[Review] Five <$100 Earphones Compared
May 28, 2009 at 5:33 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 21

Sinocelt

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Hearing test: HF5

The HF5 can be had for $99 on Amazon until the end of this month (the coupon is on the product's page). They offer a clear, detailed sound, which I find engaging -- not as coldly analytical as other reviews had made me fear. For the first time, I heard drums from IEMs that sounded very much like my own experience with them.

Also, when I listen to the virtual haircut with the ADDIEM, I am impressed. Listening to the same with the HF5 makes me uneasy: it isn't exactly as if there were suddenly someone else in my room, the illusion isn't quite perfect, but... yes, it's good enough to make me shiver a little as if an intruder had entered behind me and (worst moment) talked over my shoulder right into my ear.

I can push the HF5 deeply in, but even then, my large ear canals make getting a seal with the triflanges very tricky; and when I finally get it right, my ears are sore. I get a much better result from the Shure large black foam sleeves (also known on these boards as "Shure olives"). I'm used to wearing foam earplugs day and night, so I found those comfortable for extended wear, but the very fact that the HF5 go in so deep, nearly as much as Q-tips, makes me a little uneasy: I'd better not bump the side of my head!

Finally, the cable isn't quite flexible enough, and is very microphonic, which means that if anything rubs against it, the noise transmits loudly to your ears. The only way I've found to solve the problem is to make the cable go over my ears and tie it (using its slider) above or behind my head.

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Hearing test: CX 380 II

The CX 380 Sport II can be had for $62.67 on Amazon. While they are not as bad as I first thought (not as tubey, after some burning), they're still far from what I expected from Sennheisers. The bass is very strong, but smeared: if too many instruments are playing, they all fuze into one big noise, albeit a musical one.

Getting a seal is hard; losing it, easy. On the other hand, the cable is good (similar to the ADDIEM's, only thicker and apparently more robust). The big selling point of these earphones, however, is that they can be washed under running water. I put them under the tap (cold water, weak stream) and left them to dry overnight. The day after, I thought the left earphone was dead. Actually, it was still playing, but at a fraction of the power of the right. It took it two days to come back to normal.

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Hearing test: RE2

The RE2 + Fiio E5 can be had for $49 on Head-Direct. The RE2 are bass-shy, but the bass boost mode of the E5 (a micro-amp) can make up for it to some extent. The clarity of the RE2 is closer to the HF5's than to the ADDIEM's. However, the cable is even less flexible than the HF5's, and even more microphonic. As a result, they're great for listening to your music at home, but not as much for listening on the go.

(Real reviews are available from HeadphoneAddict and ClieOS.)

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Hearing test: ADDIEM

ADDIEM.jpg


The ADDIEM can be had for $35 on eBay (I bought two from this seller). They're good all around: good bass, mids (slightly recessed behind the bass, alas), and highs; good clarity; good cable (very flexible, and not very microphonic). When I wear them, I'm satisfied. It is only when I switch to the HF5 (or, to a lesser extent, the RE2) that the ADDIEM sound muffled and smeared in comparison; the ADDIEM are more detailed than the SHS8000, though, and much cleaner than the CX 380.

While I can get a seal with the included tips, I prefer the Sony hybrids with the ADDIEM. Instant seal. And not only are they easy to put in your ears, they're also easy to put on the IEM and easy to remove, which makes them very easy to clean.

I've also bought Phonak's silicone ear guides, because I'm used to wearing my canalphones over my ears.

Pleasing sound, easy and comfortable seal, good-ish sound isolation, low microphonics: the ADDIEM are good all-around performers. I would be perfectly content with them... if I didn't have the sound of the HF5 to compare.

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Hearing test: SHS8000

SHS8000.jpg


I've already reviewed the SHS8000, which can be had for $28.87 on Amazon. Good enough sound (better than that of the CX 380), very practical and comfortable, but it is an open-back design: it makes for a more open sound, yes, but it also means very little sound isolation.
 
May 28, 2009 at 6:17 AM Post #3 of 21

ClieOS

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Thanks for the review. I just got a pair of ADDIEM on eBay 15 minutes ago and save almost 1/2 of the local price. Love to see how they compare to others
biggrin.gif
 
May 28, 2009 at 6:32 AM Post #4 of 21

Laokid18

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Good review Sinocelt, I just got the RE-2 today and besides the microphonics I am pretty happy with them. They sound like my PFEs with a smaller soundstage, and not as analytical. But for only 39 dollars I think there a steal.
 
May 28, 2009 at 6:42 AM Post #5 of 21

ChroniCali

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Nice review, thanks.
 
May 28, 2009 at 7:38 AM Post #6 of 21

Sinocelt

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Quote:

Originally Posted by ClieOS /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Thanks for the review. I just got a pair of ADDIEM on eBay 15 minutes ago and save almost 1/2 of the local price. Love to see how they compare to others
biggrin.gif



Ah ah, thank you. Compared to yours, of course, my comparative review doesn't look like much. I don't think I'd have bothered if I didn't have earphones you hadn't reviewed yet. I'm eager to read your take on the ADDIEM!

Quote:

Originally Posted by Laokid18 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Good review Sinocelt, I just got the RE-2 today and besides the microphonics I am pretty happy with them. They sound like my PFEs with a smaller soundstage, and not as analytical. But for only 39 dollars I think there a steal.


Hm, you make me curious: having the PFE, why did you buy the RE2?
 
May 28, 2009 at 7:55 AM Post #7 of 21

ClieOS

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Sinocelt /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Hm, you make me curious: having the PFE, why did you buy the RE2?


That question makes sense if you ask it outside of this forum
biggrin.gif


Does anyone here wish to quantitatively own only one of each kind of gears?
 
May 28, 2009 at 8:35 AM Post #8 of 21

Laokid18

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I bought the RE2 to see if it was a good value and it is. Also I wanted to use the RE2 as my commuting phone but, the microphonics are really bad so I am still undecided on that.
 
May 28, 2009 at 8:37 AM Post #9 of 21

Sinocelt

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Laokid18 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I bought the RE2 to see if it was a good value and it is.


I see. Again, ClieOS was right:

Quote:

Originally Posted by ClieOS /img/forum/go_quote.gif
That question makes sense if you ask it outside of this forum
biggrin.gif



But then, ClieOS does not (I said not) count.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Laokid18 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Also I wanted to use the RE2 as my commuting phone but, the microphonics are really bad so I am still undecided on that.


Yeah. It's okay if you can sit still during the whole commute, but otherwise...

Quote:

Originally Posted by ClieOS /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Does anyone here wish to quantitatively own only one of each kind of gears?


Actually, yes, I'm ready to exchange all my headphones against a pair of, let's say, ES3X or JH|13 PRO.
icon10.gif
 
May 28, 2009 at 10:57 AM Post #10 of 21

minusthetom

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I dont see what the big deal is about the microphonic cable on he RE2's, as soon as my music is playing its completely unnoticeable and I use them pretty much everyday on my commute to work/uni which involves a 10 minute walk to the bus stop.
 
May 29, 2009 at 12:19 AM Post #12 of 21

Laokid18

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Tried the RE2s on my commute today, it was a bad idea. The cable is so microponic , even if i blast the volume on my zune , It is still very noticeable. But still a good back-up phone.
 
May 29, 2009 at 1:57 AM Post #13 of 21

Sinocelt

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Quote:

Originally Posted by legend24 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I was expecting a ranking or some sort,
since you mentioned comparison =PP



Comparison and ranking are two different things. If you need earphones with little isolation (for instance, as a runner), the SHS8000 is simply ideal. Otherwise, the "best bang for the buck" award belongs to the ADDIEM for <$35, unless you want your IEM new with a warranty, in which case the RE2 takes the win, followed by the HF5. The best SQ belongs to the HF5, followed by the RE2, the ADDIEM, the SHS8000, and finally the CX 380.
 
May 29, 2009 at 8:25 AM Post #15 of 21

Sinocelt

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Quote:

Originally Posted by gameboy115 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I am thrilled to see RE 2 beat ADDIEM. I dont own both. Just seeing a craze with ADDIEM, thought it would be at second place closely behind HF 5


The strength of the ADDIEM is that they have no real weakness. However, they never let you forget that they are earphones, which is something the HF5 and the RE2 are able to pull out, to some degree. The HF5 has more low-end presence than the RE2, and is more engaging, but both have great clarity.
 

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