and sounds artificial.


I wont be using these on the move much so I am not too concerned with weight or size. As long as they have a case that can fit into a coat pocket I am good.


I listened to


B&W C5: Tremendously muddy sound with very little detail, warmer then I like, they failed to provide the detail and clarity to showcase HLAW much at all.


Sony XBA2: More clarity then the B&W but not much. WAY too much base, poor clarity in the mids and weak/masked treble.


I have done a tremendous amount of reading about units at a lot of different price points on Head Fi and have come up with this list of possibilities.


Westone 4R: From what I read these are highly detailed, have balanced base, are relatively reasonably priced (until you re-cable them).


Etymotic ER-4S: These are highly praised as pure monitoring IEM's with phenomenal detailing, which I am guessing would really give a person every single layer of every single song they listen to clearly and precisely.


JH13 Pro Freq: From everything I have heard the reviews make them sound like a perfect fit. They are expensive but from what people say these are the top end of a neutral sound, great soundstage, and amazing resolution and details. The only thing that concerns me is some people find the build quality of the buds a little substandard given the price.


Shure 535 Red LTD: I am guessing these are a lot warmer and less analytical then the others I have mentioned but the one advantage of them is I can actually buy them locally at a semi reasonable price. They have high reviews and many seem to really like the way they sound, I am not sure how precise and detailed they are and how they would compare to the others on the list for really giving proper separation to the music and letting you pick out every little detail, I worry they might be too warm and mask the details at the mid and high ranges too much to my liking. Unfortunately while I can buy them locally I cannot "try" them.


I am open to any other suggestions. I have no real price limit but I am completely happy to get everything I want out of a $400 pair of IEM's instead of spending $1500 if that option is there.

post #2 of 3
Thread Starter 

I have spent the entire night reading more and ran into another very attractive sounding option.


Noble 4C (Acrylic) $699 or 4S (Silicone) $999: I am not sure how much of a difference the acrylic compares to the silicone? I am guessing the silicone "molds" to your ear a little better and gives you a better seal. From the reviews I have read these are very close to equal to the JH13's in sound, a slight bit less bass but overall extremely detailed, neutral, and very accurate monitor sound. At $699 plus the ear molds they seem like quite a good deal compared to the vastly more expensive JH13's, which are "slightly" higher reviewed for their slightly richer/warmer sound while keeping amazing clarity and precision.


1964 V6: Very highly reviewed, not quite as high as the Noble's and almost the same price, but they sound like my type of sound signature, extremely detailed and clear, and are still an extremely highly rated pair of CIEM's.


Anyone heard either of those options and how they compare to the rest? Other then the 315 IEM's comparison by one person (albeit clearly a very knowledgeable person at that) I would like to get some other opinions from others who might have slightly different preferences or listening experiences.

post #3 of 3
Though I have no experience with them, I saw the 1964 V3 given a strong recommendation as the best CIEM in its price. That or the V6 you mentioned might be a nice place start if you are interested in CIEMs.

Other than that the JH13 are supposed to be the best, so there really no getting around the price.

If you are sticking with universals I found the SE535 to sound just as good as any full sized can around $400-500. I didn't find them overly warm.
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