Looking for a fun IEM. Please help!
Jul 11, 2016 at 4:09 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 2


100+ Head-Fier
Aug 27, 2005
Hi everyone.
I've been on Head-Fi for a while and I've tried a lot of different headphones. Here's my current predicament. Due to a defective iPod Classic, I've recently wasted two perfectly good IEMs that also happened to be my absolute favorite, each in its own merits: the Sennheiser IE8, and the Westone UM2.
I loved both of those IEMs for one simple reason: they were FUN.
Not the most detailed, not the most resolving, certainly not neutral. But they had lots of detail, lots of power, slam, bass and PRAT without being shrill or aggressive.
The UM2 was very forward and impactful, bassy but not overly so, with good detail and very controlled treble (never really felt rolled-off to me, like, say, your typical Shure headphone), and raw-sounding vocals that took the scene and went to the edge of sibilance without ever crossing it.
The IE8 was splendidly bassy, lush, with a soundstage that seemed impossible for an IEM, a warm sound with a little less detail than the Westone's, but always very engaging.
Recently I've bought the Earsonics SM64. While it's a great headphone, I feel it lacks that fun factor, unless I bring it to high volume. And its bass is definitely not in the same league as the two previous IEMs. Also, I like to use IEMs straight out of a DAP (in my case, an iPod Touch 6G). The SM64 require just too much power, and at lower volumes they lose a lot of their qualities.
I'd love to get another IE8, or maybe the IE8i model or the similar IE80, but two things keep me from doing so:
1) fit. As much as I liked the IE8's sound, the fit gave me a lot of trouble.
2) there's a lot of counterfeits around. I tried buying a new IE8 from Amazon, but I could tell it was fake as soon as I took it out of the box. There are some certified Sennheiser sellers in Europe, but when buying from them, the price of an IE80 is too close to the SM64's for comfort. The SM64 are supposed to be in another league entirely.
Also, I'm open to trying some new stuff, as long as I can return it if I'm not satisfied.
I've made up my mind to get a pair of Audeze Sine sooner or later as a portable over-the-ear option, but I'll always want an IEM for maximum portability and low profile. So, I'm looking for IEMs suggestions. My prerequisites are:
- it must be fun! Engaging sound overall, but with the ability to sound mellow and relaxed if the recording requires it. For reference: the IE8 could do this. The UM2 could quite do this. Something like the Sennheiser HD25-II or Amperior, just can't: those cans sound overly energetic with just about anything, and at all volumes.
- it mustn't be treble-heavy. I'm very sensitive to sibilance, snare drums and cymbal splash. I couldn't stand the sibilance on the Senn HD 25-II.
- bass must be less than neutral. Not as muddy and splashy as in Beats or V-Moda, but definitely present and lively. Not looking for "basshead" stuff, but bass "neutrality" isn't for me. Some of the best bass I've ever heard was on the HiFiMan HE-400.
- mids should not be too recessed. Not as honky as on your typical Audio-Technica, but not as recessed as on the aforementioned HE-400.
- overall sound signature would be on the warm side of the spectrum, but not "relaxed" or "laid-back". Stuff like the HD650 bored me to tears. Sennheiser Momentum was better, but with no treble presence at all.
- it must reach (almost) full potential out of a DAP, without the need for an amp. On my iPod I want it to sound good even at low volumes. As I said, something like the SM64 just can't do this: it requires too much juice.
Also, I think many of you know that the iPod's EQ is terrible, so I'd rather not EQ my music. I'm not currently looking forward to changing my DAP, so please don't suggest this.
- it must be around 500 US$ tops (but see below for a possible exception)
- it must be universal. No customs.
- behind-the-ear fit is preferred, so IEMs with an earpiece that sits in the ear's concha are better.
- availability in Europe would be preferred. Customs fees are pretty heavy from the US (I'm in Italy), and returning items could pose some problems.
After a bit of research, I've come to consider the following options:
1) another Sennheiser IE8, IE8i or IE80 (the IE800 is too expensive, and fit sounds like a nightmare);
2) Shure SE846 (the only exception to my pricing rule, if it's really as good as people say);
3) Phonak Audeo PFE 232
4) RHA T20
5) Westone W30
6) Audio-Technica ATH-IM04 (I've tried the IM70 and found it completely unremarkable. I very much like AT's ATH-AD2000 though, it's just a little honky and bass-shy)
I'm not focused on any particular genre of music. I'm fully aware that no headphone can possibly be excellent with all kinds of music. This is why I don't feel this is a very important element to consider in this choice.
If you can, please leave your contribution.
Thank you!

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