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Balanced Armature Sensitivity

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by strooper, Jul 17, 2018.
  1. strooper
    I'm not sure how to justify this scientifically (and I'm a scientist, so that bothers me), but I consistently hear all balanced armature (BA) iems as treble dominant and shrill. I've tried a lot of them, including some of the "best" (Shure SE846, Ibasso IT03, Campfire Jupiter and Dorado). Thinking the problem was how I perceived BA bass, I put serious money into Campfire Dorados and Ibasso IT03. Wrong thinking--the problem is the treble being hot. I have dynamic driver iems from Shure, Ibasso, RHA and none of them are bright. But even the "darkest" BA iems sound like Alvin and the Chipmonks to me.

    The question is why. Is there something about sound pressure levels, attenuation, isolation... that causes BA treble to interact with my ears in such a dominant (overwhelming) fashion? Does this happen to anyone else?

    I understand how bass is affected by poor seals. But I don't know of an analog at the high frequency end that would make BA treble go nuts in my ears.

    Anybody have any thoughts?
  2. castleofargh Contributor
    it could help if you could better define your impression. like if it's located at a specific frequency? do you still feel the same when you have EQed both BA and dynamic IEMs to try and reverse the potential FR tendencies?
    could it be that you just don't like the trebles because of how they roll off instead of because they're too "hot"? ironically, a lot of dynamic driver IEM have better treble extension than BA driver IEMs. personally I also have a pure dislike for anything with a big spike in the 8 to 10khz, and some vastly used BA drivers have that.
    maybe now that you think you've found that difference, you can't help bu imagining or inflating reality in your head?
    if you've been using the same source, maybe there is something about actual sensitivity, or some impedance chaos that the amp section doesn't handle so well? and maybe it "accidentally" happens more often on BA driver because modern BA IEMs tend to have real low and messed up impedance curves?
    and of course, the tendency for the low end to often feel a little different with BAs, might somehow make you perceive music differently, or just push you to listen louder to try and get the rumble anyway.

    just ideas on the top of my head, but it's hard to have a clear diagnostic over some vague subjective feeling.
    I personally have some extra love for dynamic drivers, but mostly under the condition the it's a clearly vented design. then the low end can often hit hard and super low and just feels different to me. but vented designs just feel different, IDK if it's a BA thing or a vented vs sealed matter for me. based on anecdotal evidence, I'd be tempter to bet on the seal.
    alffla likes this.
  3. Niouke
    I don't think it's specific to the BA technology and more of a tuning choice as V shaped IEM's are popular. I suggest you try and find the frequency response curve of these models to put some facts on your impressions.

    I use Westone UM PRO 30 daily (3 way BA) and they are everything but bright.
  4. Redcarmoose
    Sony XBA-N3BP 4.4mm Pentaconn balanced IEM

    Sony XBA-Z5 No. #017526 4.4mm Pentaconn balanced IEM

    qdc Anole V3 IEM #817993

    qdc Anole V3 IEM #817997

    1More Triple Driver (Model E1001) IEM

    Noble Kaiser 10 Encore IEM Universal

    Sony XBA-100 IEM

    Above is a list of my BAs. Not listing them to show I know what I’m talking about due to a collection of BAs. Just listing them to kinda show I listen to BAs a lot.

    I agree that if your used to listening to DDs all week long, bringing in a BA can be a different mental thing to get your head around. Some think that there is a different decay with DDs in comparison to BAs. There may be scientific papers which substantiate the theory?

    The introduction of DD + BA hybrids seems to add some warmth to the recipe. This weekend I had a chance to demo the 64 Audio range of combination DD, BA IEMs. It’s probably safe to say they are one of a few companies to take the BA and DD hybrid idea to the farthest point, and their price reflects that. Their range all sounded rather warm to me and shunned most of the brittleness of pure BA arrays. IMHO

    But much can be said about both what is happening with custom made BA single individual drive units as what was only possible with what they could do only using off the shelf parts a couple of years ago. If you notice it may be that custom BA units are getting bigger and bigger. It’s crazy the size that they are leaning to, and I would bet money the BAs for the bass department are only to be made bigger in the near future? I’m no electronics engineer but from what I can visualize, bigger BAs don’t seem to make the products less efficient? Again these are only my consumer perceptions on the subject.

    So to go on here and answer your question about how even hybrids seem to click your personal treble hearing into disrepair........I’m at a loss? Why you don’t think they go low enough is something I do understand but still the effect is not as dramatic as you feel you hear?

    Though you could be at an extremist in your hearing qualities. What I’m saying is that everyone is different. We as humans are all so very different. I could put my list above of IEMs from favorite to least favorite and someone else could put my same collection into an upside down list of their own favorite to least favorite. Audio is personal, maybe more personal than blue jeans.

    First off driver count does not matter. Second off price does not matter. As you already know it’s personal tone preference that floats the IEM boat here. What I would do if I was you is go to left field. Try some obscure weird IEM with BAs that are rare. Find a good seal and also change your listening device around. What I’m saying is all DAPs sound different. Not only that but I have come to believe that manufacturing puts small coloration into the DAP playback. Thus if your listening devices have a penchant for boosting treble your predicament could occur.

    My latest qdc has a total DD thickness but is only 3 BAs. I changed to balanced and a different cable and it became more midrange detailed but still thick none-the-less. The qdc has a cross over system and adjustable switches that let you tune it to a more bass centric tone. Still even on bass mode the rest of the spectrum is represented. There may be some slight clouding of lower midrange frequencies, but I can live with it. It’s the thickest most DD sounding BA I have come across. Still the bass is still slighly softer than a DD, that is par for the course I guess?

    Trying a bunch of gear may get you to a place where you can enjoy the BA experience. I’m a bass head, so the BA experience has been a challange too. The benefits are grand, as there can be a nice soundstage and fast detailed decay. Some can be a tremendous value too if you look for them.

    I only EQ my Noble Encore 10 BA IEMs, the rest stay at what ever flat response the device does.

    My quick suggestion for you? Listen primarily to a BA IEM for a month, no matter what. Brain burn-in is underrated!

    Good luck.
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2018
  5. HAMS
    I like to play with EQ on my DD Iem. Try to flatten the FR. But for me it is always Dinamic's iem bass sound 'thicker' or 'wobbly' compared to BA I don't know what to call it, bass texture?
  6. david8613
    I think I might be having this same issue. I have experience with kz zs10, fiio f9, bdvp dmg. I noticed with all of these the treble, and high mids always seem more foward, hotter, more pronounced than the bass no matter what. The bass sounds quieter, farther back. I tried different sources, high gain, low gain. I tried eq and it does help but I really don't like using eq. I feel like they should put 2 bass ba to keep up with 1 treble ba and 1 mid ba. Sources I run are note 8, hiby r3, Ibasso dx 150.
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2018
  7. Redcarmoose
    I don’t like using EQ also. But don’t totally write off pure BA IEMs. You have to keep listening and trying different ones till you find the sound you like. Of course if you find a DD/BA you like use that. This hobby is about exposing your listening to a wide range of choices; it’s totally subjective.
  8. bigshot
    It's possible to get away with no EQ with headphones. You just buy cans that are flat out of the box. Unfortunately, that is a small and expensive subset of the market. With speakers, it's impossible to achieve balanced response without EQ. But the nice thing about EQ is that it can make midrange cans sound like the best. You can do things the easy and efficient way, or you can do things the difficult and expensive way. You end up at the same place in the end.

    However, if your goal is a specific type of coloration, EQ is the only way to go, because trying to find the exact curve you're looking for in the random error in manufacturing tolerances would be like finding a needle in a haystack.
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2018
  9. SilverEars
    I have heard many types of BA and dynamic drivers. BA isn't generally hot, but there are many cheap dynamic driver iems out there that are just really poor in SQ. Try any of the cheap Bluetooth Beats ripoff sport iems selling well on Amazon by the Chinese manufacturers. They can be the #1 selling iem, and the tuning would be very poor. Ether the bass is overly emphasized and mids is incoherent or treble is overly bright. Not saying price always amounts to quality iems, but on the more expensive side, the treble response does get smoother, and more balanced sound signature overall. Like the BeatsX or Jabra Elite.

    My point is that, one's sample size of low-end iems can happen to be tuned poorly, not that BA or dynamic specifically has really poor tuning. There are very good tuned BA driver iems, and also dynamic. Lots of iems tends to be tuned with BA since it's easier to get a more precise tuning in the mids and treble with multiple BAs. You can get as much bass as dynamic driver bass with BA. Dynamic driver bass isn't really better, it's about how well drivers are tuned in general.

    There are several factors effect the performance of the iem sound such as fit, type of tips, tip bore diameter, tip material, and certain iems, insertion depth. There are many types of tips out there, and it takes many trials to figure out what really works well for your fit that effects the sound. Fit has a huge impact on iem sound.
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2018
  10. Redcarmoose
    Sony XBA-N3BP 4.4mm Pentaconn balanced IEM 1BA

    Sony XBA-Z5 No. #017526 4.4mm Pentaconn balanced IEM 2BA

    qdc Anole V3 IEM #817993 3BA

    qdc Anole V3 IEM #817997 3BA

    1More Triple Driver (Model E1001) IEM 2BA

    Noble Kaiser 10 Encore IEM Universal 10 BA

    Sony XBA-100 IEM One BA

    None bother me but I have heard some hot voicings out and about. It’s all about how they are tuned in relation to your personal taste.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2018
  11. Niouke
    Could it be that the OP dislikes the attack speed of BA's? They generally respond better to impulses and can for example make electric guitars and cymbals more agressive.

    A good analogy in the speaker world would be soft dome tweeters vs metallic tweeters. Frequency respoonses being equal, some people can't stand the attack on metallic tweeters and will stick to soft materials. I personnaly love metallic tweeters and BA's, while soft domes and dynamics are too mellow for my taste.
    Redcarmoose likes this.
  12. strooper
    As the OP, I think the attack rate is likely a big part of it. To me, cymbal crashes on BAs sound odd. I'm hearing all sorts of overtones and they never seem to just "shish" (attempt at spelling out the sound) into silence. Hard "C" sounds instead of "Sh."

    That said, I've never heard a pair of BA iems sound "dark" despite auditioning several that other people consider quite dark. Maybe I'm perceiving the treble as loud because it's annoying to me?
  13. bigshot
    That could be just about anything, couldn't it? Distortion or a response imbalance might cause that too.
  14. Glmoneydawg
    Isn't this this just a trade off for the high efficiency of ba drivers?high efficiency drivers usually have a necessarily light suspension system,a side effect of which is resononances...just askin:)
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2018
  15. HAMS
    I think if we want to compare both type of driver we need to name the model of IEM too.

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