tl;dr: Expensive does not mean good
I have a chance to audition some interesting IEMs at a local hifi store recently. Here are some impressions.
I have always been curious about IE300. However, with a price tag around AUD $450, it has never been that compelling to me. However, as the price begins to drop, my curiousity returns. So, how does IE300 sound?
Both the shape and the sound of IE300 reminds me of the Shure and Westone of the old days. In the age when IEMs have to have 10db ear gain at 3kHz and flat lower midrange to be considered “well-tuned”, IE300 has none of these characteristics. It has lot of lower mid and bass, it has almost no ear gain. Yet, somehow I like it. The lack of ear gain creates a sense of spaciousness whilst the extra lower mid is good at create the illusion of layering and sound wrapping around you.
However, the nice tuning was ruined by peaky and perhaps overly zealous treble. In an attempt to sharpen up the sound, IE300 features boosts around 5kHz and 6kHz. These peaks introduce sibilance and some weirdness to tonality. These issues are exacerbated by the fact that the drivers in IE300 are not that resolving. And whilst the bass is loud, it’s not firm nor snappy.
With all of these limitations, I have to pass this otherwise decent IEM.
When the staff at Addicted to Audio graciously offered an audition of IE900, I couldn’t be more excited. After all, this is Sennheiser flagship IEM, and perhaps one of the most technical single DD IEM on the planet. So, how does IE900 sound?
Resolving, but kind of odd.
In some sense, IE900 is like a much much more refined version of IE300. Notes are tighter, similar sounds are more easily separated, stereo images are sharper. With the “I vow to thee, my country”, I can hear the words of the men choir clearly rather than a kind-of-understandable blob of sound like with IE300.
However, IE900 has more or less the same tonality and issues as IE300. And at nearly AUD $1000 more than Andromeda 2020, I find IE900 a very unconvincing offer.
There are IEMs that are excellent without EQ. There are ones that truely shine with EQ. And then there is Audeze LCD-i4: unusable without EQ.
Since I did not want to unbox the bluetooth cable, I tried to stock cable without any EQ. And I have never heard any worse IEM. It’s hollow, nasally, yet sibilance at the same time. It was so jarring that I couldn’t recognize any benefit in terms of resolution that other reviewers mentioned.
Soundstage might be a saving grace, but it is a lifeless and unengaging staging. Perhaps the EQ cable might make this IEM a swan, but without EQ, it is such a poor value proposition.
JH Audio Lola
The man, the myth, the legend. Jerry Harvey. I have always wanted to hear one of his IEMs but never got the chance since most of his IEMs are customs and shockingly expensive. Finally, I got my hands on a Lola, a beast with 2 DD, 2 low BA, and 4 high BA. How does it sound?
Not my cup of tea.
If IE300 and IE900 are old school, then Lola is the school that they come from. No ear gain and massive peaks to sharpen up the sound. I don’t know which drivers handle the bass, but it’s not super nice. Yes, bass is loud, but it is kind of a big loosey blob of sound rather than deep, satisfying punches. On the plus side, the stage is large and deep. I found that Lola works the best with music from Bon Jovi, Michael Jackson, and similar. Perhaps that’s the intention.
Fit-wise, this is the largest and most uncomfortable IEM I have ever used. Imagine attaching the long, thin nozzle of Etymotic to a larger version of Blessing 2 shell, you have Lola. The cable is stiff and unforgiving with the metal wire inside for create the curve around ears. Again, old school. At over AUD $2000, I would rather get a custom IEM from a company with more contemporary taste. Still, I heard that these IEMs are sought after, so apparent there is a market.