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Need help finding high-end non-punishing IEM's

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

Hello fellow head-fiers, i've been following the site for a few months but hadn't joined until now, and i need your help.

You'll see, I, as a lot of us, love hearing my music through a good pair of headphones and earphones alike.

I listen to a lot of musical genres the most notable being metal, instrumental, jazz, blues and orchestral music.

The problem is that as much as i love high-end headphones, my sound files are not the most high quality, and as is the case with a lot of metal recordings, the quality might drop a bit, and some high-end headphones can get really punishing and reveal every single harshness on the recordings and tear the tracks apart, which i really don't like.


Through reading a lot of reviews, i've found a couple of high-end-ish IEM's that have caught my attention but that i have tons of doubts about and really have the concern that perhaps might be too revealing, so i would really appreciate if you could help me decide on which to get based on your impressions.


I will list a couple of things that i am looking for in the IEM's and some things we might have to take into consideration


MUSICAL TASTES: i listen to metal, rap, rock, rock and roll, jazz, blues, punk, orchestral music, instrumental music, alternative music, percussions, celtic music, some anime music, a little bit of scram-ish metal and some michael jackson, daft punk and Queen.


I do NOT listen to Hip-Hop, Dubstep or any kind of electronic music, salsa, mambo, reggaeton, or top 40's music.


OUTPUT: All of my audio will come directly form my computer, my IPod classic and my SmartPhone (IPhone 5, thinking about changing to an HTC One m8) and will be un-amped so no audio tweaking there.


BUILD QUALITY: I've had some really bad experiences with cheaply-built earphones and headphones alike, and this is really important to me. No matter how good a pair of earphones/headphones sound, if they are fragile and will break after a couple of months i do not want them. Certainly something i am really looking for in a pair of earphones is that they are the most rugged possible. Also, as i will be buying some kinda expensive earphones, i want them to last as long as possible.



Here's the tricky part, and the part where i really need your help. I consider my tastes of music very wide and because of this i want a pair of earphones that can handle every genre really good. I am aware that some genres will shine more than others, but i hope that at least they sound well. According to what i've heard the best signature for this is one with a slight focus on bass and mids, but i'm open to suggestion


Now the interesting part, the sound quality. As i said before, i would like to purchase the highest-end possible IEM's, but as my files are found in compressed format, i want a pair that is not revealing. I'm looking for as High-end IEM's as possible without getting revealing. If the earphones can get a really high quality without punishing poor recording quality then they are for me.


SHIPPING: Now this is not for the earphones Per-se but still important, as i live in México, not in the USA, and if i can not get the IEMs to ship here then there's no point on buying them.


COUPLE OF IEM'S: Now i'm going to list some IEMs that have caught my attention and some things that i have found about them, i'm completely open to suggestions.


Bowers and Wilkins C5: These are one of the few IEMs in this roundup that i can actually purchase here without ordering them. I've read some good reviews about these and the focus on the low-end seems to fit the desired sound signature, but some other reviewers say that it can get overpowering and that is something i do not want. As far as punishment goes, these seem to not be revealing at all, and that is something i really like. My only gripe apart form the maybe overpowering bass is the build quality, as some reviewers say the cable is rather thin.


Sony XBA-3: As well as the c5's, i can actually purchase these from a store and don't have to order them online. These are balanced armature headphones and have a sound more focused on the mids-highs and as far as reviews go these are pretty revealing and the build quality is not that great either. Definitely my least favorite according to what i've read.


Bose IE2/MIE2: Another pair that i can get from a store. These have some bad reviews because of their overpowering bass but they do not seem revealing. The build quality seems OK but i have my doubts about how good these sound.


Torque t103z: These are earphones with interchangeable filters that allow it to change its sound signature, which to me, is pretty awesome. The sound signature seems just what i was looking for and even if it isn't i could always change it up. Again, i do not know if these are revealing or not and feedback on that will be really appreciated. Also, i've heard that the chord is rather thin, plus i'm really hesitant into buying these as Torque is working on a higher-end model with the same interchangeable filter and i would hate buying these and then having the new ones come out.




SHURE SE SERIES: This is where the thing gets a little more complicated. I'm a real fan of the chord system on the SE series and i've heard some really good things about the quality of the chords, and having the possibility of changing it out once the chord dies really extends the life of these. My main concern about these is that the higher you go up in the tiers, the more revealing they COULD be, but i have never read any review that actually states whether the high-end models actually are or become revealing or whether they are or stay forgiving. Also, along the line of the SE each has its things and so i'm going to list them below.


SE 215: The bottom-tier model, the 215 is the only one that uses a dynamic system instead of a BA one. Heard really good reviews about them and definitely not revealing. The only thing stopping me from buying these is the fact that maybe higher end models of the line do sound better and are still not revealing. Also, i do not know how these compare to the C5's which is its main competitor. If it's not as good, the C5's definitely get my attention as they do seem a little higher-end without being revealing.


SE 315: I've read really unimpressive reviews about these. They say these are not worth the 100 dollar upgrade over the 215, but i've never read whether these are revealing or not. If these are not revealing still, i'll surely take them over the 215. The only things stopping me form buying them is the same as the 215.


SE 425: These shift the focus of the sound to the mid-range. I've read some rally weird reviews. There is no doubt that these are great, but some reviewers say these are even more revealing than its older brother the 535 while others say the 535 are more revealing. Really confused about these earphones. If anyone could give me feedback about these and the 535 and which one is the revealing one, i would certainly appreciate it. This could determine which ones i will get.


SE 535: The highest-tier one in this whole roundup. If i knew for a fact that these are NOT reveling i would certainly get them, no questions asked. As opposed to the 425, the 535 shifts its focus to the same place as its predecessors, the low-registers. These seem perfect in every single way, but no reviewer has stated whether these are punishing or forgiving to poor recordings, and this is the doubt that is killing me the most.





SE 846: Alright, these are not part of the roundup, i'm not willing to spend that much money on a pair of IEM's. These are here only for me to know whether they are revealing or punishing should i ever consider an upgrade from the previous roundup. Just as the 535, these seem almost perfect in every way, plus it has a removable filter system that lets you alter their sound. Almost perfect except for the doubt of whether these are really punishing or if you can actually enjoy your music regardless of poor format.


Sennheiser IE800: Exact same thing as with the 846, not actually considering them right now but rather as a possible upgrade over time. These have awesome reviews and top-notch quality. According to most reviewers, these are actually really forgiving headphones and work well with unamped sources. If that's the case, then these have definitely won my heart, but again, i would really appreciate your thoughts on that.



Again, i really need your help to help me decide between all of these, so i will leave you a summary of what i'm looking for:


-Highest-end sound possible without being revealing

-NO overpowering bass

-Great build-quality


I will really appreciate your help and any feedback to help me make a decision is welcome. Thanks   

Edited by AceOfZen - 6/30/14 at 8:57pm
post #2 of 8

Wow, there's a question! I was almost scared off by all that text but stuck with it.


It just strikes me that you'll be getting some high-up IEMs and putting them straight into your phone - like buying a Ferrari for your mum!


I'm similar to you in that I'm sensitive to too much high-freq energy, but I can't really think of anything which will do it for you - generally the better the IEM, the more accurate as this is what the market expects. Generally, pricey IEMs which aren't revealing aren't very good!


I haven't much experience with the IEMs you list other than the Shures but I'll give my opinion.


The range now starts with the SE112 - which is what I use when out and about. Same cable but non-removeable, £50 or so. Rounded off at the top end and good and comfy. I'd say that these or the SE215s will be about right for you.


The SE315 is nice too - this might start to give more detail but is still relatively smooth. The SE425 and upwards are probably going to be too much in terms of detail.

post #3 of 8

I'd look at the Shure SE215. They're comparatively inexpensive, have a very pleasing sound signature (nice clarity and warm sound without peakiness), and are very durable. Not to mention they fit/isolate well and feature replaceable cables in case anything happens to the stock one. 

post #4 of 8

if it has to be really high end then the 535 but opening it up a bit the senn IE7, shure se215 and an outside option the brainwavz R3.

post #5 of 8

I had the Shure 535s - absolutely loved them. They may provide a good middle of the road experience for all of your needs.  After a year, I gave them to my son and purchased the Ultrasone IQs - this IEM has taken a beating on some reviews for sibilance, but I never had any problems. The sound was wonderful.  Both of these can play directly from your listed devices without issue. They sound even better when amped.  And after a year with the IQs, I just ordered a pair of K10s from Noble - this will be my first CIEM.  It's a sickness - regardless of where you start, you're very likely to keep climbing :)  Good luck with your decision.

post #6 of 8
Thread Starter 

Thanks to you all for replying, i really appreciate it. I get the point when you say that how come i will use these unamped, but the thing is that i am considering buying an amp, just not right now. My main use for the purchase will be to use them on the go with my ipod classic, so amping is not something i'm contemplating as of right now. ALso since i am going to spend quite some money i will not be able to buy said amp for a while.


Also, i did my research on each and every one of the earphones, and all of these are easy driven by any portable device, the only thing that scares me is the possible destruction of my poor audio files.


I'm really tempted to get the 535LTD as the limited edition is out right now, and according to what i've heard these are actually not that punishing, and in fact quite forgiving, so definitely my main competitor right now.


Again, thanks for the help.


Also looking at the Sennheiser IE80, what are your thought on this one?

post #7 of 8

the IE80 is rather V shaped, its treble is excelent and a bif forward so its not particlarly forgiving.  i mean its by no means the most brutal, compared to a DBA02 its pretty laid back but its not close to as forgiving as the shure, the IE7 would be the more genteel senn

post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 

Wow, thanks for that reply i really appreciate it.

I was having a really tough time deciding between the SE535LTD and the Sennheiser IE80.ALright, thanks a lot to each of you guys, i think i'll be getting the SE535LTD's, hope it's really good. Again, thanks a lot!!!

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