Hacked Grado iGI IEMs Review
Okay, I order the iGi's because I've always liked the Grado Sound. I'm not much of a Basshead and prefer to hear music as an ensemble rather than the just the sum of it's components. For me, that more or less, is the mid-level sounds blending with the bass and treble. I've read about the term PRAT or pace, rhythm and timing of a sound system affecting how you perceive a recording. I built my home stereo primarily to be neutral in affecting the recoding. I ended up with buying a mix of components from various mid-fi manufacturers. I had a budget, so I mostly stuck with the lower end of upscale names like Vandersteen speakers, a Grado cartridge mated to Rega turntable with a Jolida tube amp. To this day, I'm very satisfied with the sound of my stereo, even over 5 years later. Very neutral allowing the recording to come through. The sound stage is wide with distinct separation of voices and instruments. PRAT isn't muddled with too much bass and cymbals have the timbre of live instruments.
I got my S9 mostly because it played FLAC files. It isn't my home stereo, but, you can't expect that from something portable. I like the fact that something so small can store CD sound without the mechanical issues that are inherent with portable CD player. These include jitter and the ever present skipping. IMO a skipping CD is just a horrible sound. It completely removes you from the music. Any way to match up with the S9, I a set of Klipsch S4. I've been fairly satisfied with the S4s so far. They are comfortable to wear with fairly good sound. For the $80, I was quite happy with them. Really didn't have any intention of upgrading them. Well, until I just stumbled into an ad for the Grado iGi's on sale for $69. Being familiar with the Grado sound, on a whim I ordered them. I got them this week and just got around to trying them out.
I tried out all the included tips. I finally found an acceptable set, the smallest one, to fit into my ears. Anyway, I plugged them into my S9 and to be honest, it sounded terrible. Treble was off and too quiet. After shoving the the earpieces as far as they would go into my ears, I finally got the bass to come around. But, the problem was the treble was still off. The mid-level sound however was brilliant and expansive. Very neutral with huge separation of instruments and voices. I was never comfortable with the fit. So, I pulled the "gel" tips off the S4s. It took a little bit of forcing to fit on iGis. The iGis have a larger flange on the tip. Once on, they fit as well as the S4s. They sealed well and were very comfortable. The earpieces slipped a bit farther into my ear canals. When I plugged into the S9, I was instantly surprised to hear what I resembled what I had spent months in auditioning and assembling my home stereo. PRAT was present. Pushing the drivers further into my ear canals cleared up the treble. Bass was very present, but without overpowering subtleties within the midlevels. The highs aren't perfect, but, I expect digital to roll off a bit. Still, it's quite acceptable, cymbals have a good amount of timbre (I would prefer that they shimmer with a longer decay). The drivers recover fast from louder sounds. Being slow in recovery, for me completely throws off PRAT.
Since I had to hack these IEMs, I can't say that these that everything is perfect. But, with Klipsch "gel' tips, they are extraordinary when paired with FLAC files. You can get the gel tips from Klipsch off their web site for about $15 for a package of 4 pairs. At the going rate of $90, I can say that these are huge upgrade from the from my $80 S4s. So, if you can afford $105 for a set with gel tips, I highly recommend them. The only problem with this is that Klipsch doesn't sell their gels in trial multi-size packs. You have to know which ones you need as all 4 pair are the same size.
Switching tips isn't exactly hacking...
For $10 more, you could have gone for the re0s which would give the balanced sound you like, or the hippo vbs for more fun sound. Nice review, but uh, what is PRAT?
Also, in the future, you should post headphone reviews here:
That's the abi headphone user review section. :)
Pace, Rhythm and Timing.
Speakers and in this case earphones along with source and the amplifier may have an influence in the distorting how the music is presented. An typical example would be a loud boom that could drain the power from the amplifier beyond its ability to recover for the next note. This could also happen because the speaker driver can't snap back into fast enough into position to push the next note's sound properly. Unclean source music may be clipped during recording is another.
Anyway, if any of these occurrences are heard, the music is presented irregular to the sound as recorded. Things are out of sync. When you hear PRAT, things sound like you are hearing the music in sync. The is more space in the presentation. Cymbals tend to shimmer with a natural decay rather than getting obscured by the sound of a following drum beat.
A typical speaker may have 3 drivers. One for bass, one for mid-level, and another of treble. One driver may overdrive the amplifier resulting the mid-level or tweeters being starved. This could result in clipping or in the case of the tweeter truncation where cymbals sounds are presented as a shorter note than a live instrument would present. This results in a muddier sound.
I hope this is a better explanation.
Anyway, a fun sound isn't what I'm going for. I prefer to hear music as the sound engineer has intended. It's his job to place the instruments and vocals within the sound stage during the playback of the recording. A great sounding album with great music being played is more what I tend to listen to. Going this route, you get to hear everything recorded, including the subtleties.
Balanced isn't quite right, either. Some things work together, some things don't. Neutral isn't balanced. Neutral is more about not coloring the sound in a specific way. Some people like bass, others the vocals. Well, for me it depends on the band. I listen to everything including Jazz, Rock, Hard Core Punk, Blue Grass, and occasionally some Classical. As long as it's played well, I don't really care what genre of music is playing.
I considered writing on the other forum. I didn't think it was right. I wasn't giving a review for the masses. I didn't try it out with other players outside of the S9. The review was more intended for those with the same equipment I had tested with. So I thought the accessories was more appropriate.
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