Since there’s so many IEMs popping up now from all parts of the world, let’s have a thread to talk about IEMs that we discover, and share with others our thoughts and impressions. This probably pertains more to ones that don’t already fit any of the existing threads already.
Guess I’ll start with something obscure.
Above pictured is my personal custom of pears sh3. They are a swiss brand that have been in operation since 2014. Their lead acoustic engineer is Samuel Harsch and he also designed iems for Phonak (232 and 121). He’s moved on since to create his own line of CIEMs. As you can see in the image, they are fully filled and encapsulate the drivers in some kind of glue for shock protection. The nozzle opening is also quite special: a rectangle with rounded edges as a waveguide after the tubes.
They currently have 2 models - SH2 and SH3. They’re set to launch a new TOTL sometime within this year. It’s miraculous to see how they’ve survived over the years given how their products aren’t popular at all.
Anyway, the SH3 is created as a reference monitor for singers and sound engineers. The SH3 puts vocals and guitars forward. Bass in general takes a step back. The midrange of the SH3 is where it really shines, sporting an accurate tone, well separated vocals and excellent resolution in the mids. Some people who have tried my custom say that the treble is sharp and peaky but I am just not hearing it.
Really excited to see what they will put out next!
Hyla’s newest hybrid, the Sarda. I think this is probably my favourite hyla so far. It leans towards a brighter tuning with a bass lift but isn’t as subbassy/bassy as the CE5 or TE5B. Sports the best balance between everything IMO. Like a Hyla, this one is still v-shaped in tuning. The lower mids are of course recessed so the midrange tonality leans towards its upper midrange and upper harmonics, resulting in a clean and lean midrange.
Those are great looking iems. You get to play with some really nice gear. But I do understand it can’t be all play as you do some great writeups.
How bad is the driver flex? I remember reading a previous Hyla IEM had horrific driver flex.
For those seeking a sub-$100 IEM, I recently reviewed the KB EAR Diamond:
Thanks for the review! Given how I quite enjoyed the Form 1.1, you’ve certainly set expectations for the KB ear.
I didn’t know you liked the Form 1.1.
Here’s an FR comparison between the Diamond and the Form 1.1.
I find the Diamond to have better instrument separation and a larger soundstage, better sub-bass and upper treble extension, and comparable if not better detail retrieval with less harshness in the lower treble.
Here’s audio technica’s latest flagship earphone - the IEX1. Honestly, suuuuper disappointing. Bloated, big bass with very uneven and honky mids. For a earphone in its price tier (>$1200), it performs and sounds worse than $30 IEMs.
Still waiting on the next big hit from ATH…
Fearless really had a popularity surge in 2019. They are now quite the hyped IEMs on headfi. The recently released Paladin (EST Hybrid) series were disappointing and their S8 series stands out as their best IMO. They’ve just launched the Fearless S8Z - a variant in the S8 series with different bass drivers as well as implementing a mechanical LPF.
Sound wise, this is the best in the brand IMO. Nice, v-shape tonal character but doesn’t have mids too recessed or dipped in tonality. I’d describe it as brighter than it is warm. Compared to the S8F and S8P, this one has less bass/warmth (which is surprising looking at the new LPF), and has greater resolution and definition to notes.
Well done! I think this is a solid recommendation under the $800 CIEM/UIEM category. However, the brighter character of the S8Z is not for everyone. There’s not lot of CIEMs I can recommend in this price range and off my head I can think of the Moondrop S8 and qdc 4cs.
I’ve just received a CIEM to review from Craft Ears - they’re a new company based in Poland. This is the Craft4 (C4 in short), it uses a full sonion balanced armature setup. 4BA (seems like a 33AJ, 2389 & E25) in a 4-way configuration. They’ve also sent me the Universal model to compare against - and wow does the custom differ from the universal. The universal sounds warmer, thinner in the mids and seem to be quite limited in its soundstage.
The custom has much better soundstage expansion and a overall better balanced tonality but the treble is much different as well. The custom seems to hit more metallic cymbal notes but can be very harsh in certain tracks, whereas the universal has smoother highs (which I prefer). They both have an unnatural peak in the treble that I can’t say I am a fan of.
The custom does have a great soundstage and images well. It just won’t play well with tracks that have a lot of cymbals imo.
More thoughts to come!
Thanks for the impressions. The faceplate looks nice, and it totally reminds me of The Strokes record cover:
Yes I love the faceplate on these. There seems to be lots of small companies popping up all over now. You do us all a great service in letting us know about them. I appreciate it. Thanks.
Driver flex exists for sure. However it is not as bad as the one in the Legend X, or even Xelento.
The censored second edition…I wonder what the first cover would look like on an IEM?
It saddens me that no one wants my ass on a cover.
Oh, wait, neither do I. Carry on.
There will be more coverage on Craft to come! I genuinely do think they have a lot of potential. I proposed collaborating with them to come up with an IEM that is tuned to my target curve. Keep an eye out for it in Q4!
These just came in today – the Hidition Viento Reference. I purchased the universal fit model which also has 2 switches (4 combinations) for modifying the sound.
The default tuning is very diffuse field – very similar to Etymotics ER4-type tuning with more detail and also more treble. The other tunings are similar to Harman target (slight subbass bump), a lower-mid bump, and a big bass bump, which I am so far not a fan of.
The nozzle is really large, and really long, so getting it to fit is a little challenging. It does require a very deep insertion, since these are basically Custom IEMs that have been converted to a universal, so if you don’t get the insertion deep enough, treble response from about 7-9K can be piercing bright in some cases , which I noticed on the cymbals, hi hats and the harmonics of the snare drum on Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album.
Once I got a good deep fit, these actually sound quite coherent and really nice. I’ve been listening to the Hifiman Arya a lot lately, and it’s sound is kind of in the same ball park – a neutral-bright signature.
When I changed out of these and into the Anole VX or the Dunu DK3001 Pro – man – it made those two sound very bass-heavy and hazy, and just missing any clarity. It’s kind of the same effect I had last night when I was heavily listening to the Hifiman Arya and then swapped out to the ZMF Verite and felt it was sounding really wrong – despite loving the verite. Ear listening shock is a real thing!