IEM Review Critiques, Discussion and General Thoughts

Discussion in 'IEMs and Portable Gear' started by Khai, Jul 8, 2017.

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  1. Khai

    Khai Rando

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    Don't mean to hijack Shane's thread but has anyone here been following Flinkenick's IEM shootout on HeadFi or TheHeadphoneList?

    Just thought I'd ask over here as it seems this thread has the most replies and I didn't want to start a new thread .

    Cheers guys
     

  2. La Cenric

    La Cenric Friend

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    I do. It's dragging on for quite a while but I understand it from a "marketing" perspective; let the information trickle down in small amounts and let the hype keep building up to #1.

    Unfortunately it also means the main thread is 90% off topic and more noise than signal. I just drop by every Friday since the weekly reveals are actually semi-entertaining.
     
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  3. Khai

    Khai Rando

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    Correct me if I'm wrong but are you suggesting that there is a certain bias/favouritism from said reviewer towards some "big-gun" manufacturers ?

    Personally I am really very intrigued with the Warbler Prelude; one of two unicorns which I've not been able to try and the other being the Spiral Ears 5 Ultimate.

    Also , the reviewer seems to favour tonality, timbre and an "audiophile" tuning over technicalities . Honestly I have no idea what an accurate timbre even sounds like and let's not even start on what an audiophile tuning means ....
     
  4. La Cenric

    La Cenric Friend

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    No, the whole weekly-release tactic + pre-announcement is all an effective way to garner hype and views for the shootout itself.
     
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  5. Mimouille

    Mimouille Acquaintance

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    What I can tell you is that Nick has good ears, and is completely independent from sponsors unlike many bloggers.

    On the reviews themselves, I have heard many of those reviewed a what he says mostly makes sense to me.

    Finally, he is not in favor or large brands, as many of them didn't make top 10, while the warbler is in the top 5.
     
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  6. james444

    james444 Friend

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    Idk, anyone who rates the Vegas up there with the best earns my healthy dose of skepticism. ;)
     
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  7. Khai

    Khai Rando

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    i am sure everyone has their own POV as to what their opinions are of this particular Shootout.

    On a personal note i do feel that it has broadened my IEM exposure and made me go about trying almost all. However i feel about said IEMs and how it ties with Flinkenick's individual assessment of them is purely on a subjective basis but i do feel that what he has done on a whole is rather really positive. :D
     
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  8. Mimouille

    Mimouille Acquaintance

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    Yes and it is a huge work, so at least people should be somehow respectful of people putting a huge effort in such shootouts.
     
  9. james444

    james444 Friend

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    Having done a good many reviews myself, I know that it's a lot of work and I certainly respect the effort. However, if you put a work like that out on the net, you want it to be read. And if it's being read, of course it's also being scrutinized and judged. And needless to say, you as the author knew and accepted that beforehand, or else you wouldn't have put it out in the first place.

    Bottom line, I don't think that pointing out the weekly suspense / hype-building schedule, or questioning how the Vegas earned a rank among "The Stars" is being disrespectful. Speaking of which, I gave the Vegas a second try last week and still don't get the hype. Once again, I felt these IEMs are decidedly colored / off-timbre, and I'd be hard-pressed to even rate them "high fidelity" (i.e. faithfully reproducing music within the audible range), let alone worthy of a "star" or "flagship".

    Hence my stated skepticism, ymmv. I haven't heard the others on the list.
     
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  10. Mimouille

    Mimouille Acquaintance

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    I think you misunderstood me : my comment wasn't aimed at you (at all). I was answering to Khai's comment saying that overall this was a positive thing. Anyone can criticize what anyone else puts out, but I think such efforts as his (extensive comparative review of 17 iems is HUGE financial and time investment) should be given credit. The judgment that comes out of it can be questioned by anybody, for sure.

    Now on the Vega, I listened to them and found them too bassy to my taste. However his judgment is in this case at least as valid as mine or yours, not because he knows better, but because it is a jugment built over several weeks of testing, with critical listening and extensive comparison to other flagships. Which we didn't do (or at least as far as I know).
     
  11. james444

    james444 Friend

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    Michael, sorry if this may sound pretentious... but no, you don't need several weeks of testing, critical listening and extensive comparison to build a valid judgement. And if you do, then you better stop posting reviews and shootouts for a while and start reading articles and discussions on quality sites like Innerfidelity and SBAF, on how to assess sound. Embrace a wealth of measurements provided for free, and learn how to read them and align them with your own subjective listening impressions. Learn how to set up a consistent / repeatable test procedure and how to use selected test tracks to reveal specific flaws like slow bass or sibilance. Read, learn and gather experience. And finally, when you're ready and confident enough to make a sound judgement within 30 minutes (or an hour at max), then resume posting reviews.

    I know what I'm talking about, due to my own history of buying ever more expensive stuff and putting out half-informed reviews, when I should have done more reading and talking to those in the know instead. ;) So, while we're at it, let me just pick one random sentence of this reviewer's paragraph on scoring: "A signature also consists of objective, quantifiable properties that can be ranked. Examples are resolution, stage dimensions, separation, imaging, as well as tonal accuracy". Now, 4 out of 5 examples are simply wrong, since resolution, stage dimensions, separation and imaging depend on subjective perception and are not objectively quantifiable. Tonal accuracy (within its margin of statistical uncertainty) is the only valid example here... and that's exactly where the Vegas fall quantifiably short.

    High fidelity reproduction calls for tonal accuracy within a narrow dB-margin, and the Vegas exceed that quite clearly in bass and arguably also in treble around 8kHz. Again, you don't need several weeks of testing to hear that. At least the people whose judgement I trust don't.
     
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  12. Mimouille

    Mimouille Acquaintance

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    I agree on the testing procedure to reveal certain aspect. I never test iems without my test tracks. I do lack the capability to read measurements.

    However I do believe anyone's capacity to judge in a reliable manner on the spot is limited because of other variables :
    • Comparison of various sources (some iems change quite a bit with source, like the Andro)
    • Tip rolling (the most critical for me)
    • Mood and general physical state (some days, if you are tired or congested, your perception of sound changes quite a bit)
    In any case, my objective is not to say this shootout is perfect, just to support the effort.

    I honestly am not a fan of the Vegas as I stated, and what you say may very well be justified. The fact that almost ALL the reviews I read on the Vegas were positive raises two interesting possibilites:
    • Some reviewers are heavily influenced by the price and flagship status of the Vega
    • Some reviewers are paid
    You were right it did sound a bit pretentious, but I'll allow it because its you:punk:;)
     
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  13. james444

    james444 Friend

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    Balanced armatures may change tonality with output impedance from different sources, though you can predict that from their impedance graph. But it's a valid point, no doubt.

    As for tips, I usually prefer stock ones for judgement, asuming that this is what the IEM maker intended. Alas, due to my Dumbo ears, that's not always possible. As a general rule, your tips of choice should give you a perfect seal and their inner diameter should not be smaller than the nozzle's. In most cases, this will ensure a reasonably consistent sound signature.

    Of course you can attenuate bass with shallow / leaky fitting tips, or attenuate treble with smaller diameters... but ultimately, that will tell you more about the tips themselves than the IEM in question.
    Both quite likely imo. Plus some other ones I can think of:
    • Rare / exotic driver and housing material
    • Impeccable design and finish
    • Jude fuelling the hype via Head-Fi TV, claiming this is how real performances sound at Chesky recordings
    • CA declaring the Vega their new flagship over the universally acclaimed (and really excellent) Andromeda
    • Ken Ball being a most likeable person
    • People justifying their $1300 / €1500 purchase
    Edit: as some kind of reality check, compare the Andromeda and Vega threads here on SBAF. While the former is still going strong, the latter has been dormant for a month now, the last posts being mostly about EQ and ways to tame the bass.

    Merci l'ami :punk:;)
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2017
  14. Mimouille

    Mimouille Acquaintance

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    Thanks for the I put. I tell myself I should be able to read graphs and recognize issues, but I am lazy and fear it will take some of the fun out.

    All these are true, and I have long since stopped taking head-fi.org TV for granted as each time the latest iem from a sponsor is the best thing since sliced bread. I got fucked with the Roxannes a few years ago so no more...the only time I agreed with his claims is on the KS1500. I still love it.

    Now I guess some people actually think the Vega is awesome and good for them. I am still looking for a good / great DD. I would like to test the Dream and RE2000 but anticipate they are overpriced. I read good things about the Xelento but had issues with the Akt8ie fit. I tried the FW01 but found it a bit warm (just had 15mn at a shop in Japan but it should be enough given my expertise ;)). I could give them another try. I have the Cozoy Hera which is quite good but a bit congested compared to top multi BA.

    Edit : I just remembered your Xelento feedback and why I gave up on them.
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2017
  15. flinkenick

    flinkenick Rando

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    James, I have to defend my shootout on a weekly basis from all forms of criticism. Most of the time, it's from people that have conflicting views, that fail to see the irony in that. But I have to say, this has been the most condescending remark so far. What disappoints me most, is that you not only need to feel the need to discredit me without having heard any of the iems or probably even reading the reviews, but blatantly do so just because one iem doesn't match your personal taste.

    I am personally not a fan of the Vega. I have written two reviews of the Vega. In fact I wrote the first review that mentioned it had sibilance, when the whole discussion lighted up on the thread. I also wrote it had slow bass, and repeatedly mentioned that it was a polarising iem, in both reviews. You're saying I'm a shitty reviewer just for including the Vega. Fact of the matter is that Vega is a popular iem, and that's why I included it. Even though the treble is too sharp for my ears, I at least have the flexibility to transcend my own preference and understand why it's popular. And it's not because of the reasons you mentioned. It's because a large group of listeners starts out as bassheads, and in some cases their preference evolve after understanding a more complete picture, including how bass affects the sound. But in many cases, people just remain bass enthusiasts. The Noble K10 has been one of the most popular iems for the last years, and a major reason is because of its enhanced bass. But instead of disqualifying anything that doesn't align with my personal taste, I try to understand why others would like it, and mention both sides. In the case of Vega, it's because people not only enjoy the sub-bass quantity, but also the full sound the enhanced bass creates. Accordingly, it doesn't suit jazz or classical music, but works well for genres like rock. And the Vega is a flagship by definition, because it's the highest priced iem in their price range. That's just a basic fact, and not a title you need to 'earn', as far as I am aware.

    You're giving me shit for the Vega, even though it was almost at the bottom of the list at #13 out of #17. When I released it, people complained because it was not in the top 5. Right now, I'm getting a lot of heat because the top 5 has 3 iems that are primarily tuned for timbre: the Maestro V2, Prelude, and 5-Way Ultimate. But then people say they're not detailed enough, lack bass, lack treble, or lack resolution. But since everybody has ears and an opinion, they think that their way is the only way. Not everybody has the same preference, and not every iem is only tuned for classical music. That doesn't mean that they can't perform good in their own right. And even though the general trend of the iems would actually follow your preference, especially considering the top 5, you feel the need to discredit me completely.

    As for imaging, stage, resolution, and transparency. What I mean is, these are objective properties of sound, irrespective of preference. The properties themselves are objective; however, our ability to perceive them is subjective, depending on skill. But if three trained ears listen to 5 different iems, they will be able to order these aspects accurately, and come to a similar conclusion. No, I did not mean quantifiable in terms of measurement if you're one of those people that views measurements as a holy grail. I'll admit I used the word 'quantifiable' incorrectly. If I had known I would be depicted as someone with a complete lack of knowledge, I would have used more discretion.

    And thanks for your 'advice' to check a quality site like innerfidelity or SBAF. Tyll is a fantastic reviewer, but he only focuses on headphones. The only decent iem reviewer on innerfidelity was joker, who started theheadphonelist that I write for, together with that other iem legend average_joe. Despite your lack of respect for me and my site, theheadphonelist is considered one of the, if not the, most respected sites for iem reviewing.

    Finally, why does everything have to be a marketing ploy. I work 50 hours a week, and only see my gf in the weekend. This leaves me with 2-3 nights a week to write a full review. Each of these reviews has 5 pages exclusively focusing on sound. That's at least twice as long as any review out there. Writing one of these reviews per week has put enough pressure on me, and I can barely keep up as is. How in gods name am I supposed to write faster than that? Anyways, I would definitely recommend you write a shootout of your own. You could just write 15 reviews in one week, and skip the whole marketing ploy. Plus, you might come to the shocking realisation that your opinion isn't the only valid one out there.

    ps. When you reply, could you please include a link to your latest review. It's very difficult navigating on either site nowadays.
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2017 at 5:44 AM
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  16. james444

    james444 Friend

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    Nick, this is just to say I've read your post, but I'm afraid I don't have time right now to address it duly. A reply to this has to be worded carefully and unambiguously, to not cause even more pointless stir and misunderstandings. Maybe, if you calm down a bit and then re-read my posts, you'll see that you've read a lot into it that I actually didn't say. Again, sorry this is not an attempt to chicken out, I'll try to reply in detail within the next 24 hours...
     
  17. flinkenick

    flinkenick Rando

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    James, feel free to take all the time you like. I didn't see any ambiguity in the post I quoted. In your words "you better stop posting reviews and shootouts for a while and start reading articles and discussions on quality sites like Innerfidelity and SBAF, on how to assess sound."

    In my reviews, I not only among others describe the tone, body, and forwardness of instruments and vocals, I specifically mention which combination of frequencies leads to such a presentation, and what the advantage and disadvantage of such a tuning is. What's more, I made a conscious decision to share all the knowledge I amassed with the community in both the reviews and other articles on sound analysis. So when somebody writes that I need to stop writing reviews until I have enough knowledge, I find that pretty disrespectful.
     
  18. La Cenric

    La Cenric Friend

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    I'll reply to this part since it's addressing what I said at the very beginning. (I'm crinacle by the way, Hi Nic!)

    Regarding the whole "marketing ploy" thing, I think you're reading to much into it. I was not suggesting any cunningness on your end and it's simply an observation of mine. Let's face it; it'll be easier to spend a whole year working on the shootout with minimal fanfare and release it all in one single post, forgoing the pre-announcements, giveaways, weekly hype build-up and the 2000+ thread replies that you've gathered. But clearly that's not a smart way to do it.
     
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  19. james444

    james444 Friend

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    Alright... first of all, let's get that "flagship" thingy out of the way. When Khai asked if anyone here was following your shootout, I took a look and saw the title "Ranking the Stars – Flinkenick’s 2017 Flagship IEM Shootout". It instantly reminded me of David Mahler's legendary "Battle of the Flagships" thread, a shootout among 58 headphones. Back in 2012, a time when I was a lot more active on Head-Fi than now, I think the "flagship" status implied not only (though admittedly usually) a high price point, but also an outstanding performance. I may be wrong though, or maybe times may just have changed and nowadays it's sufficient to be the most expensive... given the recent rocketing of price to performace ratios, I actually wouldn't be surprised. Anyway, ymmv, but if I read a title like "Ranking the Stars...", I expect a shootout of the very best and not just the most expensive IEMs.

    In that context I was surprised to see the Vega on that list, because in my book it offers disappointing performance for its price. But granted, it's the most expensive of CA's offerings.

    Now for your remark that I'm giving you shit for the Vega... I'm not. You have your own opinion on it and I have mine. As stated, I haven't heard any of the other IEMs on your list (almost all are BAs, and I'm not much interested in BAs these days). So, all I have is the Vega to find out whether we hear and judge similarly or differently, and including the Vega on your list of stars raised my skepticism, no more no less. Again, I'm not giving you shit because of the Vega, but I reserve the right to judge the significance of your reviews to me personally, based on the IEM(s) we both have heard and rated, which in this case is just the Vega.

    That was the reasoning behind the "skepticism" remark, as I tried to explain to Michael in my subsequent post.

    Then Michael pointed out that weeks of critical listening and comparison might lead to a more valid judgement than his own and mine. A point that I decidedly disagreed with (and still do), because it's really not that hard imo, for an experienced listener, with measurements and a consistent testing procedure at hand, to work out a pretty reliable assessment in 30 minutes or an hour at max. Which, by implication, means that if someone needs much longer than that, they probably lack experience, or are ignorant of measurements, or haven't established an efficient and consistent testing procedure yet. That last remark was purely to underline my point and not personally aimed at you (or anyone). I don't know what made you take it personally, but it's obvious that I can't know anything about your test procedure and how long it actually takes you to make a reliable assessment, so again, it wasn't aimed at you.

    However, the longer I was dealing with the subject, the more I got curious about your rating scheme, so I checked your paragraphs on scoring and technical properties. Then I realized that the two of us are coming from very different points of view. To be frank, I consider some of your concepts plain wrong, or at least entirely subjective, while you present them as objective and generally accepted facts. One example being the part on "resolution, stage dimensions, separation, imaging" that I quoted. And to address your subsequent clarification, I still have to disagree. There's simply no such thing as objective imaging, stage and separation with earphones, whether quantifiable or not... these solely exist as part of the listeners subjective perception. And if you "did not mean quantifiable in terms of measurement", as you said, then you can't use the term quantifiable at all, because the very meaning of it is "able to be measured".

    As for me being "one of those people that views measurements as a holy grail", no I'm not. But I regard them as an extremely helpful tool to assess audio gear, an essential part, without which the picture is incomplete. Choosing to ignore measurements is like deliberately blinding yourself on one eye imo. I personally wouldn't want to do that.

    Which brings me back to the Vega, no I'm not "disqualifying anything that doesn't align with my personal taste". Like I tried to explain in my posts (and can be seen from measurements), the Vega is a decidedly colored IEM, to an extent where one might be hard-pressed to call it "high fidelity". As you rightly state in your article, "preference for signature is subjective, tonal accuracy isn’t". Depending on whom you ask, high fidelity allows for slightly more or less deviation from tonal accuracy, so there's still room for all kinds of personal tastes, be it a little warmer or a little brighter. However, the Vega is simply off-bounds, and that has imo less to do with personal taste and more with the question of how much "lo-fi" is acceptable on a $1300 / €1500 IEM.

    Bottom line, I think at least part of your irritation is based on misreading (and reading too much into) my posts. The other part is probably due to critisism which you regard as disrespectful and I regard as valid and still stand by. We can continue this discussion in PM if you want, or I can delete my posts altogether, if you think they're disrespectful or hurt your feelings. I'm not always the most tactful person and tend to call a spade a spade, but on the other hand, none of this is really important in the grand scheme of things...
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2017 at 10:20 AM
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  20. Stuff Jones

    Stuff Jones Friend

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    This is a little different than where this thread has gone but in keeping with the thread topic.

    I find IEM reviews (and other gear reviews) way too long. I think that it's because reviewers feel obligated to produce a lot of words in return for free gear. The result is too much description about packaging and build quality, but at least that can be skipped. The more consequential impact is that descriptions of sound are padded with subjective often evocative that personally I could not consistently relate to the same sonic qualities. In other words, if I was listening to the same IEM but didn't know it, I don't know if I would be able to come up with the same descriptive passages.

    Reviews often contain summaries but these then are too vague and/or brief to be useful.

    Disclaimer: I've never written a full review myself.
     
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