flinkenick's 17 Flagship IEM Shootout Thread (and general high-end portable audio discussion)
Jun 21, 2017 at 4:05 PM Post #2,041 of 35,864

Rei87

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This is an interesting discussion and I think @fuhransahis has very good questions. It ties in a bit with what I have been looking at myself: how music can be effective as therapy, what makes music engaging and how I can use that for selecting IEMs.

What I have found myself is that it is very multifaceted and personal preferences play a crucially important role (hence my earlier comment about understanding a reviewer’s biases). Moreover, those preferences will in part be determined by biology, by how we perceive sound.

Back when I was studying I used to ask a rather difficult question: Do we see the same colours? Is my blue the same as yours, or is it actually your green? We might both call the sky blue by definition, but on a neurological level the physiological response in the brain might be (more or less) different. This is a very tricky and technical question, but what I mean to say is that what sounds natural or realistic to one person, might not for another. What is engaging and fun for one person might not be so for another.

This is even deeper down the rabbit hole and I could write for days on this, but what I want to indicate is that when it comes to enjoying sound, especially when “enjoying” is the goal, objectivity is very limited. IEMs can even be too detailed for some. It might be that the individual details are very realistic, but that the whole is reproducing music unrealistically detailed when compared to the experience of a live performance. Then again comes the question of what sort of live performance? Sitting in the studio, like Jude’s comments on the Vega, or a performance at the Royal Albert Hall? Very different stages that will be reproduced differently by the same IEMs.

To me the value of this shootout is that it is all done by the same person. That allows me to understand (to a degree) what Nic is doing and how that might differ from my own preferences. I lack the experience of hearing many different IEMs, so it is still guesswork, but at least it becomes somewhat of an educated guess. My choice of the Custom Art Ei.3 is a result of such an educated guess (made before the shootout) and I am very happy with them.

Not sure if this all makes sense, it is early here and I have only just had my first cup of coffee so my brain is still waking up, but I thought I would share some miscellaneous thoughts nonetheless.

For these reasons stated, I've always found that the introduction of signature, into an IEM ranking, is a flawed system due to the variances between perception of what constitutes an enjoyable signature, what is a sufficient bass, treble and so on. Objectivity, needs to remove personal preferences in a ranking system. For example, the SE5U has really amazing authority in its bass and its decay, but that in turn drowns out its technical performance because all details are masked behind that bass presence, the same way the vega masks details when compared to the dream. If a person likes overwhelming bass, I wouldn't be surprised that he would rate the SE 5U highly, because the glaring flaws of the IEMs simply dont matter much. For for a person with a much more balanced POV, the SE5U (compared to modern offerings) is going to repulse with its glaring muddiness and lack of a treble presence.

As such, the only objective way to rank IEMS, should purely be on a technical performance level. We know that we each perceive colours (and sound) differently, and hence we may disagree on what constitutes sufficient or insufficient treble/mids/bass and so on. However, what we can all agree on, is how well an IEM is, to use an analogy, able to present and contrast the different colours, or even shades within a single colour spectrum.

Sounding realistic, how musical or enjoyable or not, are irrelevant factors, because that differs from person to person, and hence a subjective reference point cannot by its definition be used in an objective ranking without compromising the very premise of the ranking. To use an analogy, an artist that paints all the leaves of a tree in a single monotone that is accurate to the general shade of the tree, is inferior to another artist that is able to accurately portray the difference in shading between every leaf in that tree, but may however have consistently used a shade of colouring that is way too dark or light for the entire tree. The former artist is realistic, but technically inferior to the later artist. You can extrapolate the sound signature of a song that is off pitch, but you cant extrapolate data that wasn't there to begin with.

So, to bite the bullet and to state an extreme example, a higher ranking IEM should be the most revealing IEM, even if it sports a ridiculously boring signature, than one that might be perceived to be true to life, and fun but has obscured details. A high ranking IEM, should allow you to, figuratively, read every part the music you hear, even if you dont actually get to see the music for what it is.
 
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Jun 21, 2017 at 4:14 PM Post #2,042 of 35,864

EagleWings

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I miss the pop-corn emoji..
 
Jun 21, 2017 at 5:24 PM Post #2,044 of 35,864

EagleWings

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Do any of these sound like a Senn HD 800S?
Does anyone know of any IEM that atleast somewhat resembles the Senn HD800 S in terms of sound sig (FR response)?

HD800 is what I use as my neutral baseline to this day. Based on the recent impressions from quite a few members on the 64Audio thread, A18's sound seems to possess a resemblance to the HD800 family's sound.
 
Jun 21, 2017 at 6:15 PM Post #2,045 of 35,864

Tawek

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I disagree with Your opinion Rei87 about se5ult with treble ( Rei87 For example, the SE5U has really amazing authority in its bass and its decay, but that in turn drowns out its technical performance because all details are masked behind that bass presence, the same way the vega masks details when compared to the dream. If a person likes overwhelming bass, I wouldn't be surprised that he would rate the SE 5U highly, because the glaring flaws of the IEMs simply dont matter much. For for a person with a much more balanced POV, the SE5U (compared to modern offerings) is going to repulse with its glaring muddiness and lack of a treble presence. )
For me se5ult treble reminds me one of the best natural treble presentation you can hear ...like piano forte x-g or lab ii ..
It's from wm1z+se5ult ....
 
Jun 21, 2017 at 6:40 PM Post #2,048 of 35,864

EagleWings

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How do you hear colours?

There is a phenomena called synesthesia. Where a stimuli in one sense system, creates a response in a different sense system. For example, hearing a tone of certain frequency will create the sensation of seeing a certain color. It is a rare condition occurring in very few people.

But synesthesia doesn't apply here. Because the thing with synesthesia is, it is unique for each individual. For example, let's consider we both have a similar kind of synesthesia, where we see colors when we hear a certain sound tone. A 400Hz sound tone might make me perceive a certain blue color, while you could be perceive a certain red color.
 
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Jun 21, 2017 at 9:11 PM Post #2,049 of 35,864

Cagin

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I miss the pop-corn emoji..
The old one with the lil dude eatin popcorn for forum drama/hype was cool, you can still use a :popcorn: popcorn emoji though, just type this without spaces:

: popcorn :
 
Jun 21, 2017 at 9:12 PM Post #2,050 of 35,864

ChrisSC

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Based on what Nic said earlier about the order and correct guesses by the 1st 2nd and 3rd place winners I was able to go back to that thread and deduce what Nic's top 5 IEMs are (of the remaining contestants with zero wrong guesses thus far, per Nic, 1st place was the only individual who guessed a completely unique top 5 list). If I took the time to do the math, I'm pretty sure that I could figure out the actual order based on who got 2nd and 3d place, but life's no fun without some mystery in it.:ksc75smile:
 
Jun 21, 2017 at 10:11 PM Post #2,051 of 35,864

jmills8

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How do you hear colours? Can I have what you're having? (JK) But it's somewhat true, a good IEM should have a high resolution. If this is a ranking about IEM for studio monitoring, then yes, a higher ranking IEM should be the most revealing. But for enjoyability, some people prefer not to watch porn on large 4k HD screen.
We are here to be monitoring the music or to listen to the music ?
 
Jun 21, 2017 at 10:36 PM Post #2,052 of 35,864
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HD800 is what I use as my neutral baseline to this day. Based on the recent impressions from quite a few members on the 64Audio thread, A18's sound seems to possess a resemblance to the HD800 family's sound.

That's one of my big regrets, never trying HD800 and HD800s. Someone just recently reviewed UERR iem and stated they sound similar to HD800s. I was under impression HD800 was rather bright and vivid, but 800s is smoother, but not that neutral-smooth like UERR. And then, I hear from others about comparing A/U18 to Utopia, and that picks my interest. The next time I'm attending Canjam, I have to make sure to listen to these big cans.
 
Jun 21, 2017 at 11:38 PM Post #2,054 of 35,864

Mimouille

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For these reasons stated, I've always found that the introduction of signature, into an IEM ranking, is a flawed system due to the variances between perception of what constitutes an enjoyable signature, what is a sufficient bass, treble and so on. Objectivity, needs to remove personal preferences in a ranking system. For example, the SE5U has really amazing authority in its bass and its decay, but that in turn drowns out its technical performance because all details are masked behind that bass presence, the same way the vega masks details when compared to the dream. If a person likes overwhelming bass, I wouldn't be surprised that he would rate the SE 5U highly, because the glaring flaws of the IEMs simply dont matter much. For for a person with a much more balanced POV, the SE5U (compared to modern offerings) is going to repulse with its glaring muddiness and lack of a treble presence.

As such, the only objective way to rank IEMS, should purely be on a technical performance level. We know that we each perceive colours (and sound) differently, and hence we may disagree on what constitutes sufficient or insufficient treble/mids/bass and so on. However, what we can all agree on, is how well an IEM is, to use an analogy, able to present and contrast the different colours, or even shades within a single colour spectrum.

Sounding realistic, how musical or enjoyable or not, are irrelevant factors, because that differs from person to person, and hence a subjective reference point cannot by its definition be used in an objective ranking without compromising the very premise of the ranking. To use an analogy, an artist that paints all the leaves of a tree in a single monotone that is accurate to the general shade of the tree, is inferior to another artist that is able to accurately portray the difference in shading between every leaf in that tree, but may however have consistently used a shade of colouring that is way too dark or light for the entire tree. The former artist is realistic, but technically inferior to the later artist. You can extrapolate the sound signature of a song that is off pitch, but you cant extrapolate data that wasn't there to begin with.

So, to bite the bullet and to state an extreme example, a higher ranking IEM should be the most revealing IEM, even if it sports a ridiculously boring signature, than one that might be perceived to be true to life, and fun but has obscured details. A high ranking IEM, should allow you to, figuratively, read every part the music you hear, even if you dont actually get to see the music for what it is.
Do you own the SE5 Ultimate? Because they have no demos, and trying someone else's custom iems has strictly ZERO value to give impressions. If this long post is based on force fitting someone else's custom in your ears, it seems like a waste of time.

I own the SE5 Ultimate and have compared it to tons of modern offerings including ones I own, and muddiness is nowhere near what it sounds like.
 
Jun 22, 2017 at 1:52 AM Post #2,055 of 35,864

Wyville

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For these reasons stated, I've always found that the introduction of signature, into an IEM ranking, is a flawed system due to the variances between perception of what constitutes an enjoyable signature, what is a sufficient bass, treble and so on. Objectivity, needs to remove personal preferences in a ranking system. For example, the SE5U has really amazing authority in its bass and its decay, but that in turn drowns out its technical performance because all details are masked behind that bass presence, the same way the vega masks details when compared to the dream. If a person likes overwhelming bass, I wouldn't be surprised that he would rate the SE 5U highly, because the glaring flaws of the IEMs simply dont matter much. For for a person with a much more balanced POV, the SE5U (compared to modern offerings) is going to repulse with its glaring muddiness and lack of a treble presence.

As such, the only objective way to rank IEMS, should purely be on a technical performance level. We know that we each perceive colours (and sound) differently, and hence we may disagree on what constitutes sufficient or insufficient treble/mids/bass and so on. However, what we can all agree on, is how well an IEM is, to use an analogy, able to present and contrast the different colours, or even shades within a single colour spectrum.

Sounding realistic, how musical or enjoyable or not, are irrelevant factors, because that differs from person to person, and hence a subjective reference point cannot by its definition be used in an objective ranking without compromising the very premise of the ranking. To use an analogy, an artist that paints all the leaves of a tree in a single monotone that is accurate to the general shade of the tree, is inferior to another artist that is able to accurately portray the difference in shading between every leaf in that tree, but may however have consistently used a shade of colouring that is way too dark or light for the entire tree. The former artist is realistic, but technically inferior to the later artist. You can extrapolate the sound signature of a song that is off pitch, but you cant extrapolate data that wasn't there to begin with.

So, to bite the bullet and to state an extreme example, a higher ranking IEM should be the most revealing IEM, even if it sports a ridiculously boring signature, than one that might be perceived to be true to life, and fun but has obscured details. A high ranking IEM, should allow you to, figuratively, read every part the music you hear, even if you dont actually get to see the music for what it is.
I can't agree on especially your first and last statements, but perhaps that is because of a difference in why we are into this hobby. A scoring purely based on how revealing an IEM is, is not that interesting for me. I want a reviewer to discuss the signature and presentation, because that is the information that will allow me to narrow down what IEMs are interesting for me. I am much more a music lover than I am an audiophile. That is why for me the Custom Art H8.2 lists among my favourite TOTL IEMs. I don't need unrealistic amounts of detail coming through, I need the signature to be smooth and organic.

The way Nic has set up this shootout allows us both to identify what we like in the IEMs being reviewed and if you are after massive amounts of detail and clarity, then perhaps the NT6-Pro would score higher on your own personal list of favourites. But I can only say that because Nic has included so much information. Taking out information in the pursuit of "objectivity" (I use the term loosely) would only detract from the shootout because there would simply be less information in it.

As much as some people in this hobby want to elevate it to a science (exact, objective), music is and will always be art (pleasurable, subjective). Describe the colours of a painting and you loose the painting itself.
 

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