[GUIDE] Headphone/Earphone Buying

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jRi0T68

Senior Member
Jan 28, 2011
3,742
479
Rancho Cucamonga, CA
I put time and thought into this, as a place to intelligently discuss head gear. Please don't just post "I like Sennheiser" or "Beats are awesome/crap". Which Sennheiser model? For what genre? Yes, Beats suck. Why do they suck, though?

************************************
Quickest way to increased audio bliss:

http://forum.xda-developers.com/showpost.php?p=48946734&postcount=678
************************************
Why a TL: DR?
I didn't want to do this part originally, but I know there many who won't read this entire post, and will only be concerned with a small segment.

TL: DR
Read sections 2, 3 & 6. No headphone is suited for everyone. Take how YOU listen into account, then come back when you can and read this in full.

************************************
See bottom of this post for recommendation/comparison request form. Use that so it answers everything we'll need to know.

I see so many people ask the wrong questions or not ask the right questions when looking to buy headphones/earphones, and thought perhaps I could finally be of some use to XDA by writing up a guide to help those in their search for the "best" purchase FOR THEM.

First of all, audio is largely subjective. What a person is suited for is dependent upon many factors that vary from person to person. I'll list those out here before going into detail.

1: Budget
2: Genres/Musical preference
3: Type of headphone
4: Functionality
5: The audio rig as whole
6: Source material
7: Build Quality

Fellow Audiophiles- Please add your wisdom where I've missed things so it can be added here.

Disclaimer: I do not claim to be any expert, so please correct any misinformation. Also, I'm American and refer to pricing in USD.

1: Budget
Obviously, everyone has their spending limits. Don't be too quick to just throw a number out there. What you're really asking is: How much is my listening pleasure worth to me right now?

If you sell yourself short and buy $15 headphones, you may be quickly unsatisfied, they may break, or you may be losing out on quality you don't yet know exists. If it's merely a tool to you and you don't often listen to music for pleasure, or that's all you can dedicate to the purchase right now, no worries. There are many great offerings on any budget. I've read rave reviews of $5 earphones.

Likewise, if you set a $1000 budget, you may find that you're spending beyond what you would benefit from, due to frequency of use, passion for quality, or if you've suffered hearing loss. Also, you may spend $1k on headphones only to find your audio system as a whole cannot do the headphones justice. I'll touch more on that later.

2: Genre/Musical Preference
No headphone/earphone will suit all needs. If you listen to classical music, you are likely listening for clear, bright, detailed highs, and for the texture in the bass more than the booming volume. If you relish more in beautiful vocals, the midrange will matter more. EDM, rap, hip-hop enthusiasts: you know you're not really living in your music if you don't feel the bass thump in your skull. That $500 headphone your classical loving friend swears by may not do drum n' bass any justice, and vice versa.

Many popular headphones (ahem Beats, Bose, Skull Candy) are more appearance than quality, and may offer booming bass that overshadows the rest of the music. THERE ARE BETTER OPTIONS AT THE SAME OR LOWER PRICES. Don't settle for a nice label. Get quality you can hear.

3: Type of Headphone
There are 2 basic categories, and a handful of sub-categories.
In-Ear or Traditional Headphones

In-Ear
Earbuds: sit in your ear without entering the ear canal, these are like stock iPod earbuds. Usually cheaper, lower quality, offer minimal noise isolation.
IEMs, aka In-Ear Monitors: Enter the ear canal itself. IEMs offer excellent noise isolation to keep you more "in your music" and can range from a few dollars to a couple thousand, from barely passable as music to a symphony in your ears.

Traditional Headphones can be:
portable (fold up for easier travel h or full sized
On-Ear (the cup sits on your ear) or Over-Ear
Open-back (just like it sounds) or Closed

*I'll add more here later, I'm more of an IEM guy and cannot speak from personal experience on On/Over Ear and Open/Closed in terms of Sound Quality. I'll add more when someone with expertise fills me in or I've done enough research myself.

4: Functionality
Things to consider here are comfort, noise isolation, accessories, removable/replaceable cables, and whether or not you need a mic/remote.
*I'll be adding much information on mic/remote compatibility later

5: Your audio rig
Headphones are worthless without a source to play it. They are the END of the system (other than your ears), you should look at your particular system and what your needs are from beginning to end.

It starts with source material, from vinyl to MP3, but I'll get into digital audio formats in the next section.
It goes:
Source Material-Player-Amp/DAC-Headphones

I'm going to rule out, at least temporarily, turntables, tape players, 8 tracks (lol), CD players, etc. and focus on digital formats for now.

Players:
Phone or DAP? Or computer?
Using your smartphone is convenient, but usually won't offer the same quality as a dedicated Digital Audio Player. Personally, I use my phone as I'm on it so much that I'd rather have the convenience over the increased SQ. I'm sure that will change, but I just can't do without pause/play/skip/volume control from my IEMs directly.

You may opt for a higher quality DAC or amp to hook up to your rig. You may buy a better sound card for your pc.

You need to consider that all of this affects what you hear, and sometimes it's not your earphones holding you back, it's your phone's crappy Yamaha DAC that the bastards put in instead of that beautiful Wolfson that they used to use (yes, Samsung, that's directed at you).

6: None if the above matters of you've got 96 kbps mp3 files, scratched CDs or vinyl, or a tape player (how are reading this from your Commodore 64 anyway?)

MP3 is the most popular digital format, though certainly not the best. If you're not happy with the audio detail in your music, consider either replacing those 128kbps mp3's with 320kbps mp3 or FLAC files. FLAC is "lossless", offers amazing detail, and 30mb+ per song. If you've got the storage space, flac is the way to go.

7: Build Quality
Are you brutal on your gear? Some options can take more of a beating than others, and those less careful (or buried with children) should consider this carefully.

Buy from a place with a warranty and use your warranty when it breaks. The $50 you may save from a random eBay seller won't mean anything when you have no warranty for your $300 headphones.

Also, stop yanking on the damn cords. You'll ruin the jack/connections and left or right channel may drop out. Pull by the plug, keep them in a storage case not crumpled in your pocket and they'll last much longer.

That's about it, except...


DO YOUR HOMEWORK.
www.head-fi.org is your friend. Excellent site for reviews, deal alerts, opinions, and learning all things audio.

Reviews are critical. I may say the best IEM under $150 is my trusted Shure SE215, because of the bass, mids, non-sibilant highs and the fact that I've added the optional mic/remote cable, but if your taste is instrumental, vocals, etc. and you don't want the mic/remote, there are better options FOR YOU. They're your ears and nobody else's, so don't take anybody's opinion that one is categorically better than any other, unless they're telling you WHY it's better.

HEADPHONE/EARPHONE RECOMMENDATION FORM
Use/copy this when asking for advice

1: Budget:
2: Genres/Musical preference:
3: Type of headphone:
4: Functionality: (Mic needed? cable over ear vs. Straight down? Open/Closed back if v full size headphones, etc)
5: Your player/setup:
6: Source material (mp3, flac, stream, etc.):
7: Area of highest importance:

On an unrelated note...
Massive amounts of high school pootietang is a requirement for a proper upbringing...

-Accidental Asshole aka Jeremy
 
Last edited:

jRi0T68

Senior Member
Jan 28, 2011
3,742
479
Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Reserved for updates/notes

Things to come:
Get rid of all typos.
Proper formatting once I get on my laptop, I post everything from Tapatalk.
Additional information on portables/full-size cans.

2/3/2013
Added: TL: DR at the top for those just not willing to study the full course on this. ;)
Also added a recommendation form for those seeking advice.

-Accidental Asshole aka Jeremy
 
Last edited:

Spl4tt

Senior Member
I ordered my son Brainwavz R1's to replace the Klipsch S4's he broke (cable death).

When they come in, perhaps I can give some brief review on all headgear I've used to help with choices of others.

-Accidental Asshole aka Jeremy
[Guide] Headphone/Earphone Buying

And I'm thinking about ordering some UE6000.
Reviews are pretty good, and I'll most probably send my 8.As in for a refit (I got the feeling that it's just a bit too loose..).
So I need a proper replacement^.^

I'll probably make short review of my headgear, too.
That's a nice idea. We could then link our posts to the first post..
 
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Spl4tt

Senior Member
Exactly. I'm comforted that the 10-posters continue to use the Best Earphones thread, but hopefully those that are more serious put their questions/contributions here.

Also, you've now made me go tag up on the UE6000's again, lol.

-Accidental Asshole aka Jeremy
[Guide] Headphone/Earphone Buying

We can post an info at that thread, so that they know that we review our gear here.

^.^ I'm already used to UEs sound, and I really like it.
If the UE6000 sounds just a bit like my old TF10, I'll love it x)
Though, I'm gonna miss the 8.A for that time >.<
I'll order them tomorrow i think

Sent from my Nexus7.
 

jRi0T68

Senior Member
Jan 28, 2011
3,742
479
Rancho Cucamonga, CA
I was asked in a different thread which DAC the SGSIII uses.

You might be interested in reading the response, as I think it adds some good information, especially coming from someone who gets a lot of enjoyment listening from my phone even with a lesser DAC being used.

"I believe the US S3 has the Yamaha, whereas the Int'l. has Wolfson. I also think the Galaxy Note 2 uses Wolfson.

Bear in mind, I typically remain in musical ecstasy strictly from my TMO SGSII, which is Yamaha. It's just that the Wolfson can do so much better. My Vibrant had much less audio noise through headphones than my GSII does.

If your source files aren't high quality, the difference is far less.

Edit: To expand on that, you have to take your whole system into account, from source files to player, on up to headphones. If any of them are of noticeably low quality, you'll hear it.

If you're using 128 kbps mp3 files and low quality (not necessarily cheap) headphones, the quality of the DAC in your player might not be noticeable to you.

There is also much more to a player than the DAC being used."


-Accidental Asshole aka Jeremy
[Guide] Headphone/Earphone Buying
 

Spl4tt

Senior Member
Thanks for this guide..! I'll be using it
Bose head phones crapped out on me :(

-TeaM VeNuM Like A Boss
-Galaxy Note II Edition

Totaly understand that.
BOSE isn't really good, they're just like beats..


I was asked in a different thread which DAC the SGSIII uses.

You might be interested in reading the response, as I think it adds some good information, especially coming from someone who gets a lot of enjoyment listening from my phone even with a lesser DAC being used.

"I believe the US S3 has the Yamaha, whereas the Int'l. has Wolfson. I also think the Galaxy Note 2 uses Wolfson.

Bear in mind, I typically remain in musical ecstasy strictly from my TMO SGSII, which is Yamaha. It's just that the Wolfson can do so much better. My Vibrant had much less audio noise through headphones than my GSII does.

If your source files aren't high quality, the difference is far less.

Edit: To expand on that, you have to take your whole system into account, from source files to player, on up to headphones. If any of them are of noticeably low quality, you'll hear it.

If you're using 128 kbps mp3 files and low quality (not necessarily cheap) headphones, the quality of the DAC in your player might not be noticeable to you.

There is also much more to a player than the DAC being used."


-Accidental Asshole aka Jeremy
[Guide] Headphone/Earphone Buying

You sure that the international SGSIII has a wolfson?
I'm thinking about buying an old S1, just to have a wolfson androidplayer.

But my cowon j3 is doing it's job extremely well.. x)
 

jRi0T68

Senior Member
Jan 28, 2011
3,742
479
Rancho Cucamonga, CA
I've read numerous sources that indicate it does, even tonight on xda. Triple check it, though, just to be sure. I believe I read supercurio did some of his magic with it, too.

I think it's an exynos vs. Qualcomm thing. Good news for those of us in the US is that the US Note 2 reportedly has Wolfson, as it uses an exynos SoC, so perhaps SGSIV will as well. By year's end, I'll be upgrading my phone and return of voodoo sound to my ears would be awesome.

-Accidental Asshole aka Jeremy
[Guide] Headphone/Earphone Buying
 

MiguelHogue

Senior Member
Jun 9, 2012
7,418
6,213
Washington,DC
I'm not really sure.. They just went out on me out of nowhere.. . They where the ear bud type.. They started off great and then got low.. No bass.. One side was louder.. Kept them neatly in the leather carrying case it came with .. Never yanked the cord or abused them.. Bad build quality I assume

Luckily I found my Samsung ear buds that came with my n2..They sound really good.. Holding me over until me new purchase



-TeaM VeNuM Like A Boss
-Galaxy Note II Edition
 

jRi0T68

Senior Member
Jan 28, 2011
3,742
479
Rancho Cucamonga, CA
That sucks. Fill in my little recommendation form as best as you can when you're ready to start looking for recommendations.

I ****ing LOVE audio, so I'll be glad to read dozens of reviews in my spare time, link you to them, and give hopefully good options. Besides... Skinny vouched for you in the frat thread, so you're good in my book.



My son's Brainwavz R1's just arrived. Not enough listening time or burn-in (the act of playing music through the headphones so that the drivers loosen up, like breaking in a new pair of sneakers) to give a proper review but initial impressions:

That's a LOT of value for $35.
Huge selection of tips.
Build Quality seems quite good.
Bass quality is better than Klipsch S4's.
Mids are clear, fairly warm.
Highs are distant. That will likely change with burn-in.

Once I can give an honest review, I'm going to use the form below to post reviews on Shure SE215, Klipsch Image S4i, Brainwavz R1, and possibly Bowers& Wilkins P5 on-ear headphones.

The difficult part about ranking these areas, for me, is that I've never heard $1k+ earphones, so assigning what equates to a 10 is difficult. I figure it's best if I rank my Shures a base value of 8 and deduct where they fall short, leaving room for improvement by top tier products. Honestly, once you get beyond $300 well-reviewed headphones, this thread/site won't be where to go. Go to www.head-fi.org, with your wallet empty or you'll be sorry. :p

"Ranked from 1-10 in thy following categories:

Accessories:
Build Quality:
Fit/comfort:
Isolation: (How well is the outside world blocked out?)
Microphonics: (Does the cable make noise when you bump it or rub it in your fingers that carries through the headphones into your ears?)
Soundstage: (How big do they sound? Can you tell where different instruments are coming from?)
Instrument separation: (Can you clearly and easily pick apart not just where the instruments are, but that each instrument sounds like it's coming from a different speaker?)
Bass:
Mids:
Highs:
Value:

-Accidental Asshole aka Jeremy
[Guide] Headphone/Earphone Buying
 
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MiguelHogue

Senior Member
Jun 9, 2012
7,418
6,213
Washington,DC
Thanks man.. I really appreciate it.. I never been THAT Knowledgeable about headphones.. So some guidance will help :)

Well here we go!
-
1: Budget: no more than $100

2: Genres/Musical preference: Hip-Hop/Rap

3: Type of headphone: Ear bud

4: Functionality: nope nothing special.. Just regular ol ear buds

5: Your player/setup: Note 2 (Sprint) Noozoxide eq settings.. I bounce around with music players.. But been using Sony walkman Alot lately

6: Source material: MP3

7: Area of highest importance: Quality! (in sound and build) I don't care if they aren't the "flashiest" pair of headphones.. As long as they get the job done well :):)


-TeaM VeNuM Like A Boss
-Galaxy Note II Edition
 

jRi0T68

Senior Member
Jan 28, 2011
3,742
479
Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Do you need/want a mic/button to work with them?

Would you rather the bass drown out the vocals some, but make your head shake, or have bass that slams, just not quite as hard, but still lets every detail in the music shine?

In budget, with good bass to consider. Google search the product and "head-fi" you'll get great reviews and opinions from crazy bastards that own all these plus 50 other earphones. :D

Shure SE215 <---- What I currently use and turn to for rap/hip-hop, EDM, alternative and classic rock. They serve all very well.
JVC FXD80
Sony XB90EX
Audio Technica CKS77

-Accidental Asshole aka Jeremy
[Guide] Headphone/Earphone Buying
 
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  • 90
    I put time and thought into this, as a place to intelligently discuss head gear. Please don't just post "I like Sennheiser" or "Beats are awesome/crap". Which Sennheiser model? For what genre? Yes, Beats suck. Why do they suck, though?

    ************************************
    Quickest way to increased audio bliss:

    http://forum.xda-developers.com/showpost.php?p=48946734&postcount=678
    ************************************
    Why a TL: DR?
    I didn't want to do this part originally, but I know there many who won't read this entire post, and will only be concerned with a small segment.

    TL: DR
    Read sections 2, 3 & 6. No headphone is suited for everyone. Take how YOU listen into account, then come back when you can and read this in full.

    ************************************
    See bottom of this post for recommendation/comparison request form. Use that so it answers everything we'll need to know.

    I see so many people ask the wrong questions or not ask the right questions when looking to buy headphones/earphones, and thought perhaps I could finally be of some use to XDA by writing up a guide to help those in their search for the "best" purchase FOR THEM.

    First of all, audio is largely subjective. What a person is suited for is dependent upon many factors that vary from person to person. I'll list those out here before going into detail.

    1: Budget
    2: Genres/Musical preference
    3: Type of headphone
    4: Functionality
    5: The audio rig as whole
    6: Source material
    7: Build Quality

    Fellow Audiophiles- Please add your wisdom where I've missed things so it can be added here.

    Disclaimer: I do not claim to be any expert, so please correct any misinformation. Also, I'm American and refer to pricing in USD.

    1: Budget
    Obviously, everyone has their spending limits. Don't be too quick to just throw a number out there. What you're really asking is: How much is my listening pleasure worth to me right now?

    If you sell yourself short and buy $15 headphones, you may be quickly unsatisfied, they may break, or you may be losing out on quality you don't yet know exists. If it's merely a tool to you and you don't often listen to music for pleasure, or that's all you can dedicate to the purchase right now, no worries. There are many great offerings on any budget. I've read rave reviews of $5 earphones.

    Likewise, if you set a $1000 budget, you may find that you're spending beyond what you would benefit from, due to frequency of use, passion for quality, or if you've suffered hearing loss. Also, you may spend $1k on headphones only to find your audio system as a whole cannot do the headphones justice. I'll touch more on that later.

    2: Genre/Musical Preference
    No headphone/earphone will suit all needs. If you listen to classical music, you are likely listening for clear, bright, detailed highs, and for the texture in the bass more than the booming volume. If you relish more in beautiful vocals, the midrange will matter more. EDM, rap, hip-hop enthusiasts: you know you're not really living in your music if you don't feel the bass thump in your skull. That $500 headphone your classical loving friend swears by may not do drum n' bass any justice, and vice versa.

    Many popular headphones (ahem Beats, Bose, Skull Candy) are more appearance than quality, and may offer booming bass that overshadows the rest of the music. THERE ARE BETTER OPTIONS AT THE SAME OR LOWER PRICES. Don't settle for a nice label. Get quality you can hear.

    3: Type of Headphone
    There are 2 basic categories, and a handful of sub-categories.
    In-Ear or Traditional Headphones

    In-Ear
    Earbuds: sit in your ear without entering the ear canal, these are like stock iPod earbuds. Usually cheaper, lower quality, offer minimal noise isolation.
    IEMs, aka In-Ear Monitors: Enter the ear canal itself. IEMs offer excellent noise isolation to keep you more "in your music" and can range from a few dollars to a couple thousand, from barely passable as music to a symphony in your ears.

    Traditional Headphones can be:
    portable (fold up for easier travel h or full sized
    On-Ear (the cup sits on your ear) or Over-Ear
    Open-back (just like it sounds) or Closed

    *I'll add more here later, I'm more of an IEM guy and cannot speak from personal experience on On/Over Ear and Open/Closed in terms of Sound Quality. I'll add more when someone with expertise fills me in or I've done enough research myself.

    4: Functionality
    Things to consider here are comfort, noise isolation, accessories, removable/replaceable cables, and whether or not you need a mic/remote.
    *I'll be adding much information on mic/remote compatibility later

    5: Your audio rig
    Headphones are worthless without a source to play it. They are the END of the system (other than your ears), you should look at your particular system and what your needs are from beginning to end.

    It starts with source material, from vinyl to MP3, but I'll get into digital audio formats in the next section.
    It goes:
    Source Material-Player-Amp/DAC-Headphones

    I'm going to rule out, at least temporarily, turntables, tape players, 8 tracks (lol), CD players, etc. and focus on digital formats for now.

    Players:
    Phone or DAP? Or computer?
    Using your smartphone is convenient, but usually won't offer the same quality as a dedicated Digital Audio Player. Personally, I use my phone as I'm on it so much that I'd rather have the convenience over the increased SQ. I'm sure that will change, but I just can't do without pause/play/skip/volume control from my IEMs directly.

    You may opt for a higher quality DAC or amp to hook up to your rig. You may buy a better sound card for your pc.

    You need to consider that all of this affects what you hear, and sometimes it's not your earphones holding you back, it's your phone's crappy Yamaha DAC that the bastards put in instead of that beautiful Wolfson that they used to use (yes, Samsung, that's directed at you).

    6: None if the above matters of you've got 96 kbps mp3 files, scratched CDs or vinyl, or a tape player (how are reading this from your Commodore 64 anyway?)

    MP3 is the most popular digital format, though certainly not the best. If you're not happy with the audio detail in your music, consider either replacing those 128kbps mp3's with 320kbps mp3 or FLAC files. FLAC is "lossless", offers amazing detail, and 30mb+ per song. If you've got the storage space, flac is the way to go.

    7: Build Quality
    Are you brutal on your gear? Some options can take more of a beating than others, and those less careful (or buried with children) should consider this carefully.

    Buy from a place with a warranty and use your warranty when it breaks. The $50 you may save from a random eBay seller won't mean anything when you have no warranty for your $300 headphones.

    Also, stop yanking on the damn cords. You'll ruin the jack/connections and left or right channel may drop out. Pull by the plug, keep them in a storage case not crumpled in your pocket and they'll last much longer.

    That's about it, except...


    DO YOUR HOMEWORK.
    www.head-fi.org is your friend. Excellent site for reviews, deal alerts, opinions, and learning all things audio.

    Reviews are critical. I may say the best IEM under $150 is my trusted Shure SE215, because of the bass, mids, non-sibilant highs and the fact that I've added the optional mic/remote cable, but if your taste is instrumental, vocals, etc. and you don't want the mic/remote, there are better options FOR YOU. They're your ears and nobody else's, so don't take anybody's opinion that one is categorically better than any other, unless they're telling you WHY it's better.

    HEADPHONE/EARPHONE RECOMMENDATION FORM
    Use/copy this when asking for advice

    1: Budget:
    2: Genres/Musical preference:
    3: Type of headphone:
    4: Functionality: (Mic needed? cable over ear vs. Straight down? Open/Closed back if v full size headphones, etc)
    5: Your player/setup:
    6: Source material (mp3, flac, stream, etc.):
    7: Area of highest importance:

    On an unrelated note...
    Massive amounts of high school pootietang is a requirement for a proper upbringing...

    -Accidental Asshole aka Jeremy
    15
    Reserved for updates/notes

    Things to come:
    Get rid of all typos.
    Proper formatting once I get on my laptop, I post everything from Tapatalk.
    Additional information on portables/full-size cans.

    2/3/2013
    Added: TL: DR at the top for those just not willing to study the full course on this. ;)
    Also added a recommendation form for those seeking advice.

    -Accidental Asshole aka Jeremy
    6
    Thank you. I added a couple of changes, noted in 2nd post.

    If this helped anyone in any way, please share it. My goal is only to help others enjoy audio as much as or more than I go and save them money spent on ill-suited equipment.

    -Accidental Asshole aka Jeremy
    [Guide] Headphone/Earphone Buying
    4
    You know where to find me, brother. Pick my mind whenever. I try to keep a good list of IEMs to recommend for most preferences from $15 to $500.

    -Accidental Asshole aka Jeremy
    [Guide] Headphone/Earphone Buying
    3
    Reviews as promised coming posted below. Do note that I'm underscoring everything, because there is always better out there. Case in point is the accessories on the R1, they're superb and most people would rate them a 9 or 10. However, since they don't come with 2 of each size of foams, silicone single flange and double flange silicone ear tips, I just can't give it a 10, because it could be better.

    Brainwavz R1 (purchased for $35 shipped, easily worth $60+ IMO)

    Ranked from 1-10 in the following categories:

    Accessories: 8.5/10
    Comes with a nice zipper hard case, airplane adapter, 14" adaptor, and a filthy amount of tips, including a pair of medium double flange silicone tips and a pair of medium Comply foam tips.
    Build Quality: 7/10
    Nothing really wrong with build quality. Housing could be sturdier. I can hear the vibration/rattle some when the bass kicks in, but that's compared to more expensive iem's which have no such vibration, and I the R1 only appears in extreme bass situations. I wouldn't expect the average mortal to notice this.
    Fit/comfort: 9.5/10
    They're weightless, the memory wire is easy to adjust over the ear to my ear's shape even after my son has been using them. I don't notice that I'm wearing them.
    Isolation: 8/10
    With music playing, the outside world cannot be heard. While paused, I find them easier to hear than with other IEMs. I used the included Comply foam tips. No complaints, but they're not a substitute for ear plugs. The balance between isolation while playing vs. paused is an asset, as you don't have to take them out to have s conversation.
    Microphonics: 7/10
    Cable noise can be heard at low to medium volume. With a shirt clip, it's virtually gone. The slider on the cable can be adjusted which helps minimize this. They're far better than my Klipsch S4 in that respect.
    Soundstage: 7/10
    Fairly good soundstage. I feel like I'm there at the performance on live recordings, but the sound feels much narrower than high quality on-ear headphones or my Shure SE215 (almost triple the cost of the R1, mind you).
    Instrument separation: 6.5/10
    This could be better, certainly. I think this is a result of the slight V-shape to the sound (Bass and highs more prominent than mids). The instruments sound more bunched up than I'm used to. They're not as clear as more expensive options.
    Bass: 8.5/10
    Bass quantity is rather large, yet a little loose and "slappy". Detail in the bass is moderately good. It would be perfect for bass lovers (rap, hip-hop, EDM) looking for choices in the under $70 range, but possibly annoying to those who prefer bass detail over quantity.
    Mids: 5/10
    Maybe I'm spoiled by being accustomed to a mid-centric sound, but vocals don't pop, mids are more distant and lifeless than I'm used to. This truly is the only down side at all in this otherwise spectacular valued IEM. However, easily rectified with use of an EQ app. It's not the bass bloating in over the mids, they're just more distant and lack some warmth.
    Highs: 7/10
    Shockingly nice. Detail in highs is quite clear. They roll off before becoming sibilant or harsh. Can be a little noisy/staticy, but not noticeable or bothersome with most songs. Most songs have their highs highlighted nicely in contrast to the bass.
    Value: 9.5/10
    I know, I didn't score these high in many categories. They're not midrange or better IEMs. They're FANTASTIC entry level/budget IEMs for everyone who doesn't need more warmth in their music. Of you listen mostly to instrumentals, vocals, classical, big-band, or any similar genre, these might not be for you. Rock, alternative, hip-hop, EDM, etc., I prefer them over as Klipsch S4, which cost upwards of $60 typically. Seriously an impressive buy. I'd even recommend seasoned audiophiles keep these in their stable as loaners, gym headphones, for doing yardwork, etc. Can't go wrong for most people at this cost.

    Klipsch Image S4i (bought in 2010 for $100, can now be found frequently at $60.
    (NOT THE II MODEL RECENTLY RELEASED)

    Accessories: 6.5/10
    Came with a nice metal case, a modest selection of silicone tips and a shirt clip. Nothing impressive or lacking.
    Build Quality: 6/10
    Plastic on the Mic/remote cracks easily, strain reliefs on the cable are insultingly small, virtually useless and tear easily. The jack is puny and not at all sturdy. These should be treated carefully if you want them to last.
    Fit/comfort: 7/10
    Silicone tips make my ears itch. That aside, they fit just fine. I do find that worn with the cable straight down, they will pop out of my ears sometimes while jogging, which is a major pet peeve for me. You can wear them with the cable over the ear by switching ears, and that helps some, as does the included shirt clip.
    Isolation: 7/10
    Isolation improves a lot with foam tips, but without keeps the music in your head and outside noises out. This would easily by a 9 if Klipsch included foams.
    Microphonics: 6.5/10
    The cable is thin, flimsy and noise is quite noticeable. Without the shirt clip, this would be a 4.
    Soundstage: 6/10
    Soundstage lies entirely inside your head. Imaging isn't bad, but you don't get the "concert hall feel", more of an intimate private session sound.
    Instrument separation: 7/10
    If you factor out bass bloat over the mids, it's not bad at keeping instruments separate. For rock, you can lose the guitar behind the bass, though.
    Bass: 7.5/10
    Quantity is fairly high, low on detail and drowns the mids some. Very impressive to those unfamiliar with higher quality bass, but lacking when compared with IEMs that truly shine at equal or lesser price range.
    Mids: 6/10
    When bass isn't prominent, mids are warm, have decent detail, exciting. When the bass kicks in, they are cut in half.
    Highs: 7/10
    Not sibilant or fatiguing, rolled off at the upper end, could be more detailed, but not disappointing for me.
    Value: 5/10
    They're not unenjoyable or bad sounding, buy they do not shine next to many alternatives. Quite honestly, I'd skip these. They were my every day IEM for a year, then I learned more. They'll stomp all over Beats that cost twice as much, but if you do your research, you'll find much better choices.

    Shure SE215 (Paid $100 at a local store, almost always found at that price.

    Accessories: 8/10
    Soft zipper case, no shirt clip, but HOLY TIPS BATMAN! Small, medium and large in both single flange and Shure "olive" foams. I'd like a better case and the optional mic/remote cable included by default.
    Build Quality: 8/10
    Strain reliefs on the cable, the jack are all beefy. Housing is solid. The only mild down mark here is the type of connection used for the removable cable. A more solid connection could be used, but in 10 months of use, it's never been a problem, and there is a 2 year warranty.
    Fit/comfort: 9/10
    Worn over the ear, they're great, even after a highly active and physical 8 hour work shift. The memory wire on the stock cable could be a little more maliable.
    Isolation: 9/10
    I'd love to have customs molded to my ears to compare this with, but even with music paused I can't hear my wife unless she really yells. At normal listening volume, you cannot be disturbed by the outside world. This is strictly with using the supplied foams.
    Microphonics: 9/10
    None. At all.
    Soundstage: 8.5/10
    Very wide. Sounds like you're on-stage at a performance.
    Instrument separation: 7/10
    Highs could be clearer with better detail, and that would help. Not disappointing, but an area for improvement.
    Bass: 8/10
    Excellent quantity, quality and speed. For real bassheads, quantity could be more. For those more info detail, texture could be more. However, they do both quite well.
    Mids: 9/10
    This is definitely the biggest area where these shine. Luscious, warm, detailed. Perhaps shocking to those not used to it, they respond well to eq'ing the mids down some.
    Highs: 7/10
    Rolled off at the top and not as detailed as many IEMs near this price point. Highs aren't lacking, but they do not really sparkle. Poor choice for classical music, otherwise the highs are a perfect compliment to the rest of the sound signature.
    Value: 9.5/10
    Don't buy these for classical or instrumental. They're very good at everything else. Can be made to suit almost any genre with EQ and are good at most without EQ. Plenty of room to get deeper bass, clearer highs as you climb up the audiophile ladder, but they are a great v all around IEM at that price.


    -Accidental Asshole aka Jeremy
    [Guide] Headphone/Earphone Buying
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