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Monitor guy looking for a flat response IEM for LIVE work?
Old 8th December 2019
  #1
Monitor guy looking for a flat response IEM for LIVE work?

I'm a live audio guy. I do a lot of monitors. We live in an IEM world now and they all sound radically different from model to model. Thrown in having to handle wedges at the same time and Im really starting to think an IEM with a fairly flat FR would be the best way to go unless you work for one artist and can just buy the same model IEM the 'boss' uses and call it a day.

I've been doing a lot of research on the incredibly VAST amount of pro and consumer IEM's now available and I've already done several "shoot outs" with about 10 or 12 different sets recently and the difference from model to model and brand to brand are REALLY dramatic. They all have giant peaks and valleys, the kind of peaks and valleys we go to great length to engineer out of all of our PA and reference speakers. That's what's got me on the quest for a durable IEM with replaceable cables that's got a close to linear FR.

I NEED HELP!!


Here's the IEM's I've auditioned that didn't come close to neutral or linear:

Sennheiser IE400 Pro's
Sennheiser IE500 Pro's
1More Quad Drivers
Fiio FH-5
Futursonic Atrios
Live Wire Custom
CCA C12
CCA C10
Etymotic ER4 and ER4P
Shure SE215
Shure SE425


I've only discovered a hand full that look like their FR is flat enough to use as a reference by studying their FR graphs on various audiophile websites:

UE 7
UE Reference Remastered
Shure SE435
Shure SE846 (with a bit of a sub bass bump)
Fiio FA-7
ItsFit R3


Anybody have an opinion or experience with any of these models or have any others to suggest? Several of them are custom-molded units and I won't have an opportunity to audition them.
Old 8th December 2019
  #2
Lives for gear
 

As you have discovered, IEMs are as different (and as personal) as underwear, I'm going to suggest that if this is for you, you should just buy the model that you like best and be done with it. I will however suggest that you get a pair of custom moulded buds because the performance will be more consistent for an obvious reason.

Just remember that 10 different people can like 10 different models that you do not like...and sounds good should not be the only criteria you consider. Other important things to consider are, how well they fit, will they cause fatigue, the amount of isolation they offer, construction material etc.
Old 8th December 2019
  #3
Here for the gear
 

I've seen some graphs of the new Etymotic er4se and they come as close as neutral as I've seen for a pair of iems, closer than the shure ones you've mentioned as neutral (as far as I can see). Never listened to them directly but I have a pair of er3sr which should be very close, and they are incredible: the amount of detail they show is absurd, unlike anything I've heard before.

You've got to learn how to wear them properly though, push them in too little and they have no bass and too much treble, push them in too far and they lose bass again and no treble this time.
I've read it has to do with the dimension of the cavity that's left after you put them in, you have to get it just right.

I honestly wouldn't consider anything else after having tried them. Maybe ety+custom mould would do?
Old 10th December 2019
  #4
I've tried both versions of the Ety 4's and while the top end is very detailed and they are close to lenier from 1k down, they have a massive midrange peak and becasue they only have one BA driver, they don't produce enough energy for louder listening for long festival days. I've seen 2 pair bite the dust in the heat of combat. Also the IEM that win's has to be capable of the over the ear wearing style, which the Ety's don't. It didn't bother the Edge from U2, he used his for at least a whole tour, but I can't do it.


I decided to do more listening to the Fiio FH-5 as it's FR graph shares a lot in common with some of the popular JH Audio stuff. At least I'd have that in common with many muso's.

I think my next shootout will be a set of Shure 535's or 846's, and the Fiio FA7, which looks remarkably linier from 1k up with a big hump in the low end which might be helpful at the end of the day.
Old 10th December 2019
  #5
Here for the gear
 

Not trying to convince you, but I have to clear up a couple things, be aware that this is all my opinion, others may think differently.

I personally don't see the massive midrange peak you're talking about, they may be 2db over reference around 1k, but that's really irrelevant since most of the others are way worse anyway (leaving out reference monitors in most rooms which are probably even worse).
They can be worn over the ear, I do that all the time, actually that's the only way in which I wear them.
Lastly, given how much they isolate, I honestly don't know how they could not be able to withstand any kind of sane - even if loud - outside volume level. I basically play 1 meter from a loud drummer and I keep the volume so low it's crazy; I don't get the hype around multi driver iems, and I see them as mostly a scam.
Also, if you can't get enough volume with etys, you are probably already destroying your hearing, pay attention to that.

It also seems to me that you are only evaluating frequency response as a term of comparison between iems. To me that's the most important indicator, but others can tell a lot as well: I'm talking about impulse response graphs (in which the etys excel) and the square wave graphs. If you learn how to read the latter especially it can tell a lot about how a pair of iems will sound. I mostly trust innerfidelity's graphs for this kind of stuff, and I would recommend you check out their guide on reading all the graphs they provide, it's worth it (that would also show you why the shure 846 are pretty bad).

Ps. I've been thinking about the "midrange boost" you've been talking about. Maybe you are being deceived by the "uncompensated" graphs you can find online. Headphone measurements in general (those done with artificial ears) are actually meant to have that giant 3khz boost, it's directly related to the fake ear resonances; those graphs are hard to read, and that's why you have to find a compensated one (like inner fidelity ones). You can't compare compensated to uncompensated graphs, and even compensated graphs from different websites, since there are different theories behind how one should interpret the graphs.

I think this is all explained in those guides I was talking about
Old 10th December 2019
  #6
I think I WAS actually reading a uncompensated FR graph of the Ety actually. Thanks for calling that to my attention. I've been reading A LOT.

It's been close to 15 years since I worked with Etys and the act I was with decided to move away from them due to reliablity issues, cable noise, and lack of enough low end for the bass player and drummer.

That said, I did just read up on the new ER3 XR's and the ER2 XR's and for the price, I'm interested in giving them a shot again. I'm pretty sure I won't dig the cable (although it looks improved over the original ones), and I read that it's a proprietary MMCX with no other cable options available from Ety, but for the price I could keep a spare set around if I thought it was 'the one'.

Having studied a crap ton of FR graphs though, I'm debating changing my phylosophy about a linear response in favor of a 'common denominator' approach where I get a IEM that sounds similar to the majority of popular models (JH Layla, UE 11 ect..) Several of them seem to be barking up the same tree I think.

I'm in Vegas next week and I'm looking around to see if JH, 64 or UE have any place I can demo there but nobody has gotten back to me and I'm not on a tour currently, so I'm not going to make an appointment with anybody.
Old 10th December 2019
  #7
I forgot to say that one of the reasons I interested in the new Ety suff is because I fully realize the benefits of the single-driver design. And the reason I did really enjoy the sound of the single BA Etys. And why I prefered Futursonics for years.

For that reason, I just tried the new single driver Sennheiser IE400's and 500's but was very disappointed in the 10k peak that ruined the balance and the low build quality and high price that piled on even more disappointment.
Old 13th December 2019
  #8
Lives for gear
 

Get custom molded iem. single driver to 13 drivers in each are around, but proper fit will make more difference than any of that. I currently have 3 driver iem’s and I like them a lot, I had single driver before and they sounded fine on gigs, I heard everything I needed. Unfortunately, those were ACS custom made of silicon and they were in for repair 4 times in less than 2 years, with many excuses from the company and generally very poor service. The last time they sent them back they remade them much bigger than any other set I had and they didn’t for, but I had it with them, I never want to be involved with them again. Too bad because when they worked they were comfortable and sounded good.

My current set is by AAW and I like them a lot. They have a dynamic driver for the lows and two balanced armature for the mid and highs.

But, as I said, fit is everything. My ear canals are narrow and have a bend right at the beginning so no generic fit headsets work for me at all, but even if that’s Not the case for you, get custom, you won’t regret it.

My band mate has JH audio and loves them, another friend got westone and he didn’t like those (and they did refund him, unlike acs...), while another friend has westones and loves them. So, there’s a risk, but, I think (only my own opinion) that most iem’s are basically the same in the electronics side, but it’s the craft of making it from the mold that separates some companies from others.
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