flinkenick's 17 Flagship IEM Shootout Thread (and general high-end portable audio discussion)
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dongster

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I've heard the Titan 1, and the response is not really ideal if Harmon curve is. The sparkle has discontinuity with the rest of the spectrum like inverse step function. 3 is more balanced out. Quite disappointing after all the hype it went through.
if you compared the measurements they are one of the if not the most closed to the target. as far as FR goes measurements are dependable, unlike some of the other stuff like soundstage
from Tyll Innerfidelity:
  • Dunu Titan - Lurking in ljokerl's box-o-IEMs was this gem. Haven't had a chance to listen to it yet (just measured them yesterday), but wow, what a great set of measurements. Looks like bass emphasis may go too high into the midrange, but other than that they look about perfect.

i think it could have been issues with insertion depth, seal and more likely interactions with those multple concha facing vents, also your ear canal shape

and by inverse step function you mean like a horizontal lines ie shelfs right? step functions have no inverse, its a constant withing a domain
 
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dongster

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but either way, i mentioned Titan 1 as example of no "hills and valleys"
its coherence to Harman was not the main point
 
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SilverEars

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Well, Joker's box of gems also includes the CK10 which is bright. By saying inverse step function is more of an exaggeration, not to be taken literally, but to give an idea that it's discontinuity with the upper range sparkle. LCD2 was like this, but it was due to dipped lower treble, and generally dark which isn't that much alike to the Titan 1s.
 
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Well, Joker's box of gems also includes the CK10 which is bright. By saying inverse step function is more of an exaggeration, not to be taken literally, but to give an idea that it's discontinuity with the upper range sparkle. LCD2 was like this, but it was due to dipped lower treble, and generally dark which isn't that much alike to the Titan 1s.
sorry to be blunt, but what else is in the box of gems is not relevant, the point of the quote is to show u that its very close to Harman, other pieces could be gems for reasons other than being like Harman.

i tried to politely hint implicitly with of reasons(vents and fit, anatomy, FR ear drum measurements being largely non-subjective), but your response didnt address them, so ill just state explicitly, with respect of course, what i meant to say:
what you have heard might not been representative of the actual FR

I own the Titan 3, which has concha facing vent also (only 1, not like the 10 of the Titan 1), the way it sits in your concha geometry has noticeable influence.

anticipating arguments about subjectivity and uniqueness to nervous system and body in regards to FR: if that effect is that considerable, then we might as well forget reviews and forums sharing experiences.
 
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It's hard to describe dry until you hear it. To me it means something that has very little decay. Usually iems with very low distortion. Not necessarily bad or good. Sometimes a little decay in the bass will give it a lot more depth and and a little hint in treble sound more vibrant. Unfortunately, that's a lot of adjectives that really varies on the individual.
 
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Speaking of the whole "dry" thing, I think I'd offer my perspective on the matter. To me, a "dry" signature is typically characterised by a lean/controlled mid-bass and/or lower midrange, sometimes accompanied or further emphasised by an upper-mid peak. A dry sound typically gives the illusion of a crisp, edgy, and articulated delivery of vocals, instruments, etc., as a method of boosting clarity. Imagine drawing a picture with a pencil that's been sharpened to the max, and drawing the same picture but with a pencil that isn't as sharp as it could possible be; probably an 8 out of 10 in a scale of sharpness. I equate listening to a dry transducer to the former, where lines are more clearly defined, and the image is further contrasted against the background, but the act of drawing (listening) itself becomes a bit cumbersome, as there's a certain grain or hardness to the movement, and the resulting image (music) isn't as natural, realistic, or "easy-on-the-eye (ear)". On the other hand, drawing with the less-sharp pencil may not result in the most clear-cut and defined image, but it has more "heart and soul", and the drawing process itself becomes enjoyable, as the pencil glides across the paper with ease. The dry-vs-rich predicament is similar to the ones pertaining dark-vs-bright, or warm-vs-cold on the analytical-vs-natural spectrum; at the end of the day, it all comes down to your preference :)
 
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I agree with both of you. I think of dry as lower treble emphasized(which is relative to the other parts of the spectrum) that sounds really tight without much decay.
 
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i think it could be that u dont like too much energy in what mixers define as bright, and "dont like"=harsh for u
but u see, thats exactly why this topic is actually quite significant, particularly in reviews. like the shower thought "what we all call green could be perceived as different colors"
Funny enough, I recently used this in a thread on whether or not critical listening is a skill you can learn. I have used it quite often over the years to indicate that once biology comes to play, and it does when it comes to sound perception, things get complicated very quickly. "My blue is your yellow, yet we both call the grass green."

For instance, I have Sensory Processing Sensitivity, a consequence of my ADHD, and it means I am hypersensitive to sounds, smells, etc. I literally process incoming sensory information differently, more deeply and detailed, than most people. That also means I perceive sound differently and is the reason why I gravitate towards a smooth and organic signature. When I listen attentively I can readily pick up tiny nuances that other people will miss, simply because of my neurological makeup. It also means I am very sensitive to treble. Believe it or not, on some days I can at times even notice a slight harshness in my Ei.3, which are extremely smooth IEMs.

My point is that a person's perception of a signature depends a lot on that individual's biology and biology varies a great deal, even for the same person on different days. Fascinating stuff! :)
 
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dongster

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Funny enough, I recently used this in a thread on whether or not critical listening is a skill you can learn. I have used it quite often over the years to indicate that once biology comes to play, and it does when it comes to sound perception, things get complicated very quickly. "My blue is your yellow, yet we both call the grass green."

For instance, I have Sensory Processing Sensitivity, a consequence of my ADHD, and it means I am hypersensitive to sounds, smells, etc. I literally process incoming sensory information differently, more deeply and detailed, than most people. That also means I perceive sound differently and is the reason why I gravitate towards a smooth and organic signature. When I listen attentively I can readily pick up tiny nuances that other people will miss, simply because of my neurological makeup. It also means I am very sensitive to treble. Believe it or not, on some days I can at times even notice a slight harshness in my Ei.3, which are extremely smooth IEMs.

My point is that a person's perception of a signature depends a lot on that individual's biology and biology varies a great deal, even for the same person on different days. Fascinating stuff! :)
fascinating, so you mainly received treble differently, i guess your situation requires you to read reviews a bit differently?
 
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Late to the @Wyville party, but out of the 12 IEMs in this shoot-out that I've personally auditioned (everything but the Vega, S-EM9, Prelude, SE5U, and Deca), here's my Top 5:

1) Empire Ears Zeus-XIV: The Zeus-XIV represents, to me, the best balance of tonal accuracy and technical ability. Resolving to the nth degree, spacious, engaging, perfectly bodied and natural, and the XR version gives two separate tunings to boot. It has an extraordinary, beautiful, and just "correct" sound that's capable of making me gush during listening sessions, as well as assured and confident when I mix both at home and at work. It takes the cake for me.

2) 64Audio A18Tzar: Honestly, if I owned both the Zeus-XIV and the A18, it would be a much harder contest, but owner's bias has unfortunately put the A18 in second, even if it trades blows on equal footing with the Greek god. The A18 is probably the most resolving/detailed IEM I've ever heard, with unbeatable micro-detail retrieval, transparency, air, and treble extension. It also has a low-end that manages to be both impactful and fast. I'd have to dock points for its brighter-than-natural tone, as well as a lack of density and roundness in the midrange, but if you want something *ahem* *ahem* @FastAndClean :wink:, this is the CIEM to get.

3) Lime Ears Aether: The Aether is my first-ever TOTL CIEM, and I still love it today as much as did when I bought it two years ago. I still think its low-end isn't the most defined, and my brain still tries its hardest to pull its midrange forward every now and again, but the Aether is an IEM that's tuned so you forget about that kinda stuff. It is seductively smooth, gorgeously natural, and an absolute treat to listen to. It's like one of those massages where your back is caressed and Karate-chopped-on alternately, where you just lie there and go along for the ride. It's, to me, still somewhat of an underrated little gem, which is idiosyncratic with its crowd-pleasing signature, but it's one that's worth your attention... or at least until its successor comes out (possibly) next month :

4) Dita Audio The Dream: The Dream is tuned in such a way that someone might as well whisper the word "Reference" in my ear every 10 seconds as I listen to it. It's fast, super detailed, exciting, and it has the signature dynamic bass in spades. Although its lack of naturalness and thirst for power has effectively put me off from purchasing it, it's still a joy to listen to when I run out of things to try at MS :D The only IEM that can contest it in terms of transient response and speed is probably the Jomo Samba, and its only rival in absolute soundstage is probably the tia Fourte. It may be drier and more analytical than I'd like, but the Singaporean Dream is one hell of an IEM to not miss out on.

5) Custom Art Harmony 8.2: If the Aether is a massage that has both strokes and chops, the Harmony 8.2 is the massage you're very likely to fall asleep to :D Jokes aside, that wasn't meant to imply the H8.2 has a boring signature; in fact, its (let's call it) "brave" bass response is one to keep you on your toes. Rather, it's the rest of the H8.2's frequency response that makes it one of the most intimate, laid-back, and downright relaxing IEMs I've ever heard. At its worst (or when most usually try it for the very first time), it can seem too dark, or veiled, or closed in. But, as prolonged listening sessions will prove, the H8.2 is actually technically capable, with great resolving abilities and separation, especially for its asking price. It only hits you after a few tracks, and suddenly the sounds you're listening to seem extremely natural, organic, and just plain "right". It is an IEM that has musicality at the top of its priorities, and it is an IEM that's perfect if you're not looking to analyse tracks or finalise masters on, but if you're just looking to have fun.

Honourable mentions, in no particular order, are the following:

- AAW W900: The strange upper-mid-and-treble response of the W900 shies it away from becoming one of my absolute favourites, as its instrument and vocal reproduction, as well as the way it integrates its wet, visceral, and natural dynamic bass response is almost second-to-none. If AAW releases those friggin' treble filters and I can find one that shifts it towards a signature that's more coherent and linear, then it'll definitely be a contender for my next CIEM purchase.

- Ultimate Ears UE18+ Pro: What it does best is realism, tonal accuracy, midrange definition, and easygoing-ness (if that is a word). However, I notice that it only does what it does best at higher volumes than I'm used to, and lacks a bit of pace and sparkle to be a true all-rounder in my book.

- Jomo Samba: The Jomo Samba is a masterclass in technical performance. It can get hot, sharp, and fatiguing when fed the wrong stuff, but it is an IEM that contends with the best in terms of fun, transient response, speed, and punchiness. It is an absolute firecracker, and one that is equipped with some of the best resolution, imaging, and bass rumble in its price range. It is further proof that Joseph Mou really knows what he's doing, and that he's getting closer and closer to grabbing a hold of my money with a carbon-fibre grip :p
 
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fascinating, so you mainly received treble differently, i guess your situation requires you to read reviews a bit differently?
I will undoubtedly perceive the whole sound differently, but treble is where problems arise most easily. I am still not sure if it is treble as such, or if it has to do with spikes in the treble. I initially thought I'd better avoid the Ares II cable for my Ei.3, based on its extended treble, but was surprised that it provided a bit more sparkle and treble quality while remaining perfectly smooth. This leads me to suspect that I could possibly cope with cleaner IEMs than I initially expected, as long as the treble extension is as smooth as possible. It is interesting, but I have not yet had an opportunity to test it.

I certainly read reviews in a different way. One example is the Maestro V2 vs the UE18+ Pro in Nic's shootout. I absolutely trust that Nic is right in saying that the Maestro V2 is better for classical music, but I wouldn't buy the Maestro V2 blindly because I understand it is slightly less warm than the UE18+ and could be pushing towards a sound that I would find fatiguing. That is also the reason why the U12 is high on my wish list, as I am pretty sure that one is within what I find "safe".

But at the end of the day I have not heard enough IEMs to be sure about any of it, so hopefully I get the opportunity to try out a few more.
 
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Just a few words on treble extension, since it remains difficult to grasp. If we see treble plotted on a FR graph, the vertical direction (upwards, the peaks) will determine brightness and sparkle. The horizantal direction going right (extension) mainly effects the air, definition, and stability of the image.

Greater extension does not translate to a brighter signature, or more sparkle. Extension only indirectly affects tone; for instance by its role in controlling the bass. If an iem has an elevated bass response, lack of extension will result in a warmer signature with a darker stage, compared to a similar signature with better extension; the low frequencies will overpower the higher frequencies. But the extension itself will not necessarily result in brightness, only if that upper treble region is elevated. For instance, the 5-Way has excellent and very linear top-end extension. Still, its signature is warm and smooth since the general treble region is atennuated. However, as a result of its top-end extension the definition of its midrange notes is high, despite the lack of brightness in its signature. Similalry, the Westone ES80 has high quality extension, with only a modest touch of sparkle. But the sparkle in this case results from a lower treble peak.

The extension will affect the naturalness of decay and overtones of treble notes, although they can still lack body if there is unevenness in the treble region. So the main body and tone of the treble note is determined by the linearity, while the naturalness of decay can be affected by extension.
 
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@flinkenick Could you please rank your top 5 (UM. Prelude, A18, Zeus and SE5u) in terms of forgiveness to less-than-stellar sources?
I'm afraid I don't have a collection of sources, I only use my AK and WM1Z. If you're interested in a particular iem (or iems) I could test with my phone, but it might be more useful to ask someone like Alex about optimal source pairing if you have a specific less-than-stellar source in mind(?)
 
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Just a few words on treble extension, since it remains difficult to grasp. If we see treble plotted on a FR graph, the vertical direction (upwards, the peaks) will determine brightness and sparkle. The horizantal direction going right (extension) mainly effects the air, definition, and stability of the image.

Greater extension does not translate to a brighter signature, or more sparkle. Extension only indirectly affects tone; for instance by its role in controlling the bass. If an iem has an elevated bass response, lack of extension will result in a warmer signature with a darker stage, compared to a similar signature with better extension; the low frequencies will overpower the higher frequencies. But the extension itself will not necessarily result in brightness, only if that upper treble region is elevated. For instance, the 5-Way has excellent and very linear top-end extension. Still, its signature is warm and smooth since the general treble region is atennuated. However, as a result of its top-end extension the definition of its midrange notes is high, despite the lack of brightness in its signature. Similalry, the Westone ES80 has high quality extension, with only a modest touch of sparkle. But the sparkle in this case results from a lower treble peak.

The extension will affect the naturalness of decay and overtones of treble notes, although they can still lack body if there is unevenness in the treble region. So the main body and tone of the treble note is determined by the linearity, while the naturalness of decay can be affected by extension.
Thanks for explaining that Nic! Do you happen to know any articles about this? I spent a couple of days searching last week, but could never really find an in-depth article about this and am still curious to learn more. I guess perhaps it is just something you learn by hearing it. :)
 
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