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.
  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

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