2015 In-Ear Earphone Buyer’s Guide by Sound Signature


If you have an idea of the type of sound you prefer, all that’s left is to decide on a budget and pick out your ideal earphone. However, the earphone market is huge and encompasses everything from dollar-store buds to $2000 custom-fit monitors. Differences between them abound, but neither price nor brand name guarantee that you’re getting the very best performance for your needs.

We’ve tested over 300 earphones from all around the world in order to find the best values for every preference and budget. For this guide we confined our selections to sets currently available in the US, whether through a US-based or global retailers. Besides sound quality, we considered factors such as construction quality, comfort, and convenience, holding pricier models to a higher standard.

In addition to considering your preferred sound signature and desired functionality – whether it is high noise isolation or an inline microphone for headset use – consider the audio source you plan to use. While most dedicated mp3 players sound pretty good, other sources such as smartphones and computers may not pair well with sensitive earphones. It may be safer to select an earphone with lower sensitivity and higher impedance – these sets will be less prone to revealing noise and more forgiving of the high output impedance of subpar sources. If you have to choose between upgrading your source and headphones, going for the headphones will maximize your sound quality per dollar, but keep in mind that higher-end sets will need a decent source to shine.

This guide covers 4 basic sound signature types: basshead, warm and smooth, V-shaped, and balanced. These groupings were created to give a basic understanding of the different types of sound signatures available but all earphones, even those in same group, will differ in audio performance. The goal is to be able to better understand your preferences through contrast so you can find the best sound for you.

Lastly, keep in mind the importance of a good fit with your earphones. Most in-ears were designed to maintain a tight seal with the ear canal and their sound quality will suffer tremendously with a poor fit. Check out our earphone fit guide for info on how to wear your in-ear headphones.

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These earphones are for fans of heavy bass and typically place bass impact, depth, and power above all else. Because heavily enhanced mid-bass often results in bloated, boomy sound, we focused on finding earphones that provide deep, rumbling sub-bass. Outside of the lower frequencies they can be balanced or emphasize treble for a v-shaped sound.

Below $50




JVC HA-FX101 ($14) – JVC’s enhanced-bass “Xtreme Xplosives” earphones are a bargain find for the bass-obsessed, combining plentiful bass with prominent, somewhat harsh treble. The overall sound is competent, if slightly unrefined compared to pricier sets, but two things are certain – the low end is sure to please bass fans and the sound is excellent for the price. It comes in several colors and a version with a built-in microphone and remote, the FR201, is also available. Read full review

Buy (amazon.com) | Manufacturer’s Page

Nuforce NE-600X

Nuforce NE-600X

Nuforce NE-600X ($15)
Drawing on the tuning of the company’s higher-end models, the NE-600X from California-based Nuforce delivers a bass-heavy sound without sacrificing overall performance. Coupled with the recent price drop, this makes it one of the best values around not only for fans of big bass, but all casual listeners in need of an inexpensive earphone. Read full review

Buy (amazon.com) | Manufacturer’s Page

NarMoo S1

NarMoo S1


NarMoo S1 ($32 – $35) – The S1 is a dual dynamic driver earphone with separate 10- and 6mm dynamic drivers in each earpiece. The 10mm acts as a subwoofer, delivering powerful bass. The overall sound signature is smooth and full-bodied, avoiding the recessed midrange and rolled-off treble so many entry-level bass-heavy earphones suffer from and delivering better clarity compared to the RHA MA350, my previous recommendation in this segment. The housings are on the large side, but very solidly built and comfortable except in small ears. Read full review

Buy (amazon.com) / (NarMoo.com – use coupon code “THL”) | Manufacturer’s page


Retired: RHA MA350, PADACS Aksent PD114



Velodyne vPulse

Velodyne vPulse

Velodyne vPulse ($80 – $100) – The first ever earphone from the subwoofer experts at Velodyne, the vPulse is a full-featured headset with solid sound quality. It delivers a subwoofer-like emphasis on deep bass, smooth treble, and better clarity compared to entry-level basshead earphones. Tangle-free flat cables and comfortable angled-nozzle housings further set this mid-range headset apart from the competition. The vPulse also features an inline microphone and 3-button remote. Read full review

Buy (amazon.com) | Manufacturer’s Page

HiSoundAudio Wooduo2

HiSoundAudio Wooduo2

HiSoundAudio Wooduo 2 ($60 – $100)
– Though HiSoundAudio is better-known for their high-end mp3 players and amplifiers, the company has actually been manufacturing earphones just as long. The Wooduo 2 is HiSound’s idea of a proper basshead earphone, one that produces the lowest frequencies without any drop-off or distortion. In addition to some of the most powerful subbass on the market, the Wooduo 2 offers surprisingly good clarity and prominent, well-extended treble. Complete with a unique – if a bit gaudy – aesthetic, the Wooduo 2 is an all-around competent basshead delight. Read full review

Buy (amazon.com) / (ebay.com) | Manufacturer’s Page

Over $100

Retired: Future Sonics Atrio MG7

Warm and smooth

These earphones are characterized by moderately enhanced bass and level, sometimes laid-back treble. Emphasis on the mid-bass region typically gives them a characteristically rich, full-bodied sound.

Below $50


Xiaomi Piston 2

Xiaomi Piston 2

Xiaomi Piston 2 ($20 – 25) – The second-generation Piston earphones from Chinese electronics giant Xiaomi make the perfect budget headset for the smartphone crowd, combining a 3-button Android remote and warm, full-bodied sound with plentiful bass. While higher-end earphones can point out where the audio quality of the Piston 2 falls slightly short, in the age of internet radio this really may be all the performance many users need. With so few full-featured Android headsets on the market, the Xiaomi Piston 2 is a must-have for any Android user. Read full review

Buy (amazon.com) / (ebay.com) / (ibuygou.com)


Dunu Trident

Dunu Trident

Dunu Trident ($25 – $35) – This unique-looking earphone showcases great attention to detail – its packaging, build quality, and design are all worthy of a higher price tag. While the Sony MH1C, SteelSeries Flux, and even Xiaomi Piston 2 all sound clearer and more refined, the Trident impresses with a warm and smooth signature that’s easy to enjoy and difficult to dislike. With a conventional cable, the Trident is also easier to live with every day than the MH1C and its packaging makes it a superior gift. Read full review

Buy (ebay.com) / (amazon.com) | Manufacturer’s Page

Sony MH1C

Sony MH1C


Sony MH1C ($23 – $80) Sony’s diminutive smartphone headset can commonly be found well below its retail price, but even at the full $80 MSRP the MH1C is a good deal solely for its superb audio quality. The earphone provides a warm, enhanced-bass sound with surprisingly good clarity and treble presence. The small size and soft eartips ensure long-term comfort, with the only downsides being the asymmetric flat cable and remote designed for Sony Xperia phones (it still has limited Apple and Android functionality) Read full review

Buy (ebay.com) / (amazon.com) | Manufacturer’s Page




Fidue A63

Fidue A63

Fidue A63 ($60) – Fidue is one of the newest manufacturers on this list, but the team behind their IEMs is anything but inexperienced. The A63 is the company’s very first mid-range earphone, but it ticks pretty much all the boxes for sound quality. Solid bass impact and strong midrange presence are complemented by an uncongested soundstage and treble that is neither harsh nor sibilant. I like the construction, as well. The only downside is that the sharp edges of the housings necessitate some fiddling to find a truly comfortable fit, especially for those with small outer ears – a small concession, but it takes away slightly from what is otherwise an outstanding product. Read full review

Buy (amazon.com) / (ebay.com) / (mp4nation.net)| Manufacturer’s Page


Shure SE215

Shure SE215

Shure SE215 ($99) – Shure has been a serious presence in the professional in-ear monitor market for more than a decade, and it certainly shows in the refinement of their entry-level model. The SE215 is ergonomic, highly-isolating, and boasts a detachable, user-replaceable cable. The sound of the SE215 is smooth, with enhanced bass and relaxed treble. The dynamic microdriver also delivers impressive clarity and detail. It may not be a sonic upgrade to the Sony MH1C, but with durability and other considerations factored in, the SE215 delivers almost too much performance for the price. An optional mic+remote cable for the SE215 is available. Read full review

Buy (amazon.com) | Manufacturer’s Page

Retired: HiSoundAudio CrystalSteelSeries Flux In-Ear

Over $100




RHA MA750 / MA750i ($120)Scottish audio manufacturer RHA scores another hit with the flagship MA750 monitors, which combine a warm and lush sound, spacious presentation, and good bass presence. The MA750 is less bassy compared to the pricier Yamaha EPH-100 and has more presence in the lower treble for a somewhat v-shaped sound, but otherwise is just as competent. Construction quality is extremely impressive, with stainless steel housings and thick cabling. The earphones should be comfortable for most listeners thanks to the over-the-ear fit and molded earhooks, and isolate surprisingly well. The MA750i model adds a mic and 3-button Apple remote. Read full review

Buy (amazon.com) | Manufacturer’s Page

Yamaha EPH-100

Yamaha EPH-100

Yamaha EPH-100 ($100 – $150)
– Yamaha’s flagship earphone provides big sound in a small package, based around a dynamic microdriver wrapped in a compact, comfortable, and well-built aluminum shell. Noise isolation is outstanding and the sound quality is great as well, with strong bass, lush mids, and smooth – albeit slightly docile – treble. Add a dynamic presentation and impressive stereo imaging, and the EPH-100 is easily one of the best-performing earphones in its price class. Read full review

Buy (amazon.com) | Manufacturer’s Page


Enhanced bass and treble make for an exciting, v-shaped sound with these earphones, providing a lively sonic experience typically reminiscent of the “Rock” setting on many equalizers. Due to the way the human loudness contour works, at lower volumes a mild v-shape can actually present a fairly balanced experience.

Philips SHE3590

Philips SHE3590

Below $50


Philips SHE3580 / SHE3590 ($8 – $10) – These bargain-bin miracles may look like the average dollar-store in-ears but their sound tells a completely different story. With excellent presence across the frequency spectrum, enhanced bass, and crisp, clean treble, the sound of the Philips is worth much more than what you pay. Small and comfortable, they come in several color combinations and are the perfect small gift for music fans of all ages.

Buy (amazon.com) | Manufacturer’s Page

Soundmagic E10

Soundmagic E10

Soundmagic E10 ($35)
– Though not quite as clear and resolving as the Philips SHE3580, the E10 is a great all-around alternative with less bass emphasis, smoother treble, and a wider and airier sound. A headset version with mic and 3-button remote, the E10M, is also available. Read full review

Buy (amazon.com) / (mp4nation.net)| Manufacturer’s Page


VSonic VSD3S

VSonic VSD3S

VSonic VSD3S ($45 – $55) – VSonic’s followup to the excellent VSD1S model, the VSD3S offers an accurate, yet energetic sound with good bass impact, fantastic clarity, and a spacious soundstage, achieving a large portion of the performance of VSonic’s highly-regarded GR07 model at a fraction of the price. The ergonomic design is worn over-the-ear and closely mimics higher-end models from the likes of Shure and Westone. The latest version ditches detachable cables for a fixed cord, which is preferable anyway as replacement cables were never easy to find. Unlike most other audiophile earphones, the VSD3S is available in a bunch of funky colors, too Read full review

Buy fixed cable version: (amazon.com) / (lendmeurears.com)

Retired: VSonic GR02 Bass Edition, VSonic VSD1/VSD1S





JVC HA-FXT90 ($75 – $100) – This Japan import is chock-full of technology, combining two dynamic drivers – a carbon-coated tweeter and a carbon nanotube woofer – in a single housing. The sound of the FXT90 is balanced in an aggressive sort of way, with the intimate midrange giving up only a bit of emphasis to the prominent bass and sparkly treble. The performance is strengthened by good timbre and a nicely layered presentation, making these JVCs one of the best deals in portable audio. Read full review

Buy (ebay.com) | Manufacturer’s Page

ThinkSound MS01

ThinkSound MS01

Thinksound MS01 ($100)
– Thinksound’s formula has always been beautiful in its simplicity – combine one part enhanced bass with one part clarity, add stylish, well-crafted housings made from renewable materials, and package it all with great attention to detail. The MS01 remains true to the formula, delivering a warmer sound compared to the MOE-SS01 with the upmarket look and feel of all Thinksound earphones. Plus, the company’s commitment to being “Green” is sure to score bonus points in some circles. Read full review

Buy (amazon.com) | Manufacturer’s Page


Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear

Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear

Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear ($100) – The Momentum In-Ear follows in the footsteps of the on- and over-ear Momentum headphones with its stylsh design, comfortable, lightweight construction, and impressive audio performance. Its sound is v-shaped and slightly warm overall tone thanks to a generous amount of bass enhancement. The midrange is mildly recessed while the top end carries a high level of energy for a textbook V-shaped sound signature. The Momentum in-ear is available in both iOS and Android versions with full-featured 3-button remotes. Read full review

Buy (amazon.com) / (amazon.co.uk) / (amazon.ca) / (amazon.de) / (amazon.fr) | Manufacturer’s Page


Retired: Astrotec AM-800, MOE-SS01

Dunu DN-1000

Dunu DN-1000

Over $100


DUNU DN-1000 ($180 – $210) – The DN-1000 is a hybrid earphone – that is, it combines a dynamic driver acting as a subwoofer with a dual balanced armature handling the mids and highs. It has superb bass – deep and hard-hitting, with almost no bloat – as well as outstanding clarity. Its V-shaped signature makes it especially great for modern music – EDM, pop, and so on – and the excellent construction and good noise isolation, though typical for DUNU, still stand out among other $200 IEMs. Read full review

Buy (amazon.com) / (ebay.com) / (mp4nation.net) | Manufacturer’s Page


DUNU DN-2000

DUNU DN-2000

DUNU DN-2000 ($270 – $315) – On top of their similar aesthetics and construction, the DN-1000 and DN-2000 are both triple-driver “hybrid” earphones with V-shaped sound tuning. The sound of the pricier DN-2000 is not a direct upgrade over the DN-1000, but rather a slightly more balanced and refined alternative with a bit less bass, a more spacious and airy soundstage, less recessed mids contributing to better vocal clarity, and treble that is a touch smoother. All in all, I consistently preferred the DN-2000, but the differences are subtle enough that some users– hip-hop and EDM listeners, for example – may not see much benefit from the pricier DN-2000 or even find the bassier, slightly more v-shaped DN-1000 preferable. Read full review

Buy (amazon.com) / (ebay.com) / (mp4nation.net) / (CTC Audio) | Manufacturer’s Page



Emphasizing no particular area of the frequency spectrum, balanced headphones provide the most clear and accurate sound. Typically neutral to slightly bright in tone, balanced sets can also be slightly mid-centric when the bass and treble both roll off at the limits.

Below $50


Etymotic Ety-Kids

Etymotic Ety-Kids 3

Etymotic Research ETY-Kids ($39) – Etymotic’s entry-level model promotes hearing safety with a combination of immense noise isolation and volume-limiting impedance. The earphones are also well-built and stay true to the Etymotic brand with sound that is clear, accurate, and neutral, though for some listeners perhaps lacking in desired bass presence. A headset version with microphone and 3-button remote is also available. Volume-limiting design aside, the ETY-Kids are a great option for the budget-minded audiophile. Read full review

Buy (amazon.com) | Manufacturer’s Page

Brainwavz M1

Brainwavz M1

Brainwavz M1 ($45)
– Of the many entry-level earphones offered by Hong Kong-based Brainwavz, the original M1 still stands out with its smooth and natural sound. There’s no bass boost here – just a balanced signature with a mild focus on the midrange and very smooth and pleasant treble. On top of all that, the small size, comfortable form factor, and complete accessory kit all make the M1 a user-friendly all-rounder perfect for first-time earphone users. Read full review

Buy (amazon.com) / (mp4nation.net)| Manufacturer’s Page


Retired: VSonic VC02



Ostry KC06

Ostry KC06

Ostry KC06 ($58 – $70) The KC06 doesn’t really belong in the “balanced” category in the sense that its tuning is not strictly neutral, but it is an excellent-sounding earphone that’s even more out of place elsewhere. It has slightly enhanced bass with some sub-bass roll-off, forward and very clear mids, sparkly treble, and a soundstage that’s wide and airy for an in-ear earphone. Next to higher-end sets, the KC06 lacks some bass extension, soundstage depth, and imaging ability, but for the price it is very hard to fault. The metal construction is good and the shallow-fit form factor with off-center strain reliefs is comfortable in the ear. One caveat is the high sensitivity, which means hiss can be audible and low volumes can be hard to dial in with sources not designed for sensitive IEMs. Read full review

Buy (amazon.com) / (ebay.com) / (lendmeurears) / (mp4nation)

HiFiMan RE-400

HiFiMan RE-400

HiFiMan RE-400 ($79)
– The folks at HiFiMan have been perfecting the accurate dynamic-driver earphone for the better part of a decade, and the latest iteration offers a very balanced, slightly mid-focused sound with a hint of warmth, providing a noticeable step up in performance from even the best entry-level models. With its comfortable form factor, good noise isolation, and respectable build quality, the RE-400 is very difficult to fault on any front. Versions with microphone and remote for iOS and Android are also available. Read full review

Buy (amazon.com) | Manufacturer’s Page


Philips Fidelio S1

Philips Fidelio S1

Philips Fidelio S1 ($90)Philips’ new flagship earphones are well-built, well-accessorized, and reasonably priced. Offering a flat and level signature with a bump across the bass range, the S1 also features tangle-resistant cabling and a built-in microphone and remote. The semi-open design makes them great in situations where the higher noise isolation of most other high-end earphones is undesirable—and a great choice for those who don’t like the more intrusive fit of most other IEMs. Read full review at InnerFidelity

Buy (ebay.com) / (amazon.com) | Manufacturer’s Page


Retired: MEElectronics A161P

Over $100


VSonic GR07 Classic

VSonic GR07 Classic

VSonic GR07 Classic ($99) / GR07 Bass Edition ($130) – VSonic’s dynamic-driver flagship has been popular on the portable Hi-Fi scene for four years thanks to its ergonomic housings, adjustable nozzles, and bio-cellulose dynamic drivers that offer excellent consistency across audio sources and produce sound that’s quite neutral, yet not lean or lacking in bass. There are more of both highs and lows compared to the HiFiMan RE-400 and Etymotic HF5, but the GR07 is still pretty darn balanced, and plenty great-sounding. The latest “Classic” version is available in 3 colors and priced at $99 (Note: if you see a blue, maroon, or silver GR07 listed as a GR07 mkII or any other variant at a higher price, you’re overpaying). Those looking for a little more bass will enjoy the equally capable GR07 Bass Edition. Read full review: VSonic GR07 / VSonic GR07 Bass Edition. Read impressions of the GR07 Classic here.

Buy GR07 Classic (amazon.com) in blue, maroon, or silver / ebay.com / lendmeurears | Buy GR07 Bass Edition (amazon.com) / (ebay.com)

Etymotic Research HF5

Etymotic Research HF5

Etymotic Research HF5 ($120) – Etymotic Research invented the universal-fit in-ear earphone back in the 80s, and the company still manufactures some of the most accurate earphones on the market more than two decades later. The HF5 is a top-tier model with a mid-level price tag, offering an impeccably clear, detailed, and accurate sound from a tiny balanced armature driver. It also offers outstanding noise isolation – better than pretty much any other universal-fit earphone on the market – all at a very reasonable price. Two headset versions – the single-button HF2 and 3-button HF3 – are also available. Read full review

Buy (amazon.com) | Manufacturer’s Page




Retired: Fischer Audio DBA-02 mkII

Well, that’s more than two dozen of the most essential earphones for every taste and budget. For more in-depth reviews of these and other sets check out the sortable review list. This guide will be updated whenever we come across new products worth mentioning.


Check out also our Budget Earphone Buyer’s Guide – the Best Earphones Under $50 and our Custom In-ear Monitor Buyer’s Guide


Questions or comments? Leave them below.

Last major overhaul: 04/18/15


About Author

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.


  1. Daniel on

    Good evening from Spain Mr. Joker! :)

    I very much love the sound signature of my HD600 and have been unfruitfully seeking smilar qualities in a more portable and closed headphones or IEMs. I listen to classical music, folk, 80-90’s rock/pop, and stuff like Miles Davis, Sigur Ros, Sufjan Stevens, Kraftwerk or Jean Michel Jarre.

    I have tried Sennheiser Momentum 2 but returned them after confirming its bass bias and lack of detail retrieval (at least to my ears). I have also tried the Audio Technica MSR7, which I loved but I could not stand its harshness and sibilance (I was very sensitive to its trebble peak). I know I will eventually buy another MSR7 though…

    I am now widening my scope to IEMs given that I would appreciate more portability and isolation (I am moving to London soon and spect lots of commuting).

    I do really appreciate accuracy and detail retrieval, and would like to avoid bass-heavy headphones/IEMs as long as the overall sound remains natural. I am also very concerned about durability and built quality ( I have had a pair of Focal Spirit Classic whose metal-looking plastic joints completely cracked within 5 weeks, which is a pity given its very good sound despite the warm coloration).

    I am tempted to pull the trigger for the RE-400, but I am not confident about its durability. Is it that fragile or maybe those complaining users have been really abusing them? I expect a headphone/IEM to last at least 3 years.

    I am also considering RHA’s MA750 (I would prefer the T20 but I feel it is quite overpriced) for its outstanding built quality, but I am not sure it would be decently close to the HD600 sound signature-wise or even sound natural/neutral. Is it that bass-heavy? Is the trebble peak a deal-breaker?

    I would really appreciate your opinion. Thank you very much in advance!

    • ljokerl on

      The RE-400 would be a great choice for sound. It’s not a particularly durable earphone and probably won’t do three years of heavy duty use, but it’s also just $79 (or maybe cheaper over the holidays). You can get equally suitable sound tuning with better performance and a much more durable build with the Aursonics Rockets but it is my understanding that those can be tough to acquire outside the US. The TDK BA200 would be another excellent choice with this type of sound, but that’s hard to find period as it has been discontinued. These three will be the smoothest and most forgiving options while still giving you balanced, near-reference sound.

      Etymotic is always a good option for maximizing clarity and detail resolution, but their earphones are a little more finicky with fit (they require a deep seal) for getting smooth sound out of them and are never as forgiving as an RE-400 or Rockets. Ety does give you a nice spectrum of price options, though – the MC5 if you prefer to stick with your original RE-400 budget, HF5 if you want top-tier detail/clarity without spending a ton, and the ER4 if you want something that will do all that and easily last 5+ years.

      Another personal favorite is the Audio-Technica ATH-IM02. These would probably need to be imported from Japan but there’s options for that. Here in the US they are relatively easy to buy online. The IM02 is a balanced armature IEM also, but it’s a bit more forgiving than the Etymotic HF5/ER4 and also has the benefit of detachable cables. Still not quite as smooth as an RE-400 or Rockets, but the balance and clarity are very good.

      You also have a the usual high-end options such as the Ultimate Ears UE900, Shure SE535, Audiofly AF180, etc., but these are flagship earphones that tend to have $300+ price tags.

      The MA750 and T20 are not accuracy-oriented IEMs. As a fellow fan of the HD600, I can confidently say they’re not what you’re looking for despite the excellent build quality.

      • Daniel on

        Thank you very much for your amazing response! :)

        Indeed, most of the IEMs you mention are difficult to find in the EU. Maybe easier in the UK.

        I have been researching the AF180 and I am quite tempted. It is slighty more affordable in Amazon. I have noticed at Tyll’s (Innerfidelity) FR charts that dip around 6Khz. Do you feel I will be disappointed in terms of treble and resolution compared to HD600? Also Audiofly’s team told me about the risk of buying from Amazon given that, despite their efforts to withdraw the early 2014 defective batches, the way Amazon handles stocks makes it more difficult to trace them. They told me that units bearing batch numbers 505 or lower on the earpieces are affected. Do you have further information worth knowing on those deffective units? What kind of problems are these causing?

        Thank you a lot again for helping me!

  2. Mak on

    Hey ljokerl,

    Great guide! I’ve previously used the pistons v2.1 and sony xb90ex. Unfortunately both of them broke and I’m looking for new ones. I don’t really need too much off bass anymore. Something that’s warm, smooth and clear would be nice. I’ve shortlisted a few which are available for me to buy, can you tell me which one you’d recommend?

    Beyerdynamics dtx 102 ie – I’m getting them for 25 bucks which is 1/4th of its price

    Vsd1s – a tad bit more than Beyer

    Philips she9700 – half the price of Beyer (12 bucks!!!)

    Pistons v3 – almost the same price as Beyer

    • ljokerl on

      Unfortunately I consider the Piston 2 a better earphone than the DTX102ie, so even at $25 I couldn’t really recommend the Beyers. They’re not exactly balanced, either – I think they have at least as much bass as the Piston 2. The Piston 3 will have less, but it also sounds colder and brighter than the P2. Not sure if it’s what you’re looking for, it’s definitely less warm. Also, the VSD1S is a little sibilant. Dynamic-driver VSonics really aren’t known for being smooth. No idea about the SHE9700.

      Of I was buying warm and smooth I’d probably go Sony MH1C or another Piston 2 – pretty much everything else I’ve tried in that price range would be a downgrade. It’d be great if there was another option for warm, smooth sound but with better overall balance than these two under $35, but I haven’t found it so far.

      • Mak on

        Thanks for the quick reply! I just placed an order for p3 cause p2 is out of stock. I’ll order it when it’s back in Stock and use it alternatively. You saved me alot of time, I really appreciate it. Look forward to reading more of your articles, they’re amazing! Keep it up, mate. (:

        • ljokerl on

          Happy to help!

          Might be a little counter-intuitive since they’re from the same line but the P3 and P2 are pretty good compliments to each other.

  3. Kabir on

    Hello Joker,

    Thank you for this wonderful informative post.
    I am looking to upgrade my VSD3S (thank you for suggesting). I loved them. I would call myself a basshead (but not a fan of mid bass) and I don’t want to compromise on clarity, separation.
    I usually listen to all genres blues, classical, EDM, hip-hop.
    My budget is 175-200. I have shorlisted EPH-100, RHA-750, DUNU 1000, DUNU Titan. I would welcome suggestions if you have any.
    How would you arrange my choices given my taste.
    Also, I am a little concerned about the quality of wires on EPH-100 (my VSD3S lasted for 6 months, thanks to the missing strain relief). Any comments on this too?

    • Kabir on

      I forgot to mention. I am sensitive to sibilance.

      • ljokerl on

        I’m pretty sure the VSD3S is the most sibilant of all those IEMs so it seems you don’t really have to worry about sibilance too much, but generally speaking the EPH-100 and MA750 are quite smooth, while the DN-1000 and Titan are more on the revealing side. The DN-1000 can be sibilant, especially with an imperfect fit, but again I think the VSD3S is worse in this regard.

        Likewise, I don’t consider the VSD3S a basshead earphone. Normally I would recommend the EPH-100 and MA750 when asked for one, but since you like the VSD3S maybe that’s not the right move.

        Long story short, based on the content of your post I’d recommend the MA750 or EPH-100, but based on the context (i.e. you liking the VSD3S) I’m leaning towards the Titan. It’s bright and not a true basshead earphone, but neither is the VSD3S, and it has the best clarity and separation (on par with the DN-1000) while being less sibilance-prone.

        No issues with the EPH-100’s build here – it’s not overbuilt like the RHA, but it does the job.

        • Kabir on

          Thanks joker

          Sorry, I think I wasn’t clear in my first comment.
          I am looking to move towards a bass earphone (sub bass, not mid), without compromising on clarity and separation.
          Looks like rha 750 and eph 100 fits the criteria.
          Of those two which one would you recommend and why.

          • Kabir on

            Also, which has more clarity?

          • ljokerl on

            In this case I’d go MA750. The EPH-100 is warmer and slightly less spacious, and it sounds like you will appreciate the bit of extra airiness the MA750 provides. Clarity is similar, and do keep in mind that because you want to go bassier you won’t get much of a clarity improvement over the VSD3S – for that you’d need to go flatter/more accurate.

  4. Chris Domf on

    Hi, great guide!
    I am currently using the urbeats (1st generation) and am thinking about an upgrade. There are so many different in-ears so maybe I can get some advide. I am mostly listening to EDM, sometimes stuff like Macklemoore but if I had to decide I’d pick EDM.
    Price range is ca. 100$ although if I could get a big upgrade for 30-50 bucks I would definitely go for it. So far I looked at the HiSoundAudio Wooduo 2, Velodyne vPulse and Sennheiser Momentum. Can not really decide between those, but the Wooduo 2 are probably my favourite right now. All 3 would be around 85-90€ in my country. Are there any other recommendations you could give or maybe some new stuff that came out meanwhile?
    Thanks in advice :)

    • ljokerl on

      All solid options but unfortunately I’m not familiar with how the Urbeats sound so I can’t say which of the three will be most and which will be the least similar. I think the Momentum sounds the best of the three overall even if it doesn’t have quite as much bass as the other two. For deep bass + clarity the Wooduo2 is hard to beat, but it’s also not as smooth and refined as the Momentum in-ear.

      The newer model with slightly better performance that I usually recommend over these (especially the Momentum because they’re somewhat similar in sound tuning) is the Alpha & Delta AD01 (http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/alpha-delta-ad01-in-ear-earphone-review/), but those are only available for shipping from Singapore (via lendmeurears) and are a little rough around the edges in terms of design compared to the sharp-looking Momentum.

  5. dbltomato on

    Hi ljokerl,

    first off I would like to thank you for the effort you put into this guide!
    I’d like to know if you can give me a recommendation for some in-ear earphones.
    I have been using a Bose earphone (possibly the prior version to SoundTrue Ultra, mine came with a mic and 3 buttons) for over 2,5 years now and unfortunately the wrapping around the cables started to vanish as well as some parts of the earphones started to disconnect. I dont think that the sound quality was necessarily worth the price, but the one thing that I really liked about these earphones were the ear-inserts.
    In before I have only experienced ‘bad’ inserts, which started to hurt after 20-30 minutes of listening, so I was and still am quite afraid of ‘standard’ ear-inserts. Although I dont know if this fear is justified or not.
    Now I am looking for some earphones which offer the following:
    -working with android galaxy devices (volume up/down and pause buttons)
    -high comfort
    -valuable processing
    -price range 0 – 330$

    Since I am not that familiar with the matter I cant really tell which basic sound signature type is the right one for me. I listen to alot of different kinds of music, mostly rap, dance, house, r’n’b, but also funky and jazzy stuff.
    I recently got a galaxy s6 and when I tried out the native speakers of it, I sometimes heard a particular interesting sound, which I like. I can’t really describe this sound, but when i think of it, rocks or someone moving his fingernail over string of guitar or also the deep sound of a bass guitar come to my mind.
    I have not experienced this sound on any earphones or headphones before, but I think I can remember it coming out of speakers.

    I hope you can help me find a great pair of earphones and maybe also take my fear of uncomfortable inserts.

    Kind regards

    (I tried my best to articulate my thoughts, but as an non native speaker it’s quite hard for me to explain myself especially regarding this matter)

    • ljokerl on

      Aside from the Bose sets, most IEMs use pretty similar eartips. There are different shapes and sizes, as well as materials (mostly silicone and memory foam) but ultimately they all sit inside the ear canal and exert pressure outward. In that context, it’s hard to say that there are bad inserts, just ones that aren’t sized properly for the ear in question. They are all meant to work similarly.

      For conventional IEMs the differences in comfort stem mostly from how deep the eartip sits in your ear canals, as well as how the rest of earpiece interacts with the ear.

      In this case since comfort is a strong concern, a relatively small and lightweight earphone would be the safe choice. It also might be worth getting something that includes a nice variety of different eartips to give you more fitting options.

      In terms of sound, it seemslike an earphone with good deep bass presence and either level or slightly enhanced treble (for that extra bit of crispness and energy) would be the ticket. With a $330 budget these would be my recommendations:

      FLC8: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/flc-technology-flc8/ . The spendy choice, but still a very good value as far as higher-end IEMs go. Small, lightweight, good sound. Wish it came with some foam eartips but you can always pick some up later. The tuning system will seem daunting at first but can be quite handy, especially as you’re just getting into higher-end IEMs – that flexibility in terms of sound will work in your favor.

      VSonic GR07 Bass Edition: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/vsonic-gr07-bass-edition/ . You only get one sound tuning with this one and it’s more on the accurate side – the bass is punchy, but not too heavy and the overall sound is quite natural. Very lightweight design and nice variety of eartips included. The GR07 and its variants are always one of my go-tos for “1st high-end IEMs recommendations”.

      RBH EP1: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/rbh-ep1-ep2/ . Admittedly not my top choice for sound quality but its sound has a good “wow” factor and it has a very user-friendly design and nice shallow fit. Good choice especially if you don’t think you can handle the over-ear cable routing of the other two. Also comes with Comply eartips, which is a plus.

      • dbltomato on

        The FLC8 and the GR07 are definetely interesting for me, but is their a way to attach a pause/unpause (preferably also a mic and volume) funtion to the cable or can i buy a seperate cable and just put the earphones on them?
        Also what do you think of
        and the Shure SE315
        Also I am wondering, if it, in your opinion, is worth it to spend 300$ on earphones, which will mostly be used on the go, getting the audio from a smartphone? Since I am using earphones alot, I really want some quality ones, but I am unsure if it’s really worth it to spend 100-200$ more, when most of the time the audio source is a smartphone.

        • ljokerl on

          If you’re looking for headset functionality on top of everything else your options will be much more limited. There might be some aftermarket cables out there that you can get for the FLC8 that have a mic, but I’m not familiar with them. The RBH EP2 has a mic, for about $30 more than the regular EP1.

          The three earphones you’ve linked have less bass than the three I recommended. They’re good options if you know you want a more flat/accurate sound (the Fidelios especially), but without that knowledge it’s a little risky to go straight for a more “reference” set of headphones. The Phonaks are also discontinued, and the company doesn’t officially make earphones anymore as far as I know.

          As for spending more on a good set of headphones, only you can determine how much of a dent the extra cash will make in your finances. IEMs are meant to be used on the go – that’s where they shine compared even to higher-end portable and full-size headphones – and there are some smartphones that offer very good audio quality out of the box (iPhones, for instance). I’ll say this – if the question was whether you’re better off spending $200 on a dedicated mp3 player and $100 on earphones, or spending the full $300 on better earphones and just using a modern smartphone, I’d recommend the better earphones + smartphone combo 10 out of 10 times.

  6. Andy on

    Hi Joker,

    Thanks for this amazing guide. Please help me in understanding which sound signature i belong to and which earphones to get under $70.
    I mainly listen to metal bands like Slipknot, Lamb of God, Bullet for my valentine, Avenged sevenfold, Megadeth and the occasional Adele/Lana Del ray.
    The only good earphones i have used are Bose Mie2. Which i really liked but looking at reviews, i think i am missing a lot. So would be nice if u help me in getting better earphones and help me experience a whole new world of music.

    Firstly I am confused as to which sound signature i belong to. Looking around mainly at headfi i think my genre of music needs the V-shaped sound signature. (Correct me if i am wrong) But i felt my bose had a balanced sound signature (again correct me if i am wrong as i have not used any other good earphones) Also i think these bose had secondary speakers to give that surround effect or wide soundstage.

    So based on the above please help me decide which ones to get. I basically want good sounding earphones but should not also break physically within 2 years.

    Below are the ones i have selected looking at your reviews and the ratings/ranking on headfi site.
    1> Brainwavz S0 (37$) — Like these cause they are ranked high at headfi and because of the accessories provided.
    2> Brainwavz M1 (46$) —- In case i belong to the balanced soundstage
    3> Soundmagic e10s (32$) —- Cause many say they are the best
    4> Vsonic vsd1s (54$) —- Present in retired category above in this page.
    5> Vsonic vsd3 (69$) —- As vsd3S is not available in my country.

    Thank you again for helping us. Would be nice if you can suggest any other better earphones too which are available in my country. I live in India.

    • ANDY on

      Edit: Vsonic Gr06 (68$), Vsonic Vsd3s Black (52$) are available in India. Just checked.

      • ljokerl on

        The Soundmagic E10 seems like a great choice – it has the sound signature you’re after, is inexpensive, and unlike the VSonic sets has a more or less “safe” amount of treble. Switching from a warm set like the MIE2 to a VSonic product can be a bit of a shock as the treble is quite a bit sharper on the VSonics.

        The Brainwavz M1 is also very smooth but it’s the opposite of v-shaped and not as easy to recommend unless you know for sure that’s the type of sound you want.

        The S0 is alright but it’s a little dull-sounding and also harsher compared to the E10 and M1. Simply put, I don’t see a reason to get an S0 over a VSonic because their weaknesses are similar but the VSD3S (for example) is better than the S0 overall. In this case I would recommend the E10 over both anyway.

        • ANDY on

          Thank you so much. Will go get the e10s. Finally know what to get now after so many days of confusion. Thanks.
          Have great day.

          • fradd on

            I just wanna say that I had the E10s for over a year, making them the most durable IEMs I ever owned. Unfortunately my sister lost them. But yeah, I listen to heavy metal a lot, and they were pretty perfect for it.

  7. DADANG on

    Hey Ljokerl,
    I got Yamaha EPH100 since last year from your recommendation and really loved with it but housing seems too big for me. Are you have any recommendation about another IEM that have same soundsig with better housing? And one more question, are there headphone that have same soundsig with eph100? Thank you sir

    • ljokerl on

      There are IEMs comparable to the EPH-100 but because the EPH-100 is such a good value (and hence highly recommendable in the first place) you’ll end up paying more for them. The two that come to mind are the Sennheiser IE80 and the Sony XBA-H3. These fit in the ear very differently from an EPH-100 – the XBA-H3 site entirely outside the ear canal except for a smaller (in comparison to the Yamaha) nozzle and the IE80 is shallow-fit earphone that’s generally very comfortable. You can also take a small hit in sound quality and get the cheaper Sony MH1C to pick up some of the EPH-100’s duties. It has an annoying flat cable but the housings are quite comfortable, and it can be very inexpensive.

      As for headphones, the closest I’ve tried is probably the V-Moda M-80 but those are rather outdated now. Chances are the successors of the M-80 from V-Moda (M-100, XS, etc) will also work but I haven’t tried those myself. I didn’t think the M-80 was quite as good as the EPH-100, but the newer models might be.

      • DADANG on

        Thanks for quick and nice reply! Yesterday i tried XBA-H3 but it has less bass than EPH100 and the treble too harsh for me. Besides the soundsig, housing seems too big to me. Im still looking for IE80, some review told them has excellent sound. Btw how about JVC FX series and ASG-2?

        • ljokerl on

          I haven’t tried the newer ones but the old FX500/FX700 had more treble than I get from the EPH-100 and XBA-H3. They’re more v-shaped overall.

          Not sure about the Aurisonics ASG-2. I did not like the ASG-1 but I do like their Rockets (which sound nothing like the EPH-100 so not too relevant here).

  8. koflok on

    Hi joker,

    Me again :). Just bought the MH1C and love the sound! But yes the cable is such a major issue for me. And now there’s suddenly Yamaha EPH 100 being listed in Australia right after I bought the Sonys. You reckon the sound is a major upgrade from the MH1C?

    If it is, and since it has the usual Y cable, I might consider getting them.

    • ljokerl on

      The EPH-100 happens to be one of the very few sets I’ve recommended as an MH1C upgrade that don’t cost an arm and a leg. The MH1C is very, very hard to upgrade from in terms of sound and the EPH-100 hardly makes it sound poor. However, I prefer the Yamahas’ deeper and slightly more controlled bass, slightly more 3-D presentation, and livelier treble that’s still not harsh.

      And of course the cable of the Yamahas is very very “normal” coming from the MH1C.

  9. Maria on

    Hi joker, I was wondering if you could give me some recommendations for IEMs in these price range:
    0-50, 100-150 and 200-250 range.
    I’m interest in something that has smooth treble and good for vocals too.

    • ljokerl on

      Quite a few IEMs will do that. I think the best ones that also have enhanced bass are the Sony MH1C ($30-80) and Yamaha EPH-100 ($100-150).

      If you don’t need enhanced bass then the best ones are the HiFiMan RE-400 ($79) and Aurisonics Rockets ($250). This would be my preferred route. There are a few budget ones cheaper than the RE-400 that can be considered, such as the Ultimate Ears 600, Brainwavz M1, Soundmagic E10, etc, but if you can stretch at least to the RE-400, it’s worth it.

  10. Piotr on

    Hi Joker,

    I wrote a comment yesterday but i cant find it anywhere, now i’m wondering if i clicked the post button at all… here it goes again.

    I was looking to upgrade from my Sony MDR-EX650 (<—to much emphasis on bass with to little control, to my ears at least)
    so i ordered Soundmagic E10 IEM's. I like the sound much better compared to the sonys but i overlooked one important thing.

    I wear my IEM's on the bike (bicycle that is) to work and the shape of the E10's create a lot of wind noise. Needless to say it ruins the sound.
    I could bring my sony's for on the bike and my e10's for when im not but i'd rather have one set of iem's.

    Thanks to this site i found out about the Vsonic vsd1s and vsd1. It looks like their shape is really streamlined when it is inserted, i hope this tackles the issue.

    The bass on the soundmagic is just enough for me, anymore and i would tone it down.

    Do you think i'm making the right choice going with one of the Vsonics? which model do you think i'd prefer?

    • ljokerl on

      Other than being less smooth compared to the E10s, the VSonics should be fine. I think the VSD3S is even more flush in the ear than the VSD1S, less bass-heavy, and its mids are less recessed (and therefore more like the E10), so that’s the one I would get.

      • Piotr on

        Thanks for the fast reply! There’s so much info on this site. That combined with you responding to almost all questions asked is really awesome!

        Mhh te VSD3S and VSD1s are only separated by 10 euros..on the other hand if i decide to get the 3s and then add 40 euro i have enough for the GR07 cllassic. Can you say anything about how flush the classics will be? (compared to the 1S and 3S)

        The S versions of the Vsonics are the ones with less emphasis on bass right?

        I dont have much experience with different IEMS and i dont know how to describe the particulair sound of a IEM as detailed as you do so i dont know exactly what you mean when you say less smooth, where, in the music, would i be able to hear this the best? And what would be the opposite of a smooth sounding IEM?

        • ljokerl on

          The Classics will be more balanced than the VSD3S by about the same amount as the VSD3S vs the VSD1S. The shell of the GR07 is a little smaller than the VSD3S but it doesn’t fill out the ear as completely, so I don’t know if it would actually be better for wind noise.

          Either way, I think the VSD3S is the sweet spot for value in the VSonic line since you were not looking to spend ~$100 in the first place. I tend to prefer the “S” models to the regular ones for their better balance, but the difference is so minute it’s nearly negligible. If you can get a much better deal on the VSD3 than the VSD3S, by all means take it.

          As for smooth, the broad term for the inverse would be “harsh”. In the VSonics’ case, it’s more specific – “sibilant”. VSonic stuff tends to be sibilant compared to something like the Soundmagic E10, which means the “sss” and “hss” sounds in vocals are slightly emphasized. It bothers some people, but certainly not everyone – after all, VSonic IEMs are extremely popular.

  11. Nikhil Pasricha on

    Hey beginner looking for IEMs with high bass (rap/hiphop) and are overall good earphones for beginners ($50-80) any suggestions? Thanks!

    • ljokerl on

      You can actually get one of my top enhanced-bass recommendations, the HiSound Wooduo2, for about $80 on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1jcqgFJ . It’s got mostly deep bass but the slam and deep rumble are very good, and the vocals stay clear, which I personally like for rap/hip-hop.

      For something more conventionally bassy, I’d go with the Brainwavz S1 or Rock Jaw Alfa Genus – they both run around $55 on Amazon. The S1 is a little sturdier but the Rock Jaw gives you an additional option of using the alternate filters to change up the sound should you feel like it (only the silver filters are bass-heavy).

      • Clive.B on

        Hi, further to your comment about rap/hip-hop, would you recommend the Alpha & Delta AD01 or the HiSoundAudio Wooduo 2 for basshead cans?

        I read both your reviews but still a bit undecided. Please help sir.

        • Clive.B on

          Also which vendor would you chose since the links to buy shows multiple ones.

          Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

          • ljokerl on

            I don’t consider the AD01 to be a basshead earphone (it has enhanced bass, but not a ridiculously huge amount of it). I do think it sounds better than the Wooduo overall – smoother, richer, and more natural – but if bass slam is your #1 priority, the AD01 may not be right for you.

            Prices fluctuate which is why I try to include multiple links. Generally I’d go with the lowest price at time of purchase, while also paying attention to the delivery timeframe if that matters to you.

  12. James Lange on

    Dear Joker,

    I only listen to R&B and rap. I love bass that rumbles my brain and I love deep bass.

    From your recommmendation list, I bought the V-pulse and the HiSoundAudio Wooduo 2. The bass from HiSoundAudio Wooduo 2 was quite decent, I was just wondering if you could suggest a pair of IME that’s on the next level?

    My budget is $250, your input would be greatly appreciated sir.


    • ljokerl on

      Not a lot of my higher-end IEMs have very heavy bass. The RHA T10 has tons but it’s just not that impressive in terms of overall audio quality to recommend strongly at $200-250.

      The best truly bassy earphone I’ve tried lately is probably the Beats Tour 2.0. It trades off some of the clarity of the Wooduo 2 for a warmer, richer, and smoother sound that’s actually not unpleasant. Hard to say it justifies $150 to the Wooduo2’s $80, but it’s also difficult to find a better earphone that’s as un-apologetically bassy.

      If you are willing to take a slight hit in bass quantity, the Yamaha EPH-100 provides well-measured and deep bass with excellent overall sound quality.

      I know there are also other popular enhanced-bass IEMs on the market, like the Sony XB90EX and Audio-Technica CKS series, but I haven’t tried them myself.

      • getclikinagas on

        ljokerl, Could the 100$ NHT Superbuds fit in this mix(based on his requirement)?

        • ljokerl on

          Sure could! I just prefer the Beats given sufficient budget. For all their shortcomings and enhanced mid-bass the Beats have nice bass depth. Clarity is OK too, especially if you’re willing to raise the volume a bit. The smooth treble allows this, and I think most Beats users aren’t opposed to cranking it up in the first place.

          The NHT actually manages to be thicker-sounding and more veiled. Not a problem by itself, but coming from the Wooduo2 it could be quite a shock, even compared to the Beats Tours.

          • getclikinagas on

            Ah okay. Thanks. I had someone ask me a very similar question and I pointed them to your Superbuds review.

            PS: Beats Tour 2.0 going for 85$ on Amazon right now. Good deal.

          • ljokerl on

            Yeah that’s way reasonable. Any lower and I might have to blaspheme and call a deal alert on a set of Beats.

            I have a feeling that like the old Beats in-ears they’re not going to do that well in terms of consumer reviews in the long run. They seem very nicely made to me but they probably won’t hold up to being carried in pockets, gym duty, and whatever else consumers are going to put them through.

  13. Mark on

    Hello, I am very new to this and understanding sound signatures but your guide is really helping me learn and understand the different sounds. I am now looking for a really good set of IEM’s for my Fiio X3 2nd gen player. My budget is between $150 and $200.

    I listen to a lot of Rock, Pop Punk, Post Hardcore and Hip Hop. I also mainly listen to music either at home and during breaks at work or of course if I go on holiday. What IEM’s would you recommend for this?

    Thanks in advance for your guidance.

    • ljokerl on

      It’s tricky to recommend an earphone based on genre rather than sound signature preferences – two different listeners may have entirely different preferences when it comes to, say, hip-hop. If you’re not yet sure of what you’re after in terms of sound signature, I would go warm and smooth or v-shaped for the selection you provided – the Yamaha EPH-100 for the former and DUNU DN-1000 for the latter. Both are as versatile and all-around competent as it gets in the price range. Not many bells and whistles, but I think the lack of gimmicks plays in their favor and they are each very good for their respective sound tunings.

      • Mark on

        Thank you for your recommendations especially as I didn’t give you much to go on.

        I like the look of the Dunu DN-1000 but would the Sennheiser In Ear Momentum or Shure SE215 earphones be a good choice for those sound signatures if I decided to buy a slightly cheaper set?

  14. CookieThief1 on

    HOLY MOTHER OF GOD, i got the shure volume control thingy you recommended(i chose it over the impedance adapter because of faster delivery). It helps so much!, the volume control has to be at like 90% to completely eliminate static, but it doesn’t matter, i just have to set the volume on my computer to 16% now instead of 4% lol. Now i can actually appreciate the a151 as it was intended(well…a clean dac would help but still, this is 100000 times better). Thank you so much for all the help, the Joker(in One Piece and in the batman series) is a bad guy, but you are the definition of a good guy 😀

    • ljokerl on

      Yeah, it’s always a concern that the extra impedance will make things too quiet but most modern audio devices, especially computers, have a ton of headroom when it comes to volume.

      Glad it helped!

  15. Darryl Lim on

    Hey ljokerl, a zillion thanks for putting these lists together. Nothing can describe my gratitude for the efforts of people like you.

    Since the world of headphone marketing is still so messy (Companies rarely describe the exact sound-signature of their products), and headphone demoing or returns are rarely allowed in my country, I have to wholly depend on comparison reviews like yours to make my purchases.

    That’s all I wanted to say, THANKSSOMUCH!!! ^.^

    • ljokerl on

      Thanks, I really appreciate that!

      You know, there isn’t even an accepted common standard for the basic specifications between manufacturers such as freq. response and sensitivity – they aren’t reported in a consistent manner at all. Combine that with (usually) vague but glowing sound descriptions and it guarantees that no one can make heads or tails of the true performance without actually listening to the thing, and like you said that’s not often an option. If I can at least steer someone in the right direction, I’m happy.

      • Darryl Lim on

        I’m happy that you’re happy that I’m happy!

        Yeah, everything you said and more, especially the vague, glowing descriptions. The moment I started ignoring package wording, was a long time ago when I bought a set of buds that claimed “Bass Extension Valve Technology”… that made kick-drums go MIA. Granted, it was $10 but still!!

        Anyway, best wishes for you and your future life endeavors!

        (P.S. Also, not forgetting, gratitude to average_joe as well! :D)

  16. fradd on

    Hey Joker,
    I’ve been following your Multi IEM guide since 2012, but I guess I’m rough on my IEMs cause I’ve gone through so many…from what I remember: MEElec M21 and M9, Sennheiser CX250, Klipsch S3, Skullcandy Titan, Vsonic VSD3S and GR02 Pro, Brainwavz R1, and Sennheiser CX300 (which were probably fake), and Soundmagic E10 (which still work, but I gave them to my sister cause I thought they’d break soon enough since the housing came apart…but alas, they still work).

    I don’t know if you’ve had the chance to try Ostry KC06A’s yet (I’ve read what you’ve said about the 06’s), but they have been my most recent endeavor. They put me out nearly $70 though, but I had previously only bought IEMs for <$40. I decided I would try something higher-end, but now the KC06A's broke on me. The left earbud went out…
    In case you haven't tried them, they supposedly sound like the KC06, but with smoother treble and slightly enhanced bass. I haven't tried the KC06 myself.

    What I'm looking for now is something to use as a more "active" set of IEMs that I can wear walking around. The KC06A's were so good that I want to buy another pair and just use them at home, but I want something for E10 > Klipsch S3 > M21
    -I listen to lots of heavy metal, thrash metal, grunge, pop punk, dubstep, drum and bass, house, classic rock, hard rock, progressive metal and rock

    So do ya have any ideas?

    • ljokerl on

      That’s a very wide variety of earphones. I suppose you can’t go wrong with something that shares some similarities with the KC06 – at least its airy presentation and brighter sound signature. How about an LG Quadbeat? The new ones are supposed to be better but I haven’t tried them. The original (F420 model) was already very good by my standards. LG seems to still sell them, for ~$30: http://www.lg.com/us/bluetooth-headsets-headphones/lg-HSS-F420-White-earbuds

      • fradd on

        Yeah I might as well try those. Thanks!

  17. Erik on

    Hello! Thanks for the replies, people like you make the internet a nicer place!

    I’m looking for a new pair of IE. they have to have a mic and 3 buttons for IPhone, be comfortable and overall good sound (with A LOT of base!)
    I will mainly use them when I walk or sitting on the buss, so isolation is a plus.

    It’s a big plus if they have a white cable, I think it looks nice.

    Budget: around 60-80$

    I’ve had steel series flux before, they broke after 2 months. They were nice and I’m looking for something similare but nicer looking and maybe a bit more base.

    Thank you!

    • ljokerl on

      This is a tough one. 3-button plus decent isolation plus bass-heavy sound already narrows the field down a lot. To also get white you’d probably need a white Klipsch S4i, but I’m not a big fan of the way that sounds. I’d go with the Velodyne vPulse – decent isolation, plenty of bass, and it has a 3-button remote. I like the form factor, too. I don’t consider its sound to be better than that of the Flux, but it definitely has more bass. The price on those fluctuates pretty wildly, between about $50 and $100, not really sure why.

      The next step up from that would be a Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear, but those are always $100. And the next step up from that would be an RHA MA750i.

      • Erik Häger on

        I followed your advise but cant find any destributer shipping Vpulse to Sweden :( I did find the sennheiser Momentum though. Would those be the one you recommend after the vpulse? The white istn that important.

        • Erik Häger on

          I’ve also found these alternatives: SUPRA NiTRO and Philips Fidelio S2.

          • ljokerl on

            The Momentum will do better than the Fidelio S2 – the S2 is a very balanced earphone with no more bass than the SteelSeries Flux. Not sure about the SUPRA – never even heard of this brand.

  18. An on

    Thanks for the reviews!
    I’m looking for a pair to replace my second broken pair of Re-0. I love the sound from these phones but their build quality is very disappointing. My first pair broke after a year and the second pair after 8 months. I’m looking for neutral/balanced earphones that focus on details with an “acceptable” amount of bass that costs less than $100.
    Do you have any recommendations apart from those earphones mentioned above?
    Thank you!

    • ljokerl on

      In addition to the VSonic and Philips sets in the buyer’s guide, which would still be my top choices, the two recommendations I can add are the Brainwavz R3 and Etymotic MC5.

      The R3 is like a sightly bassier, smoother, less resolving RE-400 with a beefy metal build. They are close enough to the RE-400 to be a viable alternative.

      The other is the Etymotic Research MC5 – this one is a little more analytical than the HiFiMan and lacks some of the nice bass impact and overall refinement of the RE-400. However, it is one of the best neutral-sounding sub-$100 IEMs that might actually beat the RE-400 in detail resolution, and also has good build quality.

      • An on

        Thank you for taking your time to answer my questions!
        Do you think there’s a big difference in build quality between Fidelio S1 and S2? The plastic of S2 looks like it will break apart easily
        I also found this pair of Fidelio S2 for only 80$, they’re white and I’m a bit skeptical about this. is it possible to find a pair of S2 with this price? http://www.amazon.com/Philips-Fidelio-S2WT-Headsets-Earbuds/dp/B00BQ8RE8G/ref=sr_1_2?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1444493271&sr=1-2&keywords=philips+fidelio+s2

        do you think the sibilance issue on VSonic GR07 will dismiss over time?

        • ljokerl on

          The S2 is the metal one. The S1 has plastic bits, and is not know for durability. I’d go for the S2 with this pricing.

          I think white is the less popular S2 color so the price looks fine. They’ve been sub-$100 for a long time now.

          I don’t believe the sibilance of the GR07 necessarily diminishes over time, but if you use the GR07 a lot you will definitely become acclimated to it to some degree. This varies from listener to listener.

  19. Daniel on

    Hello Mr. Joker,

    Love your reviews! I got into headphones when my girlfriend bought me a set of Etymotic hf-5 earphones. I couldn’t believe how clear and detailed they were. Hearing parts of my music collection that were hidden while listening to less detailed headphones was a euphoric experience. I recently purchased a set of Xiaomi piston 3 headphones based on your review and my curiosity in the Chinese electronics giant. I feel the Piston 3’s do not provide me with a clear window into my music like the Etymotic hf-5. However, I find the Piston 3’s accentuated bass intoxicating, and the overall listening experience more relaxing. Can you recommend any custom or universal headphones that can match or exceed the Etymotic hf-5’s clarity while also providing a more relaxing/easy listening experience.

    • ljokerl on

      I agree that the Pistons don’t get anywhere near the level of clarity and resolution the HF5 can provide.

      What you’re looking for is going to be tough to find, though, because neither the enhanced bass nor the relaxed mids and highs that can provide an easier listening experience go hand in hand with Etymotic-like clarity. If you were to sculpt the HF-5’s frequency response to be a closer match for that of the Pistons, you would also lose a good chunk of the clarity and detail of the Etymotics.

      The best way to achieve what you want is with a smooth-sounding that maintains high clarity with has bass quantity somewhere between the HF5 and Pistons. This is the case with a lot of the flagship balanced armature earphones like the AudioFly AF180, Shure SE535, and Ultimate Ears 900, but they still err on the side of accuracy, i.e. they are closer to the HF5 than the Piston. I’d probably move a little further away from flat sound with something like the Aurisonics Rockets – these are similar to the HF5 in purpose and tuning but, being dynamic-driver earphones, end up with much more relaxed highs and more natural bass impact as well.

      On the custom IEM side, there is one manufacturer that stands out to me as being able to do accurate, yet non-fatiguing earphones very well – Custom Art. Both the Music One (http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/custom-art-music-one-review/) and PRO 330 v2 (http://theheadphonelist.com/brief-impressions-custom-art-harmony-8-pro-pro-330-v2/) from them are awesome, but again they’re taking the same approach as the Shure, AudioFly, and UE sets I listed above – they don’t go too far in the “fun” direction from pure accuracy.

      You can also take a slightly riskier path, going for a clarity-focused earphone with enhanced bass that also isn’t terribly harsh or fatiguing. These are definitely going to give a more engaging and colored sound, but I don’t personally consider them very relaxing. Still, they’re a great contrast to an HF5 and would be nice to own alongside the Etymotics. The best I can recommend on this front is the FLC Technology FLC8. Bonus points for the tuning system that lets you adjust the sound to your liking: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/flc-technology-flc8/

  20. Skychael on

    Hey joker, thank you so much for the recommendations and reviews you put up (and of course your dedication to answering questions)

    I currently am in need of new IEMs after previously purchasing the JVC HA-FXT90 as previously recommended. Sadly I had cable problems on one ear within a year and they ultimately completely failed not much more than a year old but I did love the sound as long as they lasted. I did use them a ton but I always thought I took good care of them, taking care to store them in the pouch whenever possible so I really don’t know what I did wrong. I assume I tended to roll them up too tightly when storing them, which would put quite some sidewards strain on the cable, for which they aren’t well equipped but I can’t be sure.

    Either way I would be very happy if you could recommend me a new pair below 100€. I am sure all of those listed above fulfill my expectations for sound quality (as I am not very partial to any particular sound profile, though I’m not crazy about lots of bass) but maybe considering durability and build quality. I mostly listen to instrumental soundtracks, classical music, mellow DnB as well as older (mostly female vocals), ballad-y pop and punk/alternative rock, so a pretty wide spectrum. I almost exclusively use them on the go in public transport as well as some home listening or while walking through the city so good isolation and a comfortable and secure fit would be very important to me (and low cable noise). Also if you have any recommendations as to taking good care of them would be much appreciated, as it really broke my heart when my JVCs stopped working.

    Thank you for your time!

    • ljokerl on

      That’s a shame about the FXT90. For bang-per-buck they’re still very hard to beat.

      If you don’t mind an over-the-ear fit I’d go with the RHA MA750: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/rha-ma750-ma750i/. It’s <100 EUR, for instance, on amazon.de: http://amzn.to/1LI8gxM . It’s a warm earphone, but not bassier than the FXT90. Its smooth sound probably won’t wow you after the bright and crisp FXT90, but it will also be less fatiguing. Perhaps more importantly, it is very well-made (and carries a 3-year warranty) and tends to be quite secure in the ear.

      An slightly less expensive alternative would be the Alpha & Delta AD01: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/alpha-delta-ad01-in-ear-earphone-review/ . These are not as well-made but they have sound tuning a little closer to the FXT90 and one other advantage – replaceable cables. Since the cable is almost always the part to break, it’s nice to be able to replace the cable for $20, rather than the whole earphone for $100: http://www.lendmeurears.com/alpha-delta/

      • Skychael on

        Thanks a ton for the quick response! The MA750 seems great, I had been considering both those and the Hifiman RE-400. They would be my first over-the-ear fit so I’ll have to see how that works out, but I doubt that would be a problem.

        • ljokerl on

          RE-400 is definitely not known for its durability so that would swing the scale towards the MA750 for me in this case.

  21. nikhil on

    Hello Ljoker. Im looking to buy an IEM under $30-40. Following are my requirements

    1)Good Sub bass rumble and extension
    2)Lush thick midrange
    3)Smooth treble uptop
    4)Reasonably wide soundstage for the price.
    5)Very forgiving nature since i own a lot of compressed files.

    Im not an analytical listener and prefer fun, on the go music.

    • ljokerl on

      The Sony MH1C is what you want. It’s not too heavy on bass but has good impact and extension, and the rest of the signature is very smooth.

      • nikhil on

        Thnk you joker. Im sorry i did no mention it earler. I already ownthe sony MH1. But the fit on those arejust terrible. :( thats the reason why i am looking for an alternative.


          • nikhil on

            Ok then, ill stick to the re300.. but i see there are 3 variants on them.. 300A, 300i and 300H. Is there a noticeable sound diff between them?

          • ljokerl on

            As far as I know the differences are limited to the wire and the mic/remote unit (or lack thereof). Differences in sound should be minimal, if any.

  22. LasseG on

    I’ve been reading on your site for a while and i’ve heard a few of the IEM’s through time. I simply love the sound og Sony Mh1c but the flat cable was pulling the buds out of the ear with every head movement.

    Can you recommend any IEM with the same sound quality of the the mh1c? Including the subbass :-)

    Thanks in advance

      • LasseG on

        Thank you for your reply. Much appreciated :-)

        Indeed the mh1c is great. Esspecially when listening to psybient among many other genres. When i had to ditch the Mh1c i waitet a long time for the SBH80 to arrive. I bought them but they wasn’t as good. Also ruined the experince due to distortion/static sounds and the part that goes around the neck kept moving which was just as annoying as the flatcable on Mh1c.

        I’ll take you advice and i will look more into the Yamaha EPH-100 that you mentioned.

        And once again: Thank you.

        • ljokerl on

          Hmm.. distortion/static shouldn’t be present when using the SBH80 with an aptX device.

          Either way, EPH-100 won’t have either of those problems.

          • LasseG on

            No. The issue wasn’t caused by the SBH80. It was the bad BT software provided for android some time ago. I actually don’t know if they’ve fixed the issue as i promised myself never to get anything but wired IEM after that.

            I watched a few reviews on the EPH-100 and i must say they’re quite tempting. The price is a bit higher than my budget allows atm but they’re definitely the next IEM to buy.

            Next is IEM’s for hardstyle and symphonic rock.

            Have a very ncie day, mate.

          • LasseG on

            A quick question.

            I was told about the Sony MDR EX650 Brass. How would you compare those to the Yamaha EPH-100?

            My prefered type of music is hardstyle, ambient/psybient, symphonic rock and so on.

          • ljokerl on

            I’ve never tried them. I do have an EX600 and EX800ST but they are rather neutral earphones, very different from the EPH-100 and MH1C.

  23. CookieThief1 on

    Just bought the A151’s, it’s amazing. Sadly my laptop’s sound card is really bad and there is a constant static, which is pretty loud, and i’ts kind of annoying, I’m hoping with some burn in it will get better somehow. Thanks for all the help 😛

    • ljokerl on

      Unfortunately that’s not going to go away with burn-in. It’s the result of a high noise floor of the source combined with the high sensitivity of a Balanced Armature driver. For high-sensitivity earphones it seems your laptop needs an external DAC, sadly. Or at least an impedance adapter, which should be $20 or less (this will change the sound of the A151 to some degree, but may be better than having a constant background noise).

      • CookieThief1 on

        Yeah…I didn’t think burn in would help because it’s not a problem with the IEMs themselves but….seemed like the only thing that could happen to help me lol. I tried to find a good cheap DAC but the only one that seemed trustworthy to me was the hifimediy sabre, which ships from japan and is a little more expensive than I’d like. But im definitely gonna get myself one of those impedance adapters then. I found an audio technica one on amazon for $9, gonna link it down here, but do you have any recommendations for these adapters?


        • ljokerl on

          That’s a quarter-inch jack. You want a 3.5mm one, like this: http://ebay.to/1OvAbTc

          You can also use a volume control adapter (just keep the impedance medium-high) instead but they aren’t exactly Hi-Fi components. A simple impedance adapter has fewer solder joints and no chance for a volume imbalance, unlike a cheap volume control. Still, here’s some examples:

          I think even a cheap amp (like a FIIO E6) can help lower the noise floor significantly. A DAC is safer since you’re bypassing that jack completely but a used E6 might be comparable to an impedance adapter in cost.

          • CookieThief1 on

            Yeah i noticed that thing i linked wouldn’t be too useful. That one from ebay really might be my best option. A fiio e6 used is still double the price and i really don’t need an amp for anything i have currently, a comfortable listening volume with the A151’s is 4-6% and with my HD558’s it’s 12-16%. So even a dac would be a better option than an amp. Also, should i get the 75 or 150 ohm version of the adapter? I’m almost certain i should go for the 75 ohm but i wanna be sure. Thanks for all the help again 😀

          • ljokerl on

            75 is plenty. You don’t wan to make it too hard to reach sufficient listening volume.

            An amp can be used to properly lower the listening volume as well as to raise it (common misconception, though) but it’s actually really nice to have an impedance adapter around – they can be useful even in the absence of hiss/static issues.

  24. alam on

    Hi, I’m looking for some bassy IEM’s that have good isolation, but my budget is very limited.

    The JVC HAFX101s are my first choice, but I’ve read that their sound quality is not even as good as apple earpods (which I think are mediocre at best). Are there any good isolating IEMs that are maybe a step above it? The Shure SE215s and Yamaha EPH100s are too expensive for me.

    Do you have any recommendations?

    • ljokerl on

      I don’t think it’s fair to say that the earpods are better than FX101s. It’s more about sound tuning than sound quality at this level. The EarPods are terrible if you’re into big bass – they roll off way too early and are lacking in the way bass depth and “slam”. So in this context, the FX101 are vastly superior to the EarPods. On the other hand if you were evaluating overall accuracy, then the EarPods may indeed be more desirable.

      Here’s two other good bass-heavy earphones under $60 that isolate pretty well:
      Brainwavz S1: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/brainwavz-s1/
      RHA MA350: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/rha-ma-350/

      • alam on

        Thanks for the reply.

        The MA350 seems *almost* perfect if it weren’t for the microphonics (the main reason I’m moving away from my $6 monoprice IEMs).

        But have you heard anything about the JVC HA-FXH30?I know you have a review of the HA-FXD80’s up where you seem to praise them for everything they offer, but they are out of stock (at least at the right price) and amazon says the FHX30’s are a newer model. Some Head-fi reviews seem to like them as well.

        • alam on

          Alternatively; could I ignore how good an IEM’s isolation is and just go for Comply foam tips?

          • ljokerl on

            No, I’m not familiar with the FHX30.

            While Complys are helpful when it comes to isolation, tips simply aren’t the only factor. An earphone that doesn’t isolate well, like a Soundmagic E30, won’t be magically transformed with the addition of Comply tips – it’ll just benefit a little bit. The best combination is a moderately or highly-isolating earphone plus Complys.

        • Andy on

          I have the FXH-30, and I love them. Buuuut, their isolation is poorer than average and I would not describe them as ‘bassy’ – it has only a mild v shape and while I love how quick and well behaved the bass is, its not exactly kicking your head in.

  25. koflok on

    Hi Joker,

    Read through your comments and seems like EPH-100 is a good fit for me, but it’s a bit out of my budget. Is there any “poor man’s” version of it?

    I like warm and smooth with a bit of strong bass. Used Klipsch S4i but the treble is too tiring, and the balanced RE400 is a bit too boring for my liking.

    Is Shure SE215 any good?
    Or how about the Momentums? I know it’s V Shaped but maybe being a less inexpensive model the treble might not be that bad?


    • ljokerl on

      The Sony MH1C would be my pick (or the Bluetooth version, the SBH80, if you can’t deal with the MH1C’s cable). While it’s a little less bassy than the EPH-100, it’s a better overall sound signature match than the SE215 or Momentum. Very smooth earphone with enhanced bass and a warm tone.

      • koflok on

        Thanks for the fast reply! Do you reckon the Sony MH1C will do well for EDM which I listen a lot?

        How does it compare with SE215? Because from your list both fall under Warm and Smooth.


        • ljokerl on

          I think it sounds fine with EDM but more importantly it seems like a good fit based on your experience with the S4 and RE-400. The SE215 also warm and smooth, but it’s tuned somewhat differently – the bass is not as enhanced, the midrange is more forward on the whole, and the top end is rolled off slightly. The MH1C is a better match for the EPH-100 tuning and (in my opinion) a better-sounding earphone overall.

          • kfolok on

            Ah I see then. How does the bass match with the Klipsch?

            I was actually initially put off because it’s a Sony phone default earphone (?), but it seems like it’s legit. So will be looking for a deal on that.

            Cheers for the help!

          • ljokerl on

            The Klipsch is more mid-bassy. MH1C is quite well-balanced between mid-bass and subbass. It might not be as “in your face” in terms of bass as the Klipsch, but it’s not bass-light by any means.

            The US MSRP on the MH1C is something like $80 when purchased separately. Luckily you can find them for much less because they come with some Sony phones.

          • koflok on

            Hi Joker,

            Finding the pair here in Aussie is a struggle haha. Found one in ebay, MH1A variant. Is that the same thing.

            I’m kinda worry of a fake pair though. The only legit one is from Amazon but it’s in full price, and there’s no other dealer that really sells them around here.

          • ljokerl on

            I’m not familiar with the MH1A. The MH1 is the alternate version of the MH1C with the wiring for the ground and mic channels reversed. It requires an adapter to work with many phones.

            How about something like this? http://ebay.to/1QVzVLB . It ships to Australia and is only $25 or so before shipping. It is very common for these to be very inexpensive when sold without retail packaging – that’s half the reason they’re popular on Head-Fi. Haven’t seen anyone complaining of counterfeits.

          • koflok on

            Really appreciate you doing the effort of doing that ebay search to Australia. Yeah I saw that listing too. Price is alright but I read their negative feedback and a lot of them says the items are not genuine so stop working after a while and the seller is not responding.

            I actually don’t mind paying extra up to ~$50 as long as it’s for sure genuine. Do you know any website that’s reliable and ships to US? I might use a freight forwarder if I have to.

          • ljokerl on

            Sorry, as far as I know everyone who’s bought an MH1C on my recommendation did so via ebay. You used to be able to buy them on Amazon or even Sony’s official site, but that doesn’t seem to be the case any longer.

            You could try the Head-Fi classifieds as well – it was the “flavor of the month” budget IEM for a while.

          • koflok on

            Ah I see in that case then it should be fine. I assume those bought comes in bulk packaging rather than the box? Cheers Joker

          • ljokerl on

            Yep. That’s how mine came, too.

          • koflok on

            Cheers Joker

            Just wondering are you familiar with Sony MH750? It comes with the Sony Z3 phones I reckon. If you do, how does it compare to the MH1C?

            I actually have one lying around haha

          • ljokerl on

            No, never even heard of these.

  26. Alex on

    Hi Joker! Just a quick question, i recently bought the GR07 classic’s and they beat the RE400 in pretty much everything except the mids and the comfort, but getting straight to the point, what’s the best sub 50$ IEM that resembles the GR07 sound signature (Neutral but just very slightly V Shaped) im eyeing the Trinity Hyperion’s and the Soundmagic E50’s. but im afraid of harsh highs, i hope you can help, thanks again Joker!

    • ljokerl on

      The best sub-$50 IEM that sounds like the GR07 is the VSonic VSD3S. However, the VSD3S also has treble response quite similar to the GR07 – if you found the GR07 harsh, the VSD3S will also be harsh. Otherwise, it’s a great “budget” GR07.

      I don’t have enough experience with the E50 and none at all with the Trinity Hyperion to provide a comparison of the VSD3S to those, though.

  27. CookieThief1 on

    Hi Joker, i need some help with finding the right IEM’s so i though i would ask the master himself. I’m looking for IEM’s that sound like the sennheiser HD558(neutral), are priced at around $100, and are VERY comfortable, since I’m planning to replace my HD558’s. I’ve though of a couple options, Shure SE215(not really neutral/balanced but they got my interest) and Hifiman RE400, also just now saw the GR07 classic edition. Which option do you think is the best? if it’s not any of these then what do you think I should get?

    • ljokerl on

      The RE-400 is the closest to the HD598 (not sure about the 558 because I haven’t tried it, but I’m guessing they aren’t vastly different). I thought the HD598 was a very smooth headphone that didn’t have much bass boost, which rules out the GR07 and SE215. The only caveat is that the amount of air a full-size headphone can move creates more bass impact with similarly low bass enhancement, so the RE-400 may appear a touch “anemic” at first in comparison to your headphones. However, once you get used to IEM bass it should be okay as the bass has good quality and extension. Likewise, the soundstaging presentation of an open can is very different compared to an IEM, which will also take some getting used to.

      • CookieThief1 on

        Thank you!, I’ll be getting the RE400’s then. But i wanted to ask you another question, I have a pair of klipsch S4’s, and i do not think they are comfortable(when I put them in my ear like I’m supposed to do for IEM’s), after less than an hour wearing them I feel really uncomfortable and even though It’s not painful, i feel the need to take them off. So i looked at the huge review list you have, and i found out thatthe S4’s are a 3/5 in comfort while the RE400’s are 4.5/5. I don’t think a 1.5 score difference would mean i can wear the RE400’s for 5-6 hours in a row. Do you think it was maybe because the tips on the S4’s are bad. and something like comply tips or good quality silicone tips would make a difference, or could i be one of those people that don’t go well with IEM’s? I know It’s a weird question but i just wanted your opinion. Again, THANK YOU!.

        • ljokerl on

          The Klipsch tips are good quality, but in general when silicone tips are uncomfortable foam tips are definitely worth trying. It could be the angle or depth you were inserting your earphones at (which will be different on the RE-400 just because it’s a different design), or it could be the pressure that the tips exert on your ear canals, which will be different with foam tips.

          • CookieThief1 on

            Sorry for asking so many questions but…here is another one. I keep looking for new things on the huge IEM list you made and i discovered the MEElectronics A151. They are $35 on amazon right now and they got my interest for being so cheap, having a neutral sound and having such a nice cable. Would there be a big difference in sound quality overall if i did get the A151 instead of the RE400’s? and even if it isn’t big, would you say the $40+ investment is worth it? Also, I think It’s worth mentioning I don’t do any monitoring, I just play games and occasionally listen to music, the only reason why i want a neutral sound is because…I like it 😛

          • ljokerl on

            The A151 is not on the same level as an RE-400 in terms of sound quality but for $35 you can’t really do better for neutral sound. The difference is noticeable, but maybe with light music use it won’t matter. Really depends on how critical you are of your headphones and how big a deal spending an extra $40 is.

  28. KT on

    Hey joker, can you help me find the right IEMs?!

    I’m looking for a pair that has an emphasis of bass with good bass depth without being too bloated. It would be nice have decently clear mids that that too recessed and without harsh highs but I know its a trade off with having a lot of bass. So maybe something with an L-shaped sound signature? I’m coming from JVC FX101’s. The bass on these are nice but I find the highs way too harsh and mids recessed. Can you recommend anything in the sub $50 range??? I’ve been looking at the NarMoo B2Ms but I can’t find many review on them. Thoughts?

    • ljokerl on

      Yep, the FX101s are pretty harsh and v-shaped. What you want is a Sony MH1C (assuming you can deal with its cable). Very, very smooth response, mids are not too recessed (keeping in mind the enhanced bass), and the bass goes all the way down. If you don’t want to deal with the MH1C cables the Xiaomi Piston 2 is also a good option and will do a better job than the FX101 for only $5-10 more.

      NarMoo B2M are good as well but as I haven’t reviewed them in full yet I’m not quite as confident recommending them as the two above.

  29. Juan Ruiz on

    Hi man! hey i can decide for headphones im looking for headphones my fange of price is 50 -80 usd listen to dance, rock , blues and future bass i like to heard the bass and also i like to heard the micro effects of a song ( a guitar in a chorus or the voices and noises in the background but always keeping the bass in a good tune i cant decide for this 2 headphones 716278 DX 120 iE/ JVC HA-FXD80/dunu detonator , or what headphones would you recomend me cheers

  30. Cons on

    Hi, quick question. what do you call those iem that is at an angle when you put them on. sort of a slip on, sorry if i cannot describe it well. some example, soundmagic es20, the IM50/70, se215, all these. the tips have angles as opposed to a straight one.

    is there a term for this?
    i am asking because i like how they fit a lot better than those straight ones. also, can you recomment some that are of this type (i like se215 but i hear they break relatively easy). price at around 100 usd only please. thanks

    nice list by the way

    • ljokerl on

      I just call them “ergonomic fit” when they’re designed for over-the-ear wear and have that ear-shaped housing (SE215/IM50/70). The VSonic VSD3S and GR07 from the recommendations above fit this category as well.

      When they have a round housing that’s more like an earbud with a nozzle (like the Soundmagic ES20) the correct term is “half in-ear”. The Philips Fidelio S1 and S2 fit this profile too and are recommended. The JVC HA-FXT90 and Sennheiser Momentum also fit like this if you prefer a more v-shaped sound.

  31. James on

    Philips SHE3590/3580 OR Xiaomi Piston 2?

    • ljokerl on

      Piston 2 is better if you want bassier, warmer, smoother sound with a bit more air.

      SHE3590/3590 better if you would rather have tighter, more linear bass response, a more neutral tone, and crisper, potentially harsher highs.

      • James on

        Can you compare them to the apple earpods? I can’t really imagine their sound output and comparing them to my existing earpods would help me.

        also, how would the 3590 fair with isolation? also, are the pistons more durable than the 3590 and the earpods? Thanks! never wouldve thought someone would reply!

        • ljokerl on

          Either way you’re getting a warmer sound with better deep bass compared to the earpods, which are more neutral with a pronounced upper midrange (which is what gives them part of their clarity). It’s just a matter of degree – the Piston 2 is a more extreme difference, the SHE3590 less so.

          Isolation is average on the SHE3590 and slightly worse than average on the Piston 2 (this is compared to other in-ears, not the earpods). Also, while the Piston 2 is metal and has a beefier-looking cable, I haven’t really seen many issues with either model so I can’t say that gives it a durability advantage. If you step on both the Piston 2 will survive while the SHE3590 probably won’t, but in regular use it’s hard to say one will outlast the other.

          • James on

            I just got my Piston 2s a while ago and have to say, they’re a bit better than the earpods. The bass are definitely more deeper and has better overall quality. Will the Xiaomi improve overtime? I’ve heard about burn-ins.

          • ljokerl on

            I tend to think that’s mostly a mental phenomenon, i.e. a fancy way of saying “give yourself time to get used to the sound”. That’s not to say it doesn’t work, though. There’s definitely no harm in putting more hours on the headphones, but I’d also suggest putting the Earpods aside for a while. If you come back to them in a week you’ll be more attuned to the Piston’s sound signature and the differences between it and the Earpods will be more accentuated.

  32. Sarat on

    So , which category does Piston 3 fall under?

    • ljokerl on

      Somewhere between balanced and v-shaped. It hasn’t got quite enough bass boost for what I normally put in the v-shaped category, but also the mids aren’t forward enough to put it alongside something like the VSonic VC02 or Brainwavz M1 or Etykids under “balanced”.

  33. Rand on

    Hey Joker, I’ve been reading your reviews on head-fi for some time now and after one of my Shure SE215’s monitors broke (with a new cable and tips bought recently), I’m trying to find a good pair to use for watching movies and some gaming (rarely music), so mostly human voices.

    The two main factors I look for are noise isolation and comfort while laying on my side (head resting on a pillow). I tried your interactive table to help me decide and it seems one of the Etymotics (HF5, MC5) would be my best bet, but it’s really hard to tell how an iem will fit in vivo and how well it will handle laying on the site. I guess a lower profile would be better. Enough material strength to support a head may also help. What would your recommendation be for this scenario?

    The SE215, acquired after reading your big comparison review on head-fi, served me really well, but maybe I should try something different, specially since the fragile acrylic casings broke (though admittedly after some abuse). Compatibility with the new Shure Olives and reserve cable would be a bonus, but not a deal breaker (it looks like the etys are compatible with the tips). I’ve also stopped with some habits that might have contributed to the iem breaking, namely using them virtually 24/7, sometimes as only an ear plug; I did buy actual silicone ear plugs later, but they’re not particularly good, since I couldn’t find much in the way of reviews and just bought the single brand sold in this city.

    Also, thanks for the very useful guides and reviews;

    • ljokerl on

      Yeah, the table is not ideal for that (yet). Working on making it more dynamic.

      The HF5/MC5 are definitely not ideal for laying on your side. Honestly the SE215 would still be my recommendation for this, especially if you want to keep the same sort of warm, enhanced-bass sound, use Shure Olive tips, and stay in a similar price range. It just ticks all the boxes.

      If you go up in price and forget about the Olives there’s the Yamaha EPH-100 and Klipsch X10/X11. While somewhat different in tuning from the SE215, I think these are viable options for what you want. Good isolation, too. However, neither has replaceable cables, which are a big plus for your usage scenario.

      For more neutral (Etymotic-like) sound you have the ACS T15 but again no repleaceable cables on that. You also have the Westone W10, which does have replaceable cables and works with Shure Olives, but I think it’s overpriced for the sound quality you’re getting.

      Also, just to mention, I’ve heard nothing but praise for Shure’s customer support. Perhaps they will sell a single earpiece to get you back up and running?

      • Rand on

        Thanks for the timely and useful response! I’ll see about getting a single earpiece from Sure or maybe just buy a new set, as it really does seem like the best fit.

  34. Andar on

    Hello Sir Joker,

    i’m planning to buy IEM around 100-150 for gaming specially FPS, but sometimes i will use it for listen to music, watch movie too which one should i choose? can Vsonic GR07 classic make it?

    thanks sir.

    • ljokerl on

      Sure, the GR07 is very versatile and should be just balanced enough for this purpose. I don’t know that gaming with IEMs is very popular but unless there’s some specific sound signature required for it I’m confident the GR07 will do as well as any other.

      • Andar on

        i don’t know about specific sound signature, but there is this Headphone ATH AD700 for FPS gaming it fit perfect, with this you know exactly where the footstep come from but when use it for music/movie so little bass in it, almost there is no bass there.

        • ljokerl on

          Not familiar with the sound tuning of the AD700 but the GR07 has a pretty wide soundstage for an IEM.

          • Andar on

            sir, i already tried

            but no one sell vsonic gr07 in my country :(

            do you have any other choice? wide big soundstage and crystal clear sound or analytical sound or acurate sound

            too bad all your suggestion from the balanced sound signature all of them out of stock 😀

          • ljokerl on

            Hmm.. I think the best similarly-priced alternative would be the Philips Fidelio S2 (or even S1 if S2 is not available). If not that, maybe the Ostry KC06 is available? There’s a few retailers that ship VSonic and Ostry products internationally, too – mp4nation, lendmeurears, etc.

    • Spalo on

      I’ve used my GR07 be for CSGO and general music too they handle it beautifully. They even have a better sound stage than my old steelseries Siberias V2s.

    • Andar on

      thank you so much for all of you, i think i will just try it, and i hope it will be just like what i expected

  35. blazer39 on

    hi joker,

    i recently listened to you advice and bought myself Ostry kc06, and i really fell in love with it :)
    the sound signature was almost exactly what i was looking for..however i forgot the ostry one day at office and it seems someone stole them :(

    right now I’m thinking upgrading to gr07 classic edition or Philips Fidelio S1/S2, which one should i get?!
    or should i just buy another Ostry kc06?

    • ljokerl on

      The KC06 is quite unique in the way its sound is colored – you won’t find something else that sounds like it. The GR07 and S1/S2 have more conventional neutral/slightly v-shaped sound signatures. They’ll give you more linear, better quality bass and also place less emphasis on the midrange compared to the rather mid-forward KC06. They are also not as bright as the KC06, but the treble emphasis is a little bit different, with more upper mdirange boost in the case of the Philips and a little more sibilance in the case of the VSonics.

      If going in a more neutral/less mid-forward direction is okay with you then they are both good options. I tend to prefer and recommend the GR07 over the Fidelios unless sibilance is a major concern.

      • blazer39 on

        Thanks joker for the quick reply, however i have few more question:

        how bad is the sibilance?!
        The only two headphone i own with sibilance are the Grado sr80e and JVC HA-FXT90 IEM.
        while i can handle Grado sound the JVC HA-FXT90 sibilance was kinda annoying..is the gr07 sibilance bad as the JVC?
        also is the gr07 really upgrade from ostry KC06 in terms of clarity and sound quality?

        once again thanks joker, really appreciate helping me out.

        • blazer39 on

          oh btw, just wanna add one more thing, my primary source is Fiio x3ii .

          • ljokerl on

            Hmm.. if the FXT90 bothered you in terms of sibilance (assuming you had a good fit with it), I probably would go Fidelio S2 over the GR07.

            Are they an upgrade over the KC06 in clarity? Maybe. The bass of the KC06 is a tiny bit bloated in comparison thanks to its slight mid-bass hump, so it loses some clarity in that region. Other than that, no.

            Likewise, the VSonics and Philips are more accurate overall, so they do sound better IF the goal is fidelity. But if you’re okay with the coloration of the KC06’s sound then they’re really not an upgrade because they’re moving in a different direction from that.

  36. aTaKeRs on

    hi Joker

    i’m planning to buy earbuds that below 50$, i just want to know IEM have the most wide soundstage with clear mid, high, low in detail clear sound, and i dont like so much bassy bassy, i’m planning to use it for replacement for playing FPS game because when using headphone i’m getting sweaty in long period of use. i also using it for watching movie and a bit of rnd music listening. thnx in advance 😀

    • ljokerl on

      If you can spend closer to $60, the Ostry KC06 would be perfect for this. Otherwise my top two choices would be the LG Quadbeat F420 or the Soundmagic E10. All of these have wide, airy presentations, good clarity, detail, and treble presence, and not too much bass.

      • aTaKeRs on

        sir only LG G2 Quadbeat 2 HSS-F530 and LG QuadBeat 3 HSS-F630 are available here in my place do you think it isa the same wide soundstage ? and also what you mean with airy presentation ?

        • ljokerl on

          I don’t have either of those so I’m not sure. There are probably reviews comparing the soundstage of the old Quadbeat (F420) and one or both of those newer ones on Head-Fi.

          Airy and spacious pretty much mean the same thing in this context.

  37. Serena on


    My W4 broke, so I’m finding another IEM/can. The choices I have are as follows –
    1. Replace the W4 with the W40 and keep them
    2. Replace the W4s with W40, sell them, and use the money to buy a new pair of IEMs/headphones PLUS a pair of durable isolating IEMs for plane use.

    I like analytical headphones with a touch of warmth, and I also like clarity and a wide soundstage. Durability is a huge concern for the airplane IEMs, I don’t want to break them again, but portability is not a consideration. Now that I’ve got the O2 I’m not worried about things that are hard to drive, so cans are also fine. As reference things I like are the HD668Bs, the HD25 (aside from the clamping force and the small soundstage) and the A161Ps without the overly aggressive treble. My budget is around $350 for the cans/IEMs, and $100 for the airplane IEMs. Would you recommend any cans (I’m looking at HD600s) or IEMs (e.g. FLC8, which sounds interesting, or the DUNU 2000s, I’m open to suggestions) for my budget? For the airplane IEMs, I’m looking at the B2 or the Etykids.

    Which IEMs or cans would you recommend, or would I be better off keeping the W40s?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Serena on

      I’m also considering the Havi B3 Pro 1 for the airplane IEMs.

      • ljokerl on

        I’m a fan of IEMs when it comes to analytical sound. – as general rules I think IEMs are capable of extremely high performance with that type of sound tuning, even on a budget. Those Etymotics are a case in point.

        The W40 does one thing that you want very well – it doesn’t have aggressive treble like the A161P and some of the other more analytical IEMs in that price range. It also has plenty of bass and warm tone. In terms of clarity and overall balance you can easily do better for the price, but you’ve pretty much found what makes the W40 compelling as a whole despite this. There are better warm-and-smooth IEMs, too, but they tend to be pricier. The EarSonics SM64 is one, but I also can’t say I trust EarSonics build quality over Westone’s.

        However, I also recommend that every music fan should at the very least experience the HD600 (but better yet, own one). It’s an incredible headphone and its biggest strength is that it really has no weaknesses (in my opinion). I wouldn’t call it “analytical”, but balanced with a touch of warmth – sure. The treble is never aggressive, the bass is never overwhelming, the soundstage never collapses, and so on. If I didn’t own one already I’d be on the lookout for one right now.

        Speaking of avoiding aggressive treble – due to this requirement you likely won’t benefit from some of the tuning options of the FLC 8 – a good three quarters of them tend to be fairly bright. Just something to keep in mind.

        I think a disposable set of IEMs for airplane use is a great idea. I’d probably spend a couple bucks more than the Etykids and get the Etymotic MC5 at ~$60. It might not be worth it on sound alone, but the lower impedance makes it more versatile in very loud environments and you won’t find a better combination of balanced sound and high isolation at that price point. You can do better on sound with something like the HiFiMan RE-400, but you’re giving up some isolation which, on a plane, isn’t worth it.

        • Serena on

          Having owned the W4 before I didn’t really like it since I found it too warm, so would the W40s be the same? In that case, would the FLC8 be a better choice or do you have any recommendations? Also, do you think it would be worth investing in cans or IEMs more for home use (for the same price) (ie. FLC8 or any other IEM vs HD600)? The A161P’s treble is too aggressive for my liking, but I do like clarity and a wide soundstage.

          For the airplane IEMs, are the etys durable? It might get abused a bit in my sleep and I wouldn’t want it to go out so quickly.

          Thanks in advance for your reply, this website is truly a joy!

          • ljokerl on

            W40 and W4 are very similar to each other. The FLC8 is better if the W40 was too warm, but you’ll have to experiment to find the tuning that has treble that’s not too harsh for you.

            As for IEMs vs cans, that’s more of a personal choice, but it sounds like a high-end full-size can would fit nicely into your collection, and I do like the HD600 a lot. It’s also one of those headphones where you never have to worry about it being “too” anything – it’s too harsh, too bassy, too lean, etc. The soundstage is very nice as well – IEMs have a lot of trouble matching open headphones in that regard.

            As far as I know the Etys are pretty durable – the cords are Kevlar-reinforced if I remember correctly and noone’s reported any glaring failures here on the site. You could go for a detachable-cable IEM to have the option to replace it in case you damage the cord, but you’ll be paying more upfront and each cable replacement will cost you as well. In this price range it’s typically not worth it.

          • Serena on

            Hi, sorry for not checking very often…

            HD600 does fit in nicely (as does the FLC8 – I would be left without a high-end IEM). I know this is a bit unrelated to IEMs, but are the HD600s a huge upgrade over the Superlux 668Bs (considering they’re both run by an O2 dac/amp+Macbook) and will the HD25+Superlux HD668Bs fulfill my needs for cans? On the other hand, do you think the FLC8s or the HD600 are more worth their price tag, and do you think a high-end can or IEM is more important?

            Current lineup: IEMs – A161P (… that’s it, I’m getting a pair of plane IEMs but nothing else)
            Cans – HD668B, Senn HD25

            Thanks for your reply!

          • ljokerl on

            The HD600 won’t be a huge upgrade over the 668B in every way but taken as a whole it’s a much smoother, more refined, and more “Hi-Fi” headphone. The soundstaging is very good, the clarity is not achieved via extra-bright treble (the Superlux is slightly guilty of this), and the overall balance is just superb.

            I can’t tell you whether my favorite cans in the price range are a better value than what I think are among the best IEMs in the price range or which is more important to have, but you really can’t go wrong with either. It sounds like you’d rather have a higher-end IEM in your collection, and there’s definitely nothing wrong with that (this coming from someone who uses IEMs 80% of the time).

  38. Stilleh (same on headfi forum) on

    Man, I can’t even start about how mighty impressed I am about the amount of work and dedication you’ve put into this site. I’ve been reading the whole IEM guide thread from start to finish and taking notes about IEMs that got my attention. I’m hopeing that you can answer some of my questions on what to get next…

    I’m a fairly new member of the audiophile world and have been building my portable setup for a few months now. I have the following things to switch around;

    Sources: Fiio X5 DAP and Sony Z3+
    AMP/DAC: Oppo HA-2 DAC
    Headphones: Bowers & Wilkins P7
    IEM: Bowers & Wilkins C5, Havi B3 Pro1, Vsonic VSD3 (detachable cable) and KZ ATE

    I listen to pretty much everything except Country and progressive jazz… Everything from Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Gonzalez, In Flames, Swedish House Mafia, Rage against the Machine, Neil Young to Infected Mushroom.

    What I’m looking for is the following;

    Soundstage and separation! (Havi’s have spoiled me bad…) Width and depth. Clarity. Bass has to be present but does not need to be “the” soundfeature. I enjoy more quality and speed when it comes to bass instead of the ” oomph”-feeling. I have big ears so seal can be an issue so I use large Comply or Monster Supertips to pretty much all my IEMs (triple flanges sometimes).

    I also want detachable cables as I’m getting addicted to customizing my setup now too (oh the echoes from my empty wallet…).

    Budget you ask? Sky is the limit (I WISH!) No seriously, I could maybe put up $200-250 (hopefully less) if I skip diapers for my baby and “forget” the water bill for a few months… 😉

    Hope you have the time to put a few recomendations down for me :)

    • Stilleh on

      Forgot to mention that I´m only interested in IEMs…

      • ljokerl on

        That’s quite a gear collection you’ve got there, took me years to build my portable rig up to that level.

        There’s a few different ways you could go from here. Unfortunately the detachable cables are going to be a limiting factor – it’s still a feature of maybe 1 in 10 IEMs I come across. With wide soundstage and detachable cables as a requirement, I would say your best options are these:

        Fidue A83 – hybrid earphone with plenty of bass and a nice slightly v-shaped overall sound. The soundstage is quite wide but a touch “vague” in terms of imaging compared to some higher-end sets and more analytical earphones such as the…
        ATH-IM02 – only had these for a few days but they’re right in your price range and they’re sounding very good. Very clear and resolving sound, but quite flat. Not what you’re looking for if you want enhanced bass, but it’s not bass light and quality is quite good.
        Sony MDR-EX600 – very wide soundstage from these and the other dynamic-driver Sonys of this generation – the higher-end EX1000 is about as good as it gets, and the EX600 is far from shabby. Bass is not enhanced like it is on the A83, but the big drivers have very natural impact despite the flat response. The IM02 might have similar bass quantity on paper, but it’s not as impactful as the Sonys.

        One point for the Fidue – the connectors are standard MMCX so you have the most freedom in germs of aftermarket cables. Not sure how the others play out on that.

        As for other options, AudioFly has the AF120 hybrid at $250 but I haven’t tried it at length. MEElectronics has the Pinnacle coming out this year that sounded quite good at CES and has MMCX detachable cables. Fidue has another hybrid with detachable cables in the works, but I have a feeling it’ll be priced above the A83, at least at first. And then there’s the FLC Technologies FLC8 if you suddenly find yourself with an extra $100 to throw at this.

        • Stilleh on

          Thanks for the quick and detailed response (as always). I had the Fidues and Sonys on my list and I’ll be reading up on them even more now.

          I know that the wish for detachable cable limits the recommendations a lot but they just look so darn sexy with custom braided cables and pure silver (for supposedly even more clarity). *sigh*

          If I skip detachables, what would you recommend then?

          Thanks again for taking your time mate.

          • ljokerl on

            That lets us pay more attention to finding the right sound signature because there’s so many more options. VSonic GR07 and Philips Fidelio S2 are good ones. Less bass and more flat/accurate than the A83, less so than ATH-IM02 and EX600. It’s a nice compromise in terms of both quality and quantity. Their soundstage tends to favor width over depth a bit, but for the price these are going for now (~$100) there’s nothing wrong with the performance.

  39. BT on

    Hey joker, THIS IS AN AWESOME GUIDE…..thanks for spending your precious time to reduce wasting ours over choosing an in-ear that suits us. I’ve got a question though. I like a v-shaped sound signature and I listen to a lot of electronic, alternative rock and pop music. I would like a good soundstage but it doesn’t need to be a wide one. Which in-ear would you suggest within the range 10-40$ ? Thanks again.

    • ljokerl on

      The Philips SHE3580 and Soundmagic E10 are always good options. The Philips for a little more bass, the E10 for a little more balance and a wider soundstage. I’ll add the Xiaomi Piston 2 as well – while it’s listed as warm and smooth in this guide, it’s borderline v-shaped and has a very nice soundstage for the price along with a good amount of bass enhancement and warm tone.

  40. Jo on

    Hi, Joker.
    I currently have the Philips Citiscape Downtowns which I enjoy very much except that I can’t wear them for long periods because of the glasses I wear. I have been looking for a in-ear that sounds similar to them. I have the SoundMAGIC E10 but I find that I’m not really liking the bass on it. Feels a bit too forward and muddy for me. I have also tried the Philips SHE3900 which were a little too tinny sounding. I also have the SHE3890 which 3590 which to me was similar to the E10. Is there anything similar to the downtowns in an IEM which maybe has a little more bass? This is probably asking a lot. I appreciate all your help though thanks!

    • ljokerl on

      Unfortunately I’m not familiar with the Citiscape Downtown or the SHE3900. If you think the bass of the E10 and SHE3590 is excessive and muddy, that can be fixed by going with a flatter-sounding earphone. But to make sure it still has a little more bass than the Downtowns I’d need to know where those fall on the spectrum.

      Here’s a few earphones that, in the most general terms, have controlled and tight (not muddy) bass but still with a little more quantity than a strictly “flat” earphone and don’t sound overly thin. Keep in mind that all these things are relative and if I knew what the Downtowns sounded like I’d be able to quantify things better. As is I’ll just rely on my arbitrary/gut feel measure.

      LG Quadbeat F420
      SteelSeries Flux In-Ear
      Philips TX1/TX2
      Xiaomi Piston 3
      T-Peos Rich200

      With the exception of the Flux these tend towards the brighter side of things, but that ensures decent clarity despite the bit of added bass punch (over flat) that they all have. With note thickness in the mix I’d peg the Flux as the best choice but’s also the hardest to find at a decent price.

  41. AC on

    Tremendous work here. I’ve learned so much. Thank you!

    I would love to ask your advice for my specific tastes, though. I like a warm, midrange focused sound. Accuracy and separation are nice to have, but not at the expense of brightness. I’m particularly sensitive to harsh highs (old ears). Unlike the seeming majority of listeners, I prefer the previous generation of iPhone earbuds to the new ones. While I recognize the new ones are much less muddy, they are extremely fatiguing for me. I listen mainly to classic rock and older jazz (West coast, Cool).

    So my target IEM’s would be warm/balanced for every day use but to also well isolated to allow for occasional airplane use. Ideally my price range is between $50 and 100 (unless you strongly recommend something higher/lower.). Based on your detailed reviews, 3 models that appeal to me are the Ostry KC06 (or the 6A), the HiFiMan RE-400, and the Yamaha EPH-100.

    Would you suggest one of these for me (or something else)? Thanks so much! A

    • ljokerl on

      Out of those the RE-400 is definitely your best bet. KC06 is pretty bright and fits shallow, so the isolation is pretty mediocre. EPH-100 is too bassy to be called midrange-focused. RE-400 is nicely balanced, with treble that is smooth but not too laid back and nothing getting in the way of the midrange. HiFiMan’s cheaper RE300h is actually even warmer and more forgiving than the RE-400, but it gives up some of the clarity and crispness of the higher-end model.

      Some other options for smooth, relatively mid-centric sound (that I personally don’t like as much as the RE-400, but that are a little lighter on treble still): Brainwavz R3, Creative Aurvana In-Ear 3, SteelSeries Flux In-Ear Pro (might be discontinued), Fidue A63. Out of these only the Creative can compete with the RE-400 in isolation.

      • AC on

        Thanks, Joker!

        I really appreciate the custom advice. One question– do you think any of these are efficient enough to get reasonable volume from an iPhone/iPad without a headphone amp? — A

        • AC on

          Never mind — I went ahead and ordered the RE-400’s using your link. I called the company and they were very helpful. I bought the classic version rather than the one with in-line remote as the rep seemed to be implying off-the-record that it might be more durable. Will post again when they get here.

          Thanks for your help! — A

          • ljokerl on

            RE-400 works perfectly well without an amp.

            I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the mic-less version is more durable – mic means extra solder joints, and extra solder joints means extra failure points.

      • AC on

        Hey Joker,

        Well, bad news :(

        I bought the RE-400’s from Amazon and I really didn’t like the sound. Had to send them back. The problem was that I couldn’t discern a midrange at all. You correctly describe them as bass weak (which I’m fine with), however I hear that low-performance as extending well into the mid range so that all but the deepest vocals and much acoustic guitar and piano are really thin. To compensate, I had to pump the volume to the point that the highs were crazy bright. I was hoping it was just a burn-in issue, but I gave them 3 weeks and although they became noticeably warmer, the mids never got a boost.

        It’s really a shame because I loved the form factor (cable, plug, looks, isolation, rubber tips). They were very clear and precise, but any warmth was ultimately negated by having to play with such bright highs.

        Can you make another recommendation for me? Similar form factor would be fine, but ultimately, I want that warm, full midrange. I guess I’m fine with more bass than the RE-400’s as long as it means beefier (and still warm) midrange. I guess I like the opposite of V-shaped sound — I always detested loudness buttons. If it’s any help, I love Dynaudio speakers (high end) and AudioEngine desktop speakers, to give you some idea of my taste in speakers. Maybe, ultimately, I’m asking for something that’s more of an over-ear sound than earbuds, but I’m not ready to give up yet.

        Pricewise, although I didn’t want to spend more than $50 – 80-ish, if it makes the difference in getting what I want, I’d like to know if you like anything a little over a hundred. By the way, I must have big earholes, because the largest tips fit me fine.

        I really appreciate your help!


        • ljokerl on

          That really doesn’t sound like the RE-400 at all – especially the bright highs. But it is possible to go warmer and fuller in terms of sound, with smoother treble. HiFiMan did it with the newer RE300: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/hifiman-re300h-in-ear-earphone-review/ . I’m not a huge fan because for me it’s too warm and thick, but it sounds like in this case it would be a better option than the RE-400.

          Other sets in this price range that sound warm and thick generally achieve that with really big bass – e.g. the Fidue A31s: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/fidue-a31s-in-ear-earphone-review/ . Very warm, very smooth, but it’s bassy and ultimately not as clear as I would like.

          One set I can think of from several years ago that bucks this trend is the Brainwavz M2: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/visang-r03-brainwavz-m2/ (yes, it’s a very old review) . Amazingly, it’s still in production, and it’s always been great for having nice, warm mids with impactful but not excessive bass. Definitely worth considering.

          • AC on

            Thanks Joker,

            Think I’ll get the Brainwavz. I also found a couple other models bouncing around your site that may have good mids: The Westone W1 (discounted now that it’s discontinued); The UE 600’s & possibly Shure SE215. Are you high on any of those?

            Thanks again!!


          • ljokerl on

            Don’t think the W1 or UE600 will do it for you. W1s are okay but they don’t have a lot of warmth because the bass isn’t very deep or enhanced. UE600s, while very clear and accurate through the midrange, are pretty flat in response and quite neutral in terms of tone.

            The SE215 is warm and has good mids, but it has enhanced bass and Shure tried to make it more monitor-like by giving it a relatively thin note presentation, so I wouldn’t say it’s as full-bodied in the midrange as an RE300h or M2. It also has the best isolation of the bunch, however, and if you can get it for <$80 I can’t really argue against it because it’s a very nice IEM.

          • AC on

            Hey Joker,

            Score with the Brainwavz M2’s!!!

            I can’t thank you enough. Really warm — almost thick actually, but very comfortable sounding. Within a few hours I completely forgot I was auditioning new headphones. Almost no learning curve at all. Whereas I never got there in 3 weeks with the RE-400’s.

            To be sure, the HifiMan’s were clearly a more accurate, discerning sound, but I just couldn’t get past that midrange dropoff I was perceiving. Now it’s certainly possible the pair I got was faulty — the phones seemed jammed into the packaging, not even placed into the cutouts that are supposed to hold them. So it’s possible it was a return, or refurb that somehow got back into the supply chain. Too bad if that’s the case. But I’m definitely happy with M2’s. I may look to upgrade in the future, so I’ll keep reading. But so far, so good.

            One more question, the dual flange silicone tips seemed to give me the best fit. Unfortunately there’s only one pair. Do you know a source for dual-flange tips? I saw that you linked to eBay somewhere, but was only able to find single and triple flange.

            Again, thanks so much!!!


          • ljokerl on

            Great news – very glad you’re enjoying the M2! Hat off to Brainwavz for still manufacturing it (and the M1 model). Both are classics.

            The M2’s nozzle size is pretty standard so there are a lot of tips that will fit. If I remember correctly the meelec double-flanges are the same ones: http://www.meelec.com/MEElectronics_Eartips_p/ts3-df-50-cl.htm . Tips that fit things like the Sennheiser IE8, Ultimate Ears TF10, and quite a few other popular IEMs will work for the M2 also.

  42. Joey on

    Hey Joker, been following your site for some time now – thanks for taking the time to answer everyone’s questions. I have the VSD3S and am itching for an upgrade. I’m having a hard time between the gr07 classic and gr07be. Half my music catalog is indie vocal driven and the other half is electro, still pretty vocal driven, but would be missing something if bass wasn’t there (think IAMX). What do you think?

    Are both of these an upgrade on all fronts compared to the vsd3s? Or if I got the classics would it be reasonable to say I’d still pull out the vsd3s for some guilty pleasure bass drop?

    or if you want to point me in a different direction all together that’s cool too.

    • ljokerl on

      The difference between “regular” GR07s and Bass Editions is quite small and coming from the VSD3S you won’t lose anything by going with the BE. Yes, the GR07 Classic would be a more drastic change (a more noticeable difference vs the VSD3S) thanks to its flatter tuning they are similar enough that you might as well get the BE so that you’re less likely to end up wondering “what if”. Oh and the VSD3S still has a little more boom to its bass so maybe you’ll want to keep those around for a while anyway, just in case.

  43. Daz on

    Hi Joker,

    Thank you for your excellent reviews. Just wondering if you have heard the Aurisonics ASG 1PLUS and what you think of them. I can currently buy them new for about $400 Australian Dollars.

    • ljokerl on

      No, haven’t tried those. I never liked the old ASG1 but I do like the newer Aurisonics Rockets so I suppose it could go either way with the 1PLUS.

  44. nick on

    Hello ljoker, i couldnt find your review of UE700’s. Could you please direct me towards the review ? also, i own a GR07BE. Do you think buying a used UE700 for $55 is a good idea? I mean, would it be an upgrade/sidegrade to the GR07be? thanks :)

    • ljokerl on

      The UE700 was discontinued by the time I got one so I never bothered reviewing it. It uses a TWFK driver and sounds similar to the other TWFK IEMs, of which I’ve reviewed at least five. This is one of the most recent and best: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/vsonic-vc1000/, but generally they are all tuned similarly. For $55 it would make a great more balanced and brighter-sounding compliment to the GR07 BE.

  45. Kenny on

    Hi there, can someone give me some recommendations for IEM’s from the price range up to $300?
    I own a pair of ATH-M50’s and those are nice because they are my first pair that isn’t $30.
    I’m looking for something that would be good for vocals and higher pitched notes such as the ones in this video : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4ktxl8fRMw

      • Kenny on

        What about the $200 USD range? The DN2000 is aprox $400 CAD. Do you think the GR07 would be good for the type?

        • ljokerl on

          The older DN-1000 is $180ish.

          GR07 is always a good choice as well, especially as a first higher-end IEM. The only reservation there would be that the bass on the “regular” GR07 is pretty balanced (keeping in mind that IEMs move less air than headphones in general) and the treble is not very forgiving. If you like emphasized bass or very smooth treble, the GR07 might not be the right answer. Otherwise it’s a very good all-rounder.

          • Kenny on

            Would you say the dn-2000 have smooth treble? Or is there a better choice?

          • ljokerl on

            Depends on your point of reference – it’s all relative. Compared to the GR07, yes, the DN-2000 is smoother overall. Compared to something like a Shure SE215 or Beats by Dre Tour 2.0, which have relaxed treble, DN-2000s are still pretty bright.

  46. Louie on

    Hi! I’m looking for earphones within the $100-150 price range that sounds like, or better, than ATH-M50. I know that comparing IEMs to Over-Ear Headphones is difficult, but I just want a nice set that I can carry around. I mostly listen to rock and its variations. Occasionally, I listen to EDM.

    HIFIMAN RE-400 Waterline is available in my country, along with Flux In-Ear Pro. Do they sound like the ATH-M50? Which is better for my music taste? Thanks.

    • Nick on

      I would try going with the rha t10 or t10i they are little over your price range unless you buy them used, also the swappable filters are to good to pass up.

    • ljokerl on

      Don’t expect IEMs to sound like your headphones – even with the same frequency response you’ll perceive certain things differently, especially the bass and soundstage.

      The RE-400 and Flux Pro are very well-balanced and smooth earphones. They are objectively similar to the M50 in the sense of not being overly bassy, harsh, mid-recessed, etc. Subjectively, however, you won’t get as much bass impact out of them and of course they’ll sound more in-the-head. The lower bass impact of in-ears you can make up for by buying a bassier earphone, but greater bass quantity is always a tradeoff with things likes bass control and clarity, so you’ll want to consider if you really need it. Likewise, you can find more spacious earphones than the RE-400 and Flux if you want to minimize the loss in soundstaging compared to the M50, but you’ll likely have to compromise elsewhere.

      Tl;dr if your focus is on accuracy, balanced, and clarity, the RE-400 is a great choice. If you need bass impact and a wider soundstage (which is not unusual for EDM listeners) you may want to look into getting something else, like the new Alpha & Delta AD01 (http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/alpha-delta-ad01-in-ear-earphone-review/) or the VSonic GR07 Bass Edition or the RHA MA750.

  47. Ck on

    Hi,joker.I would like some suggestion on my next IEM. I own the JVC ha FX-101x ,piston 2, KZ ED9 in the order.

    I found that the JVC to have too much bass to my liking and the highs are muddy. Love the piston 2, as it was a upgrade to my JVC. Lost the piston 2, and got the ED9 which is great for the price. Now, I’m thinking to upgrade and get myself a $50 IEM. Interested in the Ostry KC06 and the Soundmagic E80s ( noticed that you haven’t review the Soundmagic E80 yet, so I’m hoping that you would review that. :) )

    • ljokerl on

      I haven’t tried the E80 outside of a loud show so I can’t say much about them other than they sounded pretty good at the time. The KC06 is very good as well. It’s pretty different from the super bassy FX101 and from the warmer Piston 2 as well. It’s kind of the opposite, actually, having a brighter sound, leaner (but still pretty punchy bass), and more focus on the midrange. $50 is a great price for one of these if you think you’ll like that kind of sound.

  48. Jim on

    So I am having a hard time figuring out. I just bought the the M6P’s. They’re not for me. Harsh in the highs, mids recessed, and a little muddy. I don’t have that much experience. I currently own the HD598’s and ATH-M50x’s. Absolutely love both. I have a sensitive left ear as a result from a couple brain surgeries, which is why the MP6’s probably effect me the way they do. Anyhow, I love my bass really tight, but not overbearing. Clarity and easy to listen to are my main focus points. Always love a good sound stage too! :-) I am looking to spend between $100-$200 roughly. I don’t live in an urban area that offers actual in store purchasing. All will have to be online. Thank you so much for all that you do for us!!!

    • ljokerl on

      Okay-sounding $20 IEMs are generally going to sound pretty bad compared to two of the better $150-200 audiophile headphones on the market. With a $100-200 budget you can do much better. Depending on how your ear condition affects treble perception it may be preferable to find something that is a little smoothed-over up top, but the M6P is a poor indicator because it tends to be somewhat harsh as is.

      A safe choice would be something like a HiFiMan RE-400. These are popular for a reason – while the soundstage is average even for an IEM, they are very smooth, clean-sounding, and controlled IEMs. Very non-fatiguing. An alternative with better build quality but a bulkier design/fit is the Brainwavz R3. A TDK BA200 would be even better for sound and comfort but they’re very hard to find these days.

      The Etymotic HF5 would be good if you don’t mind a deep fit in the ear and think balanced (but not smoothed-over) treble would be sufficiently non-fatiguing. Very balanced, very tight, a little brighter than the RE-400 but generally not harsh or sibilant.

      • Jim on

        Thank you for the quick reply! I found some NEW TDK BA200’s on Ebay, offered them $119.95. Wasn’t sure if that is a good price? I forgot to mention that these will be my Gym headphones as well as laying in bed. Are they pretty comfortable? Ie side sleeping? Thank you again!

        • ljokerl on

          Yeah, that’s a great price for them. They used to go for $200 and that was a good deal already. Just be careful with sweat at the gym as I don’t think they’re sweatproof/water-resistant.

          • aTaKeRs on

            thnx for recomendation sir, i just pick Quadbeat 3 it’s the latest in it’s line dont have much review in google but they said it have much better soundstage than LG quadbeat 2 and also more fun to listen like your in the other world they said :)

            i’m gonna share my thought’s after a few days, excited to came in 😀 “sorry for bad english”

      • Jim on

        Thank you for the quick reply! I found some NEW TDK BA200’s on Ebay, offered them $119.95. Wasn’t sure if that is a good price? I forgot to mention that these will be my Gym headphones as well as laying in bed. Are they pretty comfortable? Ie side sleeping? Thank you again!

        • Jim on


      • Jim on


  49. Vladsseven on


    Please help me to choose earphones for Chillout, Chillstep and Ambient (M83, for example). The budget of $50. I would like earphones with a very deep bass (subbass), so you can enjoy it. And wanted to clear vocals. Almost all of my music is mostly very quiet, but with the deep bass. I looked up your top and chose two earphones: NuForce NE-600X and NarMoo S1, but these earphones I have no sale, since I live in Ukraine. They are on Amazon, but Amazon does not deliver to Ukraine. Just I looked at Velodyne, but they are not. In general, I ask for help in choice.

    Sorry for my English.

  50. Rajat Sharma on

    Hi Joker,

    I’m sure that you’ve heard it a zillion times now, but I still have to say, your comprehensive review of IEMs on Head-Fi is probably the most insane in-depth review I’ve read in a long time. It’s amazing how you’ve put in such a momentous effort just for helping others get the best sound for their money. Truly great work my friend.

    That being said, I need a little help (but you already know that, right?). I need to purchase a pair of ultra-budget IEMs that also have an inline mic. I wouldn’t say that I’m a hardcore audiophile (not yet), but I know great sound when I hear it. I want IEMs that can deliver a fair amount of bass, while still maintaining overall decent sound clarity. I listen to nearly all genres of music, except for hardcore metal.

    Having read hundreds of reviews, forum posts, and things like that, I’ve zeroed in on the MEElectronics Sport-Fi M3P (~$11 on Amazon). Just want to know, what are your thoughts about them, regarding parameters like overall sound signature, build-quality, and microphonics. I tried to search for their reviews on this site, but couldn’t find one.

    Any help would be really appreciated. And thanks again for the great work you do. All the best for the future!

    • ljokerl on

      Refreshing to get a question for something other than the $50, $100, or $200 price points :)

      I haven’t tried the M3P but I do like the M6P, especially if you plan to use them for sports/gym/other active use. From what I understand the M3P is a step-down model so maybe spending the extra $10-12 for an M6P is worth it.

      The other ultrabudget mic’d IEMs I can recommend are the Philips SHE3595 and of course the stellar Xiaomi Piston 2. These will run you $15-20. The won’t beat the M6P (and presumably the M3P) in secure fit for sports or in microphonics, but they sound even better and are just as well-made. The cable on the Philips is a bit thin but I haven’t had or heard of any issues so it seems the engineering is solid. Both the Piston 2 and SHE3590 (the non-headset version of the 3595) are recommended in this guide.

      • Rajat Sharma on

        Thank you so much for such a prompt reply. I did check out the M6P, and while it’s certainly better than the M3P in terms of everything (e.g. bundled accessories, overall quality), the V-shaped cable splitter thingy (where the earphone cables branch out from the inline mic module) isn’t quite to my liking. That’s actually the reason I decided on the M3P.

        As far as the Xiaomi Piston 2 are concerned, I did check out their reviews (and the impressive score you’ve given them), but customers have complained that sellers on Amazon India (the country I currently reside in) have been selling cheap fakes, so that’s a no-go.

        Coming to the SHE3595, its popularity as the powerhouse ultra-budget IEM is quite well known. In fact, its glowing reviews on Head-Fi are the reason I chanced upon Head-Fi. And since you’ve recommended them too, I’m certain that they are unquestionably good. However, I decided upon the M3P because of things like accessories (extra tips, manual).

        In a nutshell: Based on your suggestions, I believe the MEelectronics M3P and Philips SHE3595 are both good enough. However, since I can purchase only one, which of these two would you suggest as an overall better value? I’d like to add that I don’t really care about the “memory wire” of the M3P.

        Another thing I’d like to ask: Is it possible to wear the M3P (or any other IEMs having this memory wire thing) wire down? Or can they only be worn behind the ears, as intended?

        Thank you so much for your time!

        • ljokerl on

          No, you won’t be able to wear one of those cable-down.

  51. Adachim on

    I’ll start off by repeating the sentiment you’ve heard thousands of times: Your site and reviews are absolutely amazing, and it’s just insane that you’ve given so much sound (ha) advice to everybody commenting.

    I’m having trouble finding a suitable upgrade to my Piston 2. I think I’ve gotten too used to their mid-bass bloat/bleed into the mids, and now I feel like all of the IEMs I try are missing something. I bought both the MA750i and EPH-100, and I have some problems with each that I can’t quite get over. The Yamahas are much better at separating instruments and sounding clear, but their treble just sounds weird to me and I feel like the sound is sort of unnatural. The RHA pair is almost perfect, but the spike in the upper mids/lower treble (I think around the 5-6k region) is making it hard for me to really enjoy them.

    I’ve looked at tons of reviews, but I can’t really find quite what I’m looking for. I’ve come to understand that I really enjoy a dark, fully enveloping sound, and that I’m sensitive to treble (although some sparkle and energy like the Pistons have is nice). I’m looking in the $100-$200 price range, but I’m thinking of dropping down a bit in price (and clarity) to the Shure SE215s just to get my desired signature. What are your thoughts?

    • ljokerl on

      I know what you mean about the RHA and Yamaha.

      I think the SE215 will not be an upgrade, to be honest. If your biggest issue with the Pistons was the slight v-shape of their balance or the bloated bass, the SE215 would be a step in the right direction, but as is it’s not really going to do much for you. That sparkle that you like with the Pistons, for instance (which I like as well), just isn’t there with the SE215.

      I hate to shoot down the SE215 without a better alternative to offer, but I can’t think of anything in that price range that’s closer to a Piston2 upgrade than the MA750 (upper midrange tizziness and all). If anything, maybe a Sony MH1C would be worth trying. It’ll also be less sparkly than the Piston2 and will have slightly looser bass, but it doesn’t seem like that’s a big issue for you and the overall concessions are smaller compared to the SE215.

      • Adachim on

        I figured as much; I’m usually good about finding what I’m looking for, but since I was having no luck I was pretty much banking on the fact that you were some magical headphone fairy (which, to be fair, I still don’t doubt). 😛

        I saw in your response above mine that it was interesting to get asked about different price ranges, so I’ll try to spice it up with the $200-$500 range! Powerful sub-bass, visceral mid-bass, intimate mids, and treble that is relaxed yet somehow still energetic and slightly sparkly? Realism > energy, however. Soundstage and separation aren’t a big deal (although hearing the sounds being placed around me with the Yamahas was awesome). Even if it’s outside of that price range, I’d still love to hear what you’d imagine would be good. Even if I can’t buy immediately, it’s nice to have all of the juicy research stored in my back pocket!

        • ljokerl on

          In general, the one that comes to mind just reading your short signature description and ignoring all Piston parallels is the EarSonics Velvet (http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/earsonics-velvet-in-ear-earphone-review/).

          Under $500, the Sony XBA-H3 (http://theheadphonelist.com/brief-review-dunu-dn-2000-fidue-a83-t-peos-altone200-sony-xba-h3-triple-driver-hybrids-compared/) is probably closest out of what I’ve tried, but I know there’s a lot of enhanced-bass earphones in that price range that I haven’t tried.

          • Adachim on

            Wow, yeah, the Velvet looks absolutely phenomenal. I think I might have salivated a bit as I read that description. After I posted, I realized that relaxed and energetic are pretty much complete contradictions of each other, so I’m surprised that you managed to pick out an IEM that satisfied both as well as my other preferences! That definitely looks like a perfect end-game IEM unless I feel like getting into CIEMs.

            I saw the XBA-H3 multiple times as I researched, and I think they’d be great if not for their Frankenstein-esque aesthetic. For me, being able to lie on my side in bed and not be embarrassed in public is actually quite important.

            At this point, I’m going to hope for some great sales on Prime Day (using your link, of course). I’m actually considering the Sennheiser IE80, but if the price doesn’t drop substantially, I may end up just going with the Shure SE215. Although they’re quite lacking in the top end, I think my ears will still consider them an upgrade now that I’m noticing the congestion and lack of detail in the Pistons.

            Without this site and your spot-on advice, I’m sure myself and many others would have been lost in our search for earphones, so thanks!

          • ljokerl on

            Yes, you’re exactly right – it’s very unusual for an IEM to fit that description. I have several dozen other IEMs in the review queue with no impressions posted yet, but I don’t think any of them fit, either.

            XBA-H3 form factor is indeed weird and you can forget about laying on your side. It’s more comfortable than it looks, but I’m not sure why they insist on sticking with it even for newer models.

            Hope the SE215 works out, it definitely has its pros and cons. Greatly appreciate you shopping via our referral links but you might want to keep an eye on EarphoneSolutions and MassDrop as well – discounts on Shure products are rare but these two have discounted Shure products in the past.

          • Adachim on

            Well, it has been a week or so since I got the SE215. I was impressed with them out of the box for about one song. As soon as I tried listening to some metal, I almost laughed aloud. You (and every other review) were completely right; the treble quantity was nowhere near that of the Pistons, and I daresay that its quality and overall treble separation was worse. Like you said in your review, music sounds sort of dull due to the nonexistent sparkle.

            However, all of this being said, I actually find the SE215 to be the only one of the three IEMs that I’ve auditioned that I’d consider keeping. The sound is certainly inoffensive, and doesn’t sound oddly separated like the EPH-100 did. Of course, I’m hoping to find a better option that’s not just boringly unoffensive to my ears.

            This has led me to considering the Dunu DN-1000. I’ve come to the conclusion that if I didn’t fancy any of the top warm and smooth sounding contenders, I may be missing the more V-shaped signature of the Pistons. It’s possible that my perceived sensitivity to treble was actually sensitivity to upper mids (which would explain my issue with the RHAs). Each time I come back to the Pistons I just love hearing their rumble; everything sounds so textured and present with them. I’m hoping that the DN-1000, although thinner and somewhat splashier than the Pistons, will be able to recreate the “wow” factor that the Pistons give me while drastically improving upon some technical aspects. Although, if it’s the mid-bass instead of the sub-bass that is giving that rumble, then I think I’ll be SOL no matter where I end up looking!

            As always, any and all thoughts are appreciated, but since this post is more of an update, I don’t have any particular questions. Thanks again for your time!

          • ljokerl on

            Ehhh… I wouldn’t put faith in the DN-1000 in this case. Its treble is TWFK-based, and those who are sensitive to treble tone tend to find TWFK treble a little metallic. Based on your experience with the EPH-100 and MA750i I’d look for something smoother, though in that price range and considering only sets with good treble presence and powerful bass, and that are not the Sony XBA-H3, I’m not sure what that might be. There’s currently a real dearth of high-performing earphones with punchier-than-neutral bass and smooth treble in the $100-200 range but I have a few more promising sets in the review queue.

          • Adachim on

            So you’re thinking the main issue would be that the treble would seem too metallic/unrealistic? If that’s the case, then I’ll have to heed your advice. However, if you’re concerned about the sibilance and overall brightness of them, I don’t think it’ll be a problem. Comparing the frequency response of the Piston ( http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/XiaomiPiston2.pdf ) to the DN-1000 ( http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/DunuDN1000.pdf ) makes me think that most of the emphasis comes in past the 7 or 8k region. I did some rudimentary EQ on my Pistons (although I know they don’t respond well at all to it) to try to mimic the DN-1000’s curve, and either the Pistons refuse to be unforgiving or I’m actually not too prone to sibilance and excessive shimmer.

            Also, many reviews on Head-fi seem to portray the Dunu as being more natural sounding than most TWFK-based IEMs. As always, I’m wary of most reviews (especially those from people who have been gifted their earphones), so I’m continuously on the lookout for multiple opinions. I’d be especially interested to figure out how the EPH-100 stacks up against them. Apparently the Dunu has less of an upper midrange peak, which I certainly like the sound of. Thoughts?

          • ljokerl on

            The treble is a big part of it, in addition to the v-shaped sound, but if you think you’ll be okay with it then of course they are worth a shot. It would help if you’ve tried any of the other TWFKs in the past.

            I can’t really guess what others are thinking or hearing but my thought is that it all comes down to the implementation in the DN-1000 (some TWFKs are, of course, smoother and more natural than others) but also the hybrid setup of the DN-1000. With that dynamic bass driver there’s just no way it can sound as thin as a CK10 or R-50 or another TWFK, which certainly helps. The bass also draws some attention to itself. Anyway, it’s a complex topic and I generally like the DN-1000; just that in this case I’d recommend buying it from a place with a return policy.

          • Adachim on

            No worries, I don’t think I’ll actually be buying them; you haven’t been wrong thus far! I just like learning as much information as I can, and, well, you’re the most unbiased and accurate source that I’ve found by miles! (Sorry if I gave you any heartache over knowing I was making a poor choice.)

            Anyways, I always play it safe with IEMs: My last 3 purchases have been directly from Amazon, so returns have been a cinch. Since the Dunu is only sold from Japan, and it’s likely to not fit my tastes, I think it’s a no-go. It may be time to accept that the Pistons are going to stay for a while (which really isn’t a bad thing)!

            Just curious: Is the JVC HA-FX850 on your plate? I’ve heard good things about it.

          • ljokerl on

            This type of exchange that goes beyond a simple option 1 vs option 2 recommendation is always refreshing. Plus, follow-up feedback like this is very valuable to me, especially in the rare cases where I advise *against* something. Whether I had the right idea with that or not, it’s always good to know.

            I’ve never come across an FX850 in the wild – even among pricy high-end IEMs they seem to be pretty uncommon in the US.

            Probably not going to ever get my hands on them for a full review. The only JVCs I have right now that haven’t been reviewed are Xtreme Xplosives series models, but I’d also be curious to try some of their dual and triple dynamics before venturing to find an FX850.

            The last of the woodie FX series that I tried was the FX700, and if they could just improve on the balance and bass control (and maybe treble refinement just a tad) it would be an amazing earphone in today’s market. But, don’t know if the FX850 does that or not.

          • Adachim on

            I’m glad you made that comment; I was worried that my replies were getting frustrating because my ears have been so hard to please! And I get what you mean about the follow-ups. I’m sure it’s sort of sad when you never hear back after giving a recommendation, although I’d have to assume that it means that they’re perfectly content with their purchase and are too lost in their music to think of replying!

            Personally, I could talk about headphones (and music) all day: What makes people enjoy certain sounds, why our ears interpret sounds so differently, and what goes into making all of these wonderful devices that produce sound for us. Sadly, my knowledge of the subject is the only thing stopping me from doing so.

            It’s funny; I run the K7XX out of a Modi/Magni stack, yet I can’t get the level of immersion that I do with the Pistons. I have a feeling that it has to do with the soundstage and the sort of out-of-place boosted bass. Although I’ve considered getting some closed-backs, the K7XX is perfect for most of my headphone use at my computer, and most of my music listening ends up getting done on IEMs.

            After some more EQ testing, I think that the only thing I’m sure of is that my ears really don’t like the 4-6khz region, it’s possible for bass to be too loose (although I still like it sometimes), and I could do with even more of the 8khz+ range than the Pistons offer. In a way, it’s sort of fun that I haven’t found “the” earphone yet (barring the Velvets, which still look mighty fine), as that means I get to do more research.

            And yeah, I was considering the FX850 since I’ve heard they’re sort of a Dunu equivalent with softer treble and amazing bass texturing, but again, they’re sort of hard to acquire so I don’t know if I’d have a return option.

          • ljokerl on

            I just assume all is well when I don’t hear back and continue making the same recommendations. But there are quite a few good threads here. Among the 600-ish replies to this post there’s actually a wealth of information, just wish it was possible to somehow organize it in a useful manner. One of the features for this site I would eventually like is the ability to tag comments so that they are searchable.

            Anyway, there are some earphones that purposely drop the 4-6k range because some people are very sensitive to boost there. I believe Westone and EarSonics tend to do this across their product ranges. There are probably others as well. Trying to think of what else sounded promising to me recently as a potential Velvet alternative. Maybe the Meelectronics Pinnacle that I heard at CES, but I don’t believe it’s been released yet.

  52. mickeyvortex on

    Hi joker. Longtime fan of headphonelist and innerfidelity.com. i hope you’re getting paid enough for this gig :)
    I have owned one IEM in the past, the VSonic VSD-1S, based on your recommendation. It was great until my wife threw it away with the trash (long story).
    Two questions if you wouldn’t mind in the order of priority.
    1) I was looking for an IEM to use at work with music playing in the background, sometimes for hours at an end. In other words, it wont be used for critical listening. What sound signature/headphones would be the least fatiguing from those listed above?
    2) I understand it’s difficult with an IEM, but I tend to prefer open headphones not only because of the sound, but I also get anxious/dis-oriented if there is complete noise isolation. Are there any open or semi-open IEM options available?

    A bit about me- I’m located in the USA and my budget is <USD200. I almost exclusively stream TiDAL (HIFI/redbook) through my smartphone (LG G3). I listen to most genres (except rap). As music comes first for me, I don't get hung up on recording quality. For eg, I listen to some EXTREMELY lo-fi stuff and actually like it, case in point, the band "Alvvays".

    Many thanks.

    • ljokerl on

      That’s a dream for the distant future :)

      For non-fatiguing you probably want a warmer, smoother sound while also avoiding overwhelming bass. A less intimate/aggressive presentation would be an asset as well. And yes, you can find more open/less sealed-feeling IEMs (e.g. the Philips Fidelio earphones).

      If your top requirement was fidelity/sound quality, I’d recommend just saving up for a Sony MDR-7550. It does everything you want while also maintaining very high overall sound quality, and while it looks a bit unusual in the ear, it’s actually surprisingly comfortable for long stretches and very non-fatiguing.

      However, you have quite a few other options that require small sacrifices here or there compared to the MA7550, but will leave your wallet significantly heavier (actually, I think you can buy one of each for the price of a single MDR-7550).

      While they are all fairly uncongested and unfatiguing for IEMs, I ranked them in order from most to least open.

      Soundmagic E30 – great little earphone that I personally find very well-suited for extended listening. It’s comfortable, doesn’t isolate much, and has a smooth sound. Ultimately the resolution and SQ aren’t quite as high as with these others, but for the price it’s hard to complain.
      Ostry KC06 – quite a bit clearer than the E30 and has a similarly airy and open sound. The tradeoff is that it is brighter, but not in a bad way. While I wouldn’t call it warm or smooth, I actually find it more non-fatiguing than that VSD1S you had.
      RHA MA750 – a warmer, bassier option with a more conventional (read: sealed) in-ear fit, but still well above average in both smoothness and not sounding congested.
      Sony MH1C or SBH80 – the quintissential warm-and-smooth IEM. Like the MA750 they have a conventional fit and do seal in the ear, but they are resolving and not claustrophobic-sounding, if that makes any sense. The SBH80 is just the Bluetooth version, if you’re willing to go that way. The LG G3 supports aptX so you might just be surprised by how good the wireless version will sound.

  53. mgl on

    Hello Joker,

    great reviews you have here!!

    I have a quick question for you, what would be the less expensive upgrade from Brainwavz M1??

    I am thinking of TTPOD T1E, Brainwavz S5, HifiMan RE-400, RHA MA750, Shure SE215, Vsonic GR07… any opinion? any other model that I should consider?

    besides having similar sound signature that the M1s, price, comfort and isolation are important also…

    thanks in advance!!

    • ljokerl on

      I don’t have any experience with the T1E but most of the others you listed don’t resemble the M1. RE-400 would be good, though, not to mention one of the more comfortable options. From Brainwavz the R3 would be a better option than the S5, at least for sound. It is bulky, however, so for me it’d still be the RE-400.

      • mgl on

        thanks for you answer!

        yes, the M3 doesn’t look comfortable, also I am not so sure that it is really an upgrade from M1…

        maybe I take the risk and buy the T1E, or maybe I will go safe- path and get the RE-400… I still have to think about it

        thank you anyway and if you think of some other model, please let me know

  54. SagarSK on

    I am a regular reader of yours and thanks to you learnt a lot the past 3 years. I am fairly new to this IEM experience and as such tend to like colourful and bassier sound.
    Coming from Soundmagic ES18 to Sony XB90EX through Creative EP630, a couple of Skullcandys and E10, I have developed a yearning for better soundstage, separation and clarity with a good emphasis on sub-bass and smooth highs.
    So what would you suggest to be the logical upgrade to my sonic experience? Balance armature or higher end dynamic driver or a hybrid? Any suggestions would be very much helpful.

    P.S: I really love how low the XB90EX can go. Very durable too.

    • ljokerl on

      I’m not familiar with the XB90EX but what you’re describing sounds like a Sony hybrid to me – namely, the XBA-H3. Tough to find all those things in one earphone to a reasonably high level – bass emphasis often brings with it a lack of clarity and many manufacturers balance extra bass with brighter treble. The XBA-H3 is a good compromise – clarity and separation are just OK for the price (compared to less bassy earphones, mostly) but everything else you’re after is very good – bass, soundstaging, and smoothness.

      There’s also the higher-end XBA-Z5, but I’m not convinced it’s worth the money over the XBA-H3.

      • SagarSK on

        Yeah, the XBA-H3 sounds good. Might be just the one I am looking for. Availability can be an issue though here in India. Lets see if I can find one and thanks again for your guidance.

        Whats your 2 cents onShure

        • ljokerl on

          Depends on which Shure. The higher-end ones tend to be very balanced, with little or no enhanced bass. The SE215 is the exception, but it’s still not that bass-heavy and isn’t really a powerhouse when it comes to clarity or soundstaging, either. It’s a goodmid-tier IEM in sound, but with a very good design and construction.

  55. Shaunak on

    Great Guide, Planning to upgrade my Soundmagic e10’s to something of a similar sound signature, was leaning towards the Vsd3 but now Considering the Vsd 5 also. Currently the Vsd5 is priced about 25$ more than the Vsd 3. so i am a little confused as to which one i should go for.? Hoping you could help me out!

    • ljokerl on

      I’m not sure what to think of the VSD5 yet. Mine only has a few hours of use on it and so far I’m leaning towards “spend the extra $25 and get the GR07 Classic” if you want reference sound, or stick with the VSD3S if you’re on a tight budget and/or want a more colored/bassier sound. That might still change by the time I do the full VSD5 review, though, so take it with a grain of salt.

      • Shaunak on

        Thanks for the help.Thinking of waiting a bit more and check your Full review of the VSD5.

  56. Vigir on

    Great website. Thank you for much effort. I have yamaha eph100. I like the sound, but they are not comfortable for me. Any custom iem in price range 500$ -700$ with similar frequency response? I also have shure 215, but prefer cleaner sound of yamaha.


      • Vigir on

        O, thank you. I would really like to try customs though. Sometimes I would like to keep them while sleeping, I guess customs are best fit for this situation.
        I have hifiman he400i headphones which I like. I guess these are not overly warm phones, but I like these a lot. I am probably little sensitive to treble, so smooth treble is more important than big bass.

        • ljokerl on

          Sleeping in customs… I don’t know about that one. Because the seal can be so good you might increase the pressure inside your ears without noticing by rolling on your side or something. Could cause some soreness in the morning.

          Most customs I have in that price range are a little on the brighter side, but the Custom Art PRO330v2 will work for you, I think: http://theheadphonelist.com/brief-impressions-custom-art-harmony-8-pro-pro-330-v2/ . It’s quite balance and smooth compared to the others (with the exception of the warmer Music One, but that’s an entry-level model). Keep in mind that if you’re located outside of the EU it’s also going to be less expensive than the noted price because you don’t have to pay VAT.

  57. venimex on

    joker i used to have zero audio tenores and i lost them but i am now looking for a replacement thats a bit better i was thinking of getting the NarMoo S1 or the VSonic R02 but im not sure what to do. I went from having brainwavz S1 to Zero Audio carbo tenore but idk what new IEM to get to replace them

    • ljokerl on

      If you liked the Brainwavz S1 then the NarMoo would be a safe choice – they’re very similar. Another one that’s similar to these two in sound but gives you some additional flexibility with sound signatures thanks to interchangeable tuning filters is the Rock Jaw Alfa Genus.

      There are several version of the VSonic R02 that sound pretty different from each other but they’re all pretty old and these days you can usually find a better alternative for each of the different versions. For example if you were thinking about the R02 Silver, which is the least warm and most midrange-focused of all the R02 versions, I would recommend the Ostry KC06 as a better alternative.

      • Venimex on

        also how do you get this knowledge? i want to educate myself in learning how to identify whats a good midrange or if something is warm etc.

        • ljokerl on

          Thousands of hours spent listening to hundreds of headphones. Not sure if there’s a substitute for experience with this one, but it also varies from person to person.

          There is some software that can be helpful with training yourself to listen better, like Harman’s How-to-listen and Philips’ GoldenEars.

  58. Denis on

    Hey Joker, I am in a dilemma and need your help. I’m looking for an IEM that is either V-shaped,neutral or something in between. I’m torn between Meelectronics m duo and Hifiman RE-400. Speak your mind if you can recommend something different as long as it stays at the same price bracket, the build quality should be pretty good.

    • ljokerl on

      I don’t have an M-Duo to try but from what I’ve been told it’s a v-shaped earphone a-la the MEElec models of old, in which case you have two pretty different earphones you’re considering there. There are dozens of others that match that description, too.

      Can’t say if it’s better than the M-Duo or not but the VSonic VSD3S is a personal favorite for something just a bit on the v-shaped side of neutral.

  59. Narkyzz on


    I currently have the Philips SHE3590 and I was looking to upgrade to something better.
    I listen mostly to electronic and house music and was wondering if the RE-400s would be a good choice, considering my 100$ budget.
    I don’t think I need more bass presence but I heard that the RE-400s might be too balanced for my music taste and that the SHE3590s are more of a v-shaped earphones.
    I was wondering whether to get the RE-400s or something else more fit to what I listen to.

    Thanks alot.

    • ljokerl on

      Yes, that’s right – the RE-400 are more balanced/midrange-focused compared to the SHE3590s, by quite a bit. It is not impossible that you would prefer the HiFiMan to the Philips anyway, but usually more v-shaped sound is considered a plus for your music genres. If you want to go in a more Hi-Fi direction with your upgrade perhaps something that splits the difference between the RE-400 and SHE3590 would be a better option. I used to recommend the SteelSeries Flux for this but they seem to be discontinued, so I think I will replace that recommendation with the new Alpha & Delta AD01 soon. The AD01 is better anyway, but also more expensive. Full review coming soon.

      • Narkyzz on

        Mhm, does that mean that you have already tried the Alpha & Delta AD01 and determined that they would be a better fit or should I wait for the full review to make a decision of which IEM to buy?

        Thank you very much.

        • ljokerl on

          Yes, I’ve been using the AD01 for a few weeks. It’s a very good earphone – about on-par with the Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear in audio performance but with a sound signature about halfway between that and the more balanced SteelSeries Flux (that is to say, not as v-shaped as the Momentum, or your SHE3590, but not too far off).

          • Narkyzz on

            I was wondering, do you have any recommendation of IEM (100$) for EDM music genre? I’m not sure about the AD01 since it is very new and there are no reviews on it yet.

            I like treble over bass but I truly never really experienced a good bass so I don’t really know which end would fit me best, for EDM and female vocals genres.

          • ljokerl on

            If you’re not married to getting a more balanced-sounding IEM, I’d probably go JVC FXT90. It’s actually even more colored than the SHE3590, but it’s a fun IEM that works well for EDM IMO.

  60. Bheema on

    I am in awe of your reviews, having spent maybe a hundred hours reading them by now – beautifully written, beautifully precise – well done!
    One question – On the strength of your review I got a RockIt R-50 and it was perfect, exactly as your review led me to believe. Lost them and replaced with the exact same thing. Lost those too, and they are no longer made or available in australia, so back to the reviews I go – after much reading decide the Fischer-Audio DBA-02 / Brainwavs B2 seems like a great replacement for my R50s – but they are ALSO no longer available, and the DBA-02 mkIII seems to have a somewhat less analytical sound which is what I loved so much about my R50s. Some other IEMs sound ok but don’t fit my rather narrow ear canals.
    Considering that all of my top choices (R-50, DBA-02mkI, DBA-02mkII and B2) are ALL unavailable nowadays, is there something that you would recommend that has taken their niche in the market?

  61. Jijo on

    Hi Joker.
    I need help for picking an In-ear.
    I have an Xperia Z3. Also got Piston 2.
    Now I am considering of getting Sennheiser Momentum in ear.
    I like the design. But some techsites says that it got harsh highs. Is that right?
    Please reply me soon. Is the momentum in ear worth the money?

      • Jijo on

        Does the highs from momentum cause fatigue?
        (Sorry for my bad English)
        I am not an expert in sound/headphones. I want a unit with good bass and treble.
        I am coming from xiaomi piston and want an upgrade.
        Note that I am from India and some models in here (at $60-$80) costs same as momentum.
        I will listen through in ear with 50-60% volume max. I don’t want too much loud sound. But want clarity-bass and good highs.

        • ljokerl on

          Depends on the listener. Some people are easily fatigued by the kind of treble the Momentum pumps out, and others not at all. It’s an excellent earphone with strong bass and treble but if you are very worried about fatigue it’s generally best to stay away from earphones like the Momentum.

          • Jijo on

            I am not in fatique worry, but more towards hearing problems. Since (According to my knowledge) highs cause hearing problem. I like momentum in ear pretty much. I think EQ settings will prevent the piercing highs. And also at my preferred volume of ~50-60%, I think the highs won’t be that much of problem (Correct me if I am wrong). In India I can’t find a better alternative. Preference of relaxing treble and good bass made me in a tight situation. Is there anything else I can get other than from above list? Else I am going with momentum with custom EQ and max-60% volume.

          • Jijo on

            Is MDR-EX650 any good?

          • Jijo on

            XBA-2 vs Momentum in ear quick review?

          • ljokerl on

            Volume is more of a factor for hearing problems. The dB level of 50-60% volume will vary depending on the device you’re using and also the headphone – some headphones are much more efficient than others. 50-60% on something like an iPhone with the average IEM should be ok, but 60% on a HiFiMan HM-901 with a highly sensitive IEM (e.g. Fidue A83) will be very very loud.

            Not sure about the EX650 or XBA-2. I like the lower-end XBA-1 but it’s a very balanced, kind of boring IEM and there are better options for that type of sound.

          • Jijo on

            Thanks for your replies. I am going to try Momentum In Ear……

  62. cfc on

    Hi there,

    Congrats for the site, very helpful, useful reviews and interesting IEM lists.

    I have some questions trying to upgrade from Senn. IE80 and being very confused so some advices will be much appreciated. I wanted to switch to BA and I’ve listening to some Westones but after UM Pro 10 first – disappointing – and then UM Pro 30 I felt very strange to adopt that sound coming from such a fun dynamic driver…I felt something like no energetic sound, the bass was missing something and that they were lacking life or something.

    I was thinking then that I will not to much agree a neutral/analytical direction…ok, that’s how UM series sounds like, yet I would like to try something out of the V shape for more clarity, with no recessed mids, more treble but not veiled or sibilant…and in the same time not to lose that energetic sound and the bass impact (I’m not a basshead – I keep flat EQ and 1level on the earpiece housing for IE80 bass).

    I’m listening to rock and EDM mostly but also classics and occasionally jazz so I think I will need some kind of good all-rounder. From what I read, W30 will be a potential winner but my concern is regarding the bass that was tamed from the level of W3 to some linear aspects on W30…so the question is: is the bass full, has enough impact? if not, can be EQ-ed?
    Will be W30 ok considering the above aspects or better to get oriented to some hybrids like DUNU DN-2000? What about Sony XBA-Z5?

    My budget: ~500$

    Thanks a lot!

    • ljokerl on

      To be honest V-shaped with no recessed mids doesn’t make a lot of sense as a combination because that’s how the v-shaped signature is achieved (boosting the bass and treble over the midrange to some degree). You can, however, have very mild recession so the sound signature is only a mild v-shape. However, if you then start looking for something with as much bass as the IE8, you are going to end up with more bass emphasis and not a very mild v-shape.

      The DN-2000 and FLC Technologies FLC8 (http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/flc-technology-flc8/) are the two sets I think of first when I think of mild v-shape, but keep in mind that these earphones will be quite a bit brighter and more energetic in the treble than your IE8. The W3 is less bright, but I wouldn’t recommend it over a comparably-priced DUNU. Not sure how the W30 fits in.

      The XBA-Z5, on the other hand, is a basshead earphone. It has more bass than your IE8 and a pretty smooth overall sound. I wouldn’t call it v-shaped. Its sound signature is more like that of the EarSonics Velvet I just reviewed recently: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/earsonics-velvet-in-ear-earphone-review/

      • cfc on

        Thanks for your answer joker.

        Sorry for confusing you with the V shape sig. but English is not my native language.
        When I said I’ll try something out of the V shape, I was meaning something different of V shape :)…hence not recessed mids.

        One more and last question:

        I’ve listened to some M-Audio IE series (rebranded UE Triple Fi) and liked very much their brightness with the plenty of clear mids & highs. So…I would like to upgrade for something towards those M-Audio for the treble but in the same time keep an energetic sound, high musicality and good bass (don’t need more bass than IE80 in quantity).

        What would be your recommendation?

        Many thanks!

        • ljokerl on

          TF10s are generally considered mildly v-shaped, but they don’t have as much bass as an IE8. If you add more bass to try and get close to the IE8/IE80 sound in that regard, then you end up with a more v-shaped sound signature and we’re back to the DN-2000 or FLC8. There’s just no way to avoid affecting the overall sound balance.

  63. AnewProducer on

    Thank you so much Joker, I will definitely consider buying the MDR-7550 at this point.

    So If I wanted a cheaper, backup pair for traveling, convenience and mobile use would the Brainwavz M1 or RE-400 be a good choice? What about differences in sound quality and build quality?

    By the way is there such a thing as an absolute neutral IEM (not slightly warm or bright)?
    I’ve also always wanted to know this too, but are things like soundstage, attack and decay, note thickness presentation qualities of colored sound or like is there an “accurate” representation of all of this, or is it all subjective?

    I understand these differences in qualities are for marketing purposes and cater to different people, but what about sound engineers who are looking for absolute accuracy and transparency?

    • ljokerl on

      Either of those should be fine as a backup. Build quality is about on-par but the RE-400 has the clearer, more balanced sound with better end-to-end extension. Worth the extra $$ on sound alone.

      Absolute neutral is indeed subjective – every listener (and every manufacturer) has their own idea of what that is. The only way to find where that is for you is to try different things, though clearly there is no point starting with something like a Beats by Dre Tour (because it’s objectively far off from any possible neutrality baseline).

      If you do want to try and figure out what sounds accurate to you, it’s worth exploring a few different earphones considered neutral or near-neutral in the community to see which one works best for you. Keep in mind, though, that even comparing two sets head to head can be tricky as your brain has some amount of leeway in getting used to different sound signatures, especially over time.

      • AnewProducer on

        Hi Joker, I just thought I’d give you an update anyway of what I ended up getting. As you know, I’m a big fan for reference or neutral quality earphones on a budget.

        So I finally had a chance to demo the RE-400 and compare it next to the Etymotic ER4-S and I felt the RE-400’s mid-centric focus tended to upset the balance of the sound. Compared to the ER4-S, the vocals and mids on the RE-400 seemed quite pushed forward but elements such as the hats and even the drums felt unnaturally receeded in comparison to the Ety and more pushed back.

        I ended up buying the SoundMagic E50 (for $55) known as their “Reference Series” (as labelled on the box). When I demo’d them next to the ER4-S, the SoundMagic E50 had a significantly closer sound signature to it than the RE-400, Brainwavz M1, or the SoundMagic E30 did. Still, the E50 doesn’t have some qualities like the extended treble detail, fine mid detail and the super accurate attack of the ER4-S, but it’s a great buy for the price. The E50 seems to have a minor bit of bass enhancement and a hint of treble sparkle but both of these qualities can be amended using different eartips than the ones provided. Other than that, the sound signature seems to be ruler-flat. They also have a relatively quick decay and a precise soundstage that is quite close to being as deep as it is wide (maybe slightly wider).

        If you ever get a chance to try or review the E50, I would recommend them as they have a very neutral signature which is rare in its price range. Even if its mid to treble resolution might not be the best, which is given seeing how much you pay.

        • ljokerl on

          Thanks for the recommendation! I was hoping to try the E80 eventually, guess I have to add the E50 to the list.

  64. AnewProducer on

    Hi Joker! Thanks for all your work on this lifesaver of a website.

    I could use some pointers looking for a universal fit IEM (for portability and flexibility) with as much reference-like sound qualities as possible for producing, mixing and mastering music.

    The last thing I want is to present improperly EQ’ed tracks to my audience with a skewed frequency response…

    I’m looking at models like the HiFiman RE-400, Philips Fidelio S1/2 and even Etymotics like the HF5 and ER4-PT but I briefly demo’d an ER4-P and found the deep insertion downright uncomfortable, and I couldn’t seem to get a good seal with them for some reason so it sounded quite shrill and very sibilant. Perhaps I am doing it wrong or maybe I have massive ear canals?

    On a side note, I also looked at the Rock It Sounds R-50 and the VSonic VC1000, but none are in stock. I am currently using the SHE3595 budget-bangers for the longest time (loved the speed, agility, brightness and thin-ish note presentation, but noticeably recessed mids and has non-extending, compressed treble) and I am looking for a balanced, higher-fi upgrade with better resolution. Are there any other IEMs you would recommend than the ones I listed above? What do you think?

    • ljokerl on

      HiFiMan might be a good way to go. It’s very comfortable and the sound is the opposite of shrill – very refined and smooth. It might have the opposite “problem” of the Etys where it flatters harsh recordings a bit too much, but it’s still pretty close to neutral. If you go a step up from that, the Sony MDR-7550 is quite good. Sony’s idea of “reference” seems to be pretty close to that of HiFiMan. Hard to find a smooth, comfortable, and reasonably neutral-sounding set that would fit in between those two. The TDK BA200 was one but it’s very hard to find now, just like the VC1000 and R-50.

      • AnewProducer on

        Thanks for the quick reply! So the MDR-7750 would be the studio/reference version of the popular flagship EX-1000 correct?

        I also looked at the Audio Technica ATH-CK100PRO which was supposed to be the successor to the original ATH-CK10 and the ATH-CK100 but the lowest price I could find was $441 while the MDR-7750 seems to be going for $229 which seems to be a good deal.

        Though I can’t seem to let go of the cheaper RE-400 and Fidelio S1/2. How would those compare to the 7750 and is the price difference justifiable like performance in another class?

        • ljokerl on

          I am not sure of the exact relationship between the internals of the EX1000/EX600 and the 7550, but yes – the 7550 is Sony’s Pro monitor from the same generation as the EX models.

          The CK10 is a much brighter earphone than the RE-400/7550. If you found the ER4P shrill you really do not want the CK10/R-50 and even VC1000 as those are brighter earphones.

          The Fidelio S1/S2 have slightly boosted upper mids so I don’t think it’s as good an option as the RE-400 here, and the 7550 is just a slightly more resolving and extended version of the RE-400’s signature with a bit more warmth.

          • AnewProducer on

            Thanks for all your continued help so far.

            Again, I’m not exactly convinced that the ER4-P should have sounded so shrill as they did when I demo’ed them because I was pretty sure that the default tips the guy was using didn’t provide me a good seal which is probably why they sounded so excessively sibilant/shrill, but if I get a chance to demo them again with larger tips I definitely will.

            OR perhaps it was because the ER’s were showing the true treble qualities of my badly mastered reference material lol???

            I’ve done more research and I’ve managed to narrow my choices down between the RE-400, the MDR-7550 and the Westone W20 which ironically, supposedly sounds quite similar and is available in the same price range as the MDR-7750. What are your thoughts on the Westones versus the Sonys? They both have great reviews and seem to have pretty much the same qualities.

          • ljokerl on

            The W20 has pretty much the perfect form factor and will be more comfortable, more isolating, and just more convenient than the Sonys. Its tuning is pretty similar to the Sony and HiFiMan sound but the sound quality is more on-par with the less expensive RE-400. It’s a little darker and lacks the nice bass punch and broad presentation of the 7550. So if your priority is sound and you can deal with its form factor, go for the 7550 in that price range.

  65. avante on

    Hey Joker thanks for the great list. I currently own JVC FX1X and love them a lot for their massive bass quantity. However as I listen to them at quite a loud volume the treble and highs get a little piercing after extended periods. Im looking for something with as much or more bass than the FX1X but a bit more control on the highs. I listen to mostly EDM. Any recommendations? Heard a bit about the Yamaha EPH 100 but not sure they have as much bass as the JVC? I dont mind boomy bass :)

    • impruv on

      Look down a few posts, I asked the exact same thing!

      • ljokerl on

        My reply is here: http://theheadphonelist.com/earphone-buyers-guide/#comment-115083

        The EPH-100 has less bass than the HA-FR301, so most likely less than the FX1X as well. It does have much smoother treble, though. Whether tradeoff is worth it is up to you.

        If you want massive bass with smooth highs you’ll be giving up clarity – there’s just no way around that without either reducing the bass quantity or hyping up the highs as the JVCs do. Some good options there are the NHT SuperBuds (http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/nht-superbuds/) and, believe it or not, the Beats by Dre Tour 2.0. But again, clarity on these is not that good because you’re getting tons of bass on top of smooth sound.

        • avante on

          Alright thanks! I dont mind sacrificing a little bit of clarity for bass tbh but the Beats are way too ex for me tho they sound pretty smooth like u said. A bit dark tho. Ill consider the FR301s instead. Thanks!

          • ljokerl on

            I wouldn’t bother with the FR301 – it’s the opposite of smooth. The new JVC XX Elation is a little smoother, but the bass is also less emphasized. The usual tradeoff, but it is better than the FR301 from a smoothness standpoint.

      • avante on

        Hey I just saw. Haha guess we r in the same boat. Hv u tried out the FX3X tho? thinking whether they’re worth an upgrade

        • impruv on

          Might want to check out JVC 102/202, they are the new versions of the FX1X imo. But not sure if it’s worth upgrading from the fx1x. For me I’m at the point where I want to sacrifice a little bass to get more clarity. Might be trying the Narmoo S1. I think the fx3x might be less bassy then fx1x.

          • avante on

            Aright Thanks man! Is there a diff between the FR301 and the FX1X??? They look the same to me

        • impruv on

          I believe the FR301 is the exact same as the FX1X but with a mic.

  66. Shane on

    Hi Joker. Great roundup! I’ve been looking at the RHA MA750’s, but I’m not sure if they’ll have enough bass. I don’t necessarily want basshead I don’t think. I still want to hear the mids and trebles. I recently lost a pair of Grain Audio ieh’s. Do you have any experience with these at all? The sound was pretty good overall. I listen to alot of hard dance, but also like indie, alternative, and ambient. Pianos sounded great, but for the harder dance stuff alot of the extreme high end sounds would sound almost metallic at high volumes if that makes any sense? And occasionally the mids would almost disappear. I assume that’s V-Shaped? Anyway, any recommendations in the 100-150 range would be much appreciated.

    • ljokerl on

      I don’t have any experience with Grain Audio, but enhanced bass that’s not quite basshead is a good description for the MA750. It always depends on your point of comparison, of course, but by any reasonable metrics the MA750 is not bass-light. It’s a nicely versatile earphone that is mildly v-shaped without sounding metallic or mid-recessed (which is how you’re describing the Grain Audio set, more or less).

      It’s sort of a blind recommendation because I haven’t tried your previous set, but I’d say the MA750 is a good choice.

      • Shane on

        Thanks! I only got to listen to the Grain Audio ieh’s 2 maybe 3 times before I lost them. The sheer volume they have is crazy. Torn between trying the MA750 or picking up another pair of GA (they’re 30 bucks cheaper, and I’m on a budget).

        • ljokerl on

          Well, volume does not really correlate with sound quality and is simply a factor of the earphones’ sensitivity/efficiency. IMO unless whatever device you are using was already maxed out with the Grain Audio earphones it shouldn’t make much of a difference in your decision. Price is important, though. There are other good enhanced-bass earphones in the sub-$100 bracket, too, but I couldn’t tell you how they compare to the GA unit.

          • Shane on

            I’m still debating on the MA750’s, but need a new laptop too. I’ve been using the bundled buds that came with my HTC One M9. Honestly the best bundled buds I’ve heard. Can you suggest a sub $100 that has a full sound profile, but enhanced bass as well. The HTC buds I would classify as basshead I think. Not sure though.

          • ljokerl on

            Sony MH1C. If you get a bulk-packaged on on ebay it’s pretty cheap and it does have very good warm-and-smooth sound regardless of the price. The only problem with it is the annoying j-cable.

            Toward the upper end of that price range, JVC FXT90 or maybe the new Alpha & Delta AD01 (review coming soon). These are a little more v-shaped, but have enhanced bass and end up sounding warm and not thin.

          • getclikinagas on

            +1 to the Sony MH1C for a warm-smooth sound with some good rumble.

            @joker: Perhaps the SBH80? Similar sound, no annoying cable, ~85$.
            Unless wireless is a deal breaker for Shane

          • ljokerl on

            Sure, MH1C and SBH80 are pretty interchangeable in my book. At that price point it’d be a tougher call between going SBH80/wireless or wired with an AD01, for example. At $40 or less MH1C is a no-brainer :)

          • getclikinagas on

            I see what you mean. I bought my bulk-packaging new MH1C for 16$, and I don’t think I’ll ever find an IEM that tops it at that price. But the competition stiffens ~100$. No no-brainers in that price range.

            This AD01 is getting tantalizing. LMUE seems to have put some thought into the design. Looking forward to your review :)

  67. impruv on

    Looking to finally upgrade from my original JVC FX1X. Not sure if you have any experience with headphones as well Joker but I also have the Aiaiai TMA-1 so I guess you can say I’m in the ‘basshead’ category. I listen to EDM/Trance mostly. What would be the next best valued upgrade? Is the Narmoo S1 a big enough jump or should I spend a bit more? What would be a jump up from the S1?

    • ljokerl on

      Based on my experience with the JVC HA-FR301, the NarMoo actually may not be bassy enough. The S1 is an upgrade from the FR301 overall, with better overall accuracy/realism and less harshness, but it’s also a less bassy earphone. For something a bit bassier than that (still not as monstrous as the FR301, though) while maintaining the relatively v-shaped sound signature of the JVCs, you could consider the Brainwavz S5 at ~$100.

      For even more bass there are things like the NHT SuperBuds and the Beats by Dre Tour 2.0, but those are much warmer, smoother earphones that won’t have the treble presence and crispness you’re used to with your JVCs.

      • impruv on

        Thanks for the quick reply. After some research is seems like both the Narmoo S1 and Brainwavz S5 are good options. None have as much in your face boom as my JVC’s but will have much improved treble and mids. Now much question to you is whether the S5 are worth double what the S1 offers. I can definitely deal with losing a little bass from the S1 (is it alot?) if it improves that much more in terms of female vocals and high notes.

        • ljokerl on

          It’s hard to say the S5 is worth it value-wise, being twice the price, but it is the better earphone. I guess we can look at it another way – the S1, at $40 or whatever it costs now, is a good value regardless of sound signature. It’s not a huge amount of money and for that price the technical performance is quite alright.

          The S5 at $100 is going up against some very hi-fi earphones and really only competes well within that particular sound signature – moderate-to-high bass enhancement with prominent and crisp highs. Once you move away from that bass-heavy sound and throw in something like the Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear, which has less of a mid-bass hump and a more refined sound overall, the S5 is just ok. So maybe for your bass-heavy earphone it makes sense to get the less expensive S1.

  68. Ldo on

    Hi joker
    I have a jvc ha-fxt90 and i like its signature.I’m looking for an earphone with the same signature and a better sound quality for female voices.
    Do you have any advice ?

    • ljokerl on

      1964EARS V3 ;). It’s more neutral than the FXT90 but retains many of the same traits and among my top-tiers (customs and universals) it reminds me the most of an upgraded FXT90. Great vocals, too – it’s a stage monitor, after all.

      • ldo on

        Thanks for your answer
        … and what do you think of the flc 8 or dunu dn-2000J ?

  69. Anan on

    Nice…I didnt see some cans which I thought were good…Looks like I need to review my defination of Good…:D

    Which headphone out of these are worth the money…I will use them with Sony Hi-Res Player….

    ATH IM70
    Beyerdynamic DX160ie
    Sony XBA-H1

    • ljokerl on

      You’ve found three IEMs that I don’t have in my collection. I’ve tried the DX160 briefly at a show and didn’t think it was too special for $150, but that was under less-than-ideal conditions so who knows. I haven’t bothered with the H1 because a few readers have mentioned they didn’t like it. I do like the H3 though, for what it is.

      • Anan on

        Thanks. Any thoughts on ATH IM70?

        • ljokerl on

          As I said, I don’t have one.

          • Anan on

            I am sorry….I realized it a bit late. Thank you so much for your responses. I will read more and may end disturbing you once again….:)

            Thank you so much.

  70. JDN on

    Hi Joker,

    I really enjoy your reviews, I’ve been using them as reference since the time you posted them on Head-fi. Commenting for the first time as I am really confused with what to buy next.

    I am looking for earphones in a price range of $150-$300, lower the better obviously 😛

    The once I have shortlisted are :-
    1. Yamaha EPH-100
    2. Dunu DN 1000
    3. Dunu DN 2000
    4. Fidue A 83

    I am not sure what sound signature I like best – I am torn between the V-shaped and Warm signatures from your descriptions. Earphones I have used so far:-

    1. Vsonic GR02 bass edition – Really enjoy them, still use them sometimes but way lesser now.
    2. Sony MH1C- Was blown away by these but they did not last very long, the left side stopped working.
    3. Shure SE535 – Had a chance to audition them and was really happy the time, but soon the new factor faded and I realised I did not like them much, the treble and sound-stage left much to be desired.

    I have been using Bowers & Wilkins P7 for over a year now, while I absolutely love them, sometimes they are just not practical to take with me so would prefer nice pair of IEMs for my commutes.

    I listen to almost every genre of music depending on my mood. I love a good wide sound-stage and instrument separation.

    • JDN on

      I am open to other suggestions you may have too.

      Thanks in advance!

      • ljokerl on

        You’re about 3 for 4 with warmer sound signatures. I’d probably go with the EPH-100 for that – I did like it for a slight MH1C upgrade in sound (and a big one in usability). Next step up would probably be a Sony XBA-H3 (which do drop below $300 every once in a while) but other than the soundstage and treble quality it doesn’t have much going for it over the much less expensive Yamaha. The RHA MA750 is also solid, being in the Yamaha price and performance range. It’s sound is a bit more v-shaped, but also more spacious. It won’t blow you away with clarity, but it sounds like the SE535 didn’t do that either, so no big loss.

        • JDN on

          Thanks a lot for your reply!

          I came across FLC8 in your reviews. Would those be better if I extend my budget a bit?

          • ljokerl on

            It’s a brighter, more energetic sort of earphone than the others you’ve had/are considering. I think it’s a great IEM, but it would be quite a change for you.

  71. freycinet on

    Hi Joker,

    I just came across your site, and was wondering if you could help provide some guidance regarding below query.

    I listen to pretty much all music genres, but keen to find an IEM which gives lots of detail, clarity and good treble extension. Something perhaps not too thin sounding but rich/full if that’s possible to help cover the broader spectrum of music that i listen to.

    I’ve sort of narrowed it down to below four:
    HiFiMan RE400
    Vsonic GR07 Bass
    Dunu DN1000

    I see from your thread you indicate you’ve not tested IM70, so of the other three IEMs, which would be the standout in your opinion that meets the above criteria?

    Many thanks.

    • ljokerl on

      All three of these would be good choices. The DN-1000 is probably not necessary unless you also need powerful bass. The RE-400 has good extension but its highs are generally a little laid-back. If you want more exciting treble with more of a “wow” factor, the GR07 BE is probably the better way to go.

      • freycinet on

        Thanks very much Joker.

        I think i might settle on the IM70 which seems to suit most of my needs and because it can be purchased locally meaning a shorter wait time…would probably have settled for GR07 if i did not have to wait 3-4 wks for overseas delivery. :(

        Of curiosity, does the DN1000 outperform IM70 considerably to justify the extra dollars?

        I’ve also had some people suggest ATH-CKR9 from “head-fi” (i’d need to find a way to scrape the extraaa dollars), and was curious if you’d tested these before, and whether you believe these are considerably better than DN1000?

        Thanks again.

        • ljokerl on

          Can’t be of much help there – I like the DN-1000 but tend to favor more balanced earphones in general. It seems like you do, too.

          I don’t have any experience with those Audio-Technicas so I don’t know how the DN-1000 stacks up.

        • freycinet on

          Thanks again for the feedback Joker.

          I found a nearby store where i can demo the RE400 and the IM70..so i’ll be checking those out today. If not suitable, then i’ll take a punt on the GR07’s. Thanks for all the advice :)

  72. Andy on

    Just want to say that yes, those Philips SHE3590’s are hella good for the price. In NZ I expect to pay between 50 and 100 % the prices you list here in-store, and sure enough they were $16 not $5-$10 (so its not a problem in this price range, haha). But the bass has more impact and everything has more clarity, especially the treble, than the $160 Monster DNAs I had before (not exactly the best purchase of my life). Just needed a little boost through the mid-range via equalizer and they’re much more exciting to listen to. Thanks for including them in your list!

    • ljokerl on

      Right? They are way better than they should be for the money, even at $16.

  73. Koby on


    Sorry to bother you, but my T-Peos d200r has loose wiring. Thus, what would you recommend as an upgrade/side step for <60? Or would you recommend trying to resolder the wires back? Thanks!

    • ljokerl on

      Depends on where the issue with the cable is exactly. If the cable is shorting at/near the plug, it will be fairly easy to fix for anyone with basic soldering skills (just need to buy a new plug for a couple of bucks). If the issue is at the earpieces, they’re probably a total loss.

      D200R is a pretty versatile earphone but you have lots of good options to sidegrade/upgrade within $60. Ostry KC06 will give you more forward mids with a brighter overall sound. Great if you like highly intelligible vocals and don’t need too much noise isolation. VSonic VSD3S will give you a punchy and very clear sound. Treble is a bit more sibilant compared to the D200R, but overall accuracy is still better on the VSonics. If you want to save some $$, the LG Quadbeat F420 (If you can find one) will give you comparable sound quality to the D200R at a lower cost. You give up some noise isolation, though, and will need to swap out the stock LG tips.

      • Koby on

        Thanks! How about the Fidue A63? Would those also be along the same smooth/mid-forward sound of the D200R? And would it be easier/beneficial just to replace the cable up to the cable split?

        • ljokerl on

          The A63 is an interesting one… it does have forward mids but the highs are more laid-back and there’s a mid-bass hump, which altogether makes it sound warmer than the D200R and the sets I recommended below. It’s not a bad earphone by any means, just a bigger change from the D200R and not as good a signature match (in my opinion) as the KC06 or even VSD3S.

          • Koby on

            Sorry, one last question (probably). I’m a bit scared to order the Vsd3s because I’ve heard some complaints about the cable not being the best quality and I’m not sure if I want to drop another $15 for a removable cable. Would it be better to get the better cable in the new Vsd1s or does the superior sound quality of the Vsd3s make that a stupid move? Thanks!

          • ljokerl on

            They’re really not far apart in sound quality so if you think the VSD1S will work better for you in terms of durability you can go for that.

            Do note that there are two versions of the VSD3S – fixed cable and detachable cable. I haven’t had any issues with either version, but VSonic did develop the newer fixed-cable VSD3S in response to customer feedback on the detachable-cable version.

  74. N107 on

    Hi I need a earphone under $40(around Rs 2500 in India). I have shortlisted few which are Sony MDR-EX650AP, SoundMAGIC E10S(Is it low on bass & have harsh treble?) and Sony MDR-XB30EX(how’s the soundstage?).

    My requirements are:
    -Sound signature : V-shaped or balanced
    -Wide SoundStage
    -soft airy kind of bass with above average quantity
    -balanced mids and treble(these are the areas which starts to distort while increasing the volume which gives me headache mainly the vocals and metallic kind of sounds so I dont want this area to be so harsh)
    -isolation can be ignored for audio quality

    Previously I have used HP H1000, Sony MDREX110LP and Sony Ericsson MH-650(headset) from these three the best is Sony MH650, which has soft airy kind of bass in average quantity with balanced mids and accurate trebles, it also has quite wide soundstage which gives a good virtual surround effect and don’t distort even at max volumes or sometimes over max using software, I am assuming its sound signature as V-shaped, at last MH650’s are very light in weight and very comfortable.

    So till now you must have understood that I need a earphone better than MH650 or equal, it would be great if you compare others with it. I’ll be using it with my Samsung Grand Prime and notebook mainly for watching music videos and movies with little bit of music.

    MH650’s are not supported with my both devices but only with Xperia device. And I want to ask whether it can be supported using a connector.

    • ljokerl on

      Out of those I only have the Soundmagic E10, and it’s very good for a v-shaped/balanced type sound. It’s pretty much what you’re describing. The only other one worth recommending is the LG Quadbeat F420, but that one is harder to find at this point, and also needs a tip change to be comfortable. I probably wouldn’t recommend it over the Soundmagic in this case.

      Unfortunately I can’t tell you how either one compares to the MH650 or any of the others you mentioned.

      • N107 on

        Thanks for the reply, I was also considering Soundmagic E10S as they are easy to find but I dont like its twisted cable look.
        And when you are going to post Piston 3 review?

        • ljokerl on

          In a week or two. It’s 2nd in my queue right now.

  75. A on


    I’ve used the Etymotic HF series for years now. The HF5 was my first decent IEM, and when it broke (this was before they switched to the kevlar cables) broke outside of it’s warranty I simply replaced with a HF2. Now my HF2s (with the new cable) have broken outside of the warranty. Both of them suffered from cable splits near the strain relief. I treated my IEMs well, when they weren’t being used I stored them in their pouch 99% of the time. I could just buy another set at the special purchase price, but I would rather get something a little more durable.

    So now it’s time to buy another IEM and I’m weighing my options. I would like to keep the budget under $150, and ideally whatever I purchase will have a microphone for my Android phone. One of my favorite things about the HFxs (besides the sound signature) was the isolation. The small housings were also nice because I have small ear canals. However, the comfort varied. Sometimes the triple-flanges irritated my ear, sometimes they didn’t. The shure olives and the stock foam tips were less comfortable.

    Sound signature wise, I’m looking for something somewhat neutral/balanced. Mid-recession and harsh treble are no-nos. I listen to a lot of different genres, but acoustic music (like showtunes and soundtracks) is my focus. If it helps anything I really enjoy the Sennheiser HD600s as well.

    With so many requirements, does anything like this even exist in this price range? Or would I have to step up the budget and/or or get customs?

    • ljokerl on

      The HF2/3 is still your best bet if you want neutral but not bright with high isolation, a microphone, and at least Etymotic-level durability. That combination of features just screams Etymotic – the other earphones I can think of are all eliminated by one or more of the requirements.

      Keeping isolation high (one of the hardest things coming from an Etymotic), your best bet for moving up is a silicone-shelled custom, but you give up the mic/remote. Also, an entry-level single-driver one like the Custom Art Music One won’t sound significantly better than the HF2, so you’re probably looking at the $300+ price range.

      • A on

        Thanks for the honest advice. Looks like I’ll either be repurchasing or waiting for something new to be released. More likely the former. Just out of curiosity, would giving up on the mic change my options much?

        • ljokerl on

          That opens you up to a used ER4, which is much tougher than the HF5 in my experience. At one point I had one that was 6+ years old.

          • Ashen on

            If A comes back and sees this, let him know that ETY have a great trade in program for out of warr users, he could save ALOT on a set of er4-pt’s (what i would choose as you can use a cable to turn them int the s model so best of both worlds.

  76. Sp0t on

    1) I have been using MTP Gold/Copper for ~3 years, but they are starting to die, so I am looking for replacement. I like how both sound, but I also use HD650 (absolutely worship these) when I’m home, and the relatively significant difference in sounding of the two may sometimes be unpleasant. So I am thinking either something close to MTP Gold, or something more balanced so that it coincides with HD650.
    What would you recommend? My main genres: lots of rock (symphonic gothic metal and hard rock mainly), jazz, downtempo, and a little of everything.
    If you think my description is too vague, let me know, and I will try to specify.

    2) I’m looking for a pair of super durable IEMs that also have good sound. Currently, I am thinking RHA MA750i. This is for my younger brother who is not very careful with his electronics. Do you have better suggestions?

    Thank you very much in advance.

    • Sp0t on

      ^ Was writing in a hurry.
      The budget is approximately $200, can go beyond if needed.
      I was thinking of buying B&W C5 S2, but after seeing how joker compared MTP Gold to the original C5, I am not that eager anymore even though S2 is an improvement. Thoughts about S2?
      I saw many people here recommend DN-K or 2K, but since I am not very knowledgable in the field of audio devices, I don’t know how I will like V-shaped IEMs. Is this a good choice for my musical taste? Also, does DUNU provide as qualitative support as other large names? (I have not heard about DUNU before.)

      • ljokerl on

        I generally go for more balanced sound, so if I were you I’d definitely be tempted to try and get closer to the HD650. It’s a bit tough without spending more because the MTPG was a pretty good earphone to start with. Perhaps the Sony MDR-7550. It’s got a very balanced sound with a slight warm tilt (a-la HD650) and smooth treble. The latter is important because many of the better earphones in this price range, like the DUNUs you mentioned, will be brighter than both your HD650 and MTPG, and it may be best to avoid that seeing as you like the Sennheiser and Monster tuning. The form factor of the 7550 is a bit odd, but comfortable once you get used to it. Not the best choice if you need high noise isolation, though, and you’re looking at about $230 for one of those: http://amzn.to/1Fn6Xj3

        The closest thing to the 7550 on the lower side of $200 is the TDK BA200, but those are getting pretty hard to find new.

        As for a durable, good-sounding IEM, I don’t think it gets much better than the MA750. Next best thing is probably the Shure SE215, which has the added benefit of detachable/replaceable cables, but I tend to prefer the sound of the RHA.

        P.S. All of these “new” China-based IEM companies, like DUNU and VSonic, don’t usually have in-house support, so the support you receive is only going to be as good as the dealer you get the product from. For DUNU I would recommend CTC Audio in Canada (they also ship to the USA), or mp4nation/lendmeurears, which are global distributors. You’ll get okay support from them.

        • Sp0t on

          Thank you very much, Joker. I am glad to see that you also prefer a more balanced sound; I was getting an impression of quite the opposite from some of your reviews, but you never know :)

          Then MA750 it is.

          How are 7550 comparing to XBA-H3? What would you recommend if I increased my budget to, say, $300? I remember not wanting to spend such money on Monsters, but I have no regrets. Music is very important.

          Also, wanted to clarify, you say “many of the better headphones in this price range,” so, if I understand correctly, DUNU do sound partially better, but you consider them a bad choice for me because of the extra brightness?

          • ljokerl on

            The XBA-H3 is a borderline basshead earphone. It’s a good earphone, but it doesn’t fit in with wanting a more balanced sound.

            And by “better headphones in this price range” I just meant better than most, not better than the ones I recommended. Can’t really say that a DUNU DN-1000 is better than the TDK BA200, because they sound very different from each other.

          • Sp0t on

            MA750i and MDR-7550 arrived ~4 days ago.

            I first started with MA750i, wanted to make sure there weren’t any defects. I didn’t test them much, for they will be gifted. What I was able to grasp: quite comfortable design, the stainless steel feels to be durable, although the cable could be a little less soft. Stylistics – great.
            Then I started listening. Comparing to MTPG, I can only say that the sound of 750 seemed weird to me. I couldn’t precisely identify what was bothering me. It seemed to me that 750 have (comparing to MTPG) not deep, “dry” (as opposed to “lush/succulent”) bass, pushed-up mids, but, perhaps, more detailed, sharp treble. (At the same volume level, 750 were somewhat hurtful to my ears.)
            Most likely, I just did not spend enough time analyzing 750, I will probably test more in the summer, after I gift them to my brother. But such things should not be a concern for my brothers, as long as they can live long enough :)

            Now, Sony. At first, the design wasn’t comfortable and hurt my ears after some time, but after 2 days I was able to find that perfect sweet spot. No complaints. I am satisfied with the build quality so far, after owning metallic IEMs for so long, plastic feels a little bit inferior, but parts fit well (according to my eye), plus plastic is significantly lighter.
            The sound – I think this is what I wanted! They sound close to HD650, I no longer experience the distortion in sound which I used to have when I switched between MTPG and HD650. Also, I can have them in my ears for longer periods of time w/o having my ears tired. (I guess due to normal bass.)
            Long cable is useful at home, but not so much outside. The isolation is okay, but Monsters provide better. Besides, even under light wind Sony starts to whistle. So, yes, they are not suited well for outside.
            And one more thing, I wish Sony included one clip in the package. I have others, but still it would be nice to have one included.

            Thank you very much, joker!

          • ljokerl on

            You’re spot on about the treble of the MA750i – the Turbines gradually lose emphasis up top and the MDR-7550s are a little “shelved” in the treble for smoothness, while the MA750i has some emphasis in the upper midrange and lower treble. For new listeners this often gives them more of a “wow” factor on the crispness/clarity side, but compared to a smoother IEM they can sound a bit tizzy.

            Glad you’re enjoying the 7550s! Very interesting earphones, and they would be much more popular if they had a “normal” form factor, I think.

  77. az060693 on

    Hi, I own and love the Yamaha EPH-100s and am looking to upgrade sometime soon. What is an IEM with similar sound characteristics but better sound quality? I love the smoothness of the Yamaha’s and the bass quantity, which I feel is just right. I listen to a lot of EDM and rock like Snow Patrol. Around 200 dollars would be my preferred price range.

    • az060693 on

      I’m also very sensitive to sibilance.

      • ljokerl on

        Upgrading from the EPH-100 in such a similar price range is going to be tough. I won’t say impossible because I definitely haven’t heard every headphone out there, but there’s a reason I put it as my top pick for that kind of sound tuning.

        I would say you’d need to at least go to a Sony XBA-H3 for an upgrade. Those have been down to about $220 before but they usually hover at $250-300. Very good for a warm and smooth type of sound, with impressive treble quality.

        • az060693 on

          Thanks so much for the advice. Funnily enough that was one of the ones I was looking at. I’ve also been looking at the Audio Technica CKR10 and UE900S. Any thoughts on those?

          • ljokerl on

            The UE900 has a much flatter and more neutral sound than the bassy EPH-100. It’s a good earphone, just not very similar to the Yamahas, and won’t necessarily work better for EDM.

            Not sure about the CKR10.

  78. fraq_78 on

    Thanks for all your effort. I have two questions in one. I’ve recently bought a Sony Walkman NWZ A15 which I pair with Soundmagic E10, which sound great to me both with mp3 and FLAc but the output volume of the A15 is too low for city commuting even at maximum volume. I wonder if getting more sensitive or better IEMs would solve the problem and help me get a tad bit more volume without buying a portable amp. And which ones? I like the Soundmagics but I wasn’t happy with RHA 350 (didn’t like the vocals) and listen mostly to rock, pop, folk, acoustic music. Thanks again!

    • ljokerl on

      Does the Walkman have the EU volume limit by any chance? Seems like a possible culprit.

      If that’s not the case then, sure, moving to a more sensitive or more well-isolating (or both) IEM would help. The Soundmagics have good sensitivity and OK isolation. It’ll take some searching to find a set that isn’t too expensive AND sounds somewhat similar AND is more sensitive AND isolates well, so if there’s a volume limit problem solving that would be easier than upgrading your IEM.

      • fraq78 on

        It’s the EU version which seems to come with a volume limit which makes it a bit low even at maximum level (30) when external noise is present and on my Soundmagics. Have you got any suggestions of an upgrade? Not going to buy right away, don’t worry, just to know where to start looking. Thanks!

        • ljokerl on

          Any way to remove the volume limit?

          Otherwise, you can either get a cheap amp or switch IEMs. You can go for an IEM with higher-than-average efficiency, like an Ostry KC06 or Nuforce NE-600X (the latter good for a much bassier sound than you’re getting with the E10) but these still have only moderate noise isolation.

          Or you can go for noise isolation instead, which is probably what I would do. An Etymotic MC5 would be best but you can also try to find a Shure SE215 or HiSoundAudio Crystal at a reasonable price. None of these are a great match for the E10’s sound signature but they’re good IEMs in their own right – just a matter of finding a usable balance of sound sig/isolation for your situation.

          • fraq78 on

            First of all, thanks again! This has been very clear and I am now more aware of what are my potential solutions.

            I haven’t found any way of removing the volume limit online. Only people advising to get the US or Japanese version, which is too late for me now. I’ll keep an eye on that.

            I am relatively new to IEMs, I used to be happy with the sony mdre818 earbuds until they were discontiuned, and still struggle with eartips sizes and insertion. I own comply tips for the Soundmagic but prefer the sound on the normal eartips. I am trying the double flanges normal ones tomorrow to see what happens. That’s also why going for isolation and the Etymotic MC5 is tempting but still a risk if I don’t manage a proper fit.

            Sound signature not that much of an issue I think since I really haven’t tried anything apart from the Soundmagic or the RHA350. I have got the feeling I would like neutral sound signatures because I like vocals to be clear and don’t care too much about bass.

            So I’ll see, thanks again for your time!

          • ljokerl on

            Yep, you’re absolutely right about the fit of the MC5. Foam makes them more friendly but it’s still a deep-sealing IEM.

            Signature-wise you’ll probably do well with the KC06 or MC5, and likely not much worse with the Crystal. The SE215 and especially the NE-600X head more into MA350 territory.

  79. Mark on

    Let’s just say I’ve taken the joker crash course on IEM’s for the past couple of days gathering as much information as possible; whether it be sound signatures, or particular models, I’ve come a long way in a couple days, and I greatly appreciate your time and effort.

    I’m looking for two pairs of IEM’s, both under 100$. One on the cheap side for the gym, and one closer towards 50-100$ for at home.

    My musical preference leans toward genre’s such as Math Rock, which is a rhythmically complex style of experimental, instrumental, indie rock. Lots of complex, atypical rhythmic structures, counterpoint, ever changing time signatures, angular melodies, and extended, often dissonant, chords. Also your common Rock, Heavy Metal, Hardcore, Punk, etc.

    I really want a pair that is going to flourish at picking up those ever changing, complex notes, and packs a punch with the double bass.
    I would assume I’d be looking in the area of a more V-Shaped / Balanced sound. So in doing what research I could before deciding to ultimately ask the master, I’ve come across a few models;

    More Expensive: VSonic VSD3S, VSonic Gr07, Ostry KC06, JVC FXT90, HiFi RE400, KEF M200, AT IM50 & IM70, AT CKM500, Se112 and Se215

    Middle to Less Epensive: Image S4, V Moda Bass Freq, SoundMagic e10

    Less Expensive: SHE3580, JVC FX40, Xiamoi Piston 2&3. ATH CLR100

    I’m sure some stick out right off the bat and some you can dispel quickly but i just wanted to mention that ideally, without money being a factor, I’d go for the GR07’s or the Se215’s, but I’d rather not pay 100$ unless your telling me there’s no way to get what i want without doing so. Also please feel free to add whatever other suggestions and input you have. I greatly appreciate it. Thank you.

    • ljokerl on

      If you want your cheap set to last at the gym, get something that’s sweat-resistant, and also designed to stay in place while working out. My go-to recommendations for this are the MEElec M6 (or M6P if you want a mic) and the Audio-Technica CKX5 (or CKX5iS if you want a mic). The Piston 2 may sound better, but I would be too bothered at having to adjust the fit to enjoy it (plus I don’t trust the combination of sweat and cloth cables in the long term). You could also buy a SHE3580, wear it over-the-ear, and just replace it if something goes wrong – it’s certainly cheap enough for that.

      I haven’t tried everything on your list, but generally speaking my picks would be the VSonic GR07 Classic ($99) or VSD3S ($60) IF you’re not too worried about smoothness. Some people are more bothered about this than others; I personally don’t mind a little grit with the type of genres you’re listening to (though my collection of math rock is limited to Hella and té). If you want something a little smoother, the Philips Fidelio S2 should work nicely, or a Havi B3 Pro I. A relatively balanced and highly resolving earphone is a must for this sort of thing – you really don’t want anything even remotely dull, bloated, or bassy – the FXT90 and SE215, for instance, are both much more bass-heavy than I would want, not to mention the Piston 2, S4, and bass freqs.

      • Mark on

        Ah not many people have heard of math rock, I’m impressed. I haven’t listened to much hella but my god Zach Hill can drum.. and if you like té I would check out Lite and toe, two great Japanese math rock bands. Also two favorites I have to recommend are Chon, and Giraffes?Giraffes!, you won’t regret it.

        As for the CKX5, what are your thoughts on the 7 and 9? Would I be better off sticking with the 5? I’ve seen a couple good deals for the 7’s and 9’s at pretty cheap.

        • Mark on

          Also your thoughts on the VSD5? And how does it stack up against the Gr07?

          • ljokerl on

            I don’t pay enough attention to genre labels – I do have two Toe albums but I’ve always thought of them as a post-rock band. I went through a lengthy post-rock binge a few years ago.

            Also have a few Giraffes? Giraffes! tracks and Chon’s Grow (just got it a few weeks ago). That one I’d have classified as some kind of instrumental metal. Pretty good though. Sounds like I should check out Lite.

            I only have the CKX5s. My understanding is that they get more bass-heavy as you go up within that series, and the CKX5 has more than enough bass for me so I’ve never chased after the others.

            No thoughts on the VSD5 yet – I still need to finish evaluating the VSD3 fully.

          • Mark on

            You sir have completely earned my respect.. and yes, you can’t put a genre label on every band but those bands definitely fall within the math realm and branch off from there.

            I have one (well two) last question(s):
            When at the gym, I’m listening to mostly my most heaviest, fastest, hardcore metal with insane amounts of double bass kicks, and heavy guitar riffs, psyching myself up. I stumbled upon the TTPOD T1-E.. which seems like what i would be looking for in this department. Deep, punchy, tight, fast bass without spilling over and a peak in treble, avoiding that dull sound and giving it some crispness….. OR I COULD BE TOTALLY DEAD WRONG. Which is why i defer to you. Although the fit and comfort might seem to play an issue. So your thoughts? Could you recommend something better?.. keeping or bettering the sound department/fit&comfort.

            Lastly, I’m torn between the Gr07 and the Gr07BE. Knowing what you know about my style of music would I benefit from the BE? Does the BE take anything away/sacrifice from the original?

            Thank you again, and much appreciated kind sir.

          • ljokerl on

            I am not familiar with the TTPOD so I can’t say how it performs or whether its design makes it suited for the gym. I’ve heard good things about it, but that also goes for dozens of other earphones.

            If I were you’d probably go for the regular GR07. It’s a little less expensive and I don’t think what little extra bass the BE has will be of much value. Of course you know your own tastes better, so if you’d rather err on the side of caution in terms of bass punch and get the BE, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not really worse in any way, just a little different and more expensive.

  80. NP15 on

    Hey ljokerl!

    I really like the work you have done for IEM reviews. You took the serious leg work out of buying IEM’s. I have a question though and hopefully, it’s not a dumb one. My current IEM is the Logitech UE 600. Unfortunately through use wrapping the cable over my ears, somehow portion of cable there solidified, cracked and is now barely hanging on by the wire. I really like the sound of them though. The thing is, I’m not that experienced, so I have no idea what type of sound signature it is. If I were to buy headphones here, which sound stage category would my current UE 600 belong to? I’m actually okay if the they have a touch more (better) treble though. Any help would be great!

    • ljokerl on

      I classify the UE600 as balanced, but with a slightly mid-forward sound (meaning a bit more focus on the mids over the bass and treble).

      I tend to prefer the more detailed treble of the RE-400 to it so that might be a good way to go if you’re looking to stay around $80. Another option in that price range would be the Final Audio Heaven II. It’s a little more bright and harsh than the RE-400, so it’ll be even more of a change from your UE600, but it’s a great value.

      If you’re willing to go up in budget, I would swing for an Etymotic HF5 at ~$130.

      • NP15 on

        Thank you so much!

        • NP15 on

          Dayumm, the Heaven II look really nice.

  81. rad81 on


    I just came across your wonderful website and I am hoping that you would help me pick an IEM that fits my needs. I have posted my query on head-fi also, but I haven’t got any help there.

    *Priced around $50, but ideally around $35

    *Has an inline mic. I need a mic to answer calls on my phone and chat on skype from my PC. Other controls for volume, etc would be nice, but not mandatory.

    *Has a decent build quality and is not flimsy. I am very careful with my IEMs and headphones, but I am planning to throw these in my back pack and take them to college & library.

    *Has a relatively small profile. Sometimes, I like to listen to music while trying to fall asleep. However, this is not a very important requirement.

    *The sound signature should be non-fatiguing. I am not really sure if I am using the correct terms while describing the sound signature, so please correct me if I am wrong.I like to listen to music while studying and I study for more than 8 hrs most days. I some times leave my head phones for 4-5 hrs at a stretch while studying. So, I don’t want an IEM that sounds harsh & gives me head ache after listening for a couple of hrs.

    *I currently have Xears XE 200 Pro Walnut Edition. They sound very good but have an annoying J-shaped cable and the fabric covering the cable started peeling away. They also seem to hurt my ears after some time due to their sound signature & they don’t have a mic. I also have HD598, which are very comfortable. They don’t hurt my ears with their sound signature as much as the Xears, but I feel they are not driven well by my laptop and mp3 player. They seem to have weak bass, which is ok if that means they don’t give me headache after a while, but they are too bulky to be used outside my room.

    *Though I listen to many different genres, I mostly listen to chillout/downtempo and psychedelic trance music. I also listen to calming nature sounds, especially while studying or relaxing.

    I saw some positive reviews of Meelectronics M6 Pro & A151P, though I am not sure if they fit my needs. Many members on head-fi are also raving about Vsonics, but I am not sure if any of them come with an inline mic.

    Thank you very much.

    • ljokerl on

      In that price range the Fidue A31s is probably your best bet: http://amzn.to/1Iq07M4. My full review isn’t live yet (should be this weekend) but it seems to be a great fit for what you want. Has a mic/remote and decent build quality for $30 (also comes with a great carrying case, which I highly recommend using), but more importantly it’s one of the smallest and most comfortable in-ears on the market. I do recommend spending another $10-15 on some foam tips at some point to increase comfort, especially if you’re going to sleep in them, but that’s not a must.

      It’s far from the best sound-sounding earphone, but it’s got a very warm and pleasant sound with enhanced bass. The thing that stood out most was how non-fatiguing it is.

      VSonics and the Mee A151P (not sure about the M6 PRO) will objectively sound better than the Fidue – clearer, more balanced, more neutral, and so on, but it doesn’t seem like they’ll be a better fit for you. The A151 has much less bass than the Fidue (no more than the HD598) and VSonics in this price range tend to sound pretty harsh. I did find the A151 pretty comfy so it wouldn’t be the worst thing to use, but the flat bass would still make it my 2nd choice after the A31s for what you’re requesting.

      • rad81 on

        Thank you very much! I will definitely check out Fidue A31s.

        • rad81 on

          Hello, I am trying to buy Fidue A31s from amazon and I came across two different listings – one is priced at $24.98 (ships from China – http://amzn.to/1RzRr9X ) & the other is priced at $29.99 (ships from California -http://amzn.to/1QFwgBT ). Do you think it is a good idea to go for the cheaper one? Are there too many fakes of these IEMs?

          Thank you.

          • ljokerl on

            Should be the same thing (no fakes that I know of) – main difference will likely be the delivery speed. It’s often cheaper to ship from China than from the US, which explains the price gap.

          • rad81 on

            Thank you very much!

  82. heardit on


    I bought a soundmagic e30 based on the reviews in your site and for someone who had been using only using the basic IEMs before, im thoroughly enjoying the experience of it… thanks a ton!! this is phenomenal!!

    now, a friend of mine was so impressed of the e30 that he wants to go for an IEM that could be even better than the e30!! :)

    1. sound quality:

    a sound signature similar to the e30 is fine – smooth, warm and with clarity, good instrument differentiation. good vocals… the only complaint about e30 is that the highs, especially of the percussion instruments, are a bit noisy.. the clarity at the highs is poorer than that of the lows and mids.. so recommend any IEMs which compensates this drawback of e30( as perceived by me)…

    2. soundstaging / imaging:

    though im still trying to figure out the diference between sound staging and imaging, the sound experience of e30 felt fantastic in the regard. so now the temptation is to find an IEM with even better soundstaging / imaging!

    3. though no need for complete isolation, decent noise cancellation like e30 will do fine.

    4. BUILD quality similar to or better than e30. but perhaps more comfort than e30.

    5. BASS / TREBLE

    not a basshead. bass/treble of e30 sounds fine.

    6. Price:

    $50 – $60

    looking forward to your valuable suggestions!

    • ljokerl on

      The E30 is a very good earphone… hard to upgrade from without spending a lot. What comes to mind from your requirements in that price range is the Ostry KC06. It is brighter and less warm than the E30 but the treble quality is actually very good, so it’s not really a drawback. Clarity is excellent, though, and soundstaging is one of its strong suits as well. The bass has good punch without being excessive, too, and like the E30, the KC06 has decent build quality and average isolation.

      For a warmer sound, there’s the Brainwavz M1. I can’t call it an upgrade to the E30 but it’s a nice alternative, very pleasant and extremely smooth. Gives up a little bit of the soundstage and treble presence of the E30, and the bass rolls off a bit, but what’s there is excellent quality. It’s a good value and good listen, especially if a brighter IEM like the KC06 doesn’t seem appealing.

      And lastly, another E30 would definitely be the closest thing to an E30 without sacrificing anything or paying more :)

      • heardit on


        once again thanks for your suggestions! you are exceptionally meticulous with your descriptions!

        i guess my friend would go for the Ostry KC06..

        BUT,, can you name IEMs which can be considered an upgrade to the E30? like the next best 3,, with better sound quality and staging and of similar sound signature… with (comparatively) least prices…

        also another general request.. can you put up a separate page explaining the terms like warm, bright, smooth, staging, imaging, off-neutral etc., sort of glossary… considering the clarity with which you explain audio experiences, such a glossary would be really useful to us users, especially the newbies…

        • ljokerl on

          Fidue A83, while a little brighter, would be a good upgrade with punchy bass and a wide soundstage. If you want to stay under $100, ThinkSound MS01, but it’s not a sizable upgrade (not in soundstaging for sure), and of course the KC06. I also thought the Soundmagic E80 was promising but I’ve only tried it once, at a show, and haven’t read or heard anything about it since.

          Regarding a glossary – this is definitely something we have planned as a later addition, once we get all of the current errors and issues with the site fixed and have time to start adding more sections.

      • Brian on

        I am a keen follower of your site and head-fi.org but I am still unsure of an upgrade. I currently use Klipsch x10 (treble lacking and bass a bit muddy, but nice form factor) and Dunu DN 1000 (great bass and treble, but mid range a bit laid back, and too heavy for my ears).
        I listen exclusively to Jazz, mostly acoustic.
        What suggestions do you have for an upgrade up to US$300 to $400?

        • ljokerl on

          It sounds like we agree on the X10 and DN-1000, so maybe you will like the FLC8 Tech FLC8 that i like (saw your comment on the FLC8 review).

          Its form factor is admittedly not as nice as that of the X10, but obviously you can’t fit three drivers in anything X10-sized. I also wish the FLC8 had angled nozzles, but even without them its an improvement on the DN-1000 in comfort, especially if you like over-the-ear wear style IEMs. The weight is significantly lower than the metal DUNU.

          Next best thing might be a VSonic GR07 Bass Edition – tight bass, not quite as enhanced as that of the X10 but still nicely present, stronger treble than X10, and mids not as recessed as those of the DN-1000. Comfort is good, too.

          • Brian on

            Thanks for advice. I have decided to give the FLC8 a go and I ordered a set today. Thank you again for responding so quickly.

  83. Kate on

    This is a great list, thanks for all your info!! I’ve been searching for an up-to-date (currently available models) list of IEMs by budget and sound.

    I was hoping to see a comparison to the Koss PortaPro or KSC75. I know they aren’t IEM’s but they’re popular and low-budget, so I thought maybe :) I love the sound of these, but I’m a casual listener and I can’t understand most comparison articles.

    Can you recommend an IEM $30 or less that offers some isolation and has a similar sound to the PortaPro? That sound is great for what I listen to and I’m trying to avoid buying and returning 50 pairs. I’ve posted on some forums but no help :(

    Please help a newb get some IEMs! Thanks so much.

    • ljokerl on

      A good place to start would be a Xiaomi Piston 2 (just make sure you get a genuine one). It’s not a reference headphone by any means, but it’s a fun listen with good all around performance. Might have a little more bass and slightly sharper highs than you’re used to, but for a <$25 in-ear there’s really nothing to complain about.

      If you want something with a slightly more hi-fi tuning (closer to the PortaPro) and are willing to live with an asymmetrical cable and mostly non-functional remote (unless you use a Sony Xperia phone), you can usually snag a bulk-packaged Sony MH1C on ebay for $30 or less. The tuning of these is closer to the PortaPro – warm, smooth, and refined – but it lacks some of the fun factor and crispness of the Xiaomi.

      And one last “easy” option – the Dunu DN-12 Trident. This one is a no-frills earphone and really has no caveats except that the overall sound quality isn’t as impressive as with the Sony and Xiaomi – a little less clear, a little more rolled-off, and so on. But, it’s better than anything you’ll find in a retail store for the money, and it ticks the isolation and approximate PortaPro sound signature boxes.

      I put them in order with my first choice at the top.

      • Kate on

        Thanks so much for your thoughtful reply!

        Are there lots of counterfeit Xiaomi’s? That would explain the price difference: http://www.amazon.com/gp/search/ref=a9_sc_1?rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Axiaomi+piston+2&keywords=xiaomi+piston+2&ie=UTF8&qid=1429712162

        Ugh, I wish the Sony’s had a regular cable. The asymmetric ones drive me nuts unfortunately. Any thoughts on the Brainwavez Delta? I’ve seen positive reviews for those and wonder how they compare. Thanks again!

        • ljokerl on

          Yes, Xiaomi counterfeits are not unheard of. They really shouldn’t cost less than $16 or so. If you’re not in a rush you can get it from one of Xiaomi’s authorized worldwide retailers, like ibuygou: http://www.ibuygou.com/p-original-xiaomi-piston-earphone-updated-version-brown-5708.html . Shipping will probably take a while, though.

          I have no experience with the Delta, unfortunately, but I haven’t heard a Brainwavz model with a Porta Pro-like sound tuning in ages. The Brainwavz M2 model from 2010 was probably the closest.

          • Kate on

            Oof, 20 days to arrive. I’ll consider them.

            So is the PortaPro considered “warm” sounding? It would be helpful to know when reading reviews to compare. I’m not familiar with headphone terminology/lingo.

            I wish there was a store that had a ton of models on display so I can hear them! Thanks so much for your help and great reviews.

          • ljokerl on

            Yep, the PortaPro is on the warm side. Not excessively so, but a fair amount.

            There are specialty audio stores that allow headphone and even earphone demos in many major cities around the world. Unfortunately I’m not aware of a place you can find a list of all of them. We plan to put one together at one point, but that’s a project for a later date.

  84. SKV on

    Great post. Sorting earphones by sound signature seems like the best way to help someone get started in what can be a very daunting process. I totally appreciate how you answer individual inquires, so here is mine… I am actually looking to replace AKG K450 on-earphones. I live in AZ, and it can get too warm having them on my ears. I would like an in-ear to replace it, as well as upgrade the sound quality. I don’t know how I would describe the sound signature of the AKG’s. Several reviewers call them “muddy.” As far as my sound signature preference, I would say somewhere between Warm & Smooth and Balanced. My usual music is mainly something along the lines of Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, Keb’ Mo. And I especially value a great, “engaging” represenation of female voices (e.g., Norah Jones and Allison Krause). I listen to a lot of Pandora Premium (192 kbps) and Spotify Premium (320 kbps) on my MacBook Pro, as well as FLAC’s, but also some lower quality MP3’s on my phone. I would like to stay around $150. Sound quality if the most essential quality. Durability is important, but I take pretty good care of my phones. Thanks so much for your input!

    • SKV on

      Also, if there is a phone that totally fits what I’m looking for, but is more expensive, I would like to hear about it to. Thanks!

      • ljokerl on

        You have quite a few good options for earphones between warm and balanced. Best value is probably a Phonak 012, which you can currently get for $40 as I described here: http://theheadphonelist.com/easter-weekend-deal-alert-phonak-022-40-earphone-solutions-dunu-dn-1000-172-dunu-dn-2000-252-ctc-audio-uscanada/ . As a bonus, you can pick up the gray nozzle filters to turn it into a 112 model and have them as a backup for when you need a clearer, less warm-sounding earphone.

        Promotions aside, these are the sets I would normally recommend for what you want. I’ve arranged them approximately from most neutral to warmest, but they’re all on the warmer side of neutral.

        HiFiMan RE-400 – gold standard for smooth and balanced-sounding earphones under $100. I would say this is accurate more so than warm, but it’s got a very refined and accurate sound for the price
        Review: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/hifiman-re-400-waterline/

        Brainwavz R3 – slightly more bass impact, slightly less balance and clarity than the HiFiMan unit above (so moving more in the “warm” direction). Great earphone, but a little bulky with that metal construction and dual drivers so it never really got too popular.
        Review: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/brainwavz-r3-ver-2/

        SteelSeries Flux In-Ear Pro – this one doesn’t have more bass than the RE-400, but is a little warmer by virtue of having even more relaxed treble. Also has a very comfortable design but is worn over-the-ear, like the Phonak or a stage monitor.
        Review: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/steelseries-flux-in-ear-pro/

        Klipsch X10 – this has more bass punch and is lacking a little in treble presence for my taste, but it’s very smooth and extremely comfortable. Doesn’t have an amazing track record for durability, but supposedly has been improved in recent years (leading up to the newer but pricier X11)
        Review: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/klipsch-image-x10-x10i/

        • SKV on

          Thanks so much! I’ve been researching the models you listed. With the Phonak’s at $40, even with having to pay another $40 to get both the gray and black filters (black is the only color I can find that comes with the fitting tool), it is still a great price. And, maybe more importantly, it will let me do some testing and see what sound signature I like for sure. At that point, I can make a better informed decision about a ‘step up.’ Which, btw, I like what I’ve read about the comfort and improved durability of the Klipsch X11, and if I decide I like something with a more ‘v shaped’ signature, the DUNU DN-2000 looks really nice. Also intrigued by the Ortofon e-Q5. Any quick comments on how those three compare? Thanks again!

          • ljokerl on

            Good point about the fitting tool, I hadn’t considered that. Odd that it’s only included with some filter kits and not others. And yes, an earphone like that is a good one to have just to hone your preferences a bit. I usually recommend the green and gray filters because they have the largest difference between them, but the black ones are good, too.

            You’re correct about the three IEMs you’re considering, too – I recommend the DN-2000 highly for a mildly V/U-shaped sound and the e-Q5 for something quite balanced, with a neutral-to-bright tone. It’s a rather unique earphone, pretty neutral but not strictly flat like an Etymotic or conventional dual BA earphone you’d find in that price range. Very enjoyable sound.

            The X10/X11 is not as accurate as the other two and is tilted away from treble a little too much for my taste, but it’s good for a warmer, smooth sort of sound with enhanced but not excessive bass.

        • SKV on

          Per the conversation above, I bought the Phonak 012’s. Quickly decided i like the grey filters. Have been listening to them a lot, most often through an HRT Microstreamer. Really like the sound, but I wonder what the ‘next step’ is. I’m particularly wondering about the Aurisonics Rockets, b/c they are currently on Massdrop for $149. Any thoughts on how those would be as a ‘step up’ the the 012’s with grey filters. Or, any other suggestions for something that would be a noticeable improvement (whatever the price).


          • ljokerl on

            I like the Rockets and definitely can recommend them at $160 but I haven’t had them long enough to say in detail how they compare to the 112 (because 012 + gray filters is essentially a 112).

            Truthfully, with the gray filters the Phonaks are top-tier earphones so you’ll have a hard time upgrading from them without also moving to a slightly different sound signature. If you wanted, say, a little more bass or less highs or something, that would make it easier to find step up because you’d have a more suitable (for your needs) sound signature to add to the (otherwise slight) technical upgrade, making for a larger difference.

          • SKV on

            (For some reason, I can’t reply to your response) … Thanks for the input. I’ll stick with the Phonaks. I have thought I’d like to move up to the Earsonics SM64 at some point. Everything I read about them seems extremely positive. Any thoughts on how they compare to the Phonaks? Would I notice a difference? Thanks again!

          • ljokerl on

            The comments only go 4 or 5 deep to prevent the comment boxes from getting super narrow

            You will definitely notice a difference going to the SM64 – it’s a got a much more solid low end, and the treble and especially upper midrange are less prominent. The difference in balance and the warmer tone will be very noticeable.

  85. EAyanlar on

    First of all Hello joker !

    I recently lost my CX-300 earbuds and looking for a new quality in ear. I have a budget of 150 dollars. The problem is I am confused about what kind of earbud should I get. A basshead, a v shaped or warm and smooth. I mostly listen Deep House and EDM (Tchami, oliver heldens for example). I also love the bass. I would be really happy if you could recommrnd me a earbud priced about 150$ and that would fit my music taste as sound quality.

    Sorry for my bad english :(
    Cheers !

    • ljokerl on

      That’s a perfect budget for a Yamaha EPH-100. The CX300 is a rather bassy and warm-sounding earphone. The EPH-100 is, too, and it nicely toes the line between “bass-heavy” and more conventional “warm and smooth” sound. It also sounds great with EDM and has deep, but not overblown, bass.

      • EAyanlar on

        Wow thanks for the really fast reply ! Well I was actually thinking abot Monster Turbine or the new Tour2. So you tell me yamaha is the best sound quality earbud near 150$ ? Also what would be basshead choice ? Thanks much !

        • ljokerl on

          Those are both OK earphones, but they don’t measure up to the Yamaha, which is a high-end IEM. The Turbine is 4+ years old and is a good value at maybe $80 or so (if you’re limited to that sort of budget). The Tour 2.0 is great if you just need maximum bass, but it’s not a hi-fi earphone and is lacking in clarity, bass control, treble energy, and so on.

          • EAyanlar on

            Thank you so much for annswering my previous questions. Here is my final question :)

            In the Multi-IEM Review Table I saw some IEMs that have close price to 150 dollars are ranked upper than the Yamaha EPH-100. Some of them are:

            HiFiMan RE-400 Waterline
            Phonak Audeo PFE 112
            VSonic GR07 & Bass Edition
            Rock-It Sounds R-50 / R-50M
            Kozee Infinity X1 Executive
            VSonic VC1000
            RHA MA750 / MA750i

            Would you recommend these over the Yamaha ?

            Cheers !

          • ljokerl on

            Not for what you’re asking. They all have their own pros and cons, but the Yamaha sounds the most like what you’re after. 2nd place is the RHA MA750.

  86. Ulti on

    Hello ljokerl,

    I’ve been following your IEM reviews for a long time now and after selling off pretty much all my IEMs, except my favourites (SM3s, CK10s, KC06As and VSD3S), I’ve been wondering if there is anything new and similar to the UE 700/Brainwavz B2/CK10s? As far as I know, they’re all TWFK based IEMs. I can’t seem to find any new TWFK based IEMs though.

    Although not TWFK based, the one I’ve been eyeing up is the IM02 as I’ve heard good things about it in comparison to the CK10s. Have you tried this one? Are there any others that you would recommend that is recent? (I.e. easy to purchase).

    Thank you for sharing and maintaining your extraordinary matter on this subject and keep it up!

    • ljokerl on

      True, there’s not a lot of new ones coming out on that front. The only ones I’m aware of are the new JAYS q-JAYS (http://www.jays.se/q-jays) and the new Fischer Audio DBA-02 mkIII (http://fischeraudio.com/shop/dba-02-mkiii/). I liked the previous versions of both, so these seem promising to me. Other sets using TWFKs these days are mostly hybrids – for example the DUNU DN-1000 and DN-2000.

      No experience with the IM02 here.

      Two sets that I’ve enjoyed recently that you might like based on your favourites – the FLC Technology FLC8 (though it’s a hybrid and has an enhanced-bass sound in my preferred configuration – review here: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/flc-technology-flc8/) and the Audiofly AF180. This one is a little warmer and less bright than your typical TWFK set, but still very interesting as it falls about halfway between a good TWFK and a good smooth-sounding set like a TDK BA200 or StageDiver SD-2.

      Hope I will get to hear the new q-JAYS or the DBA-02 mkIII at some point.

      • Ulti on

        Hmm, well the brightness never bothered me. Although it can get tiring sometimes, I do like to listen to mainstream music with the CK10s and I find it enjoyable. It’s a shame you haven’t had a chance to try the IM02 because that one is the one I’m most interested in. I’m not really after the smoother sound of the Q-jays and the hybrids are out of my budget. I don’t think the DBA-02 mkIII will be much different from the B2 which I owned before selling them.

        I guess I’ll try to sell my CK10 to buy the IM02 unless I can find a bargain on the IM02. Thanks for your insight!

        • ljokerl on

          Would be curious as to how you think the IM02 compares to the CK10 if you end up doing that!

          • Ulti on

            Been a while but thought I’d give a little update. Unfortunately I sold the CK10 before I managed to grab the IM02 so I can’t give a direct comparison. When I first got the IM02, it was after I received my Heir Audio 3.Ai S so I wasn’t overly impressed. Coupled by a slightly problematic fit, I left my IM02 to sit in my wardrobe as I used mainly used my Piston 2, KC06A and 3.Ai S for most of my music listening. However, I just got them back out today for a listen and they are actually pretty amazing. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m getting a better seal but I would say these are an upgrade to the CK10. They’re not quite as bright as the CK10 but they still offer a ton of microdetails without sounding overly aggressive. Although lacking a bit in sub bass, bass impact is plentiful and vocal sound just as good on the IM02 as they did on the CK10 without it being too analytical.

            I haven’t really listened to my IM02s that much since I got them a few months ago so I’m going to spend more time with them. I was actually planning to sell them but I’m glad I gave them a listen beforehand. Gotta try tip rolling now as the fit is a bit finicky.

            I wish I could see your view on the IM02 but I imagine you already have a ton of IEMs to review.

          • ljokerl on

            That was a rollercoaster of a post.

            Glad you’re enjoying them now!

            I actually did finally get my hands on an IM02. Luckily I haven’t had any fit issues so I’m enjoying them quite a bit and recommending them here and elsewhere. They actually remind me more of the ATH-CK90PRO than the ATH-CK10 with their darker tone. Either way, they sound nice and full-bodied while still being very flat and accurate in the grand scheme of things. A very pleasant listen.

            I’ve got them in the review queue, but probably not for this year – too much other stuff to cover.

  87. Arcticfreeze on

    Thanks for the fantastic recommendations. HiFiMAN has dropped the price of the RE-600 to $199. Are these worth a try? How would they compare with the MA750 in terms of bass and overall sound quality?

    • Arcticfreeze on

      I should have done more reading before posting that question. The MA750 description sounds like they have a lot more bass than the RE-600. I found the IE-80 for $257 on Amazon and from what I’ve been able to find for reviews, sound like they’re a good pick.

      Joker, do you have a review written up for the IE-80?

      • Arcticfreeze on

        And are they that much better than the MA750? I like a warm sound but not over-the-top bass.

        • ljokerl on

          The IE80 and MA750 aren’t too different from each other in bass power. Both have what I consider heavy bass, but the IE80 has a slight advantage in not being perceived as a basshead earphone due to having flatter (on the whole) mids and highs. If you’re coming from a flat-sounding set, like an Etymotic or a HiFiMan RE-400 or something, the IE80 might be too bassy still. Otherwise, it should be OK.

          • Arcticfreeze on

            Thanks for your help. The trouble for me is I have almost no experience with good IEMs. I have much more with on and over-ear sets. Currently I have the Beyerdynamic T51i and like them except for discomfort over time and a bit too much high end at time, otherwise they sound fantastic to me. I’ve tried P7, P5 S2, XS, X2, Momentum 2 in addition to the T51i. My ears are sensitive, which is why I’m thinking about trying a decent IEM to see if the comfort would be better.

            I know I don’t want a set that lacks bass but I don’t need booming bass either. Are the RE-600 anemic in that way? Or are they just more accurate than the bass leaning sets? So when bass is in the music, it reproduces it just fine?

            Any others that you think might be similar to the T51i (with a tad less high end)?

          • ljokerl on

            I have no experience with the T51i. Some people end up wanting more bass out of in-ears than out of headphones just because of the differences in the way bass is presented, but for me the RE-600 is accurate, not anemic. If I could change it one some way, I would raise the very bottom end a little to give the bass more depth, but I wouldn’t trade it for a more boomy and bloated low end.

  88. sgreen on

    Hi Joker,

    I tried HiFiMan RE-400 last night; absolutely horrible packaging, flat, downward unexciting sound, and very questionable build quality. One of the cables appeared to be cracked right out of the box. Tried every tip that came with it, played them on Hi-Res Sony NWZ-A17, and after about fourth random flac from Allison Moorer (Down to Believing), The Blues Mystery (The Blues Mystery), Fourplay (Esprit De Four), .. I packed them and returned back to Amazon. These phones sound so unnaturally flat and unexciting that I simply could not have them in my ears any longer than that.

    My current street buds are Yamaha EPH-100, I have had them over several years, and I do like their overall soft, sweet, and with the punch when needed sound. The only problem with them is that I have wet year in the morning, with the drivers close in the nuzzle they do tent to shut down (one by one) by the time I exit the last U-Bahn train on the way to work. Getting the right tips for them is also somewhat a problem.

    With this being said, would you recommend a set that betters Yamahas for sound and comfort. I spend most of the daytime hours with DT770 in the office, and I am well aware it would probably be hopeless to wish for the similar sound from the tiny in-ear buds, but I would appreciate your suggestions on anything that comes near it?

    Thank you.

    • ljokerl on

      I wouldn’t go from the EPH-100 to the RE-400. Completely different earphones with very different strengths and weaknesses.

      They aren’t sweat/water-resistant, but if you want an earphone with a fun and punchy sound not unlike the EPH-100, but in a very different form factor, the RHA MA750 may be worth a try. It’s not better-sounding, but it may work better for you in terms of design.

      Otherwise you can look at something like the Sony XBA-H3 or Fidue A83 for an upgrade, but these tend to have worse noise isolation and quirky form factors.

      • sgreen on

        Hello again,

        How would you say EPH-100 differ from Klipsch X10. I do read some good comments about Klipsch, and especially as they look very comfortable and unobtrusive, what sound signature group would you put X10 in? Say I did not like RE-400 (no way would I pay for them), and I still have UE triplefi 10 (the most uncomfortable buds man has ever made), can’t say I am impressed about how they sound either, would Klipsch be a better alternative instead?

        Have you already looked at Klipsch r6?

        Thank you,

        • ljokerl on

          I’m not a huge fan of the X10 for several reasons, but mostly the slightly dull treble. But it does fit the mold of warm, enhanced-bass sound that the EPH-100 is in. The X10 uses a balanced armature driver and lacks some of the sheer slam and rumble of the EPH-100, but it does better than the RE-400. It’s also a low-impedance earphone so it helps to have a good source to drive it.

          No experience with the R6.

    • Rich on

      Hi Joker I’m looking for most powerful earphones cuz I’m hard of hearing and I don’t need a specific cuz I won’t hear the difference between clearness and high frequency sounds, but will go for bass sounds, any ideas. Thanks

      • ljokerl on

        That sounds like the Nuforce NE-600X for me. Inexpensive, efficient (loud at a set input power), and with a good amount of enhanced bass.

  89. vlaint on

    Nice website joker very informative. Just would like to ask for a recommendation of IEM’s cant seem to decide on what to choose. I mostly enjoy symphonies. Though I do not know what sound signature they are good in. Durability is also a plus,maybe ill be taking them on a hike.
    These are what I have listed so far:
    mh1c,vd1s,piston 2,dunu trident,me electronics m6p2 maybe a vd3s if its worth but its going out of my budget. Or if theres one youll recommend within that price range is also much welcomed. Ill be mainly ordering them from ebay or aliexpress. thanks

    • ljokerl on

      VSD3S should only be a couple of bucks more than the VSD1S. Fixed-cable version is $45 at lendmeurears. I would go for that or the MH1C. The warm, smooth MH1C (asymmetric cable aside) is the safe choice with a more consumer-tuned sound. The VSD3S is more of an enthusiast earphone with a tuning more oriented towards clarity and accuracy. Both are great “starter” earphones.

      • vlaint on

        thanks for taking the time to reply will look into vsd3s or the mh1c

        • vlaint on

          Another thing I noticed that the vsd3s doesnt have a strain relief on its cables and its jack is straight. Should I be concerned about that?

          • ljokerl on

            Sure, if you tend to bend your IEM cables excessively in those spots. For regular use it should be fine because the cable is of decent quality.

          • vlaint on

            thanks again

  90. Splicendice on

    Sir you rock. Your knowledge and ability to communicate the subtleties of sound is truly amazing.
    Now for my question. I am an old school film editor and have studio monitors (Adams a5x), for the edit rooms and both adams and TDL’s and B&W C5’s for the screening rooms and a fun Klipsch reference series for the playstation 4. Up till now I have been toting around my studio cams for my laptop and iphone. Finally giving in to the portability of an in ear set. I will be using these for music and films while on the go but will not be “working” with them, so a more fun and open soundscape is where I’m headed. Fun but not “over” colored. Deep bass with a clear unveiled midrange and clean treble for films seem logical. I do however listen to an enormous range of music. Always on the lookout for soundtrack material. I will also listen to soundscapes. I feel like the 100 to 200 dollar range is fine… if I need to listen for work I will pull out the studio cams. Since these will be my first (other than the white things apple gave me with the phone) I have been reading up on many of your reviews and comments but I have not found any that address my unusually broad listening habits. So, what say you? Thanks again for your generosity and passion!

    • ljokerl on

      With the requirement of a fun sound and no other experience with mid- or high-end in-ears, I would consider the RHA MA750 as a starting point. Yes, it’s a little on the bassy side and not as tight or clear as a strictly analytical set, but it has good impact and is easy-going and relatively versatile. If you would rather trade a bit of that “fun”, warm character and bass power for a little more clarity (but still maintain more punch than a strictly flat IEM), I’d recommend the VSonic GR07 Bass Edition or the Philips Fidelio S2. These tend to be more neutral/clear/accurate and brighter in tone overall, but still have ~5-10 dB boost over flat at the low end for that punchier sound.

  91. Martin Verret on

    Hello Jocker

    Thank’s for all you are doing here.

    You get so many questions, it gave me pause…

    So, i read as much as I could, but I am still uncertain. Let me set the stage first on my experience and taste. I come from the RHA MA750i, that I got almost a year and a half ago. As a side note, for those interested in anecdote relating to their durability, the rubber coating started to peel off at different places a couple of month ago (mind you, I wear them a lot, and they were still functionnal, just getting uglier by the day). I got a replacement from RHA two weeks ago, but the cat killed those.

    I want something different for my next in-ear. I don’t have much experience with good headphones, but here is what I liked and what I think I learned from the 750i : I enjoyed the detail and separation, I think. I could hear very nicely accoustic instruments, what sounded to me like very natural and at times almost scaringly present voices, generally more details than I was used to. I don’t know to much about sound stage, but sound did seem to travel and position itself better than I was used to, but not in a « I can tell the trumpet is right there… » kind of way. I got the feeling mids and highs where quite to my liking, even if I also remember enjoying what I believe were more brillant sounding headphones. I otherwise have cheap AKG K403 on ear, cheapo Sony iem from the bargain bin (the MDR EX38iP I believe), a pair of Koss SportaPro… and I prefer the mid and high balance of the 750i all the time.

    I did enjoy a lot the depth I could hear the bass reach, it was a novelty for me. But too often times (not always, by any means) I got the feeling that the overall bass was overshadowing the detail and clarity, killing a major part of the pleasure for me. I discovered what « veil » meant. This is in essence what is making me look elseware for my next IEM.

    Right now, I am looking at : HiFiMan RE-400, Fostex TE50, Vsonic GR07 Classic, Vsonic VSD3S, Audio-Technica ATH-IM50. I think you did not review the Fostex or the Audio-Technica so far, so I will not expect specific comments about those. It’s just that the Fostex is on sale right now at $129 at Headphonebar, a Canadian distributor, and the Audio Technica is rather inexpensive on Japan import at Amazon.ca
    I don’t know what to expect as far as bass is concerned in a more balanced headphone. I figure I can only bet I’ll very well survive the loss in bass quantity departement, as long as the bass is audible (I don’t have to concentrate on it to hear it) and present, and of some highish quality. But I am more concerned for the highs and mids.

    Question 1 : I am wondering for each of the IEM I’am looking at as to how they compare to the 750i in terms of separation, detail, clarity and overall soundstage. The soundstage part in that list is probably the least important for me, or the one I understand the least or that I am least conscious of.

    Concerning the Vsonic in particular and it’s reputation for tending to be sibilant, I have no idea what is my tolerence for sibilance or harsh highs. I have heard highs and high mids that were too much for me, but the only concrete but not very usefull thing I can state about my tastes in highs and high mids is that I seem more tolerant than my wife to them (also you can refer to what I stated about the 750i).

    So, question 2 : Specificaly, would you say the VSD3S suffers more or less in that department than the GR07 Classic?

    Question 3 : Is details, clarity, separation on the GR07 classic worth twice the price compared to the VSD03?
    That’l be all for now. Thanks in advance, and sorry for the lengthy post.

    • ljokerl on

      Right, I can’t address the IM50 and the TE50 but I tend to prefer the GR07 Classic to the RE-400 for the things you want, especially in the soundstage/separation and bass departments. Mids are kind of a toss-up – the RE-400 has more forward mids, but the GR07 is a little leaner and just as capable in the midrange despite being a little more laid-back. The top end is definitely smoother on the RE-400 (compared to the GR07 and MA750 both).

      Coming from the MA750, the GR07 does what you want. Even the bass edition of the GR07 has better clarity and tighter bass, as noted in my MA750 review: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/rha-ma750-ma750i/ . The only downside, as you noted, is that its treble is even less smooth and forgiving than that of the RHA. Where that falls on your tolerance is a mystery at this point.

      As for the VSD3S, I compared it to the GR07 here: http://theheadphonelist.com/brief-impressions-vsonic-vsd3s-ostry-kc06-havi-b3-pro/ . The GR07 is better when it comes to bass tightness, though I can’t really quantify the difference (beyond saying it’s noticeable/significant), or put a price tag on it for that matter.

  92. sandman1990 on

    Hi |joker|,

    Firstly, thanks for the excellent buying guides and extensive reviews.
    I am looking for an upgrade to the GR07 Classic and would like to buy a pair with a similar sound signature and a little more controlled (but not too smooth) treble. I’ve been looking at the Alclair Reference, Audio Technica ATH-IM02 and InEar SD2. Which one would you recommend among these? If you have something else apart from these to mention, please do.
    I’ve mentioned a custom monitor here but (in case of refits) due to import/shipping issues in my country, I’d rather prefer a universal. Looking forward to your insights.

    • ljokerl on

      Not sure about the IM02 as I haven’t tried it, but the Reference is a better match for the GR07 in signature than the SD-2 is. The GR07 and Reference are a bit v-shaped and have prominent treble whereas the SD-2 has more focus on the midrange and smooth, inoffensive treble.

      Since you don’t need extremely smooth treble or more forward mids, the Reference is likely the better (closer) choice between these two.

      There are a couple of universals I’ve reviewed recently that have been bright, but not as sibilant as the VSonics. For instance:

      DUNU DN-2000: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/dunu-dn-2000/
      LEAR LUF-4F: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/lear-luf-4-luf-4f-luf-4b-luf-4c/
      Olasonic FLAT-4: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/olasonic-flat-4-nami-th-f4n/

      The DN-2000 does a good job IMO and isn’t too expensive. It’s less sibilant than the Alclair despite being a little brighter (its treble energy mostly comes in higher up)

      • sandman1990 on

        Thanks the inputs.
        Coincidentally, a friend of mine just got a DN-2000 about a week back. I’ll make sure that I try them out.

  93. Evan on

    Hi Joker,

    I have a pair of Shure e4c IEM’s that are literally on their last leg. I love the sound profile of these as well as the build quality.

    I have tried the new the shure product I thought would be similar, the SE215, and I did not like it at all. I also tried the Etymotic MC5 but I thought they had a bit of a cheap build quality but the sound was closer to my e4c’s. I listen mostly to jazz and a bass boost really messes with the tightness of an upright’s tone.

    can you reccomend something? I might try the ety HF5’s or Philips S2’s…would that be the right direction?

    Another thing that I liked about the Shure e4c’s was that they fit comfortably up over the ear OR straight in. I did not find that to be the case with the ety’s

    Thanks in advance!

    • ljokerl on

      Keep in mind that the E4c was like $300 (or was it $400?) when it came out (to the MC5’s $79.99, for instance). I had one ages ago and it was a tank. Don’t remember much of its sound other than it was balanced (whereas the SE215 is bassy, warm, and a little dull up top)

      The HF5 is built and fits in the ear quite similar to the MC5. Other than that it’s a great earphone for balanced sound but if you want something that’s shorter to wear either cable up or cable down, a HiFiMan RE-400 or ACS T15 may be a better choice. Neither is as beefy as the Shure E4c but they’re the closest to being wear-able both cable-up and cable-down with a flat/balanced sound sig and tight bass.

      The Fidelio S2 is bassier and can only be worn cable down, and has a bit of upper midrange lift compared to the Shure models I’ve tried. Not sure that’s desirable with jazz. It’s also got a rather large footprint in the ear compared to the rest of these.

      • Evan on

        Hi Joker,

        Thank you for your quick response. I forgot my Shure e4c’s where that expensive. They definitely were!

        I read both reviews on the T15’s and RE-400’s. One follow-up question…the T15’s are nearly 3x the price of the RE-400’s…so am i getting a noticeable step up?

        If the ACS’s are definitely high-end IEM’s comparable to the ER4’s and the RE-400 are more mid-range then I might spring for the T15’s. ACS has a location in NYC so I may contact them. I love the non-descript form factor of the T15’s.

        Thanks Again!

        • ljokerl on

          Not in sound – the RE-400 has a slightly warmer and less lean and balanced sound sig with a more forward presentation, but keeps up for the most part. Part of what makes it such good value. The T15, on top of being more neutral and a little more spacious, just has a nicer form factor and will likely last longer with heavy use.

          If you have ability to try the T15, I would definitely do so, but for sheer value it doesn’t really match the RE-400.

          • Evan on

            thank you joker!

            i am going to try the re-400’s and if that doesn’t work i will either go with the t15’s or just be stubborn and get an unopened pair of shure e4c’s haha

  94. varazskrumpli on

    Hey Joker!
    I have a bigg issue. I want to buy a new headphone. Now i useing Brainwavz R1 and i just LOVE the richness of the base, but it s getting uncomfortable for my left ear (hurting, pushing my ear canal a bit, and always getting out when i doing some sport). I listening hib-hop music all the time , and rarely movie soundtracks. So i want a good iem headphone with realy good base, and an OK durability for cycling. I red a lot of forums and reviews and i can’t chose . What do you suggest to buy: Shure SE215, Sennheiser MOMENTUM In-Ear, RHA MA750i. I red a realy good reviews about this new Dunu TITAN 1 headphone, but sadly i cant buy this in Hungary.
    So Joker pls help, which one do you prefer?

    • ljokerl on

      I would choose the RHA MA750i – the only limitation on that is comfort, because it is a large earphone. Not sure how its form factor compares to the R1, though. It has more bass than the SE215 and Momentum without sacrificing quality.

  95. Alex on

    Hi lJokerl! So im planning to buy the Shure SE215, and in comparison with the RE 400, i’ve got a few concerns, the RE 400 are too smooth for my liking, and seeing that you put the SE 215 in that category, how’s the smoothness on the 215’s? The RE 400’s are quite sleepy for me, and their soundstage is really average at most, will the SE 215 have a better soundstage and sound more lively? Thanks lJokerl!

    • ljokerl on

      I personally don’t consider the SE215 to be more lively than the RE-400. I’ve always thought its treble somewhat dull, and the heavier bass actually makes that a little more obvious compared to the flatter RE-400. Soundstaging is nice on the SE215s but if you want lively I’d go with something else – maybe an Ostry KC06 (wider soundstage and a more colored sound sig). Or a JVC FXT90 (SE215-like bass with more treble) if you don’t mind a more v-shaped sound.

  96. topgear on

    Hey Joker thanks for the list. I’m looking for a bassy iem as i listen to mostly edm. I currently own the JVC FX1X and am quite happy with the amount of bass on it…I’m looking at the Velodyne V pulse or the Hisound Wooduos 2 as comparatives, possibly the Yamaha EPH 100s as well. Which of the 3 would you recommend based on quantity of bass(im not too bothered about the quality it shld be gd). Especially between the Vpulse and Wooduos

    • ljokerl on

      The vPulse and Wooduo2 are more focused on sub-bass (deep bass, responsible for that low rumble and slam) rather than mid-bass like the JVCs. This helps keep the bass quality relatively high compared to other bass-heavy earphones, but it’s also a little different from mid-bassy sound of the FX1X, which just has a lot of impact with not too much depth behind it (though for the price it’s excellent). This is similar to what 1st-gen Beats by Dre did and why they weren’t particularly well-liked even by bassheads.

      Honestly, if you want that type of bass presentation the Beats by Dre Tour 2.0 or the new NHT Superbuds (review coming soon) would be a better buy than the Velodyne or HiSound. If you’re willing to try the deeper, more refined bass of the Wooduo2, by all means go for that – it’s better than the vPulse in both overall bass quality and clarity.

  97. sokitirk on

    Hi there, thank you so much for this page – the previous editions have been super useful to me and is the definitive guide to headphones/IEMs for me.

    Just wanted some recommendations – I recently lost my HifiMan RE400 Waterline, and am looking at the EPH-100, GR07 BE, GR07 Classic and the VC1000. Unfortunately, the TDK BA200 is hard to find where I am – so that’s kinda out of the questions.

    While I was okay with the RE400, I found it a little on the bright side – I also have a pair of Sennheiser HD25 Headphones which I really love. I listen to a variety of music – rock, jazz, acoustics, metal, blues rock, some EDM. Based on these, which of the above would you recommend?

    Thanks in advance and keep coming with fantastic reviews!

    • ljokerl on

      Barring any possible fit issues you may have had with the RE-400 (which would have made it sound brighter), your requirement for darker treble precludes the GR07s and definitely the VC1000. The EPH-100 is the only one of the sets you’re considering that has a chance of sounding smoother than the RE-400, but it’s also a fair bit bassier. Still a good option, though.

      Here’s some alternatives that I think sound very smooth but have less bass than the EPH-100:

      Brainwavz R1: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/brainwavz-r3-ver-2/
      SteelSeries Flux In-Ear Pro: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/steelseries-flux-in-ear-pro/
      Klipsch X10 or X11: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/klipsch-image-x10-x10i/

      The Flux and R1 are more similar to the RE-400 in balance while the X10 is warmer and bassier (not quite as bassy as the EPH-100, though). It used to be quite pricy but seems to be down to a reasonable $110 on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1DPqMiN

      • sokitirk on

        I think it might have been a fit issue – especially when I started using comply tips which were a little too big.

        I should’ve stressed that I quite like clarity & instrument separation. I’ve recently found a TDK BA-200 where I am as well, but it’s quite a bit more expensive than the secondhand EPH-100 that I found. It’s also really difficult to find VSonic stockists here.

        I’m thinking of going with the EPH-100 and waiting out for the VSonic GR07BE. But given that I found the TDK supplier and that I like instrument separation – what would you recommend? Thanks a lot!

        • ljokerl on

          I would probably skip the GR07 BE and either go EPH-100 (for bassier/warmer sound) or BA200 (for flatter/more balanced sound) depending on what you place more importance on. For instrument separation the BA200 is definitely superior but the EPH-100 is not bad by any means, especially considering how much more bass it has. I guess the difference in prices would have a lot to do with it as well.

          I actually think that with a perfect fit the RE-400 is still a touch smoother than either of these, but obviously fit variability can change that. The EPH-100 and BA200 are both quite high up there in smoothness when compared to other IEMs on the market.

  98. Negativez on

    Hi there joker! Been visiting your website on and off whenever I feel like it and seems there are quite a lot of new ones.

    I’ve always wanted to get a JVC HA-FXT90 but things always come up so I can’t get them. I’m still looking forward to getting one but with the VSD3S out now, was thinking of getting that instead. How would you compare the 2? Which would you pick considering they’re both v-shaped.


    • ljokerl on

      The VSD3S is a more neutral and accurate earphone with a milder v-shape (which I tend to prefer over deeper v-shape signatures, but that’s not true for everyone). The FXT90 has more of a mid-bass hump and a more warm and impactful sound overall, with a more forward and aggressive presentation. The treble on it can be a little harsh but the VSD3S can be a little sibilant so I don’t think either has an advantage there.

      • Negativez on

        Wow, that was a quick reply! Thanks!

        Hmmm, I figured that would be the response haha. Anyway if it helps, I listen to different genres, from Rock to Instrumentals / Classical to Game / Movie OSTs to EDM (House, D&B, etc) and like the presence of bass as long as it doesn’t overpower everything else. Really wish I could test the FXT90 first.

        Anyway thanks again! Keep up the amazing work! :)

        • ljokerl on

          Either one will work for what you want – I just can’t tell you which you’ll like more. Doubt you’ll be disappointed either way, though :)

          • Negativez on

            Hi again joker!

            I was set on getting the FXT90 but as I was searching for it in amazon.co.jp, I noticed there were 3 new versions, the FXT100, 200 and 200LTD. I also found a head-fi thread about it: http://www.head-fi.org/t/739418/jvc-ha-fxt100-ha-fxt200-ha-fxt200-ltd-hi-speed

            Any chance that you’ll be able to get your hands on them?

            Cheers! And thanks again in advance!

          • ljokerl on

            I’ve heard of these but they are not officially carried by JVC USA and it’s unlikely I’ll get to try them any time soon.

  99. Infilltrait0r on

    Nice Guide Joker. I’ve been following your reviews for quite some time.

    I bought the Flux about a year back and since then two pairs have conked on me. It’s extremely frustrating because, while I’m not touting that I’m the most careful guy when it comes to earbuds, I really do try and take care of them as best as I can; wrapping them with good technique, putting them in a pouch in a pocket with nothing else in it, keeping the cord as loose as possible, etc…

    Do you know what would be a pair that has a similar sound signature to the Flux (which was top-notch for my tastes, admittedly) but with much greater durability? My budget is up to about 100-120 Canadian Dollars, which is about 80 to 100 USD. I’d be really happy with a pair that at least lasted a year or two. Also, even though the Flux sound signature was really to my liking, I wouldn’t mind something more v-shaped since I do tend to listen to rock/metal music more than other genres.

    Thanks in advance for reading. I truly value your opinion!

    • Infilltrait0r on

      Just to let you know since I forgot to mention, I only use IEMs when I’m out and about. I have a pair of headphones that I use at home which don’t fit into my Ipod Nano jack. I don’t use the IEMs that often every day (maximum about 3-4 hours), and usually that time is spent only on commutes.

      • ljokerl on

        Hmm… three options come to mind –

        Sennheiser Momentum – might be a bit too V-shaped but it has a lot of similarities to the Flux and is very good overall. The build is not exactly heavy-duty but if taken care of it should last – the plug is much better than with the Flux, for instance.
        Review here: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/sennheiser-momentum-ear/

        JVC HA-FXT90 – a little on the bassy side and not as similar to the Flux as the Momentum, but it is v-shaped and the construction is good. http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/jvc-ha-fxt90/

        VSonic VSD3S – the flattest of the three but still more v-shaped than the Flux thanks to greater treble energy. Excellent value at just $50. http://theheadphonelist.com/brief-impressions-vsonic-vsd3s-ostry-kc06-havi-b3-pro/

        • Infilltrait0r on

          Thanks for the reply!

          So I’m looking at these three IEMs on Amazon.ca right now and the Momentum is going for $96 and the Vsonics at 59$. The only JVCs I could find are called just “Victor”, which kind of look the same as the ones in your review but I’m not sure if they are the same model, and those are going for 78$. I’ve always ordered my earbuds and headphones over Amazon so I don’t know where else to look for better deals that can also get it here reliably and fast.

          In your opinion, which one should I go for out of the 3? I haven’t had any experience with any of them and they all fit my budget nicely so I wouldn’t mind. Sennheiser would probably be the best choice if anything ever happened to them because there’s a repair center very close to home, and in general I really like Sennheiser as a company even if some people think they don’t produce anything spectacular. Then again, there are the most expensive. At the end of the day, I just want a decent-sounding pair of earbuds that last a decent amount of time if they are taken care of. Whatever works, works.

          • ljokerl on

            Victor is often what JVC goes by in Japan. Most likely they are just Japanese imports. The packaging and some accessories might be different but otherwise they should be identical to the ones I reviewed.

            These ones are even labeled “Japan Import”: http://amzn.to/176dQIj

            If it were me, I’d go for the Momentum. Technically it doesn’t sound better than your two less expensive options and the construction can appear a tad underwhelming, but its tuning seems to be the closest to what you’re after and I tend to trust Sennheiser build quality.

          • Infilltrait0r on

            Alright, thanks! I was leaning more towards the Momentum any way, since like I said even if anything were to happen a repair center is only about 45 minutes from home.

            Thanks for producing some amazing content here and other places!

        • Bart on

          Need help selecting some IEM’s. So many choices, seem to be getting lost. Looking for a do it all, however don’t want a Bass Monster. My full size headphones are Philips Fidelio L1’s, which I really like other than comfort. Also use a pair of Yuin PK3’s. Had some Grado SR80’s I liked also. Really interested in a well balanced set. Been eyeing HiFiMan RE-400’s, but also considering the Vsonic GR07 Classic & Bass, Ostry KC06a, Philips Fidelio s2, and the Sennheiser Momentum in ear. Looking for sound quality 1st, then comfort and finally build quality. Any thoughts on which I should use? Also open to other suggestions. Really don’t want to spend more than $100. Most listening will be done with an iPhone 6 plus or ipod Classic 5.5.

          • ljokerl on

            All very good options. The only one I would strike off (for not being all that balanced) is the Momentum in-ear.

            Not sure what the Fidelio L1 sounds like but the KC06 (no experience with the KC06A) is probably the most grado-like of the bunch, if you like that sort of thing, while the others are more flat. The RE-400 is the smoothest and most focused on the midrange while the S2 and GR07 (and KC06, too) are a little more bright and energetic, with punchier bass as well. I find the RE-400 and GR07 to be the most comfortable and the GR07 and S2 to be the best-built.

          • Bart on

            Thanks for the response, greatly appreciated. I forgot to mention what type of music I would be listening to. A few examples would be Drive by Truckers, Lucero, Eagles, Pink Floyd, Der Tick, Neil Young, etc…. Mostly guitar and vocal driven type stuff. Will also throw some Metal and Counrty their way. Also some Rush, want to hear Neil’s drums pound. What would you recommend?


          • ljokerl on

            It depends more on personal listening preference than music genres – you can ask two different people what type of headphone they prefer for country music and get two different answers. If you don’t have a particular sensitivity to sibilance, I’d go with the GR07 as a solid all-rounder.

  100. Valencia on

    I was hoping to get some suggestions. For the past 9 or so years, I’ve been using JVC Soft marshmallow earphones (link: http://www.amazon.com/JVC-Marshmallow-Headphones-Discontinued-Manufacturer/dp/B0036RDVRI). At $20, they were great: awesome isolation, pretty great sound quality, extremely comfortable fit (memory foam ear pieces), extremely durable (I bought 4 pair over the 9 years), all while being extremely affordable. I loved everything about them. However, the model has been discontinued by the manufacturer, and the current model to replace these ones is absolute crap. Not at all the same quality as the first model I loved.
    I’m trying to find a replacement for them, my last pair is now on the fritz. I’m leery with the idea of spending $50 or more on a “good” pair of earphones in case I’ll end up being disappointed… One thing I cannot stand are the plastic (silicon I guess?) ear buds, I highly dislike them, I really want something close to the “marshmallow” ear buds of the JVCs.
    Which model do you think would come closest to my beloved (but now discontinued) JVCs?

    • ljokerl on

      You can buy memory foam eartips for most earphones from Comply (http://www.complyfoam.com/). They tend to be pricy but worth it if you prefer foam – the selection of earphones that already come with foam tips, especially under $50, isn’t very good.

      Anyway, since you’re used to lightweight, bass-heavy earphones I’d consider just getting a Philips SHE3590, which is very inexpensive, and a set of the corresponding foam eartips. Altogether should cost less than $30. The Nuforce NE-600X is another good option, especially if you prefer bassier sound. With a pack of Comply eartips it will still cost $30 or so.

  101. behead on


    i am buying a new in-ear canalphones and i need your suggestion. Thanks In Advaance!!

    i have had a Sony DREX13DPV. the problem with the sony was that at higher volumes, the sound felt harsh and distorted. the clarity was lost. felt painful on the ears.

    i also had Creative EP630 and Senheiser PMX 60. I found them both to be good.

    but I am looking for something better than these three!

    so my expectations are like…

    1. sound quality:

    smooth. clarity. good instrument differentiation. good vocals. most importantly good sound quality should be maintained at max volumes.

    2. Noise Cancellation:

    as much atmosphere noise cancellation as possible.

    3. BUILD quality:

    I have damaged all my 3 previous headphones one way or another! so i am looking for a sturdy one. especially the wires!

    4. BASS / TREBLE

    I am not a basshead. i dont want too much thumping or treble. a good enough bass/treble is fine.

    5. Price:

    under INR1500. would prefer closer to INR1000.

    LOOKING FORWARD to you suggestions!

    • behead on

      oh the price range in $ is ,, below $25. prefer closer to $20.

      • ljokerl on

        That’s really not a big budget for sound AND build quality AND isolation. At best you can get something decent in all three categories. The three sets in the guide above under “warm and smooth below $50″ would all be worth looking at. The DUNU Trident is probably the best compromise of the three qualities you want – the Piston doesn’t isolate quite as well and the MH1C, while best-sounding per your requirements, is slightly over budget and has a j-cord.

        Because I value my hearing, I do not test IEMs at max volume, so the above recommendations are based on moderately high listening volumes. The MH1C stays the smoothest at the limits of my loudness tolerance, followed by the Trident.

          • behead on

            also can you please tell me… between Soundmagic PL30 and Xiaomi Piston 2, which one would you recommend me based on my requirements?

            they both come in the same price range here in my place.

            thanks again!

          • ljokerl on

            It looks like a Piston 2 but I couldn’t tell you if it’s genuine or not. One of the main weaknesses of both the PL30 and Piston is noise isolation – it’s average at best. As for sound, the PL30 is more balanced so it is closer to what you want. The Piston tends to be pretty bassy.

          • behead on

            okay i am going to order the pl30 soon. the possible sound staging in pl30 is so tempting!

            thanks a lot to you! you have been very helpful! and thanks to the internet as well! :)

  102. David on

    Hello! Great web and great list. Congrats.

    I have right now the CX310 Sennheiser by Adidas Originals (it’s not heaven but for me it’s ok). Could you recomend me some IEMS not very far from the sound of the CX310?

    My money limit is 50 euros. (or dollars)

    thanks for all!

    • ljokerl on

      Unfortunately I don’t have any experience with the CX310 so I don’t know what it sounds like. If I had to venture a guess, I would assume it’s not too different from the CX300, which is on the bassy side and quite smooth. In that general vein, something like the Nuforce NE-600X would be a good alternative, or the Xiaomi Piston 2, or the new HiFiMan RE-300.

      If you want to venture a bit more towards a more balanced sound profile, at ~$50 there are some very good places to start with higher-end IEMs, like the VSonic VSD3S for example: http://theheadphonelist.com/brief-impressions-vsonic-vsd3s-ostry-kc06-havi-b3-pro/ .

      • David on

        I’ll try but, I can honestly say that I bought the CX300 and I didn’t like’em at all. There was a sound like “can” sound that wasn’t as clear as the CX310 is.

        So CX300 is not my choice. It’s is supossed that my CX310 is a bit lack of bass so maybe you could help me more right now.

        thanks for your time!

  103. E.T. on

    Which under 100$ IEMs have a signature similar to the Marshall Major? A little less bass (more clarity), and a bit more depth would be fantastic. Thanks!

  104. James on

    As I lost my Klipsch Image S4 a couple of months ago, I have been dying to get a replacement IEM. I bought that set from good reviews for a basic set that produced good sound. Now, I’m hoping to invest in a good pair of IEMs for the foreseeable future.

    From the research I have done, the S4s come across as bass-heavy IEMs (I’m not sure whether they’re classified as V-shaped or bassheads) and did not give me any problems. I would say though that sometimes it would be a bit tiring to listen to them, whether from long duration listening or plain fatigue from the IEM, I’m not sure. My playlist usually consists of mainstream music with the occasional foray into Indie, Electronic, Classical, Instrumental or even rock (All depends on my mood). I was under the impression that I preferred a more balanced sound with wide soundstage but the S4s to my surprise was not such an IEM.

    Suggestions from this thread and several other sites suggest the JVC FXT90 or VSonic GR07s a suitable replacement but I don’t mind getting a more suitable pair for my listening pleasure. I have also seen the Yamaha EPH100 as a replacement and my local audio shop let me listen to the Beyerdynamic XP2 and Shure SE215 for testing purposes. Ultimately, I am left as clueless and spoiled for choice as I was at the beginning of my search.

    My questions then are as follows:
    1. What would you say would be the sound signature that lean towards ie. warm and balanced, basshead, V-shaped?
    2. Suggested IEMs.

    • ljokerl on

      The S4 is moderately v-shaped. The highs can be sibilant and fatiguing on it, which is true to some degree of a lot of inexpensive v-shaped earphones. Some people also find enhanced bass fatiguing with IEMs, but it sounds like you enjoyed the bass quantity. That said, you might like another sound signature even more than that of the S4 – there’s just no way to know without trying.

      The SE215 is more on the warm and smooth side, for instance, while the GR07 gives you a more balanced sound with a wider soundstage (but the highs can still be a little fatiguing). The FXT90 returns to more of a v-shaped balance, but with good overall clarity and mids that are not thin. The The EPH-100 provides a bassier but also smoother sound than the GR07 and FXT90 – I find it to be better than the SE215 overall.

      If I were you I’d go with the FXT90 or EPH-100 – EPH-100 if you want a smoother sound and don’t mind strong bass. FXT90 if you want to stick a little closer to the S4 sound but with more in the way of layering, resolution, etc.

      • James on

        The S4 I guess did the job it was bought for, relatively good sound at a cheap price. Of course you have pointed out rightly that there was sibilance at times and made listening to music with these IEMs very fatiguing. The bass was nice with the S4, “loud” but rather shallow when I listened to EDM but a plus nonetheless.

        As I explore my choices, I want to ask: From what I mentioned regarding my music preference in the earlier post, what do you think would be a good IEM for me? Perhaps a more all-rounded set, a Jack of all trades so to speak. Although I would like to test out each pair and make a decision after, I can’t test out most of these sets so I’m relying on reviews and comments like this. Unfortunate actually.

        • ljokerl on

          The problem is that the sound signature I like best for your preferred music genres might not be the one you like best (if you had the ability to sample all of them, of course). I tend to like balanced sound as a jack of all trades signature, but that certainly isn’t true for everyone.

          I recommended the FXT90 and EPH-100 because I think they make for the best fit based on your post. The EPH-100 more so as it has both deeper bass and smoother overall sound than the S4 – both things you’d like to see improved. I can’t call the Yamaha a do-it-all as it is a bass-heavy earphone, but based on your posts it seems to be a good option.

  105. Finn H on

    In the basshead section which would you recommend Velodyne vPulse or HiSoundAudio Wooduo 2. I am very interested.

  106. boba on

    Hello ljokerl, a truly enthusiastic and passionate character you are, its damn so obvious. Now let’s cut off introduction a bit and see how my search goes within my second IEM decision with your help. Firstly my introduction to IEM had been quite tragic, by a pair of Rockit r50, (since I’d received the product damaged from oversea shipping – never could fulfil my needs at any level to be honest as a metal/rock listener) and on top of that until about few weeks, it died cause of cable off of jack output bended sharply in my pocket over time sadly.

    Now I need a fresh one badly and among aformentioned categories I’m a bit lost in which category would suit me best with the music I listen as often. In short, which signatures I should prioritize over others to get the most of them ?

    Price range would be $50-100 with of course an improvement over my ex, and not to mention durability from now on is quite on critical side along with moderate price ratio at best as possible as it gets. Thanks already for your suggestions !

    • ljokerl on

      It’s actually very subjective which sound signatures match which genres better. Generally speaking, there is no right or wrong sound for most music types. Personally, I prefer a neutral to slightly v-shaped signature for rock and metal. In this price range and without any additional requirements I’d probably go with a VSonic GR07 Classic – it’s just a good all-rounder that’s served me well for 3+ years.

      Or you could save a little $$ by going with any one of these three: http://theheadphonelist.com/brief-impressions-vsonic-vsd3s-ostry-kc06-havi-b3-pro/ . They’re all very solid in-ears with slightly different takes on balanced sound. From there, and with lots of listening, you can dial in your signature preferences a little better for your next upgrade down the line.

      • boba on

        I read your detailed review for GR07 Classic and satisfied; and there are two sellers right now on ebay that sells GR07 Classic from $99 with free global shipping, seems legit enough, on the other hand I came across with this Chinese company that selling a fresh pair for $85 sounds both provoking and worrying;
        Not sure if it worths taking the risk though is another side of spectrum.

        Before giving a strict decision, I can try pushing my limits for a little bit more (~+$15) if there is a product to be suggested in replace of GR07 Classic as to be worthy enough, incase I would miss my chance having another one before 2-3 years.

        P.S. My listening experience vary a lot in terms of quality, from very raw demos to professional recorded albums of todays. But in this case, I’d prioritize demo listening experience to higher levels if possible due to other options.

        Thanks for allocating your time.

        • ljokerl on

          Probably not worth a the risk for $14. The URL you provided says “GR07 Bass” and “MKII” and it’s obviously neither of those.

  107. zoolake on

    Hi Joker,

    What you do for this community is incredible, thanks so much!

    I previously owned some open Grado cans and I loved how they sounded. Can you suggest some iems that provide a similar sound signature for less than $200? I realise thats probably not 100% possible, but what would you suggest I look at?

    Thanks so much!

  108. Aaron B on

    Hi Joker, thank you very much for this guide and your dedication to posting reviews for us common folk.

    I am in the market for a new IEM in the sub $130 range. My last IEM’s were the Brainwavz M2 which I enjoyed a lot. However for my next one I want something with a little better soundstage width but with equally good sound quality. Prior to that I owned the Klipsch S4’s which I also liked for the really punchy bass though I did find it a fatiguing listen, especially with the annoying sibilance. My ears are sensitive and the sibilance literally made them hurt. I also own a pair of the ATH-M50’s which has a sound signature I really like and don’t find too bassy.

    Things most important to me besides sound are build quality and comfort. Isolation is also important but not a deciding factor. I mainly listen to post-punk, indie rock and metal, but also some rap and random stuff like folk, flamenco and drone/ambient.

    I have so far looked into the MA750’s which look nice and I like the 3-year warranty and superior build quality although I am not sure if it is worth the money. I also have looked into the OSTRY KC06A’s and TTPOD T1-E’s (which look like a steal at $32). Not sure if you’ve tried the T1-E’s but out of those and other iem’s you have demo’d, which should I be considering?


    • ljokerl on

      No experience with the T1-E. The KC06 is pretty good but brighter than the M2. Good soundstage width, though, and not harsh/sibilant for how bright(ish) it is. The RHA MA750 sounds more conventional – it’s a warm-sounding IEM with more bass than the M2 but not harsh like the Klipsch S4. It’s not as neutral as your M50. Neither is the KC06, but it’s probably closer.

      One other set that might be worth considering in your price range with good build quality is the Brainwavz R3: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/brainwavz-r3-ver-2/ . Fit can be a little tricky but it’s not uncomfortable. Can’t really say it’s better than the MA750 or KC06, more of a different sonic flavor – smooth and balanced. Not as warm/bassy as the MA750 or bright/crisp as the KC06. Very solid construction, though.

      • Aaron B on

        Are you talking about the KC06’s or KC06A’s? I think I would appreciate the slight bass bump of the A’s but have heard the treble is better on the other pair.

        • ljokerl on

          The KC06 is the only one I’ve tried.

  109. hyan on

    I had hippo vb and loved them for the bass but it broke down 3 years ago and i bought jvc ha fx 200 and i have not been as much in love with those as my hippo vb. Do you have an recommendation for great basshead that are ok as all around ?

    • ljokerl on

      I’d go with the HiSoundAudio Wooduo2. Very deep bass without a large midbass hump to hurt the clarity, and pretty reasonably-priced at $100.

        • ljokerl on

          Well, it’s HiSoundAudio, not HiBuildQualityAudio, so you know where the focus is :). They’re decently well-made but nothing amazing.

          Hope you like the sound!

  110. sulachhan on

    Hi ljokerl thaks a lot for wonderful guidance.Following your’s as well as dozens of other headphones recommendation sites I end up with buying philips she3590, sony mdrxb30ex, soundmagic e10, hisound audio wooduo 2, xiaomi piston 2, klipsch image s4i and jays a jays five IEMs.For home listening i use sennheiser hd 598 . Can you recommend IEM/s which are far superior to these and i can notice the difference like in a huge margin(in terms of clarity,soundstage ).My budget is around 300 euro.I listen to almost every genre of music from dubstep to classical.So basically i want something which is all rounder but i don’t know if my budget is too less to get that quality.

    • ljokerl on

      A good place to start would be which one you like best out of the sets you already have, and what direction you want to go from there, both in general sound signature and where specifically you want to see improvements. The IEMs you have all seem to be v-shaped signatures to varying degrees (except the XB30EX and a-JAYS – haven’t tried those). However, your HD598 isn’t v-shaped, so maybe a more balanced/reference set is worth trying? You can get a very good one for 300 – for example a TDK BA200 or UE900 (if available in your region). Or you can try a more colored/less neutral set that still performs very well technically – for instance the DUNU DN-2000: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/dunu-dn-2000/

      • sulachhan on

        Thanks for reply but unfortunately only 1 of your recommendation (UE 900 ) is available in my region and it costs around 400 euro inc. shipping.I want your opinion , is it worthy to invest 400 eruo for UE 900( do they justice the sound quality in 400 euro range?) ? or do you have other recommendation which is widely available like sennheisers.

          • sulachhan on

            Finally ordered DUNU DN-2000 for 246.51 euro with free shipping from lendmeurears. Waiting for the great sound..Thanks for recommending the site lendmeurears too…never found in google before.

          • ljokerl on

            Lendmeurears is small but pretty popular in the headphone community. Hope you like the DN-2000!

  111. yosua on

    Hey joker.. I’ve been using your multi iem review for years in headfi. I am really grateful for your effort. You have my thanks!

    To begin with, im a re0 fanboy..

    Since you have lot of experience with various analytical oriented iem, is there any clear upgrade route except the customs? I’ve tried ety er4s/p/b but i find them to be overly sibilant where as re0 retains the slight musicality with extended treble but not so sibilant vocal. I never find re0 bass lacking. I imagine a re0 with better instrument separation and more detailed without being sibilant.

    I’m not really good in perceiving sonic characteristic. I’ve listened to my friend’s shure se215 spe and i find the mids greatly detailed and refined, much thicker than re0, making the mids is pleasing too as i feel like listening to high resolution with thick wolfson-yummy texture when i listen to piano piece. however i find the treble kind of rolled off and the bass is bloated for my taste.
    I imagine an iem that sounds amix between those two would be just perfect.. But im affraid such iem only exist in top line iem.
    Because of budget limitations, im stuck with re0.
    Whats your thought about it? And oh i really like akg k550 and shure srh840 when i tried them.. Those are my sonic preference ^_^

    Your thought would be appreciated alot! I’ve been asking in audio forum and many recommend weston um4x, ety er4 series, or hippo pro one. I’ve tried them except weston and although the etys are technically better, it is too harsh where as i feel less fatigued with re0. I’m in constant fear that i’ll never be able to find an upgrade because there are moments where i find re0 can be better, but it’ll cost me alot to upgrade.

    Thanks again :)

    • ljokerl on

      Hmm.. if the ER4 was a little too energetic in the treble, maybe an upgrade in the opposite direction is worth considering. There are earphones that remind me of the RE0 but lean towards the warmer end of the spectrum instead, for instance the TDK BA200: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/tdk-ba200/.

      It’s a shame HiFiMan discontinued the RE272, that would have been a good one to recommend as well.

      I would skip the Westone UM3X unless you can try it before buying – it’s probably warmer than you want and has a bit of an upper midrange dip compared to the RE0, which comes across as a slight decrease in crispness.

  112. Andrew Mondor on

    Hey Joker first off thank you for your dedication to this hobby and helping people like me.

    I’m looking for a item that’s good for edm. I have the dn1k and love them but sadly they are not very comfortable for me. Basicly I’m looking for the dn1k in a more comfortable package (think RHA T10). Any help is appreciated!

    • ljokerl on

      Nothing comes to mind with the same signature – closest I can think of with a more ergonomic form factor is the Fidue A83: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/fidue-a83/ . Has some pros and cons vs the DN-1000, though.

      If you want to look at higher price ranges, there are a few more possibilities such as the LEAR LUF-4B and Westone W30. If you’re willing to give up a bit of overall refinement and clarity but still get something that’s quite good for EDM and saves you some cash, maybe the Yamaha EPH-100 and RHA MA750 are worth checking out. The MA750 is just as heavy as the DN-1000 but the over-the-ear form factor may work better for you.

      • Andrew Mondor on

        Sorry I forgot to mention my price bracket. At the most I can spend $200. Just to make sure I am getting the IEM that best fits my tastes here are some samples of music I listen to. It’s awful I know go easy on me :).




        So right now it looks like the RHA MA750 are my best option.

        As I said before thanks for what you do, and any help is appreciated!

      • Andrew Mondor on

        Thanks for your response. I forgot to mention that my price range is roughly $200. Just to make sure I’m actually looking for the right thing I’m gonna link some songs I listen to.

        For some reason when I try to post things with links they don’t show up. So just copy and paste these into youtube.

        SmK – Take A Chance

        Main Reaktor – Salvation [NCS Release]

        TryHardNinja – All Nighter

        I know my taste is awful but go easy on me :)

        So from your first response the RHA MA750 is my best option.

        Also what is the difference in sound between it and the RHA T10?

        Thanks for all your help!

        • ljokerl on

          Links got stuck in the spam filter. Cleared now. EPH-100 and MA750 should both be pretty good options. I tend to favor the Yamahas for EDM but both are pretty good. The Yamahas are lighter and may be more comfortable in the ear but there’s less eartip options as well.

          The T10i is bassier and warmer than the MA750 but not as clear. It’s also physically heavier. I prefer the MA750.

  113. muzzie89 on

    Hey Joker — Happy Holidays. Currently looking to upgrade from my standard iphone headphone and wanted to buy an IEM for under $200. I will mostly be using it for road biking. Thus, looking for a pair that is durable, microphonics limited, sweat resistance, and comes with an inline mic / volume control as well. I typically listen to classic rock, EDM, and oldies music.

    I was looking at Klipsch X7i In-Ear Headphones selling for $150. However, from the reviews, the microphonics might be an issue.

    Thanks for your advice! Trying to grab a pair before Christmas!


    • ljokerl on

      No familiar with the X7i. Sweat resistance is very limiting requirement – only a few IEMs have it. Pretty sure the X7i is not sweat resistant. If you want sweat resistance, the best set I’ve tried is the Audio-Technica CKX5iS. It has a volume control, too, but it’s an analog slider.

      If you relax the sweat resistance requirement you have more options, like a Shure SE215 + mic cable, RHA MA750i (if you don’t mind a bassier sound), and even the Klipsch X10i (has a bit more cable noise than the SE215/MA750i but still not too much). All of these have a warm and smooth type sound, the MA750i being the most v-shaped and also most bass-heavy. Still very good, though.

      • muzzie89 on

        Thanks Joker for the reply. One additional concern, which i left out on my previous ask, is that since i’ll be on the road, i would want to hear cars / noise in the background. Granted, that i would lose sound quality, but obtain safety. E.G. I’m probably in the market for non-sealed headphones. Any further recommendations?

        Thanks again!

  114. Akshay Kumar on

    Your reviews are like a ray of shining light in the dark obscurity covering the ear-phone world. I’ve been rooted to my PC for 14 hours straight researching various brands and models and my efforts started making headway only after I came across your article.

    I’m a complete novice regarding the whole system as the only earphones I’ve had the experience of using were the Soundmagic ES-18s (Which I really liked considering the price) and the Sony MDR XB30EX (Can’t say I was too impressed by this one regardless of various online reviews stating otherwise. I kept going back to the Soundmagics.)

    I’m an avid metal fan occasionally straying into classic and progressive rock, grunge and sometimes even blues and jazz.
    It’s been only a couple of days since I decided to fork up some cash and get a pair of earphones which would take my listening experience to the next level.
    My budget though is still pretty limited (60$) and after going through each of your recommended models individually and cross referencing with other reviews I narrowed my list down to four models.

    Steelseries Flux: Which I eventually crossed out because of the apparent durability issues.

    FIDUE A-63: Your reviews nearly convinced me to get these but when I checked other sites they did mention that the bass is sort of lack lustre.(Though I’m not sure to what degree)

    MOE-SS01: These looked good as well but I didn’t understand the deeper bass but brighter(cooler?) overall tone aspect(I don’t really prefer sounds where the treble stands out too much so I’m not sure if the SS01 falls into that category)

    V Sonic VSD1: Personally I would have gone with the VSD1s as they sounded perfect but when I checked amazon I found recurring complaints that the left earbud starts fizzing out after 2-3 months.(sigh…)

    Truth is, even I’m not sure what sound I really want and I’ve been whacking my head for hours now trying to decide amongst these four and would love it if you could offer any insight on which of these(Or any other actually) earphones would be best suited for my musical tastes.

    Some bands/artists I listen to include: Lamb of god,The Ocean,Opeth,Messhugah,Gojira,Megadeth,Porcupine Tree,King Crimson,Pink Floyd,Alice in Chains,Eric Clapton etc.

    On a side note, thank you for doing such an amazing job! I can’t even begin to appreciate the sheer amount of work you’ve put into these articles ^_^

    • ljokerl on


      It’s a dilemma you’re facing but for me it wouldn’t be a very long one – the VSD1 has a superior sibling now – the VSD3(S): http://theheadphonelist.com/brief-impressions-vsonic-vsd3s-ostry-kc06-havi-b3-pro/ . If you don’t mind giving up a bit of bass, it sounds better than the VSD1 by a noticeable amount. I listen to a good amount of rock and metal and VSonic IEMs have always sounded good to me for that.

      P.S. There are two versions of the VSD3S – one with detachable cables and one with fixed cables. I would go for fixed at this point.

  115. Chiho on

    Hi Ijokerl. I’m coming from the re-262 and I love its sound and soundstage. However, it needs a amp and so that’s not so convenient for portable use. Can you recommend any iem that fits the category other than rha 750? The type of music that I listen most is vocal. More specifically, mostly man vocals. Also one female singer. Here is a link for you to listen how her voice is like: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=hk349GANmJ8
    My budget is below $200.

    • Chiho on

      Sources I have are 6+, clip+ & HM603

      • ljokerl on

        The MA750 sounds very different from the RE262. For one it’s a lot bassier, but it also has an upper midrange boost that’s very different from the fairly smooth mids and laid-back highs of the RE262. It’s a good contrast, but not an alternative.

        How about a TDK BA200? It’s an awesome balanced-and-smooth sounding in-ear for the price: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/tdk-ba200/

        • Chiho on

          The BA 200 actually is one of my consideration. I’m considering the RE-400, 600, Visonic GR07. I read all your reviews and so I know that they are similar. I still can’t decide between them.

        • Chiho on

          And the Havi b3 pro 1 also.

        • Chiho on

          Also brainwave B2

          • ljokerl on

            Not that similar. Also, the B3 Pro1 is a little outclassed here and you’re planning to use it unamped which most people don’t recommend.

            The BA200 and the other HiFiMan sets will give you an experience closest to the RE262. The BA200 would be my pick but if you find the RE-600 in your price range and don’t mind its slightly smaller soundstage, it’s a good choice as well. The GR07 has a more v-shaped signature and lacks the smoothness of HiFiMan sets while the Brainwavz B2 is a lot brighter and cooler in tone. Still a very good earphone, but definitely not too similar to the RE262.

        • Chiho on

          As the B3 pro 1, I think that the hm603 has plenty of power to drive it. I read your brief review comparing it to the re-400 so it came to my list.
          The re-600 is $200 now.
          I bought the TDK IE800 but i don’t like it because its sound is lean. Do you think that I will enjoy the BA200?
          Between these four, which one is the better choice?
          Thank you.

          • ljokerl on

            While I don’t think the BA200 sounds lean, if you’re worried about lean sound you can stick with dynamic drivers instead of balanced armature. The B3 is also not a great option as it’s on the thin side for dynamic. Go for the RE-600 in that case.

        • Chiho on

          I decided to follow your suggestion and bought a pair of second hand BA 200 for $90. Thank you so much for your help.

          • ljokerl on

            Good deal. Hope you like them!

  116. Jason on

    Hi ljokerl,

    I’ve enjoyed NuForce NE-700M very much but need to buy a new set due to the cord fraying. What other sets would you recommend with or without a mic in the sub $100 range?


    • ljokerl on

      Lots of good options. If you want to stick with bass-heavy sets, I’d recommend these: Audio-Technica CKM500 (has a mic version as well), Velodyne vPulse (has mic), Beyerdynamic DTX101 or DTX102 (or MMX101/102 for mic), and Rock Jaw Alfa Genus. All of these give you different sonic flavors – vPulse for deep bass emphasis, Beyers for a warmer and smoother type of sound, CKM500 for a more v-shaped signature, and the Alfa Genus for a v-shaped sound with the bonus of additional tuning ports. The common theme on all these is powerful bass.

      For something a little more balanced but still on the warm, enhanced-bass side – the Shure SE215 is quite good (mic cable can be purchased separately).

      • Jason on

        Thanks! For the sake of comparison, would you consider the NE-700 more deep bass emphasized, V shaped, or something else?

        • ljokerl on

          The NE-700X is bassy, but it has a pretty strong focus on both mid-bass and sub-bass. Wouldn’t call it v-shaped, just bass-heavy.

          • Jason on

            I gave the vPulse a go for the past month and feel lacking in detail and overall sound quality. The bass is excellent, however.

            The Beyers are next on my list.

          • Jason on

            I’ve been really enjoying the DTX 102s, thanks for the suggestion. Have you heard the DX 120? Saw these for fairly cheap ($45 shipped) l, his would they compare to the DTX 102?

          • ljokerl on

            I’ve only tried the 120 and 160 briefly at a show, but I don’t have any lasting impressions of them – they just weren’t particularly memorable I guess. At that time they were both priced above $100 and I didn’t feel the performance difference from the 101/102 (which was also on display) justified the extra cost. But at $45 it might be a very different story – not really sure.

  117. Oliver on

    Hi there,

    thanks for working so hard and making this such an incredibly helpful and interesting resource!
    It’d be great if you would have some more advice to spare.
    On the road I enjoyed my q-jays for the last few years. I loved everything about them until they broke.
    I’ve got very small ear canals and am looking for something similar or maybe better. What would your suggestion be?

    Thanks in advance.

    • ljokerl on

      Maybe not quite as compact as the q-JAYS, but the VSonic VC1000 is quite good and very narrow/slim in the ear: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/vsonic-vc1000/ . Another option would be the Etymotic HF5. It would help if you still have your q-JAYS eartips to play around with when finding our optimal fit with the new set.

  118. Anonymous on

    Hello, Joker. I would like your recommendations for the most suitable IEM for classical music under 200 dollars. The HiFiMAN RE-400 has been coming up a lot in my research, but I was not optimistic re their build quality. Build quality is very important due to certain circumstances of mine, and so the RHA’s MA750 IEM fervently caught my attention with its build quality and impressive three years warranty. However, all the reviews indicate that it is slightly bass heavy, which is, of course, undesirable for classical music. But, for its build quality, I might be willing to compromise a bit. How do you think they fare with classical, then? Do you have any better suggestions under the 200 dollar mark?

    • ljokerl on

      The MA750 is definitely bass-heavy. There’s lots of other options with much more balanced sound that are decently well-built – for instance the Etymotic HF5, Sony MDR-EX600, or even VSonic GR07. I think these would all do a better job sound-wise.

  119. Archit on

    Hello ljokerl,

    I’m looking to upgrade from ‘Philips SHE9700′. I liked them for every reason possible, but I’m willing to ‘move up’ and get something better.

    From what I’ve known, getting the bass right is a problem. They either are able to get the bass right or they compromise it for better ‘highs’ and ‘mids’. I’m not really into ‘highs’ but I would want to have at least something good enough to produce those notes at that far end of the spectrum if the need be. Still, my playlist typically includes EDM and Rock.

    Here, couple of tracks on my playlist to give you an idea
    ‘Evil Angel’ by ‘Breaking Benjamin’
    ‘Introvert’ by ‘KOAN’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-C0GHBp4_c)

    Now I’m not sure if ‘Signature Acoustics Elements C-12′ would hold up because of your less than 8 rating but I’d like to know more about your take on it. Also, I’d like to know how ‘VSonic VSD1S’ holds out.


    • ljokerl on

      Because I haven’t tried the SHE9700, I can’t tell you how the sets you are considering compare. However, I can tell you that the VSD1S is a better-sounding, more accurate earphone that the Elements C-12, especially when it comes to bass, which is just too overblown with the Signature Acoustics set. In the end it depends on what “getting the bass right” means to you – if it means sheer bass power, the C-12 may be the better choice. Otherwise, it’s most likely the VSD1S.

      • Archit on

        Hello again,

        I really couldn’t find anything on the SHE9700 but what I did find might be of some use to you. This is an excerpt of somebody’s post who knows more about IEMs than me. Here, have a look

        “The Main difference is in b/w sound signature,Build Qulity,Cable & Accessories.

        Philips SHE 3590 is very basic IEM with a V-shaped sound signature that resembles a rock setting of any media player. With a mild base & treble boost that does not relent other spectrum of the music at moderate volume it almost sounds neutral. Most audiophile like this sound signature and hence the wildly popularity. With bear minimum accessories just 3 tip S,M,L it the very basic in what you can get for an upgrade to a stock earphone. other IEM which similar Sound signature is Sound Magic E10

        Philips SHE 9700 has a sound signature that is Warm and smooth, enhanced bass level, laid-back treble & Emphasis on the mid-bass region. The IEM concentrates of mid bass more than on sub-bass. Sub-bass been as example of sony Xtra Bass line of IEM. (SONY MDR-XB30EX for example). The bass of Philips SHE 9700 is accurate & travels deep but also decays slow does making mid-bass seem more prominent in compare to other spectrum of the music. But been accurate & deep mid-bass is why its rated as highly on reviews sites. This along with the the tangle free & nice cord. Gold plated 3.5 mm audio jack. A case that has hard casing on the outside with enuf room to accumulate a small mp3 player like the clip & added tips makes it well worth the price asked about $17. In addition to this both have a design which as a noise cancelling effect due to both can slide right into the ear canal and form a seal with the ear drum means that most external sound is blocked out. When you have them in and playing music at a reasonable volume it is difficult to hear much else. This makes them ideal for use on busy public transport & other noise environment.”

        So basically, it can be concluded that SHE9700 is an SHE3580 ‘PLUS’. You can find some mentions over at the Head-Fi forum, one of which is particularly more objective than the one above. Over here,


        Specifically, the quote from one of the better regarded users, ‘james444′, succinctly describes the SHE9700. I hope this clears it up for you and is detailed enough an account to provide you with an insight (though I know nothing beats the true test of actual listening)

        Now… could you please suggest anything ? (besides the ones I mentioned earlier).

        Once again, I’d like to repeat that I’m not too keen on the highs. Just the ‘mids’ and ‘lows’ are what makes up most of my playlist as I never listen to classical or jazz. This doesn’t mean that I want a muffled output, especially where the bass ‘overpowers’ everything else present in the track. I need the ‘highs’ too, but can compromise it a little for the bass.

        There, I hope I explained it well (with the help of the above playlist)

        • ljokerl on

          Sounds like it belongs in the warm and smooth category, so maybe the Sony MH1C instead of the ones you’re considering above? MH1C is a great earphone for the price, just has some ergonomic issues thanks to the flat j-style cable.

          The VSD1S and C-12 won’t have the right sound signature based on that – the C12 too bloated, and the VSD1S too v-shaped and harsh, with maybe not enough bass as well.

          • Archit on

            Actually, for quite some time I’ve been trying to get my hands on the renowned ‘MH1C’ but unfortunately, they were unavailable in my part of the world whether offline or online. My only option is to import them but then that would add to it’s cost, hence defeating the purpose of my purchase.

            Still, I’ll keep trying but I’m not too sure if they will remain available for long because it’s an old model.

            Now, just in case I’m unable to get them is there any other alternative ? I recently went through your review of ‘SteelSeries Flux’ and I must say, I’m quite impressed by its description. My only concern would be that of bass. I know there isn’t a good enough a metric to quantify human preference for bass, but, do you feel it is less ? Or is it that the spread of bass is different ?

            Finally, I must let you know that I’m not planning to spend more than what these cost, however enticing the EPH-100 might be.

          • ljokerl on

            The Flux is not as bassy as the Sony, nor is it as durable. It’s a great earphone for a slightly more balanced/neutral sound, but still staying on the warm side of a strictly “flat” headphone. Not an amazing MH1C substitute, though.

          • ljokerl on

            Hard to say from that unless they also have a graph of the MH1C done on the same equipment. But, the H1 is a hybrid system so it’s not likely that it will sound the same as/very similar to the dynamic-driver MH1C.

  120. tom on

    Hi joker, I got a pair of Klipsch Image x10 IEMs for just over $110 on Amazon about a year ago after reading some good things about them, and I’ve enjoyed them a bunch, but I use them heavily and the stain reliefs are torn almost completely to the buds and the jack (they still work for now). Christmas is an excuse for me to get myself a new pair of IEMs, so I’m wondering what my best option would be. It seems like the x10s are around $180 now on Amazon and I would have no problem paying that for a new pair if the reason wasn’t that the first had fallen apart so quickly. Is there anything I can get for under $200-250 that would be comparable/an upgrade from the x10s?

    • ljokerl on

      The X10 is a pretty unique earphone – if you like that signature it might be best to stock with it. Klipsch did say the X11 had upgraded build quality, but looking at Amazon reviews, I’m not sure that’s actually the case.

      Here are some options I think have comparable quality with an enhanced-bass, warm sound that is at least somewhat like that of the X10: Yamaha EPH-100 (a little on the bassier side but very fun to listen to), Dunu DN-1000 (has a more v-shaped signature than the X10, with very good bass and more treble presence), VSonic GR07BE (more balanced overall but with a fun bass punch and brighter treble than the X10). Depending on what you like they may or may not work better for you than the X10.

      • tom on

        I listen to a very wide variety of music, so would a more balanced pair be more “optimal” (of course this is partly subjective but in general what would you say)? I wouldn’t be opposed to straying a bit from the signature of the x10s, the main thing that makes me enjoy them so much is being able to wear them for extended periods and not feel any discomfort because they’re so near weightless and comfortable.

        • ljokerl on

          You’re right on both counts – one, that it’s partly subjective whether certain genres sound better with certain sound signatures (or that some sound signature can be more “versatile”), and two that one of the X10’s biggest assets is its tiny size and that comfort obviously has a direct effect on listening enjoyment. On that basis you can probably eliminate the DN-1000 for its significantly larger size and weight. The GR07BE and EPH-100 can be quite comfortable with the right fit, and if you would consider a more balanced sound, I guess the GR07 BE is what’s left. Between that, the biggest difference is of course the brighter, more v-shaped (but overall more balanced) sound of the GR07BE vs the more bottom-tilted, treble-shy sound of the X10.

          • tom on

            Thank you for the help, I’ve looked into VSONIC a bit more and it seems like they are generally very well liked. I’ll probably order a pair of GR07BE for myself!

  121. Blue Ocean on

    Thanks for the great guide. My Soundmagic E10s stopped working recently and I got the Sony MH1C to check them out since they were cheap. I like the sound quality in general (like the extra bass), but overall I think I prefer a more V-shaped signature that I got with the E10, and I think the MH1Cs lack in treble which I’ve realised I don’t like so much.

    Most important though, is comfort and durability since I have small ears. The E10s fit well enough, the MH1C I can’t stand because of the cable, and the tips were horrible for me (had to use ones that came with E10 and even then, because of the cable, they don’t stay in my ears if I move around).

    So in other words, I’m looking for something like the E10 in sound terms (but better), but it needs to be comfortable. I generally stick to the lower end of the price range since I can never get more than 2 years out of a pair at best anyway, but I would pay up to around £50-60 max ($80-100). Any ideas? I’ve looked at the VSD1S but reviews seem to be a bit mixed around the internet regarding durability and quality.

    Many thanks in advance for your time.

    • ljokerl on

      Hmm.. maybe the VSonic VSD3S, if that type of design can fit your ears? See here for sound description: http://theheadphonelist.com/brief-impressions-vsonic-vsd3s-ostry-kc06-havi-b3-pro/ . It’s mildly v-shaped with a slight emphasis on sub-bass and great clarity. No lack of treble with these. There’s a new fixed cable version of the VSD3S now that’s supposed to be more durable. If you want to spend more, you may be able to find the JVC FXT90 in your price range. It’s got a more mid-bassy and aggressive sound, but quite good overall. Here in the US they’re about $85-90.

      • Blue Ocean on

        Thanks. It seems like both of those would have to be imported, VS3DS = ~£36 and FXT90 = ~£66 inclusive of taxes. I’ll probably do a little more research. Would you say that the FXT90 is justified being worth about twice as much as the VSonic (in your opinion)? They look tempting.

        • ljokerl on

          I don’t think they are significantly better than the VSonics but they seem to be a better match for what you want. While both are somewhat v-shaped, the JVCs have a warmer, more full-bodied sound than the VSonics, which tend to be a little more on the neutral and accurate side. Also, the treble is just a touch more refined than it is with the VSD3S.

          • Blue Ocean on

            The import route seems a bit risky if I have to return them etc. I noticed you recommended the Rock Jaw Alfa Genus to someone further down the comments. From your review, it seems like they might fit my requirements. Do you think they would be suitable as a step up from the E10s?

          • ljokerl on

            The Alfa Genus might work but it’s an interesting one in that its two best sound tunings are 1) a flat one and 2) a deeply v-shaped one. That means that you’ll have in the Alfa Genus an earphone that’s both flatter/more balanced than your E10 was, and one that’s bassier and more v-shaped as well. Neither is tuned similar to the E10, but you;’ll get an interesting contrast with them.

          • Blue Ocean on

            Well I got the Alfa Genus today – you are spot on with your description. I am glad I got them though because it’s nice to have the option of nozzles to see which type of sound I gravitate towards. I think the silver v-shaped ones but with a little EQ tweaking might work best, but one of the nozzles was defective so I’ll reserve judgment until I receive the replacement (their support was excellent). The comfort alone and the superior cable though justifies them to me over the MH1C, and I think they have more clarity than the E10.

            Also didn’t realise they had a microphone on them, nice bonus I suppose.

          • ljokerl on

            Mine didn’t have a microphone on them :p. Updated model, I guess.

            Happy listening!

  122. ken on

    hey joker i tried the yamaha eph-100 today for at least 1 hour, it has very good clarity very bright, but because of that aspect it seems to lack base, the base that yamaha eph 100 is producing is not strong enough for genre like edm house or some r&b music. I’ve tried with music like Kanye West – Love Lockdown just on base and it feels very light, but then again clarity is there. In the end i tried beats tour in ear and i felt the base is good. what are your opinion on this, do u have some other model to rec for my liking? thanks alot appreciate it if u can rec :)

    • ljokerl on

      You sure it’s a genuine EPH-100 and you’re getting a good seal? Clear and bright is not really what the EPH-100 is known for. It’s a very popular EDM earphone on Head-Fi mostly for its bass. Yes, the Tours have even more bass (mid-bass, not deep bass) but it’s not a night and day difference between my Tours and EPH-100. If Tours have the type of bass you are looking for then by all means go for them, but at this point it does’t sound like your EPH-100 experience matches those of myself and others.

  123. mornignton on

    How does the sound quality rating work? Jh13 has score of 10.0, GR07 has score of 9.1. I have heard both, JH13 is multiple classes above GR07 but the score doesn’t reflect that.

    Why the buyer’s guide stops at $200? There are plenty of good earphones and interest in earphones above it.

    • ljokerl on

      The scale is not linear, i.e. a 9.2 tells you that I think that earphone is better than one rated a 9.1, but not how much better.

      And, I do have plans to create more guides but don’t have the time or resources right now.

      • mornignton on

        Thank you for all your hard work. The current buyer’s guide is very good already actually. My only gripe is i wish it could extend to up to $500 earphones and more.

        • ljokerl on

          It’s on the to-do list, right after some other oft-requested guides and of course more reviews.

  124. ken on

    hey joker im looking for good earphones, my budget is around 250-300 can u rec any i prefer bass heavy type, i was looking at jaybird x bluebuds, but reviews said sound aint that good, tried klipsch x4i i feel it is ok not that great, would really appreciate it if u can rec better ones or more accurate type of earphones for base heavy i listen to trance,house,r&b, and heavy metal

    • ljokerl on

      Most likely the Yamaha EPH-100 is what you want. One of my favorites for trance, house, EDM, and top-40 type music. An upgrade from that is the Sony XBA-H3 but the form factor is not as nice and it can be tough to find under $300.

      • ken on

        if budget would to go lower like 200 i have sony XBA-A1AP or XBA-H1, and shure se215 in mind i’ve seen reviews on xba h1 mostly are positive or u have something else to rec? :)

        • ljokerl on

          The EPH-100 is well under $200 and is better than the SE215. Can’t comment on the A1AP or XBA-H1 as I haven’t tried those.

          • ken on

            thanks joker really appreciate your info, it help me alot on my choice i hope the eph 100 is as good as u said

  125. Pierre on

    Soundwise I am extremely satisfied with the Sony MDR-EX300s but they are gruesome to the ears if used for many hours as they hurt the cartilage of the ear whereas the Sennheiser CX400 are super comfy but they fall a bit flat when it comes to the sound. Which of your below $50 and $50-100 suggestions do you think could be the perfect match for me?

      • ken on

        hey joker im looking for good earphones, my budget is around 250-300 can u rec any i prefer bass heavy type, i was looking at jaybird x bluebuds, but reviews said sound aint that good

  126. JF on

    Thanks so much for this site. The reviews and info are really helpful. Looking for some pointers actually – I want some IEMs that will be used on the daily commute, so isolation is important (using an iPhone 5). I prefer IEMs worn down as I can’t seem to get on with the over ear models. Mic/Remote is a nice to have. The type of music I listen to is choral music, opera and classical so looking for something that is not going to be harsh on the high notes, and can cope with recordings often made in cathedrals (long decay). Detail is important as the music is intricate, bass should be there but not overly so. I have some UE 600s’s at the moment with foam tips, which are OK but I find them harsh towards the top end. Budget wise, anything up to $300. would like to hear your suggestions, thank you!

    • ljokerl on

      The remote requirement really narrows the field – a lot of hi-fi earphones simply don’t have them. With a cable-down fit, good noise isolation, and smooth sound, that pretty much leaves the Klipsch X10i/X11i . I don’t recommend this model very often as I just don’t consider it a great value (It’s about $300), but with all of your requirements it seems like the best option.

      • JF on

        Thanks for the feedback. What would you recommend without remote/mic?

        • ljokerl on

          Custom Art Music One if you want to go custom, but it is over-the-ear :)

          In universals this opens you up to the HiFiMan RE-400 (similar balance to UE600 overall, but it has very smooth sound) and the Yamaha EPH-100 (quite warm and very bassy, but still a good earphone overall). These have good isolation for universals (especially the Yamaha) and are worn cord-down.

  127. Jordi on

    Hi Joker,

    Congrats for your work. After loosing my E10 I’m searching for new in-ears. Checking the V-Shape signature I see the Thinksound MS01 as a good option but I’m not sure if its sensitivity (96 ±3 dB @ 1KHz 1mW ) will be suittable to be used with my Fiio X3 / Mobile phone. What do you think ? I prefer transparent/clear sound than bassy one….Any other option below 120usd you can recommend ?

    • ljokerl on

      The MS01 is not difficult to drive so you’ll be fine from that perspective. However, if you can deal with a slightly harsher sound, a VSonic VSD3S (bassier) or GR07 Classic (more balanced) would give you a more noticeable step up in clarity – since your preference leans towards clarity these may be a better way to go. The MS01 does give you better bass impact and a few other improvements on the E10 while staying within a generally v-shaped sound sig, but clarity isn’t one of the things it really improves on.

      • Jordi on

        Thanks for your feedbak. I went for the GR07 Classic :)

  128. kiteman on

    First off want to say I love this website and your attention to the many posts. I previously had NuForce 600M because they sounded great to me and were cheap, but they are too fragile. I tried the MA350 and SteelSeries Flux before and didn’t care for either, the former mostly because there wasn’t a lot of bass and the audio jack connection was very rigid for a phone-in-your-pocket setup. 600Ms also seemed louder and fuller than the others I mentioned, maybe because of the added bass? I really want something with an Android-compatible mic/button also, as I tend to cycle through songs quite often. I listen mostly to heavy rock like Stone Sour, Korn, Five Finger Death Punch, etc. Thank you for any help, there are so many headphones out there it’s kind of overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re doing.

    • kiteman on

      Also wanted to mention less than $150 is my price range (less than $100 even better), and I would prefer something with good sound isolation for air travel.

      • ljokerl on

        It sounds like what you want is a basshead earphone with high sensitivity (loud volume). Unfortunately most higher-end earphones will be less efficient than the NE-600X so you’ll just have to turn up the volume to compensate. Higher-end sets also tend to not have as much bass, with some exceptions. Having to have the remote also limits your options – the only set that fits the sound signature and remote requirements is the Xiaomi Piston 2, but it has a little less deep bass than the NE-600X and also has a straight (I-shaped) plug, like the MA350. Another option that fits what you want is the Dunu DN-22M Detonator, but it doesn’t sound as good as the NE-600X.

        Hate to say it but your best bet might just be the Beats Tour 2.0. It has a remote with a slim L-shaped plug, tons of bass, and a very full-bodied sound.

        • kiteman on

          Thanks for the response. I actually wound up ordering the new Sennheiser Momentum in-ear headphones. It sounds like they may be a really good fit.

          • kiteman on

            I just wanted to follow up and say the Sennheiser Momentum in ear headphones are an excellent basshead replacement for $100. The buttons work great on my S4 and the bass is plentiful and overall sound quality is good as well. Hopefully you’ll get an opportunity to review them in the near future.

          • ljokerl on

            Yes, I have a pair and they will get a full review. Glad you like them!

  129. Hendra Suryawijaya on

    Hi Joker,

    Two years ago after reading your review, I bought Fischer Dba 02-mkII and I really enjoy it, I would like to know how good Shure 535, and 1964 ears V3 compared to Fischer Dba 02-mkII, I’m really curious.

    Thank you

    • ljokerl on

      The DBA-02 mkII is a neitral to slightly bright earphone with a somewhat analytical sound. The two sets you are looking at are pretty different – the SE535 is warmer and more full-bodied through the bass and midrange, and gently slopes down the treble. It’s a very smooth-sounding earphone without the analytical tendencies of the DBA-02.

      The V3 is a v-shaped earphone with lifted bass compared to the DBA-02. It has quite a bit more bass compared even to the Shure, not to mention the DBA-02. Tonally it’s warmer and just has a very lively and powerful sound, but its signature is even less of a DBA-02 match than the SE535’s.

      • Hendra Suryawijaya on

        Thank you for your quick response, I have one more question, how are the clarity and sound seperation compared to those two?

        • ljokerl on

          The DBA-02 has an advantage being the flattest and least thick-sounding but the V3 is pretty much on-par outside of the bass, which is a little too powerful compared to the DBA, and the SE535 is close behind.

          • Hendra Suryawijaya on

            Thank you

  130. Jonathan on

    Great review. I’ve been looking for a replacement for my Klipschs Image S4. I bought them on a whim since CNET recommended them and overall I’ve enjoyed til the day they broke. I’ve since tried replacing them with a MeElectronics A151 and a Panasonic Ergo-fit(they were really cheap and I wanted a second pair). However, I was less than thrilled by the A151s. In the comments section, I’ve seen that for people who’ve enjoyed the S4s, you’ve recommended “the Yamaha EPH-100 (my go-to EDM recommendation), the RHA MA750, or the JVC FXT90.” Does this list still stand? I’m looking to getting another IEM similar to or better than the Klipschs S4. Any suggestions would be great. Thanks.

    • ljokerl on

      Yes, that’s still my recommendation for replacing the S4 assuming a ~$150 budget. The A151, as you found out, sounds nothing like the S4.

      Of the three, the FXT90 will probably give you the closest signature match. If you want to spend significantly less and still stay close to the S4 sound signature with very good performance, the Brainwavz S1 is a good one for $60: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/brainwavz-s1/

      • Jonathan on

        Hello again. At the moment, the JVC HA-FXT90 is only $18 more than the Brainwavz S1 that you both recommended. Would you say the FXT90 is worth the extra money? I’m guessing the sound difference would be almost to a layman’s such as myself, but after my disappointment with the A151s, I want to get it right this time. Unfortunately neither IEMs is available to test out near me so I’m relying on reviews to make my decision. Thanks.

        • ljokerl on

          It is, with the caveat that it has a little more mid-bass focus and a warmer tone. If that sounds appealing to you, I’d pony up the $18. Otherwise, the S1 is very good.

  131. Doodledoo on

    Joker! I’ve been following your reviews for years now. Just would like to ask you, would you prefer the Audiofly AF140 or the Audiofly AF180 for EDM music? I hear that the AF180 is pleasantly accurate and precise while the AF140 is unique and fun. Preferrably, I want something clear but just want to enjoy music in the end. I’m assuming the dynamic driver in the AF140 is better for my bass needs than the AF180’s 4 armatures. Any advice would be great.

  132. jamesgz on

    Hi, I am looking for an in-ear headphone around 150$. I usually listen to hippop, rap and play some video games. The most important thing I am looking for is the sound quality. I would like it to have a very good bass and a good mids, and I don’t think I will listen to a lot of highs. I want it to have an inline control that can let me play and pause or skip music and compitable with iphone(volume control doesn’t really matter).
    It also be good if it looks good too:)
    My current choice is probably Ma-750.
    Can you guys recommend something for me?
    Thank you.

    • jamesgz on

      Btw, I will take this headphone to the gym. I need a good sound isolation and noise cancelling as well.

      • ljokerl on

        Right up until you said “remote” it was the Yamaha EPH-100 but with the remote I would indeed go with the RHA MA750i. Next best choice would probably be a Shure SE215 plus mic cable. Both have good enhanced-bass sound – the RHA is a little bassier, the SE215 has more balanced mids. Noise isolation is excellent on the SE215 and pretty good with the MA750.

        Also, the vast majority if IEMs is not sweat resistant so if you sweat while at the gym you might want to consider getting a disposable set just for that purpose.

        • jamesgz on

          Thank you for the reply:)
          Just ignore the remote control pronlem for now. I am mainly looking for the sound quality.
          I will mainly just be listening to music(Hip-hop, Rap) somebody like Drake, Pitbull, FLorida and Akon.
          I am a newbie :( I dont even know if I need a good bass to listen to those songs, or do I need a better mid?

          So, my current choices are:
          1.shure 245 plus mic cable
          2.vsonic GR07 bass edition
          4.Yamaha dn1000( I dont think i can get it from Canada… Unavailable from amazon ca…)
          5.welcome to recommand more~

          Can you order them from the best bass to the worst?
          Can you order them from which would perform the best with this song?

          I also heard you said that a good bass will make the mids and highs’ sound quality bad? If so, how bad will it be?

          • ljokerl on

            I will stick to my original recommendations.

            There is no such thing as a Yamaha DN-1000 (or Shure SE215 for that matter). If you mean the Yamaha EPH-100, that still sounds more like what you were after to me (strong bass, pretty good mids, and treble that doesn’t intrude). It does well with hip-hop and has good noise isolation as well.

            The MA750 would probably be my second choice just for having a little less mids and more treble.

            GR07 BE has significantly less bass than those two and sharper treble as well. It also has probably the least noise isolation of the bunch. That said, it’s the most balanced of the four and the one I personally prefer – it just doesn’t seem to be what you’re looking for right now.

            The SE215 does well with bass and mids and again has smooth treble but to me is on a slightly lower tier than the others overall. However, if you add the value of its form factor (secure fit, really good isolation, solidly built) it’s still worth recommending.

            I guess if one or more are not available to you, that automatically narrows down your choices…

        • jamesgz on

          You said that comapred to yamaha eph100, MA750 tends to sound a bit more veiled. What do you mean by that? How is Ma750’s mids and highs compared to eph100? Is there a big difference? Thank you.

          • ljokerl on

            Veiled is the opposite of clear. The mids of the EPH-100 are stronger and its bass tends to creep up on the midrange a bit less than it does with the RHA unit. Not a big difference, but audible.

  133. Geoff on

    Which signature would you suggest for clear dialog when watching TV?

    With my poor hearing, V-shaped would give me better treble, but I’m really interested in clear dialog more than anything else.

    I’ll be using the headphone via the Yamaha 1/4″ Silent Cinema headphone jack, so I’ll need a 1/4″ to 3.5mm converter and will need 15 to 20 feet of cable.

    • ljokerl on

      You don’t really need a v-shape strictly speaking – what you need is a strong upper midrange and treble. The key term for what you want is “intelligibility” – i.e. distinct vocals/dialogue. From what I’ve tried recently, I think the Ostry KC06 would be ideal: http://theheadphonelist.com/brief-impressions-vsonic-vsd3s-ostry-kc06-havi-b3-pro/

      I’m sure you can pick up a 3.5mm extension cable and a 1/4″ adapter, if you don’t already have on lying around somewhere, for $15 or so (example of decent cable: http://amzn.to/1zeZPnD), so the whole setup should cost $80 or so.

  134. Jasmine on

    Hi Joker, I currently have the SE215 but find it to be a bit dry and the treble quite weird sounding. My favorite full size headphones are the NAD Viso HP50 and Sennheiser HD650. Both offer a balanced, natural, warm & forgiving sound. I was looking at the GR06’s, Would you recommend these or another IEM?

    • Jasmine on

      Budget is under $110

      • ljokerl on

        GR06s are not that smooth, IMO not the best choice coming from an HD650, which is super refined. If it were me I’d play it safe and get something pretty neutral and with very smooth treble – the HiFiMan RE-400, for instance. It’s a little mid-centric and won’t give you that deep, rumbling bass that you’re getting from the SE215 or the sense of space that you might get from a brighter earphone, but it’s got a very nice and “sweet” sound with a touch of warmth and no harshness up top.

  135. James Gong on

    Hi, this will be my first time buying a earphone. I am looking for a earphone around 50$ to replace my old iphone earbuds. I want to use it to listen to hip-pop, rap and play video games. Volume control really doesn’t matter, but I would like it to have a inline control that can let me pause/ play or skip music. I also need a decent noise cancelling and a decent isolation, but this is the least important. The most important thing I am looking for is the sound, maybe a bit bass. It would be good if it looks nice too.

    Can you recommend an earphone for me?

    From you reviews, I think steelseries flux would best fit my requirements? But, I don’t actually know.. Lol

    Have you ever tried razer hammerhead pro and Sennehieser cx 300ii? If so, would you recommend them?

    Thank you:)

    • ljokerl on

      The Flux was my first thought as well – the fit can be a tiny bit finicky and it’s not the loudest earphone but the actual sound quality is excellent and it does everything you want. And as long as you don’t listen to your iPhone at max volume, you should be able to compensate for the low sensitivity easily.

      Some other options that come to mind (from what I have tried):
      T-Peos Rich200 – small, comfortable, punchy and clear sound but not as balanced and smooth as Flux: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/t-peos-rich200/
      NarMoo R1M – not as small as the others but has a sound tuning feature that goes from “basshead” to pretty balanced in a matter of seconds: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/narmoo-r1m/
      Ultimate Ears 500vi – probably not as durable as the others but very lightweight and comfortable and has a 3-button remote with volume control: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/ultimate-ears-500-500vi/

  136. Ro9 on

    Hi, first off great list! I’ve recently become an audiophile (since like a year), and I got myself a decent pair of headphones (AKG Q701) plus a FiiO E17 as a DAC/amplifier. I was thinking of getting a decent pair of earphones too that I could possibly use with my FiiO E17 and my cellphone when I’m out.

    I mainly listen to rock music (hard rock, grunge, alternative rock), industrial/electronic rock (Celldweller and Blue Stahli). Sometimes I may listen to orchestral/symphonic music too. What would earphone would you suggest? My budget would be below 100.

      • Ro9 on

        Thanks, sadly these earphones don’t seem to be available here in the UK. Any other potential candidate?

        • ljokerl on

          They ship worldwide from authorized distributors such as lendmeurears. Local availability limits your options somewhat but two others you can check for (on Amazon UK for example) are the HiFiMan RE-400 and Ostry KC06.

          For something that’s for sure available in the UK, the Rock Jaw Alfa Genus is quite good: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/rock-jaw-alfa-genus/

          • Ro9 on

            Wow, the Rock Jaw Alpha Genus seem to be quite interesting. I like the fact that it’s possible to have three different configurations. Thanks again for the precious info, I think I’ll be getting these pair of earphones. :)

          • ljokerl on

            Indeed, they’re a solid choice for the money. I should probably put together some local buyer’s guides for our UK and Canadian readers one of these days…

  137. That one guy on

    Hey Joker,
    My Phillips SHE3590s just recently broke, and I really liked them but I feel the need for an upgrade. The bass from the Phillips was almost perfect, but I would prefer it to be a little stronger. The mids were ok but I prefer it to be a little more forward. Basically I’m looking for an upgrade to the Phillips but with slightly stronger bass and a little more forward mids around 50-100 dollars.

    • ljokerl on

      Tough ask because increasing the bass tends to naturally make mids sound less forward. Those sets that don’t recess the mids often sound bloated and muddy, at least on the budget end of the spectrum (see for example Tekfusion Twinwoofers: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/tekfusion-twinwoofers/). Your best bet is probably something with a nice sub-bass response and tame mid-bass – the HiSoundAudio Wooduo2, for instance. Next best thing is something v-shaped that doesn’t sound TOO recessed in the midrange – for example the Brainwavz S1: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/brainwavz-s1/ or Rock Jaw Alfa Genus (review coming soon)

      • That one guy on

        Yeah, I’ve been looking at the Wooduo2s for a while, and I think they’re what I’m looking for. Thanks joker!

        • That one guy on

          Welp, I just broke my laptop. There goes that 100 bucks. Is there anything you can recommend around the budget price (~20-30 dollars).

          • ljokerl on

            Best you can do on that budget is probably the Xiaomi Piston 2. It’s got a little bass bloat but otherwise is quite good.

  138. nhatminh2h on

    Hey Joker,
    I’ve heard of your reputation on reddit, and I need some advice
    I’m in agony deciding between VSonic VSD1 (with or without S), SoundMagic E10 and VSnoic VSD3 (with or without S).
    Could you please help me

    • ljokerl on