My two favorite IEMs are the Etymotic HF2/HF5 and the new Grados. It's such a personal thing that I highly recommend you try some different IEMs for yourself. Headroom is great for information and trials.
In regards to your UEs, have you tried a good amp? That can make a big difference with some cans and buds, especially the UEs. I still prefer the Etys and Grados, but you might try a nice amp to bring the best out of the UEs.
HelloFi...Many thanks for the reply. I have not tried a different amp because I am searching for a portable solution. These will mainly be used with my Droid playing 320kbs mp3 or flac so I am limited. I do realize this is not a great source for fidelity but I think it can be decent for travel/workout/dog walks etc. When at home, the big rig is my source of magic and no phones are needed.
My rationale for not blaming the source for the UE's shortcomings was the comparison to the Skullcandy.
I will begin my quest with your suggestions. Thanks again...
richard--have you considered lightweight, over-the-ear phones like igrado, sennheiser px100 or koss portapro? i personally find them more comfortable and better sounding than earbuds (like you, i can never get earbuds correctly situated).
Loomis...Thats a pretty good idea, no I had not. It certainly makes physical sense that they would sound better. I would have to see whats out there and try some on. I would be concerned that they would be bulky and limiting but I am open to it for sure, thanks!
I have similar issues with most earbud or in-ear headphones. Etymoic has a stacked mushroom ear piece that is the only one I find comfortable enough for extended usage. They are very good for eliminating back ground noise, air travel being an example, and they are compatible with Shure earbuds. You might want to give them a try.
Shure SE420's have a nice low end and sound good overall.
JH Audio Pro will do the job for you.
Great suggestions guys, thanks so much.
I was having a hard time sleeping last night and started thinking about this thread for some odd reason. I was laughing inside...what the heck...this is such an odd curse to have. 99% of the population are perfectly happy listening to their mp3's through standard earbuds but no...not me. I need to spend tons of money and days/weeks of my life trying to find the "right" ones. Then more hours/days finding the right file converter, then the best file type, then enough storage to accommodate and so on...I guess it beats collecting ceramic horsey figurines....maybe...
So anyway...I spent some time reading about Etymotic and those look pretty interesting. Maybe the 6i? I am going to see if there is a store that carries them around here.
For kicks, I went to Bestbuy and the only "highend" phones they had were Monster Turbine. I bought them knowing I could take them back and they sound worse than the UE. Again, no bass at all and super bright. So far, the cheap Skullcandy are still better! The Monster did have a very fancy case and binder and you can supposedly take a hammer to them, not sure why....
Richard_stacy, I would recommend the HF2/HF5 and ER4P over the 6i. The 6i doesn't sound as good as the HF series and ER4P, and they don't fit as snug because of the short, stubby capsule.
The HF2 and HF5 are the same, except the HF2 adds a microphone for use with a phone. If you spend anytime talking on a phone (especially in noisy places), the HF2 is great. I don't understand Etys way of using "model numbers". The "2, 4, 5 and 6" don't run in any particular order to help explain which is the better model.
Here is a list of Etys starting with the best sounding:
2. HF5 or HF2
Depending on what the application is, will determine what ER4 is best. The "P" version is great for listening with iPods and portable players without an external amp. The "S" version is for applications when a good headphone amp/output is used. The "B" version is for special binaural recording applications and is not recommended for consumer music listening.
There is a new MC model coming soon, but I have not had time to listen to them. They are suppose to be an entry level model, so the ER4 and HF2/5 are still the models to look at.
Without getting into the good/better/best concept, I'm using the Westone 3 earphones. I've had them about a year and for me at least they sound great and are very comfortable. I walk and or run every day, so I use them 1-2 hours every day with an iPhone as a music source. I do over 2000 miles/year so that's a lot of earphone time.
Westone is in Colorado and was primarily in the hearing aid business so that's probably why they are comfortable. The Westone 3 has actually 3 balanced armature drivers (3 way crossover) in each earphone so the sound is good. They also seal well and you don't get much outside sound so you can keep the volume lower hopefully saving your hearing.
Hope this helps...
Once again, great stuff.
Hellofi...Sounds like the P version is what I am looking for. I think I read that those are sold at the Apple store so I may try to run out there although they may not carry the ER4 being more of a higher end piece. There are a ton on Ebay but prolly to big a risk.
Pk...I had not heard of that brand but will research them as well. Thank you.
i used to be big on earphones and headphones before moving into speakers
depending on your budget, i'd look into the shure se530 or westone 3
for cheaper options, the klipsch x10 and head-direct re0
ety's are good for accuracy/detail, but they are on the bright/cold side.. not very musical and not much bass
Richard_stacy, I have used the ER-4P since 2000 and keep them at home since the HF-2 came out. They both sound great with my iPhone and I really like the microphone and "button" on the HF-2 for talking and working out.
There is a newer version of the HF-2 coming out soon that will have three "buttons" on the mic for volume. I will probably get them because I use workout a lot and like having easy access to those controls without reaching in my pocket and looking at the screen. Most Apple Stores carry the HF-2.
One thing I can highly recommend is trying the different tips that come with the Etys. This makes a big difference in sound quality and comfort. Everyone's ears are different, and you want to make sure your have a good seal, while still being comfortable.
Hmmm...Mrk's comments have me a bit concerned about the Ety because those issues are exactly what I did not like about the UE and Turbine. Zero musicality and even less bass. I am not so much concerned about the controls because the Droid does most of that stuff on its own (switches call/ring to earphones, pause etc). All you iphone folks should check one out! You also can choose a variety of players with different features as well as file formats. I can go on and on about all the benefits of the Droid vs Iphone but way off topic...Back to the phones...I can only assume that the reason is the UE are designed for better sources vs portable players. Mrk were the Ety's you are referring to the ones they designed for portable players or the hifi ones?
Like all things audio, I started and could not stop. I did finally find a way to get a seal with the UE's but found them to me muddy and loaded in the mids. This seems odd to me as all the reviews I have read suggest that they are ultra clear to the point of being bright and etchy. Not so inside my head. So on to the Etymotic HF2...again, very hard time finding a seal but eventually found the rounded little foam tips to work, not the comply but the funny circle looking ones. These buds were the clearest, most detailed I have heard yet and close to what I think I am searching for. The big issue was the lack of bass...total lack of bass. So on to the Westone 3...only tips that seal for me were the large Xmas tree type and they seal well. These are a very comfortable design and are sort of a cross between the UE and Ety in sound. I prolly can live with them but the bumped up mids bother me, similar to the UE. They also lack the clarity and air of the ETY. So on to the Etymotic ER4P...these are in transit to me now and I am hoping they are the ones for me. From what I liked about the HF2, they should be. My wish is for a little more bass without the exaggerated midrange. I am looking forward to it!
Another interesting point about this whole thing is just how good the player in the Moto Droid can sound. With these good buds, it certainly sounds close to a decent HiFi rig and in some ways better. This came as a pleasant surprise.
Thanks for all that offered input. It was a strong jumpstart for my search.