Kicker EB101 First Impressions
Sep 10, 2009 at 6:39 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 1

Ninety

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Hello

After the cabling issues with my CKM50s, I decided to get some new IEMs - they had to be reasonably cheap and with single piece cables (obviously I wanted them to sound good too). Anyway, I was on my way to get some Denons when I saw these Kickers - I knew the brand from the in-car market as pretty good stuff and figured that even if they weren't hifi, they'd probably be pretty fun...

Unboxing (sorry - no digi camera)

At this point, things look good - we've got three sizes of silcone tips and some Comply foams (I've still gone for black olives), plus a carrying pouch. The 'phones themselves are metal bodied with a bit of turned detail on them, as is the plug. The cable is a 2/2.5mm diameter fabric braided affair and the whole thing feels nicely put together and kind of...expensive. It's worth noting at this point that I still have some sort of hard wired reaction that plastic: cheap, metal:expensive, so perhaps I'm not necessarily the best judge here.

Listening

I'll be comparing with my two current phones here, Kramered Marshmallows and AT CKM50s. Straight out of the box and things aren't good - bass is deep and seems pretty well controlled, the highs are less obvious though present, but everything in between sounds like it's coming from behind a thick curtain. This is odd. I start to concentrate and chop around with the different sets. The mandolin at the beginning of Rod Stewart's 'Maggie May' actually sounds good through the kickers; the tone is good, the sound is full, if a little warm, but I like it. Swapping to the ATs and it's much thinner sound, yet really sharp while the Marshmallows fall somewhere between the two. Now, when Rod's vocals come in, the Kickers are just terrible - Rod's voice has a real raspy edge to it (as I'm sure we all know) and this is totally lost, his voice becomes almost background and everything sounds lazy. Both the Marshmallows and ATs make Rod's voice sound like, well, Rod's voice at this point.

I'm a little concerned by now, so I try switching to TVOTR and 'Blues From Down Here'. It's a similar story with the Kickers, nothing has any bite - the opening guitar notes after 'from the' and 'depths' (that hopefully makes sense if you know the song) are totally robbed of power and, though the track rumbles along nicely, it just becomes muzak after a while. The ATs don't give the same bass fun, but the clarity across the rest of the range more than makes up for it and the Marshmallows probably give the best balance sacrificing some clarity for bass.

Perhaps I'm being unfair. I switch to 'Hold The Line' by Major Lazer. This is more like it from the Kickers; the bass is really deep and well controlled, the high drums are definite. At this point, even the Marshmallows, which I've always thought of as pretty bassy phones are left standing. But that's only because this track doesn't really have much happening around the mids - when any voice comes in, it's still lost behind a veil and that's even with dancehall vocals (not noted for their subtlety).

In summation, at this point, I'm not happy. Yes, the bass is impressive, but the highs are backward in coming forward and the mids are behind a thick curtain making any music a no-no. It's early days, but things aren't looking great - I wasn't expecting the best phones in the world, but I thought if anything they'd be over-bright. On current form, they're definitely the least favourite phones I own. I've started a burn-in regime (so far 2 hours Pantera on pretty high volume and 8 hours of pinknoise) so we'll see if that has any effect.

EDIT:

I was messing around with my EQ settings and I've got the Kickers to work! I've increased the highs and the mids to a lesser extent and now they're sounding much more like it. However, I've never had to change my EQ settings from neutral before, so I'm not entirely happy about this, but it seems to be having the desired effect. We'll see how things go from here...

I'd be keen to hear any other people's impressions of the phones/suggestions for improving/burning in and equally, if anyone has any questions, I'll do my best to answer. It's not the best review in the World by far, but hopefully of some use to someone.

90
 

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