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3 Budget IEMs:A noob comparo

Luxman Amplifiers India

iaudio

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3 Budget IEMs:A noob comparo


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Dichkaoon! Xears Bullets

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Hifiman RE2

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Soundmagic PL30


Tips used:
Bullets- Medium single flange silicone tips(bundled)
Interesting point to note is that, for me, because of the short nozzle of the Bullets, biflanges just wouldnt work, as they kill the bass.
Re2- Medium double flanges(bundled)
Pl30-Medium double flanges from Me elec

Isolation:
I found the isolation to be best on the Re2, followed by the xb120 with the PL30 bringing up the rear.

Fit and Comfort:
Re2,Pl30 , xb120 are all quite comfortable to wear and light enough imo. Of these, the Bullets housing protrude quite a bit because of their shape and short nozzle. However for comfort, they are fine, unless you plan to sleep listening to these iems. Re2 offer good comfort, no issues. The Pl30 is also good but fit is not as good, and the protrusion on the iems do cause problems sometimes.
Note: the xb120 does the puchk sound when one inserts it, as esanthosh edified me recently, it is referred to as driver flex!

Build quality:
The Bullet looks well built, but time will tell how it actually fares. The housing as well as the cable (J cord btw) are solid. The Re2 looks slightly flimsy. The Pl30 doesnt look well finished or solid but I know from personal experience that they can go through a nuclear holocaust and still survive.

In short what are they like:

Xears xb120: Small soundstage, good imaging, decent bass response, thick slightly warm upper bass and mids, average treble response. These will do decent duty for most kinds of music including the hip hop and electronica you throw at it.

Hifiman RE2:Good soundstage, Bass light( slight improvement with Double flange tips), detailed mids with good texture, good treble. My personal favourite of the lot. If this one had better bass, I could have easily lived with this IEM for all my music needs( for the time being!).

Soundmagic PL30: Wide soundstage, bass light, smooth mids and non fatiguing treble, but lacking finer detail of RE2 or low end extension of Xb120. I have been using them for long, and though they may not look the part, they can take a whole lot of abuse.


Pricing

Xears xb120: 19.90 Euro+ shipping( however they can be had for cheaper, as the website list price keeps fluctuating!), not directly available in India.

Hifiman RE2: Indian list price-INR 1800, Amazon- 30$

Soundmagic PL30: INR 1000, Intl pricing- $22-30.

So,it is safe to assume these IEMs are Rs 1000 IEMs except the RE2 which is pricier. However, I got mine from Amarbir as part of the open box deal for 1200, so its similar to US pricing.

Parting comments:
If I seem to convey that RE2 impressed me more in the comparo, it's because of the dynamics and textured mids than anything else. The Xears brought a smile for its overall decent handling of the spectrum, though less dynamic and textured. As for the PL30 I have been married for a while to this one, so 'nuff said.
 
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iaudio

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And for the people who are ready to brave my detailed impressions with the tracks I used, here goes.

I have followed a-b-c-a comparison for these songs. Setup used was Foobar on laptop-Nuforce dac at 10 o clock except for the last four songs which were played on Sansa Clip Plus. All songs were in lossless wav or flac format.

Fields of Gold-Eva Cassidy
The soundstage of Xears is noticeably smaller, with forward vocals. Re2 widens soundstage, with more natural yet musical vocals. There is also better detail in strings and vocals. With the same track the PL30 sounded slightly laid back, good vocals and smooth treble but lacking that bit of needed sparkle and detail in strings. Xears shows solid imaging and most sibilance of the lot.

Khwab Jo- Sankar Mahadevan, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan
Xears: Engaging vocals, good positioning of various elements hampered by a small soundstage.Re2 male vocals less powerful, slight lack of warmth, LF rumble present with xb120 but absent with re2.good spatiality. PL30 shows a wider soundstage, but with less depth. Coming back to Xears, vocal echo clearer, and the cymbal at 40sec position is clear with body, bass rumble is the best of the lot.

Saraswati-U.Rajesh
Xears: good speed, background string weight lacking, texture ok. Mandolin slightly thin/brittle.
Re2: Mandolin has better tone, string weight nil, slight lack of speed.
Pl30: Better string texture but lack weight, speed less, mandolin has good tone but notes get coagulated on fast sections.
String notes are definitely more agile with xb120. They have good tone but lack of decay makes it sound less so.

Devdas theme-Devdas OST
Now those who have heard this track will know that its a track with a lot of different sounds thrown in, resulting in some loud and complex sections. Finally, there is the sound of Devdass bottle rolling across the floor from right to left and coming to a rest.

Xears: good detail, lows impact well, good imaging of bottle.
Re2, beautiful ringing of bells, however thunder less impact and so does the whip less. Gradations of arrow vibrating are better, imaging of bottle is ok.

Pl30: tabla roll gradation not clear, build up lost, whip as not good as Xears. Arrow less clear. But imaging of bottle is good.

Dhan Dhan Dharti-Sonu Nigam( Rajneeti OST):
The bass rumble is evident with the Xears, but Sonu Nigam's voice is not powerful enough, there is a muddiness in the underlying bass.
Even with Re2, the male voice again is not powerful enough while the bass does a Houdini!
Pl30 shows a bit more bass, not low enough but clean, vocals ok.
Xears shows slight forward vocals.

Gambara-Arco Luz
The Bullets present a small soundstage, guitar and violin sound too close/crowded. String weight good but not there yet. Coming toRe2, violin has better attack, strings sound good, slightly better space, but for string weight and low note of electric guitar, look elsewhere.Pl30 has better separation but with less speed with strings and again lack string weight. The sound of guitar strings squeaking is equal on all three IEMs.

Time out-Dave Brubeck
Xears presents a decent soundstage, the saxophone sounds warm. Switch over to the RE2s,and the rough edges of the sax notes are more lucid, the attack of the drums is very good at 2:40. String plucking not clear. The Pl 30 has clear bass notes but with less lucid sax and guitar sounds and an average drum attack.
Xb120 underlying bass comes into play, quite smooth. However the sax has less texture.


Sorcerer-Michael Shreive

Re2 excellent detail, gradient, dynamics, less bass on drums.
PL better bass, sometimes booms, better air around instruments tapping/roll at 2:00 not as clear as Re2.
Xears sounds slightly veiled, less detailed, more bass but at the expense of the detail.

Mars the bringer of war-Gustav Holst
Here the better soundstage of the RE2 and the overall better dynamics help it steal a march over the Xears Bullet which resolves the various instruments but they pretty much tread on each others feat and plod a bit through the complex parts. The Pl30 too does a commendable job with its roomy soundstage and acceptable dynamics.
 

metalmickey

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out of these ive only heard pl30 and to my ears they sound great.i play aflac thru my ipod classic!.amarbir is yet to replace my fiio e1 hope it arrives soon and improves the sq more!.....anyway congrats:clapping: on the neat review of the budget iems.
 

iaudio

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Canduu, I dont think so. But you can confirm with Amarbir if he has any stock left. Also there might be used one in classifieds here or on TE.
 

metalmickey

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oh mine had controls working but there was no audio output!...i sent it back to him and its already two weeks since he promised immediate delivery of the replacement!.
 

iaudio

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Good luck with the replacement. I have had the pl30 for a while now, and I really like them. But there are better IEMs to be heard out there :)
 

santhosh

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Nice comparo iaudio. But come on iaudio...own up...this is definitely not written by a noob....we know you wrote this!!:D.
 
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AmendaHogh

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My brother has got one of these and it is pretty rocking, really pulls you in to the song by the time we start listening. Just manage to give us a feel of 3D experience.
 

iaudio

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Santhol2, I take that as a complement.

Amenda, Which one do you have out of the lot?
 
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