IEM or over-ear HPs?

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mresseguie

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IEM or over-ear HPs?
« on: 4 Sep 2018, 06:12 am »
Can IEMs equal over-ear cans' SQ?

Advantages? Disadvantages?

I appreciate any thoughts.

Michael

dB Cooper

Re: IEM or over-ear HPs?
« Reply #1 on: 4 Sep 2018, 10:30 am »
The better ones can IMO. I have Shure SE535 and Etymotic ER3XR (Both balanced armature types). Only fullsize cans in the house are Beyer Amiron Home.

I would say that the better IEMs I have owned or heard are generally competitive but haven't owned anything really upper-range in either category. There are now IEMs that cost in the thousands, like some of the multi-BA models and the Shure electrostats.

I would say that my Beyers (which waaaay outperform their price point IMO) edge my IEMs by a bit in the clarity department, but that it's close. There's a liquidity to the full size cans that the IEMs can't quite match. However, if you need isolation, like I do (housemates and window, not central, A/C), and generally can't abide sealed fullsize 'phones to get it (they make my ears feel hot almost immediately), IEMs can provide a very satisfactory listening experience, if....

....You get the fit/comfort right. Fit is absolutely crucial to both sound and comfort with IEM's (especially BA types), and getting it right can be tricky. Even insertion is a little bit of an acquired skill, although a little practice will solve that. OEM tips may or may not be optimum to you. For my Etymotics, which come supplied with triple flange tips in two sizes plus foam tips, I have gotten best results from third-party Spin-Fit dual flange (rather than OEM triple-flange) tips. While triple flange tips are theoretically better, in my case, with my ears, dual flange tips that fit well are better than triples that don't. Your experience could very well be the opposite of mine.

Fortunately there are lots of tip options out there. Many find memory foam tips like the Comply tips to be a good solution, and tips are mostly interchangeable between Etymotic, Shure, and Westone , so trial and error will pay off if you don't mind putting a little effort and expense into experimentation in case the supplied sleeves don't do it for you. If you really want to go whole hog, custom tips (or even custom IEMs) provide possibly the best, but also most expensive, solution. And while most can find an option that works, usually from the OEM selection, some discover that they don't like anything in their ears at all. Etymotics are noteworthy here because they insert deep- they're basically earplugs with little speakers in them. This gives them topnotch isolation but also makes it more of a challenge to get the comfort part right.

And as with any transducer, there's voicing to consider. Most headphones don't even try to be neutral. Etymotics are a notable exception. Even their 'enhanced bass' models are generally very close to neutral. My Shures tend towards the 'dark' (think Sennheiser HD650). Use your taste in speakers as a guide.

To bring my rambling to a close, Yes, IEMs can provide excellent sound. As with any speaker or headphone, YMMV. Hope some of this helps.

JohnR

Re: IEM or over-ear HPs?
« Reply #2 on: 4 Sep 2018, 10:48 am »
some discover that they don't like anything in their ears at all

[Puts hand up] :)

My own experience is that I tried a range of IEMs recently and have decided I just don't like them. In the end, sound isolation when needed is met with Bose QC35 II's. If more portability were really needed, I guess I'd have tried to get a pair of QC20s.


JLM

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Re: IEM or over-ear HPs?
« Reply #3 on: 4 Sep 2018, 11:41 am »
I measure headphones of all types using the same criteria - like a Sunday morning sermon (comfort versus content).

How long can the the butt (in this case the ears) endure a strong performance?  It's all about the personal tradeoffs. 

First determine the intended listening circumstances (private, active, at home, etc.).  Next is to have a budget in mind (including the associated amp/player).  Then it's a matter of finding a good/comfortable fit of IEM, open headphone, or closed headphone design that fits your ears/head.  Finally you can audition different cans, hopefully with good crosstalk employed (like the Bauer Binaural method).

Many would say for ultimate sound quality to go with open headphones, but that also requires a relative degree of privacy.  In the college dorms (back in the 70's) I used open air Sennheisers, which was a great solution when I had the room to myself. 

timind

Re: IEM or over-ear HPs?
« Reply #4 on: 4 Sep 2018, 12:48 pm »
"Can IEMs equal over-ear cans?" In a word, no. I say this as a listener who really loves his IEMs. If I'm listening at home without worrying about other people though, I always chose over-ear headphones. The choice has do with both comfort and sound quality.

As DB Cooper mentioned, fit is extremely important to get proper sound quality from IEMs. Sometimes while listening I'll think things sound a little off and a minor adjustment to the IEMs can bring it right back.

To qualify my opinion, I haven't listened to any top line cans or IEMs in a while. Back when I was into IEMs I owned some very highly regarded versions, but this was back before the prices went through the roof. I have heard some of the more recent high priced over-ear headphones as recently as the spring of 2017.

You haven't asked for recommendations, but I have a great one for inexpensive IEMs if you want.

mresseguie

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Re: IEM or over-ear HPs?
« Reply #5 on: 4 Sep 2018, 02:04 pm »
Good morning, gents.

First of all, thank you for your thoughts and input. I always find this sort of info valuable.   :bowdown: Nothing beats experience.

I've got different needs to satisfy. On the one hand, I want mobility. I want a pair of IEMs that I can plug into my iPhone (with or without a small DAC) to use while I travel, drive in my car, or similar. On the other hand, just as I sought ever better two-channel speakers, I can't help but wonder what else is possible with over-the-ear cans to use in my home office.

I've got a pair of HD650s which I purchased used from a fellow on Agon 5(?) years ago. They got very little use for the first 4.9 years because my dear wife just couldn't get along without chatting, questioning, explaining something dreadfully important every 3 to 5 minutes. [One might call her chatty or in need of attention.] She has mellowed over the years - or finally realized I need 'off' time to maintain my sanity. [Worry not, dear reader. I love her madly and cannot imagine going through life without her beside me.] After buying a Schiit Lyr3 a couple months ago, I broke out my HD650s, plugged them in, and have happily been listening to music, Netflix, YouTube, and pink noise (another story which needs to be told). I ought to mention I like my HD650s. They're comfortable; I can wear them for more than an hour without my ears becoming clammy or in need of a break. They're decent cans.

Eight or ten years ago, I stopped by a well known electronics/computer market in Taipei in which practically anything can be found if you're patient enough to browse nearly every little shop. One such shop is crammed into a tiny space (6'W x 14' deep x 8'H). This shop specializes in IEMs, on-ear phones, and over-the-ear phones, and wires, connectors, etc. It was here that I bought a pair of Sennheiser ie6 IEMs. I think I spent $90 or $100 on them. They've performed reasonably well and they fit reasonably well (just a tad loose). I do need to buy a small DAC to pair with my iPhone.

My ear canals are not especially deep, but they are fairly wide. I've discovered many (most?) inserts do not fit well. I wear Etymotic triple flange earplugs when I want gentle protection and foam earplugs when I want heavier duty protection (while I sleep because I snore like a banshee, planes, loud Taiwanese dinner parties, LOUD audio G2Gs, etc.). I have seriously considered having impressions taken in order to get proper fitting inserts - if I decide IEMs are what I want.

As many of you know, my wife and I over-winter in Taiwan now that we're empty nesters. She's Taiwanese and I lived there for nearly 20 years.  :banana piano: :beer: I've got a reasonably good audio system there, but nothing for private listening (headphones). There's no central heating in our building. Winters are short (normally), but temps will dip into the low 50s and occasionally the 40s. Space heaters, socks, and sweaters become very important indoors. My Lyr3 kicks out some serious heat for its size, and I'm debating taking it there to not only be my headphone amp/DAC, but also keep my tiny office a wee bit warmer. If I do this, do I also take my 650s, or do I keep things simple and take IEMs? If IEMs, do I even need to take the Lyr3??

So my personal debate rages...

So...I want high quality mobile buds, and I want to experiment with better quality over-ear cans. Which is the higher priority? Hmm. Well, I think IEMs are higher priority right now, but I need to determine whether the Lyr3 travels across the Pacific or stays in Oregon.

Okay....recommend away, gang. I'm quite inexperienced. I will quite likely spend a month or more researching, listening, borrowing, and the like before making a decision. And, yes. I'm also looking into single driver speakers as possible second (fourth!) speakers.....just because I'm thoroughly addicted to this enjoyable hobby.

Thanks,

Michael

JohnR

Re: IEM or over-ear HPs?
« Reply #6 on: 4 Sep 2018, 02:22 pm »
Personally, I would not use an amp that powerful with IEMs... especially not one with a tube in it.

JohnR

Re: IEM or over-ear HPs?
« Reply #7 on: 4 Sep 2018, 02:45 pm »
Here's why. Take Db Cooper's SE535 for example. These require 0.012 V to reach 90 dB - https://www.innerfidelity.com/images/ShureSE535.pdf

The Lyr 3 produces 7.5W into 32 ohms. That's about 15V rms. The difference between 15V and 0.012V is about 62 dB. That means that at full power, the amp would be trying to make the IEMs produce 152 dB.

dB Cooper

Re: IEM or over-ear HPs?
« Reply #8 on: 4 Sep 2018, 02:51 pm »
Good morning, gents.

My ear canals are not especially deep, but they are fairly wide. I've discovered many (most?) inserts do not fit well. I wear Etymotic triple flange earplugs when I want gentle protection and foam earplugs when I want heavier duty protection (while I sleep because I snore like a banshee, planes, loud Taiwanese dinner parties, LOUD audio G2Gs, etc.). I have seriously considered having impressions taken in order to get proper fitting inserts - if I decide IEMs are what I want.



Some of the Westone tips are wide but not particularly deep. Shure 'Olives' in the larger size may be worth a try (although their shape made them 'work their way out' for me.

Electronics are a tough call with IEMs due to their high sensitivity. Most if not all do not need more power than portable devices provide but benefit from lower output impedance. Even the popular Dragonfly USB DAC/amps have too much gain for most IEM's (I sold mine for this reason). Centrance has something similar that has a low/high gain switch. There are lots of little portable amps that also have gain switches. My Etymotics actually sound quite tolerable on Tidal right out of my iPhone. I think one of these little mini amps or mini DAC/amps might be a good ticket. What would you be playing your music from? Streaming through Tidal or similar on a portable device? Or do you have a system in Taiwan to use? IEMs are certainly more travel-friendly than HD650s, but get into good carrying habits because they're not hard to lose; I and others I know have lost or damaged sets from time to time.

mresseguie

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Re: IEM or over-ear HPs?
« Reply #9 on: 4 Sep 2018, 02:57 pm »
Hi, John.

I kinda expected this would be pointed out, but I didn't want to guess or postulate too much.  It's an either or situation, isn't it? I must use cans (over ear/on ear) with the Lyr3. IEMs with my phone, iPad, car stereo. Oh, the Lyr3 has a hi/low gain switch.

BTW, I've never measured it, but I'd be willing to guess my mother-in-law's voice approaches 152dB at times. She's going deaf and refuses to wear hearing aids.  :duh: :o

dB Cooper

Re: IEM or over-ear HPs?
« Reply #10 on: 4 Sep 2018, 02:57 pm »
I agree wuth JohnR. Using that amp with IEMs would be like using a 350wpc amp with Omega speakers. Hopefully the drivers would blow out before your eardrums but I wouldn't take the chance.

I have a little Topping amp that works well with my Ety's. They make inexpensive DAC/amp combos too.Hi'Lo gain makes it work well with IEMS and output impedance is very low.
« Last Edit: 6 Sep 2018, 04:10 am by dB Cooper »

mresseguie

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Re: IEM or over-ear HPs?
« Reply #11 on: 4 Sep 2018, 03:09 pm »
"What would you be playing your music from? Streaming through Tidal or similar on a portable device? Or do you have a system in Taiwan to use? IEMs are certainly more travel-friendly than HD650s, but get into good carrying habits because they're not hard to lose; I and others I know have lost or damaged sets from time to time."

Source would depend on my location/activity. If I'm using IEMs, iPhone, iPad, or my Mac Mini, Tidal or my burned CDs on my HD would be my source. I need to buy a small DAC for my Mac Mini. This is part of the reason why I chose the Lyr3.

I have always worried that I might lose IEMs, so I tend to be overly cautious. Our son managed to lose a brand new pair of Bose noise canceling headphones in an airport about 10 years ago. I bought a pair of less expensive Sony NC on-ear headphones to replace them, but I seldom use them.



dB Cooper

Re: IEM or over-ear HPs?
« Reply #12 on: 4 Sep 2018, 03:48 pm »

BTW, I've never measured it, but I'd be willing to guess my mother-in-law's voice approaches 152dB at times.

 :rotflmao:

I'm guessing your wife doesn't see your posts here.... :roll:

Don't know if there's a budget in mind but one of the Schiit Modis (I have the Multibit) would pair up nicely with the Mac Mini (BUT you'd need an amp, so maybe a combo unit?). Portable, one of the Dragonfly or Centrance DAC/Amps, which will need the Lightning to USB Camera Adapter to connect.

Tyson

Re: IEM or over-ear HPs?
« Reply #13 on: 4 Sep 2018, 03:55 pm »
I have been an IEM person for about 12 years.  Tried a ton of different ones (including custom fitted ones), and I keep coming back to Etymotic as the best sounding and most comfortable option.  I really like the ER3XR from their current lineup, I've tried them all and this one is in the sweet spot. 

I recommend using the Olive foam tips, they are easily the most comfortable of the tips, for me.  The other thing I like about the ER3XR is that it's light and it also does NOT go "over the ear" with the cable.  I find over the ear type IEMs fussy and also less comfortable because they use a clamshell form/shape.

Whatever IEM you end up with, I strongly recommend getting an iFi IEMatch or Ear Buddy.  They just plug in-line between your IEM and your device.  They lower noise floor and increase clarity as if by magic.  It takes my iPhone/Macbook/iPad from sounding like a mediocre source and makes it sound like a pretty good source!  Highly recommended.

timind

Re: IEM or over-ear HPs?
« Reply #14 on: 4 Sep 2018, 06:03 pm »
This is a ridiculous sounding recommendation, but for the money you can't go wrong: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00Y0F6IBG/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o06_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I would say get a set of these while you're searching for your ultimate IEM. Are these as good as the most expensive? I'm sure not. But these are my favorite IEM for casual listening. And althoug as I said before, I have owned a few fairly expensive and highly regarded IEMs. If you're in the mood for a warmish, easy to listen to IEM with excellent bass, you'll like these. Price be damned.

The only problem I have with recommending these inexpensive IEMs is I don't fully trust the supplier to send the exact ones I got. I've ordered them twice and the quality has been consistent, but who knows.

mcgsxr

Re: IEM or over-ear HPs?
« Reply #15 on: 4 Sep 2018, 06:55 pm »
I have had some over ear cans over the years though mostly open backed - various Grado, a few Senns, a set of Shure's and (closed backed) Beyers.

I have owned a number of iems, and at present they are all I own (for headphones).

Most of my headphone listening is on the go - trains or planes, so isolation is key.  I use foam inserts for those trips.

I have owned different iems - NuForce HEM8's (multi BA), NuForce other iems (forget the call sign, but they were dynamic drivers), Shure, Westone and a couple of pairs of Noble.

All I own now are the Nobles.  I had a set of Savants (the Wizard version too) but craved more bass.  A set of Dulce Bass solved that problem.  Straight out of my iPhone.

I won't go back to full size cans - I don't listen much at home (sold the tubed headphone amps) and will use iems going forward.

I have considered custom inserts, but fear that ears change over the years and they are not cheap to have redone.

dB Cooper

Re: IEM or over-ear HPs?
« Reply #16 on: 4 Sep 2018, 08:23 pm »
mcgsxr- I have been told by audiologists that ears do in fact change shape over time. Body weight change has effects and cartilage in the ear canal grows slightly over time. These may not be a large change but even a small change can affect isolation noticeably. I consider the money I spent on my customs largely wasted. They were comfortable and convenient but the isolation was not much if any better than a properly fitting standard tip. I have read that fit can only be relied upon for 2-3 years, something to ponder if you're thinking about dropping $1200 on custom IEMs (or even $200-230 on custom sleeves for mass=produced IEMs). The cost of customs would cover many years of regular tip replacements.
« Last Edit: 6 Sep 2018, 04:08 am by dB Cooper »

mresseguie

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Re: IEM or over-ear HPs?
« Reply #17 on: 13 Sep 2018, 09:32 pm »
Update:

Yesterday, I spent about 90 minutes in the Campfire Audio lounge in Portland, OR listening to three different IEMs - the Vega, the Andromeda, and their flagship model the Atlas. I also had my old Senn IE6 earbuds (purchased in Taiwan many years ago for ~$100) as control IEMs.

Initially, I connected the Andromedas to my iPhone 6-plus (w/o external DAC) playing both iTunes CDs and streaming favorite Tidal tunes. I immediately noticed greater detail across the entire audio range compared to my IE6s. The Andromedas are also much more efficient. I guess I spent a good 45 minutes listening to them on my iPhone and on a very heavy older top-of-the-line Sony Walkman (don't know which model) supplied by Campfire Audio. Going back and forth between the Sony and my cell phone was very educational. My iPhone sucks. I hadn't been able to determine this until yesterday because (a) I'd never compared it to a DAP, and (b) my IE6s do a wonderful job of masking the bad sounds my iPhone is capable of making.  :duh: Both of the best models on my iPhone clearly produced tinny sounding music on my iPhone.

The Atlas IEMs are a little more sensitive than the Andromedas and produce a subtly different sound. I spent too little time comparing them to be certain of all the differences between the two, but the bass is just a little more pronounced in the Andromedas whereas the Atlas IEMs are more revealing. Oh, the Atlas IEMs come with silver cables while the Andromedas come with silver plated copper cables, so this may have colored my experience.

Within 20 seconds I knew I didn't like the Vegas. They're too bright sounding for my tastes. Every little (and big!) S came through sounding like a sssnake in the grassssss in Ssssspain.  :nono:

I had hoped to walk out of the shop with a new pair of high quality IEMs in my hot not so little hands, but two realizations got in my way. The top two models do sound wonderful, but they are totally inappropriate for my lowly iPhone's capability. Above, I mentioned tinny sounds. It's not that the IEMs were lacking. Quite the opposite is true. They're so revealing that I could could hear all the warts my iPhone is capable of producing. The second realization was that I know next to nothing about which DAP is most appropriate for my needs and budget. There was no point buying a great pair of IEMs until I figured out which DAP (or external DAC for my iPhone) to buy.

I'm now researching DAPs and portable DACs trying to determine which is best suited for me.

The above are my opinions and observations. Your experience with these IEMs or iPhone 6-plus may be different. If so, great. Always remember this: YMMV  :thumb:

I'm getting no freebies or discounts to write this (though I'd happily accept free $1299 Atlas IEMs and a tank of gas for my troubles.)  8)

Regards,

Michael


SlushPuppy

Re: IEM or over-ear HPs?
« Reply #18 on: 13 Sep 2018, 09:59 pm »
My Cardas EM5813 Ear Speakers (now that they are broken in) are the best headphones I've ever owned. IEM or over-ear. Better than my HIFIMAN HE400i headphones and they are on the same performance level as the Audeze LCD‑2 headphones I sold last year. I like the Cardas better because over-ear headphones make my ears feel hot and uncomfortable. Regardless of quality I can't listen to them for long periods of time.

The only issues I have with the Cardas is they are noticeably heavy for in-ear monitors and the cord has a rough outer jacket and when it moves against your shirt the noise travels directly to your ears. They have a very solid clip that helps prevent this, but you will hear it a few times when listening. It can be distracting. They sound wonderful with my iFi Audio Nano iDSD Black Label portable DAC/headphone amplifier.

They used to be $425, but I bought mine on Amazon from Audio Advisor for $179.00. LINK

The reviews are extremely positive.

Good luck in your search and let us know what you end up purchasing.

FullRangeMan

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Re: IEM or over-ear HPs?
« Reply #19 on: 13 Sep 2018, 10:55 pm »
My ear canal is so narrow that none IEM fits, which to is great to me because the sound they offer does not interest me.