Jan 27, 2018 at 2:08 PM
Yet another testimony as to why tip-rolling is so very important and why we all should filter reviews we read through the following:I need a bit more head time but it seems like aliexpress T400 foam tips fixed everything for me.
A more noticeable sound change this time around than when I went from starlines to the foamies with the ZS5 v1.
1) source the IEM was coupled to.
2) the reviewer's preferred sound signature
3) eartips and ear anatomy can have a huge effect on the entire experience
The more reviews there are for a particular IEM, the more we can ferret out the common thread to determine the overall pros and cons.
Someone once harmlessly quipped that my reviews seem to read like a novel because I always preface my review of the IEM with a lengthy explanation regarding eartips and preferences. It would have been several paragraphs longer if I had chimed in with the importance of the source being used. Nevertheless please note the following:
I tend to prefer a relatively neutral sound signature with a slight emphasis in both bass and treble, which is basically a mild "V" shaped sound signature. I find that an absolute neutral sound signature usually lacks enough energy for the genres I enjoy most, which are Classic Trance and Progressive (early Tiesto, Markus Schulz, Otello, DT8 Project), Chill Out, Breakbeat (Hybrid & Burufunk Remixes) and 80's & 90's (New Order, Secession, The Cure, Siouxie & The Banshees, Depeche Mode). Sure I listen to Shania Twain, Sade, Bach, Ella Fitzgerald and everything in between, but as of late the bulk of my listening pleasure is focused on the aforementioned genres.
Take note when you read IEM reviews that when the reviewer gives his/her opinion regarding the sound that there are many factors that shape the final sound an IEM delivers to one's ear.
Those factors include:
1 - Shape and size of the reviewer's ear canals. (shallow or deep, wide or narrow)
2 - Shape and size of the eartips [round or cone, single, double or triple flange] & proper fit
3 - Materials of the eartips (silicone/foam)
4 - Shape of the IEM (and/or angle of the nozzle) can cause fitment issues for some.
5 - Source (quality of smartphone, laptop, digital audio player) is amplified/unamplified.
6 - The IEM itself (driver flex possible due to trapping air in canal causing muffled sound.
7 - The Reviewers ability to hear all frequency ranges (age plays a factor).
Most consumers are unaware of how much weight each of these factors hold in rendering a final verdict. This is why there is such a wide variance in not only ratings, but the description of an IEMs sound. An unaware consumer purchases a perfectly fine IEM but has difficulty keeping the IEM in the ear or he/she does not satisfactorily seal the ear canal with the included silicone eartips and summarily dismisses the IEM as sub par. Another consumer purchases the same IEM but experiences a perfect fit and seal and has nothing but praise for the same IEM. Sealing the ear canals AND HAVING THE EARTIP FIRMLY AFFIXED to the IEM nozzle when using IEMs is the determining factor to render a valid verdict. I can think of no audio equipment that is subjected to such praise or ridicule as the in-ear monitor. As if that's not enough, there is no "one-size-fits-all" when it comes to IEM eartips.
Materials (silicone or foam) have different dampening effects on the final sound.
The shape of the eartips (olive-shaped, cone-shaped or other-shaped) can have different dampening effects on the final sound based on how much space is between the IEM nozzle and your eardrum and how well the eartip has sealed the ear canal.
The aperture of the eartip's opening (wide-bore or narrow-bore) will have dampening effects on the final sound.
The easiest way for you to experience the different effects I am discussing is to take your current on-ear heaphones or over-ear headphones, pick a song full of energy, put the headphones on and let them sit naturally over/on your ears. Listen to them for two minutes. After two minutes, using your hands, slightly press the headphones closer to your eardrums. Notice the change in the sound. Is there more/less bass? Is there more/less treble? Did the vocals slightly slip forward/back?
Consider that on-ear and over-ear headphones have a driver that sits approximately 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches from your eardrums and by pressing the headphones 1/4" closer to your eardrums the sound changed. Now consider that an IEM sits anywhere from 3/4" to 1/4" from your eardrums and the slightest changes (angle, depth, shape, material) can have up to three times more of an effect due to the proximity of the IEM to the eardrum.
For this reason, I think it is wise to invest a nominal dollar amount on different eartips to get everything the earphone tuners intended. Personally, I think anything less is like playing Russian roulette. Some IEM manufacturers supply multiple sizes (S,M & L) and materials (silicone & foam) of eartips to increase the odds that the consumer will achieve a satisfactory seal, but even this is not foolproof.
If this holds any interest for you some aftermarket brands to look into are "JVC Spiral Dots", "Spinfits", "Comply Foam Eartips" or "Znari Foam Eartips", "Creative Aurvana" and others.
The HeadFi community is all about telling others about our experiences with a particular piece of audio gear. For IEMs, choosing the proper eartip really is equivalent to choosing the proper tire for that Porsche. Someone who equips their Porsche 911 GT2 with thick snow tires will not have the same experience as someone who has equipped said 911 GT2 with the sticky/death-grip Pirelli Zero high performance treads. With the same exact car on the same exact road in the same exact weather conditions their experiences will be at polar opposites. Night and day, even.
At any rate, the veterans here know these things but I hope this was helpful to anyone new to the hobby.