Cons - some microphonics, really dependend on a good seal
I need music to work. It gets the creative juices flowing and it blocks most of the background noise of the open plan offices where I spend most of my time. I have a Beyerdynamic DT770-pro 250 ohm which I love dearly but let's face it, it's not very discrete and sometimes you get strange looks.. So I bought the Philips SHE-3590 to see if I could adjust to in-ears. I could and the Philips was good value for money but it's coarese and it's sound very v-shaped to appeal to the mass market audience.
So time to start looking elsewhere. I didn't want to spend too much, certainly not more than 50 euros since it's a second set. I also wanted something suitable for my taste in music which is about 80% classical and opera, 10% jazz and 10% other. My source devices are a rockboxed Clip+ and a laptop with a FiiO E10k. I've got FLAC files of decent quality
Too much to chose from
Start looking for anything in-ear and you'll soon notice three things:
the average shop in this country sells a few Sennheiser and Philips and possibly Sony or JBL models
most are geared towards the average consumer which seems to be a 16 year old bass-head
there's hunderds of small manufacturers out there selling their wares via the internet.
A technology made famous by Etymotic who's products are hard to find here and even their budget kid's model is at the top of my budget. Thanks to JK1 on the forum I started looking at other makes of this technology. There's a few Chinese ones but their build quality is rubbish. And there's Sony who makes quite a few, most significantly more expensive than 150 euros except....
Released by Sony in 2013 and strangely enough they didn't attract much attention outside of Japan. Retailing initially around $50/EUR 50 they were perhaps a bit too expensive for people to gamble and try them out. Still, the people that bought them seemed to like them.
Sony added a model with ain in-line iphone remote and quietly removed them from the product line-up a year later. In 2015 there's still some stock out there and dealers in Europe are now selling them at a little under 20 pounds or euros. I paid 23 euros for mine including delivery from the Czech republic.
What's in the box
Not much really.. a shirt clip, a cable wrap thingy and 4 sizes of silicon tips.
Well thought out, the hooks on the earpieces make it sit in your ear comfortable and they don't fully depend on the silicon sticking in your ear to stay in place. The strain relief makes them feel well build. The cable itself is just two strands next to each other so some care in handling is required.
I'm not much of a burn-in believer but in this case it does seem necessary. Leaving these on overnight made a huge difference, they really opened up.
How to describe the sound of these.. it's rich, it's full of detail, it's able to pull some audience noise from a symphony recording I'd never noticed before. It presents itself as fairly neutral but make no mistake, there's bass there if it's needed
Some listening notes. Flac files, foobar 2000 and a Fiio E10k:
Everything but the girl - Low tide of the night. The drum on the intro does vibrate your brain in your skull. Not quite on the Beyer's level but it sound good. Instrument separation is nice. There's a touch of sibilance on Tracy's voice although it's a lot less after 6 hours burn in than it was right out of the box. All in all competent playback but nothing special
Frank Sinatra - I've got a crush on you (live at the sands) . Tinkeling of glasses and cutlery in the audience is clearly audible as is the laughter from the audience. Instrument separation is very good. Frank's voice is just as you like it to hear, rich, lush, timbre. Sound stage is medium wide.
Diana Krall - East of the sun (live in Paris) . The sound stage makes you believe the microphone was placed in front of the piano. You get the bass back left and the drums left. Bas has a lovely texture and you still get a very precise and detailed drum. Vocals are, again, lovely and lush. There's a very distant wolf whistle in the audience around 2:04 which I'd never noticed.
Janine Jansen - Vivaldi's 4 seasons Winter's Adagio molto Wow! You get bow noises, you get violin picking just right of center where it should be and you got Janine's violin screeching over your soul and moving you to tears
Wagner - Parsifal Nun achte wohl, (Gergiev's version) Funny recording this. Technical quality is excellent and it has a good cast and yet it fails to sparkle. I do like this track for testing since it's got a lead vocalist, the choir, the strings and brass and the bells. Gary Lehman seems to ever so slightly overpower. Towards the end of the track when the brass section comes in over the choir you lose some instrument separation.
Beethoven - 9th symphony (the restored Furtwangler on PASC261) This is an amazing piece of mastering work. Recorded in 1954 and yet there's tons of dynamics and even audience noise. It's my favourite recording of the 9th out of the 7 I have. The sony's shine on the first tracks, they cope well with the start of the finale when the timpani and the brass cut loose.Towards the end when the soprano's in the choir go all out it can sound a touch harsh but all in all it's still enough to give me goosebumps.
Queen - Bicycle Vocals are fine as is the piano. The drums pack just enough punch to stay short of tiring me. Guitar is a touch veiled at times but that could be the mastering, I'm not terribly familiar with this track
Sol Gabetta - Il Progetto Vivaldi ( a collection of Vivaldi cello works) Wow! And then some. These are absolutely perfect for cello works. The amount of micro detail and detail you get is astonishing! Every movement of the bow you get. It's so good you should not listen to this without a box of tissues on standby! Did I mention wow?
These are rather unusual in-ears. They totally lack any kind of boomy-ness in the lower regions. None at all. They did exhibit the slightest touch of sibilance in the highest regions for the first two weeks but that is gone now. For some reason I find a soprano going all out a bit tiring and I have to lower the volume a notch. In really busy pieces with a full scale symphony orchestra and a choir it becomes all rather busy and you can lose track of individual aspects when compared to my Beyerdynamics. They are very comfortable to wear for longer periods of time. All in all I really like them and at the current prices I'd say
Very highly recommended for Jazz and chamber music and a must-have for cello music
Absolutely recommended for classical symphony and opera
Really quite nice and above the rest for classic rock
OK for most other things
so.. is this a world class in-ear? No, of course not, not at this price tag! Is it the best money can buy at this price? If you're into jazz and/or classical it just might be. If you're a basshead it's best to avoid these. At the current prices it's worth getting. After 10 weeks with these I gave in and bought the two last I could find at a decent prices just as spares