BASS SHOCK: Am I crazy???!
Aug 10, 2014 at 11:51 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 15

slowpogo

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B&W C5
Brainwavz B2
NAD HP20
Polk Nue Voe
RHA MA750i
HiFiMan RE-400
RBH EP-1
 
These are the in-ear headphones I've auditioned over the last 10 days or so. I listened through my iPhone, to 320k+ AAC files or lossless with the EQ "off" or "flat." All of them, other than maybe the NAD, seem well-known in these parts. Lots of people like them. In all honesty, though some of them did some things very well, I was not too impressed by any of them overall. Not enough to keep anyway.
 
It mostly comes down to BASS. Only the RE-400 and B2 did not have immediately overwhelming bass. With the others, it was like, oh my GOD that's WAYYYY too much bass! You know how you can cover your mouth while you're talking, and your speech goes from normal to being unintelligibly drowned in bassy resonance? That's pretty much how most of these headphones sounded to me. Like, shocking that anyone would enjoy the sound, it was so ridiculously drowned out in low-end.
 
My first go-too track to test these ended up being "Distant Sun" by Crowded House. It starts with a single strummed acoustic guitar, and sounds very balanced and natural with my AKG K701's. With most of the above headphones, however, this simple acoustic guitar was awash in bassy resonance: completely unrealistic sounding, and impossible to enjoy. I would then move on to a classical recording of Ravel's "Le Tombeau de Couperin," then John Coltrane, Radiohead, and finally Sunny Day Real Estate (which is the "heaviest" thing I generally listen to). This seemed to cover all my bases in as few tracks as possible. I tried all the different tips that would fit. My ear canals are small, so often only the smallest one or two pairs included will fit me. I have a variety pack from MEElectronics with a few more options. Anyway, I never had trouble getting a good seal, and I experimented with the degree of seal as much as I could. Different tips affected soundstage or isolation the most but didn't typically help much with bass.
 
I really enjoyed the detail and musicality of the C5, but even with the "Bass Reducer" EQ setting on iPhone it was just too dark (and the ear loop thing just KILLED my right ear). The RE-400's are much more mid-centric, and using the "Classical" iPhone EQ tamed the mids just a bit and sounded very balanced; alas, the general character was still a bit "gray" and uninvolving to me. These two were the closest to being keepers.
 
I'm running out of options, I feel. Etymotics seem to be up my alley, the way people describe the sound, but the extreme isolation bothers me: I want to wear these while I'm walking the street or running. I'm thinking about trying the Bang and Olufsen Beoplay H3 next.
 
Nobody generally responds to my posts here anymore. I feel like I'm talking to myself (and I know my posts are super long). But please, any advice from people who feel like I do is very appreciated, on what to try which is actually somewhat neutral sounding.
 
Aug 11, 2014 at 12:49 AM Post #2 of 15

Bohdy

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Try the KSC-75. They have big bass, but its quite well controlled and doesn't get in the way of the clear yet dynamic sound.
 
They won't give you any isolation, but I think they are perfect for running, cycling, walking, etc.
 
And for the price, not much to lose I think...
 
Aug 11, 2014 at 12:58 AM Post #3 of 15

nick n

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They can also be put on a small headband don't forget :)
 
Aug 11, 2014 at 1:09 AM Post #4 of 15

n05ey

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I feel like the havi b3's would be quite up your alley, they have amazing staging and not too pronounced but high quality bass... they are what I imagine the 701's to sound like based of descriptions.
 
Aug 11, 2014 at 2:02 AM Post #5 of 15

slowpogo

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I actually have some KSC-75's and do like them...I should have mentioned, I'm about to move to Chicago for grad school and will be riding the train a lot. So I'm looking for "commuter earphones" with at least basic isolation :wink: Also, I'm willing to spend up to $200 for audiophile sound (or something approaching that). I'm a music major so I do a lot of critical listening, where detail of sound is actually important for my learning and development as a musician.
 
I think I was not aware of the havi b3, n05ey, I will check them out for sure.
 
Thanks folks! Keep it comin'... :D
 
Aug 11, 2014 at 7:51 AM Post #8 of 15

james444

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Two more reasonably balanced sounding contenders... maybe this comparison helps:
 
  Ostry KC06 vs. Zero Audio Carbo Tenore
 
Today I spent about an hour going back and forth between my KC06 (not KC06A) and the Tenore with various tracks. In short, I ended up preferring the KC06 by a slight margin, but couldn't pick a clear winner. Both of these IEMs are excellent and able to hold their own even against top tiers.
 
So here's my recommendation to those who're not in a position to buy or even try super expensive IEMs: get both of these, keep the one you prefer and you'll not miss out much, if anything.
 
Some things to consider:
- Isolation: Tenore wins easily, if you need good isolation, then forget about the KC06.
- Mids: more emphasized and clearer on the KC06. If you're a mids lover, you'll probably prefer them over the Tenores.
- Bass: more deep bass on the Tenores. But even though the KC06 have a tad more mid bass and slam, they steer better clear of the lower mids. Comparatively, the Tenores seem slightly veiled in that range.
- Highs: KC06 aren't bad at all, but the Tenores sound airier and smoother. Simply world-class treble on the Tenores, period.
- Soundstage: Being the less isolating IEMs, the KC06 sound more open. But despite their good isolation, the Tenores offer a very generous stage size.
- Dynamics, depth and layering: This is where both fall a tiny bit short of the best phones I've heard in that regard. KC06 are quite a bit better than the Tenores, the latter feel somewhat restricted in dynamics and depth.
- Detail and separation: very good on both, with slight advantages in their respectively emphasized ranges. (E.g. better intelligibility of vocals on the KC06 due to more mid-emphasis, clearer deep bass lines on the Tenores due to more low-end emphasis.)
 
That's all I can think of for now. Hope some will find it helpful.
smile_phones.gif
 
 
(Disclaimer: there seem to be different versions of the Tenores out there, so your Tenore may not sound the same as mine)

 
Aug 11, 2014 at 8:05 PM Post #9 of 15

slowpogo

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thanks...I'm gonna see what I think of the Havi B3. If those $60 IEM's are in the ballpark I might give these last two a try as well. Maybe the extra cash in my budget could go toward a Fiio amp.
 
Aug 12, 2014 at 9:50 PM Post #10 of 15

slowpogo

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I've been playing with the Havi B3's today. First impression of the sound is it's one of the most balanced I've heard. They're still a bit dark for me, but at least with these, I'm unsure if there's a bit too much low end or not quite enough high end. Which is better than thinking TOO MUCH BASS..
 
And the general quality of sound is indeed surprisingly musical and detailed for $60, immediately preferable to most of the IEM's on my list above (which ranged from $100-190). I'm going to keep them a few days and see how I feel.
 
There are a few instant downsides though...they won't plug into my iPhone with its current case. They are the first pair ever not to fit. The case is the Spigen Neo Hybrid, which even has an oversized opening to accommodate big plugs. Still not big enough in this case.
 
And secondly, they are not very sensitive, in fact not very loud at all. I find myself having to put the volume at 85-90% to match what many others on the above list achieve at 65-70%. I suspect riding the train they wouldn't cut it without an amp...which is too bad when I'm this encouraged by the sound.
 
Anyway, thanks for lobbing out suggestions! This Havi B3's are potential keepers for sure...
 
Aug 13, 2014 at 6:26 AM Post #11 of 15

haloxt

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Bass roll-off is less common with iem's than with full-sized headphones due to the close proximity of the speakers to your ear canal. What you're hearing is lower frequency bass, and possibly even what might be neutral bass, but which is probably being reproduced as unresolved bloated noises due to how the albums are mastered, using compressed audio, or using Phone as dac and amp.
 
The K701 is bass light. My favorite headphones, SA5000, are also very bass light. There's been plenty of studies regarding how bass can be psychologically stressful to people, so even if you listen to music with neutral and resolved bass, you may psychological consider it "too much". And I'm a fan of Alfred Tomatis' work, so I'm actually a proponent of high frequency boost, muted bass, and the bankruptcy of Dr. Dre.
 
Aug 14, 2014 at 12:59 AM Post #12 of 15

slowpogo

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The K701 is bass light.

 
 
Isn't this subjective though? For me, a well-recorded acoustic guitar with the K701's sounds the same as an acoustic guitar played live in front of me. Knowing that, hearing someone say the K701 is "bass light" is like someone telling me reality is bass light...so obviously, I can't agree.
 
I will say that my impressions of bass in the above headphones was consistent whether through my iPhone or through my Gamma2/Millett Max setup; across a variety of albums; and whether playing lossless or aac (though in my opinion, a 360k average bitrate AAC file is 99.5% the quality of lossless). I actually compared some of the same tracks in both formats out of curiosity; there was no perceivable difference to me.
 
Not trying to "retort" your comment, just saying I considered those factors and did my best to rule them out in my listening.
 
Aug 14, 2014 at 1:07 AM Post #13 of 15

slowpogo

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The Bang and Olufsen BeoPlay H3's arrived today. They are quite good. Still too much bass and warmth, but not in a flabby resonant way like most of the others. A mild treble boost was enough to balance them out for me.They have excellent detail and placement, though not nearly as much depth, surprisingly, as the Havi B3's.
 
The B&O H3's have a very smooth and sweet treble. They strike me as extremely similar to the B&W C5's, though a tad bit toward the "clinical" side while the C5's are a tad bit to the "musical" side. I could be happy with these, though they're the priciest thing I've heard ($200 on Amazon).
 
If only the C5's didn't have that damn ear loop thing...I was really trying to find something I wouldn't have to EQ to be happy with. But after all I've heard now, I'd go with the C5's with a slight EQ adjustment over all the others (if not for the ear discomfort).
 
The Havi B3's are really quite impressive. Their detail is above average for the price (I would guess), but nowhere near the C5 or H3. But the soundstage and depth of sound and placement are just stellar. I can hear how much "horizontal space" things occupy, and with vocals especially I have great perception of placement on the Z-axis and of 3D contour. Any track with thick reverb/delay on the vocals is a real treat. The resolution is not quite what I need for orchestral music I'm afraid...but I might keep them anyway, they'd be a great backup pair if nothing else.
 
Aug 14, 2014 at 7:32 AM Post #14 of 15

haloxt

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Well unless Dr. Dre has been designing acoustic guitars, they don't do 20hz and probably can't even do 100hz, unless someone is banging on the soundboard or attacking someone with the guitar. Sure your K701 can reproduce acoustic guitars sort of accurately (and no I won't believe any claims that headphones can reproduce real life sounds perfectly), but try comparing how well the K701 does with instruments that are actually capable of bass like kick drums or big pianos, or natural sounds which do have bass, like good quality lightning or predator growling sounds with bass and infrasound still intact, assuming you have equipment that can even reproduce them. But again, I personally don't think neutral bass is necessary or even desirable, just that the bass you're hearing may actually be neutral bass, and that you psychologically perceive it as "too much", which as I explained before is perfectly normal given how humans often don't like bass on a subconscious level.
 
Aug 14, 2014 at 8:28 AM Post #15 of 15

james444

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A picture is worth a thousand words. 
wink.gif

 

 
The K701 are about 7db down at 20Hz vs. 100Hz, which actually isn't a problem with most music genres. Many IEMs have more linear bass extension though.
 
Speaking of IEMs, this simple mod will work for most dynamic driver based models and attenuate deep bass if desired.
 

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