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Software Equalizers

  1. JJBug
    Just finished looking at this excellent thread comparing IEMs 
    Being new to quality IEMs I have a question. I have been fortunate to have been in the States last month and picked up some proper new IEMs cheaply (Klipsch S4, Sennheiser CX300 II, MetriFi170, and I got so excited I ordered some Soundmagic PL-30s online (spent under $120 for all - the S4s cost the most by far - I went on a shopping spree!)
    Anyway - why do some earbuds hate it when I turn the equalizer on with my Zune HD (Klipsch S4 sounds muted and aweful with it on - excellent without) and some do better (170s sound much better with the equalizer on). If earbuds need an equalizer, does it mean they are not good quality? The 170s on rock setting sound very close to the S4s to me - a little brighter - I almost prefer them infact - they were only $10.
    Secondly, will getting an amp (like Fiio E5 make my earbuds sound better - is it worth the money and inconvenience of charging and carrying it around?
    Thanks for reading my newbie questions.
    I should add that I eneded up with 4 pairs of IEMs and not one really good pair because I found the CX 300 IIs for $40 (they are $139 in Canada at my Futureshop) so I couldn't pass those up, the MetroFis were $10 - not bad for Ultimate Ears, I lost the receipt for the S4s so I couldnt return them after I tried them, and after looking online I decided because I like the wider soundstage the CX 300s have, the bass of the S4s, and the crispness and clarity of the 170s, the Soundmagic PL-30 seem to have all of these for $20 - I had to get them too.
  2. mvw2
    Most EQs are too simplified to fix frequency response issues.  I kind of see an EQ as relatively useless unless you have at least 10 bands or have a devices with variable EQs (selectable frequency and width (Q).  The problem with having too few bands is that you may fix one part of the frequency spectrum but also bump up or cut areas of the response around the problem point that you do not want to boost or cut.  You end up doing as much damage or more than you are fixing.  Some EQs don't creating a clean curve.  Some EQs don't take into account clipping from the gains.
    You will find that you are happier with a product that has a flatter (ear) response because they take less effort to sound right from the start.  This isn't to say that earphones that don't have a flat response are bad.  They are just geared different. 
    Amping is almost always beneficial.  Almost every earphone out there does improve at least to a small degree by amping.  The FiiO E5 is a nice starter amp.  It's cheap, compact, and works well.
    While you are still working at a budget level, realize that this hobby will catch you, and you'll eventually stop toying with these entry level products.  I was like you a couple years back.  I bought my first $60 earphone and thought that was stupid expensive.  Now I see +$300 as expensive and mid priced products as being between $100 and $200.  I also see great value in investing in a good amp, one that costs more like $150-$300.  The nice thing is that you buy a good amp once, and you're done.  It'll power everything you'll ever buy.  Suggestion: Practical Devices XM5.  You can purchase the upgraded parts off Digikey cheaper than through Practical Devices.  A quality DAC + amp is one of the most underrated tools you'll ever own in your head-fi hobby.  It was a big step when I bought my Meier 2Move used off a fellow member (used is a good way to get good things cheap).  It was a good chunk of money I couldn't put worth too, but I am so glad I bought it.  It's one of those items that ensures you are getting a good, clean signal to your earphones.  Paired to the Zune, you'll just use the amp, but once you connect it to your desktop/laptop, you will use the DAC too as a high quality source devices, no noise and very high quality sound and is a sizable improvement over a lot of onboard sound cards on PCs.
    In a year or two you will be buying $200 headphones like they were candy, haha.  Welcome to head-fi.  This is the beginning of the end for you.  I'll make one moderate dollar earphone suggestion for you.  Hop on eBay and grab a Klipsch Custom 3 IEM.  At the $99 going rate, it's one of the best bang for the buck earphones out there.  For you, this would be an expensive venture, but in terms of cost for given sound quality it's one of the leaders, in my opinion of course.  The cord is a joke though, but it can be forgiven for the sound quality the earphone puts out.  It's also easy to drive, and the frequency response is well balanced with little need for any EQing.  A step up would be Hifi-Man's RE252, can be had for as little as $140 used, expensive for you but cheap in the grand scheme of things, and it is a true reference level product, like top level product for half the price.  It has been my favorite and effectively most cost effective (used) products I've ever used.  Again, flat frequency response and no need for EQing plus easy to drive so no amp need.  If you want to keep expanding your collection and get a taste for high quality sound, these represent some of the better sound quality per dollar options.  I might also toss in the RE-ZERO too, but I would still opt for the Custom 3 at the same price point.
    Reading through Joker's and ClieOS' threads are a big help to you.  You are at least getting an idea of what's out there and how they stack up.  While most of us start off on the budget side of things, these earphones are more gateway drugs than the end of the line.  I gave a couple suggestions above because you will more than likely be stepping up again sooner than later, and it's always good to think about that "next great earphone" despite how much your wallet hates you for it.
  3. JJBug
    Thanks for taking the time to reply. I wish I'd found this forum before I started buying earbuds. You are right, I am already eyeing some $100 earbuds - I have re-read the reviews twice and was deciding between the RE 0 and Hippo VB. I also bought a Fiio E5 amp to get started with. I will check out the Klipsch Custom 3 also.
    Thanks again.

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