IEMs vs Full Size Headphones. Can IEMs ever be as good?
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HiFiHillbilly

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I'm a neophyte to the world of high res audio so please forgive this question if it appears to be too obvious. I've been an iPod and MP3 listener for years and have decided to jump into the world of audiophile grade equipment. I'm attracted to the portability of IEMs but want to get the biggest bang for my buck so I'm torn between in-the-ears and over-the-ears. The question is, can high end IEMs ever be as good as similarly priced headphones? If so, what should I look for in IEMs to ensure I'm getting that quality?
 
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These are just my personal opinions and observations and I'm not some experienced reviewer but I have recently listened to alot of demo versions of ciems in all price ranges.

From what I have noticed is that fullsize headphones are way more cost effective, have a much higher potential for high fidelity and generally feel more cohesive. I personally would rate my hd600 over almost all of the demo versions of totl ciems Ive listened to. So I havnt listened to the actual ciems but pretty close. The only one I would maybe prefer soundwise over the hd600 is the vision ears ve8. But that costs like 10 times more and it is not better at everything over the hd600.

If you spend more than hd600 level and maybe compare to maybe the mrspeakers aeon flow open or the focal clear than in my opnion no iems can reach that level of fidelity.

The small size of iems creates alot of compromises compared to fullsize headphones. Unless there will be some new kind of revolutionary small driver I dont think there is any chance they will catch up to the price/performance or the full potential of fullsize.

Again these are just my observations and I dont pretend to be an expert.

Im also looking for some iems to replace my soundmagic e30. I liked them for their natural, smooth, slightly warm and bassy forgiving sound. Im looking for something similarly tuned to the e30, hd600/650 or ve8 in a normal iem form for around 50-200 dollars. If anyone have good suggestions let your voices be heard ^^.
 
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Highly dependent on your listening environment. In a noisy portable environment, IEMs will shine with the noise isolation and will yield a much better listening experience.

Full size headphones especially full size open back are more often or not better than an IEM in the similar price range, however you will need a quiet location and not mind the sound leaking out from the headphones.
 
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Coming at it from a different angle you want to consider where you'll be listening to music mostly. If it's on the move and portability is paramount iem's are so compact that along with a DAP they can be carried everywhere in a pocket with such ease, OE Headphones less so.

I have a small DAP (AK70 Mkii), Senheiser IE80S iems (with Forza aftermarket cable, 2.5mm trrs) and Senheiser HD660S (with Forza aftermarket cable) over ear headphones - Both Senheisers sound different, both sound superb but I use the IE80S's far more as they are always with me.
 
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I'm a neophyte to the world of high res audio so please forgive this question if it appears to be too obvious. I've been an iPod and MP3 listener for years and have decided to jump into the world of audiophile grade equipment. I'm attracted to the portability of IEMs but want to get the biggest bang for my buck so I'm torn between in-the-ears and over-the-ears. The question is, can high end IEMs ever be as good as similarly priced headphones? If so, what should I look for in IEMs to ensure I'm getting that quality?
Hi HiFiHillbilly,

Very good question.

I have got these little monsters in my current team :

- Final Sonorous VI (Pads "A" / câble Lunashops hybrid 8 cores) + DAP iBasso Dx90 MM2 (FW Lurker)
- Campfire Andromeda v2 (Tips "Symbio W" M / câble Alo Reference 8 balanced) + DAP Aune M1s
- Noble Kaiser Encore (Tips "DSW v2" M-L / câble Penon hybrid 8 cores balanced) + DAP Aune M1s

I use all these devices exclusively in a nomadic way.

So the Final Sonorous VI is a full size headphone, closed, and not the worst in the market lol

And... really, Andromeda's are in the same league about sound signature and results... just crazy amazing.

And the Kaiser Encore are more like... sort of... Sennheiser HD800 (not the "s" version), but in an iem way. Same feeling : just crazy amazing.

Anyway, I find that the full size headphone play at an other dimension, about the soundstage deployment : more air. Because it's over the ears, not in the ears.

However, this is also a known feature of the Final Sonorous VI (with "A" pads), so it could be wrong with other designs. Because the dynamic scale and soundstage both of the Andro's and Kaiser Encore are juste... incredible : no apparent limit, just the volume you can handle.

BUT !...............................................

1/ The tips are VERY IMPORTANT !!! You must find the good formula to get the best fit, isolation, seal. And it can be very tricky... Really, it can be a real concern... (with universal designs, and TOTL designs if you want the best and only the best)
2/ The pairing with the digital audio player is very important too...

For instance, you can read that I use a DX90 (heavily modded version) with my Final Sonorous VI, and an Aune m1s (balanced output) with my Andromeda and Kaiser.

For these ones, and particularly for the Andromeda's, the impedance must be very low, and the output completely clean, free of hissing.

So, "can high end IEMs ever be as good as similarly priced headphones?",

My answer is "yes... but" :beerchug:

My 2 cents.
 
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A bit off-topic, but how would you rate the Aune regarding SQ, Stage and Tonality?
Frankly :

- absolutely remarkable with iems... and especially with (very) sensitive iems (prone to hiss like Andromeda : no hiss at all, completely black background) : no weak point at all. IMO, with Andro's and Kaiser Encore, end game (that said, I use it in pure mobility)
- disappointing with headphones (this is why I use a Dx90 modded with my Final Sonorous VI) : not much current ?

And if you don't mind EQ and other DSP.

Another potential problem is the very poor quality control. I don't have any issue with mine (1 year now), but I know 2 or 2 people who had problems with it (quality control).
 
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Highly dependent on your listening environment. In a noisy portable environment, IEMs will shine with the noise isolation and will yield a much better listening experience.

Full size headphones especially full size open back are more often or not better than an IEM in the similar price range, however you will need a quiet location and not mind the sound leaking out from the headphones.
Thanks. That's part of my problem. I don't know if open back headphones will work for me. I'm also planning to purchase a DAP form my primary source of HD audio so I need something that won't be too hard to drive using a DAP.
 
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open headphones = domestic use exclusively.
 
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Coming at it from a different angle you want to consider where you'll be listening to music mostly. If it's on the move and portability is paramount iem's are so compact that along with a DAP they can be carried everywhere in a pocket with such ease, OE Headphones less so.

I have a small DAP (AK70 Mkii), Senheiser IE80S iems (with Forza aftermarket cable, 2.5mm trrs) and Senheiser HD660S (with Forza aftermarket cable) over ear headphones - Both Senheisers sound different, both sound superb but I use the IE80S's far more as they are always with me.
So, if you could only afford to buy one of the two Senheisers that you mentioned to begin your collection would you say it would be the IEMs?
 
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Hi HiFiHillbilly,

Very good question.

I have got these little monsters in my current team :

- Final Sonorous VI (Pads "A" / câble Lunashops hybrid 8 cores) + DAP iBasso Dx90 MM2 (FW Lurker)
- Campfire Andromeda v2 (Tips "Symbio W" M / câble Alo Reference 8 balanced) + DAP Aune M1s
- Noble Kaiser Encore (Tips "DSW v2" M-L / câble Penon hybrid 8 cores balanced) + DAP Aune M1s

I use all these devices exclusively in a nomadic way.

So the Final Sonorous VI is a full size headphone, closed, and not the worst in the market lol

And... really, Andromeda's are in the same league about sound signature and results... just crazy amazing.

And the Kaiser Encore are more like... sort of... Sennheiser HD800 (not the "s" version), but in an iem way. Same feeling : just crazy amazing.

Anyway, I find that the full size headphone play at an other dimension, about the soundstage deployment : more air. Because it's over the ears, not in the ears.

However, this is also a known feature of the Final Sonorous VI (with "A" pads), so it could be wrong with other designs. Because the dynamic scale and soundstage both of the Andro's and Kaiser Encore are juste... incredible : no apparent limit, just the volume you can handle.

BUT !...............................................

1/ The tips are VERY IMPORTANT !!! You must find the good formula to get the best fit, isolation, seal. And it can be very tricky... Really, it can be a real concern... (with universal designs, and TOTL designs if you want the best and only the best)
2/ The pairing with the digital audio player is very important too...

For instance, you can read that I use a DX90 (heavily modded version) with my Final Sonorous VI, and an Aune m1s (balanced output) with my Andromeda and Kaiser.

For these ones, and particularly for the Andromeda's, the impedance must be very low, and the output completely clean, free of hissing.

So, "can high end IEMs ever be as good as similarly priced headphones?",

My answer is "yes... but" :beerchug:

My 2 cents.
 
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Wow. You've given me a lot to think about, and research. I'm not familiar with any of those products. What are your thoughts regarding custom IEMs vs. universals. I've budgeted about $1500.00 for headphones, what ever they may be, IEMs or over the ear.
 
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Well, ciem is the royal way (SQ, isolation)...

But you must be sure about about your choice (i.e. your personnal taste about the musical restitution : Am I prefere an analytic sound, a rounded sound, a "neutral" sound, a colored sound ?.....)... because it's customised with your morphology.

So the eventual resale can be difficult (even if a reshell is possible).

And the CIEM is just one part of the equation : the DAP must be very performant (adapted).
 
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Try the Audeze isine series. Very full, open sound. Minimal leakage, isolation is good when music is playing.
 
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