Serious Neutral IEM + portable DAC/AMP combinations?
Sep 3, 2017 at 3:04 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 9

Elijah0039

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Hello distinguished audiophiles.
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I put my Sony XBA-H3s through the washing machine, so now I am in the market for a good pair of IEMs and, in addition, a good DAC amplifier that complement them. I was wondering if anybody had any suggestions.

The XBA-H3s were fun to listen to, but they were a bit too heavy on the bass, light on the treble and warm sounding - and so I am looking for something a bit more "neutral". A combination without personality! So that it might adjust to whatever I'm playing.
For reference--even though I'm relatively new to the community--I very much like the sound of my dad's Stax SR-009 system, and I'm looking for something with a similarly neutral sound.

Price mostly isn't an issue. I am looking to spend about $2,500 for the combination (which i realize is a serious step up from the XBA-H3's - but come on, I'm not here to make responsible decisions about my money).

I might add as well that I stress the importance of the IEM part, as well as of the portability of any combination DAC/AMP. It is for everyday use: streaming tidal from my phone or laptop; not for just listening at home. This also means that I prefer IEMs that isolate sound to a large degree (while being on the bus or just in a crowded place).

Thank you so much!

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Sep 3, 2017 at 4:11 PM Post #2 of 9

Raketen

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Well, I was going to say Etymotic ER4 for isolation & it's considered the standard for a certain notion of neutrality (Etymotic's take on "diffuse field equalized" reference I believe, but there are a lot of interpretations/references for neutrality), but then i saw your budget which is enough for even the most expensive CIEM, if you really want to spend that much (then again, if there is a high probability of them encountering a washing mashine maybe a max budget IEM isn't the way to go either...).


From my readings the Hidition NT6 and Inear Prophile 8 (universal) seem to be well regarded for their "neutrality". If you haven't seen them, these recent massive CIEM comparisons might be a good place to start.

Also some interesting reading on "Neutrality" if you are interested:

I don't have any particular DAC/AMP recommendations, but the one big suggestion I would make is that if your phone has standard android volume control of only 16 steps, a dac/amp with its own volume adjustment is highly recommended (for instance my Geek Out V2+ is a very good sounding DAC/Amp but is almost unusable with my phone due to the giant leaps in volume without some obnoxious workarounds).
 
Sep 4, 2017 at 12:33 AM Post #3 of 9

Doody

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As for isolation, consider Comply foam tips. Once you dial in the right sizing, they do a fantastic job. I use them on my SE846's on the NYC and Boston subways. Happy camper, for sure.

If isolation is your goal, I think you'll be better off with UIEMs with Comply than with CIEMs (fyi/fwiw).

I'm a Chord slut, so I'd suggest a Mojo - and that'll leave you with enough for Vegas or Nobles or 846's or whatever.

Doody
 
Sep 4, 2017 at 9:11 AM Post #5 of 9

Elijah0039

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Well, I was going to say Etymotic ER4 for isolation & it's considered the standard for a certain notion of neutrality (Etymotic's take on "diffuse field equalized" reference I believe, but there are a lot of interpretations/references for neutrality), but then i saw your budget which is enough for even the most expensive CIEM, if you really want to spend that much (then again, if there is a high probability of them encountering a washing mashine maybe a max budget IEM isn't the way to go either...).


From my readings the Hidition NT6 and Inear Prophile 8 (universal) seem to be well regarded for their "neutrality". If you haven't seen them, these recent massive CIEM comparisons might be a good place to start.

Also some interesting reading on "Neutrality" if you are interested:

I don't have any particular DAC/AMP recommendations, but the one big suggestion I would make is that if your phone has standard android volume control of only 16 steps, a dac/amp with its own volume adjustment is highly recommended (for instance my Geek Out V2+ is a very good sounding DAC/Amp but is almost unusable with my phone due to the giant leaps in volume without some obnoxious workarounds).

Thanks for your response! I very much enjoyed the reading from innerfidelity.

I was wondering though, if CIEM's really are the right thing for me? How does the typical CIEM fare against the more high end UIEM like the Shure se846?
 
Sep 4, 2017 at 9:27 AM Post #6 of 9

Elijah0039

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As for isolation, consider Comply foam tips. Once you dial in the right sizing, they do a fantastic job. I use them on my SE846's on the NYC and Boston subways. Happy camper, for sure.

If isolation is your goal, I think you'll be better off with UIEMs with Comply than with CIEMs (fyi/fwiw).

I'm a Chord slut, so I'd suggest a Mojo - and that'll leave you with enough for Vegas or Nobles or 846's or whatever.

Doody

I had looked at the Mojo, everyone seems to enjoy it. Currently it is my number one if I don't get the Shure KSE1500s (which come with a DAC/AMP). Thanks for your response!
 
Sep 4, 2017 at 11:47 AM Post #8 of 9

Raketen

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I was wondering though, if CIEM's really are the right thing for me? How does the typical CIEM fare against the more high end UIEM like the Shure se846?

I only have limited experience (for my preferences find this price range well past the point of diminishing returns, though do not entirely regret trying) but I suspect, all other things being equal, the overall qualitative difference is fairly minimal these days However, in terms of squeezing the last tiny drop in sound performance out of an In-Ear design, a properly made CIEM is better at accounting for the variability of individual ear canals because they can measure the sound from the custom mold against their tuning reference and try to minimize any eccentricities- whereas you probably noticed with UIEM the sound can quite noticably change with different tips & fit.

There is definitely a lot to consider if it is the right thing for you- as an example I have only tried one CIEM and discovered it didn't fit well with my listening habits (I generally listen on-the-go but didn't even realize how often I pull out an IEM to hear the outside environment- needless to say this becomes is a bit of a pain with CIEM!). It is a big expense, but if you end up not liking it (in the US, there are few places to demo headphones, much less IEM/CIEM), they usually retain very little value on the used market, and due to construction some cannot be resold at all.

Also worth noting, a good amount of patience is required: CIEMs can take anywhere from 2 weeks to several months to be made, and might have to be sent back for refitting, sometimes more than once, which can also take quite a bit of time.

If you do want to consider CIEM: In my opinion it is a good idea to try an inexpensive model first (there are some for ~$200-400), preferably from the company of the model you are most interested in- even though this money will not be recovered (some might offer an "upgrade" option), it will give you an opportunity to gauge their suitability to your ears and listening habits (as well as the customer service which can become very important with CIEM).

average_joe's CIEM thread, though it hasn't been updated in a while has a lot of good links & info on the subject https://www.head-fi.org/threads/mul...review-links-information.541494/#post_7302110
 
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Sep 5, 2017 at 4:04 PM Post #9 of 9

Elijah0039

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I only have limited experience (for my preferences find this price range well past the point of diminishing returns, though do not entirely regret trying) but I suspect, all other things being equal, the overall qualitative difference is fairly minimal these days However, in terms of squeezing the last tiny drop in sound performance out of an In-Ear design, a properly made CIEM is better at accounting for the variability of individual ear canals because they can measure the sound from the custom mold against their tuning reference and try to minimize any eccentricities- whereas you probably noticed with UIEM the sound can quite noticably change with different tips & fit.

There is definitely a lot to consider if it is the right thing for you- as an example I have only tried one CIEM and discovered it didn't fit well with my listening habits (I generally listen on-the-go but didn't even realize how often I pull out an IEM to hear the outside environment- needless to say this becomes is a bit of a pain with CIEM!). It is a big expense, but if you end up not liking it (in the US, there are few places to demo headphones, much less IEM/CIEM), they usually retain very little value on the used market, and due to construction some cannot be resold at all.

Also worth noting, a good amount of patience is required: CIEMs can take anywhere from 2 weeks to several months to be made, and might have to be sent back for refitting, sometimes more than once, which can also take quite a bit of time.

If you do want to consider CIEM: In my opinion it is a good idea to try an inexpensive model first (there are some for ~$200-400), preferably from the company of the model you are most interested in- even though this money will not be recovered (some might offer an "upgrade" option), it will give you an opportunity to gauge their suitability to your ears and listening habits (as well as the customer service which can become very important with CIEM).

average_joe's CIEM thread, though it hasn't been updated in a while has a lot of good links & info on the subject https://www.head-fi.org/threads/mul...review-links-information.541494/#post_7302110

Fantastic. I will have a look. Thanks! :)
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