Best IEMs for £100-150 (upgrade RHA MA-350s)
I recently decided to try some on-ear cans to replace my RHA MA-350 IEMs, thinking I could get better sound out of a £130 pair of on-ears than a £30 pair of IEMs. How wrong I was. I bought some AKG K451s and tried ATH ES55s, various Bose and Sennheisers (including some much more expensive ones), and none of them had the same crispness in the trebles as the MA350s. I suspect I might be conditioned to liking a 'V' shaped sound signature now because of the MA350s and other cheap IEMs I've had before, but there we go. All those over ear cans just sound muffled to me (perhaps they are more neutral and therefore more accurate, but I just found the music totally lacked the sparkle and punchy precision of the RHAs).
Anyway, after that brief dalliance with on-ear cans I thought it might be worth investing in a better set of IEMs instead. I really like the RHAs but I have a bit of cash to spend and I'd like to see what sort of sound I can get for my money. I'd also ideally like a J-chord pair, since I find the Y chord very irritating when all the weight is put on my ears and the buds don't stay in right. I walk a lot and find myself constantly having to adjust the position of the wire under my jacket to give enough slack that the weight isn't pulling on the buds.
In terms of sound characteristics I'm looking for really punchy but precise bass (I listen to a lot of electronica and drum-heavy music) and really crisp, but not shrill, highs which aren't drowned out by the lows. I'm not really sure when it comes to mids -- as I say I think the RHAs have a very 'V' shaped sound, so I might have been missing out a bit on them.
I'll be powering them from a Rockboxed Sansa Fuze, listening to mostly mid-to-high bitrate MP3 (256+), Q5 OGG and FLAC.
I've come across a few suggestions like the VSonic GR07s or the Phonak Audio PFE 012s. Both sound good on paper but I've been a bit burned by my experience with the on-ears -- the K451s got rave reviews but I hate their sound, so now I'm loathe to trust anything I can't hear for myself (but nobody lets you test IEMs in-store!! :mad:)
Any suggestions would be much appreciated :)
as for specific suggestions...I don't have much experience with current IEMs in that price range. Right now I am using the Meelectronics a161 and I love them. Everything else I have is even cheaper than that. I have spent more int he past but in my experience there is a distinct decline in return for your money after $100. Its all about build quality, fine tuning to sound signatures, etc at that point. There are so many excellent choices in the $80-100 range right now. Even $50 has more now than I ever remember.
It does suck that you can't audition IEMs in very many places...but it also makes the hobby an adventure and kind of fun. Whatever you get, stick with something sold locally so you can return or popular in your country and the US so you can resell it if you don't like it. There are several threads around with long lists of reviewed IEMs to use a reference. Keep in mind everyone has their tastes and you have to consider that when you read their opinion. For example, Joker over on headfi doesn't love bass like I do so when he says something is too bass heavy but doesn't bleed into the rest of the sound signature I know I will love it. If he says it has just the right amount of bass I wont be thrilled by it for all my music. If he says it is bass light but very detailed I know I will hate it, regardless of his ratings. I bought a couple of cheap sets from Joker, ClieOS, and DFKT's list and compared my impressions to theirs and used that as a baseline. There are plenty of sets on all those lists so it doesn't cost a fortune to do. But like I said...this is a hobby for me, you may not want to do all of that.
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