≤$600 all-arounder IEM?
Nov 19, 2018 at 5:17 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 67

megabigeye

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Hi everybody!
I hope you'll be able to help me out.
I'm looking for a $200-$600 universal IEM, with tastefully boosted but well controlled and detailed bass, neutral-to-warm mids, extended-but-forgiving treble, capable of sounding “mean” or aggressive (like distorted guitars, etc.) as needed, detailed but not unforgiving, exceptional isolation and comfort, low profile. I also love detail and dynamics. Good soundstage is nice, but less of a priority.

I own both the DT 1990 and the HD 650 and I’d love an IEM that falls somewhere between the two in both technical ability and sound signature. Yeah, I realize they’re both open-back and that an IEM is going to be different, but I want them to be on a par.

I have very eclectic taste in music. I listen to most genres, or at least some sub-genre of most genres.

I’ll be using them primarily with my phone using UAPP and a DragonFly Red.


A few of my concerns;

  • That with “Chi-Fi” (*shudder* that’s a kind of awful expression) and other bargain basement stuff will sound decent at the expense of being an otherwise good product.
  • Also slightly worried about shipping and returns for international stuff.
  • That balanced armatures might not quite deliver the bass I want. My old qJAYS had great sounding bass, just not enough of it. Don’t know if newer and/or better earphones are capable of delivering more.
  • That dynamic and hybrid earphones won’t offer the isolation I want.


IEMs I’ve been eyeballing:
  • Shure SE535 — This has been around a while; has it become long in the tooth or are they becoming classics?
  • Custom Art FIBAE2 universal — A little nervous about returns, etc., if needed.
  • iBasso IT04 — These look huge and I’m not a fan of the looks. Though somebody told me they have the same signature as the DT 1990.
  • FLC8N (I think that’s the newer one, right?) — Ergonomics/fit look like they may not be the best. I’d also rather just have a one-and-done sound sig. I know once I find the setting I like, it’s just going to stay there.
  • Orivetti New Primacy — Haven’t really looked into these yet. Are they up to par with the others?
  • MassDrop Plus Universal — Might like the tuning on these, don’t know if technically they’re as good as I want. Also, I’ve read a fair amount about quality and cable issues. MassDrop doesn’t seem like a great company to deal with.
  • ???

And a couple that I’ve turned down for various reasons:
  • Campfire Polaris — Worried about comfort, but mostly the male vocals suck-out sounds like what I dislike about the PM-3.
  • Noble lineup — Universals are just too blingy and bulky, and the customs are too expensive for reshelling (which I assume I’d have to do in 2-3 years).


So far I’m leaning toward the Shure or Custom Art.
Any of the above that I definitely should or shouldn’t consider? Any other recommendations?

Thanks in advance for everybody’s help!
 
Nov 22, 2018 at 3:39 PM Post #2 of 67

megabigeye

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Nobody? Nothin'? No recommendations for a slightly warm ≥$600 IEM that's not going to make me miss my DT 1990?

Happy TurkeysDayGiving!!
 
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Nov 23, 2018 at 6:01 AM Post #3 of 67

Dark-Star

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FIIO
F9, F9SE, F9PRO, FH1, FH5.
l have the F9 and it has lush huge low end but very tasteful. Treble is a bit hot but the overall character of the F9 is big and detailed and l think because it has 2 BA but also 1 Dynamic driver and the SHURE does not have a Dynamic it might have a more enjoyable bass.
Very important to note that the right ear tip is crucial in getting bass especially. You'll need a pretty tight seal to create that standing wave effect. Go for larger tips supplied with the earphones. And l find that for bass the silicone ones are better than foam.... experiment.
The rest of the F line are reported to extend on that signature and the prices are ridiculous.
l don't like listening to this reviewer but check this out . Hope this helps
 
Nov 23, 2018 at 8:52 AM Post #4 of 67

Will Chiu

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  • Will not recommend shure iems... imho they are "outdated". Their cost/performance ratio is low. I think It04 is quite nice and it is one of the best fitting uiem for me personally (I do agree that they do not have good appearance lol).
  • I think noble may not be suitable for you as most of them do not have that much quantity of bass.
  • I think you may also take a look at Empire Ears Bravado, Final E5000 and Jh Billie Jean. These three I found them quite worth their price tag. (Especially the last two)
 
Nov 23, 2018 at 9:11 AM Post #5 of 67

Redcarmoose

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Just a suggestion look into the $199 BGVP DM6. It’s a newly popular ChiFi legendary offer. Problem is hard to get and may be a waiting game with shipping. Though I have not tried them with your source. Still you can read about them in different places mainly the DM6 thread. Don’t let having only 5BAs and no DD fool you into thinking they don’t have bass, they do. Though they only sound good to me in balanced mode; which is not in your list of requirements.

Another heavy bass strictly BA IEM is the qdc Anole V3. Again only three BAs and a little pricy for three $500. Also hard to get without paying and extra $100 shipping and only great with a balanced cable and source. They may not have the upper sparkle you into to, but maximum bass.

Another choice could be the Sony Z5. Super well rounded and will fit your sonic needs, Though you will want to change the floppy cable the first day. Don’t know how they will perform with the DragonFly but they again go to a great level balanced. Also about $450, though more as your going to need an aftermarket cable. Though you may have to read about how they fit, kind of like putting a USB stick in your ear, none the less folks love them. They actually are the best well rounded performer in my list of suggestions here.

I didn’t like the midrange of the IT04 but many do.

Other random ones I’ve tried single ended and kinda liked, but for one reason or another decided not to buy............TFZ Secret Garden, King Pro, Queen. FiiO FH5......which I did choose the DM6 over all, listening single ended. So I liked the DM6 over the above 5, you may too, best fit, best sound.
 
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Nov 23, 2018 at 9:15 AM Post #6 of 67

Dark-Star

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Nov 23, 2018 at 2:24 PM Post #7 of 67

megabigeye

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Thanks for the recs, everybody! I was starting to wonder if I'd done something wrong.
I don't have the time to look into these at the moment, but I definitely will.
Do you all think the hybrids and dynamics will isolate enough for me?
 
Nov 23, 2018 at 2:33 PM Post #8 of 67

Dark-Star

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I'm a drummer and have to keep my ears relatively safe from excessive volume on stages and with the right tip and good seal you'll drop the levels reaching your ears by a whole lot. The same or even more than quality ear plugs.....
 
Nov 23, 2018 at 9:14 PM Post #9 of 67

Redcarmoose

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There is a new fit technology now that’s called semi-custom. The Magaosi K5 has it, the DM6 has it and the qdc Anole V3 has it.

There should be more coming out soon. They have taken multiple ear shape studies and made something that fits into your ear. It’s all along the outside of the ear, and with the right tip blocks a bunch of noise out.
 
Nov 23, 2018 at 9:49 PM Post #10 of 67

PointyFox

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Campfire Andromeda sounds like what you're looking for. Get it used for ~$650-$750.
 
Nov 24, 2018 at 11:12 AM Post #11 of 67

megabigeye

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Thanks again to everyone for their recs. I'm slowly making my way down the list. I'll emphasize slowly.

  • I think I'll probably skip the Fiio. I've liked their products well enough in the past, but I think I want a step or two beyond what they can offer.
  • The Final E5000 looks intriguing, though one of the first things I read about them is that they leak sound. I'd plan on using them in bed on occasion, and I think that my wife would be less than enthusiastic to have to listen to my music. Otherwise I like the looks. Can they be worn with the cable over ear?
  • The Billie Jean also looks really good. I'm a little skeptical of their unforgiving nature, though. I forgot to mention it, but have some music ripped from vinyl with pops and clicks included and I think something unforgiving wouldn't work well. I'll still consider them.
  • I think I've given up on the FIBAE2, but I'm now really, really intrigued by the FIBAE Black. Sounds almost perfect, with the possible exception on the sub-bass. I need to figure out how much that will matter. The price is killer, too, especially from how they've been described. I've also been told by Piotr of Custom Art that the upcoming FIBAE4 may be more up my alley, though I'd have to stretch my budget.
  • @Redcarmoose what don't you like about the mids on the IT04? I think mids are probably the most important aspect of a headphone's sound. Also, I've heard about the semi-hybrid fit. I wish there were more that offered it.
  • I think I'll skip the Andromeda unless the price comes down reliably. These will probably be a gift (at least in part) from my wife (yes, I am that lucky) and I'm not going to make her go bargain hunting.
  • I'll scratch the Shures off my list.
And I think that's about as far as I've gotten.
Thanks again, everybody!!
 
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Nov 24, 2018 at 1:59 PM Post #13 of 67

Redcarmoose

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Thanks again to everyone for their recs. I'm slowly making my way down the list. I'll emphasize slowly.

  • I think I'll probably skip the Fiio. I've liked their products well enough in the past, but I think I want a step or two beyond what they can offer.
  • The Final E5000 looks intriguing, though one of the first things I read about them is that they leak sound. I'd plan on using them in bed on occasion, and I think that my wife would be less than enthusiastic to have to listen to my music. Otherwise I like the looks. Can they be worn with the cable over ear?
  • The Billie Jean also looks really good. I'm a little skeptical of their unforgiving nature, though. I forgot to mention it, but have some music ripped from vinyl with pops and clicks included and I think something unforgiving wouldn't work well. I'll still consider them.
  • I think I've given up on the FIBAE2, but I'm now really, really intrigued by the FIBAE Black. Sounds almost perfect, with the possible exception on the sub-bass. I need to figure out how much that will matter. The price is killer, too, especially from how they've been described. I've also been told by Piotr of Custom Art that the upcoming FIBAE4 may be more up my alley, though I'd have to stretch my budget.
  • @Redcarmoose what don't you like about the mids on the IT04? I think mids are probably the most important aspect of a headphone's sound. Also, I've heard about the semi-hybrid fit. I wish there were more that offered it.
  • I think I'll skip the Andromeda unless the price comes down reliably. These will probably be a gift (at least in part) from my wife (yes, I am that lucky) and I'm not going to make her go bargain hunting.
  • I'll scratch the Shures off my list.
And I think that's about as far as I've gotten.
Thanks again, everybody!!
Crinacle has reviewed it.
Check out this one line review of the IT04, most of his views of the IEMs sound parallels also what I feel. Though I’ve only heard a small fraction of what he has heard. His sound ideas are spot on in my opinion.

The midrange of the IT04 is hollowed out.
https://www.head-fi.org/threads/crinacles-iem-ranking-list-222-entries-21-10-18-update.857498/
 
Nov 25, 2018 at 10:31 PM Post #14 of 67

megabigeye

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F9, F9SE, F9PRO, FH1, FH5.
Just a suggestion look into the $199 BGVP DM6. It’s a newly popular ChiFi legendary offer.
Other random ones...........TFZ Secret Garden, King Pro, Queen.
First, I probably dismissed the FiiO a little too quickly. I didn't realize that it's a new IEM and that it's higher-end than the F9 series. Their naming convention is confusing. The Amazon reviews I read were very positive (Yeah, I know. I should take Amazon reviews with an extra dash of table salt... and maybe some kosher and sea salt. And some MSG for good measure.).
I have to say, though, I have the same reservations about all of these: that these "bargain," largely Chinese manufacturers are able to get a good sound for little money because they're cutting costs elsewhere. Extrapolating from my experience with other FiiO products that all sounded good for the money, but that were otherwise not very good products. The buttons and switches never line up properly, potentiometers fail too soon, software is just plain lousy, etc., etc. They're basically throw-away products that often happen to sound good. I assume earphones will be the same.
Even the vast and confusing array of products these companies offer is off-putting to me and seems indicative of the companies' willingness to release half-baked products only to release an "improved" version several months later.
I don't mean to say that other companies don't have rushed or poorly designed/conceived products, but for FiiO at least it seems to be a pattern and their MO. I assume these other companies are similar.

I'll keep these all in mind, I'm just a little leery of their ability to be end-game earphones.

What are your thoughts on this?

Another heavy bass strictly BA IEM is the qdc Anole V3. Again only three BAs and a little pricy for three $500. Also hard to get without paying and extra $100 shipping and only great with a balanced cable and source.
Make that $120 shipping. Yeesh. If they were $590 IEMs with $3 shipping I'd be more likely to consider them. But that shipping is just silly.

Another choice could be the Sony Z5. Super well rounded and will fit your sonic needs, Though you will want to change the floppy cable the first day... Though you may have to read about how they fit, kind of like putting a USB stick in your ear, none the less folks love them. They actually are the best well rounded performer in my list of suggestions here.
Sigh. Unfortunately, I think the ergonomics will be the killer here. I had this funny notion that I'd like to get a Sony since the Walkman and I are sharing a birthday this year. (Oof.)

Noble Sage too blingy??
Yeah, I think so. If they didn't stick out like Frankenstein's neck bolts I might be able to get over it. They're just kind of gaudy.

Any other recommendations? Maybe I'll see if I can make heads or tails of crinacle's list.
 
Nov 25, 2018 at 10:54 PM Post #15 of 67

Redcarmoose

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First, I probably dismissed the FiiO a little too quickly. I didn't realize that it's a new IEM and that it's higher-end than the F9 series. Their naming convention is confusing. The Amazon reviews I read were very positive (Yeah, I know. I should take Amazon reviews with an extra dash of table salt... and maybe some kosher and sea salt. And some MSG for good measure.).
I have to say, though, I have the same reservations about all of these: that these "bargain," largely Chinese manufacturers are able to get a good sound for little money because they're cutting costs elsewhere. Extrapolating from my experience with other FiiO products that all sounded good for the money, but that were otherwise not very good products. The buttons and switches never line up properly, potentiometers fail too soon, software is just plain lousy, etc., etc. They're basically throw-away products that often happen to sound good. I assume earphones will be the same.
Even the vast and confusing array of products these companies offer is off-putting to me and seems indicative of the companies' willingness to release half-baked products only to release an "improved" version several months later.
I don't mean to say that other companies don't have rushed or poorly designed/conceived products, but for FiiO at least it seems to be a pattern and their MO. I assume these other companies are similar.

I'll keep these all in mind, I'm just a little leery of their ability to be end-game earphones.

What are your thoughts on this?


Make that $120 shipping. Yeesh. If they were $590 IEMs with $3 shipping I'd be more likely to consider them. But that shipping is just silly.


Sigh. Unfortunately, I think the ergonomics will be the killer here. I had this funny notion that I'd like to get a Sony since the Walkman and I are sharing a birthday this year. (Oof.)


Yeah, I think so. If they didn't stick out like Frankenstein's neck bolts I might be able to get over it. They're just kind of gaudy.

Any other recommendations? Maybe I'll see if I can make heads or tails of crinacle's list.

Your response is totally accurate in my experience, even the summery of what I feel after ownership. And we always have to take into account that this hobby is very personal and value is found on a subjective level. I don’t know if anything is totally endgame. I mean even people with endgame stuff don’t think it’s endgame. It’s about finding a relationship with an IEM due to how it fits, how you think it’s built and how they end up sounding after time. For me it’s probably the stuff that borders on boring that I can listen to the longest. But I also have a deep appreciation for the Sony sound too, and I would not consider it boring, though it’s normally a little overpriced for what you get in a way. But that’s the thing, if your happy it’s not really overpriced.


Endgame is a process, and many will feel the FiiO H5 will be their end-game for years to come. I try not to judge brands but look at performance. Though I guess we all judge to an extent subconsciously? There may actually be better values today around $100-$200 in the IEM world than there ever was. It’s a market totally filled up and competitive.


Due to you being concerned with sound isolation, bringing up this new semi-custom idea is maybe going to be the future. It’s safe to say IEMs are getting better fitting all the time. If they fill your outside of the ear; with the right tips, they really block sound. Some manufacturing brands also list sound occlusion levels in decibels. I use Sony Hybrid Tips almost all the time.

The qdc Anole V3 I only paid $500 for so no shipping costs but I purchased at Music Sanctuary in Singapore where they get stuff shipped to them from qdc in bulk.

I bring up the qdc and DM6 to simply show that BA bass is starting to arrive; and the fact they they are some of the newest and most profound fitting semi-customs you can buy besides the Magaosi v5.


DD bass; the new trend;
Both the qdc and DM6 are strictly BA IEMs but have great bass response. It is not always necessary to get DD bass to be happy. But speaking of China brands, I lost interest as I was not interested in $35-$65 IEMs and longer. And besides quality control issues there was large gapping holes in their response. They had a cool thrilling sound out of the box but most of my previous Chi-Fi had imperfections in sound that could only be fully noticed after getting some quality IEMs and listening how a correct response was suppose to sound like. Though at $200 and $500 I almost don’t put the qdc and DM6 in the regular Chi-Fi category, due to the sound being complete. And the FiiO H5 may have arrived there too; as we all knew it was just a matter of time before China got their audio act together.

There is the fact that China can make IEMs at a low cost, but other than low manufacturing costs they are also able to produce value due to the economy of scale concept. Some manufactures are producing 100,000s of IEMs on a monthly basis. But many of us are also intrigued by their use of technology and futuristic materials.

It’s a slippery slope:
Keep in mind, I’m not suggesting for you to look at upgrading your source to balanced but it’s all I use anymore. Balanced takes most IEMs and adds soundstage and better imaging; some more some a little less. The results are so dramatic it eclipses any choice of IEM to a level.


Listening:
There is no better experience than finding stuff to listen to; meaning the suggestions here are only going to go so far giving you a clue to what’s a good try. In the end it’s going to be daily life that proves if it’s the right choice.

Try the Sony N3 as it’s in your range and many like them even better than the Sony Z5.

https://www.amazon.com/SONY-XBA-N3AP-Stereo-In-ear-Headphones/dp/B01MF4HU0Z

They can come 3.5mm or 4.4mm plugs, they fit like a dream. Go to the N3 thread at Head-Fi and read how folks are happy.

I would say it can be a profound experience where after getting used to a level of gear then going back to cheaper past gear, the sonic issues become strangely apparent?

I have a FiiO Alpen 2 which I was planning to use with an iPod Touch. I never was able to find a digital cable to make it workout out, but going back and listening to it........ it’s nice but leaves a lot to be desired. Surprisingly it sounded “much better” at one time in my life?
Hindsight is always 20/20.
 
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