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.