[REVIEW/TOUR] Somic MH412 + Viper4Android. The "Put Up or Shut Up" Review and Tour.
Jul 12, 2014 at 4:57 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 233

james444

Headphoneus Supremus
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Tagline
 
Put up or shut up I say.

 
 
Introduction
 
Legend has it, that Joe Zawinul, leader of the successful jazz band Weather Report, once saw himself confronted with a strange looking young guy... and the following dialog ensued: "Guy: Mr. Zawinul, I was at the concert tonight, been following your music and really love it. Joe: So, what do you want? Guy: I would like to play some of my music for you. Joe: Oh really? Whats your name? Guy: John Francis Pastorius III, and I'm the best bass player in the world. Joe: Get the ****** out of here!"
 
The rest, as they say, is (music) history...
wink.gif

 
So, what has this to do with the topic of this thread? Well, for starters I couldn't help but feel a little like Mr. Zawinul must have felt back then, when fellow member Joe Bloggs invaded my "$999 vs $99 Challenge Tour" thread lately and announced he had access to some kind of digital acoustic compensation thingy that could turn cheapo IEMs into top tiers. Here are two excerpts from his posts:
 
I offer a new challenger that aims to not approximate, not equal, but exceed the UERM. And not for $99, but a fraction of the price.
evil_smiley.gif

I have applied digital acoustic compensation to $5 and $10 buds ... and have them reported as sounding like $200 and $500 respectively from industry insiders and audiophiles kept in the dark about their real identity.

 
At that point, I must admit I felt dangerously close to citing Mr. Z. 
mad.gif
  Still, after some consideration, I decided to play along... firstly because I didn't want to come across as a spoilsport, secondly because I liked shotgunshane's "put up or shut up" reply, and above all because it never hurts to keep an open mind, even if your gut feeling says otherwise.
 
 
And so it begins...
 
Fast forward a few weeks and I'm holding Joe's package in my hands, containing the dynamic driver based Somic MH412 IEM (according to Joe, an upcoming new flagship, but still a cheapo). Plus a white Samsung Galaxy S3, preconfigured with Viper4Android (V4A). The latter includes two so-called "effect profiles", one to emulate an UE700 and another one that he calls "supreme filter". As much as I'm curious about his V4A compensation, I still decide to try the stock sound first.
 

 
Somic MH412 stock sound:
No beating around the bush, the MH412's stock sound isn't very convincing in my book. I can tell the mids are nicely detailed and treble seems quite smooth. But there's a substantial midbass bloom that muddies the low range, affects the lower mids and makes the MH412's overall sound signature a tad obnoxious to these ears. Not downright bad I'd say, but considering you can get more nicely balanced IEMs like the Ostry KC06 and Zero Audio Tenore for about $50 these days, a little underwhelming for sure.
 
Somic MH412 + V4A UE700 emulation:
Ok, time to fire up V4A and see whether Joe succeeded in emulating the UE700 I sent him. This was supposed to be my main challenge to him, and it takes only a few minutes of going back and forth between his emulation and a real UE700 before a mischievous grin starts to spread across my face. These two sound actually a lot more dissimilar than similar ... he didn't fare very well ... hehe, I knew it from the start, this whole digital compensation blah blah is nothing but wishful thinking!
very_evil_smiley.gif

 
Somic MH412 + V4A "supreme" mode:
And then, in an instant, that mischievous grin gets wiped off my face...
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Listening impressions
 
Based on my early feedback, Joe and I agree to drop the UE700 challenge (he concedes he isn't quite happy with his emulation effort either). We decide to concentrate on the "supreme" mode, not only because it delivers by far the best sound quality, but also because (according to Joe) Somic plan to release their own version of V4A with optimization filters for Somic earphones built in.
 
So I've been listening to the MH412 + V4A combo for several weeks now and picked two "best bang for buck" IEMs (Ostry KC06 and Zero Audio Carbo Tenore, about $50) and two "top of the line" IEMs (UERM and AKG K3003, $1000+) for A/B comparisons:
 

(left to right: Tenore, KC06, MH412, UERM, K3003)
 
Test Tracks:
This is a selection of tracks I use for testing. I have all music in high-bitrate mp3s or better, and the linked YouTube versions may not do their original quality justice. (Sadly, there's no A-B repeat mode in Poweramp, so my usual testing regime which includes playing short passages of certain tracks in a loop proved to be more tedious than expected.)
 
1) Beethoven - Piano Sonata No. 28 - II. Vivace alla Marcia (Daniel Barenboim):
Used to assess piano timbre, dynamics, noteweight and spatial realism; play entire track
 
 
2) Diana Krall - The Boy From Ipanema (Quiet Nights):
Used to assess cymbals timbre, treble resolution and transients; play a 30 seconds loop starting from 1:50.
 
 
3) Brasstronaut - Six Toes (Mount Chimaera):
Some very well recorded bass and drums on this track, used to assess low range clarity, resolution and dynamics; play a 90 seconds loop starting from 0:00.
 
 
4) Indigo Girls - I'll Change (Poseidon and the Bitter Bug):
Simply love their vocal and harmonic perfection. Used to assess mids, vocals and overall tonal balance; play entire track.
 
 
5) Jeffrey Lee Pierce - Love Circus (Wildweed):
Taken from an old album favorite of mine. Used to assess toe-tapping quality with rock, guitar reproduction and JLP's characteristic vocal timbre; play entire track.
 
 
6) DJ Koze - La Duquesa (Amygdala):
One of my 2013 favorites. Used to assess bass extension / speed / control and suitability for EDM in general; play entire track.
 
 
7) Dave Holland Quintet - Metamorphos (Live At Birdland):
Used to assess double bass timbre, consistency of noteweight across bass, mids and treble, soundstage, positioning; play a 150 seconds loop starting from 1:30.
 
 
8) Mahler - Symphony #2, 4th and 5th movement (Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra / Jansons):
Used for holistic assessment: sound signature, timbre, dynamics, soundstage; play entire movements; YouTube version: 4th starts at 47:13, 5th at 52:25; this is at the same time some of the most beautiful music and one of the most demanding test tracks I know. The quiet "Urlicht" (primal light) movement is excellent for testing vocal intelligibility, subtlety and background, while the massive final movement demands everything from a phone. Not many phones I know are able to render the next two minutes after 60:00 convincingly and lifelike, conveying the authority of an orchestra in full force, while retaining clarity, separation of instruments and a coherent spatial image.
 
 
9) Weather Report - Teen Town (Heavy Weather):
"Bonus track" - this one's for Jaco; play entire track.
 
 
 
Impressions:
 
Well, for those who don't fancy the TL;DR version of my listening impressions, let's get right down to the basics: none of the contenders (Tenore, KC06, UERM, K3003) is a slouch in any way, but the MH412 + V4A combo sounds simply phenomenal! (Though it has to be said, that the MH412 without V4A can't hold a candle to any of the contenders in my book)
 
Stellar dynamics and dead-neutral piano timbre on track 1) with open and lifelike spatiality. The Tenore sound a tad more closed-in, and dare I say "plasticky" in comparison, while the KC06 are similarly open but noticeably warmer and slightly more edged in treble. Timbre on the UERM and K3003 is overall pretty close to the MH412, the UERM having a little more treble edge and less open soundstage, and the K3003 more warmth and a slight disparity in note-weight between low and high tones. Both top-tiers edge out the MH412 by an ever so small margin on track 2) by retaining better detail during decay of cymbals, but the latter is at least equal to the Tenore and KC06.
 
Drums on track 3) sound amazingly dynamic, detailed and clear on the MH412, while steering completely free of the mids and being in great balance with the rest of the frequency spectrum. The KC06 offer similar dynamics but more midbass slam, and as a result, slightly less clarity. The Tenore sound least dynamic, slightly smeared and too subbass heavy in comparison, though the difference isn't as severe as my description may suggest. Again the UERM are very close in detail and clarity and tap maybe even a tad more reserved and analytical down low, but the MH412 offer better subbass, texture and compelling realism. The K3003 are highly engaging and probably the most dynamic of the bunch, but lose out in bass detail and clarity by a very slight margin.
 
Vocals on track 4) are extremely neutral, but rather dry and devoid of warmth with the MH412 + V4A, so I'm not sure whether people will actually like them in that regard. Virtually all contenders offer a little more warmth and mellowness with this track, above all the KC06 with their forward vocals and tasteful support from elevated midbass. But also the Tenore, K3003, and even the most analytical UERM sound a little more pleasing with this track. However, the MH412 may arguably be the most "honest" sounding of them all.

Ok, let's speed up things a bit, track 5) is rendered with very nice toe tapping / head bobbing drive, crunchy guitars, and Jeffrey Lee Pierce's idiosyncratic voice is spot-on. Granted, none of the contenders fall very short with this track, but still I feel the MH412 are slightly ahead of the KC06 and Tenore and about on par with the UERM and K3003. Do these cheapos show any weakness at all? Track 6) is on and they reach effortlessly down to the lowest lows while retaining extreme treble clarity and detail at the same time. The KC06 offer similarly good punch, but can't quite follow them all the way down, whereas the Tenore dive down similarly far, but with slightly more bloated subbass and less clarity. Between the UERM and K3003, it's the latter that win out in deep bass and maybe even trump the MH412 by remaining slightly more relaxed / detailed in treble... but don't forget this is a $1000+ 3-driver hybrid we're talking of, whereas the equally expensive UERM can (at best) keep up but not surpass the MH412 on this track.
 
Track 7) is my favorite to test soundstage / spatiality, 'cause I've repeatedly seen Dave play live and know exactly how his band members sound in relation to each other. What can I say, the MH412 pass this test too, and with flying colors. Positioning is very much in line with a front / middle audience seat in all three dimensions, and their consistency in response and noteweight makes for an impressively realistic layering and horizontal / vertical positioning of instruments. Again, the K3003 are spatially very close, but their slight inconsistency in noteweight renders Dave's bass a little more front-stage than it actually is. Same goes for the KC06 due to slight bass elevation, while the Tenore's bass timbre sounds slightly skewed towards the deep end, and their somewhat restrained dynamics don't quite convey the same sense of depth as the MH412. Lastly, the UERM sound spatially extremely accurate, though ultimately a tad less open and spacious than their cheapo challengers.
 
On to track 8), the "grand finale". Here I feel that the UERM have a slight edge over the others with the "Urlicht" movement, rendering vocals extremely smooth, refined and detailed. The K3003, MH412 and KC06 follow suit, while I'd rate the Tenore's detail and vocal intelligibility ever so slightly last of the bunch. But my ultimate litmus test are the 120 seconds after 60:00 in the last movement, particularly the passage past 60:35 (in the video), where the orchestra virtually explodes into a wall of sound. Extremely dynamic music, compared to the quiet preceding passages and the 4th movement, which causes all but my very best IEMs to lose composure and effortlessness at least, or sound brickwalled and congested at worst. The Tenore are an example of such IEMs in my book, as they seem to struggle and lose all effortlessness and depth during this passage. The KC06 fare a bit better, but have their treble go a bit wild during the climax of cymbal / percussion crashes. The K3003 sound borderline splashy, but otherwise remain admirably calm, controlled and spatially accurate. The UERM handle it with similar grace and composure, and so do, to my utter admiration, the MH412. They even retain the best control in treble of all contenders, while not missing out in top-end extension nor air, compared to the others.
 

 
 
Conclusion:
 
Legend has it, that Mr. Zawinul, after having offhandedly dismissed that strange looking young guy called John Francis Pastorius III, reconsidered his stance and arranged for an audition. This arguably proved to be one of the best decisions in his life, 'cause not only did this guy live up to his promise, but the subsequent "Jaco" years turned out to become the most successful period in Weather Report's band history, bringing us such terrific albums as "Black Market" (1976) und "Heavy Weather" (1977). The above "bonus track" 9) would never have seen the light of day in this form, would Mr. Z. not have kept an open mind in the end.
 
Likewise, I humbly eat my preconceptions, take my hat off to Joe Bloggs and concede that his "digital acoustic compensation" thingy is nothing less than a smashing success with the Somic MH412. I would have loved to shut him up for good, but alas... it was not to be.
wink.gif
And so I'm very glad I kept an open mind and played along, because otherwise I would have missed out on one of the best musical experiences I've ever come across. Make no mistake, the stock MH412 are nothing much to rave about and can't quite keep up with budget wonders like the Ostry KC06 and Zero Audio Tenores. But Joe's "supreme" optimization filter for V4A turns them into sonic monsters, not only surpassing both former contenders, but easily playing at eye level with giants like the UERM and K3003. Here's from a PM I sent to Joe right after my comparisons, "you kinda nailed the sound signature to fall pretty much midway between the UERM and K3003" and "in some way these cheapo challengers may even be the most transparent sounding IEMs I ever heard".
 
And yet, this is just one guy's opinion based on a single pair of (aging) ears, and only the collective mind can tell whether the latter are still functioning as designed. Well, that's what the "Put Up or Shut Up" Tour is for, which will involve the MH412 + V4A combo being sent to several esteemed fellow head-fiers, and will be shortly detailed in post #2.
 
(Disclaimer: I kinda stumbled into this challenge completely unprepared and know next to nothing about the MH412 in general or V4A in particular. For further questions about the upcoming new Somic flagship: please ask Joe. For further questions regarding V4A: please ask Joe. When in doubt about anything technical: please ask Joe.)
 
Thanks for reading. 
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Jul 12, 2014 at 4:57 PM Post #2 of 233

james444

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Aug 25, 2004
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The Somic MH412 + V4A "Put Up or Shut Up" Tour (scroll down for tour impressions!)
 
Tour List:
 
01. james444 (Austria)
02. castleofargh (France)
03. shotgunshane (Atlanta, USA)
04. Gladzilla (LA, USA)
05. Gilly87 (LA, USA)
06. eke2k6 (LA, USA)
07. sithjedi333 (East Coast, USA)
08. vwinter (NY, USA)
09. gikigill (Australia)
10. gnarlsagan (CA, USA)
11. luisdent
12. nmatheis
 
(current tour status in bold)
 
 
Tour Rules:
 
  1. Please keep the tour loaners only as long as you need for evaluation. Up to 10 days will be ok, after that I'll start reminding you to forward the package asap.
  2. Please use registered / trackable mail to forward the package.
  3. Please post at least a few lines of feedback. More detailed impressions are welcome, but failing to provide any feedback at all will be frowned upon.
 
 
Quick Start Tutorial:
 
  • Samsung Galaxy S3 (SGS3) Button Layout:


     
  • Connecting and transferring music files:

    Windows: SGS3 shows up in Windows Explorer as media (MTP) device "GT-I9300". You can drag and drop media files to the "GT-I9300\Phone\Music" folder.
    OS-X: I don't have a device to test it, but this solution might enable you to transfer music to the device. If it fails, you can still use a microSD card.
     
  • Operating Poweramp and V4A - Screenshots:

     Tap Poweramp widget for fullscreen mode:                    Tap disk icon for track navigation:
        
     Tap album cover for album browsing:                            Select an album:
        
     V4A: don't touch anything except enable/disable!           Fine Volume Control: use slider or disk:
      
 
 
 
 
Somic MH412 + V4A Tour Impressions
 
  As source I used the provided samsung+viper4android, laptop+viper4windows(the android version is better)+odac/O2(or leckertonUHA760), a crappy acer tablet+ one of the dac/amps.
and I compared to whatever fell into reaching arm as headphone to evaluate the MH412. Mostly IEMs you'll see most of them mentioned at some point so I won't make a list (I have what I feel like being a great deal of under 50$ IEMs that I bought randomly for no rational reason while trying to find some ok stuff for sport while trusting amazon comments... But most don't deserve to be named and I usually don't know what they're called ^_^).
 
Overall I did appreciate the MH412(the cheapo IEM for the tour) a good deal with that EQ, and a good deal less the samsung SIII phone as a source^_^.
the sound on the phone was surprisingly(to me at least) close to neutral sounding with no sign of roll off. but the hiss was obvious at low volume listening, and the sound became a little harsh at higher volume listening. distortion? Clipping? Or just me not being able to adjust it precisely enough? Maybe the app used to adjust the volume added to viper ended up making some audible distortions? Maybe I failed to properly install said app? Your guess is as good as mine.
To be fair at normal volume listening it wasn't a problem except the hiss on some IEMs.
The user interface was nice and the usb compatibility did put my tablet to shame. But there are a few things that I really hate about android and my week with the SIII didn't make me change my mind much.
Power amp refusing to play because I didn't connect the phone for a few days. It's a paid version we should be able to do whatever we like with it. I was wondering if an android phone could do a nice source for a 100% DAP usage, no internet “no notin” with a USB dac/amp, well not with poweramp obviously.
The Fine volume app, you cannot leave without that stuff so why isn't it a default feature on all android gears? It worked when it wanted, I had to remove and reinstall a few times and uncheck the alarm in the ignored apps to solve this(I still don't know why???? the alarm had no active process running and wasn't programmed).
Oh and of course the best, google refusing to let me register Joe's account(to use the apps he bought for the tour). after a lot of googling to know why google forgot how to google, it came down to being because... the time on the phone was wrong in my country. What google, go home you're jet lagged?
All this, and few stuff that were actually my fault, and it was enough for me to enjoy going back to my other daps. It felt more like windows 95 all over again than the OS and apps of the future.
So all in all and to stop this off topic, the samsung phone was real nice(again surprisingly so), but android is android is android.
 
 
I did a lot of different tests, but you're already bored from my android ranting so I thought I would spare you the detailed list. Just note that when I talk about EQed IEMs, the MH412 is always with Joe Bloggs EQ while the others are with my own settings.
Let's just say that I tried a few IEMs on the samsung, on the samsung+usb dac/amp, on my computer and the tablet. And spent a great deal of time trying to make everything sound the same (the sources, but also EQing my IEMs to make them sound close to the MH412).
A few things came out of all this:
 
- First, I'm not as good at EQ as Joe Bloggs is. That part became sadly obvious. I always land close, but never nail anything and I still need hours of listening to fine tune. and passed 11 or 12khz all hell breaks lose, I simply don't know how to deal with high freqs(when the IEM can output them idd).
 
- Some IEMs tolerate EQ better than others(but I already knew that).
 
- Out off all I had with me, the MH412+EQ felt the most balanced and had the most revealing voices.
 
- When I tried to set all my IEMs flat, I think I ended up with this ranking(overall preferences, so not an absolute ranking).
HD650+ EQ > JH13+ EQ > MH412+Joe Bloggs EQ > IE80+not great EQ(one day I'll get it right) >XBA-C10+EQ(I think we could do something nice with the xba-c10 even if they don't extend as far as the MH412 in both ways).
 
- I found the EQed MH412 to be very nice like that, very revealing of details, yet fun(what people call wrongly “dynamic”) with real nice impacts and rumble. Yeah I loved it.
 
As most “neutralish” sounding(how neutral they sound to me, not how much I like the sound as I ranked before) I would pick the HF5, the EQed MH412, the EQed XBA-C10 and the XBA-1.
Both Sony IEMs start rolling off after 10khz and have nothing to say at all after maybe 13khz, and both are also limited in the low frequencies(it's a small single BA driver that does all the job, we can't expect the world of it).
The HF5 is pretty much the cheap brother of the er4, with a close signature but less treble extension and treble quality(but the same world class isolation). Both lack bass and if it's possible to make up for it with EQ, I'm always disappointed by the rumble and the feeling of 2D space coming from the etymotics. I won't pretend that the EQed MH412 is a better ER4, it's not. But what it clearly lacks in treble accuracy it makes up for it with some kick ass rumble going really low. Giving to my ears, a funnier listening experience(how ironic it is when the cheap stuff you buy for sport and travels happen to be the most neutral ones, there goes my hifi pretense).
 
So it owns my JH13 on voice realism(the boost in high mids for the JH makes the voices revealing, but really not natural it always bothered me that's really more a fun monitor than anything else), same for the IE80's medium and trebles. It has a much more enjoyable imaging and bass than the HF5. So did the chepo IEM+EQ convince me? Clearly yes.
Just based on sound, I would put the MH412+EQ in the 200 to 400$ price range. Only some sibilance makes me think it doesn't deserve more. In fact here is what I added to the already EQed MH412 to get my own favorite sound on my computer.

 
As you can see it was already very close, the bass isn't needed but I'm a rumble head(I didn't use a bass bump on the samsung). And the little thingy around 4khz was to attenuate slightly the “ts” and “sh” sounds. But as I used mostly foam tips instead of the provided ones, and because my ears have without a doubt some weird canal shapes, it might very well be something unrelated to the IEMs itself. Still just the small touch at 4khz(-1.7db, slightly less voice revealing, some chorus start to mix back into the lead singer's voice, but I found it more "musical") was enough to clear the sibilance problem for me and maybe add a 100$ bill to it's subjective value.
I don't know the UE700, but I'm guessing it's just another TWFK IEM (I know well the q-jays, dba2, brainwavz B2) with the nasty spike in the trebles. If it's as hard to simulate that spike on the MH412 as it was for me to get rid of it on those IEMs, then I understand why the plan to make the MH412 sound like a UE700 failed.
I'm just guessing here, but if the overall sound quality is about the same as the other TWFK IEMs I knew, then without a doubt, the EQed MH412 pwns a default UE700 any day.
On the other hand, those small beans of IEMs are so small and comfy, I understand why people loved TWFK based IEMs.
 
 
To end this I want to talk about the MH412 without EQ, to make it clear that Joe didn't just pick the only great IEM that was cheap to get a lead on his bet. By default it is your typical overwhelmingly bassy cheap stuff where you can't even make a guess at the rest of the frequencies, because everything is drown under the bass. It's a prototype so the real MH412 may not sound like it at all, but taking a listen at it without EQ, I would have been more inclined to challenge it with the default sony IEMs that came with my DAPs (the noise canceling ones), or the buds I got with a clip zip or the cowon. Nothing usually worth mentioning and clearly not the ideal contestants to get a balanced sound in the end.
But simply taking down the bass a notch, you realize there is a potential for the MH412. When at the same time, taking down the bass on my koss plug made me realize that it's really just an earplug that happens to make noises. ^_^
So the real usual cheapo sound, but some qualities hidden under the overwhelming bass.
 
 
 
 
I enjoyed participating a lot, and as always in those situations, I learned as much about myself and my gear as I learned about the stuff I tested. thanks a lot to Joe Bloggs and James444 for starting the fight over EQ potential and organizing this tour.
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Oh and the MH412 didn't seem to go crazy with a little impedance(I got a few resistors adapters), so most flat android phones/daps should be able to get a relatively close resulting signature.
 
 
Bloopers: Several times I started taking notes about this IEM or that one, on this or that source, to realize afterward that I had the MH412 without EQ or another IEM with the EQ for the MH412. At first it was very obvious, but when you spend hours swapping IEMs, you really don't know where your are. Like that I ended up thinking that my JH13 were lacking bass, that my IE80 had some nasty distortion(when I didn't even have the IE80 in my ears at the time).
And the best was probably when I though that my XBA-1 home EQ was terrible, when in fact the music was actually playing on my speakers... I had to self inflict numerous violent facepalms over the trial period.
 
 

 
 
  Thanks Joe for making this happen. I'm comparing against my most used IEMs currently - Tralucent 1plus2 and Xiaomi Pistons 2.1 using this Viper4Android profile, which makes it much different/better from stock.
 
http://www.head-fi.org/t/703651/the-xiaomi-pistons-thread/2085#post_10794576
 
Without Viper4Android
A bloated bleedy bassy mess, worse than stock Pistons. V4A transforms them though as it does most IEMs. Joe clearly knows what he's doing here.
 
Bass
A little slower than 1plus2 but still sounds great with excellent texture. Bass adapts to the track, if it's there, it hits hard and sounds wonderful. If not, it's not there. I much prefer this to other IEMs where it's either always on or always off.
 
Mids
A little thicker than 1plus2, musical, natural and realistic. Just fantastic.
 
Treble
Detailed and precise, but not sibilant and without significant peaks. A great balance that's not too fatiguing and not too rolled off either.
 
Soundstage
This is the weak spot I think. The 1plus2 is known for an expansive out of the head soundstage, which I prefer but this is a matter of personal preference. Soundstage here is wide but not particularly 3D. Vocals sound right in front of my nose instead of 10 feet in front of me. So kind of a wide but flat stage, similar to most other IEMs I've heard.
 
Build
Super solid construction, very nice non-tangly cable. Equally comfy worn up or down. Cable cinch is metal, similar to the Dunu DN1000 but not as heavy, it's perfect. I prefer the stock tips over my usual favorite, JVC spiral tips.
 
Conclusion
They're neutralish but sound natural and extremely engaging. Plenty of detail, transparency, and layering but not fatiguing, and easy to listen to for long periods of time. I agree with previous comments that they would be a strong contender in the $200-400 range. I don't think they compete with my TOTL 1plus2, particularly in soundstage, but it's a very unfair comparison.
 
Happy to answer any questions and will update with additional thoughts if the signature changes with burn in.
 
Thanks again for allowing me to participate.

   
James,
 
Thanks for the suggestion. I was quite skeptical, but these Philips SHE3590 tips are definitely transformational, I may have to get them for my other IEMs and wish there were an aftermarket source rather than having to buy the whole IEM.
 
This is some next level stuff right here. Wow. I'm thinking they perform well above the $200-400 range I said before, probably the $600-1000 midtier group, but unfortunately my IEMs are either above or below that range so hard to give a direct comparison. I wonder how they compare against the SE846, Dita, Fischer Amps FA4E XB, Primo 8 range.
 
Well worth checking out.
 
Joe, any idea when the retail version with the mic will be out, and the MSRP?
 
Thanks!

 
 
  Initial thoughts-
Joe sent me the EQ settings to try and implement in Equalizer on iOS. I can't use as many EQ points but through some creative Q values I've been able to recreate it fairly closely.  The long and short is the Somic iem is pretty bass bloated and veiled sounding and Joe's EQ settings are nothing short of brilliant.  EQ'd this thing sounds excellent and I'm going to need to acquire my own set.  I'll compare my EQ to the Galaxy S3 with Viper over this week before sending out, to see how close I've actually got it but definitely impressed so far.

  Did a little comparing with the Tenore this morning.  The EQ'd Somic is very comparable to my more reference set of Tenores, however it does best in a couple of different aspects.
 
The EQ'd Somic is thinner sounding with better clarity throughout; faster, more nimble bass that has an excellent balance of mid and sub bass.  The Tenore sounds a little tilted towards sub bass with more decay.  The Tenore's bread and butter is its excellently smooth but detailed treble that has very, very good tonality.  The EQ'd Somic bests it to me.  It's not quite as smooth as the Tenore, but along with a little more presence, has slightly better sparkle and even slightly better tonality and timbre somehow.  The Tenore is of course not EQ'd and makes me curious to try and EQ the last bit of performance out of it.
 
I think I have the iOS Equalizer app set up pretty close to the EQ on the Samsung.  I can't really pick up a difference when switching between the two.  I definitely need to acquire a MH412 now.

  The Tour package is on it's way to the next person. I will certainly miss the EQ'd Somic; it's absolutely fantastic- After EQ it's so clear, nimble and dynamic with very little to find fault.  When switching back and forth with the UERM, the only things I really miss are the more holographic staging properties, in size and dimensions, and the fantastic layering.  Otherwise the EQ'd Somic's macro and micro dynamics, transparency, quickness, clearly defined note edges and revised frequency response are all brilliant.  I really don't think you can put a price tag on this kind of quality sound; I certainly prefer it to the overwhelming majority of iems I've heard over the years. Now to patiently wait for the MH412's release, so I can pick up my pair that will easily find its place in my daily routine.

  I thought I'd share my iOS EQ settings on the app Equalizer, in case anyone on iOS wants to try these at some point.  The EQ isn't an exact replica of Joe's, mainly due to Equalize not giving me as many EQ points as Viper4Android but it's pretty close and sounded very, very similar when tried back to back (If I remember correctly this setting takes 0.5db less bass off at 100hz than Joe's EQ):
100hz, Q=2, -6db
1500hz, Q=0.3, +4.5db
5450hz, Q=6, -4db
6820hz, Q=6, +2db
7850hz, Q=6, -3db
9500hz, Q=7, +4db
12000hz, Q=10, +3db

 
PM feedback by gikigill:

I am sorry for being late but just a few basic pointers on the sound quality.
 
Layering is excellent and sounds much more expensive than it has any reason to be. Instrument separation is spot on in heavy tracks,
 
Bass is controlled with rarely any smearing . Midrange is just very slightly recessed, maybe 10%.
 
Music basically sounds bigger than it actually is without actually exaggerating and that's not a bad thing:etysmile:
 
Will it beat my JH16? No but then again it punches much above its weight and has that rare quality of being non fatiguing, which is a personal opinion.
 
The S3/Viper combo is a very potent mix for the Somic MH412.
 

 
 
Review of the Somic MH412 + Joe Bloggs' Old West Traveling Salesman Claims
Brought to you by
Mea Culpa Maxima, James.
 ​
 ​
 ​
 ​
 
 
I've been silent on HF for a while due to the perfect storm of animal feces and goat intestines that has become my life. Some of the lovely events of the past few weeks include getting sued for an obscene amount of money by a friend after helping her out of trouble, navigating the final didactic year of my doctorate, my parents' everlasting divorce proceedings, almost ripping my shoulder from the socket while attempting a MJ-esque rock-the-cradle dunk, and dating a younger undergrad girl/woman...which can be more stressful than all of the previous things combined.
 
I'm incredibly sorry all these things culminated after I received the tour package. Had I known the rapid degeneration my life was about to experience, I would have recused myself from the tour. Several times I would glance at the package sitting on my bedside table, but my guilt would be overcome by weariness and the apathy resulting from the day's proceedings.
 
Nonetheless, these aren't excuses, just reasons. I feel terrible for holding up James' tour for as long as I did. It won't happen again.
 
 
Making matter worse, finally listening to the mh412 made me wish I had done so a LONG time before.
 
 
Trying to describe the difference between the V4A'd and stock MH412, the first image that comes to mind is that of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in their differences. However, further examination makes me want to revise that. The Mr. Hyde comparison implies that the stock MH412 is essentially a throwaway phone, which I don't think is necessarily true. The stock sound of the MH412 is bassy, warm, and fairly aggressive until it starts to mellow out towards the upper midrange. The treble is rather smooth, with the exception of an upper spike that is especially noticeable at higher volumes.
 
No, the stock MH412 is not a Mr. Hyde. Rather, I see it as a troubled teenager with promise. The bloated low end masks nearly bottomless extension, and the warm tone covers up some remarkable timbre. What this phone needs is some tender love and care. This is where Joe Bloggs' V4A profile comes in as the older mentor who shows the teen a path to maturity. 
 
The way that the V4A profile changes the Mh412 is nothing to scoff at. I still can't agree with Joe's claim that he can transform cheapo IEMs to make them sound like top tiers. What I can say is that he is an expert alchemist. His V4A profile imparts serious clarity on the Mh412. Even more remarkable is that this is done without any noticeable treble boost. Rather, it appears to result from cleaning up the lower mids and bass. What is left is clean, amazingly extended bass, mids that are crystal clear, and a treble that perfectly toes the line between powdery and brassy.
 
Even better, this "tune-up" reveals a soundstage that I feel I can safely call "huge". Accompanying the sheer size of the stage is pin-point imaging that allows me locate individual cues on a whim. On a well recorded track, I can clearly hear the hi-hat slightly above the snare, and the crash slightly to the right of the hi-hat. It's astounding, almost.
 
Everything is not quite awesome though
 

 
 
 
In Joe's profile, nothing was really done about the treble spike. Also, there is a noticeable edge to the notes of the midrange. Vocals have a sort of steely timbre I don't quite dig. Both issues are easily fixed, but I still thought they were worth a mention.
 
 
 
 
All in all, thanks to James for putting on the tour, and thanks to Joe for showing that 
 

 
 
Surprisingly was able to get ahold of these this afternoon.

I wanted to give the stock sound a listen and unlike almost everyone else here I think the stock sound is not even close to awful. I don't think I'll be as impressed with the Supreme tuning, not because it won't rock, but because this driver is absolutely rife with potential. It's an incredibly capable starting point, stock voicing be damned. I reckon this EQ will be like taking, say, Willie Mosconi, and being like so how about we try 9-ball.

I thought this was going to be like turning lead to gold but it's more like finishing raw gold. No rags to riches story here, imo.

Regardless, I suspect the end result will be nothing short of awesome after hearing what this thing is capable of.

Just a quick update. I finally got to listen to them through the V4A profile after having a ton of issues getting music onto the GS3 and the sound is kind of... beautiful.

Extremely accurate soundstage and imaging without being overbearing, but maybe a little on the thin side. Bass is pretty level with the Rockets bass with the profile enabled, at first listen at least.

Stock sound on the GS3 is pretty bass bloated and I can see where previous comments are coming from. Markedly better stock sound on the iPhone 5S.

But the V4A profile is also very different sounding IMO from the iPhone EQ posted in my short A/B.

Will post more later.

I think "beautiful" is gonna be my main impression for this unless something drastically changes upon further listening of more and different tracks.


Another quickie:

Sliiiight bit of sibilance on some tracks unlike the Tenore or to a lesser degree the Rockets. But as far as sibilance goes, probably the least offensive I've heard.

Lower mids I need to assess further. Very good but might be one of the lower points of an otherwise exceptionally tuned sound. In a rare bit of underlying impressions exposition for me, Andy M. Stewart is not at his pinnacle here.

Best low volume listening I have ever heard. Probably by far.

The character of the soundstage and imaging reminds me more of the few open fullsize cans I've heard and liked than I think any other in-ear.


In an unrelated note, kinda loving the way poweramp transitions between songs.

How much would it run me to not pass this setup along?
tongue.gif
biggrin.gif



Quote:
  I've been busy, but MH412 impressions are still rattling around in my brain.
 
I'd say that Joe has earned the right to keep talking. His EQ has transformed the MH412 from something I'd never consider to a serious contender for my top 5 favorites. Does it make the cut? Tough to say, but that's not as relevant to this challenge as the fact that the post-EQ MH412 is even good enough to be considered for a top spot. I had to listen intently just to find any flaw at all, when usually even top-tier earphones present their flaws with aplomb even on first listen.
 
Has Joe proven that EQ can make up for all of the faults of a cheapo iem? My gut says no. "All" is an excessively strong word. To my ears there are still small issues in the time domain, decay for example, that EQ is incapable of addressing. Luisdent summed it up nicely in the above post, and I tend to agree with his initial findings. On the other hand, just how far can EQ take an otherwise problem-riddled iem? Pretty damn far. And this is the meat of the challenge imo.
 
Joe has proven, in my eyes, that EQ has more potential to correct sonic wrongs than many (maybe most) of us would normally admit. To be honest, a claim like this doesn't take too much to convince me. I've always been a strong believer in EQ, but too lazy for the legwork involved for a really nice implementation, usually relying on the skilled EQ-fu of people like SGS and luisdent. One of the draws of Joe's implementation is its ease. Check a box. Done. No tweaking, fidgeting, or general fussing around like I'd normally do when attempting an EQ solution.
 
I wouldn't be surprised to see a lot more future earphone offerings with built in EQ capability. We've seen it in some LG bluetooth earphones already available.
 
Thanks to James for organizing this tour, and to Joe for having the guts to put his right to speak on the line with his initial claim. Keep talking Joe.
etysmile.gif

 
 
  O.k., O.k., it was april fools. What can I say?!
 
The Somics and Samsung are in mint condition, in my ears as I type this. :) I'll be doing a video review of them shortly and then they're off to the next destination. To wrap up some of my conclusions, as I said, they become a VERY high quality sounding earphone with the right EQ applied. They become balanced in response, detailed, etc. I would call them fairly reference with EQ. As I mentioned before, without EQ I wouldn't ever use them personally. They are pleasing but bass heavy and not accurate enough.
 
I have to compare them to the ER4S, because that is what I consider most reference. First, stock vs. stock, no comparison. The ER4S with red filters is light years beyond the Somic MH412. They sound bloated and muddy in comparison. Here's the interesting part. EQd MH412 vs. STOCK ER4S. That's a bit tougher. I think the ER4S is smoother and more natural sounding, however, the MH412 has better bass with EQ than ER4S stock. At least in the lower sub bass region. The treble is also a bit more "open" sounding than the ER4S stock, at the cost of smoothness. The ER4S has that sort of lower treble bump going on that makes it somewhat "honky" in comparison (although still awesome). But even so, the ER4S is more smooth in texture.
 
When I compare "smoothness", I'm essentially referring to the texture of the frequency response. The MH412 has a sort of grittier, grainier "texture" to it for lack of better words. The ER4S is silky smooth. I'm not sure if this is related to the frequency response having a bunch of micro peaks and dips that simply make it less "smooth", or if it's some other audio phenomenon. So while the MH412 sounds a bit more balanced as an overall "low to high" spectrum, the ER4S sounds more "refined" in it's subtle and smooth gradation from low to high, even if the response has a bump or dip here and there.
 
Now the question I find interesting is how do they compare to the ER4S EQd? Now things are much more relative, as we are testing the best possible conditions for each earphone. With EQ applied, I find the ER4S is a step above the MH412. Not that it blows them away, but the ER4S sounds much smoother as I mentioned, even more so with EQ. The "tone" of the overall spectrum is on the more neutral and "transparent" side to my ears. I hear everything, but nothing stands out above anything else in the spectrum. On the MH412, I find the bass is excellent, but I'm also "drawn" to the bass sometimes. Not from a mix standpoint, but because the bass sounds somehow disconnected from the rest of the spectrum. Same with the treble. Now and then the treble either has a peakiness, or it simply sounds more disconnected from the rest of the spectrum.
 
Another way you could look at it would be that the MH412 has more of a "hollowness" in the mids, which causes the bass and treble to sort of stand on their own and never perfectly mesh with the fullness of the sound. Keep in mind, I'm talking very minute differences here. I'm not saying the bass or treble don't sound like they go with the mids at all. I'm just saying "in comparison with the ER4S" this is the best way I can describe it. Compared to other earphones the MH412 with EQ is really incredible. I've spent a lot of time EQing a lot of earphones to be what I consider very neutral, and I believe I had a good idea of which ones are "capable" of becoming more reference from the sets I've tried. The MH412 does very good in this regard.
 
Here's a quick graphic I made to illustrate the basic difference I "perceive" between the two with EQ applied to both:
 

 
It's simply to show the basic "traits" as I described them. The MH412 sounds "thicker" as a whole. Not less bright or anything. Just that the overall sound isn't as "light" as the ER4S. It is as if it is more congested. This is hard to describe, because I'm not talking about frequency response here. No EQ fixes this. The ER4S has more spaciousness at any given response signature. Gnarlsagan wasn't sure if this was decay or something like that. I have no idea. I just know it sounds "weighty" compared to the ER4S, even when the ER4S is EQd to have amazing sub bass. So there is some sonic characteristic that is giving the MH412 a thickness to my ears. 
 
The ER4S with EQ simply disappears to my ears. I hear the music and don't really "think" about anything to do with the "sound", other than that it sounds damn good. With the MH412, after a bit of listening I start to forget the small things mentioned and they really are enjoyable and I'm even tempted to buy them as a shallow fit, more comfortable set. But critically listening, they aren't perfect. None might "truly" be perfect, but the ER4S with EQ is by far one the best I've ever heard.
 
I would gladly place the MH412 with EQ as on of the best earphones I've heard. And they also have an awesome cable. I love the feel of it and the size of it. They seem fairly durable too just from what I can tell holding them and using them. So if they aren't very expensive, I'd give them a very high rating since they respond well to EQ and are great in every other way. If stock is the only way you'll use them, I wouldn't buy them personally. :p

 
Jul 12, 2014 at 7:13 PM Post #3 of 233

sithjedi333

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Joe

Where can we download the profile from and order these IEMs?

Do you have supreme profiles for any other IEMs?

Thanks
 
Jul 13, 2014 at 12:22 AM Post #4 of 233

shotgunshane

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  Tagline
 
Put up or shut up I say.

 

 
My mother has never been prouder.
 
 
 
   
Conclusion:
 
[snip]
 
Likewise, I humbly eat my preconceptions, take my hat off to Joe Bloggs and concede that his "digital acoustic compensation" thingy is nothing less than a smashing success with the Somic MH412. I would have loved to shut him up for good, but alas... it was not to be.
wink.gif
And so I'm very glad I kept an open mind and played along, because otherwise I would have missed out on one of the best musical experiences I've ever come across. Make no mistake, the stock MH412 are nothing much to rave about and can't quite keep up with budget wonders like the Ostry KC06 and Zero Audio Tenores. But Joe's "supreme" optimization filter for V4A turns them into sonic monsters, not only surpassing both former contenders, but easily playing at eye level with giants like the UERM and K3003. Here's from a PM I sent to Joe right after my comparisons, "you kinda nailed the sound signature to fall pretty much midway between the UERM and K3003" and "in some way these cheapo challengers may even be the most transparent sounding IEMs I ever heard".

 
Well it's certainly going to suck if I end up loving these with the Viper4andriod DSP and I can't get an equivalent on the iPhone.
 
Looking forward to the fun!
 
Jul 13, 2014 at 1:27 AM Post #5 of 233

Hutnicks

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What you might want to do if you have access to the hardware is push either an S3 or an I9000 up against the AK 120 and 240 with your favourite IEM / phone and see how much effort it takes to eliminate the differences there.
 
Consider it the Carver Challenge gone portable:
 
 
OH turn off all the radio stuff on the smartphone.
 
Jul 13, 2014 at 1:28 AM Post #6 of 233

gnarlsagan

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Amazing work here James. Wow. I'd like to join the tour, but I'd rather just buy the MH412. Is it available anywhere?
 
Jul 13, 2014 at 1:28 AM Post #7 of 233

castleofargh

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the switching time between IEMs is always a real problem. it's so much easier when you can deal with 2 products with instant switching (ABx plugin or a mechanical switch). so I understand that getting a good EQ would be much easier and practical than trying to replicate the signature of another IEM. I'm guessing, part of the failure is for that reason.
I always try to mimic(for fun) the sound of my other gears when I get a new IEM, and always somehow fail in the process.
so on one hand I would have loved to hear an actual existing EQ copycat, on the other hand I feel better about myself, knowing that even Joe somehow failed (at least this time).
deadhorse.gif

 
Jul 13, 2014 at 2:56 AM Post #8 of 233

Joe Bloggs

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Joe

Where can we download the profile from and order these IEMs?

Do you have supreme profiles for any other IEMs?

Thanks


Hello sithjedi,

The MH412 are an upcoming new model by Somic, and won't hit the market for a month or two. When they do, I expect they'll be available via the usual channels like taobao and aliexpress, etc.

As for your second question, I don't know how I should answer that :p I have tried creating similar filters for other IEMs, based on a listening-based process. This process aims to generate the same sonic result from different earphones but my ears are not measurement microphones, and admittedly the potential of different earphones differs, so the result do not sound the same for different earphones. To further complicate matters, I have been making graph-based corrections as well for numerous other earphones based only on how they graph at e.g. innerfidelity and HeadRoom and an educated guess on how the reference line at these sites themselves deviate from an ideal signature.

To cut a long story short, here's an old thread I set up at XDA for these correction filters
http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=2372750

Of which the following models were tuned by ear (ie. by the same process that made the MH412 filter) rather than from graphs:
JVC FX12
Philips SHE8000/8005
Philips SHE3590
Ostry KC06
Panasonic HJE125 (not yet available on Dropbox)

However, like I said, there's quite a degree of variability in the end result for different earphones, so if it's the MH412 supreme filter James is so happy with, I suggest you be patient and wait for the tour unit from him :)
 
Jul 13, 2014 at 3:05 AM Post #9 of 233

Hutnicks

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Hello sithjedi,

The MH412 are an upcoming new model by Somic, and won't hit the market for a month or two. When they do, I expect they'll be available via the usual channels like taobao and aliexpress, etc.

As for your second question, I don't know how I should answer that
tongue.gif
I have tried creating similar filters for other IEMs, based on a listening-based process. This process aims to generate the same sonic result from different earphones but my ears are not measurement microphones, and admittedly the potential of different earphones differs, so the result do not sound the same for different earphones. To further complicate matters, I have been making graph-based corrections as well for numerous other earphones based only on how they graph at e.g. innerfidelity and HeadRoom and an educated guess on how the reference line at these sites themselves deviate from an ideal signature.

To cut a long story short, here's an old thread I set up at XDA for these correction filters
http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=2372750

Of which the following models were tuned by ear (ie. by the same process that made the MH412 filter) rather than from graphs:
JVC FX12
Philips SHE8000/8005
Philips SHE3590
Ostry KC06
Panasonic HJE125 (not yet available on Dropbox)

However, like I said, there's quite a degree of variability in the end result for different earphones, so if it's the MH412 supreme filter James is so happy with, I suggest you be patient and wait for the tour unit from him
smily_headphones1.gif


Is there any chance you could zip up the whole correction collection into 1 file for download?
 
Jul 13, 2014 at 6:24 AM Post #11 of 233

Joe Bloggs

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Please note that FiiO is not in any way, shape or form associated with the little experiment we have going on here :deadhorse: This is just a little fun I'm having in my off time...
 
Jul 13, 2014 at 8:00 AM Post #13 of 233

jant71

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What about the MH415
biggrin.gif
? It would seem that those would have been the better starting point if targeting a UE700 sound. Sound like fun.
 
Jul 13, 2014 at 10:04 AM Post #14 of 233

james444

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  My mother has never been prouder.


Hey, it's a pretty good motto to raise a child by.
 
Amazing work here James. Wow. I'd like to join the tour, but I'd rather just buy the MH412. Is it available anywhere?

 
Thanks! For those who already have a device with V4A, I agree it would probably be easier to just get the IEM and profile.
 
However, like I said, there's quite a degree of variability in the end result for different earphones, so if it's the MH412 supreme filter James is so happy with, I suggest you be patient and wait for the tour unit from him
smily_headphones1.gif

 
X2. I also got to try Joe's supreme filter for the KC06, but it didn't quite impress me the same way as the MH412 one. Here's my feedback to him:
 
... thanks for the KC06 tuning... it sounds great too, but doesn't quite click with me the same way as the MH412's. Maybe it's the degree of serendipity you mentioned, but as much as I prefer the stock KC06 over the MH412, introducing V4A to the equation definitely turns the tables for me.

 
Obviously, these impressions are subjective, so other listeners may end up preferring the KC06 profile over the MH412 one.
The only thing I'm reasonably certain of, is that the results for both filters don't sound identical.
 
Jul 13, 2014 at 9:40 PM Post #15 of 233

sithjedi333

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Joe

Where can we download the profile from and order these IEMs?

Do you have supreme profiles for any other IEMs?

Thanks


Hello sithjedi,

The MH412 are an upcoming new model by Somic, and won't hit the market for a month or two. When they do, I expect they'll be available via the usual channels like taobao and aliexpress, etc.

As for your second question, I don't know how I should answer that
tongue.gif
I have tried creating similar filters for other IEMs, based on a listening-based process. This process aims to generate the same sonic result from different earphones but my ears are not measurement microphones, and admittedly the potential of different earphones differs, so the result do not sound the same for different earphones. To further complicate matters, I have been making graph-based corrections as well for numerous other earphones based only on how they graph at e.g. innerfidelity and HeadRoom and an educated guess on how the reference line at these sites themselves deviate from an ideal signature.

To cut a long story short, here's an old thread I set up at XDA for these correction filters
http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=2372750

Of which the following models were tuned by ear (ie. by the same process that made the MH412 filter) rather than from graphs:
JVC FX12
Philips SHE8000/8005
Philips SHE3590
Ostry KC06
Panasonic HJE125 (not yet available on Dropbox)

However, like I said, there's quite a degree of variability in the end result for different earphones, so if it's the MH412 supreme filter James is so happy with, I suggest you be patient and wait for the tour unit from him
smily_headphones1.gif

 
Thanks Joe.
 
I've been using V4A for awhile now, and it's amazing, can't wait for the next version to come out with more DDC profiles.
 
I'm curious, what made you use a model that hasn't been released yet for this challenge as opposed to an already known FOTM Chinese IEM. What was it about the MH412 that stood out to you? Also what's the expected MSRP when it launches?
 
James - thank you for the tutorial and music files for evaluating IEMs, I learned a lot by reading your post.
 

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