Reviewing IEMs

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The more I listen to different IEMs of a similar subgroup, the more challenging I find it to tell them apart in significant ways.  I’m developing a greater appreciation of professional reviewers.  Not only is it difficult to remember specific characteristics while switching between units, but then one has to eloquently describe the differences such that the average reader will understand what one is hearing.  In addition, I find that the better these IEMs are becoming, the more difficult it is to critique them.  So many of them are so good now!  Even the lines between items with quite large price differences are becoming increasingly blurred.   I’m starting to find that the as a consumer, you need to know what type of sound you’re looking for, then choose the best technology for your preferences (all balanced armatures, hybrid designs, or only dynamic drivers).  Then it comes down to preference in tuning or “house sound”.  The differences between IEMs with similar technologies and tunings are becoming increasingly minute.   This is why I’m becoming more and more skeptical when someone says one IEM is “vastly superior to” or “in a different league than” an equivalent IEM from another brand.   That’s why I admire reviewers who state the differences that they hear, and maybe comment on their personal preferences, but ultimately leave it to the consumer to chose what they prefer.  My 2c ramblings.
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aebrae
25
Dec 13, 2019
It's a marketing conspiracy, let's be real.
Slater91
207
Oct 30, 2019
As a reviewer, and a non-native English speaker too, I find incredibly hard sometimes to find the words to describe the sound. Most importantly, I find it incredibly harder as time passes by to find the time to try all the different IEMs. It may not be apparent, but testing IEMs requires a lot of time - listening to various genres in various conditions is essential to get an idea of what to expect, and that often takes a week of constant use, if not more. It's hard. And I totally approve your analysis when you say that one must know what to look for in terms of tuning. It's a mare magnum which is difficult to sail in if you don't know where to set sail for. I, too, am sceptical about claims of "this kills that" or "this steamrollers that", though sometimes there are really noticeable differences that can induce me in saying "ok, this is better than that". It's rarely a "black or white" situation, most often it is "this product is better at this, this other product is better at that". Thank you for sharing your ideas anyway, they're a valuable feedback I can use to improve my work!
joeftan
348
Oct 30, 2019
Thank you for being a reviewer. We consumers really depend on quality reviews.
joeftan
348
Oct 30, 2019
Oh, certainly. I agree. I only showed Chi-fi IEMs, b/c that’s what I have purchased from Drop. I do NOT think a KZ hybrid matches something like the CA Solaris. I do think the idea of IEMs becoming so good within their categories, that the differences often come down to personal preferences holds true though. For instance, one may clearly prefer the CA Andromeda over the JH 13 Pro v2, but to say it’s “far superior” is silly. They’re both very good. It is notable, however, how good some of the Chi-fi IEMs are becoming now, such that they are starting to rival the big brands. Those Chi-fi IEMs are of course somewhat pricey themselves, but are great deals comparatively.
The whole Chi-fi sub community for IEM's is full of hyberbole (ironically similar to the high end IEM community they often disparage). There are only so many different combinations of off the shelf drivers in various form factors. Good value to be had for sure. But...there is only so much you can do until you start developing your own dynamic drivers, custom ordering BA's or employing various "other" technologies like ADEL, JH's 4 pin bass adjustment, etc...
(Edited)
jaydunndiddit
3222
Oct 30, 2019
I agree it's not about the drivers wholly, but how the various technologies come into play. Housing venting, open/closed, various tuning tubes and chambers, how the crossovers are setup, of at all, etc. And this is before we get into tip selection which plays a big role too. I've never understood the circle jerk around using Sonion/Knowles drivers since the other aspects above matter so much more. DD material/design is a different beast though IMO as they vary much more wildly it seems.