Review of the InEar StageDiver 3 Universal Fit High-End In-Ear Earphones

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InEar StageDiver 3 Universal Fit High-End In-Ear Earphones

Price: Roughly £415.00

~ An Elliot Holmes Review ~

PROS

•    Excellent separation between frequencies with plenty of bass punch, clear highs and strong mids.
•    Braided cable to stave off breaks and reinforced with flexible wire to ensure they maintain the cable shape around your ear.
•    Cleverly shaped ear-pieces to ensure a comfortable fit and plenty of noise isolation.

CONS

•    The ear-pieces are fairly large so they aren’t the most discreet earphones.
•    They require a fair bit of driving power so they’re best used with a powerful DAP or stereo system.
•    The cabling doesn’t seem to be user replaceable but that’s only really a potential issue outside the warranty period.

INTRODUCTION

InEar aren’t a brand which I was familiar with before reading praise for them on various forums out there on the interwebs but now that I’ve been able to try these monsters out I can see why they’re so deserving of the praise they are receiving. In fact I think I might have just found my new favourite brand of earphones.

Hailing from Germany, and bringing with them the best in German engineering, the StageDiver range of earphones from InEar are definitely out to impress and give the more established brands a run for their money. Basically these earphones not only look professional but they have the sound quality to match.

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DESIGN

Not content with designing their earphones to mimic pretty much all the other brands out there (you know the style I mean) InEar actually built the housing for these earphones around over 500 overlapping scans of different ear impressions. This allowed them to develop several prototypes in-house which were then tested by their customers. Thanks to the scans and feedback from lab-rat customers they were able to build housing for the StageDiver range to fit near-perfectly in to almost any ear.

To look at them in flesh I have to admit that they seem a bit large and scary at first glance. Like chubby, oddly shaped beetles. But, and it’s a big but, looks are apparently very deceiving as the fit was excellent and the demo set I tried were every bit as comfortable as my old Shure SE210 earphones (I hope whoever stole them is enjoying them). During the days I was testing them I had them in my ears for significant lengths of time – more on that later – and they remained comfortable and stayed in place the whole time.

Despite them being a bit larger than some of their cousins you can quite clearly see the design process that InEar have gone through to create them. They housing for the buds looks remarkably like a custom mold, since they are shaped for the contours of an ear, but obviously while still not being unique to your actual ear, as it’s based on those 500 odd scans, so can be used be virtually anyone.

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SOUND

Using a DAP:

Now, I’m used to decent sounding earphones, since I get to play on so many different sets working here, but these absolutely blew me away with their sound quality.

The overall sound is best described as being big but with plenty of subtlety. What I mean by this is that while there’s plenty of punch everything cuts through clearly and it doesn’t sound like any particular frequency is struggling to be heard in the mix. Cymbals sounded especially excellent though as they were so crisp and lively; considering that I normally only listen out for snare and bass drum tone the simple fact that I stopped what I was doing and mouthed “WOW” at a simple hi-hat lift and how good it sounded is quite telling.

Initially I was testing these earphones on my phone, since that’s become my main music device, and they did sound great but as my phone doesn’t have the highest output it wasn’t really making the most of them and that was a terrible shame. Not despairing though I grabbed our sample iBasso DX50 and switched it to high gain mode. With high gain mode active and the DX50 set to a decent volume level the real quality of the StageDiver 3 earphones definitely came through. Fantastic level of details, clear tonal balance and a huge amount of punch were all noticeable and every song I played through them sounded incredible.

Moreover, the StageDiver 3 earphones also coped pretty well with the poorer sounding albums in my collection which was a very pleasant surprise as I’m used to them sounding like the lo-fi horrors that they are. Don’t get me wrong, these tracks didn’t suddenly sound incredible, but they did sound a lot more vibrant than before and there was a great deal more definition as opposed to the normal noise that I was used to.

In fact I like the StageDiver 3 earphones so much when listening to a stereo or digital audio player I wanted to really put them through their paces. Fortunately through sheer coincidence I had a fantastic test in mind for them – a recording studio.

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In the Studio:

Over the years I’ve spent a fair bit of time in studios, recording music that no one will hear, and have always disliked the run-of-the-mill headphones which most studios and engineers seem to favour – mostly this is because they’re incredibly frustrating as a drummer since they move around on your head so much. Not this time I said (mostly to myself), no, no, no. This time I will have earphones that will let me hear what is going on and won’t blind me when they fall in front of my face.

When we finally had all the microphones set up, instruments tuned plus a steady flow of donuts and coffee organised I was finally able to sit down behind the kit and wire myself in. I have to say that at this point that as silly as it sounds I’m glad that InEar provide you with a 1/4″ adapter as I don’t carry one of those around with me and that would have made connecting them to the engineer’s headphone-box-thing a bit problematic otherwise.

The sound from the StageDiver 3 earphones in the studio was very decent and was perfect for my monitoring needs. The drum sounds coming through, and I generally have this low in the mix so I can hear the guitars better, managed to cut through the bass and guitar guide tracks effectively so I could pick up on missed hits and so on. Furthermore, the guide tracks sounded detailed so I knew exactly what was going on and make it extremely easy to keep in time (we didn’t have time to set up click-tracks so this was really helpful). The noise isolation was also very effective as I didn’t get a huge amount of the acoustic sound from my drum kit so the guide track didn’t have to cope with in-room noise.

As I mentioned at the start of this section, the main problem I have with using traditional headphones when recording is that they move around a lot so half the time I’m focusing on the headphones falling over my face or down the back of my head more than the actual recording. The StageDiver 3 earphones solved this particular problem straight away since they’ve obviously designed to stay in your ear and not move around; which is precisely what I want when recording so my focus isn’t disturbed. While I did expect these earphones to be an immediate improvement – after all I’d already been using them with players – what I didn’t expect was how comfortable they’d be for prolonged periods of time.

Considering that we entered the studio at 10am and didn’t leave until 9pm I really did expect to experience some serious ear pain from having the earphones in for a very, very long time. Thankfully my ears only really started to get a bit sore towards the end of the session and I believe that was mostly from the volume of the guide tracks as opposed to the actual fit causing a problem.

Due to how well they performed as reference earphones in the studio during I’d have now trouble at all in recommending them if you have some studio time coming up – I imagine that they’d be just as good in a live environment as well if you’re looking for live personal monitoring.

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CONCLUSION

In all seriousness these are very expensive earphones and due to their cost I doubt many people will pick them up for personal listening needs. That said I have seen people using Shure SE535 earphones with mobile phones so I guess that may not ring true.

What I would say is that if you have a premium sounding player, like an Astell & Kern AK100 or a Fiio X3 etc, then these earphones are a great set to consider. They sound stunning and are really comfortable so would definitely give other similarly priced models and brands a good run for their money.

Moreover, because they sounded great and worked so well for me in a somewhat professional capacity they’d certainly be worth seriously considering if you are a musician who wants earphones for monitoring in a studio or live on stage.

I only wish I could keep the review set now as it’s going to be hard to part with them.

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