Scores to Date- Click to read review. If unclickable, the review is on this post. (Scroll down!)
The Best (9.6 and above)
Earwerkz Legend R: 9.7 (Comparisons with the NT6 here, under the NT6 impressions)
Noble K10: 9.7
1964Ears V6: 9.6
1964Ears V6S: 9.6
Shure SE846: 9.5-9.6
1964Ears V8: 9.2
Noble 4: 9.1-9.2
Noble 6: 9.5
Noble 8C: 9.2
Round 1: EarWerkz Legend R VS Noble 4, 6, 8C, K10; 1964 V6, V6S, V8; Shure SE846 brief reviews in this post (scroll below)
Updated! Round 2: CustomArt Harmony 8 Pro, JH13 FP, JH16 FP, JHRoxy, VisionEars Stage 6 XControl and Westone W60 brief reviews here: http://www.head-fi.org/t/746615/earwerkz-legend-r-vs-noble-k10-brief-review-updated-on-page-3-with-customart-harmony-8-pro-and-others/30#post_11156363
Updated! Round 3: Sennheiser IE800, AKG K3003 and JVC FX850 brief reviews here: http://www.head-fi.org/t/746615/earwerkz-legend-r-vs-noble-k10-brief-review-updated-on-page-3-with-customart-harmony-8-pro-and-others/45#post_11159077
Updated! Round 4: Fidue A83, Dunu DN-2000, ATH CKR09 and ATH CKR10 brief reviews here: http://www.head-fi.org/t/746615/earwerkz-legend-r-vs-noble-k10-brief-review-and-15-others-including-customart-harmony-8-pro/75#post_11169116
Updated! Round 5: JVC FX650, 750, 850, 1100; Westone W30, W40, W50, W60; Westone UM 30 Pro, UM 50 Pro brief reviews here: http://www.head-fi.org/t/746615/earwerkz-legend-r-vs-noble-k10-brief-review-and-19-others-including-customart-harmony-8-pro/105#post_11178667
Updated! Round 6: Lear LCM-5, Lear BD 4.2, Dita Answer, Dita Answer Truth Edition, ATH IM04, Aurisonic Rockets, M-Fidelity SA-43 brief reviews here: http://www.head-fi.org/t/746615/legend-r-vs-k10-brief-review-and-27-others-now-incl-entire-westone-w-um-series-and-jvc-fx-series/120#post_11181631
Updated! Round 7: Canalworks CW-L51APSTS, Hidition NT 6/6-Pro, Rooth LSX, http://www.head-fi.org/t/746615/legend-r-vs-k10-brief-review-and-36-others-now-incl-lear-lcm-5-and-bd-4-2/150#post_11187935brief reviews
Updated! Round 8: Canalworks CW-L05QD and Rooth LS-8 brief reviews here: http://www.head-fi.org/t/746615/legend-r-vs-k10-brief-review-thread-and-43-others-incl-customart-harmony-8-hidition-nt-6-and-aaw-w500/165#post_11202656
Updated! Round 9: Unique Melody Legacy, Unique Melody Mentor, Unique Melody Miracle, ATH IM03, ATH IM70 brief reviews here: http://www.head-fi.org/t/746615/legend-r-vs-k10-brief-review-thread-and-45-others-incl-customart-harmony-8-hidition-nt-6-and-aaw-w500/180#post_11221958
Updated! Round 10: Advanced AcousticWerkes AAW W350, Rooth LS-8+, Hidition Viento-R brief reviews here: http://www.head-fi.org/t/746615/50-iem-brief-review-thread-incl-legend-r-customart-harmony-8-hidition-nt-6-and-aaw-w500/195#post_11269733
Updated! Round 11: Advanced AcousticWerkes AAW W300, Cleartune Monitors CT-500 Elite, Fitear MH335 DW, Fitear MH334, JHA Angie, JHA Layla brief reviews here: http://www.head-fi.org/t/746615/59-iem-brief-review-thread-incl-aaw-w300-jha-angie-jha-layla-cleartune-ct-500/210#post_11304530
Updated! Round 12: Round 12: Rhine Monitors 1.2, 2, 3, 4, 5; Cleartune Monitors 200, 300, 400; UERM; CustomArt Music One; Music Two; Pro 330v2 brief reviews here: http://www.head-fi.org/t/746615/59-iem-brief-review-thread-incl-aaw-w300-jha-angie-jha-layla-cleartune-ct-500/225#post_11338655
Round 1: EarWerkz Legend R VS Noble 4, 6, 8C, K10; 1964 V6, V6S, V8; Shure SE846
The Build Quality
The Noble demos all have pretty consistent builds- two similarly shaped shells screwed tight together. The 1964s also looked very well made. The Nobles and 1964s actually all look professionally manufactured. In contrast, the ELR looked like a very beautifully crafted hand made object. It was transparent, so I could see that all the crossover wires were very neatly tucked away. The sockets were also done very neatly. There were three bores on the Legend R.
I used my Chord Hugo, driven by my iPhone 6+ Onkyo app. Flac files. This is a very refined source, from which I've almost never heard sibilance. It's quite neutral to my ears- although if I had to pick, it's a touch on the side of cold. All the cables used were stock, although for the Earwerkz the bundled cable couldn't be plugged into my Chord Hugo (the Chord Hugo has a very slim jack), and so I used the Noble's stock cable instead. I believe it is SPC (silver-plated copper).
The Earwerkz Legend R ($999)
In a nutshell, the ELR are a treble-head phone. It really brought out the energy and rhythm of fast songs, and the timbre of the high notes was spot on. At certain points, I heard some high notes that I'd never noticed before on my audition tracks- a pretty amazing feat, considering how often I listen to them. I wouldn't call them bright, but they're certainly not neutral.
As is typical of treble-head phones, the bass you get with the Legend R is not impactful, tight bass. Rather, it's there to add a bit of rhythm, to add some structure to the music, but it's never there to be noticed.
The mids are airy, and the treble emphasis gives them just that bit more life, and just that bit more emotion. They're not a deep, solid midrange; but they're not recessed either. In fact, I found the interplay between the treble and the mids made the mids just that bit more lively and layered.
Update: I've now heard a custom version that has been burned in >200 hours. It sounds completely different from what I heard on the demo. The Earwerkz Legend R now sound, to my ears, like a more laid-back JH13- to its benefit and credit. Coherence is no longer an issue. Clarity is top-notch just like on the JH13; and the bass is extremely hard hitting and textured- but never quite over done (I sometimes felt the JHs had too much). These are not bass monsters. The overall signature is one of energy and rhythm, but without being as forward and aggressive as the JH13. The soundstage is also very large. Given these new impressions, I have updated the Legend R's score- upwards- for now, until I get my own custom pair.
vs Noble K10 ($1599)
I spent about an hour A-Bing the two. Part of the reason for this was that the two phones couldn't be more different. The K10 was deliberate, subdued, and brought with it a strong bass kick. The Legend R was dynamic, fun, and focused more on the highs. Going from the Legend R to the K10, I felt a sudden sense of coherence and balance that wasn't there on the Earwerkz IEM. The K10 was more intimate and warm, but also had perfect instrument separation when playing congested passages. This was very stunning to me- I've never heard a 'best of both worlds' presentation like that before. It was also very clear that this specific presentation was a Noble house sound- I heard it also in the Noble 6. In fact, the one thing that this audition brought out was that the K10 had a very unique sound. Every time I picked the K10 up, I heard it. It wasn't just another one of the many 'me-too's out there that did everything competently, but struggled to be differentiate itself.
On the other side of the fence, the Legend R also has a pretty unique sound. It's not instantly apparent like with the K10, but I heard it quite quickly nonetheless. It has a bigger and airier sound, and just like the Noble K10 has absolutely zero problems with congestion. But its real magic is in its dynamism. This reminds me a bit of my Shure 846, but the Legend R was a bit of a less exciting (and less fatiguing) take on a energetic phone. In fact, the combination of an effortless presentation (probably from those 6 crossover points) with an exciting, fast and speedy sound was extremely alluring.
On to the midrange- both have good presentations, but the Noble K10 had a midrange that blended well with the bass- with less treble emphasis. In fact, after hearing some high notes with the Legend R that I'd never previously noticed on my audition tracks, I went specifically to the Noble K10 to try and pick them out. They were there, but the K10's midrange slightly overpowered them. I had to concentrate hard to hear them.
Bass wise, it's no contest. The K10 has bass that hits as hard as my 846's, and is almost as clean. It's also strong when called upon, but can also be gentle when the song requires.
K10 Score: 9.7
vs Noble 8C ($1299)
I'd read some remarks that the 8C was very bass heavy, and this was surprising to me. When I last auditioned it, I remembered it as a fast, dynamic and hard hitting sound, but less warm than the K10. This time around, I heard the same thing. It definitely wasn't as warm as the K10. The bass was harder hitting though. In fact, it was too hard hitting. On some of my tracks, the bass even sounded sharp. Compared to the Legend R, which had very laidback bass, this was the complete opposite.
I'd also read that the 8C had a boosted treble compared to the Heir 8A. So again, I cued up my new "treble test song". Interestingly, the presentation of the treble was almost exactly similar to that of the K10- the treble was there, but was overpowered by the mids. The Legend R was better. It was more refined, had more energy, and had better timbre.
Update: I first did this post before I heard many other mid-tier IEMs that are excellent, like the Dunu Dn-2000 or the Fidue A83. I rated those quite highly, but then had to return to revisit my other scores to make sure they were still accurate. The score for the Noble 8C was not, and I have now modified it. My impressions were mostly the same. It still sounded sharp and edgy. It however did have rather good extension and detail. One thing that could be improved- it tended to sound congested during complex passages.
8C Score: 9.2
vs Noble 6 ($999)
The Noble 6 had a slightly v-shaped signature, but was very well balanced. In fact, this IEM was one of two that I was pleasantly surprised at. There were just not many weaknesses. The bass hit hard but not too hard; the midrange was clear and lush; and the treble was smooth. The one area of improvement, I felt could have been in the extension. Against the K10 it was clear that both bass and treble extension was just a little bit poorer. It also could not match the energy and timber of the highs of the Legend R.
N6 Score: 9.5
vs Noble 4 ($450)
The Noble 4 was interesting. I really expected to like it, but when I tried it, I heard lots of similarities with the 8C- and less with the 6 and K10. It almost seemed like there were two distinct 'house sounds', although one commonality all the Noble phones had was, they were all very smooth. This had similarly sharp bass as the 8C, although it hit with less punch and had less layering. The treble extension was similar to the 6.
Update: I first did this post before I heard many other mid-tier IEMs that are excellent, like the Dunu Dn-2000 or the Fidue A83. I rated those quite highly, but then had to return to revisit my other scores to make sure they were still accurate. The score for the Noble 4 was not, and I have now modified it. During my second audition, I still heard the hard hitting bass; I also still heard the sharp and edgy signature. But I also heard a few things that separated it from the other mid-tier IEMs. It had a good 3D effect, with excellent imaging. Clarity was also very good- as it generally was with the rest of the noble series. Finally, the mids were very good; and lush. What could perhaps be further improved, apart what is already mentioned, is the average soundstage and perhaps improved airiness.
N4 Score: 9.1-9.2
vs 1964 V8 ($899)
(Sidenote: The 1964 stock cables, which I used for the 1964 phones, are copper cables) After my previous audition with the V8, I read that this was the phone of choice used by Vitaly and some of the other guys at 1964. That confused me a bit, since the last time around all I had heard 'bass bass bass'. So I spent more time listening this time. These phones are actually not overpowering with bass- they just have a very warm signature. I think there's a bit too much of a mid bass hump. I'm a guy who found the Earsonics EM3/6 and the Fitear 334 too warm, so this is not the kind of signature that I enjoy. The warmth was so much that they made the mids and highs sound a bit too laid back and muffled for my liking. That being said, it did make the presentation even smoother.
Compared to the Legend R, the Earwerkz has slightly better detail, and is a much more forward and airy presentation. The midrange is also more layered.
Update: I first did this post before I heard many other mid-tier IEMs that are excellent, like the Dunu Dn-2000 or the Fidue A83. I rated those quite highly, but then had to return to revisit my other scores to make sure they were still accurate. The score for the 1964 V8 was not, and I have now modified it. I still heard the warmth and the intimate soundstage, but especially after hearing IEMs like the UM 30/ UM 50 Pro, I have come to appreciate the V8 as an example of such a signature executed well. The bass was definitely harder hitting than the V6S or the V6, which I appreciated. I also appreciated the lush focus.
V8 Score: 9.2
vs 1964 V6S ($699)
This was the other phone (apart from the Noble 6) that really impressed me for its price. It was very balanced in signature, and had a hard hitting bass- which I love. The clarity on these phones was extremely good, and they definitely weren't surrounded with warmth in the way the V8's were. The treble was well presented, and the midrange was clear and smooth.
Unlike the Earwerkz, however, it did not quite have a distinctive signature. The mid-high region also lacked the magical energy and timber of the Earwerkz.
Update: I got a chance to listen to the V6S and V6 again recently, after auditioning many more IEMs in the interim. It sounded even better than I remember it. Balance was just really good- these are a fantastic all-rounder IEM. Score increased to reflect that.
V6S Score: 9.6
vs 1964 V6 ($649)
The V6 was basically the V6S, with a little bit less bass. The low ends were lighter and more neutral, but the essential elements that made me love the V6S were still present here. Clarity was very good, and the signature was clean and refined. There was never any congestion. The treble was never sibilant, and the mids were energetic- but a bit edgy. Imaging and soundstage were both good. All in all, bass-lighter different flavour of the V6S.
V6 Score: 9.6
vs Shure SE846 ($999)
I've had the 846s since they first came out, and they continue to stun me. They're like a chameleon- want a more energetic sound? The white filter is good. Want something more laidback? Blue it is. Want something warmer and more enveloping? Black beckons. They have a deep sub-bass extension with very clear, clean low-end, while still retaining the lush and magical forward mids that is part of the Shure house-sound. But the Shures are picky. With the wrong source they can sound a bit harsh in the high-end. Thankfully this isn't the case with my Chord Hugo. The one area where the Shures can improve, however, is the soundstage. It's not intimate, but it can certainly be larger. The Shures also have a fun, aggressive signature- which is not everyone's cup of tea. Finally, their mids are definitely forward- some will love it; others will hate it. Compared to the Legend R, the 846 has more energetic highs, where the Legend R's treble is more lush. In the midrange, the 846 is more forward and more enveloping, whereas the Legend R is less in-your face but more airy. The bass is where the two REALLY defer, however- the 846 bass is impactful and clean; the Legend R sounds very subdued in comparison.
846 Score: 9.5-9.6
So there you have it. I've been in portable audio for a long time because of lifestyle reasons (most of my listening is at the office, and I travel for work... a lot). The Chord Hugo has really showed me what it means to take things to another level, rather than minor side=grades. Most of the phones in this comparison were of the 'side-grade' variety. Among the 'good performers', the V6S really stood out to me as a 'pound-for-pound' champion, and will probably be my go-to recommendation for any new audiophile wanting a 'one phone fits all' at the best price. The Noble 6 was also a good choice- but with a price tag almost 50% higher than that of the V6S, I find it hard to recommend the Noble IEM over the 1964.
The three phones which brought something distinctly different to the table in terms of being both good but also clearly unique, are the K10, the 846, and... the Earwerkz Legend R. I should note one big elephant in the room before concluding with my score- everyone else who had auditioned that specific demo set seemed to think there was something wrong with it. However this was indeed a shipped product that had passed Earwerkz's QA, and so I'm gonna go with it. I also thought I had heard enough of its signature to be sure what I thought of it.
Earwerkz Legend R Score: 9.7
PS, thanks to the kind folks at Music Sanctuary, allowing me to spend a few hours auditioning these awesome IEMs.
Edited by jelt2359 - 2/19/15 at 10:30am