which sounds better, iem's or headphones?
Mar 7, 2006 at 3:51 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 14

cjeff2006

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I recently tried out the e4c's, one of the better iem's out there, obviously excluding UE10's and e5c's, etc... However, i was rather disappointed by its sound. Putting aside the soundstage, which obviously iem's can't achieve what headphones can, headphones just sound so much better. There's better placement of instruments, MORE details, and overall just a much more refined sound. Don't get me wrong, the e4c's did sound great, good balance of sound, clear mids and bright but not shrill highs. Bass presence is amazing too. However, i find that my hd555's which cost half the price easily beats the e4c in many many ways. I think there's a limit to what iem's can do, and even though i haven't heard the ue10's, i think it's sound signature will be similar to the shure's, though improved in many ways. So which can possibly sound better? Headphones or IEM's? I know this might be sort of an apples and oranges question, but really, if u want good, original, neutral sound, nothing beats headphones w/ a good amp. (iem's don't improve that much w/ an amp either...) Oh, and let's exclude electrostats for now. THey're in a totally different league.
 
Mar 7, 2006 at 4:01 PM Post #2 of 14

bangraman

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Isolation + portability + acceptable sound, or non-portability and better sound? It's "horses for courses" depending on your use. Personally I'd never use an IEM for home use, unless perhaps if you lived next to a freeway.
 
Mar 7, 2006 at 4:04 PM Post #3 of 14

juzmister

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look at the size of headphones and look at the size of the iem. An iem is created for portability, there has to be some sound quality degeneration along the way. My amp enchances my E5c, so i dont know what you were saying there. Would you be prepared to carry a set of senn's around with you?
 
Mar 7, 2006 at 4:06 PM Post #4 of 14

cjeff2006

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Well, say portability and isolation are not factors. Obviously iem's have their uses and open/closed cans each have their purposes too. But if we're just looking for best possible sound, forget comfort and functions... which is better?
 
Mar 7, 2006 at 4:08 PM Post #5 of 14

Jasper994

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As Bangraman has pointed out, it really depends upon your use. For me, speakers will always sound better than headphones so when I don't need the isolation, I use speakers. When I do need the isolation, IEMs take me off into my own little world. Honestly though, I think the differences you're noticing are more to do with closed versus open, not IEM vs headphone. The exception being cans like the CD3000 and R10 which have large, specially tuned inclosures. Short of the R10, I have yet to hear a closed can that can compete on any level with the UE-10.
 
Mar 7, 2006 at 4:50 PM Post #6 of 14

LaBreaHead

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"However, i find that my hd555's which cost half the price easily beats the e4c in many many ways. I think there's a limit to what iem's can do..."

That sounds about right. But within their limits -- on an airplane contending with jet roar and a neighbor who's a compulsive talker, or on a subway with screeching noise everytime the train rounds a curve, or on a school bus, or in a hospital room while a room mate watches game shows 12 hours a day, to cite just a few more common examples -- IEMs more than justify the expense, for me. Besides, it was IEMs that led me into Head-Fi, like an innocent lamb to slaughter ...

Best possible sound? Studio monitors in a professional recording studio, perhaps? The sound system for the Rolling Stones' recent mega-concert on the beach in Rio, maybe? Maybe I'm an "aural relativist,"
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but there are situations in which IEMs win first prize for me, based on a combination of circumstances, despite their inability to sound "as good as" high-end headphones or premium home audio.
 
Mar 7, 2006 at 10:10 PM Post #8 of 14

chronicblast21

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custom unit.
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Actually it really depends. IEM's, i think, takes advantage in portability; and the headphones in home use.
 
Mar 7, 2006 at 10:18 PM Post #9 of 14

iamdone

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Quote:

Originally Posted by cjeff2006
Well, say portability and isolation are not factors. Obviously iem's have their uses and open/closed cans each have their purposes too. But if we're just looking for best possible sound, forget comfort and functions... which is better?


Fullsize headphones. At least the ones I've heard against the all the iems I've heard (including the new shure e500) or owned .
 
Mar 7, 2006 at 11:27 PM Post #10 of 14

Lsportline43

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I am a noob at this hobby, but I can draw the conclusion that IEMs cannot compete with full size headphones in terms of sound. I never even listened to a pair of hi-fi full size cans and I can draw this conclusion!
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Quite simply my Koss KSC75 sound better than the Westone UM2. The price difference is HUGE, but the winner, imo, is obvious. I will be staying away from expensive IEM until I have a proper stationary setup with a nice collection of full size cans.

The truth is IEM serve their purpose VERY well. The sound isolation is second to none. I would definitely buy some cheap Shure E2c for isolation, but I wouldn't spend more than that.
 
Mar 7, 2006 at 11:29 PM Post #11 of 14

applebook

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Quote:

Originally Posted by bangraman
Isolation + portability + acceptable sound, or non-portability and better sound? It's "horses for courses" depending on your use. Personally I'd never use an IEM for home use, unless perhaps if you lived next to a freeway.


Amen to that. To me, soundstaging and imaging are two of the most important factors with headphones, and IEMs cannot match quality headphones in these departments.

As for detail and micro dynamics, a great IEM like the ER4 will definitely produce these qualities much better than a mid-priced headphone, but can it really match a 650/701/etc. in these departments?
 
Mar 7, 2006 at 11:31 PM Post #12 of 14

Lsportline43

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Forget to mention, but I've heard someone mention that they like the sound of the UM2s over the HD 650! How can this be true!?!
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How can any IEM compare to full size open cans?
 
Mar 7, 2006 at 11:43 PM Post #13 of 14

applebook

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Liking the sound of one can over another doesn't make it superior though. I'm sure there are folks out there who prefer IEMs, but these little buds unfortunately cannot match full-sized reference headphones in many areas. I wish that they could --eagerly awaiting what Etymotic decides to release next as the successor to the ER4.
 

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