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2014 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.

Note: this page contains amazon and ebay affiliate links. Using them supports this site. All affiliate revenue will be used to make improvements to The Headphone List.


Basshead

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

JVC HA-FX101

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

RHA MA-350

RHA MA-350


RHA MA350 ($40)
– Hailing from Scotland, the MA350 by RHA delivers deep, impactful bass akin to that of the $100 Monster Turbines at a fraction of the price. It is clearer than the FX101, and has smoother, better quality treble as well. Add to that fantastic build quality and a 3-year warranty and the MA350 is a winner. Read full review

Buy (amazon.com)  | Manufacturer’s Page

NarMoo S1

NarMoo S1

 

NarMoo S1 ($40) –  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 MA350. 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: PADACS Aksent PD114 


$50-100

 

Velodyne vPulse

Velodyne vPulse

Velodyne vPulse ($65) – 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 ($99)
 – 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 (ebay.com) / (amazon.com) / (mp4nation.net)| 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 ($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) | Manufacturer’s Page

 

Dunu Trident

Dunu Trident

Dunu Trident ($28) – 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 ($28) – 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

$50-100

 

SteelSeries Flux In-Ear

SteelSeries Flux In-Ear

SteelSeries Flux In-Ear ($50) - The first-ever in-ear model from gaming peripheral manufacturer SteelSeries took me completely by surprise with audio quality that easily puts it among the very best earphones in its class. It’s a great all-rounder with a warm tonal character, punchy and extended bass, good treble energy, and excellent clarity. The small, comfortable form factor, good noise isolation, and an inline microphone and single-button remote make these one of the best values in portable audio. Read full review

Buy (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 ($100) – 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 Crystal

Over $100

 

RHA MA750

RHA MA750

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 ($149)
– 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


V-Shaped

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 ($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 ($32)
– 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 VSD1S

VSonic VSD1S


VSonic VSD1 / VSD1S ($40) 
– VSonic’s final new release of 2013, the VSD1 earphones offer 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 Bass Edition model at 1/4 the price. They even incorporate an articulating nozzle feature never before seen on an earphone in this price range. I prefer the VSD1S to its sister earphone, the VSD1, for its smoother treble.  Read full review at InnerFidelity

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


Retired: VSonic GR02 Bass Edition

$50-100

 

MOE-SS01

MOE-SS01

MOE-SS01 ($65) –  The MOE-SS01 is a dual dynamic driver earphone closely related to JVC’s pricier FXT90 model. It impresses with very extended bass that is free of bloat, as well as superb clarity, and boasts a cooler tonal character than the other earphones here. I don’t mind the unusual aesthetic of the dual drivers, either, and love the lightweight, low-noise cable. The fit works as well, so long as you don’t have small outer ears. For fans of clear, bright, punchy earphones, the SS01 is nothing short of an excellent buy. Read full review

Buy (ebay.com) / (lendmeurears.com) / (mp4nation.net)| 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

JVC HA-FXT90

JVC HA-FXT90

 

JVC HA-FXT90 ($80) – 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 (amazon.com) / (ebay.com) | Manufacturer’s Page

 

Retired: Astrotec AM-800

Dunu DN-1000

Dunu DN-1000

Over $100

 

Dunu DN-1000 ($209) - 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

Balanced

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 ($40)
– 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

$50-100

 

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

HiFiMan RE-400

HiFiMan RE-400


HiFiMan RE-400 ($99)
– 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. Read full review

Buy (amazon.com) | Manufacturer’s Page

 

Retired: MEElectronics A161P

Over $100

 

Etymotic Research HF5

Etymotic Research HF5

Etymotic Research HF5 ($129) – 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

VSonic GR07

VSonic GR07


VSonic GR07 mkII ($160)
 / GR07 Bass Edition ($130)– The second generation of VSonic’s dynamic-driver flagship retains all of the features that made the original a success – ergonomic housings, adjustable nozzles, great overall construction quality, and consistency across audio sources. It also has the same bio-cellulose dynamic driver producing a well-balanced sound with punchy bass and crisp treble. There are more of both highs and lows compared to the Etymotic HF5, but the GR07 is still pretty darn balanced, and plenty great-sounding. Those looking for a little more bass will enjoy the equally capable GR07 Bass Edition. Read full review: VSonic GR07 / VSonic GR07 Bass Edition

Buy GR07 (amazon.com) | Buy GR07 Bass Edition (amazon.com) / (ebay.com)

Fischer Audio DBA-02 mkII

Fischer Audio DBA-02 mkII

Fischer Audio DBA-02 mkII ($196) – Rounding this overview is Russia-based Fischer Audio with the DBA-02 mkII. The mkII revision finally gives this premium-sounding earphone a fitting look and feel—the updated earphones are sturdy, comfortable, and very well-isolating. They also provide a balanced and capable sound courtesy of dual balanced armature transducers, effortlessly resolving the finest musical details with great instrument separation and stereo imaging. The DBA-02 mkII is not the cheapest dual-armature earphone on the market, but it is one of the most well-rounded. Read full review

Buy (amazon.com) | Manufacturer’s Page

 

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 updated 08/02/14

About ljokerl

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.

374 comments

  1. Thanks for the list!Which headphones on the list go VSonic GR04 are most comparable to? I’ve really liked them, and they survived 2 years of abuse, but it’s time for something better … GR04s somehow sound a bit ‘raspy’ on certain kinds of music.

    Also, what are the best of the above to handle a mix of Prog Metal (Dream Theater, Opeth, Riverside etc), Progressive (Porcupine Tree, Genesis, Rush etc), and Classical music?

    • Somehow the GR04 model passed me by – never got to try it before it was discontinued. I was always told that the GR07 is an upgrade from it and I do like the GR07 for the type of music you listen to. Generally speaking, balanced sound, maybe with a bit of added bass, is what I’d go with, depending on your budget – higher-end VSonics, Philips Fidelio, that sort of thing.

      • Thanks — so it looks like GR07/GR07BE or Etymotic HF5 would be a good bet in 100-150$ range. Would have to give one of these a whirl.

  2. Hi joker, loving the site so far, I’m looking at a few pairs and was hoping for some advice.

    I currently have astrotec am-90s which I love the mids on, vocals sound amazing and surprisingly they work pretty well with electronic stuff too. I mainly listen to rock and dancey/trance stuff, with a bit of prog and other random synth stuff thrown in. (Genesis, Justice, Floyd, Van Halen, Moguia, etc)

    I’m looking at the Fidelio S2s, Thinksound MS01s, or Hifiman RE-400s. But am open to other suggestions too. My price range is around what those cost. So £100 or so tops.

    What I’m looking for is something with similar mids to the AM-90s but with a bit of extra bass, and brighter slightly more piercing treble for guitar solos and the like, without being overpowering or screechy.

    Not sure which of those three would be the best option, any thoughts?

    • To clarify what I mean about the treble, I want it to “cut”, for instance if you were to listen to chvrches, those high pitched synths really making an impact.

      • Also, how might the Dunu 1000s compare to this sound preference and those other phones?

        Thanks :)

      • The Fidelio S2 is good for what you want. It’s got a lot of presence in the range that gives guitars that “crunch” you’re talking about. My second choice would be the GR07 Classic from VSonic – this version should be well within your budget. If you don’t mind an over-the-ear fit, the GR07 is actually easier to fit properly than the Phillips.

        • Awesome, thanks! How would you compare the sound of the two? And how’s the bass on both? I’m definitely not looking for basshead levels, but a decent step up in low range quality/power from the AM-90 would be nice.

          Oh, and thoughts on the Dunu DN-1000 for this purpose too?

          • They have similar bass quantity but the S2 has a flatter/more linear low end with while the GR07 has a bit more of a mid-bass hump. The GR07 sounds a bit warmer and more full-bodied. It also has a slightly more 3D soundstage but tends to be more sibilant than the Fidelios. Both are a step up from the AM-90 in bass qty.

            The DN-1000 is heavier on bass and a little thinner/less forward in the midrange. Coming from the rather mid-centric AM-90 it might be too v-shaped.

  3. Hey Joker,

    Excellent website! When did you transition over from head-fi? I’ve been following your list for quite some time now and have made pretty much all my purchases based on your reviews.

    My current pair of earphones are finally dying, so I’m looking for something new now. Problem is, I don’t know exactly what to get. I mostly listen to hip-hop, along with a bit of electronic and alternrock. What kind of sound signature should I be looking for? The headphones that I’ve owned are JVC RX700 (my favourite, though I wish they were a tad bit bassier), Senn PX 100-II (pretty good, though at times they felt a bit ‘dull’), VSonic GR02-BE (can’t say much about them since they were DOA) and JVC FX34 (loved them to bits, excellent purchase for $2).

    My budget this time around is $50, though I can extend it a bit if its really worth it. I’ll be using them pretty much everywhere, so the more isolating, the better. Also, I won’t be using them with any sort of amp. I do love my bass, though I don’t want it to be overpowering the vocals – should I look at a v-shaped sound then?

    Looking forward to your reply,

    Thanks!

    • This site has been up for about 10 months now but most of my reviews are still posted on Head-Fi as well. Always happy to see more readers here, though.

      Sounds like you’re after a bassy sound with decent treble presence. “Dull” is probably the result of the smooth, somewhat dark treble of the PX100s. I’ve outlined a few options below that I think will work for you, arranged from least to most bass-heavy:

      Sony MH1C – Good but not overpowering low end (more deep bass than mid-bass, which means better quality but less “Bassy” sound in the conventional sense) and very good quality mids and treble. It’s a smooth-sounding earphone, but more neutral than the PX100, so it should be less dull-sounding. The least efficient of the four, but not a problem unless you listen at max volume. Cable can be annoying.
      Xiaomi Piston 2 – Very good but again not quite “basshead” bass. It’s got more bloat than the MH1C but the treble is more exciting, giving it a slightly v-shaped signature. Lowest isolation of the bunch, but also the least expensive.
      Brainwavz S1 – goes a little over budget at $60, but it’s basically a slightly clearer, more v-shaped version of the NarMoo listed below.
      NarMoo S1 – pretty bassy earphones that manage to avoid sounding boring by having decent-quality mids (still a little veiled compared to the Brainwavz, though). Good sound for hip-hop, in my opinion, but might seem a little bloated at first coming from the more accurate RX700.

      Can’t beat $2 FX34s dollar for dollar, though :)

      • Thank you for your thorough reply!

        Of the four you’ve listed, the Brainwavz seems the most attractive option to me. The NarMoo sounds a bit too bassy for my taste, the Piston 2 seems like its not isolating enough and as for the MH1C, I’d rather avoid cables with phone controls on them.

        However, I was going over reviews of the Brainwavz, and many people complain that they start developing issues within a couple of months. I can’t really afford to send it back to claim warranty since I’d already be pushing my budget. Does it really have build quality issues or have those people simply been abusing their pairs?

  4. Hi,
    I love your review.
    After reading so many, I am still confused.
    Currently I have westone umx3, like your review on it. it’s a really good iem but kid of boring.
    Can you recommend something that’s more exciting, something that the umx3 does not have.
    I like to keep it around 150-225.
    Thank you
    Anthony

    • Sure, to have a nice, fun contrast to the UM3X I would either go either v-shaped or warm and bassy.

      For warn and bassy, the Yamaha EPH-100 is a good bet at $150: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/yamaha-eph-100/ . It’s got deep-reaching bass that doesn’t sacrifice much in the way of quality. Mids are not too recessed and it’s not harsh or sibilant. Second choice for this type of sound would be the RHA MA750.

      For v-shaped, I would go Dunu DN-1000 at about $200: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/dunu-dn-1000/ . Like the EPH-100, it has deep bass (just less of it) but it is clearer in the midrange and brighter up top. In terms of sound signature it’s more like the Westone 3 than the UM3X. My second choice would be the VSonic GR07 Bass Edition.

      Personally, I’d go for the Dunu.

  5. Hi Joker,

    I have being using GR07MK2, although i do like the overall sound signature i found it abit lack on bass.

    I’m currently looking at GR07BE and ATH-IM70. I need your view on it.

    • I haven’t tried the IM70 but the GR07 BE is as promised – a GR07 with a bump in the bass. It’s not a huge bump – for GR07 owners it will make sense but someone who blindly buys it just because it is called “Bass Edition” will be disappointed.

      Another option with a similarly clear sound and slightly greater amount of bass is the Dunu DN-1000.

  6. Hi Ijoker

    Thank you for all the information you have provided. I am looking for a good pair of earphones to use with my ipod classic. I think I still have virgin ears in terms of sound quality. Right now I use sennheiser cx160 ($30), to be honest I don’t know what I have been missing. I have been looking at Shure se215, sennheiser cx300, E10, Klipsch S4 and even etymotic er4. Some of the reviews online are so tempting, people talking about hearing parts of music you don’t normally hear with the cheaper earphones. My question is how far true is this and is it worth the extra cash. Guess am looking for something that will blow my mind away or should I say ears :-)
    Budget about $120

    • That’s a very complicated question to answer – many of factors go into just how much of a difference you will hear with your first higher-end headset including:

      -your ears – while everyone can be trained to be a discerning listener, it really varies by individual how hard (if at all) you have to work at it
      -starting point – if you’re “upgrading” from a set of very bad headphones you will obviously be more impressed with a higher-end set than someone coming from an Apple EarPod, which is pretty good, or from a Sony MH1C, which is excellent
      -getting the right sound signature match – this is something not everyone gets right with their first upgrade, but with more experience you can figure out the best fit for you. Upgrading from a bad headphone that is a good match for your preferences to a higher-end one with a sound signature that you just don’t like is not the way to be impressed
      -expectations – a lot of time audiophile publications set the expectations higher than they perhaps should be. This is not intentional, but rather a result of more experienced audiophiles being used to minute differences/improvements in audio performance (see also “diminishing returns”)

      Anyway, it’s your call on whether you want to go off the deep end and spend $100 or try a very good $50 set first. If you want the maximum possible difference, something like the super-accurate Etymotic HF5 is your best bet. No guarantee that you will love it (see my point about sound signature matches above) but it will provide the most raw resolution and detail of anything in the price range.

      If it were me, I’d pick the middle road and get a VSonic VSD1S or similar. These have pretty good bass punch and won’t sound totally “off” to you coming from a less hi-fi set, but they still lean towards a more accurate and neutral sound than you are used to and will provide some of the detail you’ve probably been missing.

  7. Hi Joker, I need some help choosing an IEM – I need a pair of headphones with a mic so I can take calls on my Android phone, but I also need it to do double duty as a pair for running. What I’m looking at is the SteelSeries Flux, MEElectronics A151P, Rock-It Sounds R-20, Astrotec AM-90-MIC, Xiaomi Piston 2, and T-Peos Tank. Which of those do you think would be best for my purposes? I know you like the Flux, but I was also thinking the twisted cords of the A151P and R-20 would be better for running with less microphonics.

    I used to have the Shure 215 but I think I’ve lost them somewhere recently or I would just buy the mic cable, and I also have the Vsonic GR02 BE, but that doesn’t have a mic. I was/am very happy with those soundwise, but I’d be happy with something more balanced too I think. The 215s were uncomfortable over time since I had to use their triple flange tips to get them to stay in my ears (small ear canals), and the triple flanges were still too big and pushed slightly against my ear, but they went in deep enough that they didn’t just fall out. I recently found some great aftermarket tips for the GR02 BE that fit really well, but never got to try them with the Shure.

    Thanks for the guide and for your advice!

    • Less microphonics is obviously better for running, yes. You also have to be careful with sweat – as far as I know none of the ones you’re looking at are sweat-resistant.

      A BA should be good if you want a change in sound. The Astrotec, Rock-It, and Meelec A151 sound almost identical so it’s just a matter of picking the right form factor if you’re okay with balanced sound. They’re all comfortable but the A151 works the best for me in terms of fit. The AM-90 is a little heavier than the other two with those metal housings.

  8. Hey Joker, recently rediscovered your reviews through Headfi, and I was wondering if you could help me tie-break between the following: ATH-CKX9iS, ATH-CKM500(iS), Shure SE215, or Yuin OK1.

    While I’ve owned/tried Grado (SR60i), Stax (just demos), and K701s, what I’ve ultimately ended buying and keeping are Audiotechnica phones (EM7, ESW9A, W1000x). The open air feel, extreme detail and clarity always get me. That being said, my loyalties to AT are making it difficult to give an unbiased decision on which of these to get my IEM journey started.

    My friends swear by the SE215, and they sound damn good. As for the OK1, while not technically IEMs, are considered amazing, and seem to have the sound signature I prefer. Then lastly, I’m almost certain that AT’s signature sound/design will be perfect for me, but now that the CKX series is out, I’m not sure if I should get the CKM500 or go for the new models?

    If you could help me out here through this wall of text, that’d be amazing. If it helps deliberation, I’ve also got the means to get each of these at $100 or less.

    • The Audio-Technica IEMs you have listed don’t sound too much the Audio-Technica headphones that you like – they’re decidedly bassier and more v-shaped. In fact, a large percentage of the ATH in-ears I’ve tried have that type of sound – very robust bass and strong presence in the upper midrange/lower treble leading to an aggressive, mildly v-shaped sound.

      The SE215 still has similarly strong bass but it has more laid-back treble and doesn’t sound very airy. The OK1 is much more balanced and airy but rolls off at the low end compared to these. I like the way it sounds but was never a huge fan of its neither here nor there form factor. At $100 it’s hard to beat for sound, though.

      Honestly, I think sound signature should factor into your decision more than brand. If you think you’ll be okay with one of the bassier Audio-Technicas, by all means go for them because they definitely have a much better form factor than the OK1.

      • Thanks for the analysis Joker, that is exactly what I needed to hear to help me decide. I think it’s a coin toss between the AT phones vs the Yuins if it comes down to relative extremes between picks here. Either way, since I’ve had the chance to personally demo the SE215, getting a detailed comparison between my choices was perfect.

        Between the CKX9iS and CKM500iS, which would you pick? Based on your reviews and notes here, I think I’d prefer the CKX series, but I’d love to hear your opinion on the two

        • Yep, they are definitely extremes.

          I only tried the CKX9iS at a show and walked away with the less bassy CKX5iS. I don’t have a great feel for how the 9 compares to the CKM500, but the 5 is about on-par, just flatter through the midbass region and a little thinner/less full-bodied overall.

  9. Nice article ljokerl!!
    Can you give me an opinion on soundmagic es18? What type of sound signature does it has?
    Out of Philips SHE3580/SHE3590 and soundmagic es18, which one is better?

  10. Hey Joker, awesome stuff. Would like advice if possible. I’m a drummer and use a piar of Shure 315′s as my IEMs, they do the job pretty well. Unfortunately the left bud as died and I haven’t been able to repair it myself. Can’t really afford to replace the bud, but for now are there any fairly cheap alternatives I can use until I can replace the bud? Many thanks

  11. hi joker what is effect of size of driver of an iem on the sound.is bigger the better?because there will be more power produced i think.

    • A bigger driver might have the potential to move more air if tuned that way, but it really comes down to implementation. Look at sets like the EPH-100 – big, powerful sound with a very small driver. You can tell that some manufacturers do have the bigger=better philosophy when it comes to dynamics (Sony and Audio-Technica, for example) but there are lots of crappy, low-end earphones with big drivers to serve as a counterpoint.

      And don’t forget about BAs and moving armatures, most of which are fairly small.

  12. Hey joker great reviews as always. Ive been looking around for headphones that would be a nice upgrade from the JVC HA-Fx101 which I instantly loved. All the choices seem good on hear but was wondering which ones offer the best durability. I have been looking at the vpulse, wooduo 2s, and yamaha eph 100s. Thanks.

    • I would trust Yamaha’s build quality over those of Velodyne and Wooduo. Since the EPH-100 has dropped down to $100ish on amazon I find it hard to recommend anything else for good bass. It might not be as bassy as the FX101 in the traditional sense, but the quality is excellent.

  13. My XBA-1 just gone with no sound in right ear. Tried to warm it up with hairdryer and disassemble, but no luck there. Can you recommend something similar below 100$ with same or better clarity in sound? Not interested in basses cause current Sony XB-40EX sounds terrible. So much noize.

  14. Hi! Im interested in buying my first pair of headphones and a backup IEM, but im on a REALLY tight budget (both of them for $60) im actually interested in the Brainwavz M1 ($40 on amazon) , im a huge sucker for balanced sound, and unfortunately amazon doesn’t offer the astrotec AM90 internationally :c, and the Meelectronics HT21 (on sale right now for about $14), so i don’t know if you could please recommend a pair of headphones and IEM that don’t go beyond my tight budget :c, i really like balanced sound, analitical with a bit of bass (also comfortable and isolating IEM and headphone speaking), so i hope you can help me ljokerl! Thanks again and please keep these type of threads going! Thanks for all the time and effort in putting all of this! :D

    • The HT-21 isn’t noise-isolating but it’s a good option at that price for sure. This way you’re spending most of your budget on the IEM. For even better balance and clarity, you can replace the M1 with the higher-end UE600vi, which is currently retailing for $45 on amazon: amzn.to/1yA92E8

      If you’d rather spend more on the headphone, a good combination might be the Panasonic HTF600 + Philips SHE3580 (darker/bassier) or LG F420 (clearer/brighter). Dollar for dollar the Panasonic + LG combination is probably the best deal in audio, if it can be shipped to your country.

      • Thank you for the recommendations! Im still undecided because the UE600vi seems the best of the bunch in terms of audio quality, but from the reviews it seems that the cable gets torn appart really quickly, so that worries me quite (im always on the go), the LG F420 seem AMAZING! But the comfort and isolation is subpar with the IEM that currently is my daily driver (XBA 1), which one or what IEM with good build quality, decent isolation and good fit/comfort would you recommend at 35-40$? That is somewhat balanced and comes near or surpasses the sound quality of the XBA 1? The headphones will be the panasonic HTF600, they seem amazing :D, and again lJokerl thank you for all the effort in answering! :D

        • I’ve only heard the XBA1 once or twice and I thought it sounded pretty good so that’s a little tough. Two that come to mind are the Etymotic EtyKids (volume-limited a little analytical but overall very balanced and clear) and T-Peos D200R (the least v-shaped of the entry-level T-Peos earphones, but still a little bassy).

  15. are there any good dual driver iem’s under $50 I listen to pop,alternative pop,synth pop,r&b

  16. hi joker how is havi b3 and i think there are three different versions

  17. Hey Joker,
    I hope you can help me. I really love the comfort the Vsonic GR06 because its light and sounds great with shallow insertion (my ear canals can’t handle bi flanges and really long single flanges). I want something less mid centric and it would seem like the GR07 is a no-brainer (fit wise), but if I already find the GR06 sibilant I don’t know that the GR07 is right for me. Are there any other IEMs you could recommend that have a similar ergonomic fit, sound great with shallow insertion and not quite so sibilant (everything is relative I know but any recommendation from you would be helpful nonetheless). Thanks!

    • The GR06 and GR07 are quite similar in terms of sibilance. If you want to cut down, you may consider the Sony MDR-7550, which looks freaky but can be worn shallowly and is nicely balanced in terms of sound, maybe just a touch laid-back up top. The same goes for the Brainwavz R3, but it’s a little harder to fit.

      A bassier option is the JVC FXT90. It’s not as compact as the GR06 but it sounds fine with a shallow fit and the treble is bright, but not sibilant.

      If you want something more balanced and less expensive, the UE600 and especially (as far as shallow insertion goes) the SteelSeries Flux Pro might be good options. The Flux Pro is a little warmer but both are nicely balanced BA earphones that are also comfortable.

  18. i am intrested in soundmagic e10 but i heard that es 18 has almost same driver at less than half the price of e10?please review es 18.

  19. hi joker,

    hi hopefully this thread is still active :) i just received my mh1c, the bass and detail was great but i just felt that the soundstage is too narrow for my taste and treble was not crispy enough (which i miss from my now broken soundmagic e30) so im looking for an upgrade

    my priority would be an open and airy sound with above average to WIDE SOUNDSTAGE, WARM sound signature, with CRISPY but non sibilant treble, and LOUD enough for smartphone listening. bass should be moderate to a bit bassy but not necessarily basshead as long as theres a good mid-bass hump, as long as it responds to my android phone equalizer. iem doesnt have to be polite and neutral and accurate as long as sound is very clear and detailed. btw isolation, comfortability and microphonics arent exactly my priority, just sound quality

    i listen mostly to EDM and contemporary pop.

    how bout vsonic gr07 BE? (i know where i can get a used one for around $110)
    my budget is around $70-120

    thanks a lot!

    • The GR07 BE does tend to expose sibilance and it’s not all that warm, not like the MH1C (earphones with decently strong treble generally aren’t very warm). The Xiaomi Pistons 2.0 remind me of an MH1C with more crisp treble and a more open presentation, though they also have slightly more bloated bass. The LG Quadbeat is another good option for a wide soundstage, but you’ll have to equalize the bass if you need as much as the MH1C has. Both are cheap enough to try and see if they work for you before risking something pricy like the GR07 BE.

  20. ZetanBloodline

    Hi there, I’m looking for a new set of IEMs. I’ve had two pairs of the Meelec A161P, both returned. I really did like the sound of these, but the build quality let them down. Both sets developed splits in the wiring at the strain relief. Review here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/review/R1W3DRMQ0D4GFN/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm

    I’ve currently got a set of the Meelec DD53P-BK M Duo Dual. Why I bought another Meelec set of IEMs, I do not know, I guess I like them and I think I was in a hurry when I bought them. The build quality is better, but is somewhat let down by the sound. I have a budget of around £100 – £150 GBP, but would like to spend a bit less.

    I usually listen to rock, metal, death metal, soumetimes house, trance.. etc, and I’ll be mainly using them with my Galaxy S3 phone, although I do also own a Cowon J3 which has been unfortunately relegated to the drawer as an extra gadget I don’t really need to carry around.

    I would appreciate some informed suggestions. Thanks, ZetanBloodline

    • If you’re willing to give up a little bit of bass quantity of the A161P, you can get the Etymotic HF5 for only a little more. It uses a similar driver (Knowles ED) with ~equivalent technical performance but is tuned for a slightly more flat/reference sound. The Etys have pretty good cabling, Kevlar-reinforced if I remember correctly. On the pricier end, the TDK BA200 is quite good – somewhat warmer and more smooth than the A161P, but still very accurate. Not sure how good the headphone jack of the S3 is but if it’s not great, a single-driver, crossover-less earphone might be the safer option for audio quality.

      • ZetanBloodline

        I’ve been away at a festival this weekend, only just got back online. I’m going to have a look at those you’ve suggested and maybe save a few ££s. I’ll try and get back with what I decided to buy. Thank you for your reply.

  21. Hi sir, i’m not a person who has deep knowledge about how good an in-ear headphone is but i really love listening to music. I can say that i am a heavy user since i always use it for commuting, when i take a walk, ride my bike and even when i am sleeping.
    What i’m looking for an in-ear headphones are of course good quality of sound and i dont want those heavy bass, durable for my heavy everyday use and i am also looking for those with microphone and volume controls with those options of having to next a track/back from 1 track/pause/play etc.
    I’m willing to spend up to $100
    TIA! :D

    • Assuming the volume control you want is for an Apple (iPod/iPhone/iPad) device, you have a couple of decent options. The UE600 (http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/ultimate-ears-ue-600-600vi/) is a personal favorite for balanced sound but doesn’t have the greatest durability. The Etymotic MC3 has a more “intrusive” fit but still sounds very balanced and should be more durable in the long run compared to the UE. Both have 3-button remotes.

      • Yes, you are correct. I’ll be using it mostly for my iPhone and iPad.
        Nice recommendations, i’ll look up to it.
        Btw, i’ve heard Sennheisers have in-ear phones made for iPhone. Do you recommend it? I think it’s the mm30i and mm70i correct me if im wrong as i dont clearly remember what my friend said to me. And if possible could you please give me a brief overview about Sennheisers products, are they durable, sound quality wise? Cos i’ve heard a lot from my friend about it being that and this and i was just curious if what he’s saying is true. TIA!

        • I haven’t tried those particular ones but in my experience entry-level Sennheiser products are generally quite good, but fall short of amazing. They’ll do the job, but don’t quite have the value-for-money of some of the more niche products.

  22. With a budget of say $200-250, what would be a good IEM for someone who primarily listens to EDM and J-pop?
    Had a Wooduo 2 which i loved, but unfortunately it got misplaced.
    Thinking of trying something new, the Wooduos had this really “fun” sounding feel, maybe something with a balanced signature?

    • My go-to recommendation for EDM is the Yamaha EPH-100. It just has an awesome blend of deep, impactful bass, smoothness, spaciousness, and all-around good sound quality for EDM. It’s definitely still a “fun”-sounding earphone, but coming from a Wooduo2 I’m not sure if going with a balanced set is the right move for an EDM listener.

      That said, if you want to take a step in the accuracy direction without getting something with a flat response or losing the fun factor completely, go for the Dunu DN-1000. While more expensive and less bassy than the EPH-100, it brings clarity and treble energy that the Yamahas can’t quite offer.

  23. Hi ljokerl,
    I have the sennheiser cx300 (I’m not sure about the model because they are branded Creative) and I listen principally techo/trance in the office and my source are not very hi-fidelity (mp3 and youtube).
    I’m not interested in mic and I prefer wear straight down.
    I have a budget of no more than 80/100$.
    Could you give me 2 or 3 earphone suggestion?
    Thanks

    • Depends on what you want in terms of sound signature. The CX300 is a warm and bass-heavy earphone with somewhat laid-back treble. I’ve arranged my four suggestions below in order from most similar to most dissimilar. The most similar earphone I’d recommend is the Dunu DN-23 Landmine. It doesn’t have the best clarity, but it has a bassy and smooth sound that’s very forgiving. The ATH-CKM500 also boasts very good bass but has more treble presence for a more energetic sound overall. I quite liked it for EDM and it’s a great value at $50-60.

      Next are two more hi-fi sets – the JVC HA-FXT90 and JVC HA-FXD80. The FXT90 has good bass presence and bright, crisp treble, still with a warm overall tone. It has better soundstaging and midrange quality than the CKM500. It runs on the expensive side at about $100, though. The FXD80 is brighter and clearer, but has less mid-bass than the other sets mentioned and is overall more treble-tilted. It still has good bass depth, however, and I enjoyed it quite a bit with EDM.

  24. Hi, I’m from argentina and was thinking about buying from ebay or amazon and ship it.
    What’s your experience with fakes of not so common earbuds?
    I’m a bit scared because there are lots of fakes of sennheiser and even klipsch (currently own a pair of s4 bought here).
    I’m liking the shure se215 or the HiSoundAudio Crystal, do you know any online shop that can be trusted? ( I wouldn’t mind paying 20 extra bucks just to be at ease)

    • Really depends on the model, but I think you’re safer buying less popular earphones. I really doubt the Crystal has fakes – it’s just not popular enough. You can also get them from well-known ebay sellers such as bigbargainsonline: http://bit.ly/1qcUJUS . Those are legit for sure.

      • Thanks for the help! also very nice work here, really appreciate the effort comparing so many models. I’m going to go for the shure, which I can get in amazon (no third party seller), with amazon being authorized retailer.

  25. Looking for some advice,

    Looking for my first set of good iem’s for everyday use (work, commuting etc)

    listen to alot of music, musical interest would be varied, rock, electronic, classical, ambient, small amount of rap

    Have been looking at the GR07 CCE, RHA MA750, TDK Ba200 and few others (so many out there). I have around 100-150 euro to spend,

    Have you any suggestions on which would be best suited or any others suggestions

    Cheers

    • If you don’t have concrete sound signature preferences yet, I would recommend starting with something that’s not too flat/analytical, but also not super bassy. The GR07 strikes a good balance and I recommend it often for this type of request. It’s not the smoothest-sounding earphone but it does well with most genres. You can also start with the VSD1S if you want something with a similar signature but much more inexpensive.

      Generally speaking, the RHA MA750 is a good start if you already know that you like heavy bass, and the BA200 if you know you like more balanced, more Hi-Fi sound signatures.

    • Hi |joker|,

      I’d like to first thank you for compiling the comprehensive list of IEM reviews. I’ve been following the thread (since 2012?) for a few years now and I direct my friends to your thread whenever they need to make headphone purchase decisions!

      I purchased the Yamaha EPH 100 due to your recommendation. I have 0 complaints about them; I’ve had them since summer of 2012 and I literally wear them everywhere – commute, working out, studying, etc. Still in great shape but I lost them a few days ago </3 … so it's time to invest in a new pair.

      I listen to mostly edm, indie/alternative, deep house — and occasionally jazz and classical. Isolation is important as I commute a lot and the bass in EPH 100 is suffice for me. I've also come to appreciate its wide soundstage a lot (but then again I've only had experience with a handful of mid-level earphones). Based on this, would you recommend HiSoundAudio Crystal, TDK BA200, HiFiMan RE400, Shure SE215…. or re-purchase of EPH 100?

      Thanks in advance and your help is greatly appreciated! :)

      • Thanks, glad the reviews have been helpful! Thanks for spreading the word among your friends as well.

        The EPH-100 is still among my favorites for EDM. There are a lot of earphones that can match its soundstage size, but not many that can do that AND bring the bass. Out of the ones you’re considering, the RE-400 and BA200 are the most balanced and have significantly less bass than the EPH-100. Not sure these are suitable for what you want. The Crystal and SE215 come next, with good bass punch (still not as good as that of the EPH-100), but with overall sound quality that I still wouldn’t put on-par with the Yamahas.

        In terms of sound signature and overall performance, the two other sets you might consider are the JVC FXT90 and RHA MA750. They are both enhanced-bass earphones with signatures that I find suitable for EDM. Whether you will like their sound as much as that of the EPH-100 is unknown, but they are the closest competition, isolation aside.

  26. Thanks for posting this, very helpful for a relative novice like myself.

    I wondered if you could recommend a few pairs of earphones for listening to predominantly spoken word audio (talk radio, audiobooks)? I’m considering buying either several pairs of cheap phones (eg Philips SHE3590) or one pair that seems more durable than most (eg RHA MA750) – any advice re this would also be appreciated.

    • I wouldn’t spend more than $60-70 for that purpose. If you’re willing to spend that much, I would focus on getting something with very high vocal intelligibility – I would recommend the Ultimate Ears 600, Fidue A63, Etymotic MC5, Brainwavz M1, or VSonic R02 Silver, depending on the additional features you want.

      As a cheap option the 3590 will be fine – clarity is good and it’s very small and comfortable.

      • Thanks for the suggestions, will check them out. Not noticed any of them while looking online apart from the Etymotics. Liked most of what I read about them but was put off by several people having said they’re a bit fragile (I’m a bit fed up of having to replace phones every 6 months due to loss of sound in one ear).

        Wouldn’t normally have considered Philips – every pair of Philips over-the-ear phones I’ve had have failed in one ear within just a few months – but might give the 3590s a try seeing as they’re so cheap. If I could find cables only half as durable as Howard Leight Sync headphones I’d be more than happy!

  27. What are multi driver iem’s like two driver or three driver and also what is a balanced armature iem?

  28. Can you please explain sound signature of headphones?what is v shape and u shape signature

    • This is a topic that warrants much more coverage than a comment to explain fully but, in brief, both of those refer to a response curve where both the bass and treble are lifted in comparison to the midrange. The differences between “V” and “U” are as you would expect – “U” shaped typically has a pretty flat “middle” and some lift at the lower and upper ends of the spectrum. A “V” shape would have a more recessed/scooped-out midrange. I personally don’t usually bother making the distinction, since my reviews are (hopefully) detailed enough to explain how mild/severe the emphasis is.

  29. But what do you think from your own experience?

  30. Kindly explain burn in. Is it a real thing or just a myth ?will just playing music for hours properly burn the headphones?

    • It really depends on who you ask. My personal opinion is that whatever effects there are, they are negligible compared to all of the other variables that go into the audio chain in most cases. Plus, it’s not like you can avoid burn-in, so there’s no need to worry about it from the consumer’s standpoint.

      If you want to read a more objective take on this, I quite like Tyll’s IF article here: http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/evidence-headphone-break

  31. Hi
    I’m looking to upgrade from my now defunct Thinksound TS 02′s. I really liked the easy, warm balance of these that let me listen to them for hours on end, but I’m aware that they’re not the ultimate in clarity or detail. Before that I had a pair of Shure SE 530′s which I found quite clean, but boring and thin in the bottom end. So my taste does tend somewhat toward the warm, smooth side, but not at “bass head levels” For example, I can’t stand the sound of the Velodyne V-pulses, finding them way too overblown on the bottom end.
    So far, based on your reports, I’m attracted to a couple of models; these being the Dunu DN 1000 or Vsonic GR07BE. These would be at the high end of my price range, and I’m open to anything up to this price level but not higher. Any suggestions?
    Thanks.

    • The DN-2000 and GR07 BE are great earphones that have more engaging sound than the SE530s but definitely not as exceedingly bassy as the vPulse. However, I wouldn’t call either one of them smooth in the way the SE530 and TS02 are – they are both brighter and more energetic at the top end. If that’s something you think you can live with, I’d probably go DN-1000 over the GR07 as it’s a better match for the ThinkSounds’ signature.

      By the way, if you want to sample a sound very similar to the GR07 BE on the cheap, you can grab the VSonic VSD1S – that way you’re not committing $200 to something you’re not sure you will like and you’ll have a very decent $50 earphone to use as a backup whether you love the sound or not.

  32. Hi there,

    thumbs up to ur really great work.. :)
    i have 2 question…
    1) which one of the following is most forgiving to low bit rate files?
    dunu dn1000, vsonic gro7 be, eph100, Fischer Audio DBA-02 mkII and rha ma750i
    i am asking this because i have few 128-160kbps mp3s and i love them a lot and unable to any there audio cd in market.
    it would be great if u would order them accordingly.
    2) which one would u say has both (a)most textured and deep bass (not enhanced though) (b) clear treble (but not overly harsh) ?
    again it would be great if u would order them accordingly. :)

    • 1) The RHA MA750 or Yamaha EPH-100. Depends on whether you’re more sensitive in the low treble (where the MA750 has more presence) or the high treble. I’d probably go for the Yamaha. The others cannot be called forgiving by any stretch.

      2a) The MA750 and EPH-100 both have heavily enhanced deep bass, with the DN-1000 not too far behind. The GR07 BE probably offers the best balance of detail/texture and presence despite the fact that it rolls off a little compared to the three above. The DBA-02 is very detailed/textured but its bass is likely too light for someone concerned with bass texture.

      2b) I would take the DN-1000 for treble quality – it’s a little smoother than the DBA-02 and GR07 but still has the clarity that the more bass-tilted EPH-100 and MA750 lack.

      • okay, so RHA MA750 or Yamaha EPH-100 are the only forgiving ones among those….how much will i be missing out (or what part of spectrum) if i opt for RHA MA750 (i dont want to go with EPH-100 as the build quality at strain relief and wires are questionable…correct me if i am wrong) instead of DN-1000 as the later has more score in your review?

        and 1 stupid question is forgiving nature of iems just the opposite of resolving nature?

        • With the MA750 you’re giving up some clarity and bass control compared to something like the DN-1000 – it just boomier and more veiled than the Dunu. Not by much, but a noticeable amount.

          Oh and forgiving/unforgiving is mostly limited to the treble region while resolution can refer to any part of the spectrum, so they’re not necessarily opposites. Something can also have poor resolution AND be unforgiving at the same time.

          • alright i dont want to give up anything specially clarity ;) and thanks for clearing that up (y)
            sorry for my questions are getting stupider… :P

            i should be back to DN-1000 then….will they really beat the crap out of the “low bit rate files” or just dont wow me like the flac ones? :/
            also say a nicely (or even averagely for that matter) mastered recording is compressed to low bit rate then does that introduce artifacts into it or they just lose few/considerable amount of detail???

          • I don’t have too many 128k mp3s in my collection and the ones I have aren’t the most compressed-sounding, but the DN-1000 works okay wtih them. I don’t hear low-bitrate mp3s as flat-out losing detail, but they can lose a lot of air and just sound congested. My personal lower limit, generally speaking, is 192k.

  33. Hi, I am looking to buy a good pair of earphones. My only major earphone purchase was the Klipsch image S4 and was completely impressed by them. So since S4 is a bass centric IEM, I am looking for similar but better sounding earphones than S4. I am willing to go upto $150. So if you have any suggestions regarding any pair that would sound warm and bass-oriented. After some (only) research I have shortlisted the following earphones. I am not exactly a basshead ( i think) but i love listening to big roomy and wider soundstage oriented music (if that makes any sense)

    Sony XBA c10 ip
    Meelectronics 151
    AKG K 376
    Velodyne Vpulse
    VSonic gr06
    Monster Turbine
    TDK BA 200 (i think they’re not bassy but ive heard a lot of good things aboutem)

    I mostly listen to EDM, alternate rock and sometimes classical.

    Please suggest which ones should i go for. If none of these are worth (very much impossible coz of the praise they have got) then please suggest any other sub $150 pair.

    All the research I have done is online as I live in India and no store has a good variety of earphones here. So please dont suggest to try them at the store as i cant.

    Cheers

    • I wouldn’t call the A151, C10, or GR06 bassy or bass-oriented either, not by a stretch. If you’re willing to live with something that’s not bass-heavy, the BA200 will wipe the floor with these anyway.

      As for the rest, the Turbine is about 4 years old now and a little outdated, and the vPulse/K376 are decent if you’re paying less than $100 for them but not a sizable step up from the S4.

      Why not go for one of the more modern bass-heavy earphones such as the Yamaha EPH-100 (my go-to EDM recommendation), the RHA MA750, or the JVC FXT90? Unless they are not available in your country, of course.

      • Thank You very much for your reply. I searched for your three recommendations and found that only the Yamaha is available for $200 which is way higher than my budget. However I may go for this if i dont find another good alternative. And if I have to go for a sub $200 earphone, many other earphones such as the Gsonic Gr07 (bass edition) also fall in the category. Please tell me what do you think of it.

        One more thing. What do you think of Fidue A63?

        Thanks!!

        • The GR07 BE and A63 do not have as much bass as the EPH-100 or S4. If you’re okay with that, the GR07 is a step up from the others mentioned except the BA200.

          • Hey!!

            Finally got my Yamahas today… and boy they look so premium! About the sound quality its very very good, and i’m sure 50 odd hours of burn-in will make them sound even better. The only sad thing is that I overlooked the “Nozzle-mounted driver” which is terrible for my ears as apparently I have narrow ear canals. because of the this the isolation is almost non-existent (unless i push and hold it there with my hands). Haven’t opened the rest of the package yet to find if they have smaller tips that may help.

            Or else i’ll have to buy replacement tips that can fit smaller ear canals. Please help me with some links if possible as to where i can find the tips that fit into the EPH-100.

            Thanks!

          • Eartips sized for a 5.5mm nozzle can be stretched on the EPH-100 pretty easily. This variety pack from MEElec might be a good place to start: http://www.meelec.com/MEElectronics_Original_Eartips_for_M11_Earphones_p/tipset10-m11-bk-mee.htm

  34. Hi, really nice list! I’m thinking of getting RE-400 or GR07, but I’m unsure of which one to get since their prices are very similar now that GR07 classic is available. Which one would be a better option if I enjoy listening to all sorts of music. Thanks

  35. I am currently using rp hje 120 and es 18 and want an upgrade i am looking for cx 300 because of good reviews.will it be good choice and better than above two?

  36. Hey great list!

    Have been using the Brainwavz M3s for years now, recently got the RE 400s but I find them lacking that “surrounding bass” feel & can be very harsh/sibilant.

    The SE125 was one of my original options but somehow got persuaded towards the RE400s, very detailed but any hint of surrounding bass is drowned out by city/train noise, leaving only a harsh sound.

    Have got the option to return the RE400s, would the SE125 be better good option?

    • SE215 lel

      • If your RE-400 has more treble and more sibilance than your M3 you might want to double-check your seal. Sounds like they may not be fully sealed in your ears.

        The SE215 is bassier than the RE-400 so it’s got that going for it. The treble is pretty smooth but not really smoother than the HiFiMan set. However, if the RE-400 is not sealing in your ears and the SE215 does, you’ll obviously get a better experience out of the Shure. Another good option (if you can handle its j-cable) is the Sony MH1C. Very smooth and bassier than the RE-400 by a good amount.

  37. Hello, I’m impressed with the reviews made upon! :D
    I would like to know more about final audio heaven ii, is that a good deals?
    Thank you for your reviews! Much more appreciate !

    • Unfortunately I haven’t tried the Heaven II. The last Final Audio release that I have tried was the Adagio III, and I was somewhat disappointed with it.

      • Oh I see…thanks anyway!!
        Was trying to get a detailed and quite balanced IEM , bass can be mild too,
        And curious about final audio review on the web…hope that next time u have the time for it! Haha!
        Is micro phonic means ,sounds that we heard after wear the earphone?
        Thanks again !

  38. ME-WANT-IEM-NOW

    Hi Joker.
    Have you ever reviewed the Sony MDR IEM line? I’m talking about the DREX61lP IEM.
    If you can, go ahead and give them a try! I’d like to see your input on how they fare against similarly priced competing IEMs.

    • ME-WANT-IEM-NOW

      I’d also like to add that: The aforementioned IEMs shorted on me a bit back. I’d like to find something with similar sound quality and price (within $40), with an in-line mic which isn’t completely necessary but is a great bonus if included.

      • I have only tried the MDR-EX1000/EX600/EX300 and the MDR-7550.

        Lots of great earphones with a mic at $40 but I can’t say how they will compare to your EX61. Check out the LG Quadbeat F420, for example.

  39. can you help me decide between Yamaha EPH-100 and GR07BE? i know they both sound good for the price within my budget,, i prefer a punchy bass and really good soundstage..thx in advance :)

    • Very different bass quantity – if you want deep, heavy-hitting, significantly emphasized bass, go for the Yamaha. If you want somewhat better punch compared to a true neutral earphone but aren’t willing to give up much in the way of accuracy and balance, go for the GR07 BE. The GR07 BE has a wider soundstage.

      • hmm how do Jaybird BlueBuds X compare to gr07be? whats the diff?
        btw i’m owning Klipsch Image S4, what sound signature type it fall into?…i’m new to this ^^’

        • I’ve only tried the BlueBuds once and wasn’t too impressed. It’s not bad for a bluetooth set but I don’t think it’s as good as the Sony SBH80 (http://theheadphonelist.com/sony-sbh80-review-mh1c-goes-wireless/), never mind the GR07.

          The S4 is v-shaped – lots of bass, thin, widthdrawn mids, and prominent, sometimes harsh treble.

          • ok thx, i’ll go with gr07be then…what can i expect from it coming from the s4?

          • Depends on a lot of factors… a trained listener under good conditions (good source, good quality music files, etc) will find a pretty big difference in overall accuracy. Elements that are “missing” with the S4 because its mids are recessed or its bass/treble are too strong will come into focus with the GR07. Instruments will be laid out more naturally, with more “space” between individual instruments.

            If the GR07 is your first higher-end earphone you may not notice a big difference at first (some people have an easier time of getting into Hi-Fi than others) but if you put the S4 aside temporarily and then go back to it after a week or two with the GR07, chances are it won’t sound very good to you anymore.

  40. Stuck between SoundMagic E10 , VSD/S 1 and Signature Acoustics C12 !!
    Which one shall i buy ??

    • If you want heavy bass – the C12. If you want reasonably balanced sound with smooth treble – the E10. If you want moderately enhanced bass (more than E10 but less than C12), better clarity, and strong, energetic treble – the VSD1S.

  41. Cracking list & reviews joker, has helped me a lot! Have you by any chance got hold of the Grain Audio IEHP yet? Any views?

  42. Hi ljokerl,

    Thank you so much for all the useful reviews. Previously I was using Westone UM1 until the cable failed me. I was looking for a IEM with replaceable cable but the price would be very high. I did try Shure 215 and do not like the it coz I feel a lot of detail went missing. For my budget around 200, I supposed I will forgo the replaceable cable. I would prefer a more balanced and detail IEM and so I read around your review. Now I’m stuck between ER4PT, DBA-02 MKii and TDK BA200 (which you recommend to one of the guy in the comment section). Which of it would you recomment?

    • Those are all very good earphones – the ER4 and DBA-02 being brighter and more “analytical” and the BA200 being a little warmer and more full-bodied. If durability is a concern, though, I would definitely go with the Etymotics, and you certainly won’t miss any detail with those.

  43. After seeing reviews i think these are good iem’s (Vsonic VC1000, Vsonic GR07 MKII, Rock it R-50 , DUNU DN1000) within 125$.i dont know which one to buy… Please tell me which one you will go for or would u suggest me a good headphone within125$.. i will buy that without any second thoughts.. thanks…

    • If you can get a DN-1000 for $125 I’d go for that. Otherwise it really depends on the type of sound you’re after – lean and accurate – go for the VC1000 or R-50 or Etymotic HF5 (my preference is the VC1000). A little more bass and warmer tone, but still quite accurate – the GR07 mkII or GR07BE. Even more bass and warmth – Yamaha EPH-100 or RHA MA750.

  44. Hi Joker,

    It looks like you’re sidestepping the GR06s. Are they not as good as they used to be? I might just have lost my pair and am looking for something as good if not better. I record, mix and produce, so I’ve grown quite fond of the warm, balanced signature.

    Any recommendations?

    • The GR06 is still pretty good but I personally prefer the even more inexpensive VSD1S to it. It’s more v-shaped in sound signature but also more open and un-congested. There are a couple of good newer options for warmer-sounding sets as well, such as the SteelSeries Flux and the new Fidue A63, but if you really liked the GR06 I’d probably just get another one.

      • Okay. My budget has increased a little making room for the RHA MA750s. How do you think these compare to the GR06s …and the RE-400?

        • If you want balanced, or even warm-and-balanced, the MA750 is probably not the right choice – too much bass, and not enough midrange presence compared to the GR06 and RE-400.

  45. Hi Ljokerl, love spending time looking at your in-depth reviews. So helpful when eliminating choices and categorizing. I have been using Audio Technica CK90pro for a few years and am really used to the “monitor” sound of it. Whenever I try out headphones at retailers they always sound harsh and brassy (sibilant?) to me comparatively speaking. I was thinking about the TDK BA200 or Fischer DBA-02. Do these sound like a good step up or aside or whatever for a CK90pro user? I tried all the new Audio Technica headphones out and the new over-ear hump designs make putting them on a real pain. What about Westone products? Or any other IEM in the neighborhood? Thanks for the great work and website.

    • The Westone 2 and TDK BA200 would both be good options for a CK90Pro fan – they’re not as smooth up top, but much more so than the DBA-02 and similar. They are a touch warm in tone, but nothing drastic. I’m a big fan of the BA200 especially.

      Also, have you considered trying a dynamic driver? The HiFiMan RE-400 doesn’t sound like a monitor, but it’s a smooth earphone without being tonally dark. I think it’s a very good – and inexpensive – compliment to the CK90Pro.

      • Hi Ljokerl, just wanted to report today I purchased a pair of BA200′s (for only about $120US) and couldn’t agree more with your analysis. They’re like a bright CK90pro, but still have that in-the-studio kind of feel. Overall, I’m quite sure these will be quite enjoyable to listen to. Bright, but just right. Not fatiguing in the least, but you get more of that waveform and sound which is clipped a bit in the CK90pro.

        • Good deal, glad you like them!

          • Hi, have a question about your recommendation for ear tips. I find these earphones need insertion at a certain depth and angle to get full sound. I’m having a little bit of a difficult time with Comply tips. I think they need a longer tip so that you don’t have to push them right up against the outer ear. Do you think the Westone STAR tips will likely resolve this issue? I see they’re sold in a multi-pack for best fit. Thanks for your time.

          • Indeed, I ended up preferring these with the STAR tips and then the Earsonics double-flange tips, which both position the housings a bit farther out in the ear: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/tdk-ba200/

            The STAR tips I use are the longer ones with the red core but getting the variety pack is probably best.

          • Yep, same Westone red STAR tips did the trick. Luckily I live about a 10 minute walk away from about 10 headphone shops in my city so getting the tips didn’t take any time at all (Yeah, being that close is a bit dangerous as well!) Comfortable, and finally the bass is extended (Initially I thought that the bass was a bit anemic but now it’s well balanced, good clarity and punch) and good isolation. Great call, again! It’s funny how independent websites such as yours kill mainstream audio websites in information accuracy and actually educating consumers on the best products. They really are falling behind. Cheers!

          • Must not be in the US. Glad the STAR tips work for you, too!

            Thanks :)

          • Yep, in Asia, where they always clump the same kind of shops along the same street. Kinda makes sense to do it this way, though.

  46. Hi iJOKER
    really impressed with ur knowledge regarding IEMs. I am an entry level earphone enthusiast trying to find high quality budget IEMs. But I would like you to please categorize for us, the DEVICES (mp3 players) which reproduce excellent sound. To name the few its WALKMAN series from sony, IPOD from apple, and Galaxy player from samsung.
    Thankx in advance

  47. Hey joker
    Just looking for some info, I’ve had klipsch s4s, gr06, and gr07mkii. Recently my gr07 crapped out and I can’t seem to get any assistance from lendmeurears or vsonic. Anyways I’m looking to get a new iem that will have a bit more bass than the gr07 but keep the same clarity, but I don’t want vsonic due to warranty issues. I was looking at the yamahas EPH-100 but would value your opinion.

    • You’ll lose a little clarity with the EPH-100 – it’s a lot bassier than the GR07, too. Same goes for the EPH-100. Honestly, if you can swing it, the Dunu DN-1000 is likely your best bet for a non-VSonic product with comparable clarity but a little more bass than the GR07.

      • I could probably do vsonic again if there was a worthy option. After looking at the dn-1000 it looks good pretty good but I feel it will be the same issue if there is a warranty concern being only in china. Open to all and my suggestions by the way but really don’t want to spend more than 250-300. Thanks again great info.

        • Well, a GR07 mkII with more bass and similar clarity is the GR07 Bass Edition – pretty much by definition. Another option for that type of sound from a US company would be the Westone 3 if you can find one in your budget from an authorized reseller (for warranty purposes). I know they went for less than $200 back when Westone first announced they were discontinued.

  48. Hello Joker!

    I have an RHA-MA750 and I am quite satisfied, but I miss a bit the highs and details of my previous GR07BE. So I am thinking about getting a second IEM. I did not like the harshness and sibilance of the GR07 so its not an option. What do you think about RE-400? I liked the GR06 btw, I guess the Hifiman is better in most ways. I cant buy an ultimate IEM (or it would be too pricey) so I will buy one more IEM beside my RHA, which is very sturdy and ideal for commuting, but on the other hand, I miss a bit the great vocals and detalis.. I will use my i4 as source, thats why I dont really consider a pricey multi driver IEM. RE-400 worth its price beside RHA or any other recommendation?

    Thanks ;)

    • The RE-400 would make a very good compliment to the MA750. You could also get something more BA-based if you want an even bigger contrast – an Ety HF5 for example. It’ll have less bass than the RE-400 but with a good seal its treble is not sibilant and it provides an extremely detailed sound.

      • Only problem I heard that its really flimsy.. Is it much better than VSD1(S)? I just wanna get some IEM which is better for vocals and highs, better clarity. I dont need good bass, because I know there is no ultimate solution in this 100-200 USD price range (maybe except GR07BE, which I had and was too harsh and sibilant), so it would be a second IEM for therese purposes under 100USD. :)

        • I tried the DN-1000 as well, but the TWFK not for me, I did not like the highs.

          • The RE-400 is smoother than any VSonic product I’ve tried by a fair margin and has more focus on the mids and more natural vocals than the VSD1/S. Durability is probably part luck and part how you take care of them. I’ve not had a HiFiMan product fail on me yet but I’m aware that others have.

          • Thanks!
            And what about VC-1000 compared to these? :)

          • The VC-1000 is TWFK-based. If you didn’t like the upper half of the DN-1000′s response, I would not recommend it.

      • And what do you think in general abou the pricier Sony mdr ex 1000?

          • And what do you think, is it much better than the RHA-MA750? Is it worth the 3x price? What would be an upgrade from the MA-750, if I did not like the harshness of the GR07BE, DN-1000, but I would like to get more details.. What about Westone 4R? (the SE846 was impressive, but I would not spend over 400$)

          • I would not recommend the EX1000 if you found the GR07BE or DN-1000 to bright – it’s just not a “safe” earphone in that regard. The Sony MDR-7550 would probably be better as it’s like an EX1000 but with less treble presence. The W4R is good – not nearly as bassy as an MA750 but it’s got a lot more midrange presence and clarity. The EarSonics SM64 is good as well and about the same price, but with more bass than the Westones.

  49. Hi again. XD

    So since I’ll be getting the SHE3590 soon, I decided to save up for a higher tier (kinda?) earphone, somewhere around the $100-120 with good sound and build quality. After some browsing around, I narrowed it to the following:
    JVC HA-FXT90, HiFiMan RE-400, and RHA MA750. I’m liking the DN-1000 but it’s almost double the price than what I plan on saving up, haha.

    What would you recommend from those 3, or would you recommend something else? (I just realized they’re all from different sound signatures. lol) Coming from the VSD1, everything was great but I felt that the bass didn’t have much presence so I’m looking for something similar to the VSD1 but with better bass, not too much though. I’m kinda leaning towards the RHA 750 but looking forward to your inputs. (:

    Thanks again!

    • If you like the VSD1S I would actually say the FXT90 is a better option, but the MA750 is certainly nice as well. The FXT90 is no slouch in bass quantity but it’s only a little bassier than the VSD1. It has a more well-layered, dynamic, aggressive sound, though, with simialrly good treble sparkle. The MA750 on the other hand has a warmer and bassier sound than the VSonics by a fair margin and less overall treble energy.

  50. Hi ljokerl,
    Thanks a lot for all the efforts you have put into into these amazing reviews. I was mostly using IEM that use to come with phones apart from a sennheiser HD200 over the ear and was not satisfied. Googling into some of the indian forums led me to your reviews. I wanted listening pleasure, whether a V or Balanced didn’t matter. Based on your reviews I went for Hifiman RE-400, and true to every word you said its amazing. I am fully satisfied. Now here’s my question/worry:
    The headphone cables are pretty slim (upper cords) and I am afraid it might give away sooner than expected. Any suggestions ? or even if they get damaged is it possible to get some after markets

    • Glad you’re enjoying your RE-400!

      Regarding the cables, there’s really not much you can do short of treating them like the fragile piece of $100 electronics they are. The RE-600 has a thicker cable but also comes with a huge price premium.

      There may be ways to repair the cables, re-cable the earphones, or even install detachable connectors (e.g. by http://btg-audio.com) should something go wrong but I’ve never needed to. I still have my HiFiMan RE-ZERO from 2011 or so and it works fine, though I’ve been pretty careful with it.

  51. Hi joker, last I read your reviews was last year (Q3 2013) at head-fi.org and after hours of reading and having a ~$50 budget (equivalent to our local currency), I bought the VSD1 and was really satisfied with it. Sad to say that the right ear-piece has been defective recently, probably because of how I handle it.

    As a result of that, I’m back here, reading reviews on what to get next, I’m looking at 3 items here: Sony MH1C, Dunu DN-12 and SteelSeries Flux In-Ear.
    Do you think you can suggest something else that has a good build (mostly for the wiring) and sound quality? I’m at a budget of ~$50-$80. I listen to almost any genre of music, Game / Movie OSTs, Rock, Alternative, Pop / Pop Rock, Piano, Instrumentals, R&B, etc.

    • (Can’t edit) I forgot to add that I’m really new to this thing so I don’t know much what ‘Warm and Smooth’ or ‘V-Shaped’ means. I think I only understand Balanced and Bass. Haha.

      Thanks!

      • Well, the VSD1 that you enjoyed goes in the v-shaped category. The MH1C will have a little more bass (esp. deep bass) and less treble energy and sparkle. From everything I’ve read the Sony is also pretty durable in the long run. The Dunu will be similar but not as clear-sounding or extended.

        The Flux is a combination of the MH1C and VSD1 in sound – it has less bass than the MH1C but better subbass extension than the VSonic, with treble quantity that also falls between those two. It’s probably not as durable as the MH1C even though I’ve had no problems with my unit. If you can deal with its rubbery j-cord I think the MH1C is a good option, or maybe the Dunu DN-23 if it’s in your budget. It pretty much is an improved DN-12, just more expensive.

        • Thanks for the quick reply! I might get the MH1C but from what I’ve read in your reviews and around the web, the Dunu earphones have a pretty good build quality (so that certainly makes me want to try them) and the packaging + accessories are a great plus.

          Aside from your review of the DN-22M, what else can you say about them? I’ll be using them for smartphones, aside from plugging them to my PC, so the mic / button is going to get some use.

          How would you compare DN-22M, DN-23, DN-12 to the VSD1?

          Again, thanks!

          • The DN-23 sounds noticeably better than the DN-12 and DN-22M to me. It’s not quite as good as the MH1C, though. Compared to the VSD1 it won’t have the clarity or treble presence, and it’ll have significantly greater bass quantity but also sound boomier as a result.

          • I see, and once again, thanks for the quick reply. xD

            I forgot to mention that I commute a lot and usually put the wires between my shirt and undershirt so durability / build quality has a little bit of priority over sound quality, but not really that much. With that said, I think the DN-22M / DN-23 would be a good choice, but would it be worth it over the MH1C?

            On a side note, I’m getting a SHE5390 as a temporary replacement for my VSD1 since I still can’t find a local seller for the MH1C / DUNU, and I think it would take a few weeks if I buy them from Amazon or eBay.

            Thanks!

          • The MH1C might be hard to wear the way you wear earphones because of the flat j-style cable. With that consideration the DN-23 might be worth the extra $.

            P.S. I actually prefer the sound of the SHE3590 to the DN-22 and DN-12 so maybe it doesn’t have to be temporary.

  52. Hi Joker! I’ve been reading for a while your reviews and I absolutely like the professional way you do this. Thanks! I read most of the answers here but I have a (hope quick) question for you.

    I’m waiting for the Fiio X5 (it will be my first DAP after the creative zen vision:M 60gb of 2007!) and i still have my beloved Phonaks PFE 122.
    I mainly listen to Rock (Muse, Beatles, Pink Floyd, Flaming Lips, CCR etc.) and Jazz (Pat Metheny Group, EST and other ACT artists) and i’m not a basshead, just like a good amount of it.

    What should I be looking for to be an improvement from my PFEs? Price range is up to $250. Should I really change them?

    Thanks again!

    • Thank you :)

      This is a question I can ask right back at you – what are you looking to improve in your PFEs? They are pretty much top-tier universals, even by today’s standards. You can get a little more in the way of clarity and resolution with something like a VSonic VC1000 or better bass depth and impact while maintaining similar clarity in the midrange and treble with a Dunu DN-1000. However, if they are working well and you are happy with the sound, I honestly don’t see the need to spend money trying to upgrade.

      • Thank you for your patience and kind reply. As you can easily understand, I’m fairly new to the hi-fi world. I love the PFE 122 and spent a month in 2010 reading around before actually buying them and they still sound amazing. I think I’m looking for an IEM to let me enjoy music, maybe I’m looking for more separation, resolution and clarity.
        What do you think about the IM02 or IM03 compared to them? How does the Mids compare between the PFE and DN-1000? Lot of people are suggesting me the DN-1000 but I’m afraid of the V shaped sound. Your opinion is highly appreciated :)

        • I haven’t had a chance to try the IM02 or IM03. The DN-1000 cranks up the bass compared to the PFE122 (at least with the black and gray filters) which makes it sound a little more mid-recessed. What it does so well is maintain clarity and resolution in the midrange despite this. If you wanted to try something technically similar to the DN-1000 but with stronger mids and less bass, the VSonic VC1000 would be my choice.

          • I’ll keep in mind the Vsonic VC1000 and hopefully you will get to hear the audio technica sometime in the future. Thanks again for your replies, much appreciated!

  53. Hi ljokerl! First: thank you so much for all of your reviews! They have been so helpful for me and I have been pouring over them and making my own spreadsheets and notes for over 2 years now. However, I have still yet to find a pair that I really love.

    I listen to indie rock and pop/hiphop/dancey stuff (VBR 0 files). Especially when I listen at higher volumes, most headphones often sound “sharp” to me and I wince at certain songs. The kind of sound that I want is warm with plenty of bass; generally the lowest of low notes seem okay, but especially in the two I have now, I long for more fullness in the warm low parts (I am sorry I lack the fluency to describe this). I have owned/tried:

    Klipsch S4i – major meh, broke often
    Sony MDREX36V/BLK EX – okay for the price
    Logitech Ultimate Ears 600vi – okay
    MEElectronics A161P – okay
    Velodyne vPulse – did not like at all
    and the FiiO E1 Portable Headphone Amplifier – didn’t notice a difference in sound

    and since you posted this sound signature guide, I have:

    SteelSeries Flux – not bad, still “sharp” to me and I’d like a little more bass; broke after 3 months
    Sony MH1C – okay sound but not enough bass, very uncomfortable and constantly rotating out of my ears because of the stiff cord

    Can you recommend the next pair I should try? I want to spend $50-100, though will spend up to $200 for the perfect pair, and need at least a 1 button remote for an iphone.

    • It seems like what you’re after is a bass-heavy sound with a lot of upper bass presence resulting in a warm midrange, or what is sometimes referred t as “bloom”. At the same time you want very smooth treble. I’m surprised the MH1C didn’t work for you – it has more bass than most sets. Also, the requirement to have a remote is somewhat limiting but here are some you might consider:

      -Monster Turbine w/ControlTalk – can be found pretty cheap from Monster Outlet, has a warm sound with deep bass. Not more bassy than MH1C, though, unless you weren’t getting a good seal with the Sony.
      -Padacs Aksent – very cheap, lots of bass, and rich sound at the expense of very large drivers and housings. Seems to be out of production. You may be able to find a used one though.
      -Nuforce NE-700M – like the MH1C but with even more bass. Tubby housings aren’t the most comfortable, but not bad with the right tips
      -Dunu DN-22M – warm and bassy with a very rich sound but somewhat muddy overall compared to something like the Flux or MH1C

      I’m not 100% sure any of them are what you’re after but they’re definitely closer than anything else I’ve tried.

      • Thank you so much! I think I might like the sound of the MH1Cs, but they just will.not.stay set in my ears (which is not a problem I have with any of the other ones), making it hard to judge.

        I’ll order a couple of these using the amazon affiliate links and let you know.

  54. Your in depth knowledge of such a wide variety of iems is really amazing to say the least.

    Can you recommend something for me ? I recently purchased a Grado SR80i and really like the sound coming out of these and now I am looking for an iem with similar sound signature…sort of iem equivalent of the SR80i.

    Budget is around 100 bucks but can be stretched further if needed.

    Thanks a lot.

    cheers
    swash

    • This gets asked quite a bit and truth is the Grado signature is pretty unique and doesn’t really translate well into IEMs. Depending on what you’re prioritizing you can come pretty close but there will be tradeoffs. I used to recommend the Maximo iM-590 but it’s really showing its age these days. The MEElec A161P would be a good one if you wanted the clarity and strong midrange presence and were willing to give up a bit of treble reach, soundstage width, and bass body.

      • Hello
        I mainly listen to rap,r&b and sometimes rock.
        Which iem is better , rha ma-750i or dunu dn-1000 ?
        Vsonic gr07 BE is a very good option, but i think the build quality(cable) is not good enough.

      • Thanks for the recommendation. Actually I had re-400 and vsonic gr-07 in mind. How would you rate the sound signature of these two vis a vis the grados….like clarity and midrange emphasis. I can live with a little less bass if thats the tradeoff.

        • The RE-400 has a midrange emphasis but it sounds softer than any Grado headphone I’ve heard, with smoother upper mids/treble and more tactful bass. It doesn’t have the energy or the grit of a Grado headphone. The GR07 has more energy but no mid-range emphasis – in fact it leans a bit the opposite the way, towards a very mildly v-shaped signature. Other than the lack of in-your-face mids and slightly more sibilance-prone treble compared to Grados I think the GR07 is the better option of those two.

  55. Thank you very much, Joker, for this overview and all the work you put into the individual reviews. I believe that it saved me a lot of time searching for reliable information on IEMs, even though it definitely doesn’t feel like it at the moment. ;-)

    Unfortunately, I am a bit confused with my brand new pair of Brainwavz B2 – do these _really_ expose even the slightest amount of sibilance on a recording as mercilessly as I seem to hear it, or is it just me in combination with my perhaps crappy audio hardware? Certain recordings are rather uncomfortable to listen to, whereas others sound just perfect. I’m particularly unhappy with the fact that not only vocal sibilants (s, t, ch, st) stand out, but also certain cymbals of drum kits. I already consider returning the B2s and to exchange them for a pair of RE-400s…

    If you don’t mind, I’d like to ask for your opinion on my B2 “problem” (if it is one at all) and if you see any chance at mitigating it by technical means (different eartips [currently medium-sized stock oval single-flange], with/without amp, changing cabling, equalizing, whatever), because I like the overall sound of the earphones very much. It could be a tad bassier for my taste, but otherwise everything’s fine. If from the above you feel like I should replace them, but with something else, I’m open for any suggestion as long as it is available here in Germany.

    Thanks in advance for your time. :-)

    • In my experience there are quite a few factors that go into how much sibilance is reproduced.

      In order of decreasing consequence in my experience they are:

      IEM in question – the B2 is an unforgiving earphone, clearly, though it’s not necessarily the only factor in play here. Some earphones have cutouts in the frequency response designed specifically to reduce the occurrence of sibilance and some just work better because they have less overall treble energy or peaks centered on different frequencies. On rare occasion earphone A will sound more sibilant than earphone B on one track, only for the opposite to happen on a different track.
      Recording – very often albums are mastered with sibilance (including the cymbal artifacts you’re describing) already on the track. This is not just limited to 80s metal records – see for example many classic Simon & Garfunkel recordings or the Django Unchained soundtrack. Of course it’s not fair blame the recording for all cases of sibilance but if you only hear it occasionally this can be a strong consideration.
      Fit/ear tip choice – yes, eartips do make a difference – a poor seal is likely to exaggerate sibilance and some eartips can “soak” up a little bit of treble energy for an additional improvement. Definitely try as many as you can. Case in point – the Rock-It Sounds R-50 has a bit too much treble energy for me with all of the stock tips but works very well with triple-flanges.
      Source – some sources do tend to put across a little more energy than others but sources makes an especially big difference with armature IEMs like the B2 due to many of them having non-linear impedance. For example the treble of the Rock-It Sounds R-50, which has a similar driver to the B2, sounds better to me with an inline impedance adapter than in stock configuration. Recently someone commented that the Klipsch X10 sounds very different from a high-output impedance source than from a reference source: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/klipsch-image-x10-x10i/#comment-885 . In the case of TWFK-based earphones like the B2 my experience is that they don’t react positively to sources with non-negligible (above 2 Ohms or so) output impedance.
      Ear canal shape/size/residual volume – all other things equal there is still often disagreement on how much sibilance an IEM has. We know that insertion depth can affect frequency response in the upper mid/treble region, so it’s fair to say that the same IEM may have different amounts of sibilance for different listeners depending on how the IEM fits in their ears and how much residual ear canal volume is left.

      My suggestion – swapping them out for a more forgiving set like the RE-400 or TDK BA200 is the easiest solution but as an alternative see if you can eliminate any of the above variables with the B2 by experimenting with fit/source/recording.

      • Wow, now that’s what I call a comprehensive and all-encompassing reply. Thank you so much! Even more so, as it also answers several other questions I was interested in – seems like you also command the powers of divination. :-)

        I followed your advice and took another round-trip through the assorted eartips that came with the B2s and noticed that the Comply foam tips did indeed significantly reduce the sibilance. But still, not enough for my taste, which is why I decided to give the RE-400 a try. And voilà, here we go. With everything else unchanged, and used with the same source as before, they are indeed much more tolerant towards sibilance, which is almost completely gone now without losing too much of the B2′s clarity.

        I found that for me, the RE-400 have two additional advantages: one, they’re much more comfortable to wear due to their smaller size, and two, their metal housings do seal the sound much better so that almost nothing is audible on the outside.

        So let me thank you again for your advice and the time you took helping me educate myself on this topic, it’s really very much appreciated. At the moment it seems that I’ll be very happy with my choice. :-)

        Cheers, Arathorn.

        • One more thing to be said for the RE-400s is that they are very stable, so even if your source was interacting poorly with the B2, the RE-400 won’t have the same problem :).

          Glad you’re enjoying them!

  56. Fantastic review Joker. Looking to get my son a new pair of IEM’s below the 200.00 mark. His tastes are truly all encompassing. From Eric Clapton to the Dubliners, to Starbomb, to Metalocalypse, to CCR, to Nuclear Bubble Wrap. I have been leaning towards either the RBH EP-1 or the RE-400. Basically looking for a good earphone that works for all genre of music. The music will be played from a smartphone. Thanks in advance for your reccomendations.

    • The RE-400 is quite a lot more balanced/accurate than the EP1. If your son has had a previous introduction to balanced/accurate sound (and enjoyed it), the RE-400 is a great option. Otherwise something more bassy and exciting – something that will easily beat Beats (just as an example) on a level playing field – would do better. The EP1 is not one of my top picks but it’s a solid earphone with powerful bass, strong mids, and crisp, if slightly harsh, treble.

      There are a couple of options in between as well – earphones that somewhat enhanced bass punch but can still be considered balanced or near-reference, such as the VSonic VSD1/VSD1S, Philips Fidelio S1/S2, and the VSonic GR07 with its bass-heavy counterpart, the GR07 Bass Edition.

  57. igotdatboomboompow

    hey thanks for all the awesome reviews, really helps everyone out. i’m thinking of spending 200-250$ on an earphone, mainly listen to rock and metal. what do you think sounds better for those genres: gr07, dba-02, or dunu dn-1000? i’m also considering the er4. thanks again

    • Very different sound between those four – the DN-1000 is pretty bassy while the DBA-02 and ER4 and neutral and lean. If you’re not sure exactly what type of signature you’re after, I always consider the GR07 or GR07 Bass Edition to be a nice compromise – a clear, Hi-Fi sound that’s not analytical but still far from bass-heavy.

  58. Also what do you think of the triple fi 10?

  59. Hi let me start off by thanking you SO much for all you do. About 2 years ago I picked up some sennheiser CX300 II’s and absolutely loved them as they were my first decent pair of IEM’s. But sadly they are starting to lose sound in the left side so I decided it was time to upgrade (it’s also my birthday so its my present to myself) after a couple of days of research I found that the IEM that fit my price range of $200 to $300 and the genre’s of music I listen to (Pop and EDM) is the Westone w3.
    If you have any suggestions or comments they would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Andrew

    • The W3 is quite good – it’s a bit picky with fit but as long as you don’t mind its slightly v-shaped sound it’s a good value at current pricing. I can also recommend the Dunu DN-1000 hybrid for an even more lively sound at $200 (review coming soon). Tons of deep bass and bright, crisp treble on that. I expect it’ll make this guide as a recommended set :)

      • They seem to be perfect for what I want but I saw people said they are quite heavy. Are they uncomfortably heavy? Also is the isolation on them good?

        • Isolation is good – pretty similar to W3. They are a bit heavy because of the metal (stainless steel?) housings. They can be worn over-the-ear though to alleviate that problem and even come with some cable guides. I’d pick the W3 for wearing comfort but for sound I’d be tempted to go for the DN-1000 for your genres.

          • Are there any comply foam tips that work with this IEM? I was unable to find any online unless you’d recommend any other tips. Also how do you think the h-200 compares to this? If I was looking for something with a removable cable. (assuming they are worth it)

            sorry for all the questions and thanks for your help

          • The Comply T-200 fits super tight, the T-400 fits a touch loose. Both are usable on the DN-1000 though I’d rather use the T-400.

            I haven’t head the H-200 or the KEF IEMs.

  60. The Padacs Aksent has been retired from this Buyer’s Guide due to being out of stock for several weeks. The RHA MA750 (http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/rha-ma750-ma750i/) was added earlier this week in the “Warm and smooth” category over $100.

  61. Hey love the reviews. I’ve been pouring over a bunch of them trying to decide, but I figured why not ask. So the only decent headphones I’ve ever used are the ATH-M50′s. I like them a lot, but I would be open to something a little more refined. Whatever I choose I plan on using on the go as I do a lot of walking. Isolation is a little important, but I usually like to listen to music loudly, so as long as it’s not something open. I’ll be using an mp3 player, so something easy to drive. Lastly, I listen to a lot of different genres of music (Mainly indie, alt rock, edm, electronica, pop, equal parts male and female vocalists), so something that can be versatile is important to me. Look forward to any words of wisdom you can impart.

    Thanks,
    Devin

    • Budget is going to be an important consideration. Since you like the sound of the M50s the VSonic GR07 Bass Edition would be a nice versatile all-rounder to try (or you could get the cheaper VSonic VSD1S first to see if you like their sound or if the GR07 is above your budget). Isolation is pretty good with these VSonic sets and they have bass that’s neither excessive nor lacking in presence for most listeners (sort of like the M50) as well as good clarity and plenty of treble energy. Great place to start if you don’t have very specific sound signature preferences.

  62. I was thinking that Yamaha may have much bass.
    So I also like the RE-400, but may have little bass XD.
    Then I thought … the GR07 BE?
    If I had the money would go for the UM3X. but …
    Sorry for my English.

  63. Hello is impressive as your guide helps when we do not know which to choose.
    I have to change my soundmagic E10, I love their sound and I would like your opinion, to choose something better.
    I think by now I have given the Yamaha EPH-100

    • I guess it really depends on what you wanted improved compared to your E10. The EPH-100, for example, has a lot more bass (especially deep bass) and a warmer overall sound. As long as you don’t mind its bass quantity it’s certainly a very good earphone ;).

  64. hi ljoker, your review here is so impressive.

    In your mind, considering my previous IEM is vsonic GR02 Balanced, should I take vsonic VSD1, VSD1s, GR07, rockit R50 or shure SE215 as an upgrade?

    My GR02 broke a while ago, and though I really liked it I found the bass is a little too much for me (even if it’s not the Bass Edition) and the instrument separation is somewhat lacking. I am listening mostly to alternative/metal vocaloid songs which uses a lot of electronics, and I appreciate every bit of details on it. Oh and I actually love some bass, it’s just that my GR02 has a liiiittle too much.

    thanks in advance!

    • Unfortunately I haven’t tried the GR02 Balanced. I can imagine it sounds something like the original R02 (or rather, the R02ProII that I tried many years ago), which was a warmish sounding earphone but not as bassy/v-shaped as a GR02 Bass Edition.

      In any case to make sure that you have neither too much nor too little bass with good overall separation in my mind the GR07 is your best option. The rest are either too bass-heavy based on what I remember of the old R02, or likely too lean in the bass (R-50).

      • thanks ljoker

        and yes, GR02 is a very warm one — and the soundstage is so huge it’s like listening in a dome lol

        I’ll order GR07 right away, hoping the product is still around

  65. Thank you for the recommendations ljokerl. Custom art music one looks like a great value indeed!

  66. Hello ljokerl,

    Do you know an earphone/ headphone with tonality/FR similar to the Meelectronics A161p but has a better soundstage/imaging?? I love the tonality of the Meelectronics A161p but hate its ‘in the head’ presentation. A little more treble extension is an added bonus but should maintain the smooth but detailed treble with zero sibilance like the A161p.

    Thanks in advance!
    Cheers!
    Vel.

    • The A161P is pretty unique but here’s a few options:

      Custom Art Music One (~$250): a little less bright but smoother and more refined than A161P, with a bit more bass impact and a more full-bodied sound. Soundstage is more spacious as well.
      Ultimate Ears 900 (~$400): much larger soundstage, especially in terms of depth, bass is fuller, treble is less grainy and more extended. A little less presence in the upper midrange compared to A161P.
      “Budget” option: HiFiMan RE-400 ($99) – a bit different in sound signature but it is a little more spacious than the A161P and has better treble extension.

  67. Hi, loved the guide. I was wondering what iem to choose. I’m deciding between the klipsch s4i, hifiman re400, velodyne vpulse, and the Yamaha eph 100. I’m upgrading from the sol republic in ear jax, because I found the bass very ,muddy and there was a lot of distortion, thank you.

    • If you like enhanced bass the EPH-100 is definitely the best of those. Considering the quantity of bass it has (which is a lot), it’s really not muddy at all. If you’ve decided you don’t like enhanced bass anymore, then of course the flat and neutral-sounding RE-400 will give you a clearer and more accurate sound but coming from mainstream a set like the Sol Republic it will likely seem very bass deficient, at least at first.

      • Thanks! I’ve narrowed it down to the Yamaha eph 100 like you said and the velodyne vpulse, in terms of things like durability, comfort, isolation, etc. which one do u recommend? Sorry for all of these questions I just want to make sure. Thanks! :D

        • Oh and also in terms of sound and bass. Thanks!

          • Durability, isolation, bass, and overall sound quality the EPH-100 wins. The vPulse may be more comfortable if you’re not used to IEMs thanks to its ergonomic nozzle angle and shallow seal. Once you get used to it, the EPH-100 is definitely not bad, though.

  68. A tip for a buyers:

    Free web service for searching all of ebay locales at once:
    http://www.geo-ship.com

    Besides this it has many useful search filter that the official ebay.com does not have.
    Also there is an option to get notifications for your saved searches

    Highly recommended!!!

  69. This guide is fantastic! I wish I had found it sooner! I’m looking to replace my Klipsch S3s that went missing, and would like to find a pair under $100. I liked my S3s, and have also owned and enjoyed the VSonic GR02 those $8 Monoprice headphones that were surprisingly good. I use my Shure SRH 440 over-ear headphones at home, so I’d like to find something similar in signature (I love folk and alternative rock music, but also listen to country, blues, etc), that’s not too flimsy (my GR02s died on me). Any recommendations?

    • I’m not familiar with the SRH440 but it looks like you’ve enjoyed a variety of different sound signatures with your IEMs. The Monoprice is a lot more mid-focused while the S3 and GR02 (if you had the bass edition) are more v-shaped, emphasizing bass and treble. Which signature did you like best, or which do you want to move towards?

      • I really liked the GR02 (they were the bass edition, but I’d prefer not to buy VSonic again after the lack of response from their customer service), and the Klipsch definitely beat out the Monoprice for me.

        I’m not sure how it translates in terms of sound signature, but I like a punchy bass (but not so much that it sticks out; certainly not a bass head!), while also really enjoying the detail of acoustic music. So something well-rounded I suppose?

      • The Brainwavz M1, Astrotec AM800, and Dunu Trident all seem appealing. I like the price point and build (I’m scared of flimsy IEMs now). Any thoughts?

        • Out of those the AM-800 is closest to the signature you’re after – it’s got less bass than the GR02 but more than the monoprice. It also has nice treble sparkle and energy. If you want to spend more to buy from a US-based company with good customer service, the ThinkSound MS01 is a good option as well.

          • Thanks so much! I’ll definitely have to check those out!

          • Hello again! After reading up more on the AM-800s that you recommended, I’m a little concerned about isolation. What would you recommend that isolates well and is sturdily built? I love the warmth of my Shure over ear headphones, but am reluctant to buy the SE215Ks because I found the Monoprice $10 IEMs uncomfortable, and they look to have a similar design.

          • For build quality, warmer sound, and decent isolation Dunu is a good option. The DN-23 Landmine sounds better than the Trident you were originally considering and is still in your budget: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/dunu-dn-23-landmine/

          • Your review of the Dunu Landmine seems pretty spot on to what I’m looking for! The MH1C and SteelSeries Flux also looked attractive… Do you think the Landmine is worth the extra money (or ordering from Hong Kong)? Also, how is the sound stage and balance in the Landmine (I’m not really a bass head)? Thank you so much for taking the time to answer all of these questions!! People like you make the Internet a much nicer place to navigate, especially when it comes to subjects like IEMs.

          • Despite my reservations about VSonic, the VSD1S also looks nice.

          • Well if build quality is a priority I would definitely pay a premium for a Dunu set. I had no complaints about the soundstage and the balance is warm, oriented towards the bass and midrange. It’s not too different from the Trident you were originally considering, just clearer and smoother.

          • Oh ok! Thanks so much! I found them new on eBay for $59.99 (including cost of shipping), which is much less than MSRP! I’ll order them soon, and let you know how they work! Thank you so much for the help!

          • Thank you so much for the recommendation! I’m loving the Landmines! The build quality is fantastic, and the sound is exactly what I was hoping for!

          • Awesome, I’m very glad to hear that :)

            Enjoy!

  70. Hello,

    I can buy the MH1Cfor 24 dollars here in holland) but can you tell me if there is a difference in sound between the MH1 and the MH1C, or is the only difference the connection?
    I still cant decide if i want the MH1/ MH1c or something different like the SHure se215, i listen a lot of dance music with strong bass (techno) i also have the dunu tridents, and fischer consonance, but i want to go a step up, please help !

    • As far as I know the MH1 and MH1C just differ in how the plug is wired. The MH1 only works with certain devices (some Sony, Nokia, and older Samsung phones) without an adapter.

      The MH1C is a step up over the Dunu and Fischer in my opinion and is about on-par with the SE215 for sound quality despite the price difference. For $24 you really won’t be disappointed if you like warm, smooth sound.

      • Thx for your quick response!! first of all i want to say that your chart is so awesome, i think i can dream the whole chart,haha!.
        I only use my in ears for laptop and my ipod classic 5th generation, would it be possible to use the MH1 instead of the MH1C?, the shop says to me that its not a problem, but i rather here it from “THE” expert.
        I think i just cant go wrong for 17 euro’s with the MH1 after your comment.
        I am looking every day for my next in ears, every day countless hours of reading reviews, its a hobyy that has gone outta control :)
        I also want another in ears beside the MH1, i always had dynamic drivers, because i listen a lot of trance,techno, deep house. but maybe that just not important? so i hope you can help me with that also, i want my highs not to be too crisp, and the bass has to be deep and tight, i had my eyey on the VSD1 for example :)
        Looking forward to your answer, and sorry for all the info!!

  71. Hey Joker, as with everyone else I thank you for all the awesome information you supply and have a personal preference question as well. I am very inexperience with IEMs; had one old pair, altec lansing uhp336.

    My predominate music tastes very, most often listen to rap/hip-hop and prefer punchy bass over the low rumbling base. Although I think bass is the most important to me, I don’t want it to be overpowering…maybe slightly leaning to the bass edge. The second most common music I listen to is a little different….more of older soul/R&B ranging from artists like al green to prince and whitney houston. I actually had ordered a pair of VC1000 after reading its thread comparing it to other dual amatures, but had my old address registered on ebay, and “lost” them to the current home owners. Anyways, after reading above I am wondering if they may not have quite enough bass. Based on my probably terrible description of preferennces, in you’re opinion should I re-order the VC1000 or would you go little different route in a similar price range, or possibly 2 pairs with different strengths?

    Thanks in advance.

    • I’m actually a long-time fan of the UHP336. Towards the end of its lifespan, when it was down to $50 or less, it was an excellent deal.

      From what I remember the UHP336 was a little mid-centric but overall very competent, with good bass punch for a BA. The VC1000 won’t be far behind in bass quantity – I think it would satisfy you, but to be safe you might want to go for something just a touch bassier – maybe the GR07 mkII or Philips Fidelio S1. I generally think in this price range it’s better to get one very good IEM than two good ones, but if you wanted to you could currently get the HiFiMan RE-400 and Steelseries Flux for $125 total (if you’re in the US). The RE-400 is mid-focused with and sounds great with vocals. The Flux has more bass and less mids for a warmer, more “fun” sound without giving up much accuracy and should take care of hip-hop, etc for you.

      • Yeah I got the UHP336 for $35 after a very fast review search not really knowing anything about them or other IEMs, and loved them for years. They lasted my quite awhile, but unfortunately recently broke.

        Thanks for the reply and advice. Yeah I am in the US. I think I can actually get the GR07 for about $110 right now, so that may be the best option from what you said. The only thing I was worried about was the fit because I have relatively small ears, do you think that may be in issue?

  72. Hi Joker! I’m a long time reader of your awesome reviews on head-fi thread. I’d like to thank you so much for this amazing job, man! I, also, would like to ask you some advice, if possible. I have the Shure SE215 and the MEElectronics A151 and I really like them, but I prefer the Shure’s sound signature, as it has more power in the low end, but, at the same time, it’s very detailed. I’m looking for a new IEM as a improvement of my Shure’s, but not too expensive, like, less than $200. After spend some time reading yours reviews, I was considering these IEMs:
    Yamaha EPH-100, VSonic GR07 Bass Edition, JVC HA-FXT90, Sony MDR-EX600, Monster Miles Davis Trumpet.
    Which one do you think is gonna fit best for my like? Or do you have another suggestion?
    Thank you very much!

    • The SE215 is a little relaxed at the top so all of the other sets you’re looking at are going to sound brighter in comparison. Assuming you’re okay with that, you would have to choose between more colored sound compared to the SE215, or more accurate. The EPH-100 is the bassiest of the ones you’re considering, with considerably more low end than the SE215. After that comes the Trumpet, which IMO is a pretty good compromise at the current sub-$200 prices if you like enhanced bass. Next is the FXT90, which has a little less deep bass but more mid-bass than the SE215. The final two – GR07BE and EX600 – are more accurate than the SE215. The EX600 doesn’t really have enhanced bass at all (around GR07 non-BE level).

      Anyway, if you want to keep bass at least above SE215 level, the Trumpet is a good option. If you’re willing to give up a bit of it, the GR07 BE is great at the current $130 price. It still has way better impact than the A151.

      • I think I’m gonna choose for a more accurate sound this time and the GR07 BE seems to be a nice choice! My media source is a Clip+ rockboxed and I have no amp yet. Do you think the GR07 will sound good on it?
        Thanks a lot for the help!

        • GR07 aren’t the most efficient earphones but you shouldn’t have an issue with sound quality from a clip. You just might have to give it a few more volume notches compared to another set.

          • That’s nice! Thanks again for the advise!

          • Hi again, Joker! After we talk about the GR07 BE, I took a look at the GR07 appreciation thread on head-fi read somebody talking about the Dunu DN-1000 as a improvement of the GR07 and found many people saying how good is the DN-1000. So, I start to consider it too. Did you already hear the DN-1000? Do you think it is a improvement of the GR07 BE?
            Thanks a lot for all your help!

          • I haven’t listened to it much but I do have a DN-1000. It’s very good but it’s got a more v-shaped sound than the GR07 and even the GR07 BE. Good if you want more bass than the GR07BE but not as accurate as a result. Actually, its signature reminds me more of the GR02 Bass Edition.

          • It was very enlightening, Joker. All I wanted to know! Just ordered the GR07 BE.
            Can’t wait to listen it!
            Thanks again for your valuable advices!

    • Thank you for your efforts reviewing all of these IEMs. I was about to buy a set of Sony MH1s since I kind of like tinkering and figured I’d rewire them to work my iPhone 5s, which will be the main source I use. Ended up springing for the Steelseries Flux since I happen to notice the price drop on Amazon as well. At $25 hopefully these will be good enough that I don’t need to bother dealing with the Sony cable issues. Previously, I’ve been using Koss KSC75 and Portapros as my better headphones. My KSC75s failed and I need something more portable than the Portapros. Can’t stand traditional earbuds since they wont stay in my ears. Many thanks again.

      • Thanks, and good call with the Flux. Hope you like ‘em!

        • Hey, just got the Flex’s in from the Amazon sale. Figured I’d give some feedback after demo’ing a bunch of different recordings including a few of my standby reference recordings. This is running off my PC, unamped, etc. but flac rips of, for example, a Mapleshade Studios Clifford Jordan recording, some norah jones, and some other stuff.

          Anyway, these are pretty amazing for $25. Wow! Very enjoyable. Comfortable, although qualify this since these are my first IEMs so difficult for me to compare. The cord microphonics I do not find all that bothersome, although I am admittedly tethered to my desk so holding back real judgement on this part for now.

          My only real complaints, and its really a vast overstatement to call these complaint because I really can’t fathom anything better for $25. But I’d prefer a touch more treble. Like, for example, to me cymbal hits and reverberation are a bit recessed. It doesn’t need much more but you lose a bit of the air in the treble presence. This probably helps keep some of the vocal sibalence at bay, which I appreciate, but just a shade more treble would be mainly what holds these back from the next level. I also feel like deep bass is just not quite there (although there is plenty of bass). Not the best recording but I picked up on this listening to the bass guitar intro to Ghost by Phish. It isn’t obvious for most recordings and maybe isn’t so realistic for IEMs. To me, this is secondary to the treble “issue”. Overall, these are pretty incredible and I’d have to imagine a steal for $25.

          By the way, my reference for this is more my home audio system, which are scanspeak based monitors which have a fairly similar signature to mid sized sonus faber or proac monitors.

          • Thanks for your impressions!

            I can see where you’re coming from with the treble – there are some budget sets that do better in that regard but usually give up other things, especially in that price range. Good thing you went for the Flux and not the MH1C – the Sonys are a little more relaxed still when it comes to treble.

            The bass should go pretty deep on these, though – if you’re missing some subbass on a known good recording, try inserting them a little deeper. They should produce 30Hz with no problem.

  73. Hey joker! what is the difference between brainwaves b2 and dba 02 mk2 and vsd1 and gr07 mk2? is re-400 comparable to any of these? I like details and accurate sound so which one do I go for? I honestly cannot decide since dba 02 mk2 is rated higher than gr07 mk2 in your reviews I feel it is better sounding. I play drums and use daw’s like sonar and cubase, fl studio a lot so and my music genre preference is basically everything, I want details to be presented well in ambiance music and in aggressive metal music in bands like vildhjarta, tesseract and uneven structure I’d like to be able to hear the background ambient tones quite well complimenting the distortions. so what iem will be a good deal for me under the $150-dba 02 mk2 price range?

    • The B2 and DBA-02 mkII are similar-sounding, the mkII is just better-made and you’re more likely to be able to get a good fit with it due to its smaller size (fit is very important with both of these BA earphones). The GR07 is better than the VSD1 by a fair margin. With the current $130 pricing it’s hard not to recommend the GR07 mkII over the others. It’s got a good sound for metal (love me some tesseract) and you’re more likely to be satisfied with its bass, especially if it’s your first high-end earphone with a neutral signature.

      The RE-400 is definitely comparable but it can sound a little dull compared to the GR07 and even DBA-02. It’s good if you know you like a smoother, more mid-focused sound but if you can afford the GR07 I’d go for that.

      • oh! awesome man thanks, gr07 mk2 is quite expensive given the fact that I dont even own a decent pmp, all songs are played through a shittly samsung android phone. do you know any reliable place that sell used gr07′s or any person who’s willing to sell his? so that I dont have to burn in and it costs less. I live in India btw so it needs to be shipped. Thanks again man you’re a legend

  74. Hello there, Joker — thanks so much for putting together this great and helpful list! What a godsend it is!

    I had a pair of GR02 Bass Edition earphones and liked the sound quite a lot. Unfortunately, I seem to have lost them and am again in the market for a set of earphones — maybe two sets so that I have a backup in case something happens to one! The natural choice would be to get the same earphones again, but I was wondering what might be a step up from the GR02 Bass Edition earphones?

    Maybe the VSD1S or GR07 BE or JVC HA-FXT90? What would be your first and second choices — since I might get two sets?

    Thanks again!

    • The GR02 Bass Edition has a little more bass than higher-end VSonic models such as the VSD1/VSD1S and GR07 BE. If you don’t mind giving up a bit of bass, the VSD1 (which to me is a touch bassier than the VSD1S and has treble intensity similar to the GR02 BE) or GR07 BE would both be good options. The FXT90 is less neutral than these VSonics, though it’s still a very good earphone. I guess my first choice would be the VSD1 followed by the GR07 (at $130) and then the FXT90. However, if you want to maintain bass at the GR02 level or greater, you’d probably want the FXT90 over the other two.

  75. Hi Joker. First of all, thank you for making the most comprehensive and detailed review of IEMs I have ever come across. I find myself reading your review over and over again for days whenever I have spare time.

    I am considering getting a new pair of IEMs just because I feel like trying something new and adding to my small collection which comprises a pair of Phonak Audeo 022 and Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro. I prefer something with tight and textured bass, a somewhat neutral or maybe warm mid-range and highs that are detailed and crisp. I listen to hard rock and metal a lot and sometimes I like to listen to two steps from hell which is “epic” music I guess I would say? I am stuck between the Yamaha EPH 100SL, Hisound BA100, VSonic VC02, Steelseries Flux In Ear, UE600, HiFiman RE400 Waterline. I have also read a lot of product reviews on Amazon for the UE600 and RE 400 Waterline that say they have very poor build quality especially the UE600 having complaints about them cutting out in a few weeks or months. Have you had any experiences like that and is the SQ worth the risk to purchase those two models in particular? I would really appreciate your input.

    Thank you!

    • The Phonak 022 is quite a nice earphone, but have you thought of switching the filters in it to make it a 122 instead? I thought there was a pretty big difference in sound between the 022 filters and the gray/black ones that come with the 122. If the filters are still available i’d say this is worth a try.

      Anyway, the EPH-100 will probably have too much bass for you. It’s certainly bassier than the 022 by a margin. Good if you’re looking for something a lot more impactful, but it doesn’t seem like you are.

      The UE600, RE400, and to a lesser extent the BA100 and VC02 are pretty flat down in the bass region. They have less bass than your Phonaks and will provide a different type of sound. The RE-400 and UE600 are smooth and a little mid-centric. They have smooth and refined treble but aren’t the most crisp and sparkly earphones. Still good, though, especially the RE-400, and they fit the requirements for a neutral-to-warm sound.

      The BA100 and VC02 are brighter than the previous two and provide a more “analytical” sound. Jury’s still out on where the BA100 will rank but the VC02 to me is about on-par with the 022 in overall sound quality. I wouldn’t classify it as warm, though.

      The Flux will be about even with the 022 but it’s not really an upgrade (it’s actually about on-par despite being half the price) and its mids are less prominent. I doubt this one makes sense for you in terms of trying something new. To me, the ones that make the most sense for you are the RE-400 and VC02.

      The build of the UE600 is a little cheap and plasticky (same goes for all lower-end UE models) but it hasn’t failed me yet. UE warranty is also pretty good – my UE100 failed at one point and it was easy to get replaced. I’ve heard many horror stories about HiFiMan construction, especially back in the RE0 days, but I’ve owned almost every one of their products – the RE2, RE0, RE252 and I still have the RE-ZERO, RE262, RE272, RE-400, and RE-600 – and never had an issue. A big part of it is always going to be how you treat your earphones. You’re taking a bit of a risk compared to something like a cheap JVC bud, but there’s nothing else for the price that sounds as good as these earphones so to me it’s worth it.

  76. Hi,
    I wonder if you could advise me on some in-ear earphone with android smartphone control and if it’s possible that they had radio.
    Thank you very much, regards.

    • For most Android phones (e.g. HTC, LG, Motorola, and newer Samsung Galaxy ones) any 1-button remote will work fine. You only have to worry about compatibility with older Samsung and some Sony phones. From this guide that means that something like the SteelSeries Flux will be fine, and it’s a great earphone if you’re willing to spend $50.

      Radio (if you mean conventional FM) doesn’t need any specific type of earphones – it just uses the earphone wire as the antenna. As long as your earphones have a normal cable, the radio should still work fine.

  77. Hey bud,
    Ive checked out your reviews on and off for the past few months now and I see that you have helped out many people.Im hoping you can help me out too.
    My job is in the construction field so there is a lot of movement going on all day.I usually stick the wires in between my shirt and undershirt.There is quite sum pulling.Im looking for a 50-110 iem’s that should sound balanced and have a nice durability.I was looking at the shure se215′s.I also want to try out the yamahas.I usually work in quiet areas so the noise isolation isnt a big deal but the comfort is somewhat of a factor.What would you suggest?

    • If you’re going to be tugging on the wires getting detachable cables might not be such as a bad idea. The SE215 isn’t the most balanced-sounding thing (enhanced bass, a little lacking in treble energy) but it’s great if you’re hard on your earphones. It’s also comfortable as long as your ears aren’t small.

      If you’d rather have something a little more balanced and just replace it should it go wrong, the VSonic VSD1S might be worth taking a look at (review at http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/more-less-vsonic-vsd1-and-vsd1s) . It sounds at least as good as the SE215 and is a lot cheaper (<$50). No detachable cables, but the entire earphone costs only a little more than a Shure replacement cable.

  78. Hey Joker

    I had a question I was hoping you could answer. I am currently looking to get a dynamic driver IEM reshelled. Problem is that most dynamic driver IEMs are vented or have a bass port. I was wondering if you knew of any bass heavy IEMs that are not vented. The only one I could think of was the Atrio MG7. Does the Yamaha EPH-100 have a bass port?

    Thanks

    • I can’t think of any. The Yamaha EPH-100 has a vent. Even barring the vent, it’s not clear what the effect of re-shelling a dynamic-driver IEM will be because the sound chamber size/shape has an effect on the sound – there’s really no guarantee something like the EPH-100 won’t lose a chunk of its performance when reshelled.

  79. Hey joker, I was wondering which IEM to buy and I’ve been looking at your head-fi thread for a long time and I am still stumped. I am wondering whether I should get the Audio Technica CKM500i, VSonic GR02 Bass Edition, Brainwavz M4, or MEElectronics A151P.

    I listen mostly to EDM with vocals & some without and also some mainstream music. I want some good isolation with the least sound leakage. I prefer my music to have a little more bass, however I don’t consider myself as a basshead. I also like more treble, highs, brighter sound..

    • Unfortunately I skipped over the Brainwavz M4 and I don’t think the A151P suits what you’re after.

      The CKM500i is very good – there is a little too much mid-bass for me but other than they are solid. However, the GR02 Bass Edition is a little more reasonable in the bass department (despite the name) and has a v-shaped signature with pretty energetic treble. I think it will suit you best.

      • I would have to agree that the A151P wouldn’t be for me. However, I am still aching to know whether the CKM500i or GR02 BE.. I’m kind of a newbie to the audiophile world, so if you could briefly explain it for a newbie please. I’ve been reading on the CKM500 fan thread on HF and many have said that the CKM500i’s are better than the GR02. I don’t know if they are being biased because it is the fan thread or it actually is true.

        • Technically I would agree that the CKM500 is better – it’s a little clearer and more level through the midrange. However, I personally like the CKM500 less, primarily because the mid-bass is too intrusive and draws too much attention to itself. The GR02 may not have the same level of clarity and may dip down a little in the upper mids, but it’s an easier listen for me and also seems to suit what you’re asking for better (e.g. not a basshead, brighter treble).

  80. Hi! I’m looking for a headphone to block external noise for watching online classes and listening to music while studying, so what I really need is good isolation.
    It seems Etymotic ETY-Kids is a great option, but as I live in Brazil, it’d be out of my price range because of taxes and shipping. Do you suggest another model at up to US$ 40? I don’t really care much about sound quality, my main concern is isolation and comfort, since it’d be my first in-ear headphone.

    How good is the isolation of, say, this Etymotic without playback music? Can it block average conversation at a house?

    Thank you for your work. It’s great.

    • Isolation is independent of music playback. All IEMs block outside noise if you crank up music, but that’s not isolation.

      In that price range the EtyKids isolates far more than any other earphone. The other standout is the dB Logic EP-100 but I’m not sure those are available outside the US. Pair those with a set of Shure Olive eartips and they’re both highly isolating and really comfortable.

  81. I have been using the SoundMagic e30 with my Cowon J3 PMP. I quite like the sound signature of the e30. I like bass but do not want it to overpower anything else.(Listen to Alternative rock and EDM/Dubstep). I recently ordered the Vsonic VC02 and i picked them over the Vsonic GR02 Bass edition and the Astrotec AM 90. Did I make the right choice?

    • If you were looking for something different from the E30, you did. The VC02 is more analytical and more balanced overall, with a tighter, more precise sound. It’s better than the AM-90, and the GR02 Bass Edition would have been much bassier than you’re used to.

      It’s hard to say whether the signature of the VC02 will appeal to you more than the E30 but I think it’s always a good idea to sample a variety of sound signatures. Make sure you get a good seal with them – the VC02 is a deep-insertion earphone, unlike your E30.

      • Thanks for the reply |joker| :)
        Actually i did try something new with the e30 itself as had never used an over-the-ear design and it turned out to be mighty comfortable. However, I do not mind deep-insertion earphones and hoping to find pair of tips my size in the VC02 selection (large ears).
        Please could you tell me what exactly is different sound-wise between the VC02 and the E30. Especially when you compare the bass. In you review of the e30, you mentioned that it is no bass-monster and that is true as I found the bass pretty well balanced. I would be really happy if the bass in the VC02 is as good if not better than the e30.
        Also whats is the typical burn-in period for VC02 and what source should I use? I read somewhere that pink noise works well.

        • The VC02 is inherently quicker than the E30 so the bass is faster and tighter. It’s going to be more of a quick and “punchy” type than the slower, more “thumpy” bass of the E30. Overall quantity is not too different through so once you get used to it you probably won’t miss the slower decay of the Soundmagics. The VC02 also sounds thinner overall and has more treble energy, which is not inherently a bad thing.

          There’s a handy burn-in loop here: http://www.jlabaudio.com/index/burn-in . I typically give dynamic-drivers 50-100 hours.

  82. When i use the padacs with my android phone i only get sound in the left ear… but it works for both ears on my ipod. Is there a way to fix this is?

  83. Wouldn’t let me reply again so I had one last question. Is the limited model, (found here(-
    http://www.amazon.com/JVC-Headphones-HA-FXT90L2-LIMITED-Japanese/dp/B005XH2N0A/ref=sr_1_2?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1380601642&sr=1-2&keywords=JVC+HA-FXT90
    worth it over the normal for the $20 extra that it costs?

  84. This guide has been updated. The HiSound Crystal has been retired and the SteelSeries Flux In-Ear (full review at http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/steelseries-flux-in-ear/) was added instead.

    • Awesome reviews and really appreciate the time you put into what you obviously love. I have a quick question for you. I previously owned a pair of Klipsch S4i’s which were “meh” to say the least and came with an annoying cable to go along with it. I lost them unfortunately and am looking to move on to better things. I have a budget of around $100 give or take a few bucks here and there. I like a sort of emphasized all around, but not so much as to drown out one or the other, kind of balanced in a way I guess… So yeah, we can go with balanced. I was looking at the HiFiMAN RE-400 as well as the new Steel Series, Shure 215, Etymotic HF5′s and the Rock-It Sounds R-50′s. That being such a wide variety and way too many for me to be able to figure out which would be the best buy, what ones do you think would fit best for someone just getting into high quality IEM’s hoping to make it to the top and enjoy the ride. I appreciate any input!
      Thanks a lot!!

      • Thanks, I am glad to hear that the reviews have been helpful!

        I guess a question to ask would be whether the S4i had a good audio balance for your taste. If it did, the RE-400, HF5, and especially R-50 might be a little too far in the neutral/analytical direction You have to know what you’re getting into with these – they don’t really emphasize anything in the recording. For some listeners, especially coming from a set like the S4, they will simply sound dull (especially at first). If you really want to give a balanced-sounding earphone a try, the RE-400 would be my choice.

        My thought on something that is “emphasized all around” would actually be a forward-sounding set with a slightly v-shaped balance. In the custom-fit realm this would be the 1964EARS V3. In the lower price bracket, the JVC FXT90. It has plenty of everything without significant sacrifices. Coming from the S4, unlike the sets mentioned above, it won’t sound too bass-light, or overly bright, or dull. The SteelSeries is mostly a cheaper, slightly more balanced version of the same with less warmth and a smaller soundstage. The SE215 is tougher to justify with the FXT90 at a similar price point and the Flux at $50, unless you put great value on the build quality, isolation, and over-the-ea form factor of the Shures.

        • I liked the shures specifically because of that over the ear factor and yeah the build quality did look nice. I’m sort of an “audio virgin” if you could call it that? Never had awesome headphones and like I said the Klipsch just started to get annoying IMO and not sound quality wise, just everything else and the fact I lost them didn’t help. Had horrible headphones the past year or so, so basically any head set better than the earbuds that come with the iPhone (most any of them) should do that has at least some sort of good bass and treble. And as for the 1964′s, I’m way out of that price range at the moment. So I guess it is just up to the FXT90 and the SE215′s…

          • Makes sense to me. Personally I’d go for the FXT90. It just seems to be more along the lines of what you’re after and it’s rather user-friendly. JVC typically does a good job on that front. The Flux would be my choice if you’d prefer to spend less and want the easy return process of amazon just in case.

  85. Hi ljokerl,

    First, I really can’t say enough to thank you for this great effort, and that interactive table comparing earphones is damn brilliant so THANK YOU!!!

    Now :), my question to you sir, I just ordered the VC1000 and then visited this page, to find out that the Yamaha EPH-100 is rated the best for worm and smooth yet bassy ones, which kinda of what I am looking for. I really like Bass, but I don’t like it to be very over powering and I listen to a big variety of music including middle easter.

    So do you think the VC1000 would do it for me? or shall I cancel/return the order and buy the Yamaha EPH-100? and the price difference is not factor cause the difference is like 20 to 30 bucks.

    Thanks in advance!

    Rami

    • Hmm.. if you like bass in any capacity, a balanced armature-based and neutral-sounding earphone like the VC1000 wouldn’t be my first choice. The EPH-100 has lots more bass but is far from muddy-sounding. For bass fans there’s not many better compromises out there for the price.

      P.S. glad you like the table!

  86. Hi, I heard one of my friends A161P and I remember that I liked very much its soung signature. I was suprised with bass amount from an single BA IEM! Now I’m thinking to buy VC1000 – after the intimate sound of A161P will the Vsonic be too harsh or sibilant? What about the bass amount of VC1000?
    Thank you in advance! AAron

    • The VC1000 is a little brighter and less forgiving but unless you specifically liked the slightly rolled-off treble of the A161P, you should be okay. Bass quantity is similar between the two but the A161P tends to have more forward, aggressive mids (intimate, as you mentioned) while the VC1000 is more spacious and the mids are more relaxed. I find the VC1000 to be more accurate overall though both have their moments.

      • Thanks! Useful answer, VC1000 ordered. Waiting to receive it , then report – but just in few words….

        • Every bit helps – I’m sure you’re not alone in picking between the VC1000 and A161P!

          • You just said the truth Sir!
            May I know your opinion about the burning in period for BA IEMs?
            BTW in meantime made my own A161 , without mic. Two housings with drivers inside , of course + M6 cable (many thanks to Mr. Mike Jones fom Meelec!).
            Now I have two pairs of great BAs for less than 140USD :) .
            Thanks again , have a nice day!

            Aaron

          • Don’t want to boring you, but here is the pic of my Meelec A161 (little bit chubby strain relief , but it’s mine baby!) :

            http://kepfeltoltes.hu/view/131003/A161_www.kepfeltoltes.hu_.jpg

          • That looks a hell of a lot more durable for sure! Great mod.

            On BA burn-in – I don’t think there is any benefit to it. I’ve never noticed a difference with a BA between, say, 5 hours and 50 hours. The A161P especially has no crossover so even proponents of burn-in won’t find anything in there that needs to be broken in.

  87. Hello Joker,

    Your reviews are legendary! Thanks!
    Currently I’m using the Xears XE200PRO, but the cable started giving issues. Now I’m looking for something new under or around $50.
    I mainly listen to Britpop/indie music. I like the deep rumbling bass-guitar sound and riffs, instrument (guitar) separation as well as a spacious sound.
    I thought about getting the new XWH700PRO, but reading your comments left me thinking about others too (VSonic VSD1 for example). Which in ears would you advice? Thanks!

    • If you’re looking to stay with a warm and smooth sound like the Xears, I would go for a Sony MH1C. The cable is slightly annoying but it sounds great for the price with good bass depth, great clarity, and excellent overall sense of space.

  88. Great list man, txs! Recently bought the Philips Fidelio S1 and the Phonak Audeo PFE 122, but returned them both cause I kept reaching for my brother’s RE-400 instead. Looking for an IEM with similar smoothness and clarity, but something that will make my world music and jazz collection sound more punchy (played from iPhone4). I like my music balanced with a hint of warmth, an airy soundstage and non-fatiguing. Can’t decide between Yamaha EPH-100, VSonic GR07 BE and Fischer Audio DBA-02 mkII. Please advise.

    • Why not just get an RE-400 and boost the bass a little with an equalizer?

      Anyway, the EPH-100 is way bassier than the RE-400. It’s great if you want a warm and bassy sound but all of the earphones you’ve tried so far have been way more neutral. The DBA-02 mkII is thinner-sounding and not as warm as the RE-400. It probably isn’t what you want. The GR07BE is closer, but if you want it to be as smooth as the RE-400 you’ll again have to engage the equalizer – its treble is more like that of the Fidelio S1 and PFE122.

      • Thanks man, that was very helpful. Problem is I use Spotify, which to my knowledge doesn’t combine with an iPhone equalizer. Any other IEM’s out there that could suit my taste? Might even save up to the $400 mark, since I listen to music almost 2hrs a day.

        • That’s a tough spot. Even above the RE-400 price range there’s just not much with the same level of clarity and balance, equally smooth treble, but better bass, You could definitely go for a high-end Shure or Westone – the SE535 would probably be your best bet for smooth treble and flat mids – but it’s hard (for me) to justify the price hike. The overall performance is just not leagues ahead of the RE-400.

          That or just risk the EPH-100 and hope its bass doesn’t get in your face too much.

          Also, there are a few promising earphones that I haven’t tested in depth yet – the TDK BA200 and RBH EP1, for example. Perhaps someone else has already compared one or both of these to the RE-400 in a meaningful way.

  89. Thanks for the excellent article, this would save a lot of people a lot of time!
    I wanted to go for the Vsonic VSD1. I see you’ve tried it recently, so what are your thoughts about it?
    Also, Any ETA about when you’re going to put up a full review?

    • Forgot to add that I have the MEElectronics M21 right now. So how does the Vsonic VSD1 compare to them?

      • I like the VSD1 quite a lot. Its sound is like a blend of the GR02 Bass Edition and GR07 Bass Edition – it’s clearer, tighter, more accurate, and less harsh than the GR02 but not quite as much so as the GR07. For $45 it’s a great deal and I think you’ll notice a big improvement in overall fidelity compared to the M21. The only caveat is that the M21 has smoother, more forgiving treble.

        I still have the VSonic VC1000 to review (which will be finished in a week or two) but after that the VSD1/VSD1S are my top priority.

        • Thanks for the reply.
          I ordered the VSD1 from MP4Nation a couple of days ago. Had some store credits left and I got them for $29 only!

          I received them a couple of hours ago. Out of the box, they sound MUCH more amazing than the M21, as you rightly said. The bass is a bit boomy but I think that should tighten up a bit once I have burnt them in.
          Eagerly waiting for your review!

  90. Thanks a lot I think I may try the ckm500 since I want more bass on my new earphones that I yearn for

  91. Hi joker between these two iem which is better the Vsonic Vsd1 or the Audio technica ckm500 I like warm and sweet sound signature more to bass but do not want to compromise on the mids and highs too.Which is better?currently using Vsonic Gro2 BE

    • They are different in how they present bass. The VSD1 is more accurate – the bass is enhanced but there is a good balance of subbass and midbass and it doesn’t sound overbearing as a whole, just a little warm. The CKM500 is skewed in favor of mid-bass. It is bassier in the conventional sense but not as accurate and refined as the VSonic.

      The VSD1 is more similar to the GR02BE you currently have – you’re just trading a bit of the bass of the GR02BE away for a tighter, clearer, less boomy, and more detailed sound – while the CKM500 is a whole another ball game.

  92. Hey Joker! What sound signature and IEMs (below $50) would you recommend for non-boosted, tight bass, smooth mids, and crisp highs?

    • That sounds like a Brainwavz M1, Astrotec AM-90/Rock-It Sounds R-20 (these two use the same driver), or, if you don’t mind having to raise the volume on your DAP, the Etymotic Ety-Kids. The M1 has tight bass and is very smooth overall. Might not have the most crisp sound but it’s very easy-going. The AM-90/R-20 are your typical entry-level balanced armature earphones. Bass is tight and flat and the top end rolls off a bit but they have a thinner, crisper note presentation than the M1. The Ety-Kids sound like an Ety and can currently be had for <$30 on amazon but they are volume-reducing, which could be a deal-breaker for some.

  93. Awesome List! Thanks for all the hard work. I am fairly new to the IEM game. I play guitar and am never happy with guitar tone reproduction in IEMs. I play a Gibson Explorer paired with a Mesa Boogie dual rec. I love the crunch. I am looking for a set of IEMs that are good for rock and guitar solos. My musical tastes are all over the map from classical to hip hop to metal and everything in between, but I judge the headphones on guitar tone and drums. From this list what would you recommend?

    • What IEMs have you tried? Something with a flat reproduction may not get all of the harmonics quite right but it’ll get the tone down pretty well. An Etymotic HF5, for example, or the Fischer DBA-02 if you can swing the cost.

      • I have not tried many IEMs, to be honest most of them have been Skullcandies because I have been given several sets, I also have tried a couple KOSS IEMs like the pathfinder, again they were a gift. Never listened to my music on the go much. Recently moved to Taipei and listen to a lot more music now and find myself becoming more picky. I am a huge fan of the Grado 80i sound.

        • Koss and Skullcandy don’t make great IEMs in my experience. I would try something with balanced armature drivers now if I were you. Not sure how distribution is in Taiwan but you may also want to look at the Brainwavz B2, which is a rebrand of the original (first generation) Fischer Audio DBA-02. It might be a better deal than the DBA-02 mkII and Etymotic HF5 in your region. If you don’t need as much noise isolation, the Philips Fidelio earphones (both S1 and S2) do guitars pretty well, too. They are still difficult to find in the US but have better availability in Asia.

  94. Just wanted to say: thank you very much for making the process of choosing the right iem a LOT more manageable.

  95. My current favs are JVC HA-FX101 ,FX3X and Yuin PK3 N PK2 also Monoprice 8323 . I like my sound with good bass ‘with oomph’ and wide soundstage. Also own Soundmagic PL50 which to me is bit laid back n boring ..so i only used them for blues music ..mostly old recording .
    Which would u recommend btwn Brainwavz R1 n M5 …I like very much the bass by JVC and soundstage of Yuin ?
    Mostly i listen to EDM,Rock and Blues …your input is much appreciated. Thanks.

    • The Brainwavz R1 is something I have only heard briefly. Its sound signature seemed to be on the v-shaped side of things and it didn’t sound as good overall as the M5, but that’s about all I remember. The M5 has plenty of bass and a warm signature, but its soundstage is not the widest (no more so than that of the FX101, for example). The FX101 has a lot of bass, which is going to be hard to match in an earphone with a wider soundstage. My recommendation would be the Audio-Technica CKM500. It’s a little pricier than the M5 but should be a better fit for what you are after.

  96. Can you compare differences between Brainwavz M1 & M5 thks

    • The M5 is significantly bassier than the M1. I would classify its signature as borderline basshead. The result is a much warmer overall tone and the appearance of a more recessed midrange and treble in comparison to the M1. The M1 is more balanced, with gently rolled-off bass and treble, which gives it a mid-centric character.

  97. Perhaps you should put super cheap headphones on here that way kids who are buying solely on $2 a week allowance money can use your website because I’m a kid and I’m positive I’m never looking on this website again

    • That’s the whole point of the main comparison table, which contains earphones costing as little as $3: http://theheadphonelist.com/ . Something for everyone, so to speak.

      As for this abridged guide, it contains only the best of the best and there are still several sets under $20 here. Look around the web and you can snag a Philips SHE3580 for less than $10, which is about as good as it gets for the money.

  98. Padacs Aksent for $10 from your link. Does that make it a really good deal?

  99. Great info on the large world of IEM’s and I will put good use to the advice!! Do you plan on also getting involved again on reviewing portable headphones?

    • If I can find the time, I would love to pick portable headphones up again. The market is continuously growing so right now it’s tough to keep up even doing just IEMs.

  100. I would like to know which sound signature classical / acoustic music would fall into. Thx for time and reply.

    • Good question. The reason I decided to group by sound signature and not by genre is that two different fans of the same genre may have different signature preferences. In my experience most classical listeners favor either balanced presentation or a slightly warm-and-smooth one. The latter does add some coloration but is typically more akin to what people think of as the classic “Hi-Fi” sound signature (think old tube amps, vinyl, etc) and will give some extra authority to instruments that rely heavily on low frequencies (e.g. the contrabass).

  101. Very helpful and useful guide for entry-level users. But I think placing the Vsonic GR02 Silver under balanced is misleading. If I had followed this suggestion I would be dissapointed, since they have too strong, outshining mids to be a balanced ones.

  102. Thank you. It is my hope that this guide can serve as a sort of condensed, go-to version of the big IEM review.

    Glad you’ve enjoyed your VSonics. The VSD1 is definitely on my to-try list considering the boastful statements made by VSonic about these earphones!

  103. Like witerabbit said, I wish this was around when I first looked for decent IEMs. Thanks for the hard work! I’m glad I went with the gr07 mk ii based on your review and clieos’. Though I am now getting into CIEMs (UERMs are my first), it is nice to have a guide where I can direct people to for a more budget oriented IEM. I bought three gr02s BE to give to my friends and family for christmas; they are really wonderful IEMs at that price. I’ve tried the re-400 in a store and was amazed at how close it sounded to the gr07. It is an excellent buy for $100. I’m looking forward to your vsonic VSD1 review once you get your hands on them! :D

  104. Thank you – glad the reviews have been useful. Constructing a condensed “Best” list has been on my to do list for years but I never had the time nor the platform until now.

    Unfortunately I haven’t yet had a chance to try out either of the JVC triple dynamic earphones. JVC doesn’t market their high-end earphones in the US, which means I’ll probably have to buy or borrow a pair at some point to get my hands on them.

    As for the effect of the FXT90′s bass on the midrange – it does bleed a little as sets with enhanced mid-bass tend to but in the context of the sound signature I find that perfectly acceptable. If you are willing to give up some bass quantity, I can recommend the VSonic GR07 Bass Edition as something that has punchy bass, yet doesn’t really bleed the way some of the JVC sets do.

  105. Wish I would have run across this tidy summary of the most relevant IEM’s in their given price range and sound signature before reading through details of 50+ iem’s! Of course reading that much must be somewhat satisfying or one wouldn’t do it LOL. So thank you for this wonderful summary page to your massive iem review list, and thank you for taking the time to write out so many reviews! That being said, I am wondering about the JVC’s FXZ100. They can be found for just slightly more than the FXT90′s yet I wonder if the tripple driver setup is controlled & tight enough that the sub-bass doesn’t bleed into the lower mids as I have read the fxz200′s to do, making mud pie. As you know, in the headphone world, too much of a good thing doesn’t mean it’s better. So your perception if the fxz100′s are an ‘upgrade’ in sq compared to the fxt90′s would be appreciated. Thank you, and keep up the awesome reviews!

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