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IEM Recommendations - $100 - 200, balanced sound and comfortable

  1. scatteredshadows
    Quick Summary:
    - IEM
    - $100 to 200 preferred price
    - have tried Yamaha EPH-100 (uncomfortable) and Shure SE-215 (dark, slow)
    - for active use, usually with an unamped LG Optimus G playing FLACs and 256kbps+ VBR MP3s
    1. balanced, precise, responsive sound, good with many genres
    2. build quality/reliability of brand/access to service in the US
    3. comfort
    4. isolation less important
    Looking for a new, mid level IEM that I can use when I'm active. Based on previous negative experiences, it probably shouldn't be a "sport" model, just something that is fairly well built with smartly designed cabling. I have a higher end IEM that I use at home (Shure SE-530), so these are strictly to be used while commuting and working out. Generally, I'll be using them with an unamped LG Optimus G and a mix of FLACs and MP3s ripped at 256kbps or higher.
    The sets I've used previously for this purpose were the Shure SE-215 and the Yamaha EPH-100. If I could get the Yamaha sound, with the Shure build (minus the flaky replaceable cable) and fit, I'd be happy. Unfortunately, the SE-215 sound a tad darker, slower, less articulate than I'd like, while the EPH-100 has been a massive hassle. There are no compatible foam tips that I'm aware of, so I'm constantly having to readjust the stock silicon tips that are always sliding around in my ear canal, sometimes muffling the sound entirely. This is less than ideal when exercising.
    Of the headphone brands I'm well acquainted with, I probably enjoy the Grado sound the most (I know Grado makes IEMs, but I'm not looking to spend $300 to try the GR8.). In the IEM category, besides the excellent SE-530, I loved my old Shure E4c.
    Since I listen to a broad range of music ( http://www.last.fm/user/scatteredshadow/charts?rangetype=overall&subtype=artists ), I prefer a balanced sound, but leaning towards responsiveness, clarity and precision. It's not that I don't appreciate sweetness or warmth, but in my experience, at this price range warmth tends to stifle clarity in the high end.

    Relative to the IEM type, I'm fine with trading a bit of isolation for better sound, fit or build quality.
    Since I vastly prefer foam tips, I'd really prefer to buy something that has a compatible Comply tip. It's not a must, but I've found I prefer IEMs that can be worn over the ear as well.
    Several relatively new (at least in the US market) companies have produced highly rated IEMs praised for offering substantial value. Even though many are considered to be well constructed, they also tend to only be available direct from the overseas supplier or through smaller third party dealers. While I'm happy to patronize small, independent businesses, I want a company that is reliable and quick to respond when there is trouble with a product. For this reason, I would prefer to not buy from a producer that doesn't have US based customer support because I don't want to have to wait weeks either for the initial product or to receive service/replacement product.
  2. billybob_jcv
    You might try looking at the Ety HF-5 or the Westone 1, or even step-up to the Westone 2:

    scatteredshadows likes this.
  3. scatteredshadows
    Thanks for the tip. I'd not been considering the Westone 2 because I assumed it was a bit out of my price range. It looks like it's being discontinued or updated, so I guess they are being cleared out. I think it's definitely my prime contender right now. 
    After doing a little more reading, I've narrowed the options to the following in order of current preference, with the best price I could find from a US supplier:
    1. Westone 2 - $180
    2. VSonic GR07 - $180
    3. VSonic GR01 - $148
    4. VSonic VC1000 - $160
    5. Etymotic HF5 - $97
    I've ruled out these, due to either concerns about build quality or availability of support:
    1. HiFiMan RE-400
    2. Rockit R-50
    3. Fischer Audio DBA-02 mkII

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