[REVIEW] Starkey SA-43: 4 Sound Sigs – 1 CIEM
Dec 28, 2011 at 6:26 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 8

rangerid

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[size=16.0pt]Starkey SA-43: 4 Sound Sigs – 1 CIEM[/size]

 
[size=10.5pt]1. Introduction[/size]
[size=10.5pt]            1.1 How to Order[/size]
[size=10.5pt]            1.2 Options[/size]
[size=10.5pt]            1.3 Warranty and Refit[/size]
[size=10.5pt]2. Design[/size]
[size=10.5pt]            2.1 Built Quality[/size]
[size=10.5pt]            2.2 Specification and Crossover[/size]
[size=10.5pt]3. Accessories[/size]
[size=10.5pt]4. Ergonomics[/size]
[size=10.5pt]            4.1 Comfort and Fit[/size]
[size=10.5pt]            4.2 Isolation[/size]
[size=10.5pt]5. Sound[/size]
[size=10.5pt]            5.1 Source Matching [/size]
[size=10.5pt]            5.2 Presentation[/size]
[size=10.5pt]            5.3 Bass OFF Presence OFF[/size]
[size=10.5pt]            5.4 Bass OFF Presence ON[/size]
[size=10.5pt]            5.5 Bass ON Presence OFF     [/size]
[size=10.5pt]            5.6 Bass ON Presence ON[/size]
[size=10.5pt]            5.7 Sound Summary and Genre Matching[/size]
[size=10.5pt]6. Comparison[/size]
[size=10.5pt]7. Conclusion[/size]
[size=10.5pt]            7.1 Value and Personal Thoughts[/size]
[size=10.5pt]            7.2 Acknowledgement [/size]
 
 
 
 
[size=14.0pt]1. Introduction[/size]
 
[size=10pt]The [/size][size=10.0pt]Starkey SA-43[/size] [size=10pt]is a high-end, flagship monitor produced by Starkey Norway. There are 6 other models in the SA series including the SA-33, which is sonically identical to the SA-43 with both frequency switches in the off position. The cost is 5400NOK ($905*) without detachable cables and 5648NOK ($945*) with detachable cables. Shipping is an extra 500NOK ($85*) with 2-Day UPS Express Saver. Starkey is a highly reputable company that manufactures hearing aids, protections, and custom IEMs and have agents in UK, US, and Canada all carrying [/size][size=10.0pt]Tunz IEMs[/size][size=10pt], which are different from the SA series.  [/size]
 
[size=8pt]*Based on exchange rate as of December 26, 2011[/size]
 
        [size=13.0pt]1.1 How to Order[/size]
 
[size=10pt]An [/size][size=10.0pt]order form[/size] [size=10pt]needs to be filled out and shipped with the ear impressions to:[/size]
 
[size=10pt]            Starkey Norway AS[/size]
[size=10pt]            Postboks 74, Sentrum[/size]
[size=10pt]            4001 Stavanger[/size]
[size=10pt]            Norway[/size]
 
[size=10pt]Payment in form of credit card can then be submitted [/size][size=10.0pt]here[/size][size=10pt]. The turnaround time is standard 2-4 weeks. [/size]
 
 
[size=13.0pt]1.2 Options[/size]
 
[size=10pt]Currently, Starkey offers the SA-43 with or without removable cables and a wide range of colours for the IEMs and faceplates. However, no artwork is available at the moment. The colour options can be seen [/size][size=10.0pt]here[/size][size=10pt].[/size]
 
[size=10pt]What differentiates the 43 from other custom IEMs in the world is its ability to adjust not only the bass frequency response, but also the midrange and treble by two tiny switches on the faceplate of the monitor. One switch controls the bass while the other controls the midrange and treble, which is called ‘presence’ by Starkey (more on this in the next section). You have the option of having both switches, one of the switches, or none when ordering.[/size]
 
[size=13.0pt]1.3 Warranty and Refit[/size]
 
[size=10pt]All Starkey IEMs comes with a 1 month refit period and a 2 year warranty excluding wax or moisture damage and wear and tear from regular usage.[/size]
 
[size=14.0pt]2. Design[/size]
 
[size=13.0pt]2.1 Built Quality[/size]
 
[size=10pt]The exterior shell of the IEMs are created from a 3D scanner and made of hard, smooth acrylic while the inside is filled with silicone to maximize noise attenuation and protection from physical damage. A standard, twisted, and memory free cable is hardwired into the shell, terminated by an L-Plug and portrays confidence for longevity. Strain reliefs are found on both the L-Plug and where the cable meets the IEMs and the dual sound bores are protected by white, wax guards.  [/size]
 
[size=13.0pt]2.2 Specification and Crossover[/size]
 
[size=10pt]* 4 Balanced Armature Drivers (Dual Low, Single Mid, Single High)[/size]
[size=10pt]* 3-Way Passive Crossover (50 Hz and 5,3 KHz)[/size]
[size=10pt]* Frequency Response: 30-18000Hz[/size]
[size=10pt]* Sensitivity: 104 dB/mW[/size]
[size=10.0pt]* Impedance: 50 Ohms[/size]
[size=10.0pt]* Cord: twisted 125 cm (49”), goldplated stereo 3.5mm (1/8”) jack [/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]The bass switch controls the second bass driver at a low shelf of 50 Hz and doubles the bass output from 0-50 Hz. The presence switch modifies the midrange crossover and doubles the frequency from 5,3 KHz to 22 KHz. Having both switches on provides a loudness compensation when listening at low volume level. For testing purposes, when both switches are on, a volume matching of roughly 3-5% is performed to provide a level playing field. [/size]
 
[size=14.0pt]3. Accessories [/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]The Starkey SA-43 comes with the following accessories:[/size]
[size=10.0pt]-       [/size][size=10.0pt]Double CD sized, leather, zipper case holding everything[/size]
[size=10.0pt]-       [/size][size=10.0pt]Medium sized, semi-hard, zipper case holding the IEMs[/size]
[size=10.0pt]-       [/size][size=10.0pt]Small, soft leather case[/size]
[size=10.0pt]-       [/size][size=10.0pt]8 Replaceable filters[/size]
[size=10.0pt]-       [/size][size=10.0pt]Cleaning tools (brush, filter cleaner, alcohol wipes)[/size]
[size=10.0pt]-       [/size][size=10.0pt]Shirt Clips[/size]
[size=10.0pt]-       [/size][size=10.0pt]¼” Adapter[/size]
 
 
 
 
[size=10.0pt]The Starkey SA-43 comes with the following accessories:[/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]-       [/size][size=10.0pt]Double CD sized, leather, zipper case holding everything[/size]
[size=10.0pt]-       [/size][size=10.0pt]Medium sized, semi-hard, zipper case holding the IEMs[/size]
[size=10.0pt]-       [/size][size=10.0pt]Small, soft leather case[/size]
[size=10.0pt]-       [/size][size=10.0pt]8 Replaceable filters[/size]
[size=10.0pt]-       [/size][size=10.0pt]Cleaning tools (brush, filter cleaner, alcohol wipes)[/size]
[size=10.0pt]-       [/size][size=10.0pt]Shirt Clips[/size]
[size=10.0pt]-       [/size][size=10.0pt]¼” Adapter[/size]
 
 
 
[size=14.0pt]4. Ergonomics [/size]
 
[size=13.0pt]4.1 Comfort and Fit[/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]A well fitting custom IEM should feel like a glove in the ear and the SA-43 is no exception. While most companies cuts the canal right at or short of the second bend, Starkey extended it a few millimetres past the second bend. It is still nonintrusive and comfortable, disappearing within seconds of wearing. Unlike universal IEMs where the tips adjust to the ear, the ear adjusts to the customs and over time and any initial discomfort should cease. If it persists, the refit period should be taken advantage of as sound will deteriorate on an improperly fitted custom IEM. [/size]
 

*Note the bend past the second bend in the ear canal. 
 
 ​
[size=13.0pt]4.2 Isolation[/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]As previously mentioned the canal portion extends past the second bent yielding a very deep and tight fit, on par if not deeper than Etymotics. In addition, unlike other customs, the shell is filled with silicone and the combination of acrylic and silicone creates greater noise attenuation than other hollow shelled IEMs. The degree of isolation is jaws dropping, surpassing Etymotics with Shure Olive Tips. If the Etys has a claimed isolation level of 43dB with foams, the SA-43s provides at least 43dB+. The isolation is so great that it allows for almost identical indoor and outdoor listening levels. On a commercial plane, it completely drowns out the jet engine with music on low-moderate level and to a very low hum with the music off. For those seeking the maximum amount of isolation, look no further here. [/size]
 
[size=14.0pt]5. Sound[/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]The sound of a top-tier sounding custom IEM cannot be overstated and the versatility of the SA-43 with the switches cannot be understated. 2 switches, 2 positions make 4 possibilities and essentially 4 different sound signatures. It is like having four custom IEMs for the price of one.[/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]For the vast majority, auditioning a custom monitor is next to impossible and even if it were, it would not be a true representation of the real product. Decisions are often based on reviews and reputations within the audiophile community but are still more or less a shot in the dark. If one does not like the sound signature, the resale price of a CIEM is dismal. However, the SA-43 with its four unique sound signatures offers four times the chance of finding the preferred sound. As a matter of fact, the SA-43 offers almost all representations of every major sound signature except for analytical and cold. Everything from bass light to bass heavy, laid back to mid-forward, lean to thick and everything in between can be found on the SA-43s. A different sound signature is only a flick of a switch away. [/size]
 
[size=13.0pt]5.1 Source Matching[/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]The Starkey SA-43 is a demanding IEM and the better the digital audio signal chain, the better the sound. A weaker source deteriorates the presentation yielding in subpar performance. Similar to other high end headphones, a portable amplifier, DAC, and quality recordings are beneficial to unlocking the full potentials of the SA-43. For the purpose of this review, it will be driven by an iPhone 4 with the Pico Slim.    [/size]
 
[size=13.0pt]5.2 Presentation[/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]The presentation of music including soundstage proportion, imaging, separation, transparency, dynamics, and decay are crucial to the reproduction of music and, as such, will be the first topic at hand. The most frequently discussed aspect of this topic is the soundstage and deservedly so. Before diving into praising the SA-43 on this aspect, it helps to understand how recreation of space occurs. On an elementary note, soundstage consists of noises within the recording room. These sounds are then transmitted via reverberations, reflections and echoes to create a sense of width, height, and depth of the soundstage. In order to capture the time between musical notes, a reasonable amount of decay is required as it allows time for all other sonic aspects to occur. In addition, it adds note thickness and presence to instruments. Next, a headphone must have excellent dynamic range to depict depth or distance. High dynamic breadth allows the ability to portray intimacy for closer sounds as well as quieter sounds in the distance. Poor dynamics will lead to a more compressed soundstage and inaccurate imaging. Finally, for all these aspects to be heard, a high level of clarity and transparency is necessary. Clearer and cleaner notes will help flesh out the sound resulting in more micro-details, instrument separation, and an overall more realistic presentation. Therefore an ideal headphone should have longish decay, high dynamic range, and excellent transparency to create the most coherent and realistic presentation.  [/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]Having said that, the SA-43 cuts no corners and excels in every aspect mentioned above. The most impressive trait of the SA-43 is the presentation of sound and a soundstage that extends in all directions. Width and height are more reminiscent of full sized headphones rather than in ear monitors. Where most headphones with giant soundstage size fall short is depth leading to a flat or compressed feel, but the Starkeys with its excellent dynamic range adds layers and layers to the depth resulting in a 3 dimensional presentation. It is capable of providing an up-close and intimate experience, throwing sonic cues appearing miles away, and everything else in between. There is a clear cut left-right, up-down, and front-back creating an extremely coherent presentation. Instruments have outstanding micro-details, realistic decay length, as well as distinct separation and placement that are easy to pick apart. Each sound occupies an appropriate position within the spacious, 3D space. Clarity and transparency make for a photo finish leaving no veil or smothering of sound. Package everything together and the result is a soundstage masterpiece that recreates music with exceptional realism and involvement.     [/size]
 
[size=13.0pt]5.3 Bass OFF Presence OFF[/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]Neutral. Natural. Two words that can be used to sum up the SA-43 with both switches in the off position. It should be noted that neutral and natural are not the same and in this case, neutral is referred to as the balance of frequency ranges without obvious, audible frequency spikes and natural refers to what “sounds right” to the ears. Certain headphones are said to be V-Shaped with enhanced high and low end to create the instant wow-factor and a neutral IEM brings the midrange back into the picture. [/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]Starting with the treble, it is clean, detailed, and well extended with superb airiness. Sparkles are natural sounding and there are no exaggerated peaks that can lead to fatigue over time. Often, treble presence can lead to the overall perception of a darker or brighter sounding headphone but in this case, it does neither. It is not recessed or forward and resides in harmony with other frequency ranges. Details are presented in a non-intrusive way and instrument timbre is top notch and possesses realistic decay. Sibilance are nonexistence unless present in the original recording. The high end offers a perfect balance of quantity and provides a thoroughly enjoyable experience.   [/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]Similarly, the midrange is another aspect to offer praise. It is a very flat, musical, and engaging affair that is neither forward nor recessed. Tone and timbre are superb and both male and female vocals sound natural and realistic. Details come as they should in a real life without appearing too analytical or sterile. There is a perfect blend of texture and liquidity to the vocals to prevent it from sounding too lean or buttery. It cannot be dubbed as lush or rich either as there is no enhancement in this region. Vocals are what they appear in the recording, capable of being emotional, distant, or bland depending on the music. [/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]Finally moving onto the low end, there is a healthy dose of deep, textured, well controlled bass. Again like the highs and midrange, it is also flat but not at all lacking, capable of outputting massive amount of bass when called for. The phrase “when called for” is key as the bass is true to the recording without unnecessary enhancement. It has excellent body, weight, thickness and decay. Mid-bass is tamed and does not bleed into other frequencies and sub-bass is capable of outstanding rumble. Attack and decay also depends on the song as it can change from quick and punchy to a slower slam. Despite being armature-based bass, the low end can still be felt on bass heavy tracks. Instruments have great detail and notes have perfect weight to them. [/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]With both the switches off, the Starkey SA-43 offers an undeniably neutral presentation. It is not bright, dark, cool, warm, and no particular frequency range stands out. There is no enhancement or added flavour to the sound, what is in the recording is what is produced. [/size]
 
[size=13.0pt]5.4 Bass OFF Presence ON[/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]The presence switch on will double the output from 5,3 KHz to 22KHz that brings both the midrange and treble forward. There is a noticeably different volume level compared with the switch off and it is approximately 3-5 degrees turn louder on the Pico Slim. The difference between the presence switch on and off is instantly noticeable and will take the ear a little bit to adjust. [/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]The treble along with all instruments in the high frequency domain are enhanced and more prominent, resulting in a brighter sound overall. Sparkles are greater emphasized but not sibilant. In addition to being more forward, the body of the instruments are more fleshed out and bolder. Details are the up-in-your-face type and aggressively presented. Micro-details are easily picked out in the soundscape and decay is on the longish side producing a greater sensation of airiness. The general sound is on the excitable, energetic, and aggressive side of neutral.  [/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]Progressing to the midrange, vocals are significantly more up close and personal as well as being more fleshed out like the treble. The enhancement brings the vocals onto the bright side with lighter tone. Female voices sound outstanding while male vocals trail behind in comparison. However, both have a sense of richness without losing too much texturing and are extremely engaging to listen to. The overall presentation of the vocals are very in-your-head and even more prominent than the treble. Instruments in this range also have a brighter tone to go with heavy emphasis. Vocal and midrange lovers alike will find bliss here.[/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]With all the enhancement in the midrange and treble region, one would think bass would be unaffected. However, this simply isn’t true. It still offers superb detail and texturing but the quantity drops significantly. The pronounced upper range overshadows the bass in many cases leading to your typical tight, punchy, and armature performance with the body being barely adequate on bass heavy music. The bright treble also shortens decay time and note thickness and weight. Instruments in the low end sound lighter and leaner. Mid-bass is very tight and sub-bass rumble is slightly lacking. All-in-all, the bass is generally sufficient but does leave one yearning for more at times. [/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]Turning the presence switch on results in a bright, mid-forward stereotypical armature sound with bass being on the lean side. Vocal or treble lovers shall find exactly what they came for here. Overall, the high-mid-low ratio is approximately 35-45-20. [/size]
 
[size=13.0pt]5.5 Bass ON Presence OFF[/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]Now the spot lines turns to the bass switch, which doubles the output from 0-50 Hz, activating the second bass driver and creating a bass heavy version of the SA-43. As usual, nothing is quite that simple as the low end enrichment affects the overall sound. The sound signature moves from neutral with the switch off to a slightly darker, smoother, and a more easy-going sound package. In addition, there is an added layer of warmth which, surprisingly, has little to no negative impact on overall clarity or transparency. [/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]Moving from bottom to top, the bass quantity is immediately increased, with long to very long decay length and tremendous bass body. Notes are thick and possess heavy weight to them. It hits with extreme authority and slam and is closer to dynamic driver-based bass than armature. Sub-bass rumble and power are thunderous and heavily emphasized. Attack appears slower as bass is a slam rather than punch with elongated decay, but it is still capable of keeping up with a faster beat. Details in instruments are outstanding and although not as realistic, are actually more enjoyable. The boosted bass is present regardless of whether a song calls for it or not, although it is significantly more apparent on bass heavy tracks.[/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]The powerful bass has a number of subtle yet very noticeable impacts on the midrange. To get the most obvious question out of the way first, what it does not do is mask or veil the vocals in any way whatsoever. Rather, it provides a different flavour. The midrange is warmed up by the bass and has a thicker tone to it. Compared with the bass, it is very slightly laid back and relaxed, resulting in a smooth presentation. Furthermore, vocals sound deeper and slightly more fleshed out or weightier. Micro-details in instruments are still present, but presented in a gentle manner. [/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]Similar to the midrange, the highs are less pronounced in comparison to the lows. Extension is still excellent but certain micro-details are harder to distinguish. Overall brightness is about 10% or so to the darker side of neutral but still provides adequate sparkles. At times, decay may be overshadowed by the long decay of the bass. It is somewhat relaxed and laid back compared to the aggressive bass and sibilance is essentially nonexistent, even on sibilant tracks. However, do not take this the wrong way and assume it is lacking. [/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]The bass switch is a very convenient tool for those craving high quantity of bass and should satisfy all but the extreme bass heads. The overall presentation is thick, warm, and laid back in comparison to the switch off.  [/size]
 
[size=13.0pt]5.6 Bass ON Presence ON[/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]The fourth option available is both the bass and presence switches on, and it is a good one. Upon first listen, it may appear identical to both the switches off at a higher volume, but extended listening begs to differ. A volume matching of 3-5% on the Pico Slim is required to bring the volume level on par to the other switch options. This time, there is an enhancement from not only 0-50 Hz, but also from 5,3-22 KHz. Sound signature here can be best described as forward, aggressive, energetic, and exciting. [/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]The highs are enhanced and boosted, resulting in somewhat of a brighter sound. Details within this range are aggressively presented and in-your-face. Every micro-detail and nuisance is clearly depicted in the well-extended and airy treble. There is no shortage of sparkles and a great sense of energy. Like with just the presence on, instruments are fleshed out and micro-details are thrown at the listener. The enhanced bass helps keep treble from becoming overly bright. Overall, the treble is not as hot or sizzling as only the presence on but is nonetheless aggressive and forward. [/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]Next, the midrange is also aggressively presented and forward. Despite the fact the vocals are up-close and personal, the tone remains fairly neutral as it is not dark or bright thanks to the bass boost which compensates for the brightness the presence switch brings. There is a good blend of texture and smoothness to the sound and generally sounds natural. Instruments also possess superb, forward micro-details and realistic timbre. Similar to the treble, each sound has a magnified body that makes it easy for information retrieval. The midrange and vocal are the center piece of the musical presentation and is one of the first aspects that a listener will notice. [/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]This sound signature shares more commonality with only the presence on than any other two switch options, but what really differentiates the two is the low end. Although there is an enhancement in the bass region from 0-50 Hz, the impact of midrange and treble enhancement surpasses the bass boost, inadvertently causing the low end to sound quite neutral. Bass hits deep, is well-controlled, and is true to the recording. It is quick, tight and punchy on fast paced music and bold and fleshed out on bassier songs. However, decay sounds rather short due to the aggressive high end. Nonetheless, the bass helps balance out the forward midrange and treble and prevent the overall presentation from becoming overly bright.[/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]Overall, despite the aggressive and forward sound, the overall signature is fairly balanced due to an even level of enhancement in almost all regions. What results from this is a fun, energetic, and exciting IEM that is very capable of handling its own. [/size]
 
[size=13.0pt]5.7 Sound Summary and Genre Matching[/size]
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[size=10.5pt]Bass OFF[/size]
[size=10.5pt]Presence OFF[/size]
 ​
[size=10.5pt]Bass OFF[/size]
[size=10.5pt]Presence ON[/size]
[size=10.5pt]Bass ON[/size]
[size=10.5pt]Presence OFF[/size]
[size=10.5pt]Bass ON[/size]
[size=10.5pt]Presence ON[/size]
 ​
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[size=10.5pt]Sound Signature [/size]
 ​
 ​
[size=10.0pt]- Neutral and balanced throughout entire spectrum[/size]
[size=10.0pt]- All sonic qualities (attack, decay, tone, note thickness) natural and realistic[/size]
[size=10.0pt]- Neither bright nor dark[/size]
[size=10.0pt]- Perfect blend of texture and liquidity  [/size]
 ​
 ​
[size=10pt]- Forward midrange and vocal emphasis with large “body” and brighter tone[/size]​
[size=10.0pt]- Forward treble leading to perception of being brighter with more sparkles[/size]
[size=10.0pt]- Bass on the lighter side[/size]
[size=10.0pt]- Brighter sound[/size]
[size=10pt]- Forward bass with large body, hard slam, and long(er) decay[/size]​
[size=10.0pt]- Thicker and warmer vocals [/size]
[size=10.0pt]- Slightly less treble emphasis in comparison [/size]
[size=10.0pt]- Darker sound[/size]
[size=10.0pt]- Smooth and relaxing due to less treble to thicker mids [/size]
[size=10pt]- Forward midrange with vocals that have large “body” and natural tone[/size]​
[size=10.0pt]- Forward  treble with good sparkle[/size]
[size=10.0pt]- Neutral bass quantity, impact, attack, and decay[/size]
[size=10.0pt]- Forward and aggressive sound[/size]
[size=10.0pt]- Overall slightly on bright side[/size]
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[size=10.5pt]Genre Matching and Preference[/size]
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[size=10.5pt]9-10 Outstanding[/size]
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[size=10.0pt]Rock/Alternative[/size]
[size=10.0pt]Mainstream Pop[/size]
[size=10.0pt]Electronic/Trance/House[/size]
[size=10.0pt]Vocal (Female/Male)[/size]
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[size=10.0pt]Vocal (Female)[/size]
 ​
 ​
[size=10.0pt]Rap/Hip-Hop/RnB[/size]
[size=10.0pt]Rock/Alternative[/size]
[size=10.0pt]Metal/Hardcore/DeathCore[/size]
 ​
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[size=10.0pt]Rock/Alternative[/size]
[size=10.0pt]Mainstream Pop[/size]
[size=10.0pt]Electronic/Trance/House[/size]
[size=10.0pt]Vocal (Female/Male)[/size]
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[size=10.5pt]7.5-8.5 Good[/size]
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[size=10.0pt]Rap/Hip-Hop/RnB[/size]
[size=10.0pt]Metal/Hardcore/DeathCore[/size]
 ​
[size=10.0pt]Mainstream Pop[/size]
[size=10.0pt]Electronic/Trance/House[/size]
[size=10.0pt]Vocal (Male)[/size]
 ​
 ​
[size=10.0pt]Mainstream Pop[/size]
[size=10.0pt]Electronic/Trance/House[/size]
[size=10.0pt]Vocal (Female/Male)[/size]
 ​
 ​
[size=10.0pt]Rap/Hip-Hop/RnB[/size]
[size=10.0pt]Metal/Hardcore/DeathCore[/size]
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[size=10.5pt]6-7 Satisfactory[/size]
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[size=10.0pt]Rap/Hip-Hop/RnB[/size]
[size=10.0pt]Rock/Alternative[/size]
[size=10.0pt]Metal/Hardcore/DeathCore[/size]
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Bass Quantity/Emphasis:​
(B – ON / P – OFF) >> (B – OFF / P – OFF) = (B – ON / P – ON) > (B – OFF / P – ON)​
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Treble Brightness/Emphasis:​
(B – OFF / P – ON) > (B – ON / P – ON) > (B – OFF / P – OFF) > (B – ON / P – OFF)​
 ​
Midrange: Thick/Smooth -> Lean/Textured:​
(B – ON / P – OFF) -> (B – ON / P – ON) -> (B – OFF / P – ON) -> (B – OFF / P – OFF)​
 ​
 
 
 
 
[size=14.0pt]6. Comparison[/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]Please see average_joe’s excellent comparison with other top-tier CIEMs [/size][size=10.0pt]here[/size][size=10.0pt].[/size]
 
[size=14.0pt]7. Conclusion[/size]
[size=13.0pt]7.1 Value and Personal Thoughts[/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]A grand is a tremendous amount of money to spend on headphones and the law of diminishing returns come into play where the improvement in sound quality simply isn’t worth the money. Or is it? I have owned or extensively auditioned almost every top tier universal with the exception of newer models and I can safely say that the sound quality was well worth the extra 500-600 dollars. Most high end universals have a MSRP of $400 and while sound phenomenal, have clear cut weaknesses. The Shure SE530 cost a retail price of $500, more than half the cost of the Starkey SA-43. So linearly speaking, are the Starkeys twice as good as the SE530s? Yes, in fact, it is significantly more than twice as good and the Starkeys are not just better than the Shures, it is superior to every universal IEM in every sonic aspect. I have yet to hear a universal that can even scratch the 43s. Prolonged listening to a top tier custom makes even the most high end universal appear weak and pathetic in comparison. The difference in sonic improvement from top tier universal to custom is similar to that of stock earbud to high end universal. [/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]Furthermore, what makes the Starkey SA-43 so special is its ability to change the frequency response, resulting in 4 different sound signatures. It is not going too far by saying it is almost like having 4 custom IEMs in one. Mathematically speaking, each sound signature cost less than $250. As previously mentioned, choosing a custom is a shot in the dark for the most of us and reviews can only act as a guide. Since we all perceive sound differently, you will never know if you will like it until it is in your ears. To make the matter worse, for those who listen to a wide variety of genres, it is difficult if not impossible to find one IEM that excels in it all. Sound signature and frequency response plays a tremendous role in genre performance. However, the SA-43s offers four times the versatility and increase the probability of finding the right sound four fold. In fact, if you have read my review up to this point, you might have deduced that the Starkeys have every major sound signature with the exception of being analytical and cold. Therefore, unless one is looking for that particular sound, you really cannot go wrong here. [/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]The Starkey SA-43 is close to perfect in my books. Some CIEMs may have more extension on either end of the spectrum just like one universal may have better extension than others. However, in my journey in the universal world, I have realized that is not necessarily a weakness. I am not sure how many of us out there would call ourselves die hard audiophiles (I most certain are not) but in all honesty, the majority of the folks here cannot hear that extra 10Hz low end extension or few thousand extra Hz at the top. I appreciate music and am looking for the most enjoyable listening experience and what I have found is that how those frequencies are presented are so much more important than squeezing out the last few hertz. Even a $50 headphone may be capable of producing the frequency responses you see on the Starkeys or other customs, but what ultimately distinguishes the wheat from the chaff is in the presentation. A coherent, realistically proportioned soundstage, transparency, imaging, timbre, etc…. The completeness of the presentation easily outweighs the sum of individual parts.  [/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]This is a special CIEM and if you are looking for one on the market, it definitely NEEDS to be on your list.[/size]
 
[size=13.0pt]7.2 Acknowledgement [/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]First I would like to thank average_joe for his wonderful work in this community and for spending all that money, time, and effort into exploring different custom IEMs. Before stumbling upon his [/size][size=10.0pt]thread[/size][size=10.0pt], I had never even heard about the Starkeys and most likely would have purchased one of the Head-Fi favourites.[/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]I would also like to thank Alf from Starkey Norway for providing superb customer service and answering over 50 of my emails all within a day’s time. The turnaround time for my Starkey SA-43 from reception of my ear impressions to when they arrived in my hands in Canada is a ridiculously quick 9 business days. [/size]
 
[size=10.0pt]The Starkey SA-43 is truly a world-class sounding custom IEM.[/size]
 
 
Dec 29, 2011 at 1:16 AM Post #3 of 8

average_joe

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Great, thorough review.  As you already know I agree with most of your review with some minor differences. 
 
And you presented many different ways to evaluate the sound, kudos!  
 
I was surprised to see The absence of genre matching with the bass on, presence off as that is usually my default and I find it matches electronic the best.
 
Overall very impressive!
 
Dec 29, 2011 at 12:11 PM Post #4 of 8

rangerid

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Quote:
Do you by chance work for Starkey?



Nope. 


Quote:
Great, thorough review.  As you already know I agree with most of your review with some minor differences. 
 
And you presented many different ways to evaluate the sound, kudos!  
 
I was surprised to see The absence of genre matching with the bass on, presence off as that is usually my default and I find it matches electronic the best.
 
Overall very impressive!


Thanks joe!
 
I guess it comes down to personal preference for electronics but I found that certain times the bass can overshadow some micro-details and electronics is the only genre where I actually prefer an onslaught of microdetails. 
 
 
Dec 29, 2011 at 12:25 PM Post #5 of 8

IMAWolf

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Thanks for the review, just skimmed through it before going for dinner, can you tell us which setting (sound sig) you find yourself using the most? 
 
Do the switches affect the volume they put out?
 
EDIT: Grammer 
tongue.gif

 
Dec 29, 2011 at 6:48 PM Post #6 of 8

rangerid

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Quote:
Thanks for the review, just skimmed through it before going for dinner, can you tell us which setting (sound sig) you find yourself using the most? 
 
Do the switches affect the volume they put out?
 
EDIT: Grammer 
tongue.gif


Yes, the presence switch does affect the volume by about 3-5% but the bass switch not so much.
 
Apart from only the presence switch on, it's more or less a toss up for me. Each option is so unique and amazing to listen to that I didn't really want to change it when I doing the review. Ultimately, it will come down to preference and the type of music you listen to. The only reason I am not so fond of only the presence on is the bass is slightly lacking for me, but a another listener might feel differently. 
 
 
Dec 30, 2011 at 8:05 PM Post #7 of 8

Ulti

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Wow, that's pretty amazing! Nice review too! Sorry for the short exaggerations but it's really all that's on my mind after seeing these haha.
 
Now I better forget I saw these so I don't get tempted in the future to try them.
 
Dec 31, 2011 at 1:44 AM Post #8 of 8

rangerid

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Quote:
Wow, that's pretty amazing! Nice review too! Sorry for the short exaggerations but it's really all that's on my mind after seeing these haha.
 
Now I better forget I saw these so I don't get tempted in the future to try them.



Lol I won't tempt you then. You really can't go wrong with any of the top tier CIEMs, they are all superb! 
tongue.gif

 

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