I must say I haven’t used any portable amps with these monitors. Why you may well ask? Well the more you listen to these high-end earphones and the more you talk to the people making them, the more you get convinced you don’t need them. These monitors are so very easy to drive straight out of an iPod, phone or audiophile DAP that you don’t need an external amp. Am I saying we don’t need portable amps and dacs anymore? No not at all. I’m a big Cypher Labs fan myself and while using one of their double stacks, or even the one-unit ones like A200p/AK10, JDSLabs C5D etc, you will of course get an even better sound. You can also use portable dacs and amps to tune the sound more to your liking but the point I am making here is you do not need any of these devices to get an already very good sound. Yes, sound can be improved even more but the beauty is you don’t need it to get started when buying some of these better IEMs or CIEMs.
Looking at the SD2 and 3 I was impressed how good a universal IEM can fit. If you can’t be bothered going to an audiologist for impressions and you don’t want to take the risk of going fully custom but you do want a better fit than a universal, then these StageDivers are certainly something to take into account: they offer you good sound from the Balanced Armatures drivers and better comfort.
Do they deliver the same top quality as my other custom IEMs? It’s close but not quite. The fit of the customs of course beats the fit of the universals and as a result the sound of the customs is still a step ahead. In defense of the StageDivers, my CIEMs all have 4 or more drivers and the SD2 with only 2 drivers delivers a very good sound compared to them. Personally I am having a very hard time deciding between the SD2 and SD3. For higher level listening and reviewing I would certainly choose the linear, detailed and correct sounding SD2. For on-the-go and use in noisy environments like in trains I would go for the more fun and bass packing SD3 but overall I find the SD2 to be the most special one.
The prices of the SD2 and SD3 are 359€ and 489€ directly from Inear. ALO in the US is selling them for $499 and $699 and Musica Acoustics in Japan is selling the SD2S and SD3S (slim versions) for ¥59.980 and ¥79.980. For these prices you can of course order CIEMs but those aren’t for everyone (audiologist visit, possible refits, resaleability and so on…). If you want to stick to universals but you also want a more than good fit and you want to enjoy top quality sound, then you really have to demo the Inear StageDivers. After you’ve listened to them you will understand why they are getting so much praise world wide.