Altec Lansing 326 - My best IEM?! (And I have Golds)
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Katun

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Well, this one has got quite an interesting story.
 
First off, If you haven't already seen my signature, then I suggest you take a peek real quick. This is so you know what other IEM's I have.
 
Long ago, I bought the Altec 326 IEM. I used it for a few months or so, because that was the only IEM I had at the time. In short, I hated it! The cord was nasty, the fit wasn't that great, and I thought the sound was just decent. So, I tossed them aside. Later, came the Philips 9850, M6, and then ultimately, the Monster Turbine Pro Golds. I've used the 9850 extensively, and the Golds sparingly for about a month.
 
Turns out, I don't like my Pro Gold's anymore, that is why I'm selling them here. But now what really justifies me selling them, is just how good my 326's sound now , to me.
 
I decided to just try them for the heck of it last night, and I was shocked at what I heard! It had a very full sound, that I really enjoyed! The bass missing from the 9850 was replaced by nice, full bass. Not quite as good as the Pro Golds, but still good non the less. The sound I heard was very balanced as well. And when I say "balanced", I mean between left and right channels, but still pretty good if I referred it to the spectrum. With the Pro Gold, I could NEVER get a fit that sounded balanced. It would drive me insane! One ear would be louder, or more bassy, or more shallow -- there would always be an imbalance in the sound! Not so with these. These instantly have a balanced an full sound, no matter how good or bad the seal is.
 
In fact, dare I say that to me, these sound almost identical to the Pro Golds. The only difference is, these get perfect balance every time I put them in! No matter how good the seal is.
 
For those who have never heard of the Altec Lansing 326, you can check them out here. They used to be $40 for the longest time, and now they have been reduced to $25! Yes, only $25.
 
I will most likely stick with these then for the moment. SQ wise, I couldn't really ask for an upgrade, because they already sound excellent. But, I may have to replace them one day, due to the cord.  Because if one thing is for sure, I absolutely HATE the cord! It has the most microphonics you will ever hear in your life! Maybe I might try some kind of mod, in which I coat the cord in some sort of rubbery substance...
 
So is this my best IEM? In short, no. My favorite / best IEM is going to have to do better with the microphonics, and provide a more comfortable fit to earn that award. But the 326 excels in SQ like I never thought it could. Against the Pro Golds, well, Pro Golds have everything on them including: build, accessories, fit, sound, cable, etc. But, the 326 is still pretty decent, and only $25. Just get rid of that darn cable, and make the fit easier and more comfortable, and you have yourself a real winner!
 
(People, Pro Golds will still sound "better" to most ears, but to my ears, these do almost everything the Pro Golds do, except in a much simpler matter)
 
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Katun

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Also, I am in the search to find a rubbery coating liquid to line the cloth cable with.
 
Pretty much, I'm going to try a mod that turns the cable to a traditional rubber one.
 
Once I try this, I will post the results. My goal is to reduce the awful microphonics.
 
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I've just replaced my Altec Lansing UHP 326 Backbeat Titanium phones for the 4th time.  They were advertised as new on eBay, but the box was opened.  Nevertheless. they look and sound like past models.  The only thing I don't remember from past versions is the addition of the words "Plantronics Inc." on the box.  When did Plantronics buy the Altec Lansing name (and technology) for its own earphone products?  Anyway, from the remaining evidence these 326s would appear to be identical with the originals, even if the sponsoring company had become Plantronics.  (As I recall, Plantronics did not stick with Altecs, possibly reselling the name to the Altecs-Lansing company.
 
I have never broken a pair of these.  It's only my habitual daily use of them that has led to their loss on the 3 previous occasions.  Finding a replacement pair has become increasingly difficult, so I was quite happy to get these for $30.  Pairs 2 and 3 were purchased for $20 from an Ebay dealer with a limited supply--which consisted of the headphones without a fit kit or case.  I'm fond of the original grey, round, cloth zipper case of the 326, and I found that it was now included with a Plantronics edition that was apparently a complete bust--the Upgrader Series, going for $6, with few takers at that price..  (These replaced the ear-canal tip with a mold of the outside part of the ear!  What was Plantronics thinking?  I tried them with some of that "body glue" that's intended for use with TENS machines.  That was the only way I could make the Upgrader phones stay in my ear.  Not worth the bother.)  I was satisfied simply to get the grey cloth case with Altec Lansing embossed on it for my $6.  But the seller of the $20 Altec 326's has apparently run out, so now I'm determined to keep track of what may have become irreplaceable phones.
 
Plantronics continued to issue Altec/Plantronics phones in the same family as the 326's but with an antecedent number in the 100s and 200s. They had some of the same sonic quality as the 326's--tight, well-defined bass but overall somewhat "dry" and thin compared to the 326's, which also employed a thicker cloth-covered cable than the similar cloth-covered cord of the Altec/Plantronics 100 and 200 series.  
 
Next we had the attempts to issue much lighter, smaller, more colorful Altec phones aimed exclusively at women : the Altec Bliss phones.  Apparently, not a winner for the company. Also, Altec released its version of a "high-end" ear-phone, the double-anchored, two armature Altec Ultra that listed at $100.  It, too, appears to have been a failure.  Within a month the lids of the armature assembly on both phones had simply snapped off, leaving each assembly dangling in space by a single wire.  (I have experienced the same with some of the new names coming out of Hong kong--the sound is quite respectable for the price; the durability factor, on the other hand, makes them "disposable phones" inside the first month of use.
 
I don't know whether Altec is still in the business of selling any current headphones--or if the name has simply been sold to opportunistic Hong Kong dealers to use as they wish.  An encouraging sign that the company may not have withdrawn from earphones entirely is a model I recently found on Amazon: The Altec Lansing Remix.  They're smartly packaged phones with a stylish but not ostentatious flare.  The bass of Paul Chambers' opening phrase on "Kind of Blue" was the fullest and truest I've heard yet, though the treble tended toward shrillness until I tweaked it to make the sound of Miles' horn unmistakable.  You could do a lot worse for your $20.
 
The phones that started this--the Altec Lansing UHP 326 Backbeat Titanium--are simply good,  well-constructed "high fidelity"phones (if fidelity to the original sound source "in nature" is your criterion of headphone accuracy).  There's nothing that's "exciting" about them, and its true that the round cloth cable is more conductive of extraneous sounds than most cables.  On the other hand, it resists entanglement with other phones' cables, and its not as awkward as some of the wide, flat cables of other phones (such as the JBL 20 series, or the Awei 860).  Everyone no doubt has a favorite set of earphones, and it's only a matter of time before they get lost or broken (one of the hazards of all small earphones).  At that point it's gratifying to be able to replace them (unlike so many of life's casualties).
 
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