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Need recommendations for most neutral/accurate yet musical and enjoyable IEM in sub $1,000 range (going over is okay if it's really worth it)

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  1. Lunatique
    My Westone 4 went through the washer and dryer with the laundry, and now the right channel is significantly more quiet. I've tried putting it in a bin of rice to suck the moisture out, as well as let it sit under the sun, but it appears it's done for. I've contacted Westone weeks ago but didn't get a reply. I just tried again today and hopefully they'll get back to me to let me know how much it'll cost to repair it. If it's too much, I'll just get a new pair of IEM, which leads me to the purpose of this thread.
     
    I was never totally happy with the Westone 4. In fact, I've never been totally satisfied with any of the IEMs I've owned/tested in the past. I'll describe a few of them (and a few full-sized headphones as point of reference) so you guys can help me finally find "the one" I'd be really happy with. I'll also include the custom EQ settings I have for them you can see what my ideal corrections for them are.
     
    Westone 4 
    Pros: Really comfortable fit, and I can sleep on the side with them on (very important). Sonic signature not offensive (no shrill sibilance), which is extremely important to me. Love the soft/thin braided cable. Much better than the really thick ones that are unruly and hard to wind and put into your pocket, or go around your ear.
    Cons: Bass is a bit bloated and not as neutral as could be (upper bass too prominent, yet sub-bass not substantial enough). Upper-mids a bit recessed. Highest treble rolled off (not airy enough). 
    2015-10-19_Westone4.jpg
     
    Westone 3 - Like Westone 4 with even more bloated bass and a bit more shrill. Definitely not what I like. 
     
    Shure SE535
    Pros: Nice bass with great extension, without any hint of bloat or exaggeration. Very accurate mids.
    Cons: Slightly brighter than neutral in the 7KHz region, and I'm very sensitive to sibilance. Needs a bit more in highest treble (not airy enough).
    shure_se535.jpg
     
    Audez'e LCD-2
    Pros: Great bass extension with substance, without any exaggeration. Treble not too bright. No sibilance. Overall a creamy smooth sonic signature.
    Cons: The upper-mids is a bit recessed, so a bit too polite and some instruments lack bite (guitar, brass). Not very comfortable (heavy and loose on the head).
    2015-10-19_LCD2.jpg
    (BTW, although the LCD-2 measures almost ruler-flat in the bass region, headphones do need a little few extra dBs in the bass region to match the visceral impact of speakers, which is why I gave the LCD-2 about 4 dB of boost in the lower bass region.)
     
    Stax 007 MK2 Omega II
    Pros: Very fast and articulate. Fairly neutral but with slight exaggerations that are fun to listen to. Never too bright/shrill. Extremely comfortable.
    Cons: Deepest sub-bass rolled off a bit. Same upper-mids recess as the LCD-2, missing a bit of bite. Treble a bit etched.
    007mk2.jpg
     
    Sennheiser HD650 
    Pros: One of the most neutral headphones (I prefer it to the HD600, since the HD600 can be slightly bright on some recordings, and the HD650's slight mid-bass hump is a bit more fun). Never offensive, never too bright/shrill. Quite comfortable.
    Cons: Sub-bass isn't as substantial/authoritative as should be. The highest treble is rolled off (not airy enough).
    2015-10-19_HD650.jpg
     
    Audio-Technica M50
    Pros: Not offensive or too bright. Has enough bass and it's not a bloated mess (though definitely prominent and not neutral enough).
    Cons: Bass a bit too prominent and not well-controlled enough. Treble sounds hard/etched/metallic due to uneven transition from upper-mids to treble. 
    2015-10-19_M50.jpg
     
     
    What I'm looking for:
     
    I'm a pragmatic guy who has no patience for some of the silly audiofool snake oil crap, and I can only stomach diminishing returns up to a certain point. Once something's price outstrips its actual performance/value, I start to roll my eyes a bit at the wasteful excess. With that said, I am also an audio professional and passionate music lover, and when I find a great bargain for something above my budget, I would totally jump on it, such as my Klein + Hummel O 300D studio monitors--I only paid $3,000 total on ebay, which is still significantly less than half of what would cost retail. They are awesome reference grade monitors and I love them, but I do use room correction to make them even more accurate (IK Multimedia ARC System 2), as well as have a proper studio I built that has full-blown acoustic treatment.
     
    These days, I don't use IEMs nearly as much as some people, since I work at home and rarely travel. The only times I use IEMs is when at night I can't sleep and want to listen to something in bed but don't want to wake my wife, or if I'm waiting at the doctor's office or doing some grocery shopping. But since I'm pretty picky about audio, the times when I do want to use IEMs, I don't want to feel like I'm making a big compromise--I want audio bliss no matter what I'm using (full-size, IEM, speakers). But at the same time, I don't want to go crazy on some multi-thousand dollar CIEM, because it's hard to justify that kind of money if I'm only using the IEMs several times a year. 
     
    I do prefer universal over IEM, since I do sleep on my side with IEMs sometimes (listening to delta wave/binaural beat when I can't fall asleep) , and CIEMs are less comfortable when they are being pressed hard into your ears (since the custom tips aren't nearly as flexible as the ones for universal IEMs). Also, it's easier to sell universals than CIEMs.
     
    My budget is sub $1,000, and of course I prefer to spend as little as possible, but I do want excellent audio quality, so the best bang for the buck is what I'm looking for. 
     
    In terms of sonic signature, this is my preference (you should already have a good idea from my descriptions and EQ curves above, but I'll summarize:
     
    -First, do no harm. This is the most important thing for me in audio reproduction. Excessive brightness with shrill sibilance is the worst thing in audio to me, because it physically hurts the ear drums when listening. I'm very sensitive to sibilance so that's my pet peeve. 
     
    -General sonic signature should be as neutral/accurate as possible, and I do not mean clinical/cold/bright, because that is NOT what neutral/accurate is. REAL neutrality/accuracy is when nothing sounds excessive or anemic--everything sounds just right. No bloated or rolled off bass, no fake detail by artificially jacking up the upper-mids and treble so everythings sounds too bright or hard-edged. But beyond being neutral/accurate, I also want musicality and enjoyment too, but not if the sound is too colored. IMO, perfect neutrality/accuracy is in fact, very musical and enjoyable (such as my K+H O 300Ds), because everything sounds perfect--just right. No more, no less.
     
    Bass should sound solid, powerful, extended, tight, controlled, not bloated, muddy, and not rolled off/anemic.
     
    Mids should be clear and full, without congestion or sound recessed/muffled.
     
    Upper-mids should be clear and full but without any hint of excessive brightness and sibilance, but also not too recessed and lacking bite.
     
    Treble should be detailed and airy but not etched and hard, and not rolled off/muffled.
     
    -Must be very comfortable and ideally can be worn while sleeping on the sides (like the Westones). But if this is not possible, I'm willing to go for something that can't be worn while sleeping if the sound quality is amazing, including CIEMs (I could just use my "broken" Westone 4 when I need to listen to delta wave/binaural beat to fall asleep, since audio material like that doesn't require amazing sound quality). 
     
    Some possible candidates:
     
    I've done a bit of research of what's out there (I've been out of the loop for few years), and these are some that seem promising, but I have not heard any of them,and I likely won't get a chance either, since I don't live in a big city (I'm in Lincoln, CA). 
     
    Universals:
    Westone UM Pro 50, W40, W50, W60 - It seems Westone keeps on improving, but I'm under the impression that the "house sound" is still there, with distinctly emphasized bass, so I'm not sure if I want another Westone.
     
    Earsonics SM 64, Velvet Pot - I've always read good things about Earsonics, but never heard one before. 
     
    Logitech UE900S - The measurements looks like it's the kind of inoffensive sound but fairly balance sound I prefer, although the upper-mids seem a bit too polite.
     
    Noble Kaiser 10U - Yes, this is above my budget, but from what I've read, this might actually be worth it. 
     
    I'm not interested in the Shure SE846, because I've read that Tyll (Innerfidelity) thinks they sound a bit hard and he prefers the SE535. The SE535 is already slightly bright in the upper-mids for me, so I can only assume the SE846 is even brighter. BTW, I trust Tyll's opinion a lot--he's been the one reliable authoritative voice in headphones I've trusted over the years. I don't always agree with him 100%, such as I prefer the HD650 while he prefers the HD600, but generally we agree. And yes, I know about his Wall of Fame, but he seems to pay more attention to CIEMs than universals, and he seems to habitually ignore all Westone and Earsonics universals.
     
    CIEMs:
    JH Audio JH13Pro FreqPhase - I've read so many praises for this IEM. I'm not sure if I want to deal with owning a custom (for the reasons I previous mentioned), but like I said, if it's worth it, then I'm willing to compromise.
     
    1964 Ears V3 - For modest price, these seem to be quite good and matches my ideal sound, and Tyll really likes these.
     
    There are probably some I'm not aware of or overlooked, so feel free to suggest them too. 
     
    Breezy likes this.
  2. Lunatique
    Okay, I heard back from Westone, and I was told that it sounds like my W4s need to be replaced, and they'd give me a 25% discount for the current equivalent model, which is the W40, which comes out to $375. It's as I suspected--I pretty much have to buy another IEM, and I can get a "like new" used W40 for only about $325. 
     
    Currently, I'm swaying in the direction of the Noble Kaiser 10U. It's hard to get recommendations from people who have compared many high-end IEMs, so I have to just read lots of reviews and try to assess the relative differences based on reviewer's general preference and common models used in comparisons. The K10U is not cheap so it's a big purchase, and if I get a pair, I really should use them more often than I currently use IEMs to justify the amount spent. 
     
    I'm not asking for people to talk me off the ledge or anything--I just want some suggestions and opinions to help me decide. Maybe there are much better "bang for the buck" IEMs on my candidates list (or ones I don't know about), but I won't know because I don't have access to them for direct comparisons. 
     
    Anyway, I hope to hear from the community, and if I don't, I'll eventually pull the trigger on the K10U. 
     
  3. Lunatique
    It's looking like JH Audio's Angie and Roxanne might be strong candidates as well. Layla's price veers into the void of diminishing returns for me, since I just don't listen to IEMs often enough to justify the cost. For that amount of money, I could buy a pair of very high quality reference studio monitors (such as the Event Opals), and still have $1,000 left, and I'd get to listen to it all day everyday in my home/studio. If my lifestyle included listening to IEMs for hours a day, then the price of Layla would be worth it.
     
    So currently it's these three that I'm most interested in:
     
    Noble Kaiser 10U
    JH Audio Angie
    JH Audio Roxanne
     
    But again, there are probably other choices I'm not aware of. This is where your recommendations come in.
     
  4. Lunatique
    Although I didn't get any recommendations, I'm updating this thread with the latest developments in my search, just in case it might help others with their search. 
     
    I have two of the IEMs I want to try currently (Noble Kaiser K10U and Hifiman RE600S), and I've got the UE900S and the Angie on the way. If none of those work out, I'll likely try 1964 Ears U5 and U10 next. 
     
    Here are my thoughts on the two I have in my possession right now.
     
    K10U - After extensive listening, comparing, and testing, I have to say, I'm disappointed. I had done a lot of research by reading anything I could search for online and in the forums, and once again, there's just no substitute for listening for yourself, since everyone's got different ears, different level of knowledge and experience, and different tastes. Even when it seems like so many people agree on the sonic signature, it is still possible that they are not hearing what you're hearing. 
     
    Everything I've read says that the K10Us are fairly neutral and accurate, with a bit of warmth, very detailed and textured bass, and it's very cohesive and smooth, without any hint of sibilance or shrillness. Well, that's not exactly what I hear. The main issues for me are:
     
    -There's a very bright/shrill peak at around 7KHz, and no matter what tips I try, it's always there, and it's very fatiguing. I would have to EQ it waaaay down in order to get it actually sound neutral. I don't know if it's because I keep my ears very clean (no wax at all), or if most people just aren't sensitive to that 7KHz peak due to their ear shapes, but this is a huge pet peeve of mine when it comes to headphones. 
     
    If you want to hear this for youself, here's a track you can use: "Here's Where the Story Ends" by The Sundays. At around 1:10 the chorus starts, and you can hear the sibilance clearly.

     
    And this song by Ramu/Kikuchi Momoko is recorded very bright in the presence region, and this is one of the brightest tracks I use to test for how a speaker/headphone handles sibilance/brightness:

     
    On speakers/headphones that are neutral/accurate in the presence region, those two tracks will not have the really piercing sibilance. They'd still sound bright but not offensive or painful. 
    And yes, I made sure I got a good seal by rubbing my fingers and snapping them next to my ears, and I also go through the entire audible range of sine wave test tones from 20Hz all the way to 20KHz, as well as test with pink noise, log sweep, and musical materials I've been using for years to test for various possible problems in speakers and headphones. 
     
    -The sub-bass is boosted, and while it's not egregiously muddy and bloated like some headphones can be, it's skewed enough that on certain materials it's very distracting, such as on jazz trios with double-bass. The double-bass would overwhelm and sound wooly instead of a clear articulation of pluck, note, and then decay. 
     
    Here's a track with a jazz trio/vocal (Peter Nordahl Trio & Lisa Ekdahl) you can listen to for balance of bass with the rest of the frequencies:

     
    Here's another track from Lisa Ekdahl (bossa nova) where the bass guitar needs to be well balanced during the opening segment:

     
    On speakers/headphones that have too much bass, you'll hear the bassline in those songs become overwhelming and throw off the balance of the arrangement. 
     
    If you want to hear the EQ curve I've applied to make the K10U sound a bit more neutral (or at least not as fatiguing), here's the setting:
     
    7KHz, -5~6 dB, bandwidth = 0.35

    70Hz, low-shelf, -3~4 dB, Q = 1.00 (I only applies this if the bass becomes a bit overwhelming. On some songs a stronger bass is not detrimental to the balance of the arrangement, but one some songs it can throw the balance out of wack, being too bottom-heavy.
     
    For a ToTL IEM costing $1,600, I'm disappointed at that 7KHz shrill peak. I do wonder if no one else hears it except for me though, since it could be due to the shape of my ear, but as far as I know, that resonance peak is similar for most people who's tried IEMs, since that's just how a human's ear canals are shaped. The bass is really more of a taste thing, since there are a lot of people out there who likes boosted bass, and companies try to cater to their preference. Also, I already read that it does have more bass then neutral, and it's not as if I didn't know. If that was the only issue, I would have been okay with it, but the sibilance is really painful and for that amount of money, I'd want the IEM to at the very least do no harm, so if I ever use it on a source that doesn't have an EQ in the signal chain, I'd still be okay. I would rather the headphone be a bit tame than shrill, since at least there'd be no pain. 
     
    Anyway, that's just my experience, and maybe it's just me and no one else have this problem, but I figured I'd share my thoughts so it's out there and maybe will help someone. 
     
    Hifiman RE600S - I love that it's so tiny and it's so easy to achieve a good seal, and almost all the tips provided work quite well (some better than others). There are almost no useless tips that just doesn't work at all for my ears, unlike all the other IEMs I've had in the past. 
     
    The sound is quite flat, and really inoffensive, so at the very least, it does no harm, which is my number one rule in audio. But unfortunately, the RE600S isn't actually flat--it simply feels that way. In reality, it is missing some high treble energy, lacking presence in upper-mids, and the entire bass region is not substantial enough. It's basically what some would consider a "boring" sound that has no sparkle, no impact, and no creaminess either. If it was technically flat/neutral as some say it is, then it wouldn't be weak in those frequency regions. If you want to hear it for yourself, simply play sine wave test tones from 20Hz all the way to 10 KHz, and you'll hear how from 60Hz to mid-bass it is relatively weak, and how around 4KHz it is recessed to the point of sounding a bit muffled, and around 10KHz it doesn't have enough air. 
     
    For it's currently price of roughly $199, it's not as bad in terms of value compared to before the price drop. At double the current price, it's initial pricing is definitely way to high for this day and age when there's so much competition and better sounding products that are cheaper (of course, better being subjective). 
     
    So basically, if I'm listening to just podcasts, I'd be okay with the RE600S, but if I'm listening to music, I would need to EQ it to make it sound more dynamic and exciting. Here's my EQ setting for the RE600S, for those of you who want to try it:
     
    HifimanRE600S.jpg
     
    125 Hz, +5 dB, low-shelf, Q = 1.73
    570 Hz, +4 dB, bandwidth = 1.44
    3357.6 Hz, +10.4 dB, bandwidth = 1.64
    5500 Hz,  -9 dB bandwidth = 0.25
    8000 Hz, -8 dB, bandwidth = 0.25
     
    With that EQ curve applied, the RE600S sounds much more neutral/accurate, as well as more dynamic and exciting compared to its usually too-polite self. 
     
    So far, neither of these two are satisfactory. I wouldn't keep either of them. I prefer to have an IEM that I don't have to EQ in order to feel happy with.
     
  5. yage
    I would also add the Etymotic ER-4P to your list.
     
    One thing - I don't quite understand your test tracks. You want 'neutrality' and 'accuracy' yet it seems that you don't want the bright test tracks to sound bright. With respect to the bass line in "Love for Sale", I don't hear a pluck-note-decay, so I'm not sure how you can achieve a particular quality of sound if it's not present in the recording.
     
     
    Hope this helps!
     
  6. Lunatique
    Thanks for the suggestion. The ER-4P is very famous and I've long known about it, but I'm worried that its bass will lack authority, and based on my experience, its peak at 8.5 KHz is a little worrying. It it was centered at 10KHz I'd be less worried, since at that frequency.
     
    It's not that I don't want those songs to sound bright. It's that even though those two songs are recorded quite bright in the upper-mids and treble, they aren't supposed to sound painful on neutral/accurate speakers/headphones. They will sound bright, but not so piercing that your ears physically hurt. So when they do sound that egregiously shrill and painful, you know you're listening to a pair of speakers/headphones that have spikes that are too much in the upper-mids and treble region.
     
    With Love For Sale, what I meant wasn't exactly the snap of the pluck of the double-bass (it's not played that way on that song), but more just the initial thump of the bass note right after the string is plucked and starts vibrating in a full-bodied, distinct pitch. With headphones/speakers that have too much bass, that initial thump feels like it's stretched out longer with a wooly, bloomy blur, and doesn't decay as quickly as it should, simply because the volume of those low frequency notes are higher than they should be. The separation between each bass note feels shortened and the notes blur together a bit more. With more neutral/accurate bass, those notes are more separated and distinct, and the volume doesn't overwhelm the rest of the frequencies.
     
  7. yage
     
    That's surprising to read. I like to look at FR graphs as much as the next head-fi'er, but I think the only way to find out whether or not the peak irritates your sensibilities or the bass kicks hard enough is to try it out.
     
    Shoewreck likes this.
  8. Lunatique
    From past reviews I've read, they seem to confirm my two potential worries. I suppose if some members can chime in about their experience with the ER-4P compared to some of the headphones I'm familiar with (the ones I already mentioned previously), then it would give me a good idea of what it'll sound like. 
     
  9. briskly
    If you found RE600 that bass light, ER-4P would be even worse. I do recall you stating some similar concerns about the ER-4 from a brief impression, specifically with the anemic bass response. To quote your site:
    How much can taste change in five years?
     
    Now if you're referring to the Tyll's measurement of the ER-4PT and the peak it shows between 8-9 kHz, that peak doesn't have to exist at that frequency range. With a sufficiently deep insertion, that range can be recessed since the peak is from the standing waves in air cavity of the ear. I put the peak with ER-4 in my ear closer to 12 kHz with triflanges, and it goes in quite deep.
     
    You'll soon find out for yourself what the Angie is going to sound like, but a measurement of the Angie. Maybe you've seen it already in the Angie thread. Between the shell and large nozzle, I couldn't get it in deeper than a shallow fit, so that frequency response was not going to happen for me.
    http://ko.goldenears.net/board/index.php?mid=GR_Earphones&page=2&document_srl=5760942
     
  10. Lunatique
    Yeah, I find that tri-flange usually gets rid of the peak resonance in the ear canal. In the case of the K10U, it actually make some upper-mid frequencies too dull, so I couldn't really use it. 
     
    The chart for Angie you linked--I'm not sure what "perceived frequency response" means compared to the measured response. Does that mean the subjective impression of the reviewer? 
     
  11. djohnson013
    I am kind of in the same boat. I bought the W4's about 5 or 6 years ago and they went through the wash as well. However mine survived and didn't go through the dryer. I put them in rice immediately for a week and they have worked perfect since.
     
    I don't think you mentioned what source you are using and what format music you are feeding through it. I feel that makes a difference as well.
     
    I just purchased a Questyle QP1R and have about 4000 cd's ripped to FLAC. Included with that I have about 100 HD albums that I have recently purchased from either Pono Music or HDTracks.
    I absolutely love the fit and comfort of the W4's and am looking to probably replace them with the W60's. I have a cheaper pair of Shure's that I bought just to try them. I can't stand the fit, especially with the thick wire going over my ears and trying to insert them.
    So I won't be going that route unless they have changed their cables and fit. YMMV! I uses IEM's for work and gym and use Grado's RS!e and PS500 around the house.
     
    Price is not really an object for me, but I do want something to match my listening experience as with my home stereo. High end McIntosh, Bower & Wilkins speakers, VPI turntable and lots of SACD's, CD's and records.
    Graphs don't really do much for me other than something to looks at. For me it boils down as to what sounds good to me and only me. I don't care what every other critic thinks.
     
    I'm with you though, as in not wanting to throw my money away on diminishing returns.
    Hopefully other members here will chime in and help narrow it down for you. I as well, will be curious to what you end up buying. Like I said I will probably just bit the bullet and buy the W60's since I already have a stake in their products. I have been more than pleased with the W4's but my source and format are exceeding the capability of the earphones.
     
    Spending more than $1000 on IEM's and I am going to have to listen to them in person for quite some time, and others as well before I make that final decision.
     
    David
     
  12. briskly
    By "perceived frequency response", the data is plotted based on adjustments made to the raw data that Goldenears feels is best, like Tyll does with innerfidelity and his compensation there. The raw data is plotted below and that data is somewhat comparable to Tyll's raw, at least as much as smoothing allows. Dashed line is their earphones target as shown here with Angie.
    99f083f6d7402093b8cba14d9849c49e.png
     
  13. yaluen
    (Hi Lunatique, this thread may be a little quiet due to the tl;dr factor)
     
    Put another way, goldenears' "perceived frequency response" is simply the difference between their custom "golden ears target" curve and the "measured frequency response" curve. Referred to elsewhere as the compensated FR curve.
     
    A word of caution in reading measurements. One must keep in mind that there are IEC standards for testing and use of measurement equipment that the tester is advised to adhere to to ensure repeatability. In the case of IEMs, a particularly relevant condition is the specific distance at which the tip of an earphone's nozzle should be situated away from the microphone. In practical terms, this specific distance is equivalent to very deep insertion. You can see the problems this might cause as Etys are perhaps the only IEMs that I know of that can be worn this deep. The vast majority of IEMs nowadays are designed for shallow fit since that is the most comfortable and feasible considering the need for larger housings for dynamic drivers or multiple BA drivers. So adhering to these standards would result in measurements that may differ from actual perceived frequency response of the IEMs worn as you normally would, especially in regards to correctly showing the peak owing to sealed ear canal resonance. Therefore, most testers place the earphones under test at distances away from the microphone that approximates actual user insertion depths. Since this depends on the tester's discretion, plus limitations of test equipment, you'll sometimes see large discrepancies between measurements of the same IEM.
     
    Take for example the AKG K3003, an IEM I own and enjoy very much. It's worn with very shallow fit. Running a sweep using SineGen, I can clearly hear a sharp peak at ~7kHz that should be the result of ear canal resonance. Measurements by goldenears (http://en.goldenears.net/12318) roughly correspond to what I hear whereas those by InnerFidelity (http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/AKGK3003ReferenceFilter.pdf) completely misrepresent this region. In emails, Tyll readily admits to the difficulty in producing accurate measurements beyond a certain point. I can see why as he uses a dummy head with artificial pinna attachment that may differ greatly from your own anatomy, and which consequently may not allow the same fit and insertion of IEMs.
     
    Quote, "The problem is people wear their IEMs in the most comfortable position, not at the one that sounds best. (You and a few other fanatics would be the exception.) So I tend to think a measurement of where the headphone is most comfortably worn is really most relevant. Unfortunately, that's going to vary a lot from person to person, and my approach can only be what is the most ergonomic fit on my dummy head."
     
    Tyll's apparatus that he uses for all measurements looks like this:
     
    110401_measure_photo_head.jpg
     
    You can see how inflexible this is. For IEM measurements, something like this is more suitable:
     
    earbud.jpg
     
    Varying tube length as appropriate.
     
    So measurements are hit or miss if the tester is not diligent in matching test conditions with real world fit and insertion. An example of a measurement by Tyll that accurately corresponds to what I hear would be the MDR-EX1000 (http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/SonyMDREX1000.pdf). And yet another example of a miss would be measurements of the Dunu Titan 1 (http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/DunuTitan1.pdf), which fail to depict the canal resonance that is present according to some HFers. What it comes down to is that an insertion depth figure should accompany IEM measurements or else they wouldn't be meaningful in terms of high frequency response characteristics. Absent that, you would have to rely on your own or other users' ears to determine if resonance peaks will be an issue.
     
    As you've probably surmised, the 7kHz peak you hear with the K10U is most likely due to ear canal resonance. In theory, multi-BA IEMs can take advantage of crossover design to mitigate canal resonance. However, since canal resonance frequency varies from person to person in the range of 7~8kHz depending on length of the ear canal for shallow fit (single-flange) IEMs, the effectiveness of such designs may not be universal across all users. I'd guess the 7kHz peak you hear with the K10U may be such an instance of incompatibility. You can perhaps do a sweep and see if you hear a dip or even a notch after the 7kHz peak, then a rise to 9kHz. Another possibility would be that canal resonance was simply not accounted for in its voicing.
     
    Getting back to suggestions for IEMs you can possibly look into, the Sennheiser IE 800 is the only IEM that I know of that incorporates design elements that specifically address 7~8kHz resonances. I've not heard them myself, so I can't say if it's successful in doing so. Further, I've read that it's rather bass heavy so I've just stayed away. Still, I'd check them out if I had the opportunity.
     
    I would also suggest you look into hybrid IEMs. In my experience, dynamic drivers excel in weight/impact and natural organic bass timbre/texture and sound envelope, whereas BA drivers excel in smooth articulate mid and high response. A curious observation I've made is that even though a BA and a dynamic IEM may measure very similarly in bass response (eg SE535 and MDR-EX1000), subjectively the BA will seem to roll off in the sub bass whereas the dynamic will dig deeper with greater rumble in accordance with the measurements. Some attribute this to the greater amount of air dynamic drivers are able to move, but I have no explanation. A hybrid IEM would in theory combine the best of both. I would have recommended the AKG K3003 but my ears are rather tolerant of treble peaks unlike yours (tried your sibilance test tracks and they sounded fine to my ears) so they're probably out. In the high end, you can look into:
     
    Aurisonics ASG-1PLUS, ASG-2.5 (infamous ASG-2 measurements http://rinchoi.blogspot.ca/2013/07/aurisonics-asg-2.html)
    Oriolus Oriolus (iBasso)
    Sony XBA-A3, XBA-Z5 (same protruding ear hook style as the MDR-EX1000 unfortunately)
    Tralucent Audio 1plus2 (beware build quality issues)
    Unique Melody Macbeth, Mavis, Maverick (exclusive to Japan but easy enough to import)
     
    Hope it's all right with him if I mention @Marshal Banana, but you can perhaps PM him about the above models. Not all of these will match your sound signature preference, I've simply listed the models I'm aware of, no doubt I've missed some. More budget brands exist as well, such as Dunu and T-Peos among others.
     
    Oh, and @ljokerl's thread (http://www.head-fi.org/t/478568/multi-iem-review-347-iems-compared-hifiman-re300h-added-10-25-15-p-1089 | http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone-list/) just reminded me of the FLC8, which looks like an interesting piece of kit.
     
    Edit: Didn't realize you have the Angie incoming. Looking forward to your thoughts on that one.
     
  14. Lunatique
    I'm just going straight out of my galaxy Note 3. I'm not really a fan/believer of standalone DAC and amps, since the differences they make are relatively so subtle compared to the headphones themselves and what you can do with DSP (such as EQ'ing, HRTF, crossfeed, etc.), that spending money on them feels like unacceptable diminishing returns to me. I also don't care about lossless files or high bitrates or sampling rates, because science has proven over and over that most people (including pro audio and audiophile folks) cannot reliably hear the difference between well-encoded compressed files and uncompressed high resolution files. IMO, if you have to concentrate so hard and strain and do A/B tests in order to hear the differences reliably, then you're just fooling yourself into thinking those differences actually matter to your enjoyment of the music at the most basic level. There are much better ways to spend that money, such as on things that actually have meaning to your life in ways beyond the ridiculousness of our wasteful culture's insatiable hunger for excess. 
     
     
    I see. Thanks for explaining. I'm so used to Tyll's measurement standards since I've been looking at his measurements since for almost as long as he started making them way back when he was still CEO at headphone.com. It's a bit odd trying to figure out other people's measurement standards.
    Yes, IEMs can be very frustrating, because of fitting problems. That's why companies provide so many different tips, hoping that one of them will fit the person (and even that's not a guarantee). 
     
    I suspect that some companies might even take into consideration the average amount of wax the typical person might have in their ears, and then tune their headphones according to that. :D My ears are kept exceptionally clean at all times, which might be way I have such a hard time with that 7KHz peak resonance, since my ear canals always have plenty of space for that resonance. 
     
    I looked at the hybrids, and I think most of them have issues with isolation, and that's not ideal, since when I'm out, I do want to completely block out all outside noises that would interfere with my music. 
     
    The IE800 looks pretty good. That peak at 5KHz would likely be a bit annoying and I'd have to EQ it. I might consider it if none of the ones on my list work out. 
     
    If those sibilance test tracks sounded fine on your headphones, then that's actually a good thing. A perfectly neutral/accurate headphone will show that there's a very slight hint of sibilance, but not so much that it actually hurts your years. The sibilance would be more like the kind of very thin whistling sound you hear when you slide your palms together very quickly. On headphones that have peaks in the presence region, the sibilance in those test tracks would be more like a piercing sharp needle that actually hurts your eardrums. 
     
    I've read a lot of IjokerI's reviews, so I'm familiar with his recommendations. But I'm a bit wary because he champions the K10 big time, and I partly got it because of his high praise for it. 
     
    I'm not familiar with Marshal Banana. Is he writing for an audio site, or just a head-fi member? What is it about his experience/expertise that I should feel compelled to contact him?
     
    I'll definitely be updating this thread with my thoughts on Angie. 
     
  15. Lunatique
    I spent most of this afternoon doing refinements on the EQ curves for the IEMs I'm assessing. Here are screenshots of the most current (and finalized) EQ curves for them:
     
    Noble Kaiser K10U
    NobleKaiserK10U.jpg
     
    Hifiman RE600S
    HifimanRE600S.jpg
     
    UE 900S
    UE900S.jpg
     
    Here are my thoughts on the UE 900S:
     
    Although the immediate impression is that it's fairly flat, it doesn't take long to notice that the bass region is lacking authority and impact, to the point of making the music sound a bit lifeless and boring (similar problem as the RE600S).
     
    The upper-mids are missing some body, resulting in a thin and sterile sound. This is particularly detrimental to vocals and instruments with similar timbre to human voice (violins, guitar solos, etc.). 
     
    There's a peak at 5KHz and 7KHz and both have to be addressed, otherwise on bright materials it gets uncomfortably during sibilant parts. 
     
    There's not enough air up top, so I really had to raise the treble up high to bring the air back. 
     
    So far, none of them are ideal, but if I had to live with one of them, it'd be the RE600s, simply because it's the least offensive when not EQ'd, so when I'm listening to sources that don't have EQ available, at least I won't be in pain with the bright sibilance. Yeah, it'll be really boring sounding, but that's better than pain IMO. With EQ, the RE600S sounds quite good and the drivers can handle the EQ curve without distorting. 
     
    But of course, the ideal is to have headphones that you could love even without EQ. I wish there was an exact IEM equivalent of the HD650 or the LCD series, or even just the M50.
     
    Also, now looking back in hindsight, although the Westone 4 wasn't perfect, it at least was an IEM I could listen to and enjoy without EQ. It would be ironic if after trying all these IEMs, I end up going back to Westone (I wonder if the W60 or UM 50 Pro would do the trick). 
     
    But first I have to assess Angie once it arrives. Then maybe the 1964 Ears U5 and U10 next. After those, maybe the IE800 and the latest Westones.
     
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