CK Moustache (previously active as "HiFiChris") – Audio Review and Measurement Index Thread
Mar 1, 2021 at 6:19 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 54

CK Moustache

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Mar 1, 2021 at 6:20 AM Post #2 of 54

CK Moustache

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Jan 12, 2021
Posts
261
Likes
337
Location
EU
A few Words about Myself & My general-ish Audio and Audio Review Manifesto

I am (more seriously) interested in headphones, in-ears and earbuds since around 2008, have been active in several audio communities over the years with several thousand posts, and started writing headphone- and headphone-gear-related reviews around 2010, with several hundred reviews in total published by me across various platforms over the years. Some Head-Fi members may still remember my old account in this community with the username @HiFiChris that I was very active with. Since @HiFiChris was my first serious active step into the English-speaking international audio community, I had the impression that one had to be over-enthusiastic and dishonest in reviews (i.e. see the good in every product even though it were plain bad or average) in order to being accepted and belong to the community, which was also reflected in a lot of my earlier English review work published as @HiFiChris (while this changed over time and my later reviews under that now inactive user name became more honest, more direct and more in line with my previous non-English reviews, I ultimately abandoned that user profile for good; so @CK Moustache is kind of a restart on Head-Fi without all of that over-enthusiastic bollocks of my earlier times on Head-Fi but with straight honesty in my published reviews, including some re-works and updates of my earlier English reviews).
I have bought most of the headphones, in-ears and head-gear I have reviewed myself before I also started to ask, get asked for, and accept review samples in 2015 (I once calculated all of my personal expenses on headphones, in-ears and gear around them – the money I spent on headphones and the likes over the years (unlike many, I generally keep the headphones and in-ears that I buy) could have also, for example, gotten me a factory-new C7 Chevrolet Corvette in Europe).

Anyway, this thread shall serve as sort of a compilation of my past (edited, updated and shortened), present and future audio-related reviews, posted in the “Portable Headphones/IEMs” section as I am mostly an in-ear person.


My general-ish Audio and Audio Review Manifesto:

• (Too much) Information about the manufacturer is fairly useless for the reader and does not really add any value to the review, therefore it should be excluded or kept as short as possible.
• Unnecessarily long reviews with “filler text” style passages are not of any use for the reader to obtain valuable information.
• Just like pants, headphones and in-ears should be mentioned in plural form.
• Too many photos do not add any extra value to a review.
• I do not really like any specific rating system, therefore my reviews are posted here and not in the “Head-Gear” section. A product is either recommended by me (for a specific reason) or not.
• High prices do not equal high quality and vice versa.
• Newer gear is not automatically better than older gear; in fact headphone technology has not evolved all that much over the years.
• Measurements of audio gear have mattered to me early since I became interested in headphones.
• One should be honest in everything that one writes; no “false advertisements” just to please the manufacturer/seller (if the product was provided as a review sample or at discount) or to justify a personal purchase (“hey, it was expensive but I don’t like everything about it, but I’ll write positively about the product anyway to calm my mind and justify my expense” ← do not do this).
• The amount of drivers used in a set of in-ears does not tell a thing about their tuning, frequency bandwidth or technical qualities.
• The title of a review should be phrased neutral and only focus on the product that is reviewed.
• I tend to somewhat prefer the “timbre” of in-ears that utilise no other drivers but Balanced Armatures over comparably/similarly tuned hybrid or dynamic driver in-ears.
• For personal listening, I tend to prefer in-ears over over-ear headphones over on-ear headphones over earbuds; I do not have any personal preference when it comes to open- or closed-back headphones for listening at home.
• My ears’ and ear canals’ shape does not cause any problems for the vast majority of in-ears, hence I clearly prefer universal fit in-ears over custom-moulded in-ears despite owning a set of CIEMs that fit well.
• Every piece of gear, no matter how cheap or expensive, should be treated with equal respect and care.
• Hype and hyperboles should be avoided by all means.
• No matter how a piece of equipment was obtained (bought personally, given as a review sample, granted a discount for the review etc.), bias (whether positive or negative) should be clearly avoided.
• The text should be kept mostly neutral and factual.
• Descriptions of the sound/tonality based on music are annoying (because, for one reason, not everybody is familiar with the track that is referenced).
• Reviewing a piece of equipment directly after it was purchased/has arrived usually leads to more (positive) bias (“honeymoon period”).
• During the process of creating the review, the piece of audio equipment that is in focus should not be used exclusively over a too long period of time, without breaks or without using other gear in the mean time, as this can lead to getting used to, overseeing and ultimately adapting to flaws (obviously this mainly applies to headphones/IEMs/earbuds).
• It is very rare that an initial impression that was tried to obtained with as little bias as possible turns into the very opposite.
• Ultimately, the frequency response is more important than measured and subjectively perceived technical quality (resolution, soundstage etc.).
• Measurements of headphones and DAPs/DAC-Amps were already very important to me since getting into this hobby and still are.
• With very high mental concentration, I can sometimes spot repeatable differences between DAPs’/DACs’ digital filters. As they are so minor though, they are mostly irrelevant in real-world listening scenarios.
• While audio reproduction has come quite a long way over the decades and most DACs, DAPs and Amps that are constructed well are not really “sounded”, even under near-ideal circumstances (low output impedance, low noise floor, controlled volume-matched comparison, …), when using low impedance, well-resolving multi-BA in-ears, there are sometimes (although usually small) audible differences between those devices (likely due to those low impedance, high sensitivity in-ears with usually high impedance swing already stressing the gear just enough to make loaded differences become just audible); when switching to well-resolving but higher impedance, less source-critical in-ears or over-ear headphones, those differences are, with very few exceptions, usually not audible anymore; and even if they seem to be audible to me, these differences are usually, when the tests are actually performed under at least somewhat controlled/even circumstances, small enough to be not too relevant, but then again to some people they (those objectively small differences) may be important enough to make the difference/be the deciding factor for or against keeping the gear, even though outside a volume-matched, highly concentrated review listening process, they are ultimately small enough/nearly irrelevant/barely noticeable in real-world listening scenarios (but as mentioned, for some they may be important enough for the last bit of fine-tuning the sound perception to their liking).
• Several perceived aspects about in-ears’ or headphones’ soundstage and technical qualities are due to specific frequency response characteristics, although not exclusively.
• A good DAP/DAC/Amp should have a flat FR unloaded, output impedance as close to 0 Ohms as possible, as little as possible hiss with super sensitive in-ears, volume control with tight channel matching over the entire adjustable range with no left/right deviation error (usually achieved by digital/digitally controlled analogue volume control implementations), and granular volume control that also allows for very quiet, near silent listening levels just barely above the audible threshold with super sensitive in-ears.
• All in-ear reviews are performed with the included, non-modified ear tips, unless stated otherwise.
• I generally have a “keep it original” mentality if there is no absolute need to change a thing when it comes to headphones/in-ears/head gear.
• I do not really care about replacement/”upgrade” cables as the only reason why they would objectively change a product’s frequency response is mainly due to different impedance or vastly different crosstalk values. This is mostly true for multi-BA in-ears that don’t have a flat impedance response. Due to my “keep it original” mentality, I normally also do not use “upgrade” cables; nonetheless I see a market for them due to a nicer visual or haptic appearance, or specific aspects such as length or wire termination (after all, my speaker cables and some of the interconnection cables for head-gear that I made myself are also more expensive than they could have been, just because I preferred the look of a specific component over a less expensive one).
• CD Red Book standard (16 bit, 44.1 kHz) is more than sufficient and already exceeds what our hearing is capable of (admittedly I do have several Hi-Res and DSD albums anyway, but just because they were only available in this format – when I performed an ABX blind test with the Red Book standard equivalent, there was no statistically relevant difference).
• Over the years, many Bluetooth products have come to the point where the sound is (almost or fully) transparent. Nonetheless I still clearly prefer a “traditional” wired connection – for the sake of a better feeling as well as I do not really like headphones or in-ears that have batteries that need to be charged from time to time, as I have so many headphones.
• While I have come to liking a bit of added Crossfeed to the signal for stationary (non-review) listening with my CD listening setup, reviews are performed without any additional DSP such as Crossfeed. The only use of EQ, if any, is done to counter-check and compare against other models, see how lowering/boosting specific areas of the frequency response alters the perceived technical quality etc., and is usually mentioned shortly if applied during the review process.
• Additionally listening to sine sweeps is a very good thing and performed by me on almost any headphone/in-ear review.
• The target that comes closest to my personal perception of “flat neutral” for in-ears is the one by Etymotic. Hence it is no surprise that the Etymotic ER4SR are among the top of my favourite in-ears for “critical” recreational listening from my CD setup, with my MrSpeakers AEON Flow Closed and Sennheiser HD 600 being at the top for the same purpose when it comes to circumaural headphones. For other recreational listening scenarios (portable, on the go, PC, films, …), there isn’t really any specific target curve I like best (it is not uncommon I switch between quite divergely tuned in-ears depending on the purpose and my mood), hence I own and like headphones with quite contrasting tunings ranging from “extremely bassy, warm and dark” over “moderately v-shaped” to “quite bright”, depending on what I am currently looking for.
• Hybrid and dynamic driver in-ears should ideally not have any vent located on the inner side of their shells, as the amount of how much those vents are blocked by the users’ individual ear geometry and fit will change the bass response by quite a bit (blocked rear cavity vent of the driver results in more (sub-) bass output; blocked front cavity vent of the driver results in less midbass and lower midrange output). (Therefore the placement of the Sennheiser IE 8/80s’ rear cavity vent on the outside of the shells is pretty clever.)
• Treble peaks lower than 7 kHz rarely ever sound good.
• A good and helpful headphone review is not about whether I personally find the tuning to be excellent for my tastes or not, but whether the headphones are tuned well for what they likely aim for (e.g. w-shaped, u-shaped, warm etc.), or not.
• Unless mentioned otherwise, all reviews are performed with gear that has got a flat frequency response unloaded and close to 0 Ohms output impedance.
• Dedicated, stand-alone comparisons are not mandatory but can be helpful (e.g. for headphones in the same price range or with tonal similarities).
• Stand-alone comparisons, if included, should be performed directly side-by-side with matched volume and the switching taking as little time as possible (ideally as few seconds as possible), as our auditory memory is objectively not as good as some assume it to be.
• Ultimately, and obviously, despite trying to keep them as unbiased and neutral as possible, subjective preferences and bias cannot be avoided completely, therefore my reviews are, after all, factually just one (i.e. my) opinion among many others (while I may like or dislike a product and award it or not, chances are that others may have a completely different opinion on it).
 
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Mar 1, 2021 at 6:22 AM Post #3 of 54

CK Moustache

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Location
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Headphone Review Structure

Each headphone review is structured as follows:

Caption:
Mentions the gear that is in the focus of this review.

Source:
Provides the information about how the gear was obtained (e.g. “personal unit”, “review sample”, “review loaner”, “purchased at a discount for the purpose of this review” etc.)

Miscellaneous:
Mainly provides some information about the unboxing experience, included accessories and/or the lack thereof, good and bad aspects (not sound-related) about the product that I noticed in particular, subjectively perceived material quality, specific product details and so on. Is usually kept fairly short but may contain some personal product-related anecdotes as introduction/preamble from time to time if I feel like including them.

Sound:
Mentions which ear tips are used. If there were any modifications performed on the product, these are mentioned here as well. Unless stated otherwise, my source devices/driving gear are always products with very low output impedance below 0.5 Ohms, flat frequency response unloaded and loaded (no bass or treble roll-off with low impedance headphones/in-ears), sharp roll-off filter, and no DSP application such as EQ or crossfeed.
For what it is worth, I have got hair close to and around my ears (head hair and mutton chop sideburns down to my moustache).

Tonality:
Describes how I perceive the headphones’ tuning, usually based on listening to various music that covers the entire audible spectrum and using a sine generator.

While there are several common tonal frequency range dissections that some people refer to, this is mine to which I also refer in my reviews:

•Sub-Bass: ~ 20 - 40 Hz

•Midbass: ~ 40 - 90 Hz

•Upper Bass: ~ 90 - 150 Hz

•Fundamental Range/Root: ~ 150 - 800 Hz

•Lower Mids: ~ 500 - 800 Hz

•Central Mids: ~ 800 - 1500 Hz

•Upper Mids: ~ 1500 - 3000 Hz

•Presence Range: ~ 2000 - 3000 Hz

•Lower Treble: ~ 2000 - 4000 Hz

•Middle Treble: ~ 4000 - 7000 Hz

•Upper Treble: ~ 7000 - 10000 Hz

•Super Treble: ~ 10000 - 20000 Hz

Since they come closest to my personal perception of flat neutral, many reviews contain cross-comparisons to the Etymotic ER4SR or my ER-4S in this section.

Frequency Response:
If included in the review (as the measurements are stored on a different computer), this paragraph shows the in-ears’ frequency response with applied Etymotic ER-4S compensation (so these are neither raw graphs nor measurements with an industry-standard researched compensation target applied, but show the frequency response relative to my ER-4S), as I do not have access to an IEC711-compliant acoustic coupler but only my Vibro Labs Veritas measurement coupler.
As they are also fairly popular when it comes to neutral-ish sounding in-ears (but are tuned in a more relaxed manner compared to my ER-4S), graphs with compensation based on my InEar ProPhile 8s’ frequency response (both switches in the “down”/”off” position; included silicone ear tips) are provided as well.

As my ER-4S are modified slightly as described more precisely in my dedicated review of them, their measured frequency response deviates somewhat from the one performed with the unmodified triple-flange ear tips in the range between 8 kHz and 20 kHz (my modification shows greater amplitude especially after 10 kHz on the graph, however, as I recall, when compared to the stock tips while doing sine sweeps, I did not notice any difference, so I would address this due to the different insertion depth of the in-ears in the coupler; as the compensation with my ER-4S with the modified ear tips is closer to what I actually hear from the other in-ears that the compensation curve is applied to, it is the one that I opted for).
And since this is also a non-standard coupler (but the one I have is fortunately fairly accurate from 20 Hz to 1 kHz without any compensation applied at all, compared to some other users’ Vibro Veritas couplers who were less lucky and received units with a less accurate microphone in theirs), especially the treble response past 7 kHz and specific peaks and dips and their exact location are likely not as accurate as they could be, so these measurements should not be taken for granted but rather as a rough approximation of the in-ears’ actual tuning, nonetheless they definitely offer a good bit more value than no published measurement at all.

The LH Labs Geek Out IEM100 (activated TCM (= sharp roll-off) filter setting) serves as source due to its perfectly low output impedance of around 0.1 Ohms, while my StarTech.com ICUSBAUDIO2D sound card provides the microphone input (as Arta (the software I use for my measurements) strangely doesn’t want to work properly with my laptop computer’s internal microphone input that outperforms my StarTech.com ICUSBAUDIO2D interface).

Resolution:
Describes how I perceive the product’s technical performance (such as “bass speed/tightness/control/texture”, “micro details/detail retrieval” (not to be confused with “clarity” that is usually generated by elevations in the upper mids and/or upper treble), perception of the “treble character” (e.g. “soft”, “clean”, “precise”, “blunt”)). Obviously, this contains some subjectiveness, although I try to keep that low by directly comparing different headphones and testing for specific aspects with switching times kept as short as possible and matched volume levels.

Soundstage:
Describes how I perceive the product’s spatial reproduction. “Average” is to be equated with the exact space/distance between my ears, with an “above average” soundstage expanding further than that. Also mentions whether or not I perceive any “spatial depth”, and whether I perceive the soundstage as “flat”, “wider than deep”, “oval” or “circular”. Of course, this is quite subjective and also determined by the frequency response to the most part, so the “soundstage” section is usually kept rather short.

Also contains information about how I perceive the product’s imaging quality (“instrument separation”, “location sharpness”, “ability of portraying ‘empty space’ between instruments/tonal elements”, if the soundstage remains intact with fast and dense material, and so on).

Comparisons:
Not obligatory (i.e. optional), but if included, one will find side-by-side comparisons to other products in this section.

Conclusion:
Not really obligatory (i.e. optional) unless the in-ears/headphones are “awarded” with “Recommended” or “Highly Recommended” by me, with a short explanation of why they were awarded (of course, and obviously, some personal bias and my own preferences cannot be avoided in the rating/award process, nonetheless I try to keep them rather low (e.g. products that I personally really like (for example due to their convenience) and use on a highly regular basis (despite objectively superior but subjectively less convenient alternatives) may not get an “award” because of some of their flaws, however a product that I personally like less is also less likely to be “awarded”)). Usually still included, though.

Photos:
Self-explanatory – some photos of the product if I have taken any/decided to include them. Are usually spread across the review (usually not only one per paragraph at most to make it less crowded). This section serves as a sort of “tray” for additional photos that I have taken and like, but didn’t include in the main review due to make it less crowded.
 
Last edited:
Mar 1, 2021 at 6:23 AM Post #4 of 54

CK Moustache

100+ Head-Fier
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Jan 12, 2021
Posts
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337
Location
EU
Review Index (sorted in alphabetical Order by Manufacturer):

• In-Ears:


• Over-Ear Headphones/On-Ear Headphones:

• Earbuds:


• Other active Audio Gear (Digital Audio Players, DACs, Amplifiers, Amplifier Modules, …):


• Miscellaneous Audio Gear (Cables, Passive Adapters, Storage Cases, Radios, Bluetooth Speakers, ...):
 
Last edited:
Mar 1, 2021 at 6:24 AM Post #5 of 54

CK Moustache

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Jan 12, 2021
Posts
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337
Location
EU
Change Log/History:

• Thread created
Ultimate Ears Triple.Fi 10 Review added
• Shortlinks added to Post #1
• Caption added to my Triple.Fi 10 Review
EarSonics ES3 Review added
• "Caption" Section added to Post #3
DUNU Falcon-C Review added
• Post #2 extended
Ultimate Ears Reference Monitors Review added
• Removed the "Recommended" Award from my Triple.Fi 10 Review - While very good and probably "the" original Definition of a v-shaped Sound, I feel likey they are ultimately probably not special/outstanding enough yet to receive that award
DUNU DK 3001 Pro Review added
Ultimate Ears Reference Remastered to-go Review added
InEar ProPhile 8 Review added
Chord Electronics Mojo Review added
Campfire Audio Andromeda Review added
• Post #2 extended with more Info
Shure SE846 Review added
DUNU Titan 6 Review added
Etymotic ER2XR Review added
Sabaj Audio D1 Review added
Apple USB-C to Headphone Jack Adapter (A2155) Review added
HiFiMan RE2000 Review added
Sybasonic Byta Review added
Superlux HD668B Review added
Shure SE425 Review added
Meze 99 Classics Review added
1More E1001 Review added
FiiO M5 Review added
Stoner Acoustics UD125 Review added
Shure SE215m+SPE Review added
Zero Audio Carbo Tenore Review added
NocturnaL Audio Atlantis Review added
JadeAudio EW1 Review added
MEE audio Pinnacle P1 Review added
Sennheiser IE 80 Review added
EarFun Free Review added
Shanling MTW100 - Balanced Armature Driver Version Review added
Akoustyx R-120 Review added
Anew U1 Review added
the t.bone EP-7 Review added
Akoustyx R-210 Review added
Etymotic ER4SR Review added
Etymotic ER-4S Review added
Brainwavz M100 Review added
Brainwavz Hex Review added
LYPERTEK BEVI 2 Review added
Etymotic ER3XR Review added
InEar StageDiver SD-2 Review added
ORIVETI O400 Review added
EarFun Free 2 Review added
 
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Mar 1, 2021 at 6:29 AM Post #6 of 54

CK Moustache

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Ultimate Ears Triple.Fi 10


Source:

Personal unit.


Miscellaneous:

I bought them from Amazon when they were sold off ridiculously cheap on Black Friday, and sort of regret not having gotten a second or third pair the same year or the next when they were discounted again.

Undoubtedly, they are true classics and probably the original definition of “v-shaped” sound in IEMs.

Several nice accessories came included.

I really like the tin carrying case. It doesn't only look and feel phenomenal and is very sturdy, but it's also padded on the inside. Easily one of my most-loved and most unique in-ear carrying cases.

I love the turquoise blue chrome/mirror colour design.
Somewhat unusual shape and geometry, but I like it, and it is also quite unique.

Build quality is good enough – the in-ears appear more fragile and less sturdy as well as less premium compared to my Shure SE425, but are overall still sturdy enough if treated well.

Unusual shell geometry but comfortable in my ears. The cable's memory wire ear guides definitely contribute to the good fit and comfort in my ears. Others may feel otherwise.

Okay-ish/average cable – springy but sturdy. Has got a chin-slider.
Two-pin connectors, however one of the Triple.Fi 10s’ rather unusual features is that their left side’s connector doesn't follow the standard of the "upper" pin being the "+" pin, but has the layout inverted (only on the left side).

Three Balanced Armature drivers per side, two acoustic ways, (oval) dual-bore architecture with dedicated acoustic dampers.

Ultimate Ears Triple.Fi 10 Carrying Case.png



Sound:

Largest included silicone tips.

Tonality:

V-shaped sound.


The Triple.Fi 10 are some of the most reactive in-ears to subtle output impedance deviations from 0 Ohms (even a perfect output impedance of 0.1 Ohms already shows measurable (but still inaudible) deviation effects), and become audibly darker in the highs the higher the output impedance of the device they are connected to is, even to the point of sounding “warm and dark”, with a downwards sloping response if the device’s output impedance is on the higher side.

The bass elevation starts to rise around 600 Hz and reaches its climax around 85 Hz with a quantity of about 8 dB compared to diffuse-field flatness, even though it is only a little less present between 100 and 200 Hz. Extension is flat and free of any roll-off down into the real sub-bass.
So yeah, the main focus is on the sub- and midbass, but the upper bass is already punchy as well and there is also some low fundamental range lift but no intrusive warmth (just a bit of pleasant lower midrange thickness).

The upper mids, presence range and middle treble are somewhat in the background, giving voices a rather distanced presentation in the mix with still good-enough timbre.

The area between 8 and 10 kHz is emphasised and on the bright side, with present/forward cymbals that have a rather metallic, however not sharp timbre.

In summary, they represent a quite traditional v-shaped fun/loudness tuning.

Frequency Response:

TF10 ER-4S-Compensation.jpg

Etymotic ER-4S-Compensation

This is also pretty much how I perceive them, although obviously without the excessively shown treble between 7 kHz and 16 kHz.

TF10 PP8-Compensation.jpg

InEar ProPhile 8 Compensation

Resolution:

Tight and fast bass, as it could be expected from the two small, non-vented BA drivers for low-frequency reproduction. Perceived bass details and texture fit well into the Triple.Fi 10’s performance category.

Good resolution and note separation (actually ultimately not even that far away from my UERM in a direct comparison, but still with a noticeable gap between them) but nonetheless still in a lower league when compared to my Audio Technica ATH-IM03, Westone W4R or Logitech UE900 when it comes to separation and actual micro details (not the fake stuff generated by elevations), especially in the midrange that just sounds quite two-dimensional and lacks “layering”.

Clean treble reproduction but not on the same level as some of the other, more modern v-shaped IEMs.

Soundstage:

Rather wide but with pretty much no spatial depth. Slightly elliptical, however in a flat way.

Precise instrument positioning and separation.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Comparisons:

Logitech/Ultimate Ears UE900/UE900S:

The UE900 are tuned more balanced/neutral compared to the more v-shaped Triple.Fi 10 but ultimately not (flat) neutral either but have a relaxed upper midrange and thick lower mids.
The UE900 are less bassy and milder in the lower highs, with perceptively more linear super treble extension and therefore more subtle glitter/shimmer, whereas the Triple.Fi 10 are more distant, cooler sounding in the mids, especially compared to the UE900s’ thick lower midrange that spills clearly into the central midrange.

In terms of resolution, the UE900 are just a slight bit superior in direct comparison, even in the midrange, while bass attacks sound a bit tighter on the Triple.Fi 10 that seem to decay somewhat faster.

To my ears, the UE900s’ stage is even a bit wider, but has especially got some more spatial depth compared to the flat sounding Triple.Fi 10.
When it comes to instrument separation, the UE900 may be a bit ahead.

Custom Art Ei.3:

The Triple.Fi 10 are more v-shaped with the more distant, slightly hollow and thin appearing mids; a brighter, splashier treble elevation; and also somewhat (but not much) stronger bass emphasis.

The Triple.Fi 10 win in terms of bass attack, speed and tightness, while midrange details are a little higher on the Ei.3, whereas actual treble details are about similar.

In terms of soundstage width, the Ultimate Ears present the wider room, while the Ei.3 have got more depth and therefore the superior layering while instrument separation and imaging precision is on a pretty much similar level.

Audio Technica ATH-IM03:

To my ears, these are similar enough to the Ultimate Ears, albeit with a leading edge when it comes to technicalities.

Both are v-shaped, but the IM03 less splashy and metallic in the highs.
Bass-wise, the Audio Technica even have about one dB extra in the midbass, with pretty much similar bass quantity as the Triple.Fi 10 in the sub-bass and lower mids, which makes them sound just a little bassier and fuller as a result.
Voices appear less distant in the mix compared to the Ultimate Ears.
The upper treble peak is also located in the 8 kHz to 10 kHz area but not as present, which results in a milder, more realistic and less splashy elevation.

The IM03s’ additional way in the midrange definitely shows and they present quite a step up in this area, with the highs also being technically more proficient.
In terms of bass decay, though, the Triple.Fi 10 sound faster compared to the ATH-IM03 whose lower notes linger just a bit longer, giving them more “body”, while control is nonetheless great.

The Audio Technicas’ stage is audibly deeper than that of the Triple.Fi 10, and quite three-dimensional circular (ultimately it is a bit more on the oval side, though).

Ultimate Ears Triple.Fi 10.png



Conclusion:

True classics with a v-shaped tonality. They don’t really do anything wrong (while they do not necessarily particularly excel in any specific area either) and present a sound that still fits well into the ~400$ range with a punchy bass with fast, clean decay, and sparkly highs that resolve well enough to pull this elevation off; solely the “two-dimensional” midrange and flat soundstage are things that could be improved.
 
Last edited:
Mar 1, 2021 at 9:50 AM Post #7 of 54

CK Moustache

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EarSonics ES3


Source:

Personal unit.


Miscellaneous:

Really nice unboxing experience with a packaging that has got two see-through windows and a drawer that contains the accessories.

The carrying case looks nice.

Quite poor ear tip selection - two pairs of single-flange silicone tips, two pairs of double-flange silicone tips, two pairs of foam tips.

Three Balanced Armature drivers per side, three acoustic ways. Dual-bore nozzle design.

Industry-standard cable with twisted conductors; very supple and flexible. Fortunately 2-pin connectors.

I like the shell design with the grey, dotted "ES" and "3" logos and shiny black surface. I have absolutely nothing against plastic shell in-ears and even prefer them over metal shells in terms of feel in one's ears, but the ES3's shells appear a bit thin and not as premium (finish around the edges; screws) as they could or should at this price point - overall I prefer my Shure SE425's thicker and more premium appearing plastic shells over those of my ES3 that seem thinner and less premium, even though the design (shape, logos) is nice.

Comfort could be better in my ears, especially as the largest included silicone ear tips could be larger, hence it is somewhat trickier for me to get a consistent seal (similar story as with my Audio Technica ATH-IM03).

EarSonics ES3 Photo 2.png



Sound:

Largest included single-flange silicone tips.

Tonality:

Smooth v-shape with main focus on bass.

Rather unique bass implementation (which was the main reason why I bought the ES3 in the first place): boosted sub- and midbass, but almost no fundamental range boost and not the tiniest bit of lower midrange spill/bleed; as a result, the bass really only “kicks in” as a deep growl when “needed”.
The bass elevation peaks around 60 kHz with around 8 dB in quantity over in-ears with near diffuse-field flat lows (such as my Etymotic ER-4S/the ER4SR). The bass then extends at that level (almost no roll-off) down into the real sub-bass. What's great is that 200 Hz are pretty much in line with 1 kHz, so the low fundamental range doesn't have the typical added warmth that often comes with bass-boosted in-ears, but as EarSonics' ES3 don’t only focus on the sub-bass but also clearly concentrate on the midbass, it's fun, thumpy and full of impact without a hammering upper bass punch or intrusive lower fundamental range warmth/bloom. Yeah, that's a lot of fun for recreational listening.
It's fun, it's unique, it's addictive; it's simply just a really neat implementation of the bass boost.

The midrange timbre is natural and realistic except for the upper mids/presence range lacking some presence (quite comparable to my Campfire Audio Andromeda), wherefore they lack some glare and crunch and are very mild, even to extend of some perceived vocal resolution being missed in comparison to the rest of the audio spectrum.

The middle treble is in the background as well, just to come back with a mild peak just a bit above 7 kHz, but it's not intrusive and gives the treble just a bit of brightness that would be otherwise lacking due to the recessed upper mids.
Extension past 10 kHz is really good.

Frequency Response:

ES3 ER-4S-Compensation.jpg

Etymotic ER-4S-Compensation

That’s also mostly how I perceive the sound, however with a bit less sub-bass quantity and an upper treble peak that crosses the “neutral” line just barely, along with good but not exaggeratedly bright super treble extension.

ES3 PP8-Compensation.jpg

InEar ProPhile 8 Compensation

Resolution:

The BA woofer's bass balance between tightness and body is just great - it sounds just a bit more dynamic than absolutely tight-sterile ("dry"), but is still and absolutely clearly on the Balanced Armature side of things - definitely nothing for friends of a more dynamic driver-like presentation (my ES3 are, for example, also tighter and faster than my definitely softer, more impactful, dynamic sounding Campfire Audio Andromeda (that are however great in their own way with their still mostly controlled bass rumble) in the bass). Therefore the lows sound definitely tight and fast, but with just a little bit of decay lingering still existing. Bass control is very good as well.

The midrange and treble separation and details are good as in not appearing to be lacking at all, however compared to other in-ears that I own that are more or less in this price range and resolve well, such as my Westone W4R or Logitech UE900, my ES3 don't deliver as much and as precise micro details or note separation. (Ultimately the ES3s’ treble has an edge over its middle frequencies in terms of separation.)

Soundstage:

Precise imaging (instrument placement; instrument separation is good, too).

Three-dimensional and authentic - overall just slightly more oval than circular. Sounds spherical and realistic to me.
Extends further than the base of my head.

EarSonics ES3.png



Conclusion:

Recommended.

Clearly the bass tuning is what makes the ES3 unique and a very enjoyable recreational listen, but the rest of the spectrum is tuned nicely as well. Along with the fairly nice soundstage presentation, Earsonics’ triple-BA in-ears offer a really good overall package; though I wouldn’t mind more premium appearing shells and a better ear tip selection.


Photos:

EarSonics ES3 Photo 1.png
 
Last edited:
Mar 1, 2021 at 10:48 AM Post #8 of 54

CK Moustache

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DUNU Falcon-C


Source:


Review sample.


Miscellaneous:

The unboxing experience with many accessories is nice, as is the large ear tip selection.

The carrying case’s lid unfortunately fits somewhat too loosely and may unintentionally come off easily, in addition to appearing too thin to be considered premium.

I really like the design.
High build quality.

High quality cable but also slightly rubbery.

DUNU Falcon-C.png



Sound:

Largest included SpinFit ear tips.

Tonality:

Bright/edgy or v-shaped, depending on whether the front cavity vent is blocked or not.

For what it is worth, at first, the ear tips that I used were the largest included grey silicone tips – the dark grey ones with blue stem just didn’t want to provide a nice and easy seal for my ear anatomy. Then and for all comparisons, I however switched over to the included SpinFit tips, even though I personally generally don’t like them, but in case of the DUNU they reduce the somewhat sharp treble edge a bit to my ears.

The Falcon-Cs’ sound is quite fit- and insertion depth-dependant – depending on fit and insertion depth, especially their treble output might vary rather noticeably. Especially the latter is affected quite a bit depending on individually different insertion depth, wherefore the in-ears might show a tendency to sound edgy and sharp in some ears and only moderately bright in others. In my ears and with my ear anatomy, the first is rather the case.

Depending on one’s individual ear anatomy, the small front cavity vent might remain either free (which results in a mild bass boost of ca. 5 dB compared to in-ears that have a nearly diffuse-field flat bass, such as the Etymotic ER4SR/ER-4S) or will be completely blocked. A sub-bass difference of ca. +6 dB (to total up to a bass boost of ca. 11 dB) compared to a fully open vent would be the case with a blocked front vent, with the sub-bass being the strongest area – in my ears, the vent remains rather free, and what I am hearing is a boost of ca. 7 dB, mainly taking place in the upper bass and midbass, with the sub-bass being slightly behind in quantity but not lacking either.
This elevation stays nicely out of the vocal range and fundamental range wherefore the Falcon-C are no thick or full sounding in-ears, which is because the elevation starts to climb at 500 Hz and reaches its climax right below 100 Hz.

Mids are, which is nice, on the flat and neutral side, although they aren’t the closest in the mix due to having lesser quantity compared to the bass and highs in the presence range, but they also do not necessarily appear hollow or thin as it can be the case with in-ears that are on the brighter side in the highs. Yes, voices are rendered with fairly correct but rather relaxed timbre, and the Falcon-C avoid the 3 kHz upper midrange glare/presence range forwardness that some of DUNU’s other models have.

Not exactly the same is what I would say about the treble – it is generally on the brighter side, and while it isn’t necessarily intrusively peaky, it can come across as a edgy due to a forward 6 kHz range, as well as emphasised 8 kHz, 12.5 kHz and 16 kHz, the latter two obviously being in a less important area (although that 12.5 kHz lift definitely adds audible air and subtle super treble extension and glare to the sonic presentation).
Out of these, the 8 kHz lift is unproblematic, but the 6 kHz emphasis is definitely a bit too pronounced and therefore introduces some sharpness and an unnatural edge to the sound.
While the sound is perhaps not exactly unpleasant, treble-sensitive people should certainly look elsewhere, and the treble presentation, especially cymbals, gains a somewhat unnaturally metallic and sharp edge due to that elevation, which ultimately leads to an unrefined appearing treble presentation.

Frequency Response:

Falcon-C free Vent ER-4S-Compensation.jpg

Etymotic ER-4S-Compensation (free Vent)

That’s pretty much how I perceive the sound in my ears, with the actual super treble elevation however being milder and the upper treble peak being perhaps a little less extreme, although not by much.

Falcon-C blocked Vent ER-4S-Compensation.jpg

Etymotic ER-4S-Compensation (blocked Vent)

Falcon-C free Vent PP8-Compensation.jpg

InEar ProPhile 8-Compensation (free Vent)

Falcon-C blocked Vent PP8-Compensation.jpg

InEar ProPhile 8-Compensation (blocked Vent)

Falcon-C Effect of Blocking Vent.jpg

Effect of Blocking the small Front Cavity Vent

Resolution:

The Falcon-C deliver about just what one would expect from technically capable dynamic driver in-ears in this price range – a pretty tight, clean and fast bass for dynamic driver standards, a detailed midrange with good speech intelligibility, a well-separated and detailed treble and precise instrument separation.
Unfortunately though, the tuning with the too early and too string treble peak doesn’t really fit in.

There isn’t any area that really lacks behind the rest, and the details appear distributed quite evenly, and not much surprisingly for single-driver in-ears, the Falcon-C sound coherent.

Given that the Titan series in-ears however already performed exceptionally well for dynamic driver in-ears at their price point, the Falcon-C don’t have much room for further technical improvements and only appear slightly tighter in the lows in comparison and have got just a small edge in terms of midrange details – on the whole, their level of detail retrieval is quite similar.

Soundstage:

The imaginary room the Falcon-C present is quite spacious and appears open – not as much as the Titan 1, but still a bit more than the Titan 5.

Therefore the stage’s width definitely subjectively exceeds the base between my ears, with some spatial depth as well, although the general soundstage seems rather oval, almost elliptical, than circular.

Instrument separation is precise and clean and just as good as on the Titan series in-ears while it doesn’t fully reach the level of good multi-BA in-ears.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Comparisons:

DUNU Titan 5:

The Titan 5s’ sound, especially bass and warmth, will also depend on individual ear anatomy and by how much its vent is covered. Unlike with the Falcon-C, I am one of those people who are lucky and get a good fit and seal with them, with rather covered but not fully blocked vents, hence the sound doesn’t lack bass or warmth and isn’t overly thin despite having bright highs.

That said, the Titan 5 are a bit more elevated in the bass, especially with the stronger sub-bass emphasis. The also have got a bit more body and warmth in the lower fundamental range to my ears.
High upper mids are more linear and neutral on the Falcon-C whereas they are a bit lifted on the Titan 5.
While the Titan 5 are actually even brighter in the highs, their treble appears less edgy and slightly smoother to my ears, perhaps because of them having more lower midrange body.

In direct comparison, the bass appears slightly tighter on the Falcon-C, which is likely due to the Titan 5 having more presence in the lower fundamental range. Speed and control are similarly good and neither of the in-ears have problems handling complex and fast bass lines.
Both resolve and separate equally well in the highs.
In the mids, both are rather close, but to my ears the Falcon-C are just a notch above the Titan 5 when it comes to small midrange and vocal details.

Both have got a rather comparable soundstage to my ears with the Falcon-Cs’ sounding just slightly more open. None of them match the Titan 1s’ large and open sounding soundstage, though.

iBasso IT01 (first Generation with non-replaceable Nozzle Filters):

The IT01 have got the stronger bass and sub-bass elevation, with a warmer lower fundamental range lift.
Midrange timbre is comparable with the IT01 having just a little more openness in the upper mids.
The IT01 are also a bit on the brighter side in the highs, however they are more linear and less intrusive here and therefore audibly a good bit more realistic in the middle treble in comparison, and they lack the 6 kHz stridency the DUNU have (while being a bit too forward around 5 kHz).

Bass speed, tightness and control are equally good on both in-ears.
When it comes to minute midrange details, the DUNU are just slightly ahead.
Treble separation on the other hand is a bit cleaner on the iBasso in comparison.

The DUNU have got the somewhat more open, wider soundstage to my ears while the IT01 have got a bit more spatial depth.
In terms of separation and imaging, the IT01 is slightly more precise.

Sennheiser IE 800:

The IE 800 are more boosted and warmer in the bass than the Falcon-C, with the more pronounced sub-bass, and have got the somewhat more forward, thicker sounding lower fundamental range.
Midrange timbre is comparable between the two in-ears.
Where they differ though is the highs – the Falcon-C are bright and a splashy in the middle highs, an area where the IE 800 are relaxed, whereas the Sennheiser are tuned for a bright and splashy upper treble presentation, which is definitely a tuning that is much less intrusive, unnatural and edgy compared to a mid-treble elevation such as the one that can be found on the DUNU.

The Sennheiser seem slightly softer in the bass in comparison, while having just a tad more control with fast and complex tracks.
In the mids and highs, the Sennheiser are minimally ahead when it comes to minute details, but the difference is ultimately rather small.

The Sennheisers’ soundstage appears even a bit wider to my ears, however with less depth. Separation is quite similar.

Falcon-C Top View.png



Conclusion:

Nice design and build quality with decent technical performance for dynamic driver in-ears, however the unnatural, peaky treble tuning with its too early and too strong peaks without enough lower midrange counterweight ruins the presentation quite a bit, especially with excellently tuned and at least similarly well dynamic driver in-ears from Etymotic or Moondrop existing as alternatives.


Photos:

Falcon-C.png


Falcon-C Side-View.png
 
Last edited:
Mar 2, 2021 at 8:35 AM Post #9 of 54

CK Moustache

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Ultimate Ears Reference Monitors


Source:


Personal unit.


Miscellaneous:

I opted for the standard design, long silver cable and large carrying case.

Fairly nice unboxing experience with a nice, high quality, large cardboard case.

The acrylic shells are 3D-printed, of high quality and feature nice coloured side indicators.
I really like that the three drivers, crossover, cables and sound tubes with dampers are visible.

I like the spacious, sturdy, black powder-coated carrying case that is nicely and softly padded on the inside. A cleaning tool with a dedicated cut-out in that carrying case is included, too.

The cable with four twisted conductors below the y-split is of high quality and nicely flexible and soft; it’s definitely one I really like aesthetically and in terms of how it feels.
2-pin connectors.

The fit, seal and comfort are excellent for me, nonetheless I personally rather prefer the handling of universal fit in-ears and would have bought my UERM as such if that option existed back then.

Three Balanced Armature drivers per side; three acoustic ways; dual-bore sound output.

UERM Photo 5.png



Sound:

They are custom-moulded after my physical ear impressions taken by the official nearby Ultimate Ears distributor who 3D-scanned them and also shipped them to the UE headquarters as physical backup.

Tonality:

Neutral to bright-neutral.

I always perceived my UERM as the closest match to my personal perception of “flat neutral”, even though they subjectively didn’t fully achieve this (up until I finally discovered the Etymotic ER-4S (and then their successors, the ER4SR) which come extremely close to that and have suprassed my UERM for this purpose) when listening to music, sine sweeps or noise signals, even though they were definitely a step up in terms of flatness (and especially resolution) to my Shure SE425 which were the in-ears I probably used most until about late 2014.

That said, while the bass is very flat and extends flat down into the real sub-bass without any roll-off, it is a little lifted to my ears by about 3 dB, which adds just a tiny bit of body to the sound, and spills ever so slightly into the midrange but without necessarily colouring it – after all, these are ultimately still some of the flattest sounding in-ears that were made.

The midrange timbre is mostly spot-on to my ears, with the upper mids/presence range being just slightly more on the relaxed side, which gives the UERM a still very revealing and honest, but somewhat more relaxed (I’m not using the word “musical” as this isn’t really a colouration and the UERM are still more present here than many other in-ears), less brutally revealing than in-ears with a more diffuse-field oriented midrange tuning such as my ER-4S.
So ultimately what I hear is an accurate midrange reproduction that is just slightly closer to the “prosumer neutral” than the “studio neutral” side.

Above that, except for the ~5 kHz range that, just like on my ER-4S, is a bit more recessed than flat-neutral to my ears, the highs are neutral, accurate and flat to my ears until the super treble is reached: here, the UERM have a peak between 10 kHz and 13 kHz, and it is not exactly subtle – if an instrument or song hits exactly this range, which however happens rather rarely, the highs can appear sharp, even to the point of nearly unbearable, which is somewhat unfortunate as otherwise and most of the time, the treble response is very accurate, even and realistic.

Therefore the UERM represent, in a positive way, an “unspectacular” and mostly flat-neutral sound that clearly falls into the neutral category, although they are ultimately not as flat (/”sterile”) sounding to my ears compared to Etymotic’s ER-4S, ER4SR and ER2SE, and can become a bit strident sounding if there is plenty of information in the range between 10 kHz and 13 kHz, which is however thankfully rather rarely the case.

Frequency Response:

UERM ER-4S-Compensation.jpg

Etymotic ER-4S-Compensation

As I cannot get my UERM inserted deep enough into the coupler to its reference plane-ish position since I have got large ear canals, the upper treble/super treble peak shown on both compensation graphs is obviously exaggerated by at least 15 to 20 dB. As for the furthest peak to the right, I agree with it and would even say that it is more pronounced in my ears when performing sine sweeps than on the graph.
Other than that, this (ER-4S-Compensation) is pretty much exactly how I perceive my UERM.

UERM PP8-Compensation.jpg

InEar ProPhile 8-Compensation

Resolution:

Very high and definitely flagship territory.

It is very rare that the UERM are brought to their limits, and even then, if the recording is very dense, fast, complex and demanding, thy aren’t actually stressed or pushed to their actual limits, but rather pushed somewhat out of their comfort zone.

The bass is very clean, tight and fast, and doesn’t lack any resolution.
Micro details in the midrange are also resolved very well, with fine vocal details being uncovered easily.
Treble resolution is on a very high technical level as well, which is also why they peak above 10 kHz is (most of the time) not perceived as too annoying or unpleasant; high note separation is clean.
Fast and complex music material is not problematic with the UERM which represent it effortlessly.

While there are areas where my Campfire Audio Andromeda may have an edge over my UERM and while I would place my InEar ProPhile 8 (just a little) higher than my UERM in terms of micro details, they are nevertheless excellent, flagship-territory in-ears whose resolution and speed I would definitely put above that of my Etymotic ER-4S, Fischer Amps FA-3E, or the Noble Audio SAVANNA when it comes to other in-ears that fall into the category of a neutral tuning.

Soundstage:

Quite large and holographic, although not as large and spectacular to my ears than that of the UE18 Pro or my Andromeda.

While the UERMs’ stage is not the “best”, biggest or most precise I have heard from in-ears, it is nonetheless very good, with very clean instrument placement and the ability to cleanly reproduce “empty” space between and around instruments/tonal elements, without any bleed or fog.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Comparisons:

Noble Audio SAVANNA:

The SAVANNA are slightly bassier and warmer in comparison, but roll off somewhat towards the sub-bass.
Midrange timbre is comparable while the Noble in-ears are tuned even more relaxed in the presence range.
The same goes for the middle treble and treble in general where the SAVANNA present a more relaxed tuning as well; in terms of super treble transition/the 10 kHz to 13 kHz area, I hear the SAVANNA as being superior (more realistic timbre).

When it comes to technical performance, the UERM have the somewhat faster, tighter and at the same time somewhat better controlled lows.
The difference is lesser in the midrange and treble, although the UERM also come out as more detailed here.

Soundstage and imaging precision is where the UERM also outperform the SAVANNA.

Ultimate Ears Reference Remastered to-go:

Bass quantity is pretty much similar while subjectively, the UERR appear slightly warmer, fuller in comparison, which is most likely due to the lack of the super treble peak that the UERM have whereas their successors do not. As a result, they definitely sound less analytical.
When it comes to the midrange, the UERRs’ appears closer, more intimate in the mix, with just a touch more perceived lower midrange body while still maintaining a mostly correct, neutral timbre.
In terms of the rest of the treble, both are pretty much similar to my ears, however the UERR do not have the UERMs’ 10 kHz to 13 kHz peak, wherefore they sound smoother, more realistic (“correct”) and more linear in the highs to me, which is a definite plus and, in my opinion, also a rather substantial improvement, however due to that, they are also perceived as “warmer” in comparison and lack that “UERM magic”.

While both in-ear models are on a very high technical level, the UERM appear a bit faster and tighter in the bass compared to the UERR whose lower notes seem to linger just a bit more, which is why they ultimately come across as somewhat tighter, faster and better controlled sounding than their successors that seem to have somewhat more body and decay despite not having any more bass quantity.

Directly compared, the UERMs’ soundstage appears to be somewhat more spatial and wider to my ears, with the UERR presenting the imaginary stage closer to the listener, which makes them appear more intimate.
Layering, precision and separation are pretty much equally good but as the UERRs’ bass appears a little “slower” in comparison, they come across as slightly blurrier/less precise on fast and dense tracks.

Etymotic ER-4S:

In terms of flatness and accuracy, I hear my ER-4S as superior to my UERM that have about 3 dB stronger bass quantity, are more relaxed in the presence range in comparison, and brighter past 10 kHz due to the peak that they have there, and which also makes their treble response come across as ultimately less even and realistic compared to the Etymotic (and UERR to-go), although that’s criticism on a rather high level.
As a result, the ER-4S are even more critical to the recording and even less forgiving, and more sterile sounding (which is something that I consider a very positive aspect while others may not).

While I prefer my ER-4S’ even flatter, less forgiving, more sterile tuning, when it comes to bass speed, control, micro details and note separation, I definitely perceive the UERM as audibly superior, as they have more detail headroom for the recording to pushing them to their limits.

The same as for the resolution can be said about the soundstage that appears to be a good bit larger than the ER-4S’ and “gives in” less early in comparison when very dense and fast arrangements are played back.

InEar ProPhile 8:

In contrast to the Etymotic in-ears, both represent more of a “natural neutral” kind of tuning, and the ProPhile 8 are actually pretty closely tuned to the UERM, but even more so to the UERR to-go (they sound almost similar to the UERMs’ successors).
To my ears, the ProPhile 8 have got pretty much exactly 0.5 dB less bass than the UERM, are slightly less “warm” in the fundamental range/lower midrange, sound a tad darker in the presence range at 2 kHz (but similar at 3 kHz), and are pretty similar in the rest of the treble except for the UERMs’ super treble peak.

Resolution-wise, I would place the ProPhile 8 even a little above the UERM (not that it really mattered the vast majority of the time, but in the rare cases when the UERM start to show traces of “caving in”/becoming ever so slightly “uncomfortable” with the recording, the ProPhine 8 don’t yet), with the tighter, faster and better controlled lows in direct comparison, and generally somewhat higher resolution and note separation, wherefore they deliver just that bit of extra resolution I rarely demanded from my UERM with very dense, fast and complex tracks.

To my ears, the UERMs’ soundstage is audibly larger in comparison to that of the InEar. Nonetheless, just as with the resolution, the ProPhile 8s’ soundstage remains rock-solid during fast, complex and dense recordings without starting to appear foggy.

UERM Photo 3.png



Conclusion:

Recommended.

Neutral sound signature with high technical performance and authentic, precise soundstage. Only very shy of being “highly recommended” because of the upper treble/super treble peak.


Photos:

UERM Photo 1.png


UERM Photo 2.png


UERM Photo 4.png
 
Last edited:
Mar 5, 2021 at 6:29 AM Post #10 of 54

CK Moustache

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Joined
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Location
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DUNU DK 3001 Pro


Source:

Review sample.


Miscellaneous:

Hybrid in-ears with five drivers per side – four Balanced Armatures and one 13 mm dynamic driver. Supposedly three acoustic ways, divided by a passive crossover (definitely not an active one as opposed to what's printed on the package - which isn't the only technical mistake and punctuation error on the package, but I don’t really mind about that.).

For some reason, at least on the package, DUNU decided to ditch the hyphen found on the DK-3001 for the "Pro"-labelled model.
Really nice unboxing experience, although it doesn't fully reach that of the DN-2000J which was even lusher and more spectacular (and is only matched or surpassed by very few other in-ears, such as the FLC Technology FLC-8S).
Several accessories such as various sets of differently sized silicone ear tips (grey; dark grey with red core; SpinFit tips, that do however need bundled rubber spacer rings in order to fit the nozzles properly), one pair of Comply foam tips, a cleaning brush tool, a 6.3 to 3.5 mm adapter and a carrying case/purse come included.

While I like the carrying case's turquoise green colour and can see that it is of nice quality and precisely stitched, I personally don't like it nearly as much as the cases that came with the DN-2000J or DK-3001; due to its nature, it's also not as dust- or moisture-proof as them; it seems like DUNU went for a case that fits better to a more boutique-ish product instead of keeping it more practical; it's got a nice little pocket inside for carrying extra ear tips or cable connectors and is made of artificial leather.

Pretty supple and flexible cable that looks very nice as well, although it is a step below iBasso's cables in terms of premium appearance and how it feels.
Rather unusual for DUNU's in-ears, the cable tie is made of Velcro and not of the rubber with lugs, holes and a pin, that was found on most of DUNU's previous in-ear releasess. Then again, it makes sense as this cable with braided conductors is thicker than DUNU's standard rubber cable.
The quick-switching mechanism and lock/release on the cable's end that goes into the source is simply phenomenal and fantastic - it's very easy to operate and appears sturdy (it's definitely a much better solution than using a cable with an unnecessarily over-hyped and more fragile 2.5 mm TRRS plug plus a simple, non-locking adapter).

Very comfortably fitting shells, at least to my ears.

High build quality.
I really like the outside/faceplate design. When it comes to the beauty of the inner side of the shells, the DK-3001 is more beautiful, though.

DUNU DK 3001 Pro Front and Back.png



Sound:

Largest included light grey silicone tips (of the same kind that was already installed).

Tonality:

Diffuse-field oriented v-shape.

Depending on whether the inner-facing vent is free or blocked, which depends on one's individual ear geometry and fit, the bass is either elevated by ca. 4 dB compared to flat in-ears such as my Etymotic ER-4S/the ER-4SR and quite linear through the entire lows, or a bit more sub-bass focused with around 7 to 8 dB more sub-bass quantity compared to the Etymotic in-ears; rather the latter is the case in my ears, and in my opinion, the DK 3001 Pro would be best without any inner vent at all, so that the lows' tuning were be more sub-bass oriented for everybody by default.
Either way, the bass stays nicely out of the lower midrange and starts to climb around 500 Hz, and then reaches its climax around 60 (free vent) respectively around 30 Hz (blocked vent).
That said, the DK 3001 Pro have therefore got the only somewhat less strong lower bass compared the DK-3001, however thankfully noticeably without the warmth that can be found in the non-Pro-labelled in-ears’ fundamental range. Therefore, the "Pro" model is indeed more professional in the lower midrange compared to the clearly more coloured DK-3001.
Sub-bass quantity is about the same when compared to the FiiO FH7.

The midrange takes a nicely diffuse-field oriented approach with only a bit less-than-neutral quantity at 3 kHz. Therefore, voices sound tonally correct, with accurate timbre. That's a completely different direction when compared to the DK-3001 that are noticeably more coloured throughout the entire midrange, with added lower midrange warmth and a bright, clear upper midrange elevation. As a result, in terms of midrange accuracy, the DK 3001 Pro are, out of the ones I have heard, DUNU's most accurate in-ears to date and doe everything right here – there is absolutely nothing to be improved in this area.
Compared to the FiiO FH7 that have got a rather prominent and somewhat exhaustive central midrange elevation to my ears, the DK 3001 Pro are more linear and accurate in the mids and have got correct quantity.

In the lower and middle treble, the DK 3001 Pro continue their diffuse-field oriented tuning, with only slightly more quantity (about 2 dB) around 6 kHz. Therefore, they are more linear and accurate sounding in this area than the DK-3001 as well.
The area around 10 kHz is elevated by around 5 dB to my ears, however not narrowly but rather widely, wherefore it's not a hard but rather a soft brightness elevation. While it adds brightness to the upper end of the frequency spectrum, it doesn't compromise the naturalness much and only softens hard cymbal attacks a bit.
Compared to the FiiO FH7, the DK 3001 Pro are a bit brighter in the upper treble, but also on the non-offensive, softer and peak-/sharpness-free side.

- - -

Often, “Pro” iterations of an existing product are only marketing nonsense terms from manufacturers to avoid labelling the product as a similar enough successor or slight iteration with basically the same sound signature, but in case of the DK 3001 Pro, they are indeed tuned quite differently from the more gimmicky sounding, w-shaped DK-3001, with a neutrally voiced midrange and generally pleasant v-shaped tuning, and therefore justifiably deserve the “Pro” suffix due to their accurate midrange combined with the loudness-oriented/fun elevations on either end of the frequency spectrum.

Frequency Response:

DK 3001 Pro blocked inner Vent ER-4S-Compensation.jpg

Etymotic ER-4S-Compensation (blocked Vent)

This matches my perception of the DK 3001 Pro very well – keeping in mind that the ER-4S have around 5 dB less at 10 kHz than would actually be neutral in order to compensate for the 5 dB boost in this area that is on several CDs, the graph represents my perception very well but shows somewhat too much level around 6 kHz where I only hear an elevation of only about 2 dB.

DK 3001 Pro free inner Vent ER-4S-Compensation.jpg

Etymotic ER-4S-Compensation (free Vent)

DK 3001 Pro blocked inner Vent PP8-Compensation.jpg

InEar ProPhile 8-Compensation (blocked Vent)

DK 3001 Pro free inner Vent PP8-Compensation.jpg

InEar ProPhile 8-Compensation (Free Vent)

DK 3001 Pro Effect of Blocking the inner Vent.jpg

Effect of Blocking the Vent

Resolution:

The bass is surprisingly tight, fast and clean for a dynamic driver woofer wherefore it is almost BA-like in its character and sounds definitely much faster and tighter than soft and thumping. It's a bit like some of the slightly slower multi-BA-only implementations, and has only got a bit of “something” to it that reveals that it's a dynamic driver (or it's probably just my imagination - anyway, it is a tight and fast sounding dynamic driver woofer implementation that is definitely in very good multi-BA territory).
However, due to this, it also somewhat loses the "magical" DUNU bass that is a compelling combination of attack tightness coupled with a bit of decay softness which leads to a visceral, almost tactile bass body rumble that often reminds me of my Audeze LCD-Xs’ bass presentation that is clearly lacking in the DK 3001 Pro that have traded this "magic" for a more sober, technical bass presentation; while it is technically more advanced and more “correct” and gives the DK 3001 Pro a “technical”, very clean and precise bass, I personally do not really get the idea behind this, as when I personally reach for a set of hybrid in-ears, this is exactly not what I want to hear from them, but a bass that can be clearly heard as “dynamic driver bass” - for my personal tastes, the DK-3001 and DN-2000J do just this better, but those looking for a “technical, clean” bass presentation in hybrid in-ears will definitely find this with the DK 3001 Pro.
Anyway, when it comes to details and control, the dynamic driver woofer is excellent down into the sub-bass and doesn't lose any texture or quality even in the very lows. Complex and dense, fast bass lines are no problem either and it handles them just as easily as a good multi-BA-only implementation.

In terms of midrange resolution, the delivery is really good although not top-notch and lacks a bit behind the lows and highs when it comes to pure technicalities. Nonetheless, also thanks to the accurate midrange tuning, the in-ears’ speech intelligibility is high.

The highs' resolution and detail/instrument separation is on a very high level with nothing to be really missed here.

Soundstage:

The stage is overall oval in shape and wider than deep.

The imaging is accurate, although it does not fully reach the precision of higher-end multi-BA in-ears; while there's ultimately a bit of smear (although really just a bit of it), the stage doesn't collapse or struggle with fast or dense recordings.

DUNU DK 3001 Pro.png



Conclusion:

Recommended.

Nicely tuned in-ears with an accurate midrange and elevated upper and lower ends of the frequency spectrum; the better choice over the DK-3001 that have got a clearly more gimmicky w-shaped tuning, however those have got that nice, visceral, "magical" DUNU dynamic driver bass body that the DK 3001 Pro have traded for a more technical, BA-like bass presentation.


Photos:

DUNU DK 3001 Pro Quick-Release Connector.png
 
Mar 10, 2021 at 9:15 AM Post #11 of 54

CK Moustache

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Ultimate Ears Reference Remastered to-go


Source:

Review sample.


Miscellaneous:

Three BA drivers per side, three acoustic ways, triple-bore design.

Great to see Ultimate Ears finally offering their CIEM models as UIEMs, especially for those who prefer the fit and handling of universals over customs (myself included) due to not having any fit, seal or positioning issues with most UIEMs.

Came with Ultimate Ears’ new, compact round storage case compared to my UERMs’ large “Roadie Hardcase”. While of high quality, padded on the inside and nicely compact, I wouldn’t mind if it were just somewhat taller as the ear tips can get deformed depending on how the IEMs are positioned inside the case.
Decent unboxing experience.

Good ear tip selection (they appear to be similar to those that came with my UE900 and UE900(S)) and typical accessories such as adapters (6.3 to 3.5 mm as well as impedance adapter) and a cleaning tool. The ear tips could be a bit stiffer, though.

I like the UERR to-gos’ standard design that is clearly an homage to the UERM, but with inverted colours.

Just like on my UERM, I like the transparent inner halves of the UERRs’ shells that reveal the three drivers, crossover components, internal wiring, dampers and sound tubes.
Comparing both, one can see that the driver layout and internal sound channel architecture is different from the UERM which had a dual-bore design whereas Ultimate Ears have opted for three bores on the UERR (most likely to better match the midrange’s and especially treble’s frequency response to the target they aimed for).
What I like as well is that the nozzles’ collars sit further in the back wherefore the ear tips don’t really protrude, which should reduce the acoustic affection that the ear tip material has on the sound to a minimum.

Build quality is very good.

Nicely soft and flexible quad-conductor cable with 2-pin connectors, although ultimately a bit less flexible than the (nicer and more premium looking) factory silver cable that I went with for my UERM.

UERR to-go Photo 2.png



Sound:

Largest included silicone ear tips.

Tonality:

Neutral leaning very slightly towards the darker and warmer side. Nearly similar to the tuning of my InEar ProPhile 8. One could also simply say “just like the UERM but with a flat, linear treble without that >10 kHz peak”.

The bass is very flat and extends flat into the real sub-bass without any roll-off, and is slightly lifted by around 3 dB to my ears when listening to music, sine sweeps, noise signals as well as when compared to my Etymotic ER-4S. This leads to just a bit of “body” added to the sound, with an ever so slight spill into the midrange but without necessarily colouring it as the UERR are ultimately still some of the flattest sounding in-ears on the market.

Midrange timbre is mostly correct to my ears, with the upper midrange and presence range being just slightly more on the relaxed side, just like that of the UERM, which gives the UERR a still very revealing but somewhat more relaxed, less “brutally” revealing character compared to in-ears with a more diffuse-field-oriented midrange tuning approach, such as the ER-4S.
That said, what I hear is a still accurate sounding midrange that is ultimately however somewhat closer to a “prosumer neutral” than “studio neutral” tuning, with a slightly warmer and less direct approach in the presence range, but ultimately still very accurate.

The treble is, except for the ~5 kHz range that, just like on my ER-4S and many other in-ears, a bit more recessed than flat-neutral to my ears, remarkably flat, even, smooth and neutral, which also applies to the super treble frequencies above 10 kHz where the UERR sound flat and accurate compared to the UERM that had a peak which added quite a bit of brightness to the sound when a note hit it exactly; extension in the super treble is excellent and reaches past 17 kHz.
Therefore, the treble reproduction and timbre is accurate and realistic to my ears, but, as a result, at the cost of also being less “exciting” or “fresh” when compared to the UERM, which makes the UERR objectively the more linear, more accurate sounding in-ears.

Frequency Response:

UERR to-go ER-4S-Compensaton.jpg

ER-4S-Compensation

Unlike most other in-ears, the UERR to-go showed to be super critical to insertion depth and angle in the coupler, reacting with strong frequency response changes in all areas depending on how they were positioned. The plot above is probably the closest to my actual perception, although with less bass shown on the graph compared to what I actually hear in a side-by-side comparison with my UERM and ER-4S.
The graph below (PP8 compensation) is from the same measurement.

UERR to-go PP8-Compensation.jpg
ProPhile 8-Compensation

Resolution:

While the UERR have an additional sound tube over the UERM, it doesn’t show in terms of raw resolution.

Generally, the UERR are mostly similar to my UERM as in having high resolution that is definitely flagship territory, although somewhat below “summit-fi”.

The biggest difference compared to the UERM is in the bass where the UERR, while still having a quick and tight attack with high control, appear a bit softer and with a slightly more lingering, longer decay compared to the UERM, which results in a perception of more “body” at the cost of some perceived tightness.

Midrange details and speech intelligibility are on a high level, and it is rare that one would desire “more”. Speech intelligibility is high.

Treble details are on a high level without faking details with peaks, and the whole presentation is very natural and coherent, with great coherence. While ultimately similar in terms of actual resolution in the highs when compared to my UERM, the UERR definitely have the advantage of sounding more realistic due to being tuned more even here.

Soundstage:

The UERR, just like the UERM, will not have the largest soundstage in the range of high-end in-ears. Models like for example the now discontinued UE18 Pro are more expansive and create a deeper, wider and even more layered field of sound. This however doesn’t mean that the UERR have a small soundstage, nonetheless it appears a bit smaller than that of the UERM.

Due to a bit less spatial width than my UERM, the UERRs’ stage appears circular to my ears.

What the UERR can do well is reproducing proximity, and in this regard their soundstage in general appears a bit closer to one’s face than the UERMs’ although both in-ears feature around the same amount of spatial height as well as spatial depth that is definitely well present wherefore the UERR also manage to layer well and create a good imaginary room with quite precisely placed and separated instruments as well as good spatial scaling abilities depending on the recording.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Comparisons:

Ultimate Ears Reference Monitors:


Bass quantity is pretty much similar while subjectively, the UERR appear slightly warmer, fuller in comparison, which is most likely due to the lack of the super treble peak that the UERM have whereas their successors do not. As a result, they definitely sound less analytical.
When it comes to the midrange, the UERRs’ appears closer, more intimate in the mix, with just a touch more perceived lower midrange body while still maintaining a mostly correct, neutral timbre.
In terms of the rest of the treble, both are pretty much similar to my ears, however the UERR do not have the UERMs’ 10 kHz to 13 kHz peak, wherefore they sound smoother, more realistic (“correct”) and more linear in the highs to me, which is a definite plus and, in my opinion, also a rather substantial improvement, however due to that, they are also perceived as “warmer” in comparison and lack that “UERM magic”.

While both in-ear models are on a very high technical level, the UERM appear a bit faster and tighter in the bass compared to the UERR whose lower notes seem to linger just a bit more, which is why they ultimately come across as somewhat tighter, faster and better controlled sounding than their successors that seem to have somewhat more body and decay despite not having any more bass quantity.

Directly compared, the UERMs’ soundstage appears to be somewhat more spatial and wider to my ears, with the UERR presenting the imaginary stage closer to the listener, which makes them appear more intimate.
Layering, precision and separation are pretty much equally good but as the UERRs’ bass appears a little “slower” in comparison, they come across as slightly blurrier/less precise on fast and dense tracks.

As a result, the UERR have an edge over the UERM in terms of tuning because of their more linear, more realistic treble response, whereas the UERM are somewhat above the UERR in terms of technical performance when it comes to bass quality and also a bit when it comes to soundstage, wherefore I would position the UERR higher than the UERM in terms of tuning but somewhat below when it comes to technicalities.

Etymotic ER4XR:

The two in-ears’ sound signature is not exactly similar but still heads into a rather comparable direction.

Both in-ears have got about similar levels of “warmth”, if one wants to call it that, in the root, with the ER4XR being a little more forward in the mid- and sub-bass, making them sound ultimately slightly “bassier” than the UERR.
When it comes to the midrange, the Ety are slightly more forward, with the somewhat closer vocals due to more energy in the presence range, while midrange timbre and balance are comparably accurate.
Both in-ears feature a treble presentation that is among the most even and accurate out there, with the ER-4XR having just slightly less energy with cymbals.
The UERR outperform the ER4XR a bit when it comes to subtle air and extension in the super treble.

In terms of resolution, precision, bass speed and tightness, the UERR appear like the higher-end upgrade to the ER-4XR, with an overall somewhat higher level of minute details and a bit more control.

When it comes to perceived soundstage, that of the UERR is, to my ears, about four times the size of the ER4XR (i.e. twice the width along with twice the depth) and also appears somewhat cleaner and somewhat more precisely layered on complex and dense, fast tracks, with a cleaner and more accurate reproduction of “emptiness” between and around instruments and tonal elements.

InEar ProPhile 8:

Both are tuned remarkably similar to my ears, featuring a “natural neutral” kind of tuning in contrast to the more “studio neutral”-like sound that the ER4SR and my ER-4S have to my ears.
To my ears, the ProPhile 8 have got pretty much exactly 0.5 dB less bass than the UERR and UERM, are slightly less “warm” in the fundamental range/lower midrange, and sound otherwise pretty similar to the UERR in the treble.

In terms of resolution though, I would position the ProPhile 8 a bit over the UERR. The InEars’ bass is even tighter, faster and better controlled in direct comparison to the UERM, and even a bit more so when compared to the UERR, with the generally somewhat higher resolution and note separation, wherefore they have somewhat of an advantage in very dense, fast and complex music passages.

In terms of soundstage, just as with the resolution, the ProPhile 8 are somewhat above the UERR when it comes to imaging precision and note separation with very densely arranged recordings.

UERR to-go.png



Conclusion:


Natural-neutral tuning with remarkably linear and realistic treble response.

While the tuning would definitely warrant a “Recommended” award, they are ultimately a bit behind the UERM when it comes to technicalities, especially in the bass that appears a bit softer in comparison (which also somewhat affects the perceived soundstage precision), and then there are the overall very similarly tuned but technically more proficient InEar ProPhile 8, which leaves the UERR to-go “only” as being “very good”, with a “thumbs up”.


Photos:

UERR to-go Nozzle Bores.png


UERR to-go Photo 3.png
 
Mar 10, 2021 at 9:21 AM Post #12 of 54

CK Moustache

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InEar ProPhile 8


Source:

Personal unit.


Miscellaneous:


8 BA drivers per side; four acoustic ways; single-bore design.

They come in a large cardboard box packaging with many included accessories.
Definitely a premium unboxing experience and way improved over InEar’s past unboxing experience I had when I bought their StageDiver SD-2 which didn’t have any proper packaging at all (which, on the other hand, is a good way to reduce waste).

Large, protective and sturdy carrying case with proper rubber and foam padding on the inside - unfortunately it doesn't have any holder for the cleaning tool that is also used to access the two switches on each shell (my UERMs' case is superior in this regard as it does have a holder for the cleaning tool). There's unfortunately no holder for the drying capsule either.

Proper industry standard cable with twisted conductors - supple, light and flexible. 2-pin connectors.

Ergonomically shaped shells with engraved model and serial number. High comfort.
Matte, sand-blasted finish. It's a matter of taste, but I have to say that I like them better in person than on the photos I had seen before I bought the in-ears.
Two switches on the inner side of each shell (the one closer to one's back of the head is the bass switch whereas the other one is the treble switch - definitely easy to remember). Unfortunately they cannot be operated without separate tools (and the shells must also be removed from one's ears).

InEar ProPhile 8 Switches.png



Sound:


Largest included black silicone tips.

Standard “both switches down” sound signature pretty much all of the time – I never use the bass switches and only activate the treble switches on very rare occasions.

Tonality:

Natural-neutral tuning; very coherent, even and linear. Very close to that of the Ultimate Ears Reference Remastered to-go and therefore also comparable to the UERMs’ sound signature except for the more linear (upper and super) treble tuning the ProPhile 8 have got.

The bass switches add around 3 to 4 extra dB to the lows without spilling into the lower mids/upper fundamental range while adding around 1 additional dB of extra upper treble, whereas the treble switches add around 2 dB of extra boost to the upper treble and around 4 dB to the super treble past 15 kHz; activating both types of switches simultaneously adds the bass boost of the bass switches as well as the treble boost of the treble switches to the sound.

I'd characterise the tuning as natural-neutral, therefore it's closer to my Ultimate Ears Reference Monitors or the Ultimate Ears Reference Remastered to-go in tonality than to my Etymotic ER-4S or the ER4SR which I consider “sterile studio neutral” sounding. So definitely still in the neutral sounding realm, but not as flat-neutral sterile as the Etys when listening to music, noise signals and sine sweeps.

The (compared to diffuse-field flatness) mild bass lift takes place low so it doesn't radiate into the midrange, and its quantity is around 3 dB more than diffuse-field flatness to my ears.
The very low sub-bass is slightly less present than the upper sub-bass and low midbass, but at neutral quantity and not really rolled off.

The mids are just very slightly on the warmer and darker side to my ears but without any real colouration – quite similar to the mids of my UERM, although a touch less present around 2 kHz. The timbre is accurate here.

The presence range and middle treble are on the more relaxed side compared the diffuse-field target and the Etymotic ER-4S as well as ER4SR. Here, the ProPhile 8 are tuned a lot like the UERM; therefore they sound still accurate and don't lack anything, but are bit more relaxed sounding here when performing sine sweeps, listening to music or when directly compared to the Etys.
Going up in the upper treble, the level is at mostly neutral level. In fact, I'd consider the default treble switch "down" position to be just a tad below absolute flatness by 1 dB, whereas it seems to be a tad above absolute flatness in the "up" position, wherefore for ultimate treble perfection to my perception, I would have wished for just one dB more quantity in the default “treble switches down” position.

Cohesion and evenness are very good and the timbre is natural; there are no sudden peaks or dips, which is the main reason for this impression.
Personally, my perception of the ProPhile 8s’ tuning is that they are still clearly in the neutral realm, but are closer closer to the sound of a really good, neutrally tuned hi-fi speaker setup in a properly treated acoustic environment than to a sterile, lifeless set of studio monitors in a properly treated acoustic environment.

Compared to my UERM, my ProPhile 8 have got pretty much exactly 0.5 dB less bass quantity, are less "warm" in the upper fundamental range/lower midrange, are a tad darker in the presence range at 2 kHz (but similar at 3 kHz), and pretty similar in the rest of the treble, but lack the UERMs' >10 kHz peak (that is however only bothering when performing sine sweeps and if a note hits it exactly) wherefore they sound ultimately more linear and realistic, more accurate in the highs and are, as a result, quite similar to the UERR that are however tuned a little darker.

When compared with my ER-4S or the ER4SR, the ProPhile 8 have got a low-end that is pretty much exactly 3 dB stronger in quantity, with mids that are a tad warmer and darker (not really in a coloured way; still very natural) and more relaxed in the presence range as well as middle treble wherefore they sound less “brutally direct” but more “musically neutral”.

In contrast to my InEar StageDiver SD-2, the ProPhile 8 are a good bit less warm and thick sounding, especially in the lower midrange and fundamental range, and a bit less “bassy”, with audibly less midrange warmth and a less relaxed treble response.

Frequency Response:

PP8 ER-4S-Compensation.jpg

ER-4S-Compensation

PP8 Bass.jpg

Effect of the Bass Switch

PP8 Treble.jpg

Effect of the Treble Switch

PP8 Both.jpg

Effect of both Switches

Resolution:

Tight, fast, highly resolving. Excellent midrange resolution and speech intelligibility. Clean note separation. They never start to sound diffuse, even with super dense, fast and complex tracks.

Definitely flagship territory, and even somewhat above my UERM or the NocturnaL Audio Atlantis. In the territory of my Campfire Audio Andromeda but obviously with a very different approach to tonality (the Andromeda are clearly bassier and warmer, with an audibly more relaxed and darker upper midrange/presence range, and the brighter, sharper, more gimmicky treble tuning) and a different bass presentation (tight and fast on the ProPhile 8, visceral and rumbling, with a more lingering decay on the Andromeda).
Not that it really mattered most of the time (unless one is mostly listening to dense and very fast music) anyway, as all of those in-ears are excellent and deliver flagship performance, and even compared (but not directly head-to-head) to my ER-4S or the ER4SR (that I ultimately personally prefer for their superior sterility and flatness, whereas I am using my ProPhile 8 a bit more often because of their higher comfort and less deep insertion (their superior technical performance doesn't matter as much to me most of the times in real-world listening sessions)), the technical superiority of my ProPhile 8 isn't always as important when listening to music for the sake of listening to music and not for the sake of listening to the technical performance of the in-ears, although I tend to prefer them with very fast tracks and densely arranged Classical pieces.

Nonetheless when listening for the sake of determining the in-ears' performance, hands down, the ProPhile 8 beat the comparably tuned UERR as they sounds tighter, faster and better controlled in the lows in comparison, with generally somewhat higher resolution and cleaner note separation. Therefore they also deliver just that bit of extra resolution I sometimes/rarely desired from my UERM when listening to very dense, fast and complex tracks.

Soundstage:

Three-dimensional and especially precise, clean imaging, layering and instrument separation, but not as large, open and expansive sounding as most other in-ears in this price range. For example, the UERM, Andromeda or Atlantis have an audibly larger soundstage in comparison. Somewhat larger than the Etys' soundstage, though (and more precise in comparison).
In terms of size, the ProPhile 8s’ soundstage is really nothing special to my ears and could even be considered to be on the small-ish side (I would have definitely wished for a larger perceived soundstage at this price point), but these in-ears really make up for that with their precise imaging and don’t even struggle with densely arranged and at the same time fast arrangements.

Just like with the resolution, the soundstage remains rock-solid during fast, complex and dense recordings and doesn't start to appear foggy.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Comparisons:

Ultimate Ears Reference Remastered to-go:

Both are tuned remarkably similar to my ears, featuring a “natural neutral” kind of tuning in contrast to the more “studio neutral”-like sound that the ER4SR and my ER-4S have to my ears.
To my ears, the ProPhile 8 have got pretty much exactly 0.5 dB less bass than the UERR and UERM, are slightly less “warm” in the fundamental range/lower midrange, and sound otherwise pretty similar to the UERR in the treble.

In terms of resolution though, I would position the ProPhile 8 a bit over the UERR. The InEars’ bass is even tighter, faster and better controlled in direct comparison to the UERM, and even a bit more so when compared to the UERR, with the generally somewhat higher resolution and note separation, wherefore they have somewhat of an advantage in very dense, fast and complex music passages.

In terms of soundstage, just as with the resolution, the ProPhile 8 are somewhat above the UERR when it comes to imaging precision and note separation with very densely arranged recordings.

Etymotic ER-4S:

To my ears, the ER-4S represent more of a “sterile studio reference neutral” tuning whereas the ProPhile 8 fall more into the range of being “naturally neutral” tuned.

That said, the ProPhile 8 have around 3 dB more bass than the ER-4S and sound warmer in the fundamental range and lower mids, but are a bit less “warm” than the ER-4XR and have also got slightly less bass.
The ER-4S are slightly more forward/intimate sounding in the mids whereas the ProPhile 8 present the middle frequencies in a comparatively more relaxed way due to the more recessed presence range, but with still accurate timbre and no audible colouration.
Both are very even, realistic and accurate in their treble reproduction, which is something not too many in-ears achieve.

In terms of resolution, precision, bass speed and tightness, the ProPhile 8 are ultimately ahead, which is the most audible during very fast and complex, dense music, but not as strikingly obvious otherwise most of the time. So to say, the ProPhile 8 don’t yet “cave in” when the ER-4S already start to do.

Regarding perceived soundstage, that of the ProPhile 8 isn’t even all that much larger to my ears but only somewhat, but as with the resolution, the In-Ear in-ears are ahead when it comes to imaging precision and remain cleaner, better separated when the track is densely arranged and/or very fast.

InEar ProPhile 8.png



Conclusion:


Recommended.

Natural-neutral sound signature with highly convincing technicalities, a realistic timbre, linear treble, fast and tight, controlled bass and precise imaging. The pure soundstage size is not really overwhelmingly large, though, and could be even seen as being on the smaller side.
 
Mar 10, 2021 at 9:30 AM Post #13 of 54

CK Moustache

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Chord Electronics Mojo


Source:

Personal unit.


Miscellaneous:

Very small.
High build quality.
I'm not fully sure whether the “balls” are made of glass or plastic.
All of the labels and logos are finely engraved (and not laser-etched, so they shouldn't fade over time).

Unique and unusual design, but I like it.
The four small grooves are actually there to help stacking the device using thick, round rubber bands.

Decent amount of inputs (micro USB, full-sized optical input (something that is only rarely found on portable devices – I really like the fact that the Chord Electronics Mojo has got one), mini coaxial input). Separate USB charging and data sockets.

Poor battery life (probably around 6 hours in real-world listening scenarios) and fast battery drain when it is turned off.
USB oscillators chirp and whine with many (but not all) chargers while charging.

The quirky balls rotate but don't actually do anything. They're basically just "caps" on top of actual buttons, so one has to press them in in order to actually change the volume and operate the device etc.

The brightness of the illuminated balls can be reduced adjusted in two steps by pressing both volume buttons. Holding all three buttons during the boot process jumps straight to 3 V output voltage ("Line Out Mode"). Thereafter, that value can still be altered, though.

User interface (volume status display, sample rate display) is not easy to get used to and not intuitive at all as it consists of nothing but colours.

Chord Electronics Mojo.png



Sound:

The Mojo is a DAC that uses upsampling.
No traditional DAC chip but instead an FPGA-based solution running the designer's code is used inside.

The two 3.5 mm headphone outputs output the same signal in parallel (and therefore act just like a normal stereo y-splitter adapter).

Volume Control:

No intuitive volume indicators; volume indicated by the colour of the two volume adjustment balls.

The lowest possible volume setting could and should be lower in order to listen quietly with very/extremely sensitive in-ears (that’s quite a disappointment for me), but should be fine-ish for many people.

Rather big step size in the very low adjustment range. Gets better (smaller steps) the higher the volume setting is (1 dB if I recall correctly).

As the volume is adjusted digitally, channel matching is thankfully excellent.

The last setting is thankfully saved.

Hiss Performance:

Using very sensitive, near-extremely sensitive in-ears such as my Shure SE846 or Ostry KC06A and Pai Audio MR3, there is a mild to moderate amount of audible hiss; in this regard, the Mojo is about comparable to the Cowon Plenue D or Plenue J, hisses a slight bit more than the FiiO Q5 with AM1 module, hisses clearly more than my iBasso DX90 or the DX200 and DX220 as well as the Apple USB-C to Headphone Jack Adapter, and is a good bit away from being ideally hiss-free as my RME ADI-2 DAC’s IEMs output (and even its PHONES output) is.

While the Mojo is ultimately still on the better side in terms of hiss performance with very sensitive in-ears and not “horrible”, it is ultimately not quiet enough for extremely sensitive in-ears, and I would have expected it to perform better.

Frequency Response (no Load):

NL.jpg

FR unloaded

The response characteristic is similar to that of a slow roll-off filter.

Output Impedance (various Loads):

TripleFi 10.jpg

FR loaded – Ultimate Ears Triple.Fi 10

multi-BA 1.jpg

FR loaded – various IEMs

full-sized all.jpg

FR loaded – various full-sized Headphones

Mojo as DAC to UHA-6S_MKII.jpg

FR loaded – into external Amplifier’s Line Input (Leckerton UHA-6S.MKII)

The frequency response deviation one can see is not what one would typically see from devices with a consistent output impedance over the entire frequency response. The reason behind that is that the Mojo’s output impedance is very close to ideal 0 Ohms over most parts of its frequency spectrum, but climbs towards slightly below 2 Ohms, as measured and confirmed by several other sources, towards 20 kHz, which is why lower impedance loads will cause a drop in the high to very high frequencies that can already become audible, depending on the in-ears or headphones that were used, whereas the output frequency response changes towards an ideally flat line the higher the connected load’s impedance is. This, to me, is definitely another aspect about the Chord Mojo that is somewhat disappointing.

Subjective Listening Impressions:

While the vast majority of (properly designed) devices (with low output impedance and good-enough hiss performance), with properly matched volume in a direct (sighted) side-by-side comparison sound identical enough to me in real-world listening scenarios, with sometimes only very minor, difficult to point out reproducible differences with in-ears and usually no audible difference with full-sized headphones, the Mojo is a little different in this regard.

Using it directly with in-ears (but not those that would make it obvious right away due to their sensitivity and low impedance), it sounds just a touch “smoother”/”softer” in terms of cymbal attack. Clearly just a small nuance and rather negligibly small in an everyday scenario and even during critical non-comparative listening, but nonetheless reproducible.
However, what’s noticeable to me as well, is that the soundstage also appears to be a little “smaller” than usual (this is however only something I am hearing with rather low impedance in-ears and none of my full-sized headphones that on the other hand still appear just a touch "softer" in the upper highs’ cymbal attack, which is also something that carries over when using the Mojo as a pure DAC connected to a separate amplifier, which is a characteristic that happens only very rarely). It's neither "better" nor "worse", but just a slight bit "different" sounding and probably nothing that one would reproducibly notice without properly done and exhausting direct comparisons, but nonetheless with a bit of its own “sound character” while sounding audibly very transparent even with critical in-ears (most well-enough modern devices do).

Chord Electronics Mojo with Leckerton UHA-6S.MKII and Etymotic ER4XR.png



Conclusion:

While clearly not a bad device, the Chord Electronics Mojo is a good bit shy of being close to objectively perfect when used with very sensitive, low impedance in-ears due to its still reasonable but not ideal hiss performance and its output impedance rise towards the higher frequencies that can already lead to audible tonality changes depending on the connected load (as well as its rather bad battery life and high battery drain).
While not fully ideal for my personal requirements that are stricter than most other peoples’, its volume control with a fair number of steps and 1 dB per step attenuation once a certain threshold is passed is something that is good about it, along with its build quality and reasonable amount of digital inputs. Ultimately though, it is a device that is definitely better suited to be used with higher impedance, lower sensitivity loads.


Photos:

Chord Electronics Mojo Inputs.png
 
Mar 10, 2021 at 10:30 AM Post #14 of 54

CK Moustache

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Campfire Audio Andromeda


Source:


Personal unit.


Miscellaneous:

The cardboard box they arrive in is simple but nicely designed. Small (only enough space for the carrying case that contains everything else) and probably not fancy enough for the price, but at least no space is wasted and it’s also better than wasting environmental resources.
Quite decent amount of accessories (carrying case, cleaning brush tool, silicone tips, foam tips, SpinFit tips, Campfire Audio Pin); at least all one needs. I especially like the small Campfire Audio pin, and I am absolutely serious when I state that besides the shell design and colour, it was my main deciding factor to buy the in-ears.

The carrying case looks nice and is softly padded on the inside, but I don't like it at all and am using a case I built myself. Except for that the soft material inside is highly likely to release micro dust particles, the walls collapse to the inside when the case is closed, which obviously limits interior space, so that the shells will rub against each other and ultimately scratch and damage the green coating.

The green colour is by the way darker than expected, it's more like a shade of "forest/fir green".
The shell design is unique and beautiful. Along with the green colour, it was the reason why I bought the Andromeda for my collection. Build quality is good as well. I would have preferred recessed 2-pin sockets instead of MMCX, though.

The cable is of high quality and nice, but visually and haptically not the best cable I've seen or used on an in-ear (for example, I definitely prefer my UERMs’ cable over the one from my Andromeda, which is also true for most of iBasso’s cables (all related to haptics and looks)).

The Andromeda has undergone some mild changes over time (known are a change of the nozzle length (it's slightly longer now), nozzle material (or at least finish; they're polished instead of matte now), different screws, and last but not least shell design (another bevel was added for less edgy, more comfortable shells)).

What's not so nice about the (supposedly stainless steel) nozzles is the formation of condensation water.

Five BA drivers per side, triple-bore design.

Campfire Audio Andromeda Photo 1.png



Sound:

Largest included silicone ear tips.

Tonality:

Warm, full sounding v-shape with bright upper treble peak.

To my ears, the bass is elevated by around 8 dB north of diffuse-field neutrality; it starts to rise around 700 Hz and reaches its climax around 100 Hz, although 200 Hz are already almost just as present. Ultimately it's a bass elevation that concentrates more on the mid- than the sub-bass that is however almost as present as the midbass (so no roll-off here), but due to the full fundamental range, there is a good bit of warmth and bloom in the lower mids.

The lower mids are clearly on the fuller side, but not exaggerated to an overly unnatural level.
The warm trend continues in the rest of the midrange as the upper mids and presence range are audibly recessed, wherefore bright vocals also lack some of their naturally present shimmer but sound somewhat muted instead.

The middle highs, just like the lower highs, take on a relaxed approach, just to return with a bright peak in the upper highs. And this very peak can be borderline sharp, borderline peaky, borderline unpleasant at times.
For a more realistic treble response, I wish that the peak were positioned a bit further above, and/or less narrow and/or less present. That said, I tolerate my Ultimate Ears Triple.Fi 10s’, Audio Technica ATH-IM03s’ or Pai Audio MR3s’ as well as the UPQ Q-music QE80s’ treble elevations definitely better than that of my Campfire Audio Andromeda.
While definitely leading to a sharp upper treble attack and being clearly more on the plasticky than realistic side, the treble elevation, on the other hand, is also responsible for a good bit of perceived “clarity” and “air”.

In terms of tonality, the NocturnaL Audio Atlantis have a quite comparable tuning in the lows and lower mids, but the more neutral midrange in comparison (their upper mids/presence range and central mids are more like that of my UERM) and are more linear, milder in the highs, without the Andromedas’ added borderline sharp brightness.

The Brainwavz B200 (the "old" original ones with black shells, not the much inferior and differently tuned v2 with clear shells and removable cables) are quite similarly tuned in the lows as well, but a good bit darker in the highs in comparison.

My Audio Technica ATH-IM03 are also somewhat comparable in terms of tuning in the lows, although somewhat less warm/full sounding in the lower mids in comparison. The Andromeda are more relaxed in the middle and lower highs (whereas the IM03 are closer to my UERM and the Atlantis in terms of tuning here, although ultimately a bit more relaxed in the middle highs) whereas the Audio Technica are more reserved, less sharp in the upper treble, while still somewhat elevated (so they have got the more realistic v-shaped signature in comparison – still fun and exciting, but not as gimmicky).

Frequency Response:

Andromeda ER-4S-Compensation.jpg

ER-4S-Compensation

Except for the peak past 10 kHz that isn’t present to my ears and except for that the upper treble peak is at somewhat lower frequencies, this matches my perception quite well.

Andromeda PP8-Compensation.jpg

ProPhile 8-Compensation

Resolution:

The resolution is generally very good, though.

In terms of details, the Andromeda are definitely among the more capable in-ears on the market. I'd place them somewhat above my Ultimate Ears Reference Monitors and Audio Technica ATH-IM03 in terms of resolution, and also slightly above the NocturnaL Audio Atlantis in some areas. They are about in the performance range of my InEar ProPhile 8, although undeniably with a much different approach to tonality.
All of those other in-ears are of course tuned (more or less clearly) differently, and all resolve very well, with some having slight advantages in some areas over the others and vice versa.

The only area that seems to lack a bit behind, although still resolving on its own, is the midrange, but that's mainly due to the relaxed upper midrange/presence range.

While the tuning definitely contributes to this perception, the highs are very resolving (even when reduced via software equalisation), so the sharpness and lack of ultimate treble realism is forgivable, although just to some degree, as it’s still borderline sharp at times. Note separation is excellent. With clean transients.

The Balanced Armature bass takes on a more dynamic driver-like approach with more body, rumble and softness (and longer decay lingering) compared to many other BA woofer implementations, however with still very good control.
While this visceral, dynamic, rumbling bass character coupled with the high bass details are undeniably fun and pleasant, one cannot deny that the softer character leads to a somewhat reduced perception of separation and cleanness in the lows compared to tighter, more technical BA woofer implementations, wherefore the Andromedas’ lows can start to struggle somewhat if the track gets too demanding in the lows.

Soundstage:

Largely due to their tuning with the recessed upper mids and peaking upper highs, but not solely because of that, the Andromeda present a very large, open and three-dimensional, out-of-the-head experience soundstage that is definitely spectacular and effortlessly pleasing.
Ultimately it is somewhat more oval than round, but this doesn’t stop it from extending very deep, combined with lots of spatial width, wherefore it appears very large and open, three-dimensional sounding.

When it comes to imaging, the Andromeda are fortunately no slouch either and feature precise layering and clean instrument separation with good rendering of “empty” space between tonal elements, although when the track becomes too demanding in the bass, the somewhat softer, more rumbling lows’ character leads to spatial cues becoming somewhat blurrier.

Campfire Audio Andromeda Photo 2.png



Conclusion:

The Andromeda feature a rumbling bass presentation that, while not the most technical, is still clean enough most of the time and can be quite addictively fun as such, combined with their very large, open, three-dimensional sounding soundstage and generally high resolution.
However, their shortfall is the tuning, or, better phrased, their lack of timbral realism in trade for a clearly more gimmicky, clarity-brightness-sharpness oriented approach to a v-shaped sound signature that can be borderline sharp at times; solely as for the tuning, there are other v-shaped in-ears that execute this tuning in a more realistic, gentler, less plasticky way.


Photos:

Campfire Audio Andromeda Close-Up.png


Campfire Audio Andromeda Nozzle Bores.png
 
Mar 15, 2021 at 7:40 AM Post #15 of 54

CK Moustache

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Joined
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Location
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Shure SE846


Source:


Personal unit.


Miscellaneous:

Excellent unboxing experience with a vast amount of accessories.

I really like the smaller of the two, squared carrying case – it is nicely padded on the inside with enough interior space, has got an extra pocket to store the cylinder containing the filter swapping tool as well as the separate tuning filters, and has got a nice, brushed metal top-plate inserted into the lid’s outer with a milled Shure logo (looks very premium).

Transparent shells that reveal the cleanly organised internal; I really like that and looking at the crossover PCB, drivers and internal wiring.
The BA drivers, by the way, have their respective number and frequency range etched onto them, which is a very nice and beautiful touch, along with an etched Shure logo on the tweeter.
The right hand side features a red plastic “cage” around the back of the quad driver package, which is an easy to see side indicator.
Unlike on Shure’s previous releases, the nozzles are removable as they contain the interchangeable sound tuning filters, and they as well as the threaded collars that hold them in place are made of metal.
Everything appears to be very sturdily made, and the build quality of the shells is really good and even a bit above that of my SE425s’ which are already really well built.

Due to the higher amount of drivers per shell plus woofers’ acoustic routing, the SE846s’ shells are noticeably bulkier than that of the SE425 or SE215m+SPE, but typically for Shure IEMs, fit ergonomically very well and provide high passive noise isolation.

MMCX connectors.
Strain relief is very good.
The cable looks very nice and is, except for the colour, pretty much identical to that of my SE425s’, and one can feel the twisted conductors (or perhaps shielding) through the protective silver and copper coloured mesh coating underneath the plastic, but with the disadvantage of less flexibility and more stiffness compared to the black cable; it’s still supple enough, though.

Four BA drivers per side, three acoustic ways, single-bore design.

SE846 Photo 2.png



Sound:

Largest included single-flange silicone ear tips.

The longer of the two cables.

White “treble” filters.

Tonality:

I’ve settled with the white “treble” filters quite soon after purchasing my SE846 as the other two included alternatives are audibly a good bit below neutral in quantity, and the “treble” filters don’t even lead to a bright but rather correct treble response.

That said, the SE846s’ sound signature could be best described as “fairly neutral leaning towards dark-neutral with Harman-like sub-bass boost”.

The SE846s’ “magic” truly lies in their bass boost implementation as it starts nicely low in the lower fundamental range wherefore lower midrange bleed and unnecessary bloom are avoided, and climbs gradually with its peak frequency being in the area of the lower midbass to actual sub-bass, with about 7 dB in quantity compared to diffuse-field flatness. As a result, I would definitely subscribe to Shure’s “true subwoofer” claim as this is really what the tuning is, without the added warmth and upper bass punch of other bassy or v-shaped in-ears such as the Ultimate Ears Triple.Fi 10, NocturnaL Audio Atlantis, Sennheiser IE 800, Fischer Amps FA-4E XB or Campfire Audio Andromeda; there are not too many other in-ears that focus on the lower bass as nicely while avoiding too much lower midrange warmth (spontaneously, out of the ones I have, it would be my Earsonics ES3 and the Etymotic ER2XR, as well as perhaps my Moondrop Starfield, with only the ES3 having the start of their bass boost even lower than the Shure, resulting in an even less affected (i.e. completely untouched) lower midrange).
This leads to a nice low bass subwoofer effect and the very low notes being nicely easily audible.

When it comes to midrange, the tuning is correct to very slightly on the more upfront, intimate side, but less “telephonic” when compared to the SE425 which appear a bit more intimate/closer in the mids. Ultimately, the timbre is even aver so slightly on the warmer side due to a slight bit of lower fundamental range elevation still exists, but not in a way that would colour the sound even mildly.

The SE846s’ lower treble is, to my ears, somewhat on the darker side, which leads to a more relaxed presentation of bright voices, with the area around 5 kHz being somewhat in the background as well to my ears.
9 kHz are around neutral in quantity, actually even just a little above that in quantity, but very far from being even considered remotely bright.
The in-ears’ bottleneck however is clearly everything above that – what follows is a steep roll-off, and frequencies above 10 kHz are pretty much non-existent. While that may be still somewhat okay (although barely tolerable with the existing competition nowadays) for the lower-priced SE425 (that start to roll-off even earlier in the treble), that’s a real shame for in-ears in the SE846s’ price range, and is definitely audible as the in-ears simply lack the subtly perceived “air” and “extension” completely, and cymbals’ and other high notes’ decay and upper tones are just cut off from the recording, which results in an over-dampened sound perception.

Perhaps due to the early treble roll-off and therefore lacking overtones and perception as if the imaginary listening room were over-dampened, the perceived timbre appears plasticky/unnatural to me albeit there are no clues to this at all in the frequency response other than the steep and somewhat too early upper treble roll-off.

Frequency Response:

SE846 ER-4S-Compensation.jpg

ER-4S-Compensation (white “Treble” Filters)

To my ears and on other measurements I know, the sub-bass elevation is stronger and the upper frequency peak does not exist but is in fact around/below the “neutral 0 dB” line; in addition, I hear the area around 5 kHz as being more recessed.

SE846 PP8-Compensation.jpg

ProPhile 8-Compensation (white “Treble” Filters)

Resolution:

The SE846 resolve generally very well, while they are not the “best” multi-BA in-ears in their price range.
Despite not reaching UERM levels of resolution, they are generally not too far apart.

Just like with the tuning, the bass is also the Shures’ strongest area when it comes to technicalities, as the bass remains fast, punchy, detailed and tight even with layered, complex, sub-bass-focused tracks, and never loses control. As the decay seems to be just a tad longer than “ideal”, the presentation also feels “natural”, but is far from being perceived “sloppy”/”slow” as the perceived bass attack appears to be clean and fast; this just adds a bit more “perceived impact”/”texture” (which is really good) compared to IEMs with faster bass decay, such as my UERM.

In terms of midrange resolution and speech intelligibility, the Shure sound and resolve really well; there is nothing to complain here.

The treble is a somewhat different story – while not lacking resolution as such, the presentation is rather soft and high notes just sound soft and not all that well separated compared to the mids and lows, which, in fast and more treble-focussed, cymbal oriented tracks, leads to the highs losing some definition, with the separation of individual high notes becoming more difficult to perceive; maybe this is also another aspect of why the Shures’ timbre does ultimately not appear to be very realistic/lifelike.
While this is ultimately criticism on a high level and the SE846 are clarly not “bad” in the highs, this area is, in the end, just behind the mids’ and bass’s quality and not as good as it could be.

Soundstage:

Not all that surprisingly due to their frequency response with a generally rather dark treble and early roll-off, the perceived soundstage is not all that impressive in terms of size, especially for the price and the comparably priced competition, although larger that that of the SE425 and ultimately about half the size of my UERM.

While not particularly large but only “average-ish” to my ears (and therefore not lacking), the presentation is at least circular and three-dimensional to me, and when it comes to imaging, layering and instrument separation, the Shure offer high precision that is close to that of my UERM, although undeniably with smaller perceived expansion to the sides and less forward projection. As a result, while not wowing in terms of pure size, the stage is at least authentic, three-dimensional and precise.

“Emptiness” between instruments/tonal elements is generally presented well, with only little “fog” around the imaginary tonal elements.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Comparisons:

Etymotic ER2XR:

Both in-ears have got a comparable tuning and clearly head into a similar direction in terms of sound, but still have some differences in their tonality.
While the upper bass presence at 100 Hz is almost identical on both in-ears, the ER2XR have got slightly more quantity in the root above it up to around 450 Hz, and have got a sub-bass boost that is a bit stronger and peaks a bit deeper, giving them an even somewhat stronger “subwoofer effect” than the SE846.
The Shures’ upper mids and presence range are somewhat more in the background wherefore their upper mids are a bit darker than the Etymotics’.
To my ears, the Shures’ middle treble around 5 kHz is more in the background in comparison, which gives them a more relaxed presentation. The upper treble (cymbals) are somewhat more forward on the SE846. Super treble extension past 10 kHz is definitely better on the Etymotic.

The Etymotic beat my Shure when it comes to upper midrange and treble linearity as well as realism and timbral accuracy.
Voices are more realistic on the Etymotic whereas they have a more relaxed, darker character on the Shure due to their comparatively more relaxed upper midrange, presence range and middle treble.
The biggest difference however is the upper treble – while the Shure render cymbals brighter than the ER2XR, they don’t sound fully right, and that’s not because they are brighter, but because they appear as if they decayed faster (over-dampened), since they lack the upper tones and reverb as the SE846s’ super treble extension is pretty limited; in comparison, cymbals appear to decay correctly on the ER2XR and have got that reverb, decay and the upper tones that they are supposed to have, as the Etys’ super treble extension is better.

Bass tightness and sub-bass definition are ultimately superior on the Shure when both in-ears are compared directly, but surprisingly not by much.
If fast music tracks are played, the Shure remain a bit better controlled and more focused in the bass and mids than the ER2XR, although the difference is smaller than one may expect.
In terms of speech intelligibility, the Ety are ahead due to their tuning as their entire midrange is more neutral, however the Shures’ retrieval of micro details in the mids is better in direct comparison.
It is a different story, though, when it comes to treble details: here, the Etymotic are audibly somewhat ahead, as the Shure simply lack information and sound softer, less precise and less clean when it comes to treble separation.

The Etys’ soundstage appears subjectively larger to me. The Shures’ is more circular to my ears while the Etys’ is slightly more oval in comparison.
In terms of imaging, the Shure are only minimally more precise in direct comparison. With dense, fast and complex music material, the Shures’ stage remains a bit more intact.

Shure SE425:

Both differ clearly in their tuning with the SE846 being more (sub-)bass focussed compared to the more neutrally, somewhat midrange-forward tuned SE425.
Upper mids are somewhat more recessed/darker on the SE846; while they also lack super treble extension, the SE846 start to roll off somewhat less early than the SE425 which gives them ultimately somewhat more “air” and the less muffled cymbals in comparison.

In terms of technical strengths, the SE846 are an audible step above the dual-BA in-ears and generally resolve better, although due to their comparatively more direct upper midrange/presence range tuning, the SE425 are more “critical” with the recording and “analytical” than the SE846 that present a more relaxed sound but are, when it comes to pure details, clearly ahead.

The SE846s’ soundstage is larger than the SE425s’ and also more precise when it comes to imaging.

SE846 Photo 4.png



Conclusion:

The clean and well-implemented, subwoofer-like bass boost is definitely something that makes the SE846 for a very enjoyable listen with their otherwise safe and even tuning.
Bass and midrange details are on a high level as is the imaging precision and layering with the believable three-dimensional soundstage, although the Shure don’t impress when it comes to pure soundstage size.
Their weak point, however, is definitely the treble, especially for the price – extension is clearly limited with a steep and somewhat too early roll-off that leads to a lack of overtone reproduction and an overall timbre that seems to mimic an over-dampened room; when it comes to technical qualities, the highs are also somewhat below the bass and midrange in terms of quality as they sound too soft, which is something that ultimately leads to the high note separation becoming blurry if the recording is too fast in the highs.


Photos:

SE846 Photo 1.png


SE846 Photo 3.png
 
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