Audio Random IEM / Headphone Rants


kenpachiroks

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Well, they've arrived. And I've been listening to them for two days(with burn in between sessions) now, so....

Early impressions : Quadbeat 2
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Packaging and Build
:
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As I haven't bought them separately, they came in a small plastic packet(tips separate) bundled with my LG G2. There is a slightly pricier Special edition available on eBay. But I have no clue about the difference.
The finish and build quality is really impressive. The back half of the main housing is machined out of aluminium and has the same feel as the RE400 back-plate. Has a flat Y split rubber cable ending in an L plug. The strain reliefs are adequate and the cable feels sturdy and flexible enough to be worn over ear. Mic and volume controls feature on the left split at a perfect height.
Overall the build surpasses all the bundled headsets I've seen and 'some' 99$ iems too :p.

Accessories and comfort:
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Comes with standard S,M,L silicone tips.
On to my biggest gripe. I found it impossible to get a good seal. The included tips are hopeless.
The shape of the QB2 prevents any form of deep insertion. The nozzles are heavily angled which only compounded the problem. Finally I settled with the HiFiman double flanges but I could only get it right 70% of the time.
At times it felt like I had a good fit. But the moment I played any music, it sounded too airy with distant bass(indicative of bad seal).
Surprisingly over-ear(despite the nozzle angle), double flanges, considerable pinna pulling etc. etc. gave me a good seal and I could finally get down to some listening.
PS: This might not be the case with everyone. Some of you who own the QB2 might be wondering what I'm on about.
Isolation is above average(with the right fit).

Sound:
The dedicated Head-Fi thread caused a hype-storm (SQ/price value), touting them as competition to the excellent Fidelio S2.
Anyway. Following the success of the QB1, LG is said to have put a lot of effort into the sequel. Their focus on premium audio took another step with the LG G2 which has a rewritten music stack(supported by a very good DAC) capable of outputting 24/192k audio.

My initial struggle to get the right fit did not let me experience that first moment of hearing a new pair of earphones.
So the below impressions are after I got a good fit,
I have mixed feeling about the sound. There are some things I like and some I don't.
I'll start with the pluses.
The treble is special. It's not as smooth as the RE400 but not sharp enough to irritate me(I like my treble very smooth). Suppose you're listening to a track,and you know when(in the track) a crescendo of potentially sibilant treble will hit. Judging from the treble sparkle and clarity in the rest of the track you scrunch your eyes in anticipation. But it doesn't happen.
"In-perfect-measure" should sum that up
I'm very impressed with the detail and airiness in the highs. They don't sound like a budget pair at all.

The mids are nothing to write home about(blame the RE400). But they complement the excellent treble well. I don't seem to be getting all the details as I do from my RE400. Also there's a lack of overall dynamics. I haven't listened to enough music to nitpick but I expect them to handle most of it well enough.
The soundstage is impressive(again, with the right fit). It conveys a good sense of space that feels dry and empty at the rarest of times. However, it is much much wider than it is deeper.

Now on to the minuses
This is how I fell the bass was tuned: LG asked iSound(?) to wow them with a budget audiophile iem to go with the audiophile friendly G2. The team tuned it to be fairly neutral with great extention at both ends. No sub-bass roll off. And a hint of a V shaped sig to keep things interesting.
Satisfied, they present it to the G2 team who go ":meh:, Why is this so boring? Where's the boom-boom?". Head of the LG G2 team proceeds to add a dollop of vaguely placed mid-bass dough on an exquisite cake.

The bass feels ill placed. Like a block that's important but doesn't fit. Like it was added as an afterthought. I can't put a finger on it. Maybe with more listening, I will be able to.
The mid-bass is "eccentric":wacky:, is the best way to put it. I think EQing will iron it out a bit. But it will be tricky.
The sub-bass is controlled and unobtrusive. (I would love to have this sub-bass on my RE400s)

Overall, they're good. Perhaps too good for 30$. I haven't heard the MH1C so I can't say the QB2 beats it.
The iem feels like it was tuned to be analytical (except for the 'special' mid-bass). The sub-bass fits in well despite this and that is why I like it(sub-bass) so much.

I will wait and see if the mid-bass gains some control post (long)burn-in. But so far, it's safe to say that LG has raised the bar for bundled headsets(and budget headsets in general).

KqPjuMX.jpg?1

 
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kenpachiroks

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Small blurb on the audio quality and capabilities of the LG G2:
LG has gone for a very no-drama uncoloured sterile sound. This is good for the mid-bass happy QB2, and maintains their overall focus on clarity ala the excellent treble. I can't say it's better than the Galaxy S3 or S(with voodoo) or the HTC One or the Note 3 or the IP5S. It doesn't stand out like the Galaxy S(voodoo) did. (Special mention for the Note 3 which sounds excellent).
How does the USB-out to an amp perform(and does it)? Don't know. Don't have an amp. Output impedance? Don't know. Haven't seen any data specifying this.
The speaker quality is good(Doesn't go very high though). Not much action at the lower end but it conveys clarity well without being too shrill(another sign of the pursuit of clarity in the G2)
The stock player app is underwhelming. I expected LG to design a player that was at least a few steps above the competition(considering their recent audiophilia).
Anyway, I replaced it withing minutes (with PowerAmp).
>To the big question: Can it replace my clip zip as my daily source of audio?
Pros:
1. The G2 shares a sig which is similar(uncoloured, slightly cold) to the clip zip.
2. The EQ responds well on the G2 and doesn't cause a significant drain on the battery. It's easier to access and easy to use(owing to touch controls). I actually found myself adjusting the EQ on-the-fly for different tracks.
3. The G2 can play my 24/96 files. Rockbox downsamples high res music. Do I notice a difference anyway(compared to 320kbps)? Maybe a slight improvement in soundstage and imaging. Nothing else. I guess it's meant for more capable audio equipment.
Cons:
1. No extendable storage. No extendable storage. No extendable storage.
2. The clip is handy. Handier.
3. It is a little too sterile and cold for my liking. Which means it isn't the best option with my already sterile sounding RE400. Also the QB2 treble can get frown-worthy at times(didn't happen with the clip).
Bottom line: Yes and No. I won't regret forgetting my clip at all. But it will not be my go-to device either.
PS: >I don't know if it performs better than the clip zip with power hungry equipment, as I don't have anything that challenges the clip
>The QB2 is still burning in(with some Daft punk :borg:). I haven't listened to it since my early impressions. The annoying fit discourages me. I'll get to it in a day or two. I really hope that mid-bass fits in.
>The G2 is a stellar device(overall). I am absolutely amazed at everything it can do and how it does it. Oh, its elegant and beautiful too. :happy:
 
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kenpachiroks

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Galaxy S4 vs LG G2 audio quality test: http://www.gsmarena.com/lg_g2_vs_samsung_galaxy_s4-review-984p6.php

Seems like Note 2 had a lower Zo of 0.9. If Note 3 is similar, it might explain why you find it nicer!
I hadn't seen that review. Thanks for the link.

I was just reading this only-Anandtech article on Smartphone sound quality. They highlight a channel imbalance issue in the Nexus 5 and the G2 (more pronounced in the Nexus 5)
I haven't noticed this in my G2. Then again, my listening volumes are low.
Interesting article overall.

Doesn't the Galaxy S have high OI?

How much does Zo affect dynamic drivers? Aren't BAs more sensitive to this?
 

esanthosh

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More important for BA than dynamics. It depends more on the particular IEM's impedance curve.

From clieOS' post here

Though might not always being the case, many dynamic driver have more linear impedance curve so dampening is more important. You can have a 32ohm dynamic headphone sounding very linearly / no coloration with amp of 10ohm output impedance, but you might not get as tight a bass since dampening is minimum at best. On the other hand, since balanced armatured tends to be very well mechanically dampened, impedance interaction is more important factor to consider when dealing with multi-way BA.
From saratoga's post here

Basically, the damping factor is the ratio of the impedance of the load to the impedance of the source. A high dampening factor means that you have very good control over the driver position (there is little over/under shoot and thus little distortion). But the extent to which this matters depends on how well damped the actual diaphragm is. If there is a lot of mechanical dampening, you may not need as much electrical dampening.

Balanced armatures tend to have relatively little damping built in, so they need a higher dampening factor them other designs. They are also often built of 2 or more drivers in parallel, each of which may have a different impedance then the overall impedance of the device. This further increases electrical demands on the driving circuit.

I'm not sure where the rule of 8 comes from for dampening factor, but its just a rule of thumb. Some headphones won't need that high, others may optimally want a bit higher. Testing with RMAA is a great way to check though. If the frequency response is weird, or there is a lot of THD, its probably safe to assume a higher dampening factor would help.
Frankly, there is no relation between Zo and final SQ. Even some low impedance armatures could sound better with higher Zo sources (like XBA-3 flattening FR). I give more importance to OI only because I don't know what kind of IEM I will be testing with them.

I think Galaxy S2 had a very high OI (30+ ?). Not sure about S3 / S4 etc.,
 
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kenpachiroks

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@esanthosh
Thanks. I understand it better now. No wait, I'm confused again ...
From clieOS' post here
On the other hand, since balanced armatured tends to be very well mechanically dampened, impedance interaction is more important factor to consider when dealing with multi-way BA.
From saratoga's post here
Balanced armatures tend to have relatively little damping built in, so they need a higher dampening factor them other designs. They are also often built of 2 or more drivers in parallel, each of which may have a different impedance then the overall impedance of the device. This further increases electrical demands on the driving circuit.
Too many parameters to make a generalized decision on what player to buy and what iem would go best with it.
So :shifty: if I want longer bass decay from my RE400(~32ohms; the +/- 3.2 refers to the curve?), I'd pair it with a high OI source(bringing down the dampening factor). But then again, the 'titanium diaphragm' might be mechanically dampened very well(= insignificant difference in sig).

Also, doesn't increasing the driver count compound this problem ala the curvy Impedance curve that you're likely to end up with?

Safe conclusion :D : Sound quality is ultimately very subjective. The resulting colouration or discolouration may appeal to some even though that particular sound is not what the manufacturer intended. So try every iem with different sources before coming to a conclusion on whether you like it or not.
 

esanthosh

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My Safe Conclusion: Use a low OI source which does not color the sound :)

Going back to where this whole OI discussion started: http://nwavguy.blogspot.in/2011/02/headphone-amp-impedance.html. Until then, I don't think anyone was curious about output impedance.

There are other articles of interest like Inner Fidelity's take on Meridian Explorer and a head-fi thread that goes back and forth.

In Inner Fidelity's RE-400 and RE-600 measurements, Tyll wrote that
Impedance response for both cans is quite even with the RE-400 showing a 36 Ohm figure and the RE-600 clocking in at 17 Ohms. 17 Ohms is pretty low, so it's not unlikely that the RE-600 will begin to sound a little loose if the output impedance of the driving amplifier goes above three or four Ohms. Fortunately, evenness of frequency response should be little effected as the impedance is quite flat.
My take: Don't split hairs over numbers. Use them as an additional aid for learning, but don't go to the extent of 'hearing the graph'. At the end of the day, this hobby is about enjoying music in the best manner possible.
 

kenpachiroks

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@esanthosh
Thank you for the links. Really appreciate it.
You piqued my interest when you mentioned the Zo as a possibility for me liking the Note 3. :bookworm: :)


In other news,
  • HiFinage have announced that they are now the official dealers for T-peos in India. That is fantastic news. HiFinage could skip the H-200(as the replacement is right around the corner) and get a nice start with the H100J and the H-200 upgrade. Maybe they could entice Dunu, once the DN1000 replacement and the DN900 finally drop ;)
  • Pristine Note have brought A&K to India. I don't know if this is at the expense of the iBasso or not. Anyway, they have Fiio to balance out the overall performance/price ratio :p
Edit: Oops! I spoke too soon. Sorry @abhi_jollyguy :sorry:
 
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sardar17

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hifinage is not the official dealer of hifiman in india,i asked the hifiman sponsor on head-fi
he said they are not.

@kenpachiroks
do u have mh-1??
to compare with lg earphones.
btw u should get a sansa clip+ if u want low oi player with very very low price and totally neutral.
playing music from a cellphone is just cumbersome,,it cannot match a dedicated player.if u already have a good player,ignore my rant[DOUBLEPOST=1388167727][/DOUBLEPOST]also the only thing to remember regarding output impedance of iem's is

that the player should have oi 1/5 of the earphone being used or less for best results.
this does not get scaled to high impedance headphones.

xba-3 is a good example with 12 ohm oi with majority of sony walkmans unable to drive those,,,sony itself lists this on the box[DOUBLEPOST=1388205353][/DOUBLEPOST]further reply from hifiman on hifinage is this

"We will not provide warranty. But you can contact them to see if they provide any. "
 
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kenpachiroks

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@kenpachiroks
do u have mh-1?? to compare with lg earphones. btw u should get a sansa clip+ if u want low oi player with very very low price and totally neutral. playing music from a cellphone is just cumbersome,,it cannot match a dedicated player.if u already have a good player,ignore my rant
My post about "The G2 as a player" was to assess if it could replace my clip zip. ;)
No, I do not have the MH1. Haven't gotten a chance to audition them either. They're going for as little as 15$ on ebay. I might just bite.:p
further reply from hifiman on hifinage is this "We will not provide warranty. But you can contact them to see if they provide any. "
Hmm...
I see "We are the authorized dealers of HiFiman in India" and "With 1-Year Manufacturer Warranty Against Any Manufacturing Defects" on the HiFinage website. I am unaware of the terms of the warranty though.
 
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sardar17

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My post about "The G2 as a player" was to assess if it could replace my clip zip. ;)
No, I do not have the MH1. Haven't gotten a chance to audition them either. They're going for only 15$ on ebay. I might just bite.:p

Hmm...I see "We are the authorized dealers of HiFiman in India" and "With 1-Year Manufacturer Warranty Against Any Manufacturing Defects" on the HiFinage website. I am unaware of the terms of the warranty though.
that seems to be lie as i directly asked the hifiman sponsor on head fi
u can do the same and i posted exactly the same reply as he gave

btw have u compared clip zip with clip+??
is ur zip rockboxed??
whats the battery life with flac and mp3??
 

kenpachiroks

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btw have u compared clip zip with clip+??
is ur zip rockboxed??
whats the battery life with flac and mp3??
I have the clip, clip+ and the clip zip. All rockboxed. I cannot make out any differences between them, perhaps my ears aren't discerning enough (maybe some very subtle minor difference, that I can't put my finger on, b/w the clip and clip+).

My collection is a mix of flac and mp3, so I will not be able to comment on the (file format specific) battery usage.
 

Ritvik

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Sorry about deviating from the current topic. I heard the Vsonic GR01 for a couple of minutes and they sounded quite nice. The whole range confuses me a little, partly because of the nomenclature used and me not being very interested in their products until I heard this pair :D

I just wanted to know if they have a cheaper version with a similar signature. They seem to have a flagship BA and Dynamic and then a cheaper, relatively similar sounding option from what I remember.

Has anyone here tried the GR01 and the toned down version if it exists? Also, if there is such an IEM in their lineup what would I be missing if I opted for it over the GR01?
 

esanthosh

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@Ritvik,

The slightly cheaper VC1000 is an equally capable dual driver in the VSonic line-up. LMUE lists them as 'baby brother of GR01' :)

Joker did not compare them much side by side in his review (except mentioning they are similar), but does say
All in all, the VC1000 is a lower-priced – but not less capable – alternative to the GR01 and a very solid earphone for those who tend to prefer a flatter sound signature.
PS: As for topic hopping, that is why the title has 'Random' and 'Rants'. The first rule of this thread is there is no rule :p
 

sardar17

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i may pull the trigger on fiio x5 or dx90
the specs of dx90 are way too good to ignore,same goes for x5
 

Ritvik

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@esanthosh - Thanks!

There's a significant price difference. 260 SGD vs 156 SGD on lend me your ears. I'm curious about how vsonic goes about their whole baby brother thing with quite a few of their IEMs, is one supposed to be a cash cow and the other just to show off technical abilities? Are LMUE reliable? Some not so flattering comments on head-fi.

The VC1000 + custom sleeves or the ER4S + customs sleeves :confused:

The advantage with the Etymotic ones are the fact that I can use these - http://www.ebay.com.sg/itm/FOR-ETYMOTIC-ER4-IN-EARPHONE-CABLE-ADAPTOR-S-/300592438512?pt=US_Audio_Cables_Adapters&hash=item45fcb49cf0&_uhb=1

So it can be run it off the stock cable when going to work or run with any westone cable and the International at home.

@sardar17
The DX90 looks impressive!
 
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sardar17

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@esanthosh - Thanks!

There's a significant price difference. 260 SGD vs 156 SGD on lend me your ears. I'm curious about how vsonic goes about their whole baby brother thing with quite a few of their IEMs, is one supposed to be a cash cow and the other just to show off technical abilities? Are LMUE reliable? Some not so flattering comments on head-fi.

The VC1000 + custom sleeves or the ER4S + customs sleeves :confused:

The advantage with the Etymotic ones are the fact that I can use these - http://www.ebay.com.sg/itm/FOR-ETYMOTIC-ER4-IN-EARPHONE-CABLE-ADAPTOR-S-/300592438512?pt=US_Audio_Cables_Adapters&hash=item45fcb49cf0&_uhb=1

So it can be run it off the stock cable when going to work or run with any westone cable and the International at home.

@sardar17
The DX90 looks impressive!
dual sabre:woot:
 

esanthosh

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@Ritvik,

I haven't kept up-to date with head-fi. But, when I was active (1.5 - 2 yrs?), LMUE was reliable. Someone even got GR01 from them. Not sure if they have maintained the same level of service.

Do read all reviews of VC1000 for any mention of sibilance. It is VSonic's 'signature tuning'. If it is hot in that zone, better to go for ER4S.

@sardar17,

Specs are great for DX90, but that is only on paper. I only hope they release something with usable firmware this time.

In other news: 2800 words and counting. Half way into my blabber piece on SE535LTD-J. Will probably complete tomorrow today or Monday. Here's hoping that no one reads it to completion and no one ever asks me to do reviews again!