A newbie's story
Mar 10, 2006 at 8:33 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 8

cferneyh

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First of all I'd like to thanks to all of you who provide such great, detailed information here. This is easily the most helpful forum I have ever been to when researching a purchase. I though I'd share my journey, as I imagine some of you will nod your head remembering when you went through the same thing, or have a good laugh at my expense.

As a bit of a background, I'm a 33 year old white collared dude who loves music. My tastes are mostly rock and some lighter stuff (The Tragically Hip, U2, Wilco, REM, Dylan, Pearl Jam, DMB, The Beatles, Smashing Pumpkins, Beck). I'm surrounded by music as much as possible - at home I stream audio over in-ceiling speakers via an Airport Express. At work I plug my nano into a Tivoli Audio Model One so that I can enjoy some music at my desk (thankfully I've got an office, so I don't have to worry about annoying co-workers). On my way to or from work, which is the bus during the winter and the bike during the warmer months, I'm also listening to tunes. When I take the dog for a walk, I'm listening to tunes. So music is quite honestly an ongoing soundtrack to everything I do.

Anyway, when I finally bought my 3G iPod a couple of years ago I knew the stock earbuds were not gonna cut it, so right away I bought a pair of MDR-EX71's. They were fine, but not great (while I'm no audiophile, I am very particularly about how I like to hear my music). So I did some research on ilounge and read great things about the Etymotic Research ER6's, so I took the plunge. I felt they were OK, but definitely didn't have the amount of bass I like (and I'm not a basshead, so I'm not asking for much). But I stuck with them, until in the span of one month I went through three pairs of filters and did not like the idea of having to change those things all the time. So I decided to go back to Sony (unfortunately I had not yet discovered this site), so I tried out the EX81's. The bass wasn't as annoying as it was with the EX71's (which was a little too much) so I was pleased with the sound, but I could never get a good fit with my ears. I stuck with them for a few months (and by now was onto my nano).

Finally the discomfort with the fit was more than I could stand so I decided I needed a new pair of something else - and then I found this place. HOLY CRAP! And here's where it gets silly.

After spending a lot of time reading, learning, and discovering the choices out there I decided I wanted (1) another pair of IEMs, and (2) perhaps more full sized phones for portability (walking the dog, etc), and (3) full sized phones for the home computer (iMac).

After reading all of the great things here about the Senn PX100s, I bought a pair. I was blown away. I couldn't believe the quality of the sound nor could I believe the things I was hearing in my music that I'd never heard before. Unfortunately however, when I tried them on the bus they obviously were not isolating nor closed, so I had to take them back since I knew they wouldn't get much use.

I next decided on a pair of AKG K 81 DJ's. There weren't a lot of reviews here about them, but HeadRoom seemed keen on them, and since they were closed and portable I figured why not. Sadly, they made my head feel like a pimple about to get popped. No matter what adjustments I made, they were uncomfortable. I found the sound to be great - not as good as the PX100s, but still to my liking. But I had to send them back to HeadRoom (and being in Canada, I had to eat the shipping charge. Ouch!).

Next up were the Ultimate Ears super.fi 3's, and man did I love those. The sound was perfect for my needs and they were super-comfortable. I thought I had finally found the perfect pair of IEMs. Until I put a touque on (living in Calgary it can get kind of cold in the winter, to put it mildly). Sadly, the profile of the super.fi's doesn't work kindly with a touque, unless I was going to change my mind about the relative enjoyment of the feeling of earphones being crammed into my brain.

I was able to sell those to a fellow Canadian Head-Fi'er, and in the meantime I tried out the Westone UM1's. From a comfort perspective, they were perfect. Sweet fit, perfect profile for wearing a touque. Life was grand....except that I wasn't happy with the sound. Given all of the glowing reviews I thought maybe I got a dud pair (I haggled pretty good with a guy on eBay), but yesterday harrydog made a post that spoke to exactly what I was feeling (They seem to be lack the crispness, clarity and detail that I prefer). So I can't say I'm terribly pleased with the sound quality but I think I'm gonna hold on to them anyway because while the sound isn't ideal, it's better than nothing, right? I mean at least I can wear them under a touque in the winter!

In the meantime I decided that I did want a non-IEM portable pair for walking the dog, but they also had to be closed and somewhat isolating in case I decided to use them on the bus on days when I didn't feel like wearing the IEMs. So I went with the ATH-ES5s. I love these things. They sound great to my ears, they are super comfortable, and while they don't offer a ton of isolation it is good enough considering I won't need isolation most of the time.

Oh, I should also mention that for the cans I wanted for the iMac, I went with the AKG K501s because so many people here said they were a steal at their current price point. Once again, I was totally blown away by not only how phenominal they sounded to my virgin ears, but how comfortable they were at the same time. I wish that my iMac drove them a little better, but I'm guessing that it is fairly rare for anyone here to have found their 100% perfect solution, and I'm not quite ready to step up to an amp........yet.

Lastly, since it is almost springtime I will soon be biking to work again. Previously I was biking with the EX81s but a couple of close calls convinced me that IEMs + biking in traffic = stupidity, so today I am expecting to receive a pair of ATH-EC7's which will hopefully be the best solution for my biking needs, and will hopefully put an end to this madness that I've been going through.
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Anyway, I hope some of you found my tale entertaining, and for you fellow newbies who are specific on needs and sound wants, let this serve as a cautionary tale.

Lastly, thanks once again to all of you Head-Fi'ers who are so generous with your time and recommendations and sharing of experiences. This is truly one of the best communities I've come across on the 'net (although my wife might disagree when she sees a new pair of headphones on the desk every second week)!
 
Mar 10, 2006 at 8:59 PM Post #4 of 8

Purgatos

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Quote:

Originally Posted by firefox360
I didn't see any mention of a headphone amplifier in there...
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You weren't looking very hard, he quite specifically said he wasn't ready for one yet.
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At least he knows that he's not going to be stopping any time soon!
 
Mar 10, 2006 at 9:03 PM Post #5 of 8

darkninja67

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Welcome to HeadFi. Sorry about your addiction.
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Mar 11, 2006 at 11:22 PM Post #7 of 8

y0da

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Next you have to pick up the official head-fi decoder ring....err..um I mean KSC-75's
 
Mar 12, 2006 at 2:54 AM Post #8 of 8

boss

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Quote:

Originally Posted by cferneyh
Next up were the Ultimate Ears super.fi 3's, and man did I love those. The sound was perfect for my needs and they were super-comfortable. I thought I had finally found the perfect pair of IEMs. Until I put a touque on (living in Calgary it can get kind of cold in the winter, to put it mildly). Sadly, the profile of the super.fi's doesn't work kindly with a touque, unless I was going to change my mind about the relative enjoyment of the feeling of earphones being crammed into my brain.


I hear you, man. This is one of the reasons I'm getting rid of my Super.fi 5Ps. They can't be worn comfortably under a winter headband/hat.

I also bike occasionally with my cans. Even with earbuds, I'm paranoid; constantly looking over my shoulder, even in a low-traffic area. How you managed to wear IEMs in traffic and come out unscathed, I'll never know
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