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Audio Noob Question - IEM vs Cans

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by hooyahaha, Oct 27, 2012.
  1. Hooyahaha
    Hi Audiophiles! First time poster! I consider myself an audio noob, but I appreciate good sound (but not necessarily accurate at knowing what is good when I hear it) and I have been lurking around this forum for the past couple of months looking for headphone recommendations.
    Bear with me while I talk about my IEM experience: I have a pair of Sennheiser CX271 for a couple of years, and recently acquired a pair of ATH-CKM500. I find the ATH-CKM500 too bassy (but getting used to it) but have really lush and smooth vocals which I like. The problem is that 1) The bass was too dominant and I crave more mids; 2) IEMs hurt my ears if I wear them longer than 1 hr. This brings me to looking into a pair of full size headphones. I have been reading about the hyped ATH-M50 and Philips CitiScape Uptown and how they are apparently very similar in sound quality, but different signatures. As I've had enough with the CKM500 bass and craving more mids, I went for the Uptown. To my surprise, it was like listening to my laptop speakers (tinny? distorted?), as if I have something between my ears and my music (veiled?). I might be exaggerating but that's the best I can describe the sound. I had noticed this with all the headphones on display when I was at the shop, but I thought it's because they were using bad sources. I don't use an amp or an external DAC, as the volume and bass are plentiful on the uptown for me and I was happy with the sound quality when I was on my IEMs. Could you audiophiles please educate me about the difference with IEMs and full size headphones? Is it because of something to do with my ears getting in the way of the sound? Is it because of bad seal? Or is it just a matter of breaking in? Does anyone else notice this?
    Thanks guys!
  2. Sycho
    Although I have not heard many pairs of headphones, I can tell you this from my recent purchases: once you purchase headphones at the $150+ range, you will never be able to handle the sound quality of <$50 IEMs.
    The Brainwavz R1 were bassy and distorting, and I really did not like them, but many people after their purchase seemed to like them, so I guess I am expecting too much of them for $35, since I am used to headphones like the ATH-M50 and the HD 598. The Image S4s which I enjoyed before I started using cans started to sound worse and worse, until they were to the point where I cannot listen to them anymore. I was able to tolerate the B2s with their analytical signature, but these are levels higher than cheap IEMs you find, and even that, I feel that they perform only at the level of $130 full-sized headphones for it's $160 price tag. I still love them, they just barely compete against better headphones.
    IEMs I feel (as well as what is said on the buyer's guide) cannot compete with full-sized headphones with their price. Sadly, the law of diminishing return sets really early for IEMs as well, so finding something much better than the B2s would cost you $500+ (only experienced the JH13s and 1964 3-drivers), and those will only satisfy you so much until you compare them to the entry-level audiophile headphones (ex. HD 650, Grado RS1i, Beyers DT 990 amped and properly set up are the one's I have experienced, and although they have much different signatures, when fed the right music, sound much better than the CIEMs priced at $700+).
    If you like $100+ dollar headphones and cannot handle low-quality headphones, lower-priced IEMs will not be even close enough to satisfy you. $400+ headphones? You better find the right pair of CIEMs, and have a big wallet and work overtime for them.
    Looking at your story, you will find full-sized headphones to be a little bit thin (sound not as full) when you first try it on since you are used to music going straight from drivers into your eardrums. That was my experience too (ATH-M50s moving from the S4s), but once you give it a listen for a few hours, you will have this new mentality about headphones, and find out that soundstage (even on closed cans), their better quality, and signature really do make the music sound better. Anything below $50, you will notice distortion or lack of quality, and you will be disappointed, even at headphones like the Monoprice 8323 and the Brainwavz R1. You then realize that the IEMs you own might sound a bit thin, tinny and distorted. That or the Philips are overrated like the Beats.
  3. CashNotCredit
    The Uptown is notorious for its volume slider causing one side to be louder than the other. Try fiddling with it a bit. I have to have mine at the top and pushed in to get good sound out of them. Otherwise, it sounds exactly like what you mention.
  4. atomikn00b
    At this point.
    I chime in.
    My adventures in the iem section of the forums has led me to the purchase of one iem called the Sony mh1c's for ~$20.
    They destroy your claim that "lower-priced IEMs will not be even close enough to satisfy you".
    I do agree that the phillips are overrated though.
    best mid centric-ish can I know as of today are the Brainwavz HM5's.
    Oh and sycho.
    One reason a person chooses iem's over headphones is portability.
    If portability didn't matter, then yes, I would also suggest going for headphones versus iems for the reasons you've stated.
  5. Hooyahaha
    Thank you Sycho and CashNotCredit for the reply.
    The volumes are pretty even in both of my cans though. Jack is pushed in all the way also. Trouble is, it's present in all of the headphones that I tried at the shop: Sony MDR-55V, SOL Republic Tracks HD and even B&W P5 (the P5 is better but still...). You might think I'm crazy, but they are all lacking the lushness that I was looking for from my much cheaper IEMs and they sound like the music is coming from small speakers. I don't think I'm craving bass because I get plenty of bass in all of them and I think the bass in the Uptown is just perfect for me... Oh well I can get used to it after listening for a while and don't notice it - just don't take them off for breaks lol. Maybe someone can point out exactly what I'm perceiving. Cheers.

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