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Author Topic: On higher-end listening cans
Mochan
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Icon 1 posted May 20, 2006 13:28      Profile for Mochan     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Okay, for the better part of this year (and last year for that matter) I've been experimenting with all sorts of headphones/earphones for the best portable sound experience.

This pretty much started because my old pair of Sennheiser MX450s broke down (I think the cord got pulled on one end, rendering incapable of outputting any sound). They served me well for 2 years but now I had to get something new.

I tried a bunch of stuff since the phones that came with my MuVo (my then MP3 player at the time) were absolutely horrid. The first thing I tried was a some cheap in-ear set (I wanted to try in-ears). Now while the sound isolation was nice, they set sounded horrible (these were a $4US pair after all).

So I bought something a bit more expensive: a Logitech PSP in-ear set, which had a standard 3.5mm jack. I tried it, but to my chagrin I found that my old MX450s sounded better (and it cost $11US at the time; this cruddy Logitech in-ear was worth $15).

My brother also had an iPod Shuffle at this time and the phones that came with it were at least comparable to my old MX450s, so this Logitech had to go. I tossed it in some dark corner and began wondering if this in-ear crud was worth it.

I then went over to a friend who had the iPod in-ears (that go for about $40). A sizable investment, so I wanted to try them out first. The sounded good! You have to learn to put them in your ear properly though, but they sounded nice. The bass was very decent for such a puny piece, although the treble detail was so-so (the MX450s had better treble).

So I went around the malls shopping for one, as they seemed nice. Only problem is, I bought an iPod video at around this time. I could have been satisfied with the phones it came with, except! My new iPod was a shining black, but the earphone were annoyingly WHITE. WTF? Well that went against my fashion sense so I shopped around for a good black set.

No such luck with iPod stuff; Steve Jobs seems to have a thing for white and grey, and I swear the poor sap who designed the black iPod must have gotten axed.

Considering that the MX450s sounded really good, I dropped by the Sennheiser shop and found a pair of MX550s for $18US, and they were a nice black with metallic blue highlights. They looked awesome! I got them and they sounded slightly better than the MX450s, looked better, and had an adjustable volume knob for boot. Excellent!

But as with all small headphone cans that are not in-ear, the bass-response was a bit lacking. Since I like bass, this meant my listening experience was still incomplete. So just a few days later I dropped by Sennheiser shop again and bought some DJ phones: the HD212 Pro. My friend used to have this and the bass sounded awesome! This new set sounded just as great.

Now I suddenly realized a major problem: walking around with these huge DJ cans felt awkward at best, probably made me look a bit too macho a geek if I were to go around doing my groceries with it! I realized I had to get smaller cans.

Now my fascination with in-ears peaked again, and I caved in after finding a black pair of Shure e2cs in an audiophile store. It was worth $80US but what they hey, you only live once! I tried them out in the store and the treble detail overwhelmed me!! They were incredible! Now the HD212s had lousy treble (though magnificent bass) so after a bit of adjusting in the in-ear, I heard some excellent treble coming from this set. So off I went on another impulse buy.

A few weeks down the line though I realized these e2cs had a real issue: the bass was downright horrible. For the price, I feel I got ripped off. All I can say is, the treble sounds great, but the bass was definitely lacking. Not bad, but not great either, especially compared to the HD212 Pro. Worse, the e2cs take a lot of work to put on (because of the phone plugs), the case they come with is very bulky and sticks out in your pocket, and the cord is very thick, making it very cumbersome. They sounded great, but frankly were not worth the money and were a hassle to use. Dejected, I wondered if I would ever find a pair I would be happy with.

Anyway just yesterday while passing another shop I saw a pair of Sony Nude EXs, which I heard was another good in-ear model with good bass. I tried them out, and WOW! The bass was excellent! The treble was okay. Now I realized one thing: the freaking cord was too short! it wouldn't reach to my pocket. Major annoyance. So I opted out of buying them (cost about $60US).

Only later when I got home did I read up on the nudes, and learned that they have an extension cord which you can use to adjust the length. DOH! Silly me. I am still pondering going back and getting them.

Well, luckily I also bought this weird little device from the same shop: they're called iBuds. Basically some silicon cups that are designed to go over the standard iPod's cans and turn them into in-ears. Since the iPod cans are pretty standard in size, that means these iBuds fit on just about anything, including my beloved MX550, which so far is still the best set I have in terms of sound quality, portability and use.

Fitting the iBuds on them, I found they got rid of the typical non-in-ear weakness of poor bass. The thing with the MX550s is that, if you press them close to your ear, the bass response increases tremendously, but when you ease the pressure of your finger they pop out and the bass turns to junk again. WIth these buds, you can get a modest seal on your ear and focus the sound into your ear, creating far better bass. They work pretty well! And the iBuds themselves only cost $5US for a set of 3. The only issue is that the buds were Pink (I like pink, but pink, blue and black don't go together) and that, since the MX550 is not in-ear, the buds going over them do not quite fit in your ear perfectly. The seal still works and they phones themselves sound better as a result, but still not perfect.

Regardless, what can I say? In the end it seems the best option was to just get a good set of non-in-ears and plug them up with the iBuds. The overall cost would only be about $20US, which is half hte price of the iPod In-ears, and a fourth of the Shure e2cs. And now, the resulting frankenstein monster of MX550 and iBuds sound just as good as the Shure e2cs, at a quarter the price.

If any of you are shopping for earphones, you might want to take this to heart.

So what's in store for me? I will probably get the Nudes down the line... they were far more comfortable, and very compact; the case they come with was nice! A little tube. The design is also nice: black with a color highlight; three colors were available (red, gold and blue) and the price wasn't so bad $60US. Alternately I might opt to get a bluetooth headset; but that is another story.

Posts: 118 | From: Manila | Registered: Apr 2006  |  IP: Logged
zesovietrussian
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Icon 1 posted May 20, 2006 15:16      Profile for zesovietrussian     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Why don't you try Altec's im716 instead - supposedly, very similar to Etymotic ER4s for less than quarter of the price. I ordered them a couple days ago, just to see how well they stack up against Shure e2c. Don't get the Sonys - it's just a bad-sounding cheap consumer earbud in a fancy-looking casing.
Posts: 1094 | From: Boston | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged
Mochan
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Icon 1 posted May 21, 2006 00:01      Profile for Mochan     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Gotcha. Be sure to tell me how the Altec compares to the e2c. I would like to get one myself, but they do not seem to exist here in my country (and I have issues with ordering online).

When I first listened to the e2cs at the shop, the sounded awesome, but today when I listen to it I find it's not really so good. I guess initial impressions for me tend to wow me but once I really get familiar with a device I see all the flaws and issues it has.

I've been doing some focused listening and I can pretty much conclude that the Sennheiser mx550s withe iBuds attachment sound superior to the e2cs. The treble is a bit muddier and lacks the precision of the e2c's wonderful treble (but still good; the MX550's treble is still awesome), but it makes up for it with FAR better bass response. This makes the earphones as a whole more full-bodied; it is a far more complete piece.

One thing I noticed; the better non-in-ear models like the MX550/MX450 or even the default iPod buds actually have very good bass, it's just that you don't hear it well because of a lack of a seal. This is in comparison to a smaller in-ear bud. The only reason the in-ears seem to sound better is because of the in-ear design and seal. But when I press the non-in-ear bud into my ear by applying pressure with my finger (to create a "virtual seal") you can really hear the bass response, and it is better than the e2cs or the iPod in-ears.

Is it because of the size of the bud? Most inears seem to have really small drivers, probably due to the size of the bud.

Posts: 118 | From: Manila | Registered: Apr 2006  |  IP: Logged
zesovietrussian
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Icon 1 posted May 21, 2006 07:40      Profile for zesovietrussian     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Are you sure you got a proper seal with the e2c? They actually have plenty of bass when inserted correctly.
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Mochan
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Icon 1 posted May 21, 2006 23:54      Profile for Mochan     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Yeah, I'm pretty sure I've got the seal as good as it will go. I've experimented with all the ear plugs that came with it (the best fit is still the foam; I can't get the same sound with the rubber or plastic cups); I also know I have a good seal because when I flush the toilet I don't hear anything. [Smile]

The bass is there, just nowhere near as good as a full-size headset. And as mentioned, not as good as the frankenstein MX550s or the iPod in-ears.

Posts: 118 | From: Manila | Registered: Apr 2006  |  IP: Logged
Tom- geeking around

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Icon 1 posted May 21, 2006 23:57      Profile for Tom- geeking around   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I, too, wanted to get a new set of headphones 2 years ago.
I soon realized that any stock earbuds just downright suck at treble and bass and overall quality is blaahhh.
Armed with my iPod, I went out to try several headphones.
Considering I like metal, symphonic metal, rock and jazz, it soon became clear that the headphones must be able to deliver quite a bass-punch!
In the end, I settled for Koss PortaPro headphones. Those are not earbus, nor in-ears, but "classical", if a bit nerdy, over-the-ear headphones. They were priced at around 50 Euros (should be available at 40 dollars or less in the US), which I was more than willing to spend, considering I listen to music about 3 hours a day - even more when I study at my university!
Bass can get really heavy should the music demand, mids and treble are very nice - but the bass is not "overly pumped up". Should the music demand it the earphones deliver - not the other way around. Even though- I must admit - overall sound quality/clarity is a 7.5 out of 10 - but I still really like them.
Only problem is that they allow ambient noise to mix with the music and they let sound escape easily at mid to high volume settings. But not bad in the end actually.
Last summer I wanted to get headphones that wouldn't let so much sound escape nor let ambient noise mix with my music experience that would still have the same bass-power and are around the 100 Euro mark.
Checking various forums, I realized my only choice would be the Shure-E2C's. I bought them at the Apple Store in the US. The E2C'S are actually supposed to be Shure's in-ears with the most bass. At home, I tried them out and listened.
Besides disliking the in-ear concept in general, sound was what these in-ears were designed to be: accurate in-ear studio monitoring equipment - but not consumer everyday-use for prolonged periods of time earbuds. The sound was *very* clear, treble was fantastic - mids satisfying.
Bass was disappointing though - they couldn't provide sufficient bass to make a "round" sound experience while listening to Nightwish. Being used to a full bass, I know what the music sounds like with decent bass - the E2Cs didn't do that.
They are, in the end, not designed to be used for heavy-metal, I guess - rather for studio monitoring or on-stage monitoring.
I kept the Shures for a week to make sure I gave them a chance to get used to them and to ensure I inserted them properly to create a tight seal. I was told that lacking bass was as cause of incorrect position in my ear - but I took a long time to experiment.
I returned them in the end..
Summary:
I sticked to my Koss PortaPros. Should I spare some money, I'd consider buying the Bose Triports.

=)
Thomas

--------------------
Pizza and ginormous jugs is what I need!

Posts: 374 | From: Vienna | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged
Alan!
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Icon 1 posted May 22, 2006 04:16      Profile for Alan!     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
aha!

i just bought some very large, over-the-ear headphones which look ridiculous, but sound great.
the [showUID]=174&tx_sbproductdatabase_pi1[showUid][backPID]=105&cHash=63b457d726]Beyer DT880-2005.

And i will be buying the minutely compact in-the-ear Sensaphonics soft2x soon. (its great fun to read their absurdly sensationalist client list)

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Alan!

Two rabbis, a priest, and an awkward silence after there's no intelligible punch line to this joke, walk into a bar.

Posts: 219 | From: Perth, Western Australia | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged
zesovietrussian
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Icon 1 posted May 22, 2006 08:58      Profile for zesovietrussian     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Alan!:
aha!

i just bought some very large, over-the-ear headphones which look ridiculous, but sound great.
the [showUID]=174&tx_sbproductdatabase_pi1[showUid][backPID]=105&cHash=63b457d726]Beyer DT880-2005.

And i will be buying the minutely compact in-the-ear Sensaphonics soft2x soon. (its great fun to read their absurdly sensationalist client list)

Now those are some sweet cans. Was one kidney enough, or did you have to sell both?
Posts: 1094 | From: Boston | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged
Mochan
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Icon 1 posted May 22, 2006 15:58      Profile for Mochan     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
For classic over-the-ear (or over the head -- anything bigger than earbuds) I'm relatively happy with the Sennheiser HD212 Pro. This is the cheap headphones to use for BASS. While as a whole they aren't anywhere near as good as a higher end set like my friend's Technics (awesome!) for the price the bass sound is incredible. The treble is very weak and muted, though. It's really built for bass-heads on a budget. It also has noise-cancellation so little ambient sound mixes in.

Regarding the E2Cs, by the way, I'm pretty sure the more expensive one (the E5C) is the one that's supposed to have more bass. The E2Cs have little bass. And as you have mentioned, the bass was very disappointing. I can assure you it's not a factor with the seal; the E2Cs really just don't pump out much bass. Bottom line: they sound good, but in my opinion they're not worth the money.

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dragonman97

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Icon 1 posted May 22, 2006 16:24      Profile for dragonman97   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
These are cheap, and I'm quite happy with them... (but I'm not that picky)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00008VSE1/102-7866242-7396167?v=glance&n=172282

The fact that I didn't pay for them helps just a little. [Wink]

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There are three things you can be sure of in life: Death, taxes, and reading about fake illnesses online...

Posts: 9332 | From: Westchester County, New York | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
zesovietrussian
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Icon 1 posted May 24, 2006 19:10      Profile for zesovietrussian     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Just got the im716s - not too shabby, to say the least. Same amount of bass as the e2c (i.e. not too much - bassheads might be disappointed,) but they seem to be much more clear and detailed - probably more like the e4c. They're definitely worth the $70.
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Tom- geeking around

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Icon 1 posted May 25, 2006 23:47      Profile for Tom- geeking around   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
pretty sure the more expensive one (the E5C) is the one that's supposed to have more bass.
The E5's??
Let me see. I think their average retail price is around the 500 euro mark. Sold in the US for around 400 dollars.

Now, care to spare 400 dollars? I mean I do realize that the sound you get is only as good as your setup's worst component. But 400 dollars is pretty fucking steep. I'd rather buy something for 100, and go on a shopping spree for 300.
Keep in mind again, these are stage/studio monitoring equipment, so they might be way impractical for everyday use to enjoy some music.

For 400 I'd buy something different...

Thomas

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Pizza and ginormous jugs is what I need!

Posts: 374 | From: Vienna | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged
Mochan
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Icon 1 posted May 26, 2006 00:10      Profile for Mochan     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I'm not saying go buy an E5C, I'm just saying the E5C is the Shure model with the most bass according to reviews.

Did you miss that I already said the E2Cs weren't worth the money? What do you think would I say about the E5Cs?

Also the Shure C series are Consumer plugs, they are made for the consumer market, not studio equipment.

Posts: 118 | From: Manila | Registered: Apr 2006  |  IP: Logged


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