Altec Lansing iM716: some insight
Jul 6, 2009 at 8:56 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 17

antonyfirst

Headphoneus Supremus
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Hello. I decided to get a cheap toy for the summer in order to have some fun with something new.
I did have a depodded Altec in the past, but can't really remember what I thought of it, so I was intrigued by buying another pair from the classfieds.

I was expecting them to be one of the few listenable alternatives under 100usd, price was inviting, they are made by Etymotic... You get the picture.

I am using a set of modded tips, basically they are biflanges with the inner width of Sennheiser/Sony. They fit around a silicon ring which I made by cutting the third small flange from a couple Ety "babyblue" triflanged tips. This made possible to use high quality biflanges I previously bought for Sonys and such, on Ety-like nozzles, with perfect isolation, fit, seal, and theorically less treble than the stock triflanges (Ety usual tips have narrow inner nozzle, which conditions treble increasing its sharpness).
I will try foam tips tomorrow (comply wide/narrow diameter, olives, ue foamies).

My impressions so far, regarding the HD mode, are those of an interesting earphone with a few fatal flaws.
The earphone has similar bass quality as the Apuresound ER4P, although more mid-upper bass, providing more musicality and a livelier sound. There is less bass extension, so certain trance songs lose sense of rhytm when it should be provided by very low frequency samples.
Midrange is similar in quality, although warmer. There is a nice sense of clarity. Slightly forward, I'd say less prominent upper midrange compared to ER4P. No signs of stridency, even with a limited quality source like the iAudio 7.
Where things are screwed up is treble. There is a horrible peak at 9kHz, not really wide, but pretty strong. It adds up to sibilance, and also can make many songs thin and metallic.
I use a Cowon iAudio 7, which has a very flexible equalizer, sort of parametric. It allowed me to bring the horrible peak precisely, and I needed subctractive equalization to do so: -5dB at 9kHz.
This brought the tone to a whole new level, musicality was wonderful, the peak and its related sibilance were gone, taken away precisely, without screwing up any kind of details. Seemed like I could be a happy camper with my new "Cinderella" giant killer...

...but not all is good like it initially seems. The iAudio 7, forcing that kind of equalization, turned the sound quality to crap. Too much distortion, grain everywhere, whenever there was a trebly passage through the peak/filter combination. So, my experiment so far has fallen short, the iAudio 7 is unusable this way, sound seems made of ripped paper, full of eq-driven artifacts.
Pity, because tonality seemed just about perfect otherwise, more musical than the Apuresound Etys out of a poor source like the Cowon, although less extended in the lows (around 40-50 Hz here, I'd say, after which things are more attenuated). Soundstage is wider too, I think because it couples well with the output impedance of the Cowon.

Right now I am trying a wider band equalization, by lowering the wider range of just 1 dB. There is much less sense of grain, but unfortunately sibilance cuts through, since this way of filtering is not ideal for contrasting a narrow peak like the present one.

I'll try both the "BASS Mode" and "foam tips+HD mode" later or tomorrow, and keep my report going.

Tony
 
Jul 6, 2009 at 9:43 PM Post #2 of 17
Looks like the biflanges I was using are responsible of treble reflections back into the eardrum.

I am getting a much gentler treble response with foam tips, sign that they are providing a better interface for treble to be dissipated instead of being reflected back inside the ear canal. It's too early to judge, but there could be hope to have an awesome super-cheap IEM that competes with much newer and more expensive rivals.

Also, it has to be seen if the Cowon clips when driving these. The player has many nice features, but based on pure signal output it's very poor (pun half intended).
 
Jul 7, 2009 at 12:38 PM Post #3 of 17
I know this thread is talking about a IEM that interests very few people nowadays, but I'll still keep giving it some life.

I have definitely reverted to Comply tips (T100, narrow nozzle). The effect of these foamies is to flatten the treble spike I found earlier. Other effects involve the typical coloration of this kind of foamies, which means bumping the midrange in the 1-1.5 kHz range. This translates in portraying vocals closer, but also giving them a sweeter tonality, like making them "happier", more seductive, and a bit less manly, if it makes any sense. This is an effect that foamies conferes to Etys too. Ety IEMS suffer from this the most since they have a peak in those frequencies to start with, and are pretty light
in the upper bass/lower mids region.
The range of frequencies between 3kHz and 5kHz is less prominent than with ER4P, relaxing electric guitars and trumpets a bit and conferring them less presence in the music.

The bass is very similar to that found with the Apuresound Etys with similar foamies. There is additional low thump over the previous Biflanges experiment.

Soundstage is pretty spacious, and the overall sense of placement and detail is high but relaxed.
The earphone is very revealing, spotting any kind of artifacts even in highest bitrate mp3's. There is a high sense of clarity and "scape" into the music.

I think that, tonally, these lose something compared to when I was using the adapted biflanged tips I was describing yesterday, in conjunction with the first equalization I tried. Looks like those biflanges were able to reflect both the upper bass and treble frequencies. When reducing the treble peak, the result was very musical, making for a nice sense of "wholeness" into the sound.
It's unfortunate that the equalization had to be so strong that it produced horrible grain eveywhere.

In the end, Altec iM716 mate the best with Complys, which give them an enjoyable presentation, with no nasty flaws, and make the earphone compare nicely to much more expensive stuff I tried (Images, Triple.fi themselves, not to talk of the Shures I tried previously and other stuff). Unfortunately, the same foam tips that save many IEMs from being sibilant, also confer to most of those a kind of midrange coloration that affects vocals the way I described previously, making them a bit more prominent than it should be.

I think that the next "big thing" into portable audio, at least for universal fit, will be to produce a tip that behaves like Olive/Comply foam tips on low and upper areas, without giving that kind of coloration to the midrange.
 
Jul 7, 2009 at 12:58 PM Post #4 of 17
verry accurate description, well done! I've been using im716 for 2 years also have owned westone um3x and now klipsch custom 3 and despite of being multiple driver and much more expensive I cannot say they are that much better. I had a depoted pair too (33 ohm) but they sounded way too thin unamped. HD mode sounds very good straight with ipod with both original and comply tips. IMO one of the best deals at their current price.
 
Jul 7, 2009 at 5:34 PM Post #5 of 17
interesting.
do they even offically sell the im716 anymore?
I might have to go digging in the attic for an extra pair I should have.
I am surprised that these can even compare to the high end stuff.
 
Jul 7, 2009 at 5:42 PM Post #6 of 17
Nope, Altec stopped making them a looong time ago. They replaced it with the UHP336, now they stopped making that and now have the BackBeat Pro which is also a single BA Earphone.
 
Jul 7, 2009 at 6:09 PM Post #7 of 17
I think you can still find them on eBay, although new for 100-ish.
I have learnt that, through the years, not many manufacturers bring real sound improvements into their products. Altec Lansing are probably the best value in portable audio. There are other things that currently have a good quality/price ratio, like the RE0, ER4P, Klipsch X10 and Custom 3 when they can be found for 125-150$ (often Amazon and the likes do such discounts). Shure E4, when to be found used for 80-100$, would be another good purchase.

I found that many of the latest products didn't really increase the quality over what has been there for some time. The most interesting among new products to me was Westone 3, able to portray reverberations on the stage and great detail with a warmish sound signature, and also have a very large soundstage. But they were tonally flawed to me, with the best fit I managed to obtain. UM3X will be worthy to look into, and I'll check them in a few months, along with a couple more offerings that sound promising.
 
Jul 7, 2009 at 7:06 PM Post #8 of 17
Antonyfirst, thanks for inspiring me to pull my (still podded) IM716 out of their case. I gave their bi-flanges a second listen, and combined with the fiio e5 (amp set to bass boost, high volume, IEMs on HD mode, low volume) they sound incredible!

Probably one of my best "value-phile" puchases ($20 from newegg about a year ago).
 
Jul 7, 2009 at 8:25 PM Post #9 of 17
I still use my IM716 as my work 'phones, and they currently have some comply short tips on them. I find I need to amp them to get them to come to life - without the amp they seem congested on both ends of the spectrum. With a small amp, I really like them.

I also think they win for the "world's most silly IEM case" - what the heck were they thinking with that thing?
tongue.gif
 
Jul 7, 2009 at 9:00 PM Post #10 of 17
FYI tony, I tried the UM3X briefly a few weeks ago and wasn't that impressed. My ears are too accustomed to the ER4P sound, I suppose - they just weren't as quick or exciting as I like, although they definitely had a more enjoyable bass presence.

The only IEM that I really liked in a rapid-fire series of 2-3 minutes sessions with a bunch of them were the Image X10.
 
Jul 7, 2009 at 9:11 PM Post #11 of 17
I am wondering if the UM3X have the same ability to reproduce stage reverberations like Westone 3, but I guess this isn't the right thread to ask about it.
 
Jul 8, 2009 at 4:23 PM Post #12 of 17
I've been using the im716 for airplane travel. I recently started using them for walking around with my mobile phone (in large part because the phone has a 16 ohm output stage and sounds hissy with everything else I own). The im716s are very nice.

I've been using silicone biflanges. I worry that Complies wear out too quickly. Which foamies both sound good with the im716 and last a long time?
 
Jul 8, 2009 at 4:29 PM Post #13 of 17
Quote:

Originally Posted by os2k /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Antonyfirst, thanks for inspiring me to pull my (still podded) IM716 out of their case. I gave their bi-flanges a second listen, and combined with the fiio e5 (amp set to bass boost, high volume, IEMs on HD mode, low volume) they sound incredible!

Probably one of my best "value-phile" puchases ($20 from newegg about a year ago).



Funny, I got them from the same sale, had them depodded at 47ohn by Germania, but found I just wasn't using them so I sold them to a fellow in Australia. Now, I wish I had kept them, of course, they were so cheap. And $40 for modded 716s? I am a real dunce. I too only really liked them with an amp, but never tried them with my T4 (didn't own it yet). They were great withthe MinboxE+, but it was too clunky to carry around.
 
Jul 8, 2009 at 4:32 PM Post #14 of 17
Quote:

Originally Posted by richard /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I've been using the im716 for airplane travel. I recently started using them for walking around with my mobile phone (in large part because the phone has a 16 ohm output stage and sounds hissy with everything else I own). The im716s are very nice.

I've been using silicone biflanges. I worry that Complies wear out too quickly. Which foamies both sound good with the im716 and last a long time?



Try Shure olives (aka Shure black foam tips).
 
Jul 8, 2009 at 4:40 PM Post #15 of 17
Quote:

Originally Posted by tstarn06 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Funny, I got them from the same sale, had them depodded at 47ohn by Germania, but found I just wasn't using them so I sold them to a fellow in Australia. Now, I wish I had kept them, of course, they were so cheap. And $40 for modded 716s? I am a real dunce. I too only really liked them with an amp, but never tried them with my T4 (didn't own it yet). They were great withthe MinboxE+, but it was too clunky to carry around.


You could have kept them, but when having some killer portables like Westone 3 it's easy to let some other quality stuff go.
wink.gif
Let's just say you gave the aussie fellow a nice way to enter portable hifi without him having to be sorry for his wallet. :p
 

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