In 2009, Sleek Audio officially released the CT6, their first custom earphone. At its introductory price of 300$, the single driver earphone dominated the budget custom earphone world with great sound and a slew of innovations at a great price point. A LOT has happened since then, and while the CT6 remains a great earphone, it has been outclassed by newcomers. Naturally, Sleek Audio couldn’t leave it at the top of their portfolio. Enter the CT7, a completely redesigned custom iem sporting dual drivers, higher sensitivity, better artwork, and one of the rawest, fastest, most impressive sounds I’ve heard at any price.
I will not get into which sound signature I am more partial to, rather the pictures are merely to illustrate the differences and similarities between both high-end iems. Sensaphonics’ 2X-S is a stodgy contender for the better part of a decade and has survived several cosmetic and build overhauls since its infancy. It is made from soft silicon, a pliable material which stretches with minute changes in the ear’s internal shape. Jerry Harvey’s JH13Pro is made out of the more traditional hard acrylic material that with a perfect fit, feels almost as comfortable as the Sensaphonics 2X-S. Differences in materials do mean a different flavour of sound; the hard acrylic of the JH audio renders extremely clean sound in all frequencies, but both earphones are incredible.
If you would like to read our review of the JH13Pro, please click here.
After 2008′s popular Image X5, which debuted at $100 less than the X10, Klipsch began expanding the affordable line of their inner earphones. In 2009, the S2 and S4 join the Image line at the more reasonable prices of $49.99 and $79.99. When Klipsch designed the new earphones, they utilised brand new drivers which were made specifically for their sound signature. So, the S4 houses a special 8mm dynamic driver which packs dual neodymium magnets and the audio performance for which Klipsch is famous. Happily, Klipsch also introduced the iPhone-friendly S4i which features a mic and remote and is priced at $99.99.
Crossroads – of MylarOne fame, have kept busy in the last couple of years, and somewhat recently, debuted the Quattro, an aluminium-bodied inner earphone with sites set high, but which remain at the almost reasonable price of 88$. Since they are only available at one place: Jaben.net, you will have to get your fingers suited up for a surf to the legendary Singaporean retailer. Word has it that Uncle Wilson (Jaben’s administrator) is trying out a 700-800$ cable upgrade for the world’s most advanced custom earphone, the Jerry Harvey 13Pro – an earphone which TMA should have in hand next month.
Established 2005 in southern California, MEELectronics focus on providing customers with quality products and services at the best prices possible. MEElectronics’ products are aimed at iPod and iPhone owners, offering a multitude of earphones and portable speakers. Today, we have their top-tier earphones with us, the Ai-M6 and the Ai-M9. Both house the same driver, same specifications, and the same sound. The difference you ask? The Ai-M6 is a $39.99 “over the ear” style inner earphone and the Ai-M9 is a $19.99 “straight down cable” style inner earphone that has a mic’d brother for only $10 more.
In the quest for the ultimate headphone, TMA has bumped into some great low-priced options as well ubiquitous top-tier earphones. Head-Direct, American distributor for fine Chinese headphone equipment, began production of its own headphone line in 2008: the RE series. The current top spot is domineered by the RE0, a headphone that only a year ago cost about double, but now happily resides at 99$. Today, the RE2 which last year cost 99$ is on table at TMA and ready to purchase at Head-Direct for only 39 bones.
If you haven’t heard of Sennheiser in your sojourn in the audio world, you have probably been living under a rock. If, however, you are new to the world of headphones, then you are forgiven, but need to be informed. Sennheiser have set many landmarks in the world of personal hi-fidelity audio including manufacturing the HE90 Orpheus which is the most expensive production headphone to date. They remain among the largest manufacturers on the planet with a resume that would embarrass Stephen Hawking and boast an impressively expanding portable line-up.