“Reference” IEMs
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IEMusic

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I think of reference IEMs, as those that are quite commonly know, and can serve as a reference point for a lot of people. In practice, “reference” products tend to be the current state-of-the-art, that is the standard bearer that all other products try to equal. Unfortunately, most people can not afford such products. If using my initial definition of “reference”, I think there are certain ubiquitous and inexpensive IEMs that are well known, and have certain well known strengths and weaknesses. As such, I think any IEM enthusiast should own a pair of BLON BL03s and a pair of Tin HiFi T2s. They are very affordable, and can serve as a reference point. I think any reviewers should own them also, and compare any IEM that they are reviewing to the sound of those IEMs.

Do you think that this would be useful? What other IEMs do you think would serve this purpose well? I think they should ideally be $100 or less.
 
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I think of reference IEMs, as those that are quite commonly know, and can serve as a reference point for a lot of people. In practice, “reference” products tend to be the current state-of-the-art, that is the standard bearer that all other products try to equal. Unfortunately, most people can not afford such products. If using my initial definition of “reference”, I think there are certain ubiquitous and inexpensive IEMs that are well known, and have certain well known strengths and weaknesses. As such, I think any IEM enthusiast should own a pair of BLON BL03s and a pair of Tin HiFi T2s. They are very affordable, and can serve as a reference point. I think any reviewers should own them also, and compare any IEM that they are reviewing to the sound of those IEMs.

Do you think that this would be useful? What other IEMs do you think would serve this purpose well? I think they should ideally be $100 or less.
Reviewers should all get the same "reference" iem. It pretty much gives you an idea as to how they hear things as well which is subjective but at least from a reader's perspective, we have an idea as how our individual tastes may align with a specific reviewer. Nice initiative on this thread, this topic has been on my mind as well!
 
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dazzerfong

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The Etymotics ER2/4 XR sort of serve that role among a lot of reviewers, owing to its longevity. The Tin and BLON are relative newcomers and have not stood the test of time yet, so I don't think it'll be appropriate to select those.
 
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IEMusic

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The Etymotics ER2/4 XR sort of serve that role among a lot of reviewers, owing to its longevity. The Tin and BLON are relative newcomers and have not stood the test of time yet, so I don't think it'll be appropriate to select those.
That is true about the Etymotics, unfortunately, a lot of people don’t own those, primarily due to fit, and also perhaps due to cost (for ER4).

The BLON and Tin are relatively new, but with the current state of ChiFi, no time like the present to redefine the paradigm. Good sound is now affordable for everyone.
 
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I think of reference IEMs, as those that are quite commonly know, and can serve as a reference point for a lot of people. In practice, “reference” products tend to be the current state-of-the-art, that is the standard bearer that all other products try to equal. Unfortunately, most people can not afford such products. If using my initial definition of “reference”, I think there are certain ubiquitous and inexpensive IEMs that are well known, and have certain well known strengths and weaknesses. As such, I think any IEM enthusiast should own a pair of BLON BL03s and a pair of Tin HiFi T2s. They are very affordable, and can serve as a reference point. I think any reviewers should own them also, and compare any IEM that they are reviewing to the sound of those IEMs.

Do you think that this would be useful? What other IEMs do you think would serve this purpose well? I think they should ideally be $100 or less.
Yes I think this is an excellent post, it would be useful to compare reviews of newer gear with ubiquitous stuff that most lay consumers would own, using the latter as a benchmark/baseline comparison. And yeah BLON and Tin T2s, the former for harmanish sound and the latter for a neutralish sound is fair.

For comparison of IEMs, I also feel it is better to compare IEMs within the same price bracket or using the same driver types. I know some people claim the BLON BL-03 can compete with TOTL sets, but TBH I find the BLON has good timbre/tonality, but poor technicalities. And within the different transducer types eg BA/DD/piezos etc, they have their inherent strengths and weaknesses, so IMHO I find it is not useful to compare apples to oranges? YMMV.



BLON BL-03 is hyped to the moon here and on other sites, but there may be some issues with using it as a benchmark. This is because most westerners have a bad fit with it due to the short nozzle, so most are resorting to spacer mods or different ear tips to get an optimal fit. Eartips can change the sound signature of an IEM quite markedly for better or worse, so since majority of folks are using aftermarket tips, u see so many different opinions saying the BLON BL-03 has too heavy bass, or the bass is adequate etc. Also, BLON BL-03, like other budget CHIFI, may have QC problems, so u also see some folks saying that different coloured BLONs (between silver and gunmetal) have different sound signatures. This has been confirmed that the differences in sound (if any) are due to unit variations. But overall, since a lot of people own it, especially budget audiophiles, I guess there'll definitely be someone in the threads asking: "How does X IEM compare with the BLONs?" So unit variation and aftermarket eartips aside, I think it will still be used as a benchmark for other DD type IEMs.

Perhaps something like the Sony MH755 is a good benchmark? It is cheaper than the BLON BL-03 at $6ish USD, and most people are okay with the stock tips. Their QC also looks to be pretty okay so far, just that there are a lot of fakes in the market, especially for the black coloured ones.
 
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QC can definitely be an issue with the budget IEMs, and by no means does comparing a reviewed IEM to the budget “reference” take the place of comparing it with a direct competitor, but it would be nice in addition.

I’m also not saying the BL03 are T2 definitely should be the reference IEMs, they were just 2 that came to mind. The Sony MH755 would be great for this, if only it were more readily available, w/o fakes. What other suggestions? KZ products?
 
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QC can definitely be an issue with the budget IEMs, and by no means does comparing a reviewed IEM to the budget “reference” take the place of comparing it with a direct competitor, but it would be nice in addition.

I’m also not saying the BL03 are T2 definitely should be the reference IEMs, they were just 2 that came to mind. The Sony MH755 would be great for this, if only it were more readily available, w/o fakes. What other suggestions? KZ products?
Yep agreed.

Most of the fake Sony MH755s are black coloured ones. The white ones, if u buy from a reputed seller (can ask the others in the budget Sony headfi thread), should be good. In fact I think it is pretty bang for buck, considering it is the price of about a starbucks coffee. Just the cable is crappy and short.

For KZs, they haven't produced any wired gear since the KZ ZSX (terminator) like almost 6 months ago. They've been busy churning out wireless gear recently, but prior to this, they were producing wired KZs like on a monthly basis, so a lot of headfiers seem to own different models that were pretty much sidegrades/marginal upgrades during that productive season. I think you would have a difficulty getting a consensus on which KZ most of the headfiers own as such, though most would say the KZ ZSX, ZS10 Pro and perhaps ZS7 are the common favourites on headfi.
 
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Maybe the cheap Philips with the white tips could be a Reference thing like the AKG 3003.
 
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HuoYuanJia

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We are in a time in which everyone voices his/her/its opinion. I think it would be wiser just not to trust inexperienced reviewers.

What gives a reviewer's opinion weight? If he/she/it has worked as consultant for IEM designers before or is known as a market specialist. If he understands the technical fundamentals of sound recording, mastering and reproduction. If he can hear and differentiate when an album clips or the headphones distort. When he has some knowledge about product design.

Obviously, 99% of reviewers are just another show and tell. Giving them a "reference" (e.g. a Chi-Fi product with noticeable distortion as you suggested and also has huge driver variance) is useless. Just compare two graphs and write your own story like A has more bass than B, thus A is better suited to EDM and B is better for Vocal, blah blah. I think that beats 90% of the comments in some threads. To be honest, most people will just recommend what they bought themselves to justify their purchase decision which gives them instant gratification. There is very little objectivity in that.
 
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IEMusic

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We are in a time in which everyone voices his/her/its opinion. I think it would be wiser just not to trust inexperienced reviewers.

What gives a reviewer's opinion weight? If he/she/it has worked as consultant for IEM designers before or is known as a market specialist. If he understands the technical fundamentals of sound recording, mastering and reproduction. If he can hear and differentiate when an album clips or the headphones distort. When he has some knowledge about product design.

Obviously, 99% of reviewers are just another show and tell. Giving them a "reference" (e.g. a Chi-Fi product with noticeable distortion as you suggested and also has huge driver variance) is useless. Just compare two graphs and write your own story like A has more bass than B, thus A is better suited to EDM and B is better for Vocal, blah blah. I think that beats 90% of the comments in some threads. To be honest, most people will just recommend what they bought themselves to justify their purchase decision which gives them instant gratification. There is very little objectivity in that.
I respectfully disagree. There are certainly many faults with what I’m suggesting, but I think it has its place. For example, a comparison of IEM “X” to a Hidition IEM, that many have never heard, many can’t afford, and many just can’t get (it’s a pain), benefits few. Comparisons to CIEM only units are also of limited benefit. They have their place, but more comparisons are useful.

I respect the opinions of seasoned reviewers with legit credentials a lot. They have a place, but also often can have conflicts of interest. You’re promoting elitism where the masses just accept what the few “professionals” say. That’s a great way to rip people off with overpriced stuff. Everyone has a voice now, and we do have to sift through a lot of crap, but I still give a lot of credit to regular enthusiasts that spent their hard-earned money, and have a good track record on forums.

Just my opinion. Everyone has one.
 

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