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Old 11-26-2011, 05:52 PM
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tienbasse tienbasse is offline
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Thumbs up [IEM review] Yamaha EPH-100

UPDATE 12/12/2011: after extended A/B-ing against FX700, I differentiated soundstage between both IEMs. More details in the review.

Well, Yamaha is not exactly famous for their IEMs, but I was really intrigued by the design that they used for these EPH-100, and the price was not too steep (150US$) so I got curious and ordered them.

Claims : Yamaha has gone far from conventional IEM design for those: full aluminium body with chromium anti-corrosion hardcoat, proprietary double flange silicon tips with a straight shape (not conical), and a 6mm closed dynamic driver which is fitted directly within the nozzles (see Yamaha schematics below).
They claim that fitting the driver within the nozzle part of these IEMs makes the sound less distorded and more "pure" since the driver sits deeper into the ear canal. We'll see about that. Frequency range is the usual deal (20Hz-20kHz), impedance if supposed to be 16 ohms.




Packaging/accessories : we have an eco-friendly PET/carton box (100% recyclable). The IEMS are tightly hold and well protected, and for the price of 150US$/140euros, you get 5 pairs of proprietary silicon tips (SS, S, M, L, LL), a 1/4" adapter, a 2m extension cord, and a soft polyurethane pouch (way too soft to fully protect IEMs, Shure's hardpouch remains my favorite one). Quite good overall, I appreciate the variety in tip sizes, although Yamaha did not have a choice since standard tips won't fit the 6.5mm external diameter of these IEMs nozzles.
After quite some stretching, I also managed to put Comply Ts500 (spherical foams) onto the nozzles (will mention what came out of that later).



Build quality : the aluminium body is really well-crafted with a hardcoat making them scratch resistant and very light, and with a very shiny and convex mesh to protect the drivers. Depending on the tips that you chose, they can look very thin (SS, S and M tips) or very strange (mushroom shape with L and LL tips). The strain relief coming out of the body is very flexible, I'm a bit worried that it will get cut on the aluminium edges in case of repeated pulling. The Y piece is the basic moulded type, with no engraving. The cord has a VERY thick section (> 2mm) and is 1.2m long, it is tangle-free and produce no microphonics at all. The connector is angled and relatively thin. I know that a lot of people here like angled connectors but I personnaly doesn't like it because it can break more easily if the cord is pulled out of the mp3 player by force. Final touch is the Yamaha name and symbol which are printed on the external extremity of the body (under the hardcoat, so it shouldn't disappear too quickly).


Well, with exception of the connector, quality is top notch, I would put it on the same level as my JVC HA-FX700 and Sennheiser IE8.
One note though: the nozzle mesh comes very close to the tip surface (please see on the last picture), so earwax can easily deposit on the mesh. People with "wet ears" will have to clean these IEMs often so wax does not obstruct the mesh.




Comparison set-up: A/B-ing with Sennheiser IE8, JVC HA-FX700 and Shure SE420, coupled with a Cowon X7 (flat EQ, and some playing with BBE to assess soundstage). Some additional testing with a Sony NWZ-A847 player (flat EQ, but mids are more forward than with the X7). Music selection included classical/orchestral music, progressive rock, metal (with male and female singers), pop music. No R&B, no rap (sorry, not my taste...).

And just to be clear, I fully agree with Dfkt's assessments of Sennheiser IE8 and JVC HA-FX700.
  • Sennheiser IE8 have a relatively flat spectrum but with a bump in the higher part of bass (a bit boomy but could be worse), they have so-so clarity (= less than armature-type IEMs), average dynamics (decay should be shorter) and they provide poor isolation except when Ts400/500 Comply foams are used. Sounds average, but what you have in return is a HUGE soundstage, on par with full-size headphones. With better clarity, they would be perfect for my taste.


  • JVC HA-FX700 are quite different. They clearly have a V-type spectrum, with huge bass (but not the Monster-type basses, here we have dynamic bass with very short decay and no bleed on the mids). Mids are nothing special (not forward, not recessed). Treble are AMAZING, very forward but without a hint of sibilance, making these great to listen female vocals. Clarity is very good (on par with good armature-type IEMs) and dynamics is excellent (very nervous IEMs, they can be tiring for some people). Soundstage is ok but not exceptional, they are more the "band is sitting next to you"-type IEMs. Of course, there is a drawback: these have the shittiest isolation EVER for IEMs, even with Ts400/500 Comply foams, since they are very open by design. So they're no good in noisy transport (metro / plane).


  • Shure SE420 are your typical Shure multi-armature IEMs. Relatively flat EQ with a small emphasis on mids, so-so soundstage, good clarity, average dynamics, exceptional isolation (best I've ever encountered with large Shure foams or large olive tips). Good for very noisy transport but boring for my taste. At least you can sleep with those on without any issue.



First sound test
(10 minutes long, no burn-in): WTF? It sounded so flat for a dynamic driver that I wanted to cry. Decent bass, but I had trouble with the fit, even with LL tips (but I'm used to this with my huge ear canals, this is the reason why I like to use spherical Comply foams, they fit way better, but don't adapt on the EPH-100). Nevertheless it sounded more like armature-type IEMs, similar to the Shure SE420, bass aside.

Time for 100 hour burn-in with random music (no in-between listening). Although I am not a huge believer in burning-in headphones, I really think it has some scientific meaning with dynamic drivers since they're using a membrane made out a soft material.

Second (and final for this review) sound test : I tried different insertion positions (when worn pendant, the fit is ok but not great, and I can't insert them very deep, which makes me crank up the volume a lot). When worn over-the-ears, they go deeper into the ears since strain reliefs don't touch the ear lobs anymore, so the fit is better and the sound really gain in power, although I still have to set-up the volume higher than with the JVCs/Senns/Shures.
Something sounded different this time, something familiar, especially with guitar, percussion and male voices. Then I realized: it sounded like Panasonic HJE-900, with very forward mids and bass, great instrument separation to listen to guitar, male voices and low-pitch percussions, but with more clarity than the Panas and tamed treble.

  • Duel against Sennheiser IE8 : bass quantity is the same but bass is tighter on the Yamahas, mids and treble are much more clear on the Yamahas, soundstage is better on the Sennheisers, instrument separation is so much better on the Yamahas than the Sennheisers sound muddy. Isolation is better on the Yamahas. Except for classical music where soundstage really helps the IE8, these Yamahas OWN the Sennheisers for everything else. Winner: Yamahas.
  • Duel against JVC HA-FX700 : bass has a similar tightness but is more reasonable on the Yamahas (not for bassheads), mids are more forward on the Yamahas, treble are more forward on the JVCs, so JVCs remain better for female voices and high-pitch percussions, but Yamahas win for metal and progressive rock. Instrument separation is better on Yamahas, soundstage is slightly better for Yamahas (FX700s are more "in-your-face", EPH-100s put you at the center of the stage, the stage being small, unlike IE8s), clarity is slightly better on Yamahas. It's a draw in my opinion.
  • Duel against Shure SE420 : bass is better on Yamahas (stronger, tighter), mids and treble are similar quantity-wise, instrument separation is slightly better with Yamahas, clarity is way better with Yamahas. Isolation is slightly better with Shures but not by much. Overall, a clear win for Yamahas with all music styles, I'm definitely not a big fan of armature-type IEMs. Winner: Yamahas.


Summary : flat spectrum with VERY good clarity in the mids, excellent instrument separation for a dynamic driver, average soundstage but good spatialization, good dynamics and excellent isolation.


Conclusion: for a nice price, these EPH-100 were a real surprise. They're very polyvalent since their spectrum is quite flat, but they really shine because of their excellent instrument separation and clarity. For male voices and guitar, this is a bliss, and even with their average soundstage, classical/orchestral music is a pleasure, you can follow every instrument at will, like you usually can with double ou triple-armature IEMs.

Improvement leads: I finally could fit 2 types of Comply foams onto these 6.5mm nozzles after stretching sessions with pliers. I managed to put Ts500 (spherical) and T400 (spherical). Fit was OK with both foams but something was lost in the process: bass. With Ts500, details were still present but bass impact was lost, making the EPH-100 sound closer to Shure SE420. With T400 foams, bass impact was also lost, but on top of that, some details started disappearing due to the long form factor of these T400.
Well, Comply usually fit my needs, but not this time, these Yamahas really need a good seal combined with a deep insertion, which can't be achieved with the Comply models/medium size I have at my disposal.
I'll try more combos when I receive some large bore double flange from MEElec.


__________________________________________________ ____________
For lazy people, short version:

PROs : excellent build quality, isolation, clarity and instrument separation, relatively flat spectrum with good bass and excellent mids.
CONs : thin angled jack connector, and beware of ear wax on the mesh (provided tips barely cover the mesh)............... and they still cannot beat FX700's treble (but I can't imagine any contender for this)!
PRICE/VALUE : good, no real shame against top-tier universal IEMs.
__________________________________________________ ____________
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IEMs: Yamaha EPH-100, Shure SE535 Special Edition

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To sell: JVC HA-FX300, Philips SHE9850

Last edited by tienbasse; 12-12-2011 at 03:12 PM.
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Old 01-06-2012, 04:20 PM
Huxley309 Huxley309 is offline
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Have to agree with tienbasse, i bought these after seeing the review and i love them to bits.
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Old 01-23-2012, 10:17 AM
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Mines will arrive tomorrow. Will post impressions and a direct comparison with UM3X, SM3 and GR-07.
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Old 01-23-2012, 12:50 PM
JK98 JK98 is offline
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It would have been interesting if you compared this with JVC's microdriver IEMs, the $25 HAFXC51, and the $34 HAFXC80, and the Meelectronics Cc51 microdriver IEM. While I wouldn't expect these much cheaper IEMs to be as good as the EPH-100, although if the sound quality on them is just slightly lower than the EPH-100, then they are much better values.
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Old 01-23-2012, 02:27 PM
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tienbasse tienbasse is offline
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Sorry I'm not so much into buying cheap IEMs just for testing, it would be a waste.

But I agree, I'd say the most worthwhile comparisons would be with CC51 and HA-FXT90.

I should update since I also have UM3X now. To summarize, similar sound signature, but UM3X still win the clarity game, and have a more "natural" sound, while EPH-100 are a bit more forceful with drums and guitars (not that I dislike that, it's great with metal / progressive rock).
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Old 01-23-2012, 02:48 PM
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BTW, great review ; )
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Last edited by miow; 01-24-2012 at 08:14 PM.
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Old 01-23-2012, 02:54 PM
JK98 JK98 is offline
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"Sorry I'm not so much into buying cheap IEMs just for testing, it would be a waste."

Low price doesn't necessarily mean low quality. Sometimes the lower priced item is even better than the higher priced one.
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Old 01-23-2012, 07:06 PM
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Don't you prefer a comparison with IEMs that cost 3x as much (SM3/UM3X)? I think its much more interesting. We are talking about high-end IEMs that have a phenomenal sound. If they are as good as a high-end, state-of-the-art IEM would you still be interested on a comparison with a $50 IEM? I wouldn't.
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Old 02-09-2012, 05:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by miow View Post
If they are as good as a high-end, state-of-the-art IEM would you
still be interested on a comparison with a $50 IEM? I wouldn't.
Yes, we get you're not interested. But so what? Your logic seems to be that

- It is worth comparing a $150 iem with a $300-$500 one

- But it is not worth comparing a $50 iem with a $150 one because the price difference is too great, so the quality difference must be.

..Even though the price difference as a ratio is just the same!

I.e. your logic is NOT logic.

Anyway: I've just ordered EPH100s. Previously I had JVC 51s and Ety HF5s. And I'm ordering the EP100s to replace the JVCs (which were killed by my cat) not the HF5s. Because the 51s were vastly, enormously better than than the HF5s (bought from Amazon itself, so definitely genuine) despite the price difference - I kept the Etys only for their greater isolation and may well ebay them when I get the Yamahas. And I'm not the only person who has preferred 51 to much more expensive IEMs with huge reputations, although they do need careful - and radical - equalizing:

http://www.head-fi.org/t/576532/fxc5...ine-perfection

That's not to say that the 100s won't be better than the 51s... just that I wouldn't assume that they definitely will be. I'll burn them and test them, and then send them back if they're not an acceptable jump in quality.

As a general (but not universal) rule in product engineering, spending more money often improves performance to only a minor degree - and the more you spend, the less extra you get back. For example, a 50 Seiko 5 mechanical watch and a 3000 Rolex Explorer have barely different accuracy when expressed as a percentage of a day.
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Old 02-11-2012, 08:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JK98 View Post
It would have been interesting if you compared this with JVC's microdriver IEMs, the $25 HAFXC51, and the $34 HAFXC80, and the Meelectronics Cc51 microdriver IEM. While I wouldn't expect these much cheaper IEMs to be as good as the EPH-100, although if the sound quality on them is just slightly lower than the EPH-100, then they are much better values.
I'm in about the 4th hour of playing with the 100s, so they're far from burnt in. I think that they're already better - remember my cat murdered my 51s - but so far moderately so rather than vastly. I'd describe them as combining the 51s "oompth" with better clarity, and much more isolation. I think they're somewhat more comfortable too - the 51 is good, but the 100 with the stock tips feels wonderful. (But this might just be the shape of my ears.)

Oh and the often made comment about instruments sounding physically separate on the 100s is true. Very, very true - it may or may not be a plus depending on your own taste.
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Old 02-15-2012, 08:04 AM
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..I think I'm going to send my EPH 100s back.

Firstly, I'm fairly sure that they're not a huge step above JVC 51s, at least if you have good EQ. I have a pair of the cheaper Air Cushions (61s) around, and with the EQ set right for each I can tell them apart... but the only time I got a jaw-dropping difference was when I had mis-set the EQ. The 51s are quite a bit better than the Air Cushions, so that difference gets a lot smaller - and then there are the 80s, which I haven't tried and now sell for a third of the cost of the Yamahas.

Secondly, the Yamahas bother me physically. Comfort in ear is great, but the heavy heads and thin cables bother me, the cables won't conform to my ears for over the ear wear, and I tend to spend quite a lot of time with IEMs in "dangle mode" ready to pop them back in, but able to hear people. And the 100s feel like they are an accident waiting to happen used this way. Even after I added the shirt clip they lacked those heavy heads and the relatively long twin arms of the "Y" (about an inch to an inch and half compared to my other IEMs, which are not a large sample) meant that they swung, flipped and flapped more than any other IEM I've used.
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Old 02-15-2012, 03:03 PM
JK98 JK98 is offline
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Since you like the JVC HAFXC51, you will probably love the JVC HAFXC80. The C80 has more detail than the C51.

So many people seem to push the $150 Yamaha microdriver IEM without even trying lower priced microdriver IEMs from other makers such as JVC, Meelectronics, or Fischer. The JVC microdriver IEMs do have very nice open treble and nice soundstage, however fit and comfort might be an issue if you don't find tips that fit you well. Since the driver is in the nozzle, those with a small ear canal might not find microdriver IEMs comfortable.
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Old 02-16-2012, 04:55 PM
meanwhile meanwhile is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JK98 View Post
Since you like the JVC HAFXC51, you will probably love the JVC HAFXC80. The C80 has more detail than the C51.
That was my conclusion too. Or one of them:

1. I can't have IEMs on detachable cords because Mr Kitty Cat may grab one and swallow it....

2. Therefore, given Mr Cat's destructive tendencies, I just bought a set of super-aural HD25iis from Amazon.

3. I'll get 80's for my IEMs.

Quote:
So many people seem to push the $150 Yamaha microdriver IEM without even trying lower priced microdriver IEMs from other makers such as JVC, Meelectronics, or Fischer.
It's ironic that people reject an IEM because of price here of all places - you'd think that the Sansa Clip would have taught them a lesson about the indeterminacy of the relationship between sound quality and price.
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Old 02-17-2012, 01:43 PM
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tienbasse tienbasse is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by meanwhile View Post
It's ironic that people reject an IEM because of price here of all places - you'd think that the Sansa Clip would have taught them a lesson about the indeterminacy of the relationship between sound quality and price.
Yes, this is pretty much the reason why I stopped posting reviews on forums (not only ABI).

I picked up the Yamahas and tested them not because of the microdrivers, but because I found their design really nice and the build quality excellent (if you forget the springy cable).

Why would I have to justify not buying the cheapest microdriver-based IEMs ? (or all of them to do a "fair" comparison, let's be mad and waste money)

I compared them with what I had available at the time, and since then I've been receiving a constant flow of acidic remarks (some in private) about 150$ IEMs having to be "obviously" worse than the so-called "top-tier IEMs".
Other friendly remarks stating that since EPH-100 use microdrivers, they can't be better than other micro-driver IEMs in the 50-100$ range (I guess we should judge all IEMs solely based of what components they use, this could be fun...).

Each individual can have his own opinion and disagree, but I don't think it's too much asking for a minimum of respect and neutrality in the way it's formulated. Mockery and irony are becoming a constant habit of "old-timers" on most forums. Not a really efficient way to "educate" newcomers.
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Old 02-17-2012, 02:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tienbasse View Post
Yes, this is pretty much the reason why I stopped posting reviews on forums (not only ABI).

I picked up the Yamahas and tested them not because of the microdrivers, but because I found their design really nice and the build quality excellent (if you forget the springy cable).
They're really nice looking pieces of metal - if I was going to look at any IEM these would be near the top of the list. And there is nothing at all wrong in valuing visual design!

Quote:
Why would I have to justify not buying the cheapest microdriver-based IEMs ? (or all of them to do a "fair" comparison, let's be mad and waste money)
You don't. It's more the case that we're saying to the guy who says that it would be pointless to compare them to the 51s and 80s... "No!" The 100s are great, much better than say Ety HF5s, but the 51s (and from what I hear the 80s) aren't as far behind as price ratio might say. This is worth bearing in mind for some people, especially if they get a chance to try out all three, if they're broke or nervous about getting serious money IEMs damaged. I really would have liked to see a *much* chunkier cable and strain relief coming out of the 100s... but maybe I'm over-reacting to Mr K. Cat's escapades.

Quote:
I compared them with what I had available at the time, and since then I've been receiving a constant flow of acidic remarks (some in private) about 150$ IEMs having to be "obviously" worse than the so-called "top-tier IEMs".
I'm amazed: these things seem to be FOTM on head-fi.

Quote:
Other friendly remarks stating that since EPH-100 use microdrivers, they can't be better than other micro-driver IEMs in the 50-100$ range (I guess we should judge all IEMs solely based of what components they use, this could be fun...).
These people are idiots and you should look upon them as a valuable resource: harvest their email addresses and sell them to companies that sell $1000 cables.

It's bad enough that these people haven't heard the 100s but... the FX700 and Shure 535 use microdrivers - these people aren't even consistent idiots!

Quote:
Each individual can have his own opinion and disagree, but I don't think it's too much asking for a minimum of respect and neutrality in the way it's formulated. Mockery and irony are becoming a constant habit of "old-timers" on most forums. Not a really efficient way to "educate" newcomers.
I apologize if I said anything that was too pointed - especially as you wrote an exemplary review that excelled in its accurate description of how the 100s sound.

But the point remains: you really can't and shouldn't judge by price - not unless you have sound engineering reasons along the line of "The minimum cost for a decent speaker of that spec is X, because the cost of the cheapest acceptable driver is Y, and the cost of building a properly braced cabinet would be Z." And with IEMs you really can't say this. Certainly not when comparing single microdriver IEMs.

That the 51 and 80 perform so well at such a low cost - not as well as the 100, but very well indeed - seems significant to me. It would seem to suggest that microdrivers will have a very large role in the future of IEMs - which might really cheese off some people who have recently spent $500 on less comfortable multi-driver IEMs.
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Old 02-17-2012, 06:29 PM
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tienbasse tienbasse is offline
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You don't have to apologize, Meanwhile, my post wasn't aiming at you at all, and you haven't said anything offensive.
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Old 02-17-2012, 07:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tienbasse View Post
You don't have to apologize, Meanwhile, my post wasn't aiming at you at all, and you haven't said anything offensive.
Well - it was a hell of a well-written review, so can still use that idea about selling $1000 cables to the idiots who are mailing you. You'll make a mint!
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