Wednesday, January 9, 2008

IEM Reviews

I started paying interests to In Ear Monitors (IEMs, read definition below) when i chanced upon one that my friend wore in 2005. It was a Shure e4c andmy first impression was that it looked cool because of the design and the way you wear it over your ears unlike ordinary earphones. I was unimpressed though with the amount of money i need to spend to get it as i felt it was unnecessary. I mean how different could the sound be coming out from a SGD20 earphones and a SGD200 earphones.

Few years down the road, i am now an owner of 6 IEMs and they all have a special place in my "ear". Since i have the time to do it now, i will give some reviews about the IEMs that i own. Will start slowly from the basic IEMs to those outrageously priced ones for easy reference to noobs.

Panasonic RP-HJE50 (SGD50)

This was my first ever IEMs and earphones that costed me more than SGD50 and i remember buying it at the Best Denki store in Takashimaya in December 2005. I didn't really pay attention to the different types of earphone and just took this and payed for it. The sound is decent as you get a good seal by pushing it deep into your ears, as such bass was present but standard. However there was always a problem of tangled wires when i chucked it into my bag as the cable is very long if you use the extension. Eventually one side of the driver spoilt due to constant tugs and unfortunately it embarked me on an expensive hobby.

Ultimate Ears Super.Fi3 Studio (SGD159)

I bought this online just because it had a super big discount off the retail price even after factoring in the shipping cost from US. Honestly, i've never been a fan of UE's IEMs as it just doesn't fit as well as the rest available in the market. Rather than placing it inside the ear canal, the UE's were designed (i presumed) to just block off the entrance of the ear canal. Therefore you still can hear external sounds even when the music is playing. But this also meant that if you can get it to fit, it should be more comfortable if wearing for long hours as it does not irritate the ear canal. Ultimate i sold this off after a few weeks because i didn't really like the way it fits in my ear, though the sound is great for the price. It had enough bass, mids and highs and for the built of the earphones and superb customer service of UE, this has to be the earphone to beat for the price.

Westone UM 1 (SGD179)

The westone UM1 was the IEM that i bought right after my HJE-50 died on me in 2006. It was after long hours of reading threads in audiophiles forum that i decided this is what i needed. And i wasn't far off, the Westone shines in the way it reproduces out machine recorded voices back as how it would be when you have the singer singing directly infront of you. Their sound IMHO is the most non-mechanical i've heard from each company's IEMs. To top it off, the fit was excellent and comfortable with the soft comply tips. I could hear with it all day and not complain of tiredness in the canals. Till now i'm still occasionally listening with the UM1s, definetely a classic to me.

Ultimate Ears Super.Fi5 Extra Bass (SGD250)

I was actually deciding between the SF5 EB and SF5 Pro until Amazon decided it for me by reducing the price of the EBs by almost half. From there it was easy to decide as quality per dollar definetely sided with the former. AND i'm glad i picked the EBs as the bass was mind blowing. All along i've really loved the Westone's sound signature for its great clarity but the EBs introduced bass like i've never listened to before. Genres that are especially great with the EBs are acoustic, jazz and musicals as they have a lot of hidden bass that only the EBs bring out. But on the other hand, it can be quite noisy for already bassy rock songs. Also since it is louder, we have to take care of the level of the volume as you may get a headache if listening to songs at high volume. The EBs is like a best supporting actor(ress) and therefore is great only as a 2nd pair of IEMs if you want to listen to your music with a different sound.

Livewires - LW (SGD450)


I've got nothing bad to say
about these babies as they are right now, the best IEMs i've ever owned or listened to. 1 big reason is because the LW is a custom IEM done according to each and everyone's ear impression. The result you should get is super comfort, isolation and detailed music because it fits perfect. You can wear it to sleep even, as you wear it flushed so there is nothing jutting out. You can even use it as an ear blocker (or whatever it is called) to block almost faint external noise even without music on it. The bass though is not as thumping as what users expected but i felt it was good enough to complement most songs. And i've got myself a SF5eb anyway if i suddenly feel like a bass head.

Oh i had the mylars X3 as well but uh... let's not review it, its just not my type.

* IEM (In Ear Monitor) is different from normal earphones in a way that its driver tip is usually protruded to allow the tip to enter the ear canal and create a seal to block out external noise. This way you can actually hear more details in a song and experience a new way of how your music sound. On top of that, since it extends into the ear canal, you are now able to reduce the volume thus protecting your ears and at the same time less annoying to people around you.

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