The Best Passive Isolating Universal IEMs thread
Mar 20, 2020 at 11:35 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 68

baskingshark

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Jul 6, 2019
Posts
8,741
Likes
47,056
Location
.
Hi, I decided to start this thread as I value isolation a lot in a universal IEM for several reasons:

1) I travel a lot in buses and subways (sometimes airplanes too) and there is a tendency to boost the volume when there is poor isolation, and this is not good for hearing health in the long term.

2) Related to boosting the volume, one may annoy colleagues, passengers or bystanders due to this.

3) Bass is usually the first frequency to be lost in a noisy environment/poor isolation, and I'm unfortunately a basshead. So a big pet peeve of mine is bringing an IEM for transit and realizing the bass frequencies are missing!

4) I played the piano in a band for the past 15 years and I was never taught about hearing protection during my younger days. I was placed next to a full drum set (sans drum shield) and had ringing in my ears after band practice sometimes. We didn't use IEMs/cans then, this was only introduced about 8 years back. So I previously played with a subwoofer amp next to me, and cause the drum was on my other side, I had to boost the amp to overcome the drum volume. I saw an audiometrist a few months back and unsurprisingly was diagnosed with mild hearing loss for the higher frequencies (I'm in my mid 30s). Thankfully I can still hear till 15 KHz and my daily conversations are not affected, just that I wished I had learnt about hearing protection when I was younger. I never play in the band without my best isolating IEM nowadays.



So, am wondering if you guys can put forward your recommendations here for good isolating universal IEMs so we can all benefit as a community. Any budget, brand, sound signature is fine. If u wanna recommend closed back cans, those are also good.

Of course there's an option to go for ANC gear, but some folks I know get headaches/nausea with ANC, and I'm a bit doubtful about their sound quality compared to non ANC gear (please correct me if I'm wrong and perhaps there are improvements in ANC recently; feel free to recommend ANC in that case). And of course we can go for custom IEMs, but for some of us, these may be out of the budget. Maybe there's also a consideration for custom eartips too, those are pretty pricier than normal eartips but a feasible option. And of course there's the usual caveat that we all have different ear anatomies and different hearing health, plus we use different eartips like foams, silicone, flange types etc (and eartips are a big factor in isolation for sure).

Generally, I find the unvented BA type IEMs with small bean shaped shells such as Westones seem to have the better isolation in universal sets compared to larger vented DD type sets, but of course exceptions exist.

Overall, I think Etymotic IEMs might have the best passive isolation, but they are pretty uncomfortable for me, I get abrasions in my ear using them. So these are my other recommendations across different price brackets so far:

1) Audiosense T800 - about 30 dB isolation. 8 Knowles BA set. $298 USD. U shaped tuning, good technicals. Bass sounds like a DD bass due to the vented subwoofer.

2) Westone W30 - about 25 dB isolation. 3 BA set. Not sold anymore, but was about $400 USD when I got it. U shaped tuning. Pretty balanced but darkish. Comfortable and small ear profile.

3) Westone 3 - about 25 dB isolation. 3 BA set. Not sold anymore. V shaped fun tuning, bloated bass. Comfortable and small ear profile.

4) DUNU DM-480 - about 20 - 25 dB isolation. 2 DD set. $69 USD. Interestingly, it has no vents for a DD setup. Wide soundstage, above average technicals but supremely comfortable.

5) TRN IM2 - about 20 dB isolation. 1BA + 1DD. Cheap, $15 USD. V shaped fun tuning, above average technicals but poor timbre and thin note weight. Mids are overly recessed, so not for mid lovers. But it is a good introductory set for those new to the audio world and is a good cheap beater set.

6) Jade Audio EA3 - about 20 dB isolation. 1BA (knowles) + 1 DD, $40 USD. U shaped. Above average technicals. Bright tuning, best suited for trebleheads and not that recommended for treble sensitive folks. Wide soundstage.


Thanks for your recommendations friends. Am always interested in good isolating transit IEMs (universal), and of course if it is not that expensive, that will be a plus! TIA!!
 
Last edited:
Mar 20, 2020 at 11:46 AM Post #3 of 68
Etymotic ER2XR might be as good as it gets with around 40db of isolation.

Yeah I agree that Etymotics can give almost 40 dB isolation, superb IMO.

But do u get discomfort with them? I tried other etymotics but can't get used to the deep insertion due to discomfort. Any tips to overcome this (no pun intended)?
 
Last edited:
Mar 20, 2020 at 9:53 PM Post #7 of 68
The best I’ve found for me are IEMs with narrow nozzles, that can fit Shure tips, such as Etymotic and Westone. I use the triple flange Shure tips, but cut off the third flange. It makes them quite a bit more comfortable, helps them not suppress the highs as much, and isolates just about as well, subjectively, as Etymotics with their triple flange tips. This is the combo I use currently for drumming live (in a fully enclosed cage/room...so VERY loud).

The absolute best isolation is by using the Shure multi flange tips, then directly placing Dekoni Bulletz Mercury 4.9mm tips over the stem/base of the Shure tips. It creates a multi-flange hybrid silicone and foam tip, and no modding is needed. I don’t use these tips for drumming, b/c as loud as it is, these actually block out too much of the direct sound from the drums.
F3FD3DDE-42BC-407D-856A-0813F89C84C0.jpeg


...and on Etymotic IEMs
9D74E2B3-255D-43E7-9D79-CB3358897C93.jpeg


Just compress/roll the foam, insert, then ....no sound, until you press play.
 
Last edited:
May 4, 2020 at 9:38 PM Post #8 of 68
Good thread Idea!

Wonder if anyone here has tried Spinfit's biflanges?

RE Etymotic tips, I find once I break them in they can be very comfortable, but that can take a week or two of daily use to get there. Dont' like the new clear tips as much as the old grey tips. Can also try going up to the larger tip size and wearing a bit shallower (I wear my ER4P like this), or get some foamies (they actually used to sell their own odd comet shaped deep insert foams but idk if those are still around), though both of those options cost a little bit of isolation and might alter sound sig (not necessarily negatively but YMMV).

I think I saw someonce in the ER4 fan thread recommend putting a very thin coating of olive oil on the eartip to help ease them in and speed up break-in but I might have that confused, never tried myself.

I agree about the 'bean-shaped' designs being pretty good, I used to have the old Earsonics SM1 in that style, combined with the really dense westone star foams were almost as good at isolation as Ety & quite comfortable.

Alternate solution: get some mega bassy IEMs like Future Sonics G10 (which also fit the nice westone tips), might damage your hearing but the bass seems to help mask outside noise :upside_down:

In terms of over-ears, AFAIK Beyerdynamic's DT-150 are the most famous isolators, never tried them myself but IIRC used to have a reputation as one of the better sounding Beyer headphones.
 
Last edited:
May 4, 2020 at 10:18 PM Post #9 of 68
I have Spin Fit bi-flange tips, and they isolate a little better than most single flange silicone tips, but not nearly as well as the Etymotic or Shure multi-flange tips. The smaller flange on the Spin Fits is so flat, it’s almost like a disc, and that causes the “sharp” edges to dig into the sides of your ear canal. I really can’t stand wearing them for long at all. A very poor design IMO.
 
May 5, 2020 at 12:49 AM Post #10 of 68
Hello, thanks for passing the link of your post. A very good in-ear is or rather any of the FiiO FA range, I am reading that they have an impressive insulation more than the FiiO F9 pro (I had them for about 2 years and the insulation and comfort were almost perfect) these are perfection For comfort and insulation, I am considering buying the FA1s that sound more neutral than the warmer F9 PROs and cost $ 60 less.
They have the same shape as the audisense
 
May 5, 2020 at 12:53 AM Post #11 of 68
Hello, thanks for passing the link of your post. A very good in-ear is or rather any of the FiiO FA range, I am reading that they have an impressive insulation more than the FiiO F9 pro (I had them for about 2 years and the insulation and comfort were almost perfect) these are perfection For comfort and insulation, I am considering buying the FA1s that sound more neutral than the warmer F9 PROs and cost $ 60 less.
They have the same shape as the audisense

Actually the Jade Audio brand is a budget subbrand of Fiio. I read that the Fiio FH1S is quite similar to the Jade Audio EA3.
 
May 5, 2020 at 12:59 AM Post #13 of 68
May 5, 2020 at 4:00 PM Post #14 of 68
I have a somewhat limited experience with regards to the breadth of iems I have tried but I've appreciated the isolation the 846 gives me with either the comply or yellow foam tips. I often wear them under my helmet instead of ear plugs for both hearing protection and to fill long journeys with glorious music. Unlike with the T20s I don't have to turn up the volume to compensate for the exhaust and wind noise. Win-win!
 
May 5, 2020 at 5:24 PM Post #15 of 68
I have a somewhat limited experience with regards to the breadth of iems I have tried but I've appreciated the isolation the 846 gives me with either the comply or yellow foam tips. I often wear them under my helmet instead of ear plugs for both hearing protection and to fill long journeys with glorious music. Unlike with the T20s I don't have to turn up the volume to compensate for the exhaust and wind noise. Win-win!
Isolation is sooooo good with the 846, that’s why it’s my stage monitor. I prefer it over my CIEM.
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Back
Top