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Article: Inexpensive IEM Roundup Part Two


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Hi @JoshM thanks so much for this thorough view into more inexpensive IEMs. The work that you put into this is so fabulous, and unreal for such inexpensive products. So cool!

 

It also goes without saying that anyone using Pearl Jam's Daughter as a review track, rates very high in my book :~)

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Always interesting. Any desire to do a review for a next step up series? So many IEM's with their hybrid approaches and the ones over $1k astound me

since small IEM's are easily lost/stolen. I've often wished their were a universal pressure "C clamp" band for IEM's since they can loosen so easily and when

they do SQ nose dives.

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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2 hours ago, davide256 said:

Always interesting. Any desire to do a review for a next step up series? So many IEM's with their hybrid approaches and the ones over $1k astound me

since small IEM's are easily lost/stolen. I've often wished their were a universal pressure "C clamp" band for IEM's since they can loosen so easily and when

they do SQ nose dives.

 

I'm definitely continuing the series. I have a handful of $75-$100 IEMS, $400-$500 IEMS, and ~$1k IEMS. Those three reviews are already in the works. As new interesting sub-$50 IEMS are released, I'll add additional "budget" reviews, too.

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Thank you for doing these reviews.  I have been through a few mid-level IEMs, up to $400, and have not had much success.  Westones (4R,, UMPro 3, and one other) disintegrated after 12-18 months.  I really liked the 4Rs back then.  Etymotic ER4SRs disintegrated...ER2SEs are in the process of disintegrating.  Shures also...

 

So I just opened up the Cadenzas and I already like them more than the Etymotics.  Much fuller sound...not quite the precision but much fuller.  More musical based on Pink Floyd Uncomfortably Numb Pulse Tour on YouTube....I need to go find my Sony DAP.

 

Eartips were a PITA to put on...just used a set from the Box.  Tomorrow I will try my spinfits and/or some foams I have.

 

Thanks again and I look forward to the next installment.

QNAP TS453Pro w/QLMS->Netgear Switch->Netgear RAX43 Router->Ethernet (50 ft)->Netgear switch->SBTouch ->SABAJ A10d->Linn Majik-IL (preamp)->Linn 2250->Linn Keilidh; Control Points: iPeng (iPad Air & iPhone); Also: Rega P3-24 w/ DV 10x5; OPPO 103; PC Playback: Foobar2000 & JRiver; Portable: iPhone 12 ProMax & Radio Paradise or NAS streaming; Sony NWZ ZX2 w/ PHA-3; SMSL IQ, Fiio Q5, iFi Nano iDSD BL; Garage: Edifier S1000DB Active Speakers  

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  • 2 weeks later...

Although I wouldn’t consider buying one of these IEMs because I am hooked on custom fit via ear impressions like the Ultimate Ears UE18s that I adore or the UE Premiers that I have on order, I compliment you on your efforts here.

 

The question I have is can a universal fit with silicone ear tips, even the high dollar ones, match the performance, sound isolation or bass response, etc, of custom fit IEMs made from ear impressions?

Denafrips Terminator + DAC fed by a Denafrips GAIA DDC, HTPC running JRiver MC, iFi PRO iCAN Signature headphone amp, Marantz AV8805, OPPO BDP-105 for SACD ripping, Sony UBP-X100ES for watching and listening, McIntosh MC1201s Front L/R with Bryston powering the remaining 5 channels, B&W N-801s, B&W HTM-1 in Tiger Eye, B&W 801 IIIs on the sides and in the rear, JL-F212 sub, ReVOX PR-99Mk II, Rega P10 and Alpheta 3, PS Audio Nuwave Phono Amp, Audeze LCD-4 and LCD-XC, UE18 IEMs, Sony CD3000 rebuilt, Sony VPL-VW995ES laser projector, Joe Kane Affinity 120" screen, Cables: Cardas Clear Beyond speaker, Wireworld Platinum Elite 7 RCA, custom (by me) XLRs using affordable, quality parts 🙂

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1 hour ago, BlueSkyy said:

Although I wouldn’t consider buying one of these IEMs because I am hooked on custom fit via ear impressions like the Ultimate Ears UE18s that I adore or the UE Premiers that I have on order, I compliment you on your efforts here.

 

The question I have is can a universal fit with silicone ear tips, even the high dollar ones, match the performance, sound isolation or bass response, etc, of custom fit IEMs made from ear impressions?

 

That's a great question, but it's one I don't have an answer for. I've never purchased a custom IEM, and I'd be skeptical of any overarching statements about which sound better (in a quiet environment) unless it's coming from someone with the same exact model in UIEM and CIEM configurations. Moreover, you'd want that person to have tried a variety of high-quality tips on the UIEM.

 

What seems clear to me having read quite a bit about this debate is that CIEMs will always have better isolation, provided that the mold was done correctly and that the company produced the CIEM accurate to the mold. In terms of bass, I'd think that, unless one's ear anatomy is very abnormal, a good silicone tip (such as the Moondrop Spring, SednaEarfit XELASTEC, or Softears UC) is going to provide the very similar bass to a CIEM, since bass is a function of seal/pressure. But a silicone tip is never going block external sounds as well, since that's not just about seal, but also about the thickness and density of the material between your ear drum and the outside world. So, were I live musician, there's no question I'd select a CIEM.

 

For everyone else, I strongly suspect it depends on how important isolation is. That said, I think that UIEMs offer other benefits. The first is that (especially if the CIEMs mold/build isn't perfect) a hard surface against your inner ear is going to potentially cause more discomfort than soft silicone. The second is that different IEMs will sound better or worse depending on insertion depth, and UIEMs allow you to alter that more by switching tips. With CIEMs, you're stuck with the distance between your ear drum and the nozzle that the company thinks is best. One's comfort preferences and anatomy may change over time, too, which could be addressed with new tips on a UIEM, but would require a full remold/reshell on a CIEM.

 

Because I listen in a quiet environment and appreciate the sonic/comfort flexibility of tip swapping, I've always gone with the UIEM version of models that also offer a CIEM. However, if I were primarily using IEMs for music performance, or even in a moderately loud workplace, I'd definitely order a CIEM.

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IMO, although I have never had a CIEM, an Eytmotic with triple-flanged silicon tips would match the sound isolation of CIEM.  For me, though, after 30 minutes of any silicon (vs foam) tip is my ears start itching after 30 minutes or so.  Therefore I tend to stick to foam.

 

Obviously, what you get, or should get, from CIEM is comfort.  Etymotics, and similar shapes, fit pretty well. And while I like the sound of the Kiwi Cadenza, the IEM is bulky and does not fit exceptionally well.  I have tried SpinFits and now using foams and they like to work loose.  CIEMs should negate any fit issues and maintain peak isolation for longer periods.

QNAP TS453Pro w/QLMS->Netgear Switch->Netgear RAX43 Router->Ethernet (50 ft)->Netgear switch->SBTouch ->SABAJ A10d->Linn Majik-IL (preamp)->Linn 2250->Linn Keilidh; Control Points: iPeng (iPad Air & iPhone); Also: Rega P3-24 w/ DV 10x5; OPPO 103; PC Playback: Foobar2000 & JRiver; Portable: iPhone 12 ProMax & Radio Paradise or NAS streaming; Sony NWZ ZX2 w/ PHA-3; SMSL IQ, Fiio Q5, iFi Nano iDSD BL; Garage: Edifier S1000DB Active Speakers  

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I have a pair if CIEM's. They fit great and the seal is pretty much absolute.

But-they really aren't that comfortable. I think it is b/c of the hard material. It starts to be annoying after a while.

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protectors +>Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Strip/Protection>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three BXT (on their own electric circuit) >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Path: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Cayin iDAC6 MKII (tube mode) (XLR)>Kii Three BXT

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: Ropieee (RPi3b+ with touchscreen) + Schiit Modi3E to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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4 hours ago, jcbenten said:

IMO, although I have never had a CIEM, an Eytmotic with triple-flanged silicon tips would match the sound isolation of CIEM.  For me, though, after 30 minutes of any silicon (vs foam) tip is my ears start itching after 30 minutes or so.  Therefore I tend to stick to foam.

 

Obviously, what you get, or should get, from CIEM is comfort.  Etymotics, and similar shapes, fit pretty well. And while I like the sound of the Kiwi Cadenza, the IEM is bulky and does not fit exceptionally well.  I have tried SpinFits and now using foams and they like to work loose.  CIEMs should negate any fit issues and maintain peak isolation for longer periods.


I think the shorter nozzle is the primary issue with the Cadenza. The SednaEarfit XELASTEC are worth trying for IEMs like that, because they’re a bit tacky. 

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  • 8 months later...

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