This is my first expensive IEM and I'm floored by its performance. I'm not a big fan of soundstage, but am beginning to appreciate it more, as I dive deeper into the music. I'm more concerned with imaging and instrument placement in the stage, not necessarily width. I also didn't appreciate how much a warm and present midrange could add to the emotion of music. Now, I do after having the Angie. I have primarily been hooked on sub bass extension as well as the top octave shimmer above 10K. While that tended to impress technically, the extension is only one aspect of the overall experience and grading of an IEM.
For me, tonality and timbre in the form of FR comes first, followed by attack/decay/imaging (PRaT if you will), then the expansiveness of the stage. Also, everyone's ears are different and while there are objective qualities to a set of IEMs, like PRaT and stage to some extent, some are purely subjective like FR as certain frequencies will be attenuated or amplified based on one's specific ear canal resonances. This is the mission of finding the perfect set of cans/IEMs and the reason why it never really ends! One can easily cycle through thousands of dollars of gear before they find what works best for them.
Realize that I have tip rolled these things to the point I'm concerned the nozzles might break. I've tried spinfits, spiral dots, various other silicones of various sizes placed at various depths (both on the nozzle and in my ear). I am straight up tired of playing with tips. I've also run the gamut of foams - true comply tips as well as some cheaper, but less porous aftermarkets, again, various sizes and depths both on nozzle fit and insertion depth. My goal in finding the right tips was to minimize the treble spikes and provide the most natural and smooth treble.
I finally settled on the less porous (smoother/shinier foam) medium size - placed about halfway onto the nozzle which allows for a deep insertion (see pic)- though I don't force them to couple with the bony part of my canal. The get just deep enough to take up the air volume in my canals without giving me a sensation of being violated. I'd say moderately deep.
I set the bass dial to 1:30 or 2:00 - have been keeping it at 2 recently. Any more and some bleed into the mids happens.
I listen to prog - prog metal and general progressive rock. Mostly all of the albums in my collection have very respectable, if not impeccable production quality.
I’ve been using the balanced cable on a fiio x5 3rd gen - I can’t hear any hiss or noise. Though using the 3.5 single ended cable, I can hear a very low hum - this isn’t the IEM, it’s the x5iii’s amp. I also have been using this with the single ended cable on my home system: Audirvana+ > schiit modi multibit > schiit asgard 2. Again, no hiss or hum here.
Having said all of that. The Angie comes with some tradeoffs, though it is the best I've heard so far. And the tradeoffs are a subjective thing. All the other aspects, make this an excellent IEM:
-Very emotional, warm vocal timbre and overall mids. Expect a nice warm emphasis on 800 to 1000 hz warmth - makes for a very “moving” experience, engulfing the listener deeper into the music. After I switch to any other IEM, I feel I’m lacking this experience and am left wanting more of the emotion and warmth of the vocal region. This tuning is very appealing to me.
-Excellent presence of vocals/guitars etc (1K to 4K). Electric guitars take the focus in a way that isn't shrieking, but very full and present. This is almost as impressive as the lower midrange warmth.
-Attack and decay is superb - bass strikes, then gets out of the way with no bloom. cymbals do the same, but continue to decay very gently, without being destroyed by other transients - a feature of the 4 armatures dedicated to the highs. Reverb tails here decay with such sweetness - think analogue.
-Natural treble - cymbals sound real and not overly shimmery/harsh - very sweet treble. imaging and instrument placement is impeccable. They cymbals don’t overwhelm the rest of the drum kit - which I really like. You can hear them clearly, but they don’t rob the rest of the music. A bell strike sounds like a bell strike. A splash, crash, ride, hat clap all sound very real and articulate.
-Stage is wider than I'm used to from IEMs - even better than some over-head cans (despite deep insertion) - this is very puzzling to me, but a feat I'm sure others will appreciate. I rather like the change to a wider stage since the imaging doesn't seem to suffer.
-Imaging is top notch - center image is closest I’ve come to sitting in front of studio monitors in a sound treated room where the primary reflection points are controlled. You’ll swear a third IEM is plugged into your forehead. This phantom speaker is a phenomenon only achieved by perfect imaging. I suspect this has something to do with the phase control from the steel waveguides.
-Detail retrieval is the best I've heard so far. I'm hearing transients and utterances that previously went unnoticed. Technically, this is a very impressive IEM. Again, the waveguides may have something to do with this, but the separate armatures themselves, when done right, can achieve the same.
-They are aesthetically gorgeous. It’s hard to beat the kevlar fiber weave under the shiny acrylic finish. The look as good as they sound and impress the lay person who sees them and doesn’t know what they are. The magic inside is ensconced by more magic on the outside.
-There is some extra heat at 1/3/5/7 Khz that could be smoothed out by a couple dB - especially at 5.3 and 6.9k, these are the two areas that sting a little for me. I have a controllable sine-wave sweeper in my chain that allows me to evaluate spikes/nulls. This extra energy, however, it what pushes detail toward you. When I EQ these to equal loudness, the overall experience becomes a tad more relaxed and easier to listen to, but I miss out on details and the IEM begins to sound like all my other stuff. Hence TRADEOFF.
-Vocal sibilance on poorly recorded/mastered material. This really is a nitpick because I am VERY sensitive to the sibilance region and I don't see others having nearly the same concern with it that I have. The heat at 5 and 7k align perfectly with the voice's "s" and "t" consonants which spike out my ears on occasion. This very rarely happens with instrumental only music, and only sometimes happens with vocals - leading me to believe it's more of a mixing/mastering issue. Combine that with my sensitivity here and I'm inclined to forgive the 5 and 7K peaks. Also, these peaks may just be unique to my ear anatomy and not present the same for others. Still, the peaks are certainly there and at least 6 db above other areas in the upper mids/lower treble. It gives you more detail, but tends to mask the upper octave air at the same time.
-The upper octave extension is there and it's linear to my ears (down sloping from the lower treble region with a slight peak at 12-13k), but sits behind the rest of the presentation, especially the mids/upper mids/lower treble. I can clearly hear up to my limit on these (approx 17k) but they do present gently. I would have preferred the tuning to have a bit more quantity in the top octave - say 3-4 db relative to the high mids and lower treble.
-Similarly, the bass extension is there, but gently rolls down from 50 to 20 hz. This can be changed by altering the bass pot on the inline cable, but when raising the bass on the dial, it also causes a bleed into the mid bass/mids and creates a muddy mess. This is a nitpick
-The cable could be 6 inches longer, allowing for more wearing/routing options. It barely makes it to my pocket where my player lives. This gets even worse if I use a shirt clip to keep it from pulling at my ears. Great cable otherwise!
-The aluminum case is rather small for such a large IEM. It’s hard to get the IEM with the cable into the case without bending the ear hooks or squeezing your foamies.
-Comfort is hit or miss, but we audiophiles like to suffer for our hobby. I was able to get used to them after a couple weeks and can listen for hours without issue now. Because the body of this IEM is so large, it will apply pressure to the various hard cartilage areas of my outer ear. This varies based on insertion depth.
-They are a bit unruly because of their size - the occasional adjustment is necessary for me, but only if I’m on the move. Forget sleeping with them if you lay on your side.
I hope this was helpful for you and your journey. I’m open to personal PMs if you want to know more, or you can post on the Angie impressions thread and I’m likely to respond, though the thread is old now and has seemed to die down.