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#302266 - 04/17/10 04:05 PM IEM evaluation
Ken.C Offline
shareholder in the making

Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 18044
Loc: NoVA
Well, look at that, I actually bought something I was talking about buying on the forums. ;\)

Top row: the incumbents.
Sennheiser HD280 Pro
Sennheiser HD570

Bottom row: the challengers, in order of price
Wicked Little Buds (bought 'em on Yelp for $2.99)
Sennheiser CX300-II
iMetal iM-590
Etymotics ER-6i
Grado iGi

The purpose: to have something I can use on airplanes and public transit that
a) don't compress my head so that it hurts to exist (eg: AKG K81DJ) or otherwise hurt.
b) aren't incredibly heavy and awkward (HD280 Pro)
c) sound good with movies, TV, and music.
d) I can wear with a hat.

The plan:
Using the HD570s as my gold standard (yeah, yeah, you headphone geeks out there...), I'll compare the IEMs using an iPod and my laptop as sources. Coincidentally, those are the devices I'll be using on the plane and public transit. I'll return 3 of the sets to Headroom.

So far:
Tested the Wickeds with Pandora and an IBM netbook when I got them (yes, not the normal protocol, but...). They're pretty much junk. Sound like a boombox. Too much midbass, nothing in the treble. Surprise! Somewhat awkward to put on, but maybe I'm not used to IEMs yet.

Started testing the Grados with iPod tracks (Audioslave, Metallica, Lonesome River Band, Bela Fleck, Blues Traveler, Dire Straits, Moxy Frouvous). Here's my notes:
Midrange/upper bass a little too much. Very detailed, although they seem a bit recessed, depending on the track. Decent bass. Source dependent. No significant cord noise, decent fit w/ regular tips. Easy to put on. Possibly a little pain left ear. Not particularly sensitive. Some stuff I haven't heard before. Better w/ acoustics than electrics. Really want to like them...
Blown away by HD570s. Seriously blown away.

Next up are the iMetals. Mainly because I need to check with Headroom and see how they want me to deal with the heat sealed packages on the Etys and the Senns.
I am the Doctor, and THIS... is my SPOON!

#302272 - 04/17/10 06:47 PM Re: IEM evaluation [Re: Ken.C]
tomtuttle Offline

Registered: 06/20/03
Posts: 8488
Loc: Tacoma
Thanks, Ken! This is very valuable to me, although I expect that MY end result is going to be "I can't spend that kind of money on headphones".
bibere usque ad hilaritatem

#302278 - 04/17/10 07:10 PM Re: IEM evaluation [Re: tomtuttle]
Wid Offline

Registered: 06/22/03
Posts: 6831
Loc: The Peoples Republic of Il.

Looking forward to your findings Ken.

"A fear of weapons is a sign of retarded sexual and emotional maturity." Sigmund Freud

#302281 - 04/17/10 07:32 PM Re: IEM evaluation [Re: Wid]
Ken.C Offline
shareholder in the making

Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 18044
Loc: NoVA
Tom, perhaps I should point out that my price range on these is between $2.99 and $90.

So far I'm really liking the iMetals, although I haven't even tested them long enough to post notes.
I am the Doctor, and THIS... is my SPOON!

#302286 - 04/17/10 07:44 PM Re: IEM evaluation [Re: Ken.C]
St_PatGuy Offline

Registered: 03/07/05
Posts: 7463
Loc: Glendale, Arizona
Ken, I look forward to hearing your further impressions.
"Nothin' up my sleeve. . ." --Bullwinkle J. Moose

#302287 - 04/17/10 07:44 PM Re: IEM evaluation [Re: St_PatGuy]
CV Offline
Founder, Axiom Upgrade Club
shareholder in the making

Registered: 07/20/06
Posts: 11742
Loc: Richland, WA, USA
Yeah, do Christopher Walken.

#302298 - 04/17/10 10:31 PM Re: IEM evaluation [Re: CV]
oldskoolboarder Offline

Registered: 05/25/03
Posts: 2185
Loc: Menlo Park, CA
In your price range, I'd suggest looking at head-direct's RE0 ($79) and ThinkSound Rains (~$65 on

I've demo'ed both because of great recs on head-fi. My buddy got the RE0's and I found the mids/highs VERY impressive. I love my Rains. Great isolation and slightly better bass than the RE0's.

#302308 - 04/18/10 10:55 AM Re: IEM evaluation [Re: oldskoolboarder]
Ken.C Offline
shareholder in the making

Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 18044
Loc: NoVA
Well, here's a few more notes:
Very sensitive. Min volume on the laptop is pretty loud.
comfortable. good highs, decent bass. Some microphonics, not bad.
Good bass, perhaps a little strong. Nicely detailed. Good isolation. I like these! Not trying to convince myself I like them, like the Grados. Treble possibly a little thin, could be the source.

Back to the Grados.
switched tips, much better. stronger bass, better treble, mids. poss. still muffled.
direct compare between the two, the grado feels denser. The iMetals seem a bit tinny. Weird. (Sting-Hung My Head)

Megadeth-Hangar 18, pretty much the opposite. Grados sound thin.

Bela Fleck-Variations in C on God Save the King- had a hard time putting both in. Hard to tell.

Fit makes this very difficult.

U2-Elevation. When the bass kicks in, the iMetals move me. Doesn't hurt that I love the song. I can hear the tape hiss on the Grados. Immediately, the midbass feels fat, the treble hot. Makes the song kind of unpleasant, really. How disappointing. Gad, you'd think these things were Axioms or something. Too revealing?

Tried wearing the iMetals for a more extended period while putting clothes away, feeding cats, etc. Now I understand why people were complaining about microphonics. Bangbangbangbang go the cords. I put on the clip, which made them a little better. Still quite tolerable for my purposes. Hopefully the Etys or the Senns will sound as good with less microphonics.

I still want to like the Grados, but I think they would be a compromise to a great extent. And compromising up to my highest priced headphone doesn't make sense.

Still no word from Headroom on whether I can cut open the boxes for the other two and still return them. If not, they're going back un-listened to.
I am the Doctor, and THIS... is my SPOON!

#302313 - 04/18/10 12:53 PM Re: IEM evaluation [Re: Ken.C]
Adrian Offline

Registered: 12/27/08
Posts: 6926
Loc: It's all about the location.
What are most manufacturer's policies on returning earbuds?

I know I wouldn't be too happy about finding an ear hair or worse attached to my purchase.
Half of communication is listening. You can't listen with your mouth.

#302314 - 04/18/10 12:57 PM Re: IEM evaluation [Re: Adrian]
Ken.C Offline
shareholder in the making

Registered: 05/03/03
Posts: 18044
Loc: NoVA
Oh, they say don't return the tips.
I am the Doctor, and THIS... is my SPOON!

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