Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Audio Technica ATH-IM70 earphone home user review

Disclaimer: I'm not an audiophile and my listening preference is toward balance tone or minor v-shape. Hence my review and listening experience may bias to certain characteristic. Your mileage may vary (YMMV).

Short story:
Recommended for people who are: Prefer more bass in their music, probably preference in music genre such as dance, electronic or house.  Love equalizer (EQ), spacious or live music

Not recommended for people who are: Balance tone lover, purist, analytical, love accuracy, studio sound.


Long story:
I bought my pair of IM70 from Minidisc (after price match) without auditioning them. I made my decision on getting the IM70 solely based on online reviews and frequency response charts (I won't be doing this adventure again and should go for the earphone audition before putting my hard earn money on risk no matter how little :D)

Pros
  1. Great rumble bass response (check the cons where I find the bass is too much for my taste). My first impression on the bass region that it has full/rumble bass and sort of giving my eardrum some massage. My thought is that it's perfect for dance or electronic music. Bass guitar and low tone detail can be easily picked up. This may thanks to the dual symphonic driver which it has one dedicated bass driver.

  2. High frequency is smooth and clear. The high sounded smooth, clear and easy listening. I picked up details more than stock earphone but not up to a point that it really surprises me. Furthermore, the treble is not analytical/bright either and hence the easy listening impression. The advantage of the smooth treble is that it allows long listening without treble keeps piercing to your head.

  3. Mid is slight forward and well presented. Overall, it sounded full, smooth and detail.
  4. Sound-stage is wider than single driver earphone. There is a very, very small touch of reverb (echo) effect that I believe it created a slight air/ wide sounding. Listening to live music feels like a sitting in the actual event. It's good, but also might be a turn off some who prefer to studio environment and accuracy. Wide sound-stage may also cause some confusion because some musical instrument with the echo effect may sound not so familiar.

    My second take on the wide sound-stage is that it improves the sound on gaming and movie on smartphones. Big plus here.

  5. Easy to drive and has more volume compared to my listening collection.

  6. Over ear wearing style and bright red color works and looks fine for me. Some say they are intimidated by the color, but I find there are more people out there wearing bright red headphone and nobody cares. Anyway, the over ear cable reduces cable noise and secure the earphone in the ear. The housing is not very stuck out while wearing, In short, I like the look, the design and the color.

  7. Different sizes ear-tip included. One pair of mid size comply form tip  and 3 different size pairs of silicon ear-tips included.

  8. Great build quality with detachable cable. IM70 cable is replaceable. The cable came with it is sturdy but not as impressive as Shure cable (which I find them the best cable quality of all). The housing is well built and feels solid.

Cons
  1. IM70 is not a balance earphone (EQ may required). The Bass, by default without EQ, is taking over the music presentation. This has negative effect where I find the mid is laid back and the bass detail kinda punch to your face (Yes, it's bad). Fortunately, IM70 response well to EQ and tuning down the mid bass region tame the bass a little and allowed me to turn up the volume without having the bass slamming to my eardrum too hard. Once the EQ got it right, it sounds amazing.

    For some, this may be the deal breaker, especially for music purists (no equalizer, preamp or other mixer that gets the way and wanted the music presentation as the artist intended) or lazy people who doesn't want to bother at spending time on EQ.

  2. Comfort is average due to earphone nozzle and housing is slightly large. For people with small ear or ear canal may find problems with the wearing comfort. Insertion is rather deep and may cause some discomfort. 

  3. Noise isolation is average. The may due to the bass port in the back of the housing. Some say changing the ear tips to comply might help on the noise isolation. My recommendation is NOT to use the comply form tips because it sucks away some of the treble energy. Changing the ear tip from mid to large also helps with the noise isolation. Plus the large tip helps in holding up the earphone.

  4. Included pouch feels cheap. Black color drawstring pouch. I think Audio Technica can do better.

  5. No headset/mic for picking up calls.
     
  6. Headphone amp is preferable. Although IM70 does not required amp to drive, however having the amp will helps bring out the sound-stage and more clarity. Recommended if you can pair IM70 with an amp.

  7. Price is high for home users. There are cheaper options out there (e.g. XiaoMi Hybrid, Piston3 with price less than $50). Part of the IM70 value may contribute to the replaceable cable feature and great build quality.

Shure SE215 Comparison



There is a vast difference between the two and I had to re-listen to my music collection as the IM70 picks up additional detail on the bass region which SE215 lacks. Furthermore, SE215 has more engaging vocal, with the clarity in the treble region where IM70 sounds fuller and musical. Wide sound-stage gives a fair advantage for the IM70 (works well on gaming and video), live music sounds terrific (after EQ) and more suited to the general listening with the present of rumble bass. On the other hand, SE215 has its strong features, with the unbeatable noise isolation (allows low volume listening), wearing comfort and more present of treble region where some may find it more enjoyable.



Summary

Is it a bad purchase? After I got the EQ right, I think overall IM70 is a winner. It's definitely an upgrade for people who coming from stock earphone and wanted more bass rumble, smooth treble and wide soundstage in their music presentation. It got great build quality, style and features. The downside is some may find the bass may be too much for music.


In the end, everyone has different listening preference and the fail safe option is always "try before you buy" like get a audition on the earphone and you will never go wrong.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Croc Shoe

I had this pair of Croc shoe more than 5 years now and it's still going strong. 

Amazed. 

I thought of capturing this moment and put my personal artifact here.