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My IEM Problem...six pairs in my hands now, and feel just "eh" about all of them. Mini-reviews on...

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 

So, I've been looking for a pair of IEMs for a while...actually a few pairs, but that's beside the point. I've gone through a few of these things and the best I've thought about any of them is "hey, this isn't bad" which is not exactly a glowing endorsement. Anyway, I thought y'all folks might want to argue over my impressions or maybe just call me an *******. Enjoy.

 

Philips Dynamic Bass (SHE3590), stock tips are actually a fantastic pair for the price and perform really well, probably one of my favorite pairs ironically. The bass is big, low and tight with really great extension. The detail through the midrange and treble is stunning at this price point, although the top end can be a little harsh and tinny at times. One of my biggest complaints is the recessed midrange, although for $10 I don't really complain.

 

Sony MH1c, Comply foam tips just fell flat on its face in terms of expectations. I do not understand the hype around these! The bass is good and strong but IMO not as good as the $10 Philips. The midrange has nothing for me to complain about per se, but the treble is just...flaccid. I feel about zero percent engaged in the music with these headphones; it's just not natural or realistic or lively. I refer to these as the "Sony meh-1c" because 'meh' is exactly how I feel about them. Making matters worse is the fact that the cable is incredibly stupid, which results in the fact that these things do not stay in my ears with silicone tips given even the slightest turn of my head. (Sony, if you're reading this right now, the J-style cable is really ******* stupid and you should ditch it.)

 

Meelectronics M6, Comply active foam tips Could someone explain to me why these headphones get recommended, ever?

 

Brainwavz M2, Comply tips Besides the fact that most of the tips don't fit, the lower midrange on these things is so far forward that I can't really describe the bass or treble. If you want the Brainwavz M2 Experience, just turn up 200 - 600 Hz up about 4 db and voila! This thing comes with a bunch of tips and somehow none of them fit except Comply.

 

Zero Audio Carbo Tenore, Meelectronics triple-flange tips is a pair that lives up to the hype to a certain point. I thought these things were awesome until I put them up against my other IEMs then I began to notice how bloated the lower mids are, and how disastrously recessed the treble is. Don't get me wrong: these are good IEMs and I would actually recommend these to non-audiophiles or to the type of audiophiles who cringe and weep at the sound of frequencies above 10kHz...you know, the type who claim that Grados are trying to kill them? Anyway, these are actually engaging and somewhat natural sounding, unlike the Sony MH1c, but now I can't help but hear the heavy roll-off of the top end and the bloated lower mids.

 

Etymotic HF5, stock triple-flange tips I haven't had these for long so take my impressions of these with a grain of salt, but they're the polar opposite of the Carbo Tenores in that they have a gorgeous high end and midrange, with some bloating in the upper mids, but the low-end is terribly recessed and has no real body or presence. The fit and isolation are awesome, though! Great with the right kind of music, but I don't want to be swapping headphones out every time I want to listen to a different genre.

 

Klipsch x10 (traded away), stock double-flange tips: These were actually a pretty decent pair of headphones; they had great bass and surprisingly smooth treble for being a single-BA-driver IEM. My complaint with them was that the midrange was recessed enough that vocals and guitars sounded restrained, and as a result the music was not nearly as engaging as it could have been. I do not like a recessed midrange, especially given that music that I listen to is usually heavy on the guitar and/or vocals, so while I don't regret trading these off... they were still a pretty decent pair in retrospect.

 

Westone 2, Future Sonics dual flange tips are a pretty okay pair of headphones as well. My issue with them is that THERE IS A WHOLE DRIVER IN THESE HEADPHONES DEDICATED EXCLUSIVELY TO THE BASS, SO WHERE THE **** IS IT?! The treble on these things can also be really harsh depending on the recording quality, but with the right recording the midrange and treble on these can be very natural and pleasing.

 

I'm also happy to do a more detailed review of any of these, more detailed side-by-side comparisons or remark on any other aspect of them that I might not have mentioned here such as soundstage/imaging, comfort, durability, etc. Thanks for reading!

 

EDIT: Added the Brainwavz M2 because I forgot about them. That's how good they are.


Edited by ohcrapgorillas - 6/24/14 at 1:07pm
post #2 of 28

I have none of those than the HF5, I bought them because I thought I would like the clarity and detail and I did. But in the end it grated on my, It just felt a bit hollow and clinical and unless you put them in really deep - which most of the time I have massive trouble with you won't hear much if any bass. 

 

On a whim and on the back of the thread here I bought an InEars SD2. It still does not have masses of bass or anything although compared to the HF5 it is a bass monster, but what it does have is tight and does not leak. However what actually made me love them is the amount of details and the sweetness of the treble and mids. What is more is the amount of detail is neither fatiguing nor clinical, you can hear things but it is all very well rounded. On the other hand what kind of lets it down a bit is that the music can have a bit of disconnected feel to it, like the parts are awesome but it lacks a bit of cohesion, which might be a different way of saying that it could benefit from a bit of bass. As for fit they are about as good as universals can get I would think.

post #3 of 28
I took a flight to chicago last year, and the dude sitting next to me wanted to show off his hi end earbuds. I listened to them and in order to be polite, I told him they sounded very good.

He added immediately that he had paid $500 for them to try to impress me further. In reality, they sounded like cheap headphones. Extremely tinny, grating hi end, and no bass. They sounded like built in laptop spakers: lots of distorted grating treble and no bass at all.

I don't recall the model but it goes to show that paying a lot of money doesn't guarantee excellent quality. It doesn't even guarantee good quality.
post #4 of 28

I've always liked the Etymotic HF series.

 

I do agree about the Meelectronics M6; the bass muddies up everything.

post #5 of 28

The Tenores don't have recessed treble, the lower treble is actually boosted,. they just don't have treble spikes. As for their low mids, some people have even called them recessed, they are certainly not bloated. The HF5 does roll off early on the low region but the mids are flat.

 

It seems to me that what you are searching for are mildly V shaped phones with a treble emphasis. Maybe you should take a look at the JVC line, there are plenty such iems there that cover most price segments. 

post #6 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by ohcrapgorillas View Post
 

Westone 2, Future Sonics dual flange tips are a pretty okay pair of headphones as well. My issue with them is that THERE IS A WHOLE DRIVER IN THESE HEADPHONES DEDICATED EXCLUSIVELY TO THE BASS, SO WHERE THE **** IS IT?! The treble on these things can also be really harsh depending on the recording quality, but with the right recording the midrange and treble on these can be very natural and pleasing.

 

 

 

That is one of the most neutral(ish) sets that Westone makes.  The bass is there, its just not overemphasized like on many sets...

 

post #7 of 28
Thread Starter 

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mormonsloot View Post
 

 

That is one of the most neutral(ish) sets that Westone makes.  The bass is there, its just not overemphasized like on many sets...

 

 

 

That's an impressive FR graph and I wish that's what I heard but that's not my experience at all. I hear a hard roll-off of the bass starting at about 70-80 Hz and by the time you're in the mid-bass it's gone altogether. I also don't hear that rolled off top end: the treble coming out of my pair is harsh and bright. Keep in mind, I'm using Future Sonics dual flange tips which actually bring the bass up to what I'd consider neutral, not emphasized but at least present, and probably has something to do with the harshness of the treble. I wonder which tips they're using for that FR chart 'cause I want them.


Edited by ohcrapgorillas - 6/24/14 at 10:28am
post #8 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SkiesOfAzel View Post
 

The Tenores don't have recessed treble, the lower treble is actually boosted,. they just don't have treble spikes. As for their low mids, some people have even called them recessed, they are certainly not bloated.

I'm just telling you what I hear, man. Might be the different tips, but I distinctly hear an unnecessarily big lower midrange and recessed treble.

 

Quote:
 It seems to me that what you are searching for are mildly V shaped phones with a treble emphasis.

 

I actually strongly dislike most v-shaped sound signatures. I love the midrange, most of what I listen to is guitar or vocals heavy so the midrange being even a little recessed can ruin the experience. Everything I've heard that is supposed to be v-shaped has made the midrange sound weak and restrained, and I lose almost all sense of engagement with the music. The midrange IMO is where all the emotion is, and if it's being shoved in the back then the music loses all of that feel and impact. I guess it's maybe different if you listen to EDM, but most electronic music makes me feel slightly homicidal so there's that.
post #9 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by ohcrapgorillas View Post
 

Westone 2, Future Sonics dual flange tips are a pretty okay pair of headphones as well. My issue with them is that THERE IS A WHOLE DRIVER IN THESE HEADPHONES DEDICATED EXCLUSIVELY TO THE BASS, SO WHERE THE **** IS IT?! The treble on these things can also be really harsh depending on the recording quality, but with the right recording the midrange and treble on these can be very natural and pleasing.

 

I'm also happy to do a more detailed review of any of these, more detailed side-by-side comparisons or remark on any other aspect of them that I might not have mentioned here such as soundstage/imaging, comfort, durability, etc. Thanks for reading!

I've said on a many occasion that the westone 2 would have been my ideal iem if it had a tad more bass to it.  Tried the 3 and it was almost too much.  It's like they applied the brakes on the 2 to stop it treading on the toes of it's more expensive sibling!  I wouldn't however call it harsh in anyway and I have many many poor recordings in my collection.

 

As an aside what are you using as source?

post #10 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by ohcrapgorillas View Post

I'm just telling you what I hear, man. Might be the different tips, but I distinctly hear an unnecessarily big lower midrange and recessed treble.

 

 

 



I listen to rock, metal, alternative, post rock etc, so I agree about the importance of a good midrange. I don't doubt that you hear your Tenors the way you describe, sorry if I gave that impression.
The Tenore has been measured though, and the measurements draw a different picture than the one you describe so there are two possibilities. Bad fit or manufacturing variance. Maybe your pair has too much sub bass and it drowns the mids and the treble. The Tenores are also very sensitive to different flanges and insertion depth (they favor a shallow fit).
The hm5 is even worse in this regard but it needs the opposite fit (an uncomfortably deep insertion) to sound as intended.
post #11 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SkiesOfAzel View Post

The Tenores are also very sensitive to different flanges and insertion depth (they favor a shallow fit).
The hm5 is even worse in this regard but it needs the opposite fit (an uncomfortably deep insertion) to sound as intended.

Interesting. I'm using Meelectronics triple-flange right now and the double-flanges don't really noticeably different. Maybe I'll try the stock tips again tonight. Strange though, that most people in the thread say the Meelec double-flanges are the best tips for them and they are by far the deepest insertion, even moreso than the triple flange (the second and third flanges on the triples are much smaller than the second on the double, which is huge).

 

(Edited in the last sentence)


Edited by ohcrapgorillas - 6/24/14 at 1:11pm
post #12 of 28

I would like chime in here and recommend that you can have custom tips made.   I used to have a bag of tips until I had Westone um56 made...would NEVER go back to all this foam/flange junk.

 

Its basically just the canal portion of a custom IEM that plugs onto your IEM like a tip - perfect seal, fit and comfort.  Give it a try and graduate off this foam thing.

post #13 of 28

I feel for you!!!

 

I find that I LOVE IEMs.  When I perform a set of objective comparison tests against over-ear headphones on the set of criteria important to me, IEMs win... see for example:

 

 

(Of course, comparing IEMs to headphones has caused much throat-clearing, beard-tugging, and admonishing from the headphonocenti on this board!)

 

Even though they keep coming out ahead, I continue to be plagued by the feeling that I'm not getting them in just right... if I could get them inserted correctly, with the very best tips, they'd be even better.  And in my case, I think that one ear would have one kind of tip and the other another.

 

Reading your posts, I suspect part of your problem is indeed not getting the perfect fit of your IEM.  It makes such a difference, and the idea someone expressed about custom tips seems appropriate.

 

Meanwhile, I wonder if there are tests that someone can do to check whether the IEM fit is ideal.  I know that Tyll Hertsens, on innerfidelity.com, has a measurement that he does to be sure his IEMs fit in an artificial head, but that requires measurement equipment.

 

Any simple IEM-insertion/fit test anyone know of?

post #14 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by davidcotton View Post
 

I've said on a many occasion that the westone 2 would have been my ideal iem if it had a tad more bass to it.  Tried the 3 and it was almost too much.  It's like they applied the brakes on the 2 to stop it treading on the toes of it's more expensive sibling!  I wouldn't however call it harsh in anyway and I have many many poor recordings in my collection.

 

As an aside what are you using as source?

 

I agree for the most part with you. I think the harshness of the treble might be the result of the dual flange tips I'm using (which actually make the bass audible!) The Phonak Audeo tips that I also have make the midrange and treble perfect, but I only have the large and I'm a medium so they barely fit.

 

Source varies between Nexus 5, Clip Zip, and laptop/Gamma2/Asgard2. Guess which sounds best :P

Quote:
Originally Posted by kayandjohn View Post

 

Reading your posts, I suspect part of your problem is indeed not getting the perfect fit of your IEM.  It makes such a difference, and the idea someone expressed about custom tips seems appropriate.

Quote:
Originally Posted by twylight View Post
 

I would like chime in here and recommend that you can have custom tips made.   I used to have a bag of tips until I had Westone um56 made...would NEVER go back to all this foam/flange junk.

 

Its basically just the canal portion of a custom IEM that plugs onto your IEM like a tip - perfect seal, fit and comfort.  Give it a try and graduate off this foam thing.

 

Actually I'm positive that I'm getting a good seal in most cases. I know what a good seal feels like and I know when I'm getting a ****ty one. Most of my IEMs seal well, with the exception of the Brainwavz M2 and the Sony MH1c. I'm nervous about custom seals because they're not universal for all IEMs... i.e. I'd get customs for the Westone 2 but then I'd still end up hating the sound and have nothing to put the customs onto. But I'm going to look into it for sure. 

post #15 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by kayandjohn View Post
 

I feel for you!!!

 

I find that I LOVE IEMs.  When I perform a set of objective comparison tests against over-ear headphones on the set of criteria important to me, IEMs win... see for example:

 

 

(Of course, comparing IEMs to headphones has caused much throat-clearing, beard-tugging, and admonishing from the headphonocenti on this board!)

 

Even though they keep coming out ahead, I continue to be plagued by the feeling that I'm not getting them in just right... if I could get them inserted correctly, with the very best tips, they'd be even better.  And in my case, I think that one ear would have one kind of tip and the other another.

 

Reading your posts, I suspect part of your problem is indeed not getting the perfect fit of your IEM.  It makes such a difference, and the idea someone expressed about custom tips seems appropriate.

 

Meanwhile, I wonder if there are tests that someone can do to check whether the IEM fit is ideal.  I know that Tyll Hertsens, on innerfidelity.com, has a measurement that he does to be sure his IEMs fit in an artificial head, but that requires measurement equipment.

 

Any simple IEM-insertion/fit test anyone know of?


You can tip roll endlessly but at the end of the day if you want a perfect fit you want to put your money towards a set of customs.

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