The $150-200 IEMs thread
Nov 25, 2008 at 10:36 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 54

s_nyc

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Edited to encourage everyone to post their questions / comments on $150-200 IEM on this thread.

Here is a provisional list of the contenders (please let me know if you want any to be added):

- Atrio M5/M8
- Jays q-jays
- Klipsch Image X10
- Klipsch Custom 3
- Shure SE310
- Sleek Audio SA6
- Sony EX700
- Ultimate Ears Super.Fi.5 EB
- Ultimate Ears Super.Fi.5 Pro

I might try to put a few comments next to each on the basis of what I read, but this is a tricky exercise. If anyone wants to give it a try, be my guest!

S.

NB: Sorry for using a $ range, but you will need to convert to the applicable prices in euros, pounds, yens, yuhans, etc. yourself. I would have done so with pleasure but the retail prices of IEMs unsurprisingly vary from one country to another. $150-200 would be the typical price at which you could find these earphones on amazon.com.

NB: Below is my original post.

________________________
Hi everyone!

My dear wife has recently asked me to think about my future Christmas gift. I did and of course came up with the idea of a new pair of earphones! I am therefore asking you guys for sound advice on the subject...

Background

I've been using an iPod Nano 2nd generation for a few years and very recently replaced the Apple earbuds with Sennheiser CX300 earphones. I am all new to the audiophile world but willing to discover and to purchase a good pair of durable earphones for everyday use. I do plan to keep them for many years. Next step will be to improve the quality of the source I am listening to (currently MP3s with a bitrate anywhere between 128 and 320kbps) and possibly the audio player if you tell me that my Nano is detrimental to good sound quality.

I mainly listen to Pop-Rock/Lounge music but am expanding that style list everyday (e.g. South American music, jazz, hardrock, boom-boom music, etc... a bit of everything!) I have been thrilled by the CX300 bass response but much less by the quite muffled sound overall...

The ideal pair of earphones

What I am looking for are in-ear phones which:

- are for everyday use (i.e. will be my single pair, no other purchases are envisaged / will be used while at home, walking in the street and running)
- are comfortable
- are durable (replaceable cables is a definite plus)
- have great clear sound and at the same time v. good bass response unamped (I do not plan on using an external amp)

Isolation is not the most important factor. I'd rather avoid too much isolation since I will be walking in the streets everyday with these earphones and would like to stay alive...

Budget

$100-199.99 (ideally $150, will in any case not go above $200).

Let me know if you are aware of any particular discounts for the holidays period (I am already aware of the Klipsch offer).

The candidates

I am open to any suggestions, but came up with the following short list after extensive research:

- UE Super.Fi.5 Pro ($189): After all I read, this would be my preferred candidate for its well balanced character with a slight focus on bass, dual drivers, good detail (although not equivalent to more expensive eaphones), replaceable cables (a real plus), over-the-ear wearing good for running, shallow insert like my current CX300 (i.e. do not go too deep in the ear canal) and do not require a lot of power to work correctly (i.e. w/out external amp). They are apparently a bit less comfortable than certain competitors but the use of foam may possibly enhance comfort.

- Klipsch Image X10 ($175): From what I have read, they have a better sound overall and bass response than most competitors, including certain with a higher price tag, which is a big plus. Their durability would however be questionable, which is a big minus. Opinions on comfort are mixed. Slight issue for me, the current half price promotion only lasts until Nov. 30th and I would ideally avoid ordering almost a month before Christmas since I will only open the box at Christmas and that you are generally allowed to return/exchange electronics within a rather short timeframe only.

- Sleek Audio SA6 ($199): Single driver but apparently as balanced as similarly priced dual drivers. Maybe a bit lacking bass-wise compared to the UE and Klipsch? I like the idea of the built-in EQ. Replaceable cables are also a plus. No idea about durability / build quality.

Other candidates that I could consider:

- Westone UM1 ($109): Apparently very comfortable. Single driver. Seem durable. Would consider if you guys can convince me that there are not much difference from a soundf quality perspective between this one and the UE/Klipsch/Sleek.

- UE Super.Fi.5 EB ($156): Great bass but less great mid/highs, is that correct? I love bass but would probably eventually enjoy more a well-balanced pair of earphones for everyday use.

- Sennheiser CX95 ($140): Have not read much about these.


- Shure e4c ($160?): I have read mixed reviews on Shures these days. They seem to fit very well a lot of people and not at all the same proportion of people. Do they really have the same level of bass response than the 3 preferred candidates? Are they better with an amp?

- Jays q-jays ($170): I have not read a lot about these earphones. Just know that they have dual drivers.

- Atrio M5/M8 ($180): Great bass but average highs, correct? Mixed reviews in any case. I'd rather find something well balanced. Also, they seem to go very deep in the ear canals and I am not sure to like this idea.

- Denon C751 ($95-100): What will I be missing with these ones apart durability?

Phew! Sorry to have been that long. Hopefully, this thread can help others in their hunt for the perfect pair of earphones!

Many thanks for all your comments and answers! (also, feel free to respond to part of this post only)

S.
 
Nov 25, 2008 at 11:13 PM Post #2 of 54

Cool_Torpedo

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Were they for me and had I to use them for everything, from home listening to running, I'd try the X-10 and would get profit of the discount. The problem is that most of the IEM's you're thinking of are quite isolating and that wouldn't be that good for street walking under traffic conditions or running, if you're to hear horns and other warnings.

I wouldn't use any universal UE for running unless you want to stop frequently to get the right fit. Otherwise, no bass. Apart from that, I didn't like the Super.fi 5 sound signature.
 
Nov 25, 2008 at 11:19 PM Post #3 of 54

ZoNtO

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Used UM2?
 
Nov 25, 2008 at 11:25 PM Post #5 of 54

s_nyc

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Cool_Torpedo /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Were they for me and had I to use them for everything, from home listening to running, I'd try the X-10 and would get profit of the discount. The problem is that most of the IEM's you're thinking of are quite isolating and that wouldn't be that good for street walking under traffic conditions or running, if you're to hear horns and other warnings.

I wouldn't use any universal UE for running unless you want to stop frequently to get the right fit. Otherwise, no bass. Apart from that, I didn't like the Super.fi 5 sound signature.



Thanks! Which one of those listed in my post would provide the same kind of of isolation as the CX300? None?
 
Nov 26, 2008 at 12:27 AM Post #6 of 54

pseudohippy

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The Image X10 is such a good deal for an amazing phone. I dont see how you could pass on that. The SA6 are fantastic but durability isnt the best. Running in IEM's is no problem for me with either sure olives or comply foam tips. Seal stays good for me. Not sure about which has the worst isolation on your list so unfortunately Im no help there.
 
Nov 26, 2008 at 1:14 AM Post #7 of 54

Taikero

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For your needs, I would go with the X-10 (Fantastic value and great-sounding IEMs. I own these personally and like them a lot. I can't over-emphasize the comfort available from these. You can sleep with them on) or the Future Sonics Atrio M5/M8 (Supposed to be the best bass-leaning IEMs for overall bass quality).

The Sleek Audio SA6 would be a decent buy, but the X-10 is arguably a better deal right now for a similar IEM that has slightly more bass response. The SA6 is supposed to have a very clean, close-to-flat-response sound, so if you're looking for that, the SA6 is probably a good bet.

I would not buy the Super.fi 5 Pro (Most of the others on your list are flat out better IEMs), the Super.fi 5 EB (Too bass heavy without heavy computer-based EQ manipulation. I own these and love them for computer listening, but they are not good for portable listening because you can't manipulate the sound signature for clarity very well), or the other IEMs you listed, if only because the above three (X-10, SA6, Atrio M5/M8) are about the best deals in the price range you're looking at for what you're looking for.

As a disclaimer I don't know much about the Q-Jays, so I can't comment favorably or against on them.
 
Nov 26, 2008 at 3:11 AM Post #8 of 54

Scott549

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Supporting others' opinions ...

Stay away from Super.Fis.
I really like the Klipsch X5's. Consider them.
Aside from the Klipsch sale, which can't be beat right now, the Sleeks get almost universally good reviews here, so you probably can't go wrong with those either.
 
Nov 26, 2008 at 3:40 AM Post #10 of 54

ZoNtO

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Yeah that 250 with the 25% cashback on eBay would put you just under 200 for a brand new set of UM2. Zolton2 I think is Mike's eBay name.
 
Nov 26, 2008 at 12:14 PM Post #11 of 54

Cool_Torpedo

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Quote:

Originally Posted by s_nyc /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Thanks! Which one of those listed in my post would provide the same kind of of isolation as the CX300? None?


I'm afraid that probably none. The CX-300 aren't "true" IEMs in my opinion, they don't get deep enough into the ear canal, nor they get the sort of seal "real" IEMs provide.
I can't speak of the Sleeks and other models you're considering, but definitely the UE Triple.fi are more isolating than the CX-300, so do the X10 -not that I know personally yet, I'm waiting for them to arrive in a few days-. For the reports the X-10 should offer about the same isolation as Triple.fi and other IEMs that reach deep in the ear canal and get good seal.
 
Nov 26, 2008 at 2:54 PM Post #12 of 54

s_nyc

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Quote:

Originally Posted by ZoNtO /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Yeah that 250 with the 25% cashback on eBay would put you just under 200 for a brand new set of UM2. Zolton2 I think is Mike's eBay name.


Wow, $200 for the UM2? Can you describe more accurately how I can get the cashback? Sorry, I am not fond of Ebay and do not know it very much. Is it safe to go with this seller btw? Have other on the forum bought from him?
 
Nov 26, 2008 at 2:56 PM Post #13 of 54

s_nyc

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Thanks all for your answers - keep them coming! :)

It seems so far that the X10 has the favour of many of you guys. What about its durability?

Second best choice would then be the Sleeks, which have the nice advantage of having replaceable cables.

Will anyone speak in favour of the Ultimate Ears?
 
Nov 26, 2008 at 7:39 PM Post #14 of 54

Taikero

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Some users have reported durability problems with the X10, but I suspect that many of them do silly things like wear them to the gym or yank them out of their ears by the cord. Any pair of IEMs is going to have problems if you do things like that.

I wouldn't do Ultimate Ears right now. At the current prices IEMs are going for, Ultimate Ears is kind of outclassed at the $150-$200 range.

That's not to say I don't like my 5 EBs, just that for near the same money I could've had a superior IEM (Atrio M5/M8) if I'd bothered with further research (I'd heard of the M5/M8, but hadn't investigated enough to know exactly what it offered vs. the 5 EB).

Same goes for the 5 Pro. SA6/X10 > 5 Pro for about the same price.
 
Nov 26, 2008 at 7:46 PM Post #15 of 54

ZoNtO

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Quote:

Originally Posted by s_nyc /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Wow, $200 for the UM2? Can you describe more accurately how I can get the cashback? Sorry, I am not fond of Ebay and do not know it very much. Is it safe to go with this seller btw? Have other on the forum bought from him?


Yep, Mike is an authorized Westone dealer out of Ohio. Many have preordered the Westone 3 and a few have recently ordered the UM2 from him as well.

Here's the link:

IN EAR MONITORS USED - eBay (item 360081749607 end time Dec-20-08 04:47:32 PST)

EDIT: These are NOT used, but put that way to not upset Westone. They only allow advertising at their $299 price, so Mike puts used in the title to avoid that complication, but they are BNIB sealed.

Basically to get the cashback you have to go to live.com or microsoft.live.com and search for something like "sony ps3" or "nintendo wii" and then you will get results that link you to ebay with a little dollar sign that says Eligible for 25% Microsoft Cash-Back or something. You have an hour until the cookie runs out, so any buy-it-now item would also qualify (hence the um2 link posted before). When you check out, it will show you your cashback amount that will be refunded to paypal within 60 days.

There are other ways to save too. An eBay mastercard right now saves you 15%. Some people have coupons for another 10-15%. Rumor has it that on this coming Monday the cashback amount will be increased to 30% (I haven't found this verified anywhere). So you have options.

BTW, shoot Mike an email if you're unsure. He was very helpful and communicative with me even though I decided against the UM2s and got some used er4p on the forums here.
 

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