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Old 03-19-2011, 10:40 PM
sergivs sergivs is offline
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Default Looking for quality in-ear monitors

Hi all,

I'm looking for a pair of comfortable, isolating earphones or in-ear monitors with clear balanced sound to use with a portable player.

Hopefully I can get some good suggestions from the knowledgeable people here.

I almost never use earphones because they always feel very uncomfortable, but I have only tried the cheap stock ones.

But recently I bought the Sansa Clip+ and was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the stock earphones. I would like to find something better both in terms of SQ and comfort, but still they are the best that I have tried so far. I'm actually using them. Their impedance is 16 Ohms, but I would prefer 32 or higher.

As far as the sound signature, I don't really know how to describe what I'm looking for, or maybe I don't know what I'm looking for in the first place. Something clear and balanced, as I said. I have a couple of different circumaural monitors:

- AKG K240 DF, 600 Ohms (obviously too high for portables), open back,
- Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro 80 Ohms, closed back.

They do sound a little different, but I like them both. Maybe a slight preference for the AKG.

I'm more interested in the in-ear monitors, although I have a couple of concerns. One is the possibility of hearing damage. Is it more likely with the in-ear monitors?

The other is that I think I have a narrower than average ear canal (my wife was shocked), so they may not fit. I know that some models (or perhaps all higher-priced ones?) include a set of interchangeable tips, and maybe it's possible to get a custom-molded fittings.

For example, I have silicone ear plugs, a couple of different kinds (one is soft moldable, the other fixed-shape, smallest size available), and they are always uncomfortable in the ear canal and exert some pressure on the ear drum because of the sealing, so I have the urge to swallow or yawn to equalize the pressure, which does not work, of course. Hopefully, it will be possible to find monitors with good isolation that don't seal completely.

My budget is $200-$300, although it does seem a little expensive, and that does not necessarily mean good quality. At least objectively.

I'm also interested in balanced armature transducers, I don't think I've ever tried them and it would be interesting to hear the difference. Would be really cool if they had interchangeable tips with and without high isolation. And were water-resistant. And had tiny heaters in them.

OK, this post is getting pretty long. Thank you for reading this far. To summarize:

Use: Portable player
Sound: balanced, clear
Type: Not sure. Thinking about in-ear, isolating, small tip, with possibility of using custom fitting
Impedance: 32 Ohms or higher preferred
Price: 0 - $300

Many thanks,

Sergei

Last edited by sergivs; 04-26-2011 at 03:47 PM. Reason: typo
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  #2  
Old 03-19-2011, 11:41 PM
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steinburger1109 steinburger1109 is offline
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Hey there,

I don't have a lot of experience with a wide variety of headphones, but I have one suggestion.

Panasonic RP-HJE900. They are a fantastic set of IEMs that are incredibly comfortable (to me). Here's the ABi review:
http://www.anythingbutipod.com/forum...d.php?p=544457
Couple of things off the top of my head that might be problematic is that they're vented and don't have as good isolation as some other IEMs, but it's still pretty decent. Any other info you could possibly want is in dfkt's review.

Sorry I can't help more. :/
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Old 03-20-2011, 12:51 AM
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Clear, Balanced sounding, Balanced Armature, 32 Ohm? Check out Phonak PFE. dfkt's review is here. They scale better with amplification though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sergivs View Post
I'm more interested in the in-ear monitors, although I have a couple of concerns. One is the possibility of hearing damage. Is it more likely with the in-ear monitors?
Not if you continue to listen at moderate to low listening volumes. Unless you have the tendency to crank up the volume, you should do fine with IEMs for a long, long time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sergivs View Post
The other is that I think I have a narrower than average ear canal (my wife was shocked), so they may not fit. I know that some models (or perhaps all higher-priced ones?) include a set of interchangeable tips, and maybe it's possible to get a custom-molded fittings.
Almost all IEMs come with three sizes of tips - Small, Medium and Large. Some come with bi-flanges, tri-flanges etc., For narrow ear canals, smaller size is likely to provide a good fit. There are lot of after-market tips as well which one can use. You need a custom-mold only if all else fails. For now, there's hope.

PS: There are water resistant IEMs like this - http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...eadphones.html, but none that double up as heaters
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Old 03-20-2011, 01:45 AM
sergivs sergivs is offline
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Thanks for the recommendations. Excellent reviews. Audeo Phonak is a strong candidate. Horrible name, though, IMO. Finding something really comfortable would be nice, too. Thanks again and any other suggestions will be appreciated.
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Old 03-20-2011, 01:53 AM
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My ears are fairly sensitive to ear plugs and IEM's. And the most comfortable thing I've use are hands down my custom molded Westone ES3X's. I've got some Panasonic HJE900's and they're hard for me to use, because they wont stay in my ears and are very uncomfortable to boot(this is with the stock flanges mind, most have better opinions with other brand flanges).
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Old 03-20-2011, 05:27 AM
sergivs sergivs is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Syndrome View Post
My ears are fairly sensitive to ear plugs and IEM's. And the most comfortable thing I've use are hands down my custom molded Westone ES3X's. I've got some Panasonic HJE900's and they're hard for me to use, because they wont stay in my ears and are very uncomfortable to boot(this is with the stock flanges mind, most have better opinions with other brand flanges).
Thanks for the suggestion! Westone ES3X's really exceed the budget, though, and there is no way to try before I buy. I actually saw them before online when I was buying silicone earplugs. I kind of thought about the Westone ES1's (which in terms of comfort should be the same, I guess), but decided to try something off the shelf first.

Quote:
Originally Posted by esanthosh View Post
Clear, Balanced sounding, Balanced Armature, 32 Ohm? Check out Phonak PFE. dfkt's review is here. They scale better with amplification though.
BTW, why do you think they scale better with amplification? Is it based on your experience with a particular player or amp?

I'm guessing the most likely reason is the headphone amplifier's output impedance. As nwavguy explains in this post, the balanced armature is a more reactive load, which will lead to a non-uniform frequency response.

He also writes about the Sansa Clip+ in another post and notes that it has a very low output impedance, which is great in general and especially important for balanced-armature earphones.

I have the Sansa Clip+. However, it may not sound so great with neutral monitors. I did some testing and will write about it in a separate thread. My other player is iPod 5.5, which may have a higher output impedance, which it will be interesting to measure.

Maybe I should reconsider the balanced armature...

Last edited by sergivs; 03-20-2011 at 05:54 AM. Reason: terminology
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Old 03-20-2011, 05:41 AM
Xinz Xinz is offline
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could you increase your budget by another 50 bucks or so? Around 350, there is westone um3x, westone 3, and not forgetting Earsonic SM3. These 3 are among the top on universal iems
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Old 03-20-2011, 05:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Syndrome View Post
My ears are fairly sensitive to ear plugs and IEM's. And the most comfortable thing I've use are hands down my custom molded Westone ES3X's. I've got some Panasonic HJE900's and they're hard for me to use, because they wont stay in my ears and are very uncomfortable to boot(this is with the stock flanges mind, most have better opinions with other brand flanges).
I agree that custom monitors are the most comfy for me too although I don’t have a problem with regular iem’s either. Unfortunately the ES3X surpass his stated budget but there are some companies offering single armature customs for below $200. For example; Alien Ears $189 or 1964 Ears $200, but keep in mind that ear impressions add $30 to $50 and Shipping Cost add $20 more as well. Also most of these customs have lower impedance than the 32 Ohms the OP requested although the single 64’s are close at 26 Ohms, you have to up the anti to the triple’s for 37 Ohms or the quads at 46 Ohms, they sure would be something interesting to try compared to these aging ue11’s


Quote:
Originally Posted by sergivs View Post
… Westone ES3X's really exceed the budget, though, and there is no way to try before I buy. I actually saw them before online when I was buying silicone earplugs. …
The only way to test any custom is at a show where the manufacturers bring universal fit customs, a little different than once you have the finished product but good enough to give one a good idea, but yes I agree that customs are out of your current budget.
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Old 03-20-2011, 06:14 AM
sergivs sergivs is offline
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I just remembered that recently I tried to replace the earpads on the headphones, which I had for years, and the new ones felt extremely uncomfortable, and I put the old ones back on, which apparently kind of customized themselves around my head.

Looks like there is universal agreement that full custom earphones are a lot more comfortable. Maybe I should increase the budget a little...

But are they really different from the custom tips for off-the shelf IEM's?
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Old 03-20-2011, 08:10 AM
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esanthosh esanthosh is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sergivs View Post
BTW, why do you think they scale better with amplification? Is it based on your experience with a particular player or amp?
It is based on my experience. Though it's rated at 32 ohm, PFE does slightly better with an amp. May be a player with higher output power is all it needs. I've not used it for sometime now. But, I found it to get better with iBasso T3 than straight out of Clip+ or S9.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sergivs View Post
Looks like there is universal agreement that full custom earphones are a lot more comfortable. Maybe I should increase the budget a little...

But are they really different from the custom tips for off-the shelf IEM's?
There are three things I know of -

1) Custom ear tips/molds for universal IEMs - like this which are like any other tip, just custom molded for your ears. In this case, the IEM remains as-is and you just use the tip just like any other ear tip.

2) Custom re-shelling of Universal IEM like this, where your universal IEM's drivers are placed in your custom mold. This is your universal IEM converted into a custom. You can add a driver if you want i.e., you could add a bass driver or a mid driver etc.,

3) Custom IEMs - like this, which sources drivers from others / manufacture their own driver and tunes them to a specific signature. Unlike option [2], where your IEM's drivers are used, these are truly custom IEMs.

In [1] and [2] (with or without the addition of a driver), there's a chance for the signature of the re-shelled IEM to be different from the universal IEM. I've read some people complaining about this.

In options [2] and [3], you can choose color, artwork and customize it to your liking, but some services (like custom artwork) may be charged extra. Edit: Links to reviews in WalkGood's post explain these better.

Somebody correct me if I am wrong.

Last edited by esanthosh; 03-20-2011 at 11:34 AM. Reason: Re-phrased for clarity
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Old 03-20-2011, 08:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sergivs View Post
Ö Looks like there is universal agreement that full custom earphones are a lot more comfortable. Ö
Not sure that 2 posts would be a universal agreement but I do enjoy the isolation, fit and comfort of mine over off the self iemís but as stated above I have no problem with either.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sergivs View Post
Ö are they really different from the custom tips for off-the shelf IEM's?
My guess would be to some extent:
  • Sound is considered from the initial design with customs while custom tips are made for off the shelf iemís. Wheather thereís a difference or not for sq itís up to the individual user to identify
  • Almost all custom monitors are made from a hard acrylic resin while custom ear tips are made from a soft silicone. hard acrylic shells VS a soft silicone tip
  • Custom monitors are designed to fit deeper into the ear canal which can be the cause of bone conduction microphonics experienced while eating or walking with hard sole shoes. Iím not sure about how the soft tips react in this concern as I have not tried them but I havenít read peeps mentioning that. Personally this is a non issue for me but being aware of what to do and not is key
  • Life expectancy of the soft silicone is only a few years compared to double or triple life expectancy of hard shells
  • At prices from $100.00 to $200.00 plus ear impressions and shipping itís not that big a difference so itís a tuff call

There's a few reviews here that might interest you, not the brand but the information you can gain from reading the reviews as there's lots of options now in customs http://www.anythingbutipod.com/forum...ad.php?t=43898
http://anythingbutipod.com/2008/10/u...11-pro-review/
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Old 04-26-2011, 01:33 AM
sergivs sergivs is offline
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My friend lent me his Shure SE530's, and I didn't really like the sound (tried with iPod and Clip+). Not sure what matters more: balanced armature or the in-ear-ness. This is the first time I tried either. Has anyone had a similar experience?
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Old 04-26-2011, 09:37 AM
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Those AKG's you prefer look quite flat. Don't buy the HJE900's. FWIR sure's are rather overpriced, but idk.
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Old 06-05-2011, 07:34 AM
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Going to buy Shure se215, but really doubt about their size. I used Phonak and their size is well. Can anybody give compare photo of shure vs phonak? or maybe shure + ruler? )
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Old 06-05-2011, 08:44 AM
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I've used both Phonak and Shure SE530.
Both have very good fit and good isolation. Phonak gives me a good clarity and separation of musical instruments. I really like how "clean" the sounds are. They are not bloated with bass and belong a lot more on the "bright" side. I think the comfort provided by phonak and shure are similar. Phonak does have a more sharp-edged design, but so far I've had no problem with it.

Panasonic has good sound but bad isolation. It is also too big to be inserted deep enough into my ears to stay there. I will not use it for regular commuting at all personally. I will use it in a quiet room when I just want to listen to good music. But of course, my ears are different from other ears so ....
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Old 06-05-2011, 10:40 AM
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Thanks for the answer! But how says in Russia "It is better to see one time, than to listen 100 times" Unfortunately I can't find this earphones in Russia and very wanted to see compare photo before make an order.
But another question about fit is about sound tube, it seems more longer than phonak tube, isnt it? Can this long tube make any uncomfort in ear?

Another thank for sound review, but now i am interesting only fit. My opinion about my Phonak sound is the same)
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