Shure SE420 and impedance adapter
Feb 8, 2008 at 10:12 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 10


Headphoneus Supremus
Dec 14, 2006
I've seen quite a few people using 120/170/230 Ohm impedance adapters with their SE420. I'm wondering why you are doing so, and what are the sonic improvements (and to which extent they improve). Can you tell me more?
Feb 8, 2008 at 10:25 PM Post #2 of 10
They improve power transfer between an amp and the driver. Think about an adapter to join a 1" water pipe to a 2" water pipe. If there was no adapter and one pipe was loosely stuck in another, you would lose a lot of efficiency, depending on which way the water flowed. An adpter would allow a much better transfer of water, except where the transfer was made would either resist or lose pressure, depending on the direction the water was flowing. This is what impedance matching does. The better the fit between the pipes, the better your result. Not a perfect analogy, but should get the idea across.

Now, don't get this confused with the amp's output power and the headphones' efficiency. You need to put all three together to figure out the result.
Feb 8, 2008 at 10:36 PM Post #3 of 10
I know.

But such an impedance adapter should screw the freq response of the IEM. Owners of this combo also say it changes the sound, so I want to understand if there are any hidden secrets that make the SE420 sound a lot better (since I'm not interested in the stock version, but I'm growing pretty interested in this impedance thing... or maybe I'm just bored today
Feb 8, 2008 at 11:10 PM Post #4 of 10
My experience with multi-armature driver IEMs + impedance adapter is negative (UM2, E5, SF5P) for most the part, but I did not try it out with the E500/SE530.

With those 3, it screws the sound, likely due to the crossover implementation.

From what I understand, the SE420 uses a pre-emptive crossover, whereas the E5 (and presumably the SF5P and UM2) uses a co-operative crossover implementation, which may contribute it to acting like a single armature driver (those that I tried/used) when it comes to an impedance adapter implementation.

As for the improvements, I just feel that the SE420 is better with it, being tighter, extended sparkling treble that does not get masked by its initial very present (yet ironically unhumped) midbass, a more smoother midrange as opposed to a somewhat diffused one. It basically feels like a Shure E4 done right in every single way possible.

Clannad in Consert and Eire: Island of Saints sounds astonishingly jaw-dropping on it (the details, the tonality and instrumental timbre), surpassing the RP-21 by quite a fair amount IMO in all aspects (not huge but still rather noticeable) with the exception of midrange, where the RP-21 gets slaughtered IMO (The RP-21 does have more kick to the bass though, so I still prefer it for Rock and Video Game OSTs, and the RP-21 is more forgiving in general).

Presently listening to Chet Baker in FLAC while I'm fleshing out my storyboards
Feb 8, 2008 at 11:17 PM Post #5 of 10
How do they sound with your amped portable setup compared to D2? Do you think they have good ability to scale with improved source/amp?
How's the soundstage?
Feb 8, 2008 at 11:28 PM Post #6 of 10
The difference between the headstage of the 2 setups is gargantuan.

Comparing the iRiver H120 -> Xenos -> SE420-230 to the D2 -> SE420-230, the D2 sound compressed, and its detail separation isn't as good.

Given that the D2 -> H120 + amp was a huge leap for the SE420-230, I have a feeling that things would get better themore powerful or capable the source.

I may want to get the iBasso D1 due to its DAC for thisa purpose, and bypass the H120's internal DAC altogether. Curious to see how far things can scale.
Feb 8, 2008 at 11:41 PM Post #7 of 10
Thanks. I'm also curious about another thing you said. You said the SE420 + impedance adapter "feels like a Shure E4 done right in every single way possible". What do you mean? How different is it from the E4? Would you say it's an E4 with added bass and treble, so a more balanced IEM? Is it possible to hear deep bass, and does it have still too much midbass? Would you call midrange "recessed"? How do the SE420 behave in regards of sibilance?

Sorry for the rush of questions
I'm deciding wether I should try it or leave it alone.
Feb 9, 2008 at 12:49 AM Post #8 of 10
Don't worry.

I like the E4 a lot, but the problem about the E4 IMO, is its very 2 dimensional headstage, and lack of extreme lows extension and airiness. The E4's midrange IMO, though good, is a bit too forward for my liking, and it gets a wee bit nasal at times.

The SE420 not only resolves these issues, but adds in a detail level that is just as good as the ER4P IMO (if not better), a more believable tonality to musical instruments in the extension of both ends, and basically feels like an E4 that has been properly balanced out since the 'stress'.

An analogy when it comes to both those earphones is taking... Pokemon... into consideration. The SE420 IMO is an evolution of the E4, retaining all the good points of the E4, evolving to the same 'species' of earphone and becoming better in terms of stats, breaking free of what maybe limiting its predecessor in the first place.

E4? Mid-bass? Not to me my man.
*points to SE530* Now that has a lot of midbass IMO.
The SE420's bass reaches as low as the SE530 IMO.

How the SE420 behaves to sibilance depends very much on the recording.

I wouldn't call the midrange of the SE420 recessed, it has a lot of life in it. 'Musical' you can say (with adapter, a bit too diffused/spread out without it). Male vocals shine very well with the SE420, and IMO very smooth and liquid like.

I'm not sure how people regard the RP-21 w/ its foam removed in terms of sibilance, but I found it pretty forgiving when it came to sibilance issues, especially with a lot of poorly recorded Japanese video game OSTs (e.g Drag-On Dragoon 2's 'Plains of Pity' theme)
The SE420 is less forgiving, since it can pick up micro-details and tonality/timbre better than the RP-21 can, and in this sense is more unforgiving of the flaws in a recording. Low bitrate lossy files also reveal their flaws very prominently with the SE420 IMO.

One comparison I can make would be that the SE420 to a headphone (don't kill me for this) is that it feels ->somewhat<- like a very toned down HE90 + HEV90. What it lacks is the soundstage (despite my setup, the SE420 sounds VERY compressed in comparison mind you), the airiness, the treble extension and the Orpheus' overall tonality, but otherwise, the sound sig of the SE420-230 does remind me a little bit of the Orpheus combo. Then again, I don't really remember all that well since its been a few months, and I only got to use that thing for about an hour or so.
Feb 9, 2008 at 12:01 PM Post #10 of 10
Another question: which impedance load is better (and good to drive from a portable amp, say a Pico or iBasso P2)? And where did you get your adapter? (I believe there is the need for good quality ones)

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