IEMs below 700€ for Disco, Funk, Soul and Pop
Nov 9, 2020 at 5:04 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 12

UltraFine

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Hello!

I am new to this forum and I am new to audio.
This is my first post. I would like to ask for advice for a new IEM. I am mostly listening to Disco, Funk, Soul and Pop. I know its a bit of a silly quesiton to ask for IEMs for specific genres. But I think it might be an indicator. Currently I own a Moondrop Starfields and a Focal Clear. The Starfields are smooth, I like the bass but they sound a bit annoying and nasty in the low highs (2khz up to 6khz, not sure). There is something that disturbs me with them. So i decided to find something new. My budget is actually 600€ but I would go up to 700€ if the argument is convincing. I already had a look at IRM. Opus Mia could fit my budget. What other IEMs could you recommend in that price bracket?

Ultra
 
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Nov 10, 2020 at 4:05 PM Post #2 of 12

surfgeorge

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Hello!

I am new to this forum and I am new to audio.
This is my first post. I would like to ask for advice for a new IEM. I am mostly listening to Disco, Funk, Soul and Pop. I know its a bit of a silly quesiton to ask for IEMs for specific genres. But I think it might be an indicator. Currently I own a Moondrop Starfields and a Focal Clear. The Starfields are smooth, I like the bass but they sound a bit annoying and nasty in the low highs (2khz up to 6khz, not sure). There is something that disturbs me with them. So i decided to find something new. My budget is actually 600€ but I would go up to 700€ if the argument is convincing. I already had a look at IRM. Opus Mia could fit my budget. What other IEMs could you recommend in that price bracket?

Ultra

A couple of questions:
What source are you using?
How do you like the Focal Clear? What do you like, what would you like to be different?
How do the Starfield compare to the Clears in terms of detail, clarity, separation, smoothness and soundstage?

I had the predecessors of the Starfields, the Monndrop Kanas Pro and I just received the Clear a week ago (burning in...)
Answers to the questions above might help pointing you in the right direction.

Your description makes me generally think of an IEM with smooth mids/treble and a decent bass boost, not too much but some fun, foundation and rumble. How does that sound to you?

Makes me think of Sony XBA-N3.
 
Nov 10, 2020 at 4:32 PM Post #3 of 12

UltraFine

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I just received the Clear a week ago (burning in...)

@surfgeorge, those are great questions. I will write up a proper reply tomorrow.
For now, you wrote, you just received your Clear a week ago. Here are some tips to watch out for. The grey leather of the cups and the headband can get dirty very quickly. Especially the headband. You might consider buying a headband protection on amazon. It costs 10€. It might also help to wash your ears before putting the heaphone on, to keep the cups (Ohrpolster) clean. Elsewise the accumulate skin fat. Be prerared that your cable (version 1) will break after a few weeks. That happened to me. Version 1 is the cable with the black and white pattern. Focal sent me a replacement cable (version 2) within a week and made me send the broken one back to them. My audio dealer told me that poor cable is a known issue with Focal Clear, I think he said: "It kind of happens every time". If yours does not break I would wait until your warranty reaches expiration and then declare the cable as defect (Wackelkontakt) because at some point it will break anyway. As a replacement you get a black version2 cable that is supposed to be less prone for defects.

Ultra
 
Nov 11, 2020 at 10:36 AM Post #4 of 12

UltraFine

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What source are you using?
I use my LG V50 for now. It has a dedicated Hi-Res internal DAC, which produces pretty honest sound imho. I play from Deezer and have some CDs that I ripped to FLAC. I also use my Thinkpad T460s sometimes, especially when working. It has a lousy DAC which is prone to accentuate the lows. I am thinking of buying a DragonFly Red for that matter.


How do you like the Focal Clear?
Generally, I dig it. I have little experience to compare it to though. Before buying it, I directly compared it to the Focal Elegia at the dealer store. The Elegia I experienced as having narrower stage. Elegia also presented way more detail. In fact it was too much for me, so I went for Focal Clear which had a wider stage and a good balanced FR. I remember after a listening session with Elegia at the dealer I told myself: "this is a great headphone for audiobooks. It sounds, as if the voice is just close to your ear and so detailed". So I do not miss anything with FC Clear (for now).


What do you like, what would you like to be different?
I am ok with the lows of both headphones. They do not get in my way, they are not boomy (which I would consider really bad). My problem with Starfields is the lower hights, I believe. My problem with Focal Clear is missing portability. So basically I would like to have Focal Clear sound on the go. Maybe with a bit more warmer bass. For instance when I travel for work. (Sometimes for weeks).

Ok, as an example: take "Why You Wanna Trip on Me" by Michael Jackson. It has a nastly clap/kick. With Starfields, that clap/kick sounds flat to me, compressed and forced (angestrengt). As if Starfields would try to scream the clap sound onto you. With Focal Clear it sounds better. (the clap is still nasty though, hehe).


How do the Starfields compare to the Clears in terms of detail, clarity, separation, smoothness and soundstage?
I got my Starfields after I had bought Focal Clear. I remember I was disappointed with Starfields at first, because the highs issue jumped out to me in an obvious way. I kept the Starfields though cuz they were portable and I liked the bass. its bass is good. If it would be heavier on the Starfields it would be too much. So in my opinion Starfields perform well for Dance/House/Electronic music which lives off the bass. (Example: Cerrone-DNA bass). As soon as some bells, whistles and high-hats come into play Starfields underperform. (Example: "Bells" at the beginning of Cerrone-Resolution, or the high tones at Cerrone-Air Dreaming at 1:38-1:47). They sound somehow squicky. In the Focal Clear the bass is ok, a bit too clean - it does not hug you as nicely as the Starfields bass does. So I would even go so far to claim, that I prefer listening to bassy house music with Starfields. I would say the soundstage of both headphones is good but not super wide. I am not sure about separation and smoothness.


What would you not like?
I would not like if a headphone would sound too sterile or metalic. I would probably dislike if the separation between the highs the mids and the lows is very noticable. It would disturb. I believe the overall sound should be balanced. Because if it is not, it sticks out and distracts your listening experience.


UltraFine




A couple of questions:
What source are you using?
How do you like the Focal Clear? What do you like, what would you like to be different?
How do the Starfield compare to the Clears in terms of detail, clarity, separation, smoothness and soundstage?

I had the predecessors of the Starfields, the Monndrop Kanas Pro and I just received the Clear a week ago (burning in...)
Answers to the questions above might help pointing you in the right direction.

Your description makes me generally think of an IEM with smooth mids/treble and a decent bass boost, not too much but some fun, foundation and rumble. How does that sound to you?

Makes me think of Sony XBA-N3.
 
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Nov 11, 2020 at 11:51 AM Post #5 of 12

surfgeorge

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What source are you using?
I use my LG V50 for now. It has a dedicated Hi-Res internal DAC, which produces pretty honest sound imho. I play from Deezer and have some CDs that I ripped to FLAC. I also use my Thinkpad T460s sometimes, especially when working. It has a lousy DAC which is prone to accentuate the lows. I am thinking of buying a DragonFly Red for that matter.


How do you like the Focal Clear?
Generally, I dig it. I have little experience to compare it to though. Before buying it, I directly compared it to the Focal Elegia at the dealer store. The Elegia I experienced as having narrower stage. Elegia also presented way more detail. In fact it was too much for me, so I went for Focal Clear which had a wider stage and a good balanced FR. I remember after a listening session with Elegia at the dealer I told myself: "this is a great headphone for audiobooks. It sounds, as if the voice is just close to your ear and so detailed". So I do not miss anything with FC Clear (for now).


What do you like, what would you like to be different?
I am ok with the lows of both headphones. They do not get in my way, they are not boomy (which I would consider really bad). My problem with Starfields is the lower hights, I believe. My problem with Focal Clear is missing portability. So basically I would like to have Focal Clear sound on the go. Maybe with a bit more warmer bass. For instance when I travel for work. (Sometimes for weeks).

Ok, as an example: take "Why You Wanna Trip on Me" by Michael Jackson. It has a nastly clap/kick. With Starfields, that clap/kick sounds flat to me, compressed and forced (angestrengt). As if Starfields would try to scream the clap sound onto you. With Focal Clear it sounds better. (the clap is still nasty though, hehe).


How do the Starfields compare to the Clears in terms of detail, clarity, separation, smoothness and soundstage?
I got my Starfields after I had bought Focal Clear. I remember I was disappointed with Starfields at first, because the highs issue jumped out to me in an obvious way. I kept the Starfields though cuz they were portable and I liked the bass. its bass is good. If it would be heavier on the Starfields it would be too much. So in my opinion Starfields perform well for Dance/House/Electronic music which lives off the bass. (Example: Cerrone-DNA bass). As soon as some bells, whistles and high-hats come into play Starfields underperform. (Example: "Bells" at the beginning of Cerrone-Resolution, or the high tones at Cerrone-Air Dreaming at 1:38-1:47). They sound somehow squicky. In the Focal Clear the bass is ok, a bit too clean - it does not hug you as nicely as the Starfields bass does. So I would even go so far to claim, that I prefer listening to bassy house music with Starfields. I would say the soundstage of both headphones is good but not super wide. I am not sure about separation and smoothness.


What would you not like?
I would not like if a headphone would sound too sterile or metalic. I would probably dislike if the separation between the highs the mids and the lows is very noticable. It would disturb. I believe the overall sound should be balanced. Because if it is not, it sticks out and distracts your listening experience.


UltraFine
Thanks! Excellent description! I'll give my IEMs and the Clears a listen, think about what you wrote and reply later.
 
Nov 11, 2020 at 3:01 PM Post #6 of 12

surfgeorge

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Listening tests and recommendation
I spent some time with my IEMs (Sony IER-M9, Sony EX1000, Moondrop Blessing 2 and JVC FD02 modded), the Clear and different sources, iPhone SE, HiBy R3 (€200 Dap), Cord Mojo (€400 DAC) and Hugo 2 (€2200 DAC).

Focal Clear on different sources
I took the focal Clear with the HiBy R3 as the baseline, because it matched very well, with a relaxed yet defined sound and quite wide sound stage.
(That is very weird, because the Hugo 2 is a soundstage monster, but the Clears paired better with the R3...)

Compared to this sound signature, all the IEMs have a more transparent, clearer and cleaner sound, which can also make them potentially sharper sounding.
The FD02 should be very close to the Starfield in frequency response, even if technically better. Yes, especially if you don't watch the volume, the claps are getting aggressive.

Based on your description and the signature of the Clears on the R3 I think you are looking for a slightly warm IEM with good but controlled bass, and only moderate pinna-gain (the boost in the 2-4kHz region) and controlled treble. This is not a very common tuning, most IEMs have a quite pronounced pinna gain boost.

Based on what I own, I would say the Sony IER-M7 would be a good choice, yet a little hard to buy in EU. Most buy from Accessory Jack
The M7 is the "little brother" of the M9 without the super tweeter. The M9 is an all BA IEM with very good timbre, excellent imaging, a good bass foundation and a warm-neutral mids presentation with high resolution.

Alternatives, based on many reviews and Crinacle's rankings and graphs:
Fearless S8Z (best IEM in Fearless range according to several opinion leaders on head-fi)
Sony XBA-N3 - cheaper, a little bassier, DD bass with BA mid/trebe (I listened to it and really liked it)
Sony EX800ST - a little different, execellent bass quality, neutral mids but with a bit of a spike at 6k, half-open design, weird fit (but not bad) I had them

Otherwise I'd look at Crinacle's list and graph comparison tools.

It would be best if you could get a used M7 to try it out and give yourself the time it takes to get used to a signature.
The Sony is also quite comfortable, you just need to find the right tips that fit well but without creating a vaccum.

Hope that helps!
 
Nov 11, 2020 at 6:09 PM Post #7 of 12

IEMusic

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In addition to the Sony M7 recommendation, I’d also research the following:

- ThieAudio Clairvoyance ($700). It is basically a neutral-ish tuning with some elevated sub bass.
https://www.head-fi.org/threads/thieaudio-tribrids-clairvoyance-and-monarch.936212/

- Mangird Tea ($250-300). Very smooth sounding, excellent vocals, no harshness.
https://www.head-fi.org/threads/mangird-impressions-thread.934129/

- LZ A7 ($300 +/- 20). Balanced tuning, very versatile with multiple tuning options.
https://www.head-fi.org/threads/lz-a7-iems-impressions-and-reviews-thread.938134/

- Tri Starlight (currently $550 with the 11/11 sale, crazy good price, other variations of this IEM are typically up to $850). It seems to have a good balanced tuning, but reviews on it are currently lacking.
https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/tri-starlight.24572/reviews

Yes, these are all mid-high end Chi-Fi recommendations, but that is because they are remarkable for their respective prices. The Fearless S8Z seems like an excellent IEM, but if you found the upper mids/lower treble of the Starfield too harsh, I’m afraid you may not be able to tolerate the S8Z.
 
Nov 12, 2020 at 2:11 AM Post #8 of 12

surfgeorge

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In addition to the Sony M7 recommendation, I’d also research the following:

- ThieAudio Clairvoyance ($700). It is basically a neutral-ish tuning with some elevated sub bass.
https://www.head-fi.org/threads/thieaudio-tribrids-clairvoyance-and-monarch.936212/

- Mangird Tea ($250-300). Very smooth sounding, excellent vocals, no harshness.
https://www.head-fi.org/threads/mangird-impressions-thread.934129/

- LZ A7 ($300 +/- 20). Balanced tuning, very versatile with multiple tuning options.
https://www.head-fi.org/threads/lz-a7-iems-impressions-and-reviews-thread.938134/

- Tri Starlight (currently $550 with the 11/11 sale, crazy good price, other variations of this IEM are typically up to $850). It seems to have a good balanced tuning, but reviews on it are currently lacking.
https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/tri-starlight.24572/reviews

Yes, these are all mid-high end Chi-Fi recommendations, but that is because they are remarkable for their respective prices. The Fearless S8Z seems like an excellent IEM, but if you found the upper mids/lower treble of the Starfield too harsh, I’m afraid you may not be able to tolerate the S8Z.

The Clairvoyance seems to be a very good IEM, but based on the reviews and frequency response I'd expect it to be too lean and neutral.
The Focal Clear have a kind of thick but clear, open, lush and at the same time energetic sound, and all IEMs I know are much more erring on the thinner, more transparent and detail oriented side.
 
Nov 12, 2020 at 2:27 AM Post #9 of 12

UltraFine

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Gentlemen, thanks for your recommendations. I will check out each and every one of it.

I have not much experience ordering audio gear online (yet). I found some of your recomendations on linsoul or aliexpress. Is it safe to buy from there? What are the delivery times to Europe / Germany?

Ultra
 
Nov 12, 2020 at 3:52 AM Post #10 of 12

surfgeorge

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Gentlemen, thanks for your recommendations. I will check out each and every one of it.

I have not much experience ordering audio gear online (yet). I found some of your recomendations on linsoul or aliexpress. Is it safe to buy from there? What are the delivery times to Europe / Germany?

Ultra

Yes, it is safe to buy from them.
Delivery times with Aliexpress are usually several weeks with regular mail, with the advantage that customs often doesn't check these and charge you tax and import fees.
The bigger stores like Linsoul often ship by DHL which takes only about 7-10 days, but is usually checked at customs.
Accessory Jack is located in Hong Kong, and is a source for premium brand products.
In case of IER-M7 you could buy it there, or at B&H photo video store in New York.
 
Nov 12, 2020 at 3:56 AM Post #11 of 12

Zambu

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Ok, as an example: take "Why You Wanna Trip on Me" by Michael Jackson. It has a nastly clap/kick. With Starfields, that clap/kick sounds flat to me, compressed and forced (angestrengt). As if Starfields would try to scream the clap sound onto you. With Focal Clear it sounds better. (the clap is still nasty though, hehe).

This seems like a good test track indeed :thinking: I went through my DAPs and IEMs with that (well, mostly the part from around 00:30 to 01:15). I think it sounded very good with the Thieaudio IEMs (Clairvoyance and Legacy3 ) and too "angestrengt" ( :) ) and somewhat "metallic" with TRI I3. With Clairvoyance couple of notches better (logical since it's more expensive and technical). Of course the comparison to Tri I3 is not a particularly good one since they are different price points.

I think it's quite possible that the Clairvoyance excels in the genres that you gravitate towards. Couple of example tracks that sound great with it:
Giorgio Moroder - American Dream
Isaac Hayes - Walk on by
I don't know if it's the Clairvoyance effect or just a coincidence, but my listening habits have in the past month drifted to stuff like ELO, Curtis Mayfield, Gil Scott-Heron, Prince and all the psychedelic influenced stuff starting from later era Beatles and rest of the British late 60s movement and then towards the 70s where it gets gradually fused with funk and soul. (PS. if you have some recommendations in music, feel free to say :D )

I'd say Clairvoyance is very good as a "facilitator" of good music across a variety of different genres and inoffensive in a very positive sense. Unfortunately I don't have any experience from other IEMs in that price range, so can't compare. Also I can't speak in "audiophile" terms of what's particularly noteworthy, but I seem to hit my sweet spot of "being able to focus on the music and not gear" and preferred sound signature with Clairvoyance and Cayin N3Pro in tube mode.

If you end up ordering something from Linsoul, be advised that their website is not really telling in what's actually "in stock" and what they need to order per request. So for instance the Clairvoyance has (I think) something like a 25+ days wait from order to shipment (at the moment, and this autumn in general). However, that one and other pricier IEMs at least use DHL express so it's really fast to most countries, particularly to Germany (duh).
 
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