photo Contributor1.png

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Past Review: Multiple IEM Shoot out.

This a big multiple IEM comparison / review thread that I started at Head-fi almost half a year ago. It began with only 12 IEM and was intended to do the impossible: To rank all the IEM I have in a more or less logical sense. I have reviewed multiple IEM before this thread on Head-fi but I was always wanting to put them all together and give people a clear picture when they go head to head with each other. A little more than 5 months later, the number of IEM increased to 18 and it becomes obvious to me that the original rating system was stretched beyond what it was designed for. As a result, I decided to stop adding new IEM into this review and I am currently in the proccess of developing a new system that will better reflect the finer detail in the review. Take note that the rating in the review were based on comparison between the 18 IEM. It was not an absolute score and there might be better or worst IEM out there that are simply not included in this review.

[Important] This review is on subjective term. YMMV.

Reviewing gears: Sony D-EJ1000 PCDP’s line-out to Practical Device’s XM3 portable amp with AD8620 opamp installed.

Reviewing CD: Custom made by ripping songs to FLAC than normalized/burnt via Nero9. Two songs with compression artifact included (CD → wma/mp3 → CD).

CD Tracks: [ Love Song - Sara Bareille / Have You Met Miss Jones? – Robbie Williams / Come Away with Me – Norah Jones / I Was Doing Alright – Diana Krall / Nostalgia – Yanni (Yanni Live At the Acropolis) / Not Of This Earth - Robbie Williams / Red Hot – Vanessa-Mea / Maneater – Nelly Furtado (artifact) / 1234 – Feist (artifact) ]

Rating: From one star (★, lowest rating) to five stars (★★★★★, highest rating), including half a star (☆). Criteria include [Packaging / Build Quality / Accessories / Isolation / Microphonics / Comfort / Soundstage / Sound Quality / Value] Note: The rating is based on comparison b/w the IEM listed below and not on absolute term. There might be better / worst IEM that are not listed in this review.

★★★★★-The best
★★★★---Really good
★★-------Just OK
★---------Not worth it

IEM have all been burnt-in thoroughly and will be reviewed in chronological order of purchase date:

Shure E3c (2004)

Variation: E3g, SCL3
Transducer: Single Balanced Armature
Spec: 26Ω (@1kHz) | 25Hz~ 18kHz | 115dB SPL | 28g
Cord Style: Y-cord, 1.41m~ 1.57m.
Mini Jack Style: Gold plated L style, heavy build.
Eartips Used: Shure Gary Soft Flex
Packaging: ★★★★★
Build Quality: ★★★★★ (heavily build)
Accessories: ★★★★☆ (everything you need is included)
Isolation: ★★★★
Microphonics: ★★ (earbud style) | ★★★★ (over-the-ear style)
Comfort: ★★★ (thick cable is too heavy, plus no memory cable)
Soundstage: ★★☆
Sound Quality: ★★★ (warm, but bass and treble are lacking)
Value: ★★★ (not the best sounding for its price)
Remark: With sound quality of an entry class IEM, E3c does nothing spectacularly good but comes with a higher-than-competitor’s price. A solid choice 4 yrs ago, but not anymore. The thick cable is quite a burden to use on any wearing style.

Etymotic ER6i (2005)

Variation: Black and white models with different accessories
Transducer: Single Balanced Armature
Spec: 16Ω (@1kHz) | 50Hz~ 16kHz | 108dB SPL | <28g
Cord Style: Y-cord, 1.40m
Mini Jack Style: Gold plated straight style, light build. (Black model is L plug).
Eartips Used: Tri-flanges
Packaging: ★★★★☆
Build Quality: ★★★★ (light build)
Accessories: ★★★★ (included pouch offers little protection)
Isolation: ★★★★★ (-36dB!!!)
Microphonics: ★★★ (earbud style) | ★★★★★ (w/ shirt clip)
Comfort: ★★★★ (light to wear, but deep inserting eartips)
Soundstage: ★★ (one of Ety’s weak point]
Sound Quality: ★★★ (analytical, bass light and flat sound but offers great detail)
Value: ★★★★ (cheap street price and great sound when used with foam)
Remark: One of the main competitors with E3c when it was released. Street price is low now which makes it a good choice as entry class IEM. With Shure Black Foam sleeve, the bass problem can be improved. Thin cable but it will harden up in time result in more microphonics.

Creative EP-630 (2006)

Variation: Black and white color, EP-635 (lanyard style).
Transducer: Single 8mm Dynamic
Spec: 16Ω (@1kHz) | 6Hz~ 23kHz | 106dB SPL | 9g
Cord Style: Y-cord, 1.20m
Mini Jack Style: Gold plated straight style, light build.
Eartips Used: Single flange
Packaging: ★★★
Build Quality: ★★★★ (light build)
Accessories: ★★☆ (nothing but different size eartips)
Isolation: ★★★
Microphonics: ★★★
Comfort: ★★★★★
Soundstage: ★★★
Sound Quality: ★★ (warm, muddy bass without much treble)
Value: ★★☆ (cheap price so there is nothing to expect)
Remark: Except for comfort, there is nothing especially good on EP-630. However with price so low, how can one expect it to sound good? It will serve okay as a cheap backup, but not really a good choice for SQ.

Sennheiser CX300 (2006)

Variation: n/a.
Transducer: Single Dynamic
Spec: 16Ω (@1kHz) | 18Hz~ 21kHz | 112dB SPL | 9g
Cord Style: J-cord, 1.20m
Mini Jack Style: Gold plated L style, normal build.
Eartips Used: Single flange
Packaging: ★★★
Build Quality: ★★★★ (light build)
Accessories: ★★☆ (nothing but different size eartips)
Isolation: ★★★
Microphonics: ★★★
Comfort: ★★★★★
Soundstage: ★★★☆
Sound Quality: ★★☆ (warm, bloated bass)
Value: ★★★ (Get it for cheap than it is a slightly better choice than EP-630)
Remark: The bloated bass is the biggest weakness of CX300. The official price is also too high (however, this seems to be very common among Sennheiser’s low end products). With the current low street price, it is a reasonable good backup option.

Altec Lansing ‘InMontioniM716 (2007)

Variation: n/a.
Transducer: Single Balanced Armature
Spec: User selectable HD / Bass mode on inline volume control pod
Cord Style: Y-cord, 1.40m
Mini Jack Style: Gold plated L style, light build.
Eartips Used: Tri-flanges
Packaging: ★★★★
Build Quality: ★★★★
Accessories: ★★★★☆ (Included case is balky, but functional)
Isolation: ★★★★☆
Microphonics: ★★ (w/o clip) | ★★★★ (w/ clip)
Comfort: ★★★ (not the best to wear because of the inline volume pod)
Soundstage: ★★ (HD mode) | ★★☆ (Bass mod)
Sound Quality: ★★★★ (Analytical and flat sounding, Bass mode adds a bit warmness)
Value: ★★★☆ (One of the best bargain when you find it cheap. Only downside is the fact that it is out of production, so don’t expect warranty for long)
Remark: One of the best values in IEM market as dealers are clearing their stock with ultra low price. The volume pod can be mod'ed to give an even better SQ closer to than of ER4P. However, don’t expect Altec Lansing to honor the warranty once you mod it. Will sound really great if you amp it.

CrossRoads MylarOne X3 (2007)

Variation: n/a.
Transducer: Single Dynamic
Spec: n/a
Cord Style: Y-cord, 1.20m
Mini Jack Style: Gold plated straight style, light build.
Eartips Used: UE style bi-flange
Packaging: ★★ (very simple package)
Build Quality: ★★☆ (light build, need good care to last)
Accessories: ★★★★☆ (A lot compare to its price)
Isolation: ★★★
Microphonics: ★★ (w/o clip) | ★★★★ (w/ clip)
Comfort: ★★★★☆
Soundstage: ★★★☆
Sound Quality: ★★☆ (balance, a bit bass light, but good detail)
Value: ★★★★ (Cheaper than EP-630 on local price, yet better than CX300)
Remark: Despite the build quality isn’t really good, X3 sounds like a pair of less refine ER6i, and you can’t beat it for the low price and a good solid warranty.
(See in-depth review here and modification over at

Sleek Audio SA6 (2008)

Variation: n/a.
Transducer: Single Balanced Armature with Custom Porting
Spec: 50Ω (@1kHz) | 110dB SPL
Cord Style: Y-cord, 1.15m, Replaceable
Mini Jack Style: Gold plated L style, heavy build.
Eartips Used: bi-flanges
Packaging: ★★★☆
Build Quality: ★★★☆ (there are still room for improvement, but overly good)
Accessories: ★★★★☆ (Included case isn’t very functional)
Isolation: ★★★★★
Microphonics: ★★★ (earbud style) | ★★★★★ (over-the-ear style)
Comfort: ★★★★☆ (one of the most comfortable deep inserting IEM)
Soundstage: ★★★★ (w/ Bass+ port)
Sound Quality: ★★★★☆ (warm, mid centric with some of the best vocal but doesn’t lack bass or treble)
Value: ★★★★ (For $250, I'll expect a bit more) | ★★★★★ (Fantastic new price!)
Remark: SA6 is a great example of how single BA transducer can sound great. Though the overall quality (both on sound and build) isn’t the best yet (when considering its price), I believe there is still room for improvement as SA6 is the first IEM for Sleek Audio. The custom porting (VQ system) works well. For people who love a warm, full, detail yet musical sound, SA6 just might be the one for you. [UPDATE] To me, SA6 is on the warm side, but not dark. The mid has a full body that is especially good with vocal. The treble (T++ port) reaches quite far and gives enough detail to show some sparkle but not to a point of fatiguing. Bass (on B+ port, pin hole mod) is accurate and fast, though not the best or biggest impact I heard and lack a good resolution on depth, it seems to well suit the full mid. The soundstage is better than most but not the best I heard. All and all, SA6 presents a very musical sound that can easily make most music more engaging. I'll say SA6's sound signature is a combination of all the nice characteristics I'll be looking for in a pair of IEM. As of why it falls short of being the best is because, though SA6 is really good sounding, it can still be a bit congesting on busy passage. I think it is because SA6 still lacks the best resolution and the body of sound to be ranked as the best. [UPDATED EDIT] With the new price of $200, SA6 are now one of the best value IEM in the market IMO.
(See in-depth review here and modification over at

Head-Direct’s RE2 (2008)

Variation: n/a.
Transducer: 9mm Single Dynamic
Spec: 32Ω (@1kHz) | 103dB SPL | 20Hz ~ 18KHZ
Cord Style: Y-cord, 0.90m.
Mini Jack Style: Gold plated straight style, very light build.
Eartips Used: Big bi-flanges
Packaging: n/a (sampling package)
Build Quality: ★★★★ (solid but nothing spectacular)
Accessories: ★★★☆ (a shirt clip will be nice)
Isolation: ★★★☆ (semi-open design but doesn’t leak sound)
Microphonics: ★★★ (earbud style)
Comfort: ★★★★★
Soundstage: ★★★★☆
Sound Quality: ★★★☆ (analytical and flat, light on bass, clearly a step up from ER6i and approaching the amped iM716)
Value: ★★★★★ (what can a man ask for with such a low price of $99?)
Remark: RE2 sounds like a more refine ER6i. Though not pumping out a lot of bass, the great detail should be more than enough considered it is only $99. The included big bi-flanges really do their job well. Better soundstage and not need for amping make it a better choice over iM716. The only downside is the short cable (plus the included extension cable is quite heavy). [EDIT] Good synergy with FiiO E3, so try them both together if you get a chance.
(See in-depth review here over at

Head-Direct’s RE1 (2008)

Variation: n/a.
Transducer: 9mm Single Dynamic
Spec: 150Ω (@1kHz) | 103dB SPL | 20Hz ~ 18KHZ
Cord Style: Y-cord, 0.90m.
Mini Jack Style: Gold plated straight style, very light build.
Eartips Used: Big bi-flanges
Packaging: n/a (sampling package)
Build Quality: ★★★★ (solid but nothing spectacular)
Accessories: ★★★☆ (a shirt clip will be nice)
Isolation: ★★★☆ (semi-open design but doesn’t leak sound)
Microphonics: ★★★ (earbud style)
Comfort: ★★★★★
Soundstage: ★★★★★ (the best soundstage when amped)
Sound Quality: ★★★★☆ (slightly dark but very smooth and forgiving, must be amped well to reveal its potential. One of the best dynamic I ever heard).
Value: ★★★★☆ (Not getting 5 stars after factor in the price for an amp, but still quite a great deal)
Remark: With a fast and detail amp, RE1 can sound amazingly great, putting it next to some of the best universal IEM in the market. Even after factoring in the price of reasonably good amp (~$150), I still think it is a good deal. If you already have a good amp, than there is no reason why you shouldn’t consider getting a pair of RE1. Mind you the slightly dark SQ means it is not the ultra detail IEM you are looking for. However, It is perfect for those who want a smooth and laid back sounding IEM that you can listen for hours and feel no fatigue at all. Note that RE1 has the same short cable as RE2.
(See in-depth review here over at

Ultimate Ears’ 10 Pro (2008)

Variation: n/a.
Transducer: Triple Balanced Armature in two ways configuration
Spec: 32Ω (@1kHz) | 10Hz~ 17kHz | 117dB SPL | 16g
Cord Style: Y-cord, 1.10m. Memory cable. Replaceable.
Mini Jack Style: Gold plated L style, heavy build.
Eartips Used: Mod’ed Shure Black Foam
Packaging: ★★★★☆
Build Quality: ★★★★★
Accessories: ★★★★☆ (Included foam are trash)
Isolation: ★★★★ (-26dB, better with foam eartips)
Microphonics: ★★★★★ (over-the-ear style)
Comfort: ★★★☆ (won’t work if you have really small ear canal. Big earpiece)
Soundstage: ★★★★☆ (very good, but not the best. Great instrument separation)
Sound Quality: ★★★★★ (very balance and airy, a slight harshness on treble but fixable by foam).
Value: ★★★★☆ (Not getting 5 stars because I am expecting everything to be perfect but it is not, see remark)
Remark: If you can get a good fit, there is no doubt that TF10 has one of the best SQ in universal IEM. I’ll like to think that I am paying a premier price because everything is best in its class, but it just isn’t so. The foam tips included are basically trash as one of them broke apart even before I fully inserted it onto the IEM, and the other one is even worst as the foam is glued to the silicone tube on the wrong side (the smooth side should be facing the eardrum but it is not). They should have asked Comply to produce the foam instead of making some sub-par accessories themselves. [UPDATE] Cheer for UE cause they do listen to their customer, and now all UE's products seems to be shipped with Comply!

Sony MDR-EX700SL (2008)

Variation: MDR-EX700LP (one piece cable)
Transducer: Single 16mm Dynamic
Spec: 16Ω (@1kHz) | 4Hz~ 28kHz | 108dB SPL | 7g
Cord Style: J-cord. Two pieces, 0.50m + 1.00m (LP model has one piece cable)
Mini Jack Style: Gold plated L style, light build.
Eartips Used: Single flange
Packaging: ★★★★★ (One of the nicest looking package on IEM)
Build Quality: ★★★★☆ (cable tangles too easily).
Accessories: ★★★★☆ (excellent case and tips but shirt clip needed!)
Isolation: ★★ (around -20dB, the second worst of all)
Microphonics: ★★★★ (earbud style)
Comfort: ★★★★☆ (quite comfortable despite the size)
Soundstage: ★★★★ (good soundstage, but a bit lack in depth / not airy enough)
Sound Quality: ★★★★☆ (balance, too much harshness on treble not even T400 can fix, good bass, slightly recessed mid in comparison).
Value: ★★★★ (Overall nice package, but SQ isn’t there yet)
Remark: If you even want to sell people a two piece cabal IEM, you better included a shirt clip. Despite using really light material (aluminum, magnesium), the combined cable is still fairly heavy and annoying. Once I put a clip on it, I realize it won’t fit the case anymore (not that the SL model fits well before). Beside the missing clip and harshness, some of the major downside include the easily tangle cable, very little isolation, plus comfortable but easily damage eartips. Sony has made an effort to create a worthy high class IEM, but it isn’t at the top yet. If you want to get EX700, get the LP model (one piece cable) instead. [EDIT] After a lengthy burn-in (~150hrs), the harsh treble seems to quiet down a bit (2~3dB maybe?) to a slightly more tolerable level (but still harsh in general).

JAYS q-Jays (2008)

Variation: Black and white models. q-Jays LE (red and blue models)
Transducer: Dual Balanced Armature
Spec: 39Ω (@1kHz) | 20Hz~ 20kHz | 95dB SPL | 8g
Cord Style: Y-cord. Two pieces, 0.60m + 0.90m
Mini Jack Style: Gold plated L style, light build.
Eartips Used: Single flange
Packaging: ★★★★☆ (One of the nicest looking package on IEM)
Build Quality: ★★★★★ (solid European's quality).
Accessories: ★★★★☆ (excellent accessories only let down by not functional case and not shirt clip)
Isolation: ★★★★
Microphonics: ★★★ (earbud style) | ★★★★ (over-the-ear style)
Comfort: ★★★☆ (where is the shirt clip when you need one?) | ★★★★☆ (w/ my O.J. mod, see remark).
Soundstage: ★★★☆ (fair soundstage)
Sound Quality: ★★★★ (slightly warm, very slight harshness on treble, excellent bass on quantity and quality).
Value: ★★★★☆ (solid package for a mid class IEM)
Remark: Though might not be the best sounding IEM in its price range (close though), the extra goodies that come with the package do proof q-Jays to have an excellent value for the money. The two downsides are 1) the included case won’t fit the IEM with extension cable (without putting a lot of stress on the cable) and 2) why won’t JAYS includes a shirt clip for a two pieces cable? See also my Olive-on-Jays mod over at

Sony MDR-EX85SL (2008)

Variation: MDR-EX85LP (one piece cable)
Transducer: Single 13.5mm Dynamic
Spec: 16Ω (@1kHz) | 5Hz~ 24kHz | 105dB SPL | 6g
Cord Style: J-cord. Two pieces, 0.50m + 1.00m
Mini Jack Style: Gold plated L style, normal build.
Eartips Used: Single flange
Packaging: N/A (OEM package)
Build Quality: ★★★★ (Nothing special)
Accessories: ★★★☆ (Still looking for the same old shirt clip)
Isolation: ★★★
Microphonics: ★★★
Comfort: ★★★★ (Weird angle of the earpiece)
Soundstage: ★★★ (fair soundstage)
Sound Quality: ★★☆ (warm, not particularly detail but acceptable, slightly muddy mid, bass lacks depth and quality)
Value: ★★★ (Low street price gives it a fair value)
Remark: EX85 is about the same level as CX300 in SQ, but different in sonic character. CX300 has bloated bass and treble while lacks good body mid; EX85 has good mid but lacks good detail and bass depth. Like the CX300, it can serve as a good backup pair since the street price is reasonable, but it isn't 'monitor' level SQ like Sony claims.

Shure SE530 (2008)

Variation: SE530PTH (with extra Push-To-Talk unit)
Transducer: Triple Balanced Armature in two ways configuration
Spec: 36Ω (@1kHz) | 18Hz~ 19kHz | 119dB SPL | 29g
Cord Style: Y-cord, Two pieces, 0.45 + 0.91m
Mini Jack Style: Gold plated straight style, heavy build.
Eartips Used: Shure Black Foam
Packaging: ★★★★★ (aluminum box is really nice)
Build Quality: ★★★★☆ (loose connection in less than a week of action, lemon replaced)
Accessories: ★★★★★ (olive is good, attenuator is a plus)
Isolation: ★★★★★
Microphonics: ★★★★★ (over-the-ear style)
Comfort: ★★★★☆ (heavily built cable isn't particularly comfortable, plus there is no memory cable to hold the cable in place)
Soundstage: ★★★★ (good, but not the best. Slight improvement when using silicones eartip)
Sound Quality: ★★★★☆ (Slightly on the warm side with good, solid and full mid and bass, a bit dark sounding if used from a warm source, slightly roll off treble but improved when amped; On the plus side, SE530 is slightly more forgiving on low bitrate music).
Value: ★★★★ (More expensive than TF10, but doesn't offer more of anything)
Remark: Does SE530 sounds good? I guess the answer is 'Yes'. Does it sound better than TF10? My instinct tells me 'No'. The reason is, SE530 sounds so 'conservative' (if you can describe it that way) that it lacks surprise of any kind. It seems to have a very solid sound characteristic but the lack of spark always leaves me wanting for more. I guess most people will find SE530's sound pretty easy going, but I think I'll prefer a sound that carries more excitement in it. Perhaps I am just not too fond of Shure's house sound? One thing that worths noticing is, despite the fact that most IEM sound very 'intimate' (that is, not resembling a big can), SE530 does carry a more or less 'big can' feel in its sound character. On extra note, SE530 could easily be the most comfortable IEM in the batch, but I just wish Shure could include memory wire on the cable which would have made wearing it a lot more easier.

CrossRoads MylarOne Bijou 3 (2008)

Variation: Various colors
Transducer: Single 9mm Dynamic
Spec: 16Ω (@1kHz) | 20Hz ~ 22kHz | 95 + 4 dB SPL | 2mW (10mW Max)
Cord Style: Y-cord, 1.40m
Mini Jack Style: Gold plated L style, light build.
Eartips Used: UE style bi-flange
Packaging: ★★★☆ (improved since previous version)
Build Quality: ★★★★ (Good build, significant improvement with aluminum earpieces, proper strain relief, and stronger cable )
Accessories: ★★★★☆ (A lot compare to its price, still a CrossRoads strong point)
Isolation: ★★★
Microphonics: ★★ (w/o clip) | ★★★★ (w/ clip)
Comfort: ★★★★☆
Soundstage: ★★★ (slightly less airy thus less soundstage)
Sound Quality: ★★☆ (warm and fun sounding, lower midrange hump around 200Hz ~ 250Hz, but decent detail. Slightly better than CX300 but not on the level of X3 yet)
Value: ★★★★ (Same price as the X3i, still cheaper than EP-630 or CX300 in local price. Factoring in the improved build quality and accessories, it still holds better value than the cheaper CX300 (in U.S.))
Remark: First, the Bijou 3 needs a lot of burn-in. You should burn it in for at least 50hrs before even attends to listen to it. Serious audition will be better scheduled after 100hrs. With out proper burn in, Bijou 3 can sound very muddy with uncontrolled mid bass and roll off high. Second, although the build quality has shown significant improvement, the sound quality does not (show improvement as significant). In fact, one can argue whether it is an improvement on SQ, or perhaps it is a change of sound characteristic as the old MylarOne sounds quite different from the current Bijou 3 (from analytical to fun sounding). Personally, I do prefer the more analytical sound of the old X3. Those of you who find Bijou 3 lower midrange hump muddy up the sound can try to EQ the 200Hz ~ 250Hz region down a bit. The end result is a more balanced sound that has better controlled treble and very slightly deeper bass than CX300.

Westone UM2 (2008)

Variation: Black and translucent.
Transducer: Dual balanced armature
Spec: 27Ω (@1kHz) | 20Hz~ 18kHz | 119dB SPL | 30g
Cord Style: Y-cord. Braided. 1.30m
Mini Jack Style: Gold plated L style, heavy build.
Eartips Used: Stock Comply P-series slim foam tips
Packaging: ★★★★ (Nothing spectacular here)
Build Quality: ★★★★★ (Solid. The cable might seem fragile at first but actually well constructed)
Accessories: ★★★★☆ (Lacks silicone tips. Comply tips are good but silicone tips should be included)
Isolation: ★★★★☆ (Excellent isolation, close to the best)
Microphonics: ★★★★★ (Close to no microphonics at all. Braided cable works very well)
Comfort: ★★★★★ (Definitely one of the most comfort IEM there is. The soft cable is a big plus!)
Soundstage: ★★★☆ (Fair. The warm and forward mid reduces airiness, results in smaller soundstage)
Sound Quality: ★★★★☆ (By far the warmest IEM among all the top end IEM. Very mid centric, like SA6 w/ stronger bass response, but doesn't sparkle as much on treble and less airy, very slightly harsh)
Value: ★★★★ (As a dual driver, UM2 has SQ that can rival those triple drivers, but there are newer, cheaper dual driver on the market that come with better accessories. For the price I paid, it kind of makes me wish for more)
Remark: UM2 spots a very warm, very musical sound signature. Slightly stronger bass than SE530 (mostly because of more mid-bass), with a more forward, fuller mid but less treble detail. Though warm, there is a bit of highlight on the 6~8kHz region resulting in slight harshness, which actually prevents it from sounding too dark despites the fact that it sounds less detail than SE530 (especially on the upper treble). Because of the much forward mid, soundstage actually suffered a bit as the sense of airiness is greatly reduced. Depends on your listening preference, UM2 can be good or bad. It certainly isn't for those who are looking for balance, neutral, cold or analytical sound. However, If you like your music warm and full, UM2 could be the treat you are looking for. If sound signature is a scale, I will place TF10 on one end, SE530 very close to the middle, and UM2 at the other end.

Future Sonics Atrio M5 rev.2 (2008)

Variation: M8 (blue color earpiece)
Transducer: MG5pro™ single dynamic
Spec: 32Ω (@1kHz) | 18Hz~ 20kHz | 112dB SPL
Cord Style: Y-cord, 1.30m.
Mini Jack Style: Gold plated L style, light build.
Eartips Used: Stock EarFills sleeves
Packaging: ★★★★ (Nothing spectacular here)
Build Quality: ★★★★★ (Quite solid)
Accessories: ★★★★★ (The included case is larger than needed, but of good quality. Two packs of foam tips are a plus)
Isolation: ★★★★ (Better than average, but not among the best. isolation improves if using foam tips)
Microphonics: ★★★★ (earbud style. The QuietCables II works rather well)
Comfort: ★★★★ (The EarFills bi-flanges are not the easiest eartips to insert or remove)
Soundstage: ★★★☆ (Fair soundstage, lack in airiness which limits soundstage, strong upfront bass (or weak mid / treble, depend on your own view) distorts overall imaging)
Sound Quality: ★★★★ (Fun and slightly warm, monstrous bass with great depth but very slightly lacks in speed, quite forgiving, lacks in fine upper treble detail and close to sparkle-less)
Value: ★★★★★(The MSRP might be listed close to US$200 but the actual street price can be 1/3 lower. For that reason, Atrio has earn a spot as the top valuer)
Remark: It is not an opinion if someone tell you Atrio M5 / M8 is for basshead, it is the truth. It is hard to imagine an IEM is capable of kicking out so much bass in such great depth - that is you can also hear the sub-bass with decent frequency response. No IEM I heard of is ever close to push out half that of Atrio in the bass department. One of the best thing is, Atrio is able to pump bass out without muddy up the mid and retain enough treble detail to not sound dark, though it definitely isn't the detail sounding IEM people are looking for. Generally, I consider Atrio to be quite smooth sounding and not fatiguing, provides that you are into big bass. Atrio can be fatiguing if you can't accept big bass smashing into your head (as more than one occasion I actually feel my head is vibrating.) On extra note, Atrio requires a bit of burn-in to reach its final sound signature. I'll suggest 50 hrs as the minimum and 100hrs before any serious audition.

SoundMAGIC PL-30 (2008)

Variation: n/a
Transducer: Single 9mm Dynamic
Spec: 12Ω (@1kHz) | 20Hz~ 22kHz | 102+3dB SPL | 10g
Cord Style: Y-cord, 1.20m.
Mini Jack Style: Gold plated straight style, Light build.
Eartips Used: UE style bi-flanges.
Packaging: ★★★☆ (surprisingly well packaged for the price)
Build Quality: ★★★ (Okay build quality. Care needed to last, especially on the bass knob)
Accessories: ★★★★☆ (Good selection of eartips included, especially the Shure 'olive' style foam. Good thing that they also include a shirt clip)
Isolation: ★☆ (less than -20dB, the worst of all. Foam will improve isolation but will result in a darker sound signature)
Microphonics: ★★★★☆ (over-the-ear style, very little microphonics even w/o the shirt clip)
Comfort: ★★★★ (Good, but the cable doesn't particularly like to stay over-the-ear w/o a bit of persuasion)
Soundstage: ★★★★ (Airy sound with a good sense of space and separation)
Sound Quality: ★★☆ (Neutral sound w/ a bit of analytical quality, bass light but offers good detail. SQ is roughly on-par w/ Bijou3 but with an opposite presentation. Resemble the SQ of MylarOne X3 but w/ less bass. Quite seal and eartips dependent for achieving an ideal sound)
Value: ★★★★☆ (Capable of matching the performance of those which double in price and beating most, if not all, sub $50 IEM gives PL-30 a rather good value for money)
Remark: Before serious auditioning, a 24 hrs burn-in is recommended for the removal of the slight hint of harshness. If you can get them for less than $30, I'll say you have got yourself a good deal. Less than $20? Even better. However, paying such an low low price does come with its own downside (I have to wait for a month just to receive my $20 PL-30, and it will probably take all the patience in your life because the shipping update is pretty much not existed). At this point, you should have realized PL-30 isn't the Excalibur you are hoping for. It is not the magic cure if you are searching for better SQ. However, PL-30 does capable of rival most IEM around the $50 mark (and that's probably as far as it goes). Due to the earpieces' design, getting a good seal might require a bit of effort. A bad seal means PL-30 will turn from bass-light to bass-none. Using the foam, however, will darken PL-30 overall sound signature in exchange for more bass. Personally, I find the two different setting for bass knob to be quite subtle. The clear bass setting is slightly airier, while deep bass setting gives a bit of warmness to the overall tone. You will most likely get more result via EQing. For those who are looking for more bass w/o resolving to EQ, try FiiO E3 (the synergy is good, but there might be a hint of hiss depends on your DAP).

The Best SQ Ranking:
1) 10 Pro ★★★★★
2) Shure SE530 ★★★★☆
3) Westone UM2 ★★★★☆
4) Head-Direct’s RE1 (amped) ★★★★☆
5) Sleek Audio SA6 ★★★★☆
6) Sony MDR-EX700SL ★★★★☆
7) Future Sonics Atrio M5 ★★★★
8) JAYS q-Jays ★★★★
9) Altec Lansing iM716 (amped) ★★★☆
10) Head-Direct’s RE2 ★★★☆
11) Etymotic ER6i ★★★
12) Shure E3c ★★★
13) CrossRoads MylarOne X3 ★★☆
14) CrossRoads MylarOne Bijou 3 ★★☆
15) SoundMAGIC PL-30 ★★☆
16) Sennheiser CX300 ★★☆
17) Sony MDR-EX85SL ★★☆
18) Creative EP-630 ★★

The Best Value Ranking:
1) Head-Direct’s RE2 ★★★★★ | Sleek Audio SA6 ★★★★★ (New price)
2) Future Sonics Atrio M5 ★★★★★
3) 10 Pro ★★★★☆
4) JAYS q-Jays ★★★★☆
5) Head-Direct’s RE1 ★★★★☆
6) SoundMAGIC PL-30 ★★★★☆
7) Etymotic ER6i ★★★★
8) CrossRoads MylarOne X3 ★★★★
9) Shure SE530 ★★★★
10) CrossRoads MylarOne Bijou 3 ★★★★
11) Sleek Audio SA6 ★★★★ (old price)
12) Sony MDR-EX700SL ★★★★
13) Westone UM2 ★★★★
14) Altec Lansing iM716 ★★★☆
15) Shure E3c ★★★
16) Sennheiser CX300 ★★★
17) Sony MDR-EX85SL ★★★
18) Creative EP-630 ★★☆

Disclaimer: All trademarks and logos in the website belong to their respective owners. Beside getting free review samples, I don't work for or get paid by anyone to write anything on this website, or anywhere else in that matter. Also, free review samples are never sold for any financial gain. I do buy gears and review them, but for simplicity you (the reader) should always assume what I review is free sample in nature (and thus comes with all the bias). The website does have Google Ads and Amazon Associates enabled (which I have no direct control over their content) - though I don't write review for a living, nor does the ads generates enough money to cover my breakfast (in fact, not even one breakfast per week). Listening to music and playing with audio gears are purely hobby for me. In short, I am just an audiophiles who happens to have his own blog. Not a journalist who happens to be an audiophile. Oh, and excuse my writing as I am not a native English speaker and can't afford a proofreader. Also, just because I don't write in a negative tone doesn't mean I don't write down the negative aspect of a gear. Please read them carefully. Last but not least, please note that this site uses cookies to track visitors' number and page view.

Important: All postings are my own personal opinion only and should not be treated as absolute truth. I do get things wrong just like everyone else. Always do your own research!

Lastest Posts

Copyright 2008-2016 In Ear Matters. Powered by Blogger Blogger Templates create by Deluxe Templates. WP by Masterplan