Discussion in 'IEMs and Portable Gear' started by k.e., Dec 5, 2016.
Wow, are these IEM cables really that non-conductive?
In terms of damping factor Zin / Zout, it's not only frequency response, transient response is also affected. (There could be other factors at play here too, like power**). Frequency response, via FFTs is nice and all; but time domain can tell us some more.*
Here are un-EQ'd, un-compensated 500hz square waves of the PP8 from three difference sources. I tried to normalize the volumes as much as possible, but difficult to do with digital volume controls.
Sony X Walkman
*Please don't be dumb and try to infer frequency response from a 500Hz square wave. Frequency response is better inferred from a frequency response plot - duh? Also, the square wave is just that, a square wave. It is not the ONE measurement that rules them all, despite how many people want it to be, possibly because of its exquisite shape and modern straight lines. In this case, we are looking at the transient behavior (overshoots, undershoots, ringing), that is how well the drivers are being controlled.
**I am not absolutely certain. There needs to be more discovery in this area.
Trying not to read too much into this but the laptop out has the best square wave. What's the OI of the laptop? I'm also curious if power, low vs high, can have an effect here?
No idea. It was my work laptop.
That matches my experience. I've measured a bunch of Effect Audio and Plus Sound stuff (I don't remember which exact models) and they were all in the means of 1.5 ohm per wire, so about 3 ohm in total.
InEar recently started to produce their own cables. They measure about 1.5 ohm per wire as well, just as the PlasticsOne they used before.
One of the lowest I measured were the Campfire Audio cables at about 0.5 ohm per wire, if I remember correctly. Coincidentally that is just the same as the Vision Ears cables that happen look very similar to Campfire's product.
What I found even more interesting is that a random AliExpress cable measured the same and shared the looks too. It was less than 5€.
I just got this guy in the post yesterday:
Roughly 80 USD through Amazon.jp. Impedance: 0.5 Ohm each way. Awesome build quality and ergonomics. Very happy with it.
Why anyone would spend hundreds of dollars on a cable with high impedance is beyond me. Especially because all those braided super thick cables are terrible ergonomically. Oh, and you look like an idiot.
We're saying that higher damping factor is better, right? Or am I missing something. So the ratio Z_load/Z_amp should be high.
Not sure how low damping factor would sound like.
Okie, so... got these from @brencho today, and I've had about one hour with these with source materials that I'm familiar with. Some quick notes:
1. ZX2 in "normal mode" to me (Sound Adjustments disabled, no other tweak) is "okay", a bit shouty and sharp, somewhat lean-sounding for me. ZX2 is "bright mode" (DSEE HX enabled, Sound Adjustments force stopped but not disabled) is just plain "unlistenable" to me. Bass bunched up, treble shrillness at max levels, shoutiness increased. So... with that said, ZX2 is out. Not the right source for ProPhile 8 at all for me.
2. iPhone 6+ is good... ish, but still somewhat sharp in the upper mid. Like stock HD600. Eric Clapton's Tears in Heaven in the Unplugged album is painful as hell. That song is also painful on Andro but not on the same level as PP8 even when Andro is on the "wrong" source. I tried that song briefly out of ZX2 and couldn't even stand 1s of it. There is a weird "glassy" quality to the upper mid of the PP8 to me, even though upper treble is indeed lacking. It's a weird feeling. Maybe I need the right tips, still?
3. My Nexus 5X is actually the right-ish source. Upper midrange doesn't "activate" too much. Upper mid level goes as follow for me: ZX2 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> iPhone 6+ > Nexus 5X. The difference is NOT very subtle to me. It's like... more than 3dB between iPhone 6+ and ZX2. Between Nexus 5X and 6+, it's like about 1-1.5dB still. Going from Nexus 5X to ZX2 is absolutely mind-blowing. Nexus 5X is the "best" source for PP8 to me.
4. On top of doing upper mid right, Nexus 5X is also weirdly less "nebulous" sounding than iPhone 6+ to me. Bass quantity (not quality) goes like... iPhone 6+ > Nexus 5X >>>>>>>>>>>>>>> ZX2. ZX2 is the WORST with PP8, it sounds like +12dB @ 5KHz and -12dB @ 500Hz EQ to me. iPhone 6+ sounds like +3dB @ 4KHz and + 3dB @ 500Hz, and Nexus 5X sounds like +1dB @ 4KHz but bass is spot on. Moving forward, my impressions will be with PP8 + Nexus 5X pairing.
5. My Andromeda sounds warmer than ProPhile 8, regardless of source. @Marvey can attest to how warm I have mine. PP8 doesn't sound like it's "lacking" per se, but it doesn't have the warmth that I'm accustomed to. Not a minus point since I know my preference goes toward a downward slope. I'm guessing PP8 is like a slight upward slope that dives down a bit as it heads towards upper treble.
6. PP8 with bass boost switch ON actually sounds "closer" to my Andro. It misses the mark by just a bit (a bit too warm?), maybe like... 1dB. If it was a 1.5-2dB boost, I think it would have been "on the money." But bass goes crazy with the switch on. My Andro basically sounds like stock PP8 but with 1.5dB warmer vocal, keeping the same bass control.
7. Actually, scratch that, Andro reaches lower, hits harder, is a bit less blurred. PP8 at stock sounds a bit... compressed and a bit uncontrolled to me. Maybe it's Nexus 5X, I'm not sure. But PP8 sounds almost like HD600/650 quality bass to me, Andro sounds more like a good planar magnetic headphone when it comes to bass.
8. Andro on ZX2 is more U-shaped sounding to me than iPhone 6+, and then Andro on iPhone 6+ is a bit more U-shaped sounding than PP8 on Nexus 5X.
9. Both are maybe somewhat equal in detail retrieval, but Andro has a lot more air to me, and a bit better separation when it comes to bass. PP8 sounds good in the midrange, but there's not much treble past 6KHz to speak about, and then bass is a bit nebulous.
10. Taking ZX2 out of the equation, and using iPhone 6+ to listen to Youtube and Tidal, Andro still sounds a bit more airy than PP8, with better soundstage, and it's also a bit more relaxed. PP8 on Nexus 5X sounds a bit more aggressive, in-my-face, and if a track is sibilant, it's a bit more apparent with PP8 to me. Like for instance, Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You" or Charlie Puth's "Attention." Those are not unlistenable, but... Andro is just a bit of an easier listen to me.
So... preliminary impressions are like that. Maybe I need to dig in to my ear tip library to see if anything fits PP8. I'm using the stock silicone tips, and with both bass + treble switches off unless otherwise stated above. In fact, based on what I'm hearing, I'm kinda hesitant to even try the treble switch.
Maybe I still need to try more sources out. Will see. I have some old stuffs lying around that maybe I should plug in this weekend to see... from what I'm hearing, PP8 is somewhat more reactive than Andro based on source. Or maybe the treble trouble spot is just in a bad spot for me. But if I'm this sensitive to it, I don't think @Hands will like this either.
Will report back in a few days. Hopefully with more positive things to talk about.
Note: I think I wrote "to me" a bit too many times up there. That's because I don't want to generalize these impressions, given that many feel strongly about this IEM. I can "hear" its potential, and it could be "neutral" sounding, but I'm not sure I'd classify it as "neutral" just yet. Andro is definitely not "neutral" either, and it's more like an extreme U-shape sound to me, but Andro is more "neutral" than PP8 at least IMO.
I can attest that Bill-p's modded tips on his Andro make it sound super warm. Too warm for my tastes.
To add, PP8 seemed dull at the high end. Cymbals on old school jazz recordings seem muted and blurred.
I've already said what I needed to say on the upper mids. I have this theory why these upper mids seem tolerated more by IEM people rather than speaker people. It all starts with Etymotic and their heavily marketed diffuse field tuning bullshit. IEM people, almost all of whom had little to no speaker experience, probably picked up on this tuning as correct, and ran with it. I also get the feeling that a lot of IEM people love their female vocals shrill and shit with their K-pop.
Just a different perspective from @Bill-P, @brencho (who I am sure will chime in), and me.
Mmmm... I'm way less experienced as a critical listener than y'all. My listening distribution is roughly 70% speakers (Aries>Yggy>Hegel H360>KEF Ref 1), 20% headphones (mostly Holo Spring L3>Neurochrome HP-1>MrSpeakers Ether C Flow), 10% QP1R>PP8 (travel). The great majority of what I listen to on the QP1R>PP8 setup is ECM-style modern jazz (eg. Louis Sclavis, Vijay Iyer) and world (eg. Anouar Brahem), 20-21st century classical (eg. John Luther Adams, Philip Glass, Kaija Saariaho), medieval-renaissance vocal and instrumental (eg. Jordi Savall). Sure, my speaker system has more extension at both ends and more space, but there's nothing glaring in the upper mids on QP1R>PP8, and both jazz lower frequencies (double bass and kick drum) and higher (cymbals, snares) are quite engaging, if of course not as well placed as in my speaker system.
Brother! Nice taste in music!
I use sinus sweeps instead of measure tools. Always had. Even though I like to look at the measurements and I am interested in compensations. Apart from the ER4 XR I am not an Etymotic fan and I have always questioned the linearity of the ER4. So I don't think marketing bullshit tricked me into tolerating something that I shouldn't have to.
I can't say the same for Andro. Bass perception has a lot to do with listening volume, but with Andro I would have to turn the volume very low (which is ok). But that sinus sweep just jumps like crazy in the treble. Really wouldn't be my first choice for tonal accuracy. And I don't think the on-going idolization of an IEM that needs exactly 2 ohms OI to sound ok (my ears don't agree - I think the midrange sounds dull until 6 ohms but that makes treble intolerable) should be the discussion of this thread. They already have their own thread and we've all read your arguments why only Ken figured out how to correctly tune an IEM.
This thread should not be about recessed mids and v-shape coloration but should feature more comparisons with other bullshit reference monitors that tricked ears and K-Pop fans enjoy.
I've had these for the past week but only got a couple days of listening in. Today was chill so @Marvey came over with some fucking good donuts and then @Bill-P tag-teamed and arrived as Marvinho was leaving. Listened to lots of good shit, but I'll keep this about the PP8 since I'm overdue for impressions from my week loan with them.
My daily commute and work setup is an Andromeda with a ZX2 in "bright mode" as Bill calls it (i.e. sound enhancement force stopped and DSEE HX enabled). I actually prefer this mode along with an ALO 8 cable (copper and spc), and Marv was pretty into that arrangement as well. So that probably means that Bill likes his porridge on the warmer side, with me and Marv leaning towards the brighter side (but certainly still on the slightly warm side of neutral). I'd wager that I'm more tolerant than Marv of brightness but that's a story for another day.
So what all that means in regards to the PP8 is that I was able to use it for a few days straight without wanting to take an ice-pick to my ears the way Bill might. The first day I used it, I did a lot of A/B back and forth with Andromeda and my first thought about the PP8 was "wow that's lean". The PP8 had like less body/foundation than the Andromeda and then seemed to slope upwards from there. The upward tilt led to some shrillness in certain vocal tracks or brass in jazz. Then the weirdest thing was that the PP8 seemed to dip down in the treble such that cymbal hits lost their trailing shimmer and felt a little more dull than on the Andromeda.
Then I decided to not A/B it anymore and just use it for a few days without back and forth tests. I adjusted to the feeling of leanness and even though I prefer the tonal response of the Andromeda, I could see wanting a "leaner" or more neutral presentation to have as a headphone option. For calibration, a nice anal I mean aural cleanse, or just cause there's nothing wrong with flat neutral FR sometimes.
So as I adjusted to the leanness, the PP8 started to grow on me. But just as that happened, the next set of things started to jump out at me. First is the soundstage and space. In general, I found the PP8 to be less airy, less open sounding, less clear than the Andromeda. Things kind of jammed together, a bit blurred, and really closed in. Kind of tunnel-like sound centered around your ear and not really opening up. That led to a second realization, a kind of epiphany really. Bill likes to throw around this term "shouty". It's almost a joke among those of us that know him because he uses it with varying frequency but consistently his favorite audio adjective. The PP8 sounded shouty to me. I think in this case it's the combination of soundstage and rise through upper mid. This felt like someone was cupping their hands around my ears and shouting through the tunnel. It's kind of close to the head so it creates a physical sensation of wanting to "push" the sound away. If the sound were a person that was getting in your face, you'd want to either push them away or push away from the sound. Either way, you'd want more space. And here I wanted more space, more airiness, and less blurriness between what was going on. The PP8 might have had decent depth but I couldn't really tell because I just felt closed in by them.
So even after adjusting for the different tonal presentation of the PP8, I still found it a bit hard to live with given the presentation and soundstage. The combination of upper mid bump, tunnel-like presentation and lack of space all came together to fuck my ears a little more than is pleasurable. They did grow on me a bit, and they made me curious to hear something that has the timbre of the PP8 with the Andro's FR, space, air and stage. That said, as is they grate on me a bit more than I can live with. They did convince me that a more neutral headphone might be fun (thankfully I have Bill's hd580 on loan which has pretty flat tonality). By the way I did find the cable to be super ergonomic and the comfort of the PP8 wasn't bad for my ears and did a good job of isolation.
It is a different beast to Andro, definitely leaner. I don’t think it should approach it as a replacement, more as an alternative. Most people here tend to be focused on speakers and headphones so they have a “two IEMs enter the octagon, one IEM leaves” approach when looking at monitors.
I’m generally into a leaner presentation (I kept my HD600 and gave away my HD650 after all) but I guess if the tone is in a different ballpark it becomes a bit pointless trying to muscle it in the right direction with output impedance and tips (such as I spent 3 months trying to do with Andromeda). I just don’t hear the upper mid wonkiness and fatigue that people have referred to but maybe I don’t have the ears for it.
My preferred tips for PP8 are Spiral Dots, which you can fit by sacrificing a pair of Comply for their sphincter thing, as below.
Heard PP8 and Andro from my Mojo today. I really wanted to like PP8 more due to German craftsmanship before the listening but end up Andro is the one I preferred more, by a very slight margin(And also cheaper).
I can't really describe each with precise term due to lack of experience of IEMs therefore I will only tell things I find significant.
I find that Andro is easier to listen to. Everything is balanced and suitable for almost all kinds of music genre. It is overall smoother too.
PP8 is slightly brighter compared to Andro but definitely not thin, just brighter. The mid is thick and is much closer to you and I think this is the first main difference everyone realized switching from Andro to this. Thus it really shines with vocals. However this also causes some music sound not so right due to the very front mid.
PP8 is also bassier, with the bass switched ON the gain in bass is very audible, more impact with zero quality loss. I personally like this feature very much. No idea with the treble switch as I do not have the right music files to test with the highs. PP8 sounds more fun in EDM due to its better speed and impactful bass.
In the end I didn't buy either one because I feel that their price/performance ratios is not really up to my expectation..coming from a 400usd Eartech 3BA custom I expect more wow factor from these.
I'm a little confused by your assessments here. On one hand you say it's reasonably close to neutral and later on you say it's not even close to neutral. Oh and suddenly its a lean and shrill disaster (what?).
Well, I'm definitely not a K-pop fan (I'm not a 20yr old Asian dude) and my experience with speakers has been pretty extensive.
Anyway, I don't think I personally ever said it was perfectly neutral, but it's better than the vast majority of IEMs out there in terms of neutral tuning. Andro perhaps sounds better with all your modifications and pairing ideas, but stock I don't think it sounds as neutral as PP8.
Based on later assessments with zero source impedance. PP8 was horrible from Magni 3 from Gumby. I tried a 3.3 ohm resistor in series and didn't like that either.
From ZX2 it's reasonably close despite lower 2.2 ohm, mainly because the ZX2 is more organic sounding.
Hope that make senses.
I don't think anyone here are proclaiming the JH13, ER4, or Stage 3 as reference. And while I'm a huge fan of BA IEMs, I don't think I've ever heard an IEM that I would call reference. Ever. The Andro and and UERm hold soft spots in my heart, and I love them, but I wouldn't really call them reference worthy.
The original JH13 is still my daily driver today, despite the documented issues I've had with it. It's far from reference though; it's a guilty pleasure. The bass has a healthy boost that is fun. The ER4 style diffuse bump is kind of missing, which gives a decent vocal performance IMO. The top end has a nice sparkle that can be peaky, but is still fun.
I bought an ER4 in 2009 and used it until about 2015, when the cable started having issues. I like the bass, but it can be a bit anemic. The mid diffuse bump is excessive to my ears, but it has it's place.
I don't own a UERM, but CEE TEE's UERM fits my ears fine and it's "accidentally" fallen into my hands a few times. I honestly regret not buying one and think that this may be the closest example to reference that I've heard from and IEM, but still falls a little short.
I'm not familiar with Stage 3.
So... here are my closing thoughts with PP8 after a few more days. They'll go to @CEE TEE next along with my Andro so he can evaluate both of them. Will revert my Andro to stock with no mod so he can be fair.
Here are my impressions of PP8 just by itself (I used PP8 exclusively for the past day or so to be fair):
Bass: thumpy, but not very impactful. Still a bit "soft" sounding to me. It does have pretty good extension, and to my ears sounds pretty much "neutral-ish." Maybe a bit of fun mid-bass emphasis but very very slightly so. If a song asks for it, there's bass, and if a song doesn't have much bass, PP8 still gladly co-operates. Still, I think I'd prefer a bit clearer bass hits because there are times drum hits sound a bit blurred/indistinct. For instance, Hotel California in Hell Freezes Over (oh noe, not this one again!) sounds like... really blurry to me. I remember this song sounding like... a thumpy kick drum. And it should. But maybe I'm nitpicking.
Midrange: I'd say... this is a strange one. On the one hand, I'd personally prefer a bit more low mid because certain vocals sound a bit too thin/raspy to me ears, but on the other, I can appreciate the sometimes absence of low mid because it highlights female vocals nicely. Adele's voice actually sounds properly "girly" here for one. And then it's probably just a matter of taste past that point. I can't decide if the lack of low mid is a real thing or not, actually... or whether it's just low mid being over-powered by the upper midrange. Some songs have this weird effect where the vocal is really in-my-face, and then some others sound properly adjusted, with the vocal being a bit more spotlit. Sibilance is indeed close to non-existent with the right source (Nexus 5X still, and I've tried everything else I had at this point), but I could still detect some "hotness" sometimes. Some songs are especially worse than others in this regard, too, so maybe one would argue that this is just PP8 "presenting details as the source intends for them to be presented." Personally, I hear PP8 as having a bit of that "cupped-hand reverberation" going on with the upper mid, so it sounds like... both not too much and yet too in-my-face at times. This is really not my cup of tea for vocals since I don't listen to a lot of female vocals, and when I do, I'd prefer like... Adele, so... maybe it's just me. I tried K-pop with PP8 and admittedly, some songs sound decidedly more cutesy this way. <- NOT a knock against anyone who enjoys PP8, by the way. I actually DO enjoy PP8 with K-pop.
Treble: still a bit too recessed to my ears. I have tried all kinds of different tips, and performed all kinds of mods on the tips. I'm really just short of trying to do something crazy to the stock tips, but I wouldn't wanna ruin the experience for anyone else on the loaner, plus it's very inappropriate of me so I didn't do that. But suffice it to say: I have tried everything I could think of. The best configuration to me is to try and stuff a thin layer of bird cage cover over the nozzles and flipping the treble switch. That helps PP8 to be closer to what I'd like in terms of treble quantity but then the upper mid goes even crazier and sounds decidedly sibilant to me. It's quite unpleasant so I used this in moderation.
Soundstage: constricted, a bit too upfront for me. Okay width. Not very large, tall, or deep. But not too suffocating either. I'd say they're in a "decent" spot, but I'd expect better given the TOTL status they carry.
So... bottom line: I still don't think they're my cup of tea. Something about them is just a bit too north of what I'd consider "neutral." And that's "neutral" from what I think most other folks will enjoy, not "neutral" as in my idea of the perfect sound. In fact, going back to my other 2 references, Andro and RE-00, was a revelation of sort. Vocals calmed down significantly, treble gained back their sparkles, bass became tighter with more impact, and overall the soundscape became "deeper" to me, or else vocals are no longer in my face at least. This is not to say RE-00 is the better headphone than PP8 (so please don't put words in my mouth). I'm really just saying... I personally would enjoy something that's more relaxed than PP8 in presentation. PP8 and I are a perfect case of "we don't talk anymore", if that's even a thing.
Hopefully the next person will have something more positive to say. But for me... I've tried all I could to like them, and I really just can't. My preference is too much the opposite of PP8.
On that note, I did try these things, too:
1. Stock cable is pretty bad IMO. It's got a dulled presentation. I swapped in ALO Audio's Tinsel cable and at least transient response improved a bit. Didn't help calm the upper midrange, but it did help bass tighten up a little, so maybe the cable was holding the IEM back.
2. Foam tips are generally better than silicone tips at attenuating the upper mid IMO, but they kinda spotlights the bass and the lack of treble to me. Maybe something in between foam and silicone will be the better solution? I dunno. But honestly, tips didn't really seem to affect my sensitivity to the upper midrange much. PP8 still consistently sounded pretty shouty to me. It was mostly the treble and bass that changed, so maybe at least the bass could be tightened/bettered with some tip change, that is... if you even find it to need any improvement at all.
Edit: and now some songs (specifically, K-pop, again) actually do sound a bit too "dull" to my ears with RE-00 and Andro. Maybe it's really that.
Do you happen to have double or triple flange tips that could be used for deeper insertion? I wanted to try this to tilt the tonal balance downwards but didn't have the right diameter tips. It might not have mattered to me because the fit was already very tight with the big housing.
My experience between the silicone and foam tips was consistent with yours.
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