AUDIO TECHNICA CK100
Like the Etymotics Research ER4P, the CK100 is also brilliant with treble, though in different ways. Both IEMs have the best treble of the group, but presented in a different style. If the ER4P is famous for its fast and precise treble, the CK100 is more refined and luxurious. If the ER4P has a certain attack with the treble, the CK100 is more smooth
The CK100 is also similar to the ER4P in that both lacks bass, but again, in different ways. The CK100 has a fuller body from bottom to top, yet it is the ER4P that actually has more slam in the bass.
A lot of people would really like it if their IEM has a treble like the CK100. Sadly, we find the CK100 to lack bass impact and slam, and it turns out to be a disadvantage that makes it hard for us to make a recommendation for it.
ULTIMATE EARS TRIPLE.FI 10
The Triple.Fi 10 for a long time has gained a big number of fans with its musically exciting sound. It remains our number one recommendation for Rock Music, with its gritty treble, good bass slam, and a slight airy sound. The sound is not bright or piercing like a Grado headphone, but somehow the Triple.Fi 10 is still very good with Rock.
One thing worth noting is that if the Westone 3 has a bump in the upper bass, the Triple.Fi 10 actually raises the entire bass spectrum to give a nice bass slam without the feeling of a bass “hump” like on the Westone 3. As with the Shure SE530, being older in the market certainly doesn’t mean inferior in this case. And I feel that the Triple.Fi 10 , along with the Westone 3 and the Shure SE530, are going to be our recommendation for the majority of people.
Fit is one problem that we have to outline with the Triple.Fi 10, as not that many people appreciate the its ergonomics design. The Triple.Fi 10 may easily have the worst fit out of all the other IEMs in this comparison.
At the end, most people would expect a ranking from best to worst. We are not going to do this, not because we are playing it safe, but in reality, every IEM has their own sound that will work better for some music and to some people than others. A ranking will only show our music and listening preferences, and we are not going to do this. However, we will make some general recommendations:
The Westone 3, the Triple.Fi 10, and the Shure SE530 are our favorite all rounders. Most people would be happy with these three.
The Sennheiser IE8 is the only choice for a basshead.
The UM3X, the Audio Technica CK100 and the Etymotics ER4P are quite niche, though they do have their own specialities that the others don’t have.
The STAX SR-001 Mk2 is superb, if you’re willing to live with a portable amplifier.
Special thanks to Dayak, Questa, Denging, Brian, and Dhani for making this shootout possible.