Wednesday, 30 November 2011

New Earsonics Headphone Amp

I just learned (from Earsonics) that there will be a new headphone amp being released by Earsonics, in 'a few days', designed for their IEM. With my EM4 coming, I will eagerly awaiting this product!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Headphone Amp Ordered

After some quick research, I settled on a pre-built version of the O2 amp, purchased from JDS Labs, an open source headphone amp project. The main reason that I went for this headphone amp initially was:
  1. Cheap.
  2. Low noise.
  3. High measured performance.
  4. No time to DIY or try our more expensive options.
According to the shipping information, the amp should arrive in about a week, before my Earsonics EM4 arrive. But, I will still have an opportunity to test this with my HF5 and see how they stack up. I am keen to further explore again the Vioelectric V200, and it would be great that once the EM4 arrive, that I take the O2 amp and the phones to demo and compare it against the V200.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Custom IEM and Updates

Well, it has been some time since the last post, but it has been very busy and hectic lately. We have finally moved our family and settled in Hong Kong. Quite a big adventure for us, but just settling in. All my plans for the C3g headphone amp went to bits after my last post. The Yamamoto teflon sockets just arrived last week (obviously I was gone) and the luggage left no room for anything audio. The only exception was my Calyx Coffee and the Etymotic HF5.

Well, with that change of plans, and me settling in Hong Kong, I realised that full sized headphones wasn't going to work. I spend about 2 hours on the MTR system to and from work, and to date, have been using the Ety. Small, easy to fit in the pocket, and gives a decent sound with the iPhone 4. What I can say, is that the music isn't very engaging, warm and lacks a top end sparkle. But given the current situation, I'll have to make do. Or so I thought!

From setting up a full sized headphone rig with tube amp, I have now moved my focus to highest quality IEM with small solid state amps. My search for the right IEM started with the Etymotic ER4S/P. Many describe their sound as 'bland', but accurate and surgical. Probably not what I was looking for. If anything, I am trying as best to find something that has a similar sonic signature to my well used (and loved) HD650. That warm and engaging sound. Moving on from standard (or universal fit) IEM, as I did not really like the fit and feel of any of the universals that I had, I decided on a custom fit. Having read around, it seems that custom fit gives two very important advantages; better isolation and higher comfort.

Doing a quick search on Google, I found a place in Hong Kong that does custom ear mold; Phonak. After finding this, and getting my impressions for HK$800, I also found a few others that are more focused towards the audiophile custom IEM. Phonak is more a general audiologist. Having got my custom ear mold and my list down to high end custom IEM, I started to look for shops and brands. A real benefit of Hong Kong is its abundance of audio hi-fi stores. From a quick search, I found the following; Jaben, Mingo, Kingsound and Audiophysics. Audiophysics does not sell headphones, but headphone amps.

I went to Mingo after work and had a quick sessions with the iQube V1 and the Westone ES3. A few quick notes. The iQube has background noise with the ES3. Irrespective of sound, that is off the list. The ES3 has a nice balanced sound, the mids were balanced, not too forward or recessed. The bass is quite good, firm, not flabby, but not too fat. It doesn't have a huge amount of treble sparkle, but much better than the HF5.

After this visit, I did some research and narrowed my choice down to Earsonic EM4/EM3Pro and Westone ES5. This was primarily based on various Internet reviews and commentary. Doing further research, confirms that these two brands would probably be better suited to my taste then the JH or Ultimate Ears.

So long story short, I went to Jaben a few days ago, had a quick session with the Earsonics SM3, and placed an order for the EM4. Have been told up to 4 weeks for delivery of the EM4, but was suggested that this would be a lot shorter in duration. I didn't order anything special, smoke grey for the housing with black cables. Well, I am not anticipating their arrival.

The next step, a good headphone amp.