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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. ForceMajeure
    you are right I forgot that you actually included overears in the opening thread.
    Regarding your view on neutral sound signature I agree with you.
    There is one variable which should be taken into consideration that affect vastly upper mids and treble and is overlooked regarding IEMs. It is the ear canal shape.
    You wouldn't believe how much upper frequencies are affected by it. Some people have longer or/and larger ear canals more than others there's also various shapes and curves and they add a lot of energy to the upper range not talking about different sensitivity levels that one is born with... Now you have a tricky situation that is not easy to deal with and standardized measure.
    Of course for the average person you could get a "neutral sound" with slightly bothering parts of the sound signature for different individuals. But as soon as you are not close to being the average guy, the bothering parts will become unpleasant parts.
    You are right by saying that some manufactures should't call some of their products neutral/monitoring devices...but that is also an argument that help sales and with no standard to this day about neutrality, everyone can do pretty much what he wants. 
    Despite all that you should take a look at the FLC8s thread. This is an IEM that have 36 tuning possibilities and is until now more than well received being one of the best value for money today competing with IEMs well above it's price point.
    If I am not mistaken they have been measured by Tyll with 6 random configurations, also Joker reviewed them in the past.
    Or maybe consider CIEMs...
  2. Lunatique
    The FLC 8 looks very intriguing. I just might give it a try. 
    I'm not into the idea of CIEMs due to the inherent problem with returns and reselling. Also, I think that if a variety of different tips of different lengths and thickness and firmness cannot make the IEM sound neutral, then custom molding is not going to do any better.
    EDIT: I just looked at the measurements of the FLC 8 with its variety of filter combos at InnerFidelity, and they don't look good at all. 
  3. ForceMajeure
    The FLC8 have 36 combination available only a few were measured . also I think the aurisonic rockets might be ok for you
  4. james444 Contributor
    Let me show you something:
    This is from the 2012 study that produced the Harman Target Response Curve. The AES presentation is still downloadable from Mr. Olive's blog.
    These are measurements with probe mics positioned at the ear canal entrance (the canal itself being blocked), which show the variation across subjects at the point where the sound enters their ears. Note that if they had performed open canal measurements with probe mics at ear drum level, they would have gotten even more variation due to differences in ear canal shapes.
    From a statistical point of view, this headphone has excellent consistency across subjects, because the graphs are very similar for most part of the frequency range. However, I don't think I need to explain to a professional audio engineer what up to 12 dB variation in the upper midrange sounds like. There's not the slightest chance that these individuals heard the exact same thing.
    Like I said in an earlier post, "absolute" or "true" neutral simply doesn't exist. There's just a lot of individual HRTF-curves that share a fair amount of similarities, that's all.
    money4me247 likes this.
  5. Lunatique
    I can appreciate that individual HRTF can alter what each of us hear, and a carefully tuned product that measures flat might not be flat sounding to some people due to that fact. However, there is still individual objectivity based on what you actually hear in relation to a measurement that is neutral. 
    For example, when I listen to my Klein + Hummel O 300D with the Neumann KH 805 in my studio, corrected to perfect neutrality with IK Multimedia ARC System 2, I can play back logarithmic sweep, pink noise, sinewave test tones at regular intervals from 20 Hz to 20 KHz, and I can hear that at some frequency intervals, despite the transition sounding very smooth and even with log sweeps, the actual intervals when listened to separately, can have perceived very slight nulls and peaks. An example would be a slight drop in perceived amplitude going from 8KHz to 10KHz interval. Another example would be the noticeable increase in energy going down from 60Hz to 50Hz, and increasing in energy until 40Hz, and then start to taper off starting at 30Hz. There's also a noticeable spike in amplitude from 2KHz to 2.5KHz, then back to normal when reaching 3.15KHz. 
    What I interpret from that, is my own individual HRTF causing those changes (or that's how a measured flat frequency response is supposed to sound like to human ears). But because I'm methodically using a scientific process to assess what I'm hearing using test tones, I know exactly where they occur and can factor that knowledge into my overall process when assessing audio products. If someone does not bother using the scientific method, they would never even understand the most basic aspects of audio reproduction or their own hearing. 
    Also, because I can use test tones as an invaluable tool to perform surgical EQ with parametric EQ, I can adjust frequency bands that are both very narrow and very wide and in-between, and I can patiently adjust until the entire range from 20Hz to 20KHz sounds very smooth and even when playing back a logarithmic sweep, or very even amplitude when playing sinewave test tones at regular intervals. That is what you can do for yourself individually, adjusting for your own HRTF so that you are still getting a neutral response despite your own idiosyncratic HRTF. 
    As for ear canal shapes in the context of IEMs, wouldn't experimenting with a variety of different tips of various lengths and girth and firmness at some point fill in enough of the ear canal to eliminate the majority of the individual differences between our ears? If anything, it would seem that non-ear canal headphones and speaker should have a harder time dealing with our individual ear canal shapes, since we can't fill in our ear canals with a variety of ear tips. 
  6. moshen
    Subscribed - very interested in your journey here.
  7. ForceMajeure
    Regarding various tips, yes they affect the sound usually wider bores ones allow for more treble extension thus making soundstage feels bigger. Foam ones attenuates harchness on high frequencies but also take a bit of crispness out along the way. A thing to consider is that all tips never get pass the second bend of the ear canal and most of them not half way past the 1st bend which still make the ear canal shape play a major role in affecting the higher sound spectrum energy.
    Overears and speaker sound are not as affected by the canal shapes as IEMs because parts of the energy is "lost" along the way reaching your outer hear (especially speakers). Then your outer ear focus the sound into your ear canal (again anatomy plays a certain part here).
    The important thing here is that higher frequencies are vastly affected by the travel distance, much more than bass frequencies. I am sure you know this by the way. 
    So those thing have to be considered and have much more impact with IEMs.
  8. canali
    hi there
    on the FLC 8S...can you be more specfic about what you didn't like about them?
    you haven't tried them yet, however?
    jokerl at headphone list, whom i think you respect, seems to hold them in high regard.
    the best in your journey...and the thing with iems/cans nowadays...almost like we're in a bit
    of a renaissance...think it's a great time...sure there is a ton of smoke and mirror out there,
    but also so many companies (chinese, as you well know) who are doing innovative, creative stuff, too.
    at least you know what to look for,when you're trying them on, so you're 1/2 way there.
  9. Lunatique
    The main issues I see in all of the measurements Tyll did are the excessive energy in the 7~10KHz region, and the severe dip in the 4~6KHz region. That means the sound is going to be lacking presence in the upper-mids and way too hot in the lower treble. Ideally, you want to see a gentle and smooth slope that goes down about 10 dB from 1~2KHz to 10~20KHz, like a slanted ramp, instead of severe spikes and dips that deviates way too much from that smooth -10 dB ramp. Upper-mids and treble is always going to measure really noisy for headphones, but you can look at the extremes of the spikes and dips and see how far off they are. 
    Generally speaking, whenever you see deviation of more than 3 dB, you'll know that it's going to be clearly audible in the frequency response balance, and at 6 dB it's double the perceived amplitude/volume, so that's really severe. Past 6 dB it's just a mess, and there are so many headphones on the market that are marketed as being neutral/accurate. e and suitable for critical professional audio work, yet have severe spikes and dips that are as much as 12 dB deviation or more! That is RIDICULOUS amount of coloration that can only be detrimental to any objective concept of good sound, and that is the kind of consumer audio world we live in.There is often so much B.S. in the marketing with no actual performance or data to back it up, yet so many uninformed headfiers continue to support these companies and hand over their hard-earned cash for the latest Flavor of the Month. 
    I'm don't actually agree with jokerl as much as I agree with Tyll. I've purchased and tested IEMs based on jokerl's reviews and ended up regretting it. 
  10. Lunatique
    You know what would be awesome? If someone came up with a design for an IEM that comes with a tiny measurement mic shaped like IEMs that you insert into your ears, and it will playback a logarithmic sweep and pink noise, take measurements, and then record the result. Then the actual IEMs will have active hardware EQ module built-in (maybe place it near the audio jack or do a lapel clip type of design that won't take up room and weigh down the IEMs), and the measurement result will be loaded into the EQ module. And there you go--perfect neutral/accurate sound for each individual's ears. No need to spend hours doing painstakingly extensive critical testing and surgical EQ and hope and pray that the portable player or desktop media player of your choice will support some kind of parametric EQ that you can use. With this approach, anyone can achieve aural bliss, not just those with extensive knowledge in pro audio and know how to corrections for audio gear. 
    Serious, I wish one of the companies out there sees this and steals this idea and turn it into reality.
  11. ForceMajeure
    That's a great idea.
    If I am not mistaken I think AKG came with an over ears called N90Q that does the thing you suggested for the outer ear but I don't know how effective is this thing because so far there's not enough review on them.
  12. Lunatique
    Okay, I've finally written that comprehensive guide on how to easily/reliably EQ your headphone for the most accurate/neutral sound possible. I have included everything--from what tools to use, the exact steps and approach, what to listen for, and all the test tones you need as well as carefully chosen musical material that's from my own audio gear testing playlist, with descriptions for how to use each track to test for specific problems in your headphones (and of course can be used to test speakers too). Here's the link: http://www.head-fi.org/t/796791/the-most-reliable-easiest-way-to-eq-headphones-properly-to-achieve-the-most-ideal-sound-for-non-professionals
  13. canali
    And are you any closer in your own quest in narrowing in on a truly neutral iem?
  14. Lunatique
    Not yet. I'm a bit worn out from all the researching, purchasing, testing, returning, selling, etc. I did in my last round, and I am not optimistic at all about the possibility of finding a truly neutral/accurate pair of IEM. Some people like to claim that it exists, just like some people like to claim that it exists in full-size headphones too, but usually when I look into those claims, they do not live up to reality, and it's highly doubtful people who claim such things have ever heard a truly accurate/neutral sound system before in their lives (and by that, I mean a high-end professional mastering facility that measures perfectly flat at the listening position from 20Hz to 20KHz, or a home studio equivalent of that). 
    For now I'm just going to stick to the RE400 with my custom EQ curve. It's cheap and my EQ curve makes it sound really good, and it's also not offensive sounding when not EQed (I can live with it being boring sounding when not EQed far more than I'm willing to live with an IEM that's severely colored).
  15. Lunatique
    I just updated the HD650 EQ curve, bringing 8KHz down since it's too prominent compared to the relative amplitude of 6.3KHz and 10KHz. 
    Here's the actual setting copied from the .xml file
    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
    <Equalizer PatchFormat="2">
      <Band Mode="Low Shelving" Frequency="44.7744228" Gain="6" Bandwidth="2.44"/>
      <Band Mode="High Shelving" Frequency="14000" Gain="5" Bandwidth="1.92"/>
      <Band Mode="Low Shelving" Frequency="119.132429" Gain="5" Bandwidth="1.82"/>
      <Band Mode="Peak/Dip" Frequency="1200" Gain="3" Bandwidth="2.5"/>
      <Band Mode="Peak/Dip" Frequency="8000" Gain="-6" Bandwidth="0.25"/>
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