Thursday, March 19, 2009

[REVIEW] Philips SHE9850

Generally I am not a big fan of Philips' product, but SHE9850 beautiful design got my attention when it was announced about a year ago. Due to numerous reasons, I was never able to get my hands on them until recently. So here is a somewhat postponed review.

SHE9850's spec:
  • Sensitivity: 115 dB SPL per 1 mW
  • Frequency Range: 20 Hz-20 kHz
  • Impedance: 12 ohms
  • Cable Length: 1.2m
  • Weight: 14g


Packaging, Accessories, and Build Quality
The packaging is quite typical of Philips' consumer product. It is decent but not spectacular. Nevertheless, it is already better than most Philips headphones out there. Inside, you will find the IEM, a manual, three set of different sized single flange silicone eartips, a pair of Comply T100, a shirt clip, a black aluminum case with the cleaning tool inside - basically you got everything you will want a pair of decent IEM to include, and that is a good start. I like the metal case by a lot. It can be slide in / out and has the space to hold extra set of eartips (not to mention the cleaning tool). The earpeice itself is half metal (nozzle + transducer housing) and half transparent acrylic, making it one of the best looking IEM I even seen. The overall shape / size is about the same as Shure E3c, but it is obvious from the beginning that it is intended to be wore normally and not over-the-ear (though you can). The cable and the mini plug used isn't really as impressive as the earpeice. It is really plain and normal - I would have want something better consider Philips is marketing it as a high end model. Thanks to the big rubber strain relief, I didn't detect much microphonics on the cable, so I end up not using the included shirt clip. Regarding isolation, I find HSE9850 to be very well on either foam or silicone eartips.

Overall, I am happy with what I see.


Sound Quality
Out of the box, I find SHE9850 sounded a bit veil. It has a warm and full sound signature resembling Shure's house sound, but the treble response seems to be even worst than my old E3c. After switching the stock silicone eartips to a pair of Shure olive, it becomes apparent that it is the stock single flanges that are really muffing the treble up. It is safe to say SHE9850 is tuned with foam eartips in mind as treble extends much better after the switch. I mainly choose to use olive as they last longer, but I do find Comply T100 give a slightly smoother, more enjoyable sound. However, the different is subtle enough that I don't think it matters. The slight downside of using olive is the slight harshness on the vocal region - not a big deal as it is still with in acceptable level. I give my SHE9850 a total of over 60hrs of run-in time and didn't notice any significant change. Bass is impactful and deep with just the right speed, it is close to the best bass response of any single balanced armature IEM I ever tried. Mid is warm and full body, giving the overall sound signature a sense of musicality. Treble is by far the most problematic. As mentioned, you will need to use foam tips for the treble to reveal itself, or else all you'll get is mudded up mid + bass. Even with foam tips, SHE9850 can hardly be called 'detail'. There are still roll off on the upper treble, but acceptable and better than E3c in comparison. Soundstage wise, SHE9850 is pretty 'normal'. I find that amping help introducing a sense of airiness into the mix and open up the soundstage a bit, but the low impedance and the high sensitivity of the IEM makes it not really suitable for amping (getting too loud too fast). In all, I'll describe SHE9850 as a well made all-rounded entry class IEM - Warm sounding with good bass, sweet mid, adequate treble / detail and decent soundstage. In a sense, it is Shure-E3C-done-right.

Conclusion
The initial MSRP (US$100) seems a bit too high for SHE9850, but the current street price (≤ US$90) places it just in the right zone to compete with other entry level IEM. For those who doesn't like their music clinical sounding, this is the IEM I'll recommend to you for consideration. I'll pick it over low end Shure any day of the week.

For a quick sum up, you can read this.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Last Week's Most Interesting


After weeks of nothing, finally we saw a company releasing a new line of IEM last week. Klipsch, who enter the IEM market with its balanced armature transducer based 'Image X' and 'Custom' series, announced a new dynamic transducer based series called the 'Image S' series, with S4 and S2 as the new models. So far we only see S4 on display with a promised release date on April. Judging from Klipsch's S4 website, it seems the S series is targeting the lower end of the market. The interesting bit about the S series is, S4 uses a different (and said to be better) transducer than S2 (which probably going be the lowest end of all Klipsch's headphone models). No official price quote yet, but my personal guess are S4 for US$100 and S2 for $50. In any case, we will have to wait till April to find out more about them. [UPDATE] Got a price quote of US$80 for S4.

Klipsch Image S4 spec:
frequency response10Hz – 19KHz
sensitivity110db SPL/mW
nominal impedance18-ohm
input connections3.5mm

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Revenge of the Clip-on

The original Yuin G1.

Though not really 'in-ear', two new models of Yuin, the G1A and G2A clip-on, were just announced few days ago - Okay, they ain't really new either, just reversion of the old G1 and G2 clip-on released last year. I was lucky enough to have the chance to review the old G1 last year thanks to Fang @ Head-Direct.com. The original G1 is one of the most revealing and neutral clip-on I even tried when amped properly, even putting a lot of full size headphones to shame. The newer versions are said to be even more balanced than the old models, with better bass and treble response. My guess is, instead of extreme neutrality like the older models, Yuin has decided to add a bit of musicality into the mix. If they are what I imagined to sound like, the G1A and G2A will be very interesting indeed.

G1A'a Spec:
Frequency: 20Hz to 24kHz
Impedance 150 Ohms
Sensitivity: 105 db
Max input voltage: 1000mv
MSRP US$149

G2A's Spec:
Frequency: 20Hz to 20kHz
Impedance 60 Ohms
Sensitivity: 110 db
Max input voltage: 500mv
MSRP US$49

Both are available at Head-Direct.com. Note that G1A is meant to be used with amp.

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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!

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