Hey, new and first time posting here!
Recently fell in love with female vocals, do you guys have any recommendations for headphones, closed and open back, and universal IEMs? Not the outrageously expensive ones like the trio from 64, below 1500 preferably.
Hey, new and first time posting here!
so many options at that price point…more clarifying info please…bass preference? or current headphone setup? Past headphones listened to? Preferred sound signature outside of vocals? All these and anything you can help narrow down your preference will help. Also DAC/amps you have…
cheers! and welcome
Own Focal clear, elex, lcd2c as of now, for iem’s, had isine20, se535, and now se846. Source is sr15 and m11, Schiit stack on desktop, I guess the clarification really is that I’m looking for an IEM since I can’t think of any significant upgrades to the clear at below $2k. Did it like the isine20 because my ear canal is rather small. I’ve been considering some options such as Fiio’s new FH7, noble k10u, and some lower end empire ears? Didn’t try cfa bc not a big fan of their design.
IMO female vocals are pretty easy to reproduce: not too complex with a mid-range focus. The main caveat is that female vocals become too forward with bright headphones, but never too bad because of the natural upper limits of voice.
Yes, the Clears are probably as good as possible in that price range. IEMs are fundamentally irritating by their very design. The ear did not evolve to have stuff inside blasting sound–we just want swat the mosquitoes away!
IEM fit is entirely personal. I recommend against Noble Universals because they have fat stubby shafts and don’t fit well for a lot of people. You might look at Chinese products, as they design small IEMs for small Chinese ears. My (cheap) Xiaomi QTEJ02Y Pro IEMs shipped with the smallest tips I’ve ever seen – like a large lentil or small pea.
EDIT: My Chinese Moondrop Kanas Pro ($155) also fit easily in the ear.
Honestly, I think the Koss KSC75 make vocals of any kind a pure joy for listening. For the pennies they’ll run you, certainly a solid bang-for-the-buck option to throw in the mix.
Also have a pair of Yaxi pads on order for them; curious to see what they’ll do for the overall sig.
Agree 100% with @generic. You already have what you need in that price range, the Clears are amazing !!
Hi Jerry - female vocals are very important to me too, though I recently bought the Solaris which actually does not excel at female vocals since there is a little bit of a drip in the presence region to give it that holographic sound. A lot of IEMs seem to be doing that nowadays in the upper tier.
The most basic vocals IEM is the Etymotics series of in-ears. They do vocals very well, with their mid-range focused in-ears. I like both the XR and SE series, and the new Dynamic driver based ER2 series is a big hit with many folks on discord and head-fi and I am a fan of them myself. I have chosen the ER2XR as my noise isolating IEM for planes, because it does have a bit of a warmer, richer sound, but I’ll be testing out the ER2SE shortly. I prefer them over the BA-based tradtitional Etymotics IEMs. @MCM is currently trying out both models right now and could provide his opinions too. (spoiler: he prefers the ER2SE more, and I would agree that they would do female vocals better, while the ER2XR does male vocals better, though in general, the ER2SE would do vocals better in general).
A few others that come to mind in the more budget range are the Moondrop Kanas Pro, Campfire Orion (though a tad pricey nowadays), Audio Technica LS200, BGVP DM7, etc.
If you want a little more bass, there’s a lot of love for the Beyerdynamic Xelento and Acostune HS1551CU but I have yet to try either one. They are more warmer V-shaped sounds that have good mid-range coherency (from what I’ve heard).
Andromeda is obviously an easy choice, but it doesnt accentuate female vocals as others do, as it has a tamer upper mid-range.
Just a few things to look at for now.
Hi and welcome @Jerry.
@Jerry, welcome. Between the ER2SE and XR variants, I prefer the SE due to its tighter bass. I used EQ to make a SE measure like a XR and the speed and tightness advantage that the SE holds is apparent with songs like Giorgio by Moroder and Limit to Your Love. In both iterations, the ER2 is an impressive value with perfect coherence and sweet tuning.
However, I don’t necessarily think it’s the right IEM for you. I think our preferences are very similar, having owned a SE846 and LCD-XC, and currently owning a iSine20, LCDi4, and Utopia. And it sounds like you’re looking for an upgrade to the SE846.
I went from the 846, to the K10u, then to the Solaris and IER-Z1R. The fit with the Z1R is a bit tricky, and it took a couple of weeks for my ears to get used to the massive shells. The Solaris is a lot more comfortable and actually has a similar overall sound, but with a tuning dip in the upper mids/low treble that lends to it’s spacious stage. It plays very well with the SR15, which has a black background, but can hiss with other sources.
The KSE1200 is a good choice if you’re looking for more transparency and detail and don’t care as much about soundstage or bass impact. If you’re looking to spend less money, the Acoustune HS1650 is my favorite IEM right around $600.
If you’re looking for something a bit different, I’ve liked the STAX IEMs, although I haven’t heard the latest ones. They did very well on female vocals, Maria Muldaur, and Melissa Manchester (no, I don’t have a thing about Ms).
On the cheap end, and not an IEM, the KOSS KDE250s that sometimes show up on Massdrop for $59 are gorgeous but fiddle for a fit. They are more of a nearfield design.
64 Audio have some nice iem’s. You could try these.
Thanks for the input guys, I have been busy over the past few days and couldn’t thank each one of you for the input.
Thanks for the help!
After reading through all the comments I got a sense that some lower end IEMs actually are fairly good?
However tho, I’ve come across a noble encore for about $950 and am super tempted to pick that up. It’s in pretty good condition. Is that a good deal? Or should I pick up an andromeda’s instead?
The quality for price of IEMs has skyrocketed since 2016-2017. The Chinese entered the market and released many, many products. Some are very good, some are weird, but there’s a lot to choose from today. @Antdroid probably has the deepest experience on this site with them.
You can by brand new Massdrop X Noble Kaiser 10s for $900, so I’m not sure about how good of a deal you are getting. The Massdrop version has been on the market for a couple years now, and they too are available used. I previously owned the cheaper Massdrop X Noble IEMs ($250), but the sound was really thin and they were extremely uncomfortable.
I urge you to try the Noble Universal housings for fit before you buy. They don’t fit well in my ears (and many others). I had to resort to extra fat foam tips to get a seal for bass – and ultimately sold them at a 50% discount.
If you’re going for female vocals I’d say the Katana would actually be the better bet. Although I don’t like the Katana very much because of it’s more neutral tuning it definitely presents female vocals better between the two. At their retail prices, I’d take the Andromeda any day over either of them but at $950 it’s a little tougher as the Kaiser Encore does have a wider soundstage and a slight edge in the detail department.
I would also add to this that the Encore is a warmer headphone than the Andromeda. So it’s going to be warmer than the Andromeda or something like your Focal Clear.
Yeah, I’ve been really considering the Fiio FH7. I’ve got a offer from a relative back in China for ¥2k (about $300) but just can’t quite pull the trigger because I’ve always though price = quality.
Thanks for the suggestion, now that I realize, choosing is definitely a pain in the a… however, would you say with eq the encore becomes some sort of “end game” iem without going into the above $2k range? The reviews on headfi are straight 5 starts and the only complain I’ve seen so far is price/fit.
I would say for their retail price the Encores are priced a little oddly. At $950 you are definitely looking at take it and run territory. Once you get into this price tier of headphones (aside from some truly awful headphones) you’re more so looking at your preferred sound. 95% of the headphones here sound fantastic. The the real question is do they sound fantastic to you?
I personally like the Kaiser Encores. I don’t like them at $1850 but I think they have great detail and separation and they have the warmth that I enjoy versus the Katana.