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View Full Discussion I have participated in the previous Nuforce Blue Box (HEM 2-4-6-8) gamble. I got HEM4.
Coming from my old UE TripleFi 10s, I had mixed feelings about the sound of HEM4.
* Much more comfortable fit. Nuforce just want to stay inside your ears unlike the TF10 (even with L/R swap mod).
* More resolving, yet lacking something, muddy. In hind sight, it's probably the V shaped treble of Ultimate Ears.
My advice to new owners: be prepared to be disappointed, initially. This is normal. The HEMs require some burn-in to open up (and this is coming from a burn-in skeptic me). So, keep on listening or leave them playing constantly for a day or two.
Another advice is to do the "spiral dot mod":
If you don't want to follow external link or if it gets removed, you essentially replace the included rubber tips with other - wider bore - tips.
The trick is, since HEM nozzle is very thin, most of the wide tips won't fit the stem. So, you have to made the stem thicker by putting one of the original tips in reverse and rolling it back (inside out) onto the IEM body. Afterwards, you put a wide bore tip of your choice on the now-thicker stem of the earpiece. A lot of people seem to prefer JVC Spiral Dot you can buy from 'zon or 'bay. This is what I used but I'm fairly sure any tip with a wide bore (opening) will do.
After listening for HEM4s for a week I came to prefer them over my old TF10s. They are definitely more sensitive and resolving. In fact, they will make you hate imperfections in your audio tract and give you a bout of upgradetitis. I am not a musician and do not have golden ears, plus I'm 40, so my upper frequency threshold is naturally lower; yet, I noticed the following with HEMs:
- minor noise floor on my ALC1150 (yes, this is no audiophile grade soundcard but very decent compared to old days integrated solutions)
- difference in sound between AIMP3 player and Foobar2000. The latter is slightly more detailed, using the same (WASAPI or ASIO) settings
- on my OnePlus One phone (once again, not the best DAC source) I noticed the difference between PowerAmp and UAPP (USB Audio Player Pro)
Most testing / comparing was performed with lossless sources, some were hi-res (96/24 to 192/24).
So, as a consequence, I have now switched to Foobar as my windows media player, I have bought UAPP for my phone. I have ordered a Centrance DACportable as a combo solution for my phone and work desktop. Still yearning for "mo' better", I have bought HEM8 (private party, $350) which was, also, an upgrade to HEM4 in bass and treble department (but it's a subject for a different conversation).
In conclusion, a little fly in the ointment. In solely my humble opinion, these IEMs should be priced a bit lower: HEM2 - $125, HEM4 - $200, HEM3 - $275, HEM8 - $350. If needed, cut costs on fancy "premium packaging" which, while nice, adds little to the audio quality. Keep the OFC silver plated cable, or make it more rugged and offer it as accessory at a non-gouging price.
TL;DR From personal experience with HEM4 and HEM8, both are great IEMs. Both REQUIRE initial burn-in for a few days. Wide bore tip mod highly recommended. Should be priced lower - search for a better deal elsewhere.