2016 In-Ear Earphone Buyer’s Guide by Sound Signature

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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 350 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 through either US-based or global retailers. In addition to sound quality, we considered factors such as construction quality, comfort, and convenience, holding pricier models to a higher standard.

We grouped this guide into 4 basic sound signature types: basshead, warm and smooth, V-shaped, and balanced, plus one miscellaneous group. Keep in mind, however, that even earphones within the same grouping can differ significantly in overall performance. The goal here is not to find the one sound profile that’s universally praised, but to be able to better understand your own sound signature preferences so you can find the best sound for you.

In addition to considering your preferred sound tuning and any other desired functionality such as high noise isolation or an inline microphone for headset use, keep in mind the audio source you plan to use. For instance, some smartphones and computers may not pair well with sensitive or difficult-to-drive earphones. If you have to choose between upgrading your source and headphones, going for the headphones will maximize your sound quality gain per dollar, but keep in mind that higher-end sets will need a decent source to shine.

Lastly, don’t forget the importance of a good fit with your earphones. Most in-ears were designed to maintain a tight seal with the ear canal at all times, and their sound quality will suffer tremendously with a poor fit. Check out our earphone fit guide for info on wearing your in-ear headphones correctly.

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Last major overhaul: 04/22/2016: 6 outdated recommendations removed, 9 new ones added

Basshead

Earphones for fans of heavy bass who value 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 and maintain decent clarity. In addition to the boosted bass, some of these sets emphasize treble for a v-shaped sound.

Below $50

JVC HA-FX101

JVC HA-FX101

JVC HA-FX101 ($20) – 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 from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

Popclik String

Popclik String

Popclik String ($10 – $25)For a brand focused on the Latin America headphone market where decent, inexpensive headphones are not too common, Popclik IEMs aim surprisingly high in both performance and design. Even the entry-level String model comes in rather expensive-looking packaging and offers strong performance, nice ergonomics, and integrated headset functionality. Elevated bass and treble provide a lively, energetic sound, and as an overall package there is way more here than I typically expect to see at this price.

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

NarMoo S1

NarMoo S1

NarMoo S1 ($32 – $35) – The S1 is a dual dynamic driver earphone with separate 10- and 6mm dynamic drivers in each earpiece, with the 10mm acting as a subwoofer to deliver powerful bass. The overall sound signature is smooth and full-bodied, avoiding the heavily recessed midrange and rolled-off treble many entry-level bass-heavy earphones suffer from. The earpieces are on the large side, but solidly built and comfortable except in small ears. Read full review

Buy from Amazon.com / Buy from NarMoo.com – use coupon code “THL” | Manufacturer’s site

Retired: RHA MA350, PADACS Aksent PD114, Nuforce NE-600X

$50-100

HiSoundAudio Wooduo2

HiSoundAudio Wooduo2

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

Buy from ebay.com | Manufacturer’s site

Retired: Pump Audio Earphones, Velodyne vPulse

Over $100

Beats Tour 2.0

Beats Tour 2.0

Beats Tour 2.0 ($100 – $150) – The latest revision of the Beats Tour in-ears has impressed me with its smoother, more refined sound, improved fit, and more understated design compared to its predecessor. The bass is not as overwhelming as you may expect, either, and while the Tour 2.0 isn’t tops in sound quality per dollar, less pricy competitors also have trouble matching its comfort and features. Read full review on InnerFidelity.com

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

Retired: Future Sonics Atrio MG7

Warm and smooth

These earphones are characterized by moderately enhanced bass and level or laid-back treble. Emphasis specifically on the mid-bass region often results in rich, full-bodied sound.

Below $50

Dunu Trident

Dunu Trident

Dunu Trident ($25 – $35) – This unique-looking earphone showcases great attention to detail – its packaging, build quality, and design are all worthy of a higher price tag. While the other options in this category 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 from eBay.com / Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

Sony MH1C

Sony MH1C

Sony MH1C ($25 – $80) – Sony’s diminutive smartphone headset can commonly be found well below its retail price, but even at the full $80 MSRP the MH1C is a good deal solely for its superb audio quality. The earphone provides a warm, enhanced-bass sound with surprisingly good clarity and treble presence. The small size and soft eartips ensure long-term comfort, with the only downsides being the asymmetric flat cable and remote designed for Sony Xperia phones (it still has limited Apple and Android functionality) Read full review

Buy from eBay.com / Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

Retired: Xiaomi Piston 2

$50-100

Shure SE215

Shure SE215

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

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

Retired: HiSoundAudio Crystal, SteelSeries Flux In-Ear, Fidue A63

Over $100

RHA MA750

RHA MA750

RHA MA750 / MA750i ($120) – Scottish audio manufacturer RHA scores yet another hit with the MA750, which combines 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 lower treble for a somewhat v-shaped sound, but otherwise is just as competent. Construction quality is extremely impressive, too, 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 from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

Yamaha EPH-100

Yamaha EPH-100


Yamaha EPH-100 ($90 – $150)
– Yamaha’s flagship earphone provides big sound in a small package, based around a dynamic microdriver wrapped in a compact, comfortable, and well-built aluminum shell. Noise isolation is outstanding and the sound quality is great as well, with strong bass, lush mids, and smooth – albeit slightly docile – treble. Add a dynamic presentation and impressive stereo imaging, and the EPH-100 is easily one of the best-performing earphones in its price class. Read full review

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

 

V-Shaped

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

Philips SHE3590

Philips SHE3590

Below $50

Philips SHE3580 / SHE3590 ($9 – $15) – These bargain-bin miracles may look like 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 from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

Soundmagic E10

Soundmagic E10

Soundmagic E10 ($35 – $45) – Though not quite as clear and resolving as the Philips SHE3580 or Piston 3, 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 from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

 

Retired: VSonic GR02 Bass Edition, VSonic VSD1/VSD1S, VSonic VSD3/VSD3S, Xiaomi Piston 3

$50-100

JVC HA-FXT90

JVC HA-FXT90

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

Buy from Amazon.com / Buy from eBay.com | Manufacturer’s site

Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear

Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear

Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear ($85 – $100) – The Momentum In-Ear follows in the footsteps of the on- and over-ear Momentum headphones with its stylsh design, comfortable, lightweight construction, and impressive audio performance. Its sound is v-shaped and slightly warm thanks to a generous amount of bass enhancement. The midrange is mildly recessed while the top end carries a high level of energy for a textbook V-shaped sound signature. The Momentum in-ear is available in both iOS and Android versions with full-featured 3-button remotes. Read full review

Buy from Amazon.com / Buy from Amazon.co.uk / Buy from Amazon.ca / Buy from amazon.de / Buy from amazon.fr | Manufacturer’s site

1MORE Triple Driver

1MORE Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones

1MORE Triple-Driver In-Ear Headphones ($100) – The flagship in-ear headphones from 1MORE are an excellent value, starting with a hybrid triple-driver setup that’s virtually unheard of in this price range. The punchy, mildly v-shaped sound signature is a compromise between “audiophile” and “consumer”, which is not a bad thing in itself and makes the 1MORE an easy recommendation for many listeners. In addition, the inline remote is universally compatible with both Android and iOS devices.

Buy from Amazon.com / Buy from Amazon.co.uk / Buy from Amazon.de | Manufacturer’s site

Retired: Astrotec AM-800, MOE-SS01, Thinksound MS01, Alpha & Delta AD01

Dunu DN-1000

Dunu DN-1000

Over $100

DUNU DN-1000 ($160 – $210) – The DN-1000 is a hybrid earphone – that is, it combines a dynamic driver acting as a subwoofer with a dual balanced armature setup handling the mids and highs. It has superb bass – deep and hard-hitting, with almost no bloat – as well as very good 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 $200 IEMs. Read full review

Buy from Amazon.com / Buy from eBay.com | Manufacturer’s site

DUNU DN-2000

DUNU DN-2000

DUNU DN-2000 ($260 – $315) – On top of their similar aesthetics and construction, the DN-1000 and DN-2000 are both triple-driver “hybrid” earphones with V-shaped sound tuning. Sonically, the pricier DN-2000 is not a direct upgrade over the DN-1000, but rather a slightly more balanced and refined alternative with a bit less bass, a more spacious and airy soundstage, less recessed mids contributing to better vocal clarity, and treble that is a touch smoother. All in all, I consistently preferred the DN-2000 in my listening, but the differences are subtle enough that some users– hip-hop and EDM listeners, for example – may not see much benefit from the pricier DN-2000 or even find the bassier, slightly more v-shaped DN-1000 preferable. Read full review

Buy from Amazon.com / Buy from eBay.com / Buy from CTC Audio | Manufacturer’s site

 

Balanced

Emphasizing no particular area of the frequency spectrum, balanced headphones provide the most clear and accurate sound and can range from slightly warm to slightly bright in tone. Balanced sets can also be mildly 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 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 from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

Brainwavz M1

Brainwavz M1

Brainwavz M1 ($35 – $45) – Of the many budget earphones offered by Hong Kong-based Brainwavz, the original M1 still stands out many years after its release 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. 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 from Amazon.com / Buy from mp4nation.net | Manufacturer’s site

Retired: VSonic VC02

$50-100

HiFiMan RE-400

HiFiMan RE-400

HiFiMan RE-400 ($60 – $80) – 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 and good noise isolation, the RE-400 is difficult to fault on any front. Versions with microphone and remote for iOS and Android are also available. Read full review

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

VSonic GR07 Classic

VSonic GR07 Classic

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

Buy GR07 Classic from Amazon.com in blue, maroon, or silver / Buy from eBay.com / Buy from LendMeUREars | Buy GR07 Bass Edition from Amazon.com / Buy from eBay.com

Retired: MEElectronics A161P, Philips Fidelio S1

Over $100

Philips Fidelio S2

Philips Fidelio S2

Philips Fidelio S2 ($100 – $135) – Philips’ new flagship earphones are well-built, well-accessorized, and reasonably priced. Offering a flat and level signature with a mild bump across the bass range, the S2 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

Buy from Amazon.com | Buy from eBay.com | Manufacturer’s site

Etymotic Research HF3

Etymotic Research HF3

Etymotic Research HF5 ($120) – Etymotic Research invented the universal-fit in-ear headphone back in the 80s, and the company still manufactures some of the most accurate-sounding 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 and detailed 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 from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

Audio-Technica ATH-IM02

Audio-Technica ATH-IM02

Audio-Technica ATH-IM02 ($170 – $200) – The Audio-Technica IM02 is priced closer to the single-driver in-ear monitor offerings from Shure and Westone but utilizes a dual-driver setup with performance to match, making it a no-brainer for musicians. It also benefits from a sturdy construction, secure fit, good noise isolation, and detachable, user-replaceable cables, as well as neutral – if just a hair smoothed-out – sound. Audiophiles and other critical listeners will appreciate the clarity and accuracy the IM02 delivers without being overly treble-heavy and harsh. Read full review on InnerFidelity

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

Retired: Fischer Audio DBA-02 mkII, Aurisonics Rockets

Other

A catch-all for earphones that don’t strictly fit into the other categories or offer variable sound tuning.

Ostry KC06

Ostry KC06

Ostry KC06 ($45 – $65) – The KC06 is a bright, mid-forward earphone that boasts slightly enhanced bass with some sub-bass roll-off, superb clarity, sparkly treble, and a soundstage that’s wide and airy for an in-ear earphone. Next to higher-end sets it lacks some bass extension, soundstage depth, and imaging ability, but for the price it is very hard to fault. The shallow fit is comfortable in the ear, too. One caveat is the high sensitivity, which means hiss can be audible and low volumes can be hard to dial in with sources not designed for sensitive IEMs. Read full review

Buy from Amazon.com / Buy from eBay.com / Buy from LendMeUREars

DUNU Titan 1

DUNU Titan 1

DUNU Titan 1 ($90 – $110) – The Titan 1 is the next logical step up from the KC06. It is similar to the Ostry unit in many ways – both are shallow-fit, metal earphones; both are worn cable-down and both have only moderate noise isolation; both are comfortable, especially for those who don’t like deep in-ear fit of conventional IEMs. The sound of the Titan 1 maintains the strengths of the Ostry with fewer caveats – the forward upper midrange and wide, airy presentation are retained while clarity, detail resolution, bass depth, and overall balance are all improved. The DUNU unit is also sturdier, and the $120 price tag makes it the IEM to beat for this sort of sound. Read full Review

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

FLC Technology FLC8

FLC Technology FLC8

FLC Technology FLC8 ($320 – $360) – The main draw of the triple-driver FLC8 is the flexible 36-setting sound tuning system. Not all of the possible settings are brilliant and swapping out the ports is an exercise in patience and finesse even with the included tweezers and spare parts, but it’s pretty easy to alter the sound once you get the hang of it. Those who get tired of listening to the same sound signature, have eclectic music tastes, or aren’t yet sure of exactly what sort of sound they want are certain to find extra value here, but it’s not just the tuning system that makes this earphone special – even if limited to the default tuning, the FLC8 is a superb-sounding triple-driver earphone that also happens to be the lightest and most comfortable in its class. Fead full review

Buy from Amazon.comBuy from LendMeUREars

That concludes an overview of over two dozen of the most essential earphones for every taste and budget. For more in-depth reviews of these and other sets check out the sortable review list. This guide will be updated whenever we come across new products worth mentioning.

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

 

Questions or comments? Leave them below.

Last major overhaul: 12/08/2016: 5 outdated recommendations removed, 2 new ones added

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About Author

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

1,486 Comments

  1. Rick on

    Hi,
    I am looking for a headphones that fit the following criteria in descending order.
    Previously using XiaoMi piston 2 but they werent comfortable when listening while lying on my bed
    I am also using the Sony MDR 1ABT and I liked how these sound.
    1.Comfort -most important, especially lying on bed
    2.Price – prefer 1 recommendation below $100 & 1 below $50
    3. Sound prefer bass
    Thank you

  2. Derku on

    Heyo Joker, I recently bought the E1001 1MORE Triple Driver and really enjoyed the sound, however the cable noise was a bit too much for me, I could hear it with every minuscule movement. I was wondering if you had any recommendations for a set that sounds like the 1MORE (perhaps with a tad more clarity/highs and mids?) in a similar price range (downwards of 250$ CAD), but with better cables. Thanks!

    • Derku on

      I should mention I mostly listen to instrumental and orchestral (game OSTs, Two Steps From Hell) that have some choir, and some pop (K-Pop and J-Pop). Most important is the instrumental sound detail.

  3. Ray on

    Hi Joker,

    I’m looking for an earphone that I can use to alternate with my daily drivers the im02. I listen to mostly vocals and acoustics covers. I appreciate how the im02 can deliver songs with vocals as clean as they can be. Most of the iems on the market I came across are too bassy for my taste and impede into the vocals that I value alot of the im02. I read some of the recommendations in your comments about the aurisonics rockets being one of the similar neutral signature. Hence I went to try it out but sadly the mids felt too forward and feels claustrophobic. It isn’t as easy to drive from my smartphone compared to the im02.

  4. Darren Thomas on

    Hi Joker,

    Which out of the RHA-MA750 and Yamaha EPH-100 would you recommend for clear sound, nice soundstage and a really deep-feeling bass? My music tastes range from R&B, hip-hop, rock, metal, folk …. quite a mix really.

    I’m generally not a fan of over-ear so slightly edging towards the Yamaha but I think I read earlier that it’s easier to use third party tips (I’ve ordered some Spinfits) on the RHA compared to the Yamaha?

    I also noticed that Amazon UK advises that there’s a newer version of the EPH-100, the EPHM200. Do you have any experience with this?

    • Darren Thomas on

      Scratch that, I’d placed an order with RHA and asked them to cancel but they’re too quick and have shipped already. Guess I’m going with RHA!

      • ljokerl on

        Both have comparable bass depth, clarity, and soundstaging but MA750 is definitely easier to find tips for, so I think you’ll be happy with it. They both have pros and cons, but are both excellent earphones for warm, enhanced-bass sound with very reasonable “Hi-Fi” qualities.

        Yamaha has been phasing out the EPH-100 in favor of the EPH-M100 and EPH-M200 for quite some time but the market has been resisting – the feedback for the new sets hasn’t been as good while the old ones are still plenty very well-liked. I haven’t tried the new models myself.

  5. Miemphis on

    Hi Joker

    What would you recommend for movie/Netflix watching in fairly noisy environments like trains? Isolation would be fairly important to me. I have tried Ety’s but they are just too uncomfortable for me. I’m deciding between the RHA MA750, Yamaha EPH 100 and 1More Triple Drive. I’m also open to getting some Comply tips to help with isolation.

    • Miemphis on

      Forgot to mention that I’m currently using Shure SE215. They are breaking down hence I’m looking for a replacement.

      • ljokerl on

        I use Aurisonics Rockets myself but they’ve gotten difficult to find so I can’t recommend them at this point.

        1MORE probably isn’t sufficiently isolating. EPH-100 is great when it comes to isolation, about on-par with SE215, but not sure if Comply tips fit it well. MA750 is kind of a compromise between the two – shallower fit a-la 1MORE but isolation is better than the 1MORE, and it also natively fits Comply tips (I believe some are even included). I think either EPH-100 or MA750 should be good, depending on price/availability, but if you really want to use Complys MA750 is the way to go.

        • Miemphis on

          Thanks Joker. Only reason I brought up Comply was it appears to be a recommended aftermarket fix for more/better isolation. If the isolation is sufficient on the stock EPH-100 tips, then I’m happy to go with them.

          Here in Singapore, the EPH-100 seems to be a bit hard to find, so having a second option with the MA750 is nice.

          • ljokerl on

            I think Yamaha phased out the EPH-100 in favor of the newer EPH-M100 and EPH-M200, but the feedback on these hasn’t been as good as the older model. Plus the form factor is more conventional – one of the reasons the EPH-100 is so easy to recommend is that unique highly-isolating form factor.

            Anyway, chances are the EPH-100 will keep getting harder to find. Hopefully the MA750 still has a few years left before it gets replaced.

            • Miemphis on

              Hi Joker

              I bought the EPH 100 in the end and just received it today. One thing I’m having difficulty with is the fit. No matter which tip I use, I can’t seem to get a good seal. I’ve used bi/tri flange tips before (Ety Hf3) so I don’t think I’m inserting them incorrectly.

              Any advice?

  6. Xcrailer on

    Hi Joker,

    Would you say the MEE Pinnacle P1 is a good replacement for my broken DUNU DN-2000?

    Or what would you recommend around 200 USD that would have the same isolation as the dn-2000?

    • ljokerl on

      Isolation on the P1 is fine, I think it’s a little better than DN-2000 (but then again I’m not using foam tips on my DUNU). Sound-wise P1 is a little flatter, biggest concession to the DN-2000 is probably in deep bass. This is a strength of the DN-2000, which has very linear bass extension despite only moderate bass quantity, and not a strong point of the P1, which rolls off a bit. Otherwise P1 is good – it’s one of the few IEMs that can put up a fight with DN-2000 in soundstage, has similar midrange quality (good) and comparable treble as well (both can be a little splashy but generally good).

      • Xcrailer on

        In this current market, would you still rate the dn2000 as a better buy? For you which is you favorite between the two?

        Also, what would you say is your favorite go to daily driver IEM in the under 300 USD category?

        • ljokerl on

          The P1 is a better buy for a reference IEM, the DN-2000 is a better buy for a v-shaped/consumer IEM. Not sure which I prefer to be honest – probably depends on my mood. DN-2000 has been a staple of my recommendations for much longer so I’d probably lean towards that if I had to pick one to live with.

          My favorite daily currently is the Aurisonics Rockets, which retail for around $250, but it’s getting hard to find these. Seems to be a pattern with some of my favorite “value for money” IEMs – first the TWFK sets (ATH-CK10, Fischer DBA-02, VSonic VC1000), then the TDK BA200, then the Rockets. Yamaha EPH-100s are probably going to disappear next…

          • Xcrailer on

            Ahhhh I have always wanted to try the rockets, it’s such a shame that fender just scrapped them when they bought aurisonics :(.

            In your opinion, for a slightly colored IEM, Can the DN-2000 be beat under 300? Would you say the lack of removeable cables gives them a disadvantage in the current market?

            Also, I’d give my left nut to get my hands on a pair of dunu dk-4001 as everything I’ve read about them is just amazing but DUNU priced them a little too high for an IEM for me :(.

            One last thing, what advantages would a hybrid IEM such as the dn2000 have over a single dynamic like the P1?

  7. salocin82 on

    Hi Joker,

    First of all, thank you very much for the listing. It really helps to choose a good headset.

    I wanted to consult the following: which earphone would you recommend to listen to rock, grunge, punk, indie, etc?

    Thanks so much for your help!

    • ljokerl on

      I’d probably go with a mild v-shape or a balanced sound to maintain versatility with different rock subgenres, but ultimately it varies by listener – one person may prefer a v-shaped sound with a particular music selection, while another may prefer a balanced sound for the same tracks.

      Generally speaking I rarely have a set recommendation for a specific genre or genres, but there are versatile IEMs that you can’t really go wrong with – for example the VSonic GR07 (or GR07 bass edition), which have been a staple of the Hi-Fi scene for 5+ years now.

  8. Lynchos on

    Hey Joker,

    First of all 11/10 site, much more informative, consistent, and easy to navigate compared to headfi and reddit.

    I’ve been using a pair of sennheiser cx300iis for a while now but I lost the tips. Figured its more cost effective for me to get new IEMs than replace the tips.

    Those are the only IEMs I’ve owned so I don’t have much to compare to. However I love my Philips Fidelio X2 headphones, which have a massive soundstage and are probably on the warm side but also have a bump towards the sub bass.

    I listen to electronic, trip-hop, IDM, downtempo and ambient music genres. I want to feel the bass, but not have it overpower the small details in the more ambient stuff. Most the electronic and ambient stuff i listen to is Sub bass heavy.

    Side note: I’ve been itching to try foam tips, and the over-ear style.

    I’ve been considering both the RHA MA750 and the Yamaha EPH-100. They’re in my price range and close to what i would enjoy I think.

    Only concerns are I might miss the bass i got from my senns if i get the RHA, and the Yams seem poor on the comfort side. and I don’t want to fork out $130 AUD for such uncertainty.

    An Audio store that i buy from has the Astrotec AM90, and MEElectronics M6 Pro on sale for $50AUD.
    Whats our opinion of these IEMs considering the information I attempted to give?

    Thanks and sorry for the terrible articulation, pretty new to the wonders of the audio world.

    • Lynchos on

      Cant edit my comment, but I also have found someone selling some Phonak PFE 012s which i think could fit for me based on your review, seems a pretty good deal for $50AUD also.

      So tossing between the RHA MA750 and Yamaha EPH-100; but also considering Astrotec AM90s, MEElectronics M6 Pros and Phonak PFE 012s as a cheaper alternative.

      • ljokerl on

        The Yamahas and RHAs both have good bass in every sense (quantity and quality). You might miss some of the overboost of the CX300 at first, but with those two you’ll be fine in the long run.

        From what I understand the M6 PRO has less bass / a flatter sound than the regular M6 model, so I wouldn’t recommend that if you’re concerned about bass, and the AM90 will have no bass at all compared to a CX300.

        PFE012 is a little tough because I think it’s a great value at $40-50. Still doesn’t have as much bass as an MA750/EPH-100 but it’s a really good earphone. Especially if you can pick up some gray filters for later in case you ever decide to turn it into a 112 – then you’ll also have a great “reference” earphone in your collection.

        But great deals aside, I’d lean towards the MA750 or EPH-100. MA750 probably wins out here because of 3-year warranty, native over-ear design, and foam tips being included. It’s a warm and somewhat mellow earphone, not something with a huge “wow” factor but very easy to listen to and the underlying sound quality grows on you. Not sure if you’d describe the Fidelio X2 the same way (it’s been a while since I’ve tried a full-size Philips headphone), but if yes then the MA750 should be pretty safe.

  9. Ode on

    Hey Joker,

    I loved reading this article. My first audiophile earbuds were the Yuin PK3, and I still use them today. I listen to electronic, classic, trance, pop and in general songs with a V shape. Thanks to your recommendation, I bought the DUNU 1000 many years ago. All I can say is that I absolutely loved them. They were super clear and playing electronic music with the rock EQ on PowerAmp for Android was a dream, and so was on my Ultrabook. The only con was that they were quite heavy and couldn’t wear them for a long time. Because of this, and that they starting showing wear, I have decided to get a new pair of IEMs.

    I want to say that the Xiaomi Piston 3 were a great price so I ordered it when you had it on here. But when I used them, they were not even close to a V shape and my music sounded awful. My PK3 and iPhone earbuds sounded way better. I tried breaking them in and played with the EQ but nothing. So for the past year I’ve been sticking with my PK3. Kind of funny that PK3 is a $30 earbud keeps me happy after listening to $200 IEM, eh?

    Recently I see that you updated with the 1MORE triple driver. The price looks good, but I am afraid that my V shape may differ from your V shape because of our different views of the Pistons 3. Regardless, I am looking for a new IEM like the Dunu 1000 but lighter, and don’t mind if it has a mic. Do you have any other recommendations either than the 1MORE? The Sennheiser Momentum? Once I buy I probably won’t be able to return it.

    Keep up the good work.

    • ljokerl on

      Sounds like a deeper V-shape is what you’re after, and the Momentum is definitely better than the 1MORE Triple and Piston 3 in that regard, but still sounds a little different from the DN-1000, which has slightly “meatier” bass but also thinner/sharper treble (thanks to the hybrid driver system). I think it’s probably a worthwhile tradeoff for the lower price and much lighter/more comfortable earpieces.

      I will also say that the deepest v-shape earphones I’ve tried recently have been the Popclik String. These are not Hi-Fi by any means but they’ve dropped to $6.99 on Amazon recently so if you’re in the US they might be worth picking up as a beater/backup set: http://amzn.to/2nRP4EV . I should probably replace the SHE3580 in the guide above with these, as long as the price holds at $15 or less.

      • Ode on

        Thank you!

        I just put on the Piston 3 again and the bass is great, but the mids are higher than I expected, and the highs are average. I may have been a bit harsh on them. My apologies!

        Will buy a Sennheiser soon off your link soon! By the way, what would you recommend above DUNU 1000 besides DUNU 2000? $500 IEM, $750 IEM, $1000 IEM for V shaped? Is there an IEM that would wow me after DUNU 1000?

        • ljokerl on

          It depends on the degree/severity of the “v” that you’re after. For example the FLC Technology FLC8 offers a very compelling “mild” v-shape signature with noticeable sound quality gains even coming from a DN-1000, but again its sound is flatter than the DN-1000 (or Sennheiser Momentum) so it may not be right for you.

          For something that has a true v-shape in a higher-price range, I guess the Sennheiser IE800 is probably as good as I’ve tried, though it is a little more balanced than the DN-1000. I reviewed it here: http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/sennheiser-ie-800-dynamic-ear-monitor (it’s gotten less expensive since). Admittedly I haven’t tried the newest generation of JVC FX-series IEMs, and those have been quite good in the past for v-shaped sound. In fact, there’s a bunch of ultra high-end IEMs I haven’t tried, so the answer to your question is yes, but probably outside of my scope as you go to $750 and beyond.

          There are also some earphones that go too far for me – for example the Unique Melody 3X is in my opinion compromised by how severe its midrange recession is, but I’m sure there are some who enjoy its intense v-shaped sound profile.

  10. Xander Hoose on

    Hey Joker!

    I was checking out your IEM list, but it seems to be wired only. Maybe you can help me out with this question, though. I have been using the Sony SBH80 for a few years now, and as far as I am concerned, this is my ‘golden standard’ for an in-ear Bluetooth headset: a $99 headset that offers the sound quality of a $149 model.

    I wanted to ‘upgrade’ to a model with newer Bluetooth version and longer battery life, so I went for the Apple BeatsX. I received them today, and I’m appalled by the sound quality, which is unbalanced with horrible mids/highs. I’ve quickly tried the Bose QuietControl 20s, but dislike the huge neckband (also looks uncomfortable on the Sennheiser Momentums) and didn’t hear a big improvement over the sound of the SBH80.

    Do you have any recommendation for in-ear Bluetooth models around the $150 price mark? I haven’t been able to find the Jaybird X2 or X3 models yet, the custom equalizer functionality sounds good, but at the same time — great controls can’t fix a shitty headphone.

    • ljokerl on

      Out of what I’ve heard, the SBH80 is by far my favorite wireless IEM for audio quality. I haven’t tried the Jaybird X3 but the X2 is pretty mediocre. So are the Jabra Rox, JLAB Epics, Plantronics Backbeat Fits, and all of the other “sports” ones I’ve tried. Some are better than others, but they are just not tuned for fidelity.

      I tried some true wireless ones as well – the Airpods, the Samsung Gear Iconx, the Bragi Dash, and some cheap ones off Amazon. The Airpods and Gear Iconx sound quite decent, a step above the sports sets I mentioned above, but again neither sounds better than the SBH80.

      I suspect you’d need a set from a company with a Hi-Fi focus to beat the Sony. The Klipsch X12 wireless looks interesting, but is very pricy. The other option is an MMCX Bluetooth adapter + a set of detachable-cable (MMCX) Hi-Fi earphones. I have a feeling most of the cheap MMCX adapters don’t sound very good, though, and ones from reputable manufacturers like Westone are $150 just for the adapter. Keeping an eye out for future developments in this space.

  11. Bird on

    Hi Joker,

    Been a longtime fan of your site. I recently decided that I want to make the switch over from IEMs that I have to replace every 6-12 months due to lacking build quality. I’ve had the Xiaomi Piston 2 & 3 and VSD1s. I primarily listen to deep house, synthwave, synthpop, ambient, chillwave, experimental, techno, downtempo, psychedelic rock, and just general electronic music (not EDM). I will be using these at the gym and at work.

    I’ve been researching, and I’ve read up a lot about the SE215’s amazing build quality and 2 year warranty, but I’m not sure if they’d be headphones for my music taste. I’ve also been reading up on the RHA MA750 after seeing the recommendation on here and the 3 year warranty, but I’m not sure if the build quality would compare to the SE215’s or if the sound quality would be suitable for my music taste. The Sennheiser IE80’s have also caught my eyes due to their price being lower than usual, but again, I’m not sure if they’d fit my music tastes.

    My budget is $200. Thanks again.

    • ljokerl on

      I generally think the MA750 sounds significantly better than the SE215, and that includes for your genres. Out of what you’ve owned, the signature of the MA750 is closest to the Piston 2, but much more refined.

      The build quality and warranty are hard to beat as well – the SE215 does have replaceable cables but they cost $20-$50 to replace so I’d say it’s more cost effective to use the MA750 for 3 years with its warranty.

      IE80 is a great MA750 alternative and I’d recommend it if you can get it for a similar price, but typically it’s much more expensive which makes the RHA a better value.

      • Bird on

        Great. Thank you. Do you know anything about the SE215m+ and how it would compare to the MA750? It’s basically the same as the SE215 Blue Special Edition and said to be slightly warmer with a minor boost in the low frequency response. They’re both exactly the same price at $120. Thanks again.

        • ljokerl on

          Haven’t tried that version, but it would need to be more than just a slight improvement on the regular SE215 to beat the MA750.

  12. Dennis on

    I’ve been on a bit of an adventure lately. A couple weeks ago I bought a pair of Monoprice Triple XXX earbuds, and I ended up being rather unhappy with them. The detail just wasn’t there, and there was distortion in the highs. It’s like they didn’t even have balanced armatures in them.

    I’d installed a new ROM on my phone that came with Viper4Android, and I figured I’d try the clarity booster. I was pretty amazed with the improvement.

    Now, I also had a pair of JVC GUMY in-ear headphones lying around. I’d bought these a while back, listened to for 2 days, and stuffed in a drawer because of their horrendous sound. I decided to try them with Viper and see what I could get out of them. I put on the DDC for the JVC FX3X, added clarity boost, spectrum enhancer, and an EQ of my own.

    And what the shit, these shitty earphones sounded better than $50 Monoprice earbuds. They went from horribly distorted and bassy to well-balanced V-shaped phones with sizzling highs, ample mids, plenty of detail, and a vast reserve of bass to back everything up. Who knew there was such a great pair of earphones under such awful tuning? To top it all off, the isolation on them is miles better than the Monoprice as well.

    I didn’t give up. I wanted to give the Triple XXX a fair chance, so I spent an hour making an impulse response file for them from the frequency response graph, as a preset for them didn’t exist. Put it on, and the crappy $10 earbuds beat them out anyways.

    So yeah, I’m returning the $50 Monoprice and using shitty earbuds that until now I couldn’t listen to for more than a couple minutes without physical discomfort. Sometimes I turn off the EQ just to remind myself that they are still the same earphones lol

    • ljokerl on

      Great that you’ve managed to get a solid listening experience out of something inexpensive!

      You’re definitely not alone – there’s a whole movement of people who prefer EQd or modified inexpensive headphones to pricier ones. I think the example that first exposed me to this phenomenon was when the Philips SHE3580 became popular after this thread on Head-Fi: http://www.head-fi.org/t/561951/philips-she3580-iem-review-how-can-something-sound-so-good-for-10

      • Dennis on

        The description towards the end of that post is actually quite similar to what i am getting from mine. Except even better – soundstage, imaging and separation are very impressive, and the bass response is truly something else. Watching movies is extremely immersive. However, they are quite unforgiving to bad mastering.

      • Dennis on

        I’ve also ordered a pair of 3590’s as well, to see how they compare.

  13. Joe on

    Hi Joker, nice write up and very informative and thanks for taking the time for making a great site. I had a question I was thinking about picking up the Audio Technica ATH-IM02, and would you recommend it if I use this for laptop and phone listening? I heard maybe the IM50 or IM70’s might be better for that type of listening, now I am a noob here and just starting out so I am just learning haha. Well I have the MEElectronics M6 Pro and I like them a lot, but want an upgrade, I heard Shure 215 is good, want a little better willing to spend around the $150 USD price. I have to have that detachable cable, I sleep with these on so so sometimes yanking of the cord happens and I have wrecked a lot IEM’s. So let me know thanks for any help look forward to hearing from you .

    • ljokerl on

      Depends on how poor the audio hardware in your laptop and phone is – the IM02 is a balanced armature earphone and it will have some problems if your audio sources either a) hiss or b) have high output impedance. However, my last two phones (Nexus 6P and Moto X Pure) have both been fine so I think newer, higher-end phones should all be fine these days.

      Laptops are more hit or miss, but if you end up having issues with your laptop you can always pick up an inexpensive DAC further down the line.

      • Joe on

        Thanks Joker, I have a pretty good laptop 2015 Asus gaming laptop and a Nexus 6p phone so it should be good. Since I am just starting out, will I be able to hear the difference with the IM02 from my M6 pro with the laptop and 6p, or do I need other equipment? How does the IM02 feel in the ears is it bulky, I have wide canals and deep, so just wondering comfort is my issue too because I sleep with my IEM’s on haha? Well thanks for everything, I know everyone ears are different and with your help I will be picking up those IM02 thanks again for all the help you give us here.

        • ljokerl on

          Yes, even with your phone the IM02 will sound like a mid/high-end balanced armature IEM. I have been quite happy with mine and I use it on the go (with phone) most of the time.

          It looks a little weird (less like a classic IEM) compared to something like the M6 PRO, but it feels pretty natural (and not bulky) in the ear. While sleeping (which i don’t do with my IEMs) M6 PRO might be a little better because its slimmer in profile, but for everyday use the fit of the IM02 should be more or less equivalent.. at least it is for me.

  14. Eelnwahs on

    Hey joker, I’m not sure if you check head-fi that much but a left you a pm there asking for advice as you’re the only person who has successfully suggested headphones for me.

    • ljokerl on

      Best to just ask here, for some reason I don’t get notifications on Head-Fi anymore for new comments, messages, etc 🙂

      • Eelnwahs on

        Ok I’ll copy and paste since I wrote a very long pm to you lol

        So after a year of enjoying the wonderful sound of the DUNU DN-2000 which were nothing short of amazing sounding (only downside is they have slight comfort issues after wearing them for awhile), I no longer have them due to circumstances out of my control.

        Now I am looking to find a replacement with a budget around 100 USD. I ordered the vsonic gr07 but I ended up sending them back for a number of reasons, the bass seemed a little bit too lean, the highs were very harsh and cold, and the sound seemed extremely lean with little color and far away.

        Now you know I love a spacious and airy soundstage from your upgrade path you set for me going from the quadbeat, to the kc06 and then finally the dn-2000. One of the best things about the kc06 and the dn-2000 was the wonderfully extended and sparkly treble but it seemed so refined and non fatiguing as well as having just enough bass not to bloat the headphone but to give it some life. Also even though the dn-2000 had slightly recessed mids it was still wonderful sounding and the detail, imaging, spacious soundstage, and coloring of it made music come to life.

        To end this I’m guessing that nothing around this budget will touch those levels but I felt the need to reach out to you to see what my options are around my budget and I’m also willing to go a little higher if it’s worth it. I would also like isolation and minimal sound leakage similar to the DUNU as I use this at work.

        Please Joker be my savior once again, and I don’t even say this to stroke your ego, you are the ONLY person who’s recommendations have been nothing short of incredible and I’ve enjoyed every step of the upgrade path you’ve provided. I hope to hear from you soon.

        • Eelnwahs on

          Hey Joker,

          I did want to add one thing, as much as I truly fell in love with the DUNU DN-2000, I did experience comfort issues when trying to wear them 8 hours a day at work. I’ve realized that I loved them as I explained above but these new IEM will only be used at work for 7-8 hours a day so I need something that is a compromise between my preferred sound signature and also having good comfort and above average isolation.

          • ljokerl on

            I think you asked this question here a few weeks ago: http://theheadphonelist.com/earphone-buyers-guide/comment-page-8/#comment-147104

            I suggested the 1MORE Triple, which is not perfect but with a $100 budget and an emphasis on comfort I’m not sure you can do better. Soundstage on it is not amazing – the $100 set that’s most like the DN-2000 in soundstage and clarity is probably the DUNU Titan 1. It’s also a good choice but it’s a little larger/heavier than the 1MORE and is a little leaner on bass than you’re used to (and much leaner than the 1MORE).

            Neither of these is a perfect DN-2000 replacement (being like 40% of the DN-2000’s price) but I think they are both a better choice than the GR07. I’d go with the 1MORE and give up the clarity for the sake of being able to wear them all day, but it’s up to you.

            • Eelnwahs on

              You would still recommend the 1more even with its isolation problem? The thing is that I work in an open office and people around me are very loud as well as I can’t have sound leak. How would the 1more fair at above average volume? Also how would the rha ma750 fit into my range? I see a lot of people recommend them.

              • ljokerl on

                It’s very rare for an IEM to leak. If you found the KC06 unacceptable than the 1MORE might warrant a pass, but I think it’s okay for offices. MA750 will sound quite muddy coming from a DN-2000. It’s a rather bass-heavy IEM and bass-heavy doesn’t really go well with what you’re looking for in an IEM (spacious, good imaging, etc). Even the 1MORE might sound a little muddy coming from the DN-2000, but still better than the RHA.

                It’s actually quite rare for a universal IEM to both isolate well and sound open – the higher-end DUNU hybrids like the DN-2000 are an exception to this. It’s up to you which you’d rather compromise in – sound or isolation.

                • Eelnwahs on

                  Joker, so are you saying the people at DUNU are wizards??

                • Eelnwahs on

                  So, I have the 1more e1001 and while they do sound great, they leak far too much sound, almost completely audible to what I’m listening to but maybe my ears don’t seal them well.

                  Now that I’m back at square one, any ideas? I’m seriously so defeated I’m about to give up 🙁

                  • ljokerl on

                    Hmm.. maybe your listening volume is higher than mine as well. I really don’t know, there’s not a sealed, well-isolating IEM I’ve tried for $100 that’s similar to the 1MORE in tuning and performance, never mind the DN-2000. Maybe settle for an isolating IEM that has good bass/note thickness and sounds kinda/sorta spacious? Like an MA750 from RHA.

                    • Eelnwahs on

                      I did notice that the 1more does not have anywhere near the level of treble extension of the dn-2000 though. So if I’m gonna for something isolating, in that price range you would go ma750? I could probably go up to 150 if it was worth it

                    • ljokerl on

                      With your requirements it seems like MA750 is the best choice. I would personally be fine using them as my daily drivers, their great strength is that they don’t really do anything wrong. Should run you about $120-$130.

  15. Xinn3r on

    Wish you would one day review the HA-FXT200 and/or 100!

    If you’ve heard it, can you give me some of your thoughts?

    I love my FXT90 to death, and if the sound from either one of the new models is an upgrade, I’m definitely buying it.

    • ljokerl on

      Those two JVCs have always eluded me – I’ve never tried any of JVC’s follow-ups to the FXT90 (which I also really like).

  16. Frisky DIngo on

    Looking forward to new IEM reviews, the Pinnacle P1 and LZ A4 in particular.

  17. Ayush Agarwal on

    I currently have vsonic vsd3s and was looking for an upgrade with similar sound signature 🙂
    (I have used vsonic gr06 in past and loved it).
    Would you recommend vsonic vsd5s or vsonic gr07 bass edition or any other iem?
    Thanks a lot in advance 😀

    • ljokerl on

      I would go straight for the GR07 or GR07 BE, for me it’s the pinnacle for any VSonic fan. VSD3 sound signature is quite close to them already, just lacking the last step in sound quality and refinement that the 7s provide.

  18. Xcrailer on

    Hello joker,

    I am looking for a budget IEM under 100.

    I was using DUNU DN-2000 for the past year but due to circumstances I no longer have them.

    I loved the detail and balance that they dn-2000 had. Would the GR07 be the budget replacement for a balanced and detailed IEM? If not please let me know your suggestions

    • Xcrailer on

      Hello Joker,

      Update on this, I actually bought the gr07 and am returning it, it does have great clarity but the sound is very thing and doesn’t seem to have any color to it. I enjoy the large spacious sound stage of the dn-2000 but the gr07 sounds very distant and cold.

      So basically my question is, where do i go from her sensai?

      • ljokerl on

        DUNU hybrids have a pretty unique way of delivering high levels of detail and clarity without being overly flat… maybe because the bass driver is doing its own thing. I would think the 1MORE Triple-driver would be a better choice at than the GR07 at the $100 price point for what you want – it won’t have quite the same clarity, but it’s a fun listen arguably more in line with the DUNU hybrids.

        If you’re spending more than that, you’ll probably be disappointed that the clarity is not up to par with the DN-2000 (see, for example, Fidue A83), but at $100 that’s not the worst thing.

  19. chopstix on

    i had the 1more e1001 in the summer time for a bit
    ….while i loved it’s sound sig, i found the bass a bit unbalanced:
    sometimes too hard hitting and out of sync with the rest of the music.

    using the flc 8s largely due to your review and feedback (thanks for that)
    …and have never had any dunu but maybe one day.

    loved the vsonic gr07 classic….still a fabulously well balanced earphone: full of details
    and clean bass.

    on the flc: just trying a new config: : gray, gray and gray
    by removing the red (ULF) i found i can still get fab punchy bass
    without any smearing or such that can happen from too much ULF.
    all the best for 2017 and continued success with your blog

    • ljokerl on

      Thanks! Glad you’re enjoying these earphones, I too still prefer the GR07 to many pricier and newer earphones (E1001 included). Waiting to see what VSonic and FLC come up with next.

  20. Shawn on

    Hello joker!

    I was wondering besides the titan 1’s, is there an upgrade to the ostry KC06 under 150? Preferably under 100 if possible. Thanks!

    • Shawn on

      On a second note, if I were to switch to a balanced set, what balanced set under 100 would have good isolation and minimal sound leakage while still having decent clarity and separation.

      • ljokerl on

        An Etymotic HF5 would be best if you can find one under $100. Otherwise you can go for Final Audio Heaven II. Even a HiFiMan RE-400 will be fine if you can’t get your hands on the other two – it’s not the most resolving IEM, but for the price it’s much more than decent.

        As for KC06 upgrades, only the Titan 1 and its Fiio derivative (EX1) come to mind. It’s not a very common sound tuning.

  21. oifunza on

    Hi Joker,
    I’ve been following your advice for quite a long time. I used to own MEElectronics M6 and VSonic VSD1S. Unfortunately, the latter didn’t last long, that’s why I’m looking for new a new pair of IEMs. The main criteria are:
    — All-roundness (I listen mainly to piano sessions, EDM like Drum & Bass or Drumstep and Rock at times);
    — Isolation (a really important thing for me, I travel mainly by the underground);
    — Comfort (I listen to the music for hours, so M6 did a great job while they lasted).
    The money is not an issue as long as IEMs will serve for couple of years. I’ve heard that Yamaha EPH-100 can be brought to the full potential without an amplifier (I use SanDisk Sansa Clip+ as my main source). Any recommendations?

    • oifunza on

      P.S. VSD1S appeared to be sibilant for me, apparently.

      • ljokerl on

        EPH-100 will sound fine with a Clip+ and isolates tons. Not sure about durability in the long term, there are some mixed reports. If you prioritize durability I’d choose the RHA MA750 over the EPH-100 – you give up a bit of isolation and comfort (especially if you don’t like over-the-ear IEMs), but they’re very sturdy and have a 3-yr warranty. Both are fine without an amp.

  22. Remus on

    Hey joker, my local earphone store had a sale on the aurisonic rockets and I’m really enjoying their smooth yet detailed sound. Its unfortunate that they had to stop production albeit temporarily. Awesome review at innerfidelity btw. I was just curious if you were to give the rockets sound a numerical rating…what would it be? Tnx!

    • ljokerl on

      Lucky you were able to get your hands on one! I really love this earphone.

      Numerically, it would end up in the 9.2-9.3 range for me. It may not be the most high-resolution driver, but the excellent tuning makes up for it so well.

  23. Aneswa on

    Hi Joker, thanks for the wonderful reviews and comparisons.

    I have been using dunu Titan 1 and I love it except for the lack of Bass. I’m planning to upgrade. Please suggest appropriate IEM’s. Will RHA 750 or T20 be good?

    • ljokerl on

      Yes, both of those will give you more bass than Titan 1. The vocals (especially female vocals) won’t be as forward, however, because the Titan 1 has a very forward upper midrange while RHA sets (and most other enhanced-bass earphones) follow a v-shaped sound with slightly recessed mids. To minimize the clarity drop that results from this, I’d go with the T20 over the MA750.

  24. yalokiy on

    Have you tested Xiaomi Mi Hybrid Pro Triple Driver? I wonder if there are better choices with mic and android controls support..
    Are SoundMagic e10c worth the extra cash?

    • ljokerl on

      Haven’t tested those yet but I did test the Xiaomi dual-driver hybrid and the 1MORE triple-driver hybrid. The latter is really good.

      I think E10C is just the most recent version of the E10, with the new cable and remote. It’s still a pretty solid earphone for $50 but I miss the days of $30-$35 E10s.

  25. Manuel Jenkin on

    Hi Joker,

    I moved from my vsd3s (which I loved a lot) to the HD598 a couple of months ago and now I find it really hard to get back to vsd3s in situations where I need portability. The highs sound so wrong now. I still like them, their soundstage and energy but they don’t sound good and it takes probably 30 minutes before I am comfortable with them. Biggest problem is I find them to have a midbass/lower mids dip compared to HD598. I know HD598 is not the most loved headphone but I really love the way it presents music inoffensively and its detail. I even like it’s bass, except that I wish for a little more impact. Can you recommend me a spacious and slightly warm midbassy/neutral iem (not really looking for large soundstage, just shouldn’t be claustrophobic – vsd3s is almost spacious enough but too edgy sounding).. Or if I were to reprase this question, what iem/portable headphone would you suggest to a HD600/650 user? I’m pretty scared of gr07 now because I find vsd3s lacking in lower mids. Any good options at 100$ range or at under 400$ range.

    • Manuel Jenkin on

      And wish to bring to your notice. It seems that HD600 and HD650 are getting discontinued. They are soon to get a successor (not sure if it’s getting tonal changes or just cosmetic like HD598 -> 599). Saw this on reddit! Hoping to see your opinions on their successors when they arrive.

      • ljokerl on

        This is one of those questions that comes down to finding the “goldilocks” zone. The HD600 is one of the best headphones I’ve ever used (so I hope to try whatever new version Sennheiser releases), and I don’t think there’s an IEM that can compete with it around $100. From a sound tuning standpoing, the HiFiMan RE-400 will probably give you the least trouble coming from an HD600 or HD598 – it’s smooth, the mids are never recessed, and there’s no bass hump to speak of. However, it doesn’t have a great soundstage even by IEM standards and the deep bass is not great, so it’s hardly an HD598 upgrade in that regard.

        The Aurisonics Rockets were a good upgrade to the RE-400 with the right signature, but they’re discontinued, so with that I think the next step up is the Sony MDR-7550 (also called the EX800ST). It’s a little more balanced than the RE-400, with more prominent deep bass and slightly less relaxed treble. The difference in bass quantity is not huge objectively, but coming from a full-size headphone you’ll feel a lot more comfortable with the 7550 than the RE-400. And of course the soundstage is quite good, as is the case with most upper-tier Sony IEMs I’ve tried (especially the fantastic EX1000, but those are also discontinued).

        There’s plenty of other IEMs that have both more midrange and smoother treble than the VSD3 – the Audio-Technica IM02, Phiaton MS100BA, and Klipsch X11, just to name a few – but at their respective price points the RE-400 and MDR-7550 are what I’d choose. I’d also consider picking up a Sony MH1C for around $30 just as a beater IEM with a great baseline warm-and-smooth sound. I think these will be easier to switch to from an HD590/HD600 than the VSD3S.

  26. Rusa on

    My Piston 2 just broke and I love that little earphone.

    Bought Xiaomi Hybrid but didn’t like the sound so much as the treble feels ‘off’. Any recommendation other than Sony Sony MH1C?

    Have you tried Rock Zircon?

    • ljokerl on

      Haven’t tried the Zircon. It’ll be a little tough to find something as smooth as the Piston 2 that doesn’t also sound weird in some other way (other than the MH1C/SBH80). HiFiMan RE300 is a perfect example of this – super smooth treble, but coming from the fairly airy Piston 2 you will feel suffocated by it.

      Best I can suggest is to try a “next level” smooth-sounding set such as Yamaha EPH-100 or RHA MA750. A used one would be closer to the MH1C price range, though still a fair bit higher I would imagine.

      • Rusa on

        Thanks for the answer. I end up buying another Piston 2. Oh, bliss to my ears. There are definitely still legit earphones sold in AliExpress: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Original-XIAOMI-Piston-II-2-Headphone-Mi-Headset-Earphones-With-Remote-Mic-For-Phone-XIAOMI-Mi4/32472515594.html

        There seems a refresh of the product, too, sold under 1More. But some feedback in Head-Fi stated that it sounds slightly different while some said it sounds the same.

        If Piston 2 is still easily available, will it still hold the spot for best budget IEM for Warm and Smooth sound signature?

        • ljokerl on

          That’s quite a lucky buy! Yeah, I would gladly keep the Piston2 on the list if if were readily available – even though I think the MH1C sounds a bit better, the Piston2 is a much easier set to recommend overall, and is also less expensive.

  27. Lazer72 on

    Hi,

    I was wondering whether you could do a review of the Sony EX650 IEM’s considering their 5 star rating on WhatHiFi (not the most reliable source).
    I’d like a proper comparison between those and the sennheisers and Audiotechnica models at similar prices.

    Thank you

    • ljokerl on

      This is an older model so honestly there’s not much chance that I’ll go back and cover it – sorry.

  28. Shabtab on

    Just bought the Brainwavz M1 from your recommendation, and as soon as I listened to them I’m like I’ll have to thank you so here I am, Thank you so much…

    • ljokerl on

      Always great to hear – glad you’re enjoying them!

  29. Mikhail on

    Hello, Jocker

    Did you have a chance to listen Marshall Mode iems, which are the “best under 100” pick by thewirecutter?
    I’ve really loved their sound (their soft “boom” for the bass is amazing, and it didn’t lost the clarity in others), but the main pros is that it clicks when you’re plug them into ear (like my old senn cx-300) which repeats every time you’re touching them while in ear.

    So I’ve thought to replace them with 1More Triple, but according to you it sound like JVC HA-FXT90 which I also have and which sound very “boring” (nothing noticeable) for me, so I’m afraid that 1More would be the same.
    But I’ve bought my JVCs on eBay and atm they are traiding under 35$ while original price was about 100 so probably I’ve just got fake.

    Could you advice something?

    • ljokerl on

      Sorry, never tried the Marshall IEMs. The clicking sound you’re describing, though, is actually called driver flex; it’s caused by the air pressure in your ear pushing against the driver membrane and “crinkling” it. It’s not uncommon with inexpensive dynamic-driver earphones and varies depending on how good your seal is.

      1MORE Triples aren’t going to have this problem, but I don’t know how they’ll compare to the Marshall Mode otherwise.

  30. Reza on

    Hi joker

    Which is better between Philips 3590 and Xiaomi piston 3 for budget V-shaped IEM?

    • ljokerl on

      They’re both very good options, SHE3590 is better if you prefer a little more bass and warmth, while the Piston 3 is better if you prefer a leaner, less bass-heavy sound (while still being somewhat v-shaped).

  31. Mr. Worthamosm on

    It’s been 7 hours and 15 days since I took my mind away from what they call real life. I’ve been obsessing. I’ve been self-destructive. I lost weight. And now time has come for me to admit. I need help… with finding an IEM.

    Thing is I realized I like the warm and smooth signature, but right after that I realized that most earbuds in stores are v-shaped, and after that I looked for online resources and actually couldn’t find much. Just this. And both earbuds that I can afford from this list, the Dunu Trident and the Sony MH1C, are unavailable where I’m from. The SE215 is out of my spending possibilities.

    So question: Is there a page from this website or other that talks about IEM’s based on sound signature (warm?) that gives more variety? Because I could sacrifice some value for availability.

    (And just in case there is a miracle model you would out of nowhere suggest…
    I just bought Soundmagic E50 and Audio-Technica ATH-CKX7, each for around $45 and I’m now looking to resell them because these two make the voices unnaturally thin and sibilant. I still prefer to listen to my Panasonic RP-HJE125 that I found for $5 and that’s the signature I’m searching for, and I’m willing to pay up to $80-ish for added detail. That’s about where I stand as of now.)

    Sincere thanks, online entity referred to as |joker|!

    • ljokerl on

      Unfortunately I haven’t grouped IEMs by sound signature elsewhere – it has definitely appeared to me to do so, but at some point with the hundreds of IEMs out there you get to a point of splitting hairs in terms of sound signature and lines between “adjacent” tunings become blurred, if that makes any sense.

      Anyway, not sure what brands are available to you but maybe the Brainwavz M2? It’s a smooth-sounding earphone, not v-shaped, and not overly thin. Also not very expensive.

      If that’s not available, you might consider one of the “classics” of smooth and bassy sound – the Sennheiser CX300. Not sure if better than the HJE125, but they are quite capable at not making vocals sound thin or sibilant.

      • Mr. Worthamosm on

        I came back to say that I decided it was worth it for me to spend on something I will enjoy and I purchased the Shure SE215.
        They are what I was looking for, so thank you for this! It was the help that I needed.

        Have a good year!

        • ljokerl on

          Glad you picked up an SE215 and are enjoying it! Appreciate the feedback!

  32. Gleb on

    Hey!
    I need help in choosing IEM.
    I have Dunu Titan 5 and don’t like their sound. They have the detail and speed i want, but the tonality is not for me.
    I want something with good male vocals and guitars, detailed and kinda universal (good at all genres of music) at 100+- usd. Detechable cables would be great too.

    • ljokerl on

      It’s often a tradeoff between audible detail and keeping the brightness of an IEM to a reasonable level. You will find that many of the most “detailed”-sounding sets, especially among budget IEMs, will have a colored tonal character.

      Anyway, the way I see it you have three different paths from here for a versatile sound that does well with vocals and guitars, keeps detail levels reasonably high, and doesn’t follow the same type of bright, v-shaped sound as the Titan 5.

      1) Go neutral/analytical with an Etymotic HF5. These earphones have a very flat sound which not everyone loves but most people can easily appreciate. Of course it’s going to be much more balanced than a Titan 5.

      2) Go slightly warm/off-neutral with something like a HiFiMan RE-400. This would give you a smoother, more mid-centric sound. It will be a very extreme change from the Titan 5 – less bass boost, much less treble, forward mids, etc. If you really don’t like the Titan 5, maybe a radical change like this is not a bad idea .

      3) Go warm/bassy with something like a Yamaha EPH-100 or Sony MH1C. These will give you a more fun, bass-heavy sound than the options above while still being very different from the Titan 5. They are not going to be as detailed as the more balanced/analytical HiFiMan and Etymotic sets, but are also not so warm and colored that they don’t work with most genres.

      Unfortunately no detachable cables on any of these – looking for those at the $100 price point limits your options a lot, in most cases to something less capable than the above sets.

  33. audiobully on

    Hi Joker,

    Been following your IEM reviews for years, since the huge thread on head-fi and now on this amazing website.. Thanks for all of the great reviews!

    I’ve been using the Phonak Audeo PFE112 almost exclusively for the last 5 years, and I would’ve kept using them for eternity if not for the lack of replacement black/grey filters..
    So now I’m on the hunt for a replacement, as the filters seem to be extinct.
    Ideally, I would hope for something that sounds exactly the same as the Phonaks and retains the same high level of comfort.

    What would be your recommendation in that case? I also don’t want to spend too much, so if there’s an option in the 100$ range, it would be perfect, but if I have to stretch my budget for the perfect replacement, that’s also an option.

    Thanks again for your help!

    • ljokerl on

      Sadly I don’t know of a direct replacement for the PFEs, they had a rather unique sound to them. To make matters worse, the next generation of BA IEMs, one that was around when the PFE was still relevant, has also gone (mostly) extinct.

      I’d just get an Etymotic HF5 and call it a day, it’s a more neutral voicing compared to the PFEs but as far as performance goes they are solid and timeless. Shouldn’t cost much more than $100-$120, either.

  34. Mark on

    Hi Joker,

    Could you review the Carbo Tenore some day? Just came across them and The Verge seems to praise them very high:

    theverge.com/2016/8/29/12688698/zero-audio-carbo-tenore-best-earphones-review

    • ljokerl on

      Sorry, I have never even been in the same room with a Zero IEM, to the best of my knowledge. Not likely a review will happen.

  35. Harrison on

    Hey Joker. Let me first say this website is by far the best when it comes to the way you compare and contrast IEMs. You really are the best of the best at what you do. I listen to primarily EDM and all it’s sub-genres.

    My first IEM purchase was the Piston 2 years ago, and I quickly fell in love with them. I later moved on to a pair of Zero Audio Tenores (I’m not sure if you’ve tried these are not, but I believe they’re fairly warm in sound sig) and I really enjoyed the wide soundstage. Now I’ve lost them sadly and I’m looking for a replacement. I value:

    1. As wide a soundstage as possible. I prefer an airy sound as opposed to intimacy

    2. Bass that is present (unlike the RE-400) yet not overpowering

    3. Clear, analytical treble

    Sorry if I’m a bit broad with my definitions, but I’m still fairly new to expressing the sound I desire.

    • ljokerl on

      Sounds like a Sennheiser IE80 if you’re aiming towards the midrange market. Wide soundstage, enhanced bass, keeps good presence up into the treble. Have seen some great pricing on these lately, under $200. Next step up would be something like a Sony XBA-H3, but those get pricey. In the sub-$50 price range your best bet would be the Sony MH1C now that the Piston 2 is discontinued.

  36. dp on

    Thanks joker! I’ve meticulously reviewed your charts and reviews looking for IEMs for travel that plug directly into my phone and don’t need an amp. Since they are for airplane trips, isolation and comfort are top priorities.

    I picked up some Westone UM Pro 10 and have been really disappointed. They seem comfortable but just don’t sound right and I’ve been having trouble getting a proper seal in one ear even after buying a few different aftermarket foam tips. I want to return them and get something else. In the past I’ve had Shure SE110k and Klipsch S4, both failed with cable issues after a year or so. I tried Shure SE215 and they were just too uncomfortable. At this point I’m so frustrated that I’m ready to spend whatever it takes. Bonus if they have an inline remote for Android! Any thoughts?

    • ljokerl on

      The 1MORE Triple Driver is very difficult to beat for this. Has an earbud-style form factor (pretty much the exact opposite of the Westone/Shure form factor, but comfortable for most people), remote, and very impressive sound if what you’re after is an all-rounder. Compared to higher-end sets it’s not the clearest or most refined, but you can find it for as low as $80 and it’s pretty killer at that price.

      If you prefer a more bass-heavy/colored sound a-la the Klipsch S4, then you can consider the Sennheiser Momentum (Android version). It’s not the most accurate-sounding earphone but it has an energetic bass-heavy sound and very good ergonomics.

      • dp on

        Thanks for the quick reply! Will the earbud style of the 1MORE prevent that deep seal that is critical for external noise isolation? For that cheap price, it’s easy to just grab a pair to try out.

        Are there any higher end sets that don’t require an amp? I was also looking at the UE900 as it’s pretty near the top of your chart but was hoping for comfort of Westone with the Isolation of the Shure and hopefully better build quality (or replaceable cables).

        • ljokerl on

          Yes, isolation is mediocre on these and other earbud-style IEMs.

          There are lots of higher-end sets that don’t require an amp, but not many that have all of the things you’re looking for. I personally don’t find the UE900 as comfortable as a Westone, so it wouldn’t be a “safe” choice considering the fit issues you’ve had.

  37. Mike on

    Thanks!

    The problem with Yamaha is its availability and when I found them somewhere, couldn’t be delivered to my country.

    I had the IE80 and I hated their veil,  sunken mids. Was using the EQ and other surround effects for bringing the mids more upfront.
    Also, in its minimum setting, the bass was too much. That’s why I would like more focus on sub-bass.

    I even went to the IE800 blindly, thinking that nothing could be wrong and all the flaws in the IE80 will be fixed. Big mistake. Their dry sound and strident highs were really disappointing. Also they sounded too thin. Beautiful bass although.

    As I said, I don’t mind spending for a really good product and recently I’ve targeted the Sony XBA-Z5 – even I haven’t auditioned the XBA-H3, only H2 but they had a muddy sound and lack of clarity.
    The only reason I was hesitating a lot with the Z5 is the bass, which I understand is too much,  a lot more than IE80.

    So, is there an IE800 with smoother treble, lush mids and a very liquid sound? Or some kind of XBA-Z5 with more controlled bass and less darker sound?
    And if you were to choose an upgrade from Yamaha, what will be that?

    • ljokerl on

      I think the Z5 is a terrible earphone to be honest, a $700 set only suitable for bassheads. The H3 is not as bassy and ends up sounding better to me as a result, but it’s still not going to be as clear as the IE800 with its thinner, brighter sound (which always helps with clarity).

      You might be asking for the borderline impossible here, an earphone with enhanced bass and smoothed-over highs will naturally sound somewhat veiled. The EPH-100, IE80, and H3 are all imperfect compromises, but based on your requirements other sets lean too much in either the bass-heavy direction and sacrifice clarity (XBA-Z5, JVC FX sets, etc) or in the bright and thin direction and sacrifice lushness (IE800, RHA T20, most hybrid and BA IEMs).

      Maybe something unusual that I don’t normally recommend will hit the spot… something like a Westone UM 30 PRO or EarSonics SM2 (I usually consider these too thick and dull for a BA earphone) or a Klipsch X12 (too expensive and biased towards the low end for a BA). I can’t recommend these unless you are able to demo them first though. Not a huge fan of them myself.

      I usually recommend the XBA-H3 and sometimes the EarSonics Velvet as EPH-100 upgrades, but the Velvet is a pure BA earphone and not advisable since you’re worried about thin sound. Warm dynamic-driver earphones are almost always superior in that regard.

      • Mike on

        Well…if I’m asking for the impossible then I should change something to the requirements but at this moment I can’t figure it out what will be the ideal compromise.

        In the meantime, reading many other comments here, I found that the Velvet was your recommendation as a full tier upgrade from EPH-100 and based on your answer, I have one more and last question: how much lushness is sacrificed in the Velvet compared to IE800, being a pure BA earphone?

        • ljokerl on

          In this case not much at all because the IE800 is not very lush-sounding, especially for a dynamic-driver IEM. If you start comparing the Velvet to something like a JVC FX700 (which is even bassier/warmer than an IE80), then you will say that it is much less rich/lush in comparison.

          • Mike on

            Sorry for coming back with another question after I said it was the last, but just to be sure I understood correctly.

            What I meant, more exactly, by enhanced bass and clarity, was: a visceral rumble for sub-bass, with an analogical, warm and lush sound of a dynamic driver, but not too much power in the mid-bass, which has to be fast and tight enough – BA type, not overshadowing ‎the rest of the spectrum but having enough presence and warmth, just as to create a bridge between full, rich and warm sound and a transparent one, with a lot of clarity and details retrieval (detailed upper mids, very good treble definition, bright and clear, without sibilance).

            Now, am I asking for impossible here, technologically speaking, or there is no such IEM tuned like this? (at least one that you to know)

            Thanks for all your support, much appreciated as well as all the work here!

            • I dont know on

              Mate, just try some EQ or get an amp if you’re lost

  38. Swaroop on

    Hi Joker,

    Big fan of your work. Your recommendation of the vsd3s has kept me thoroughly satisfied and has given me some ecstatic listening times during the past 20 months. Sadly this pair is nearing its end and I’m in the hunt for a replacement / upgrade.
    Could you please suggest a good pair of earphones whose sound signature and quality comes close to the vsd3s. The things that I love about them are the extension of the lower end and the top end with the right amount of sparkle providing an energetic and enjoyable listening experience.
    Needless to say, the build quality is a big let down and I’m searching for something which is a bit more durable.

    Thanks again for being a beacon in the wilderness and guiding the likes of me towards making formidable choices.

  39. Swaroop on

    Hi Joker.

    Big fan of your work. Love your detailed reviews. Bought the vsd3s upon reading your review and wasn’t disappointed even a bit. Thoroughly enjoyed the sound quality.

    I like the way the sub-bass and the extension of highs which sparkle making the music exciting.

    I don’t abuse my gear but I don’t handle them that carefully either. So, after serving me for 20 months faithfully, the vsd3s is nearing it’s end. I’d be very grateful if you could suggest a good near replacement if not an upgrade.
    I’m happy with the sound signature and quality but am seeking better build quality.
    My budget is under a $100.

    Thanks in advance.

    • ljokerl on

      In terms of sound, what you want is the GR07 Classic. However, I can’t say that it is better-built than the VSD3 because they come from the same company. The closest alternative I usually recommend for GR07-like sound is the Philips Fidelio S2, but that’s both hard to find under $100 and not necessarily more durable than the VSonics either.

      Which brings us to the 1MORE Triple drivers – these have a *slightly* warmer and more consumer-friendly sound than the more reference VSonic and Philips, but they are a very good value and seem well made. They haven’t been on the market too long so it’s hard to say what we’ll see 20 months out in terms of durability, but I think they’re a good compromise for getting some of the best sound under $100 with the potential for better longevity.

      • Swaroop on

        What is your take on the KZ ATEs or other models from their stable?

        Also how would the momentum in-ear compare to the vsd3s? I’m able to get them in India for $82 incl taxes and shipping.

        • ljokerl on

          I don’t have any KZ IEMs. The Momentum is a much more colored-sounding earphone than the VSonics. It has more bass and doesn’t sound as balanced or natural overall. It is not worth giving up so much of the VSonics’ balance unless you felt that the bass emphasis of the VSD3 was lacking.

          • Swaroop on

            What could be other alternatives if I stretched my budget further? I’m actually hung up on the vsd3s fit and sound. Don’t feel like getting a wear-down style iem.
            One more question please. Could you suggest a good budget DAP to drive my im02s. I’m having a hard time finding the right source to utilise them to their fullest potential.

            • ljokerl on

              The next step up from a GR07 with a cable-up fit would be the FLC Technology FLC8, but that’s much more expensive at $300+. However, trying to find something at ~$200 with the fit and sound of a GR07 that’s not a step down in some way is pretty futile in my experience.

              Unfortunately I don’t have enough hands-on experience with any modern budget DAPs to be confident in recommending one. When I’m not using one of my DACs I’m usually just using my phone.

  40. Mike on

    Hi,

    First, I must say that this site has easily become one of the most accessed when it comes about IEMs.
    The regular answers from the comments section and so many comparisons between IEMs are absolutely great.
    Really good work, keep it up!

    Second, I’m searching ‎for an IEM, but not any IEM, so I need your help.
    I don’t want just to buy something and then looking for an upgrade soon.

    Here is what I would like:
    – bass: very deep extension, visceral‎ but also clean, more on the sub-bass side and not enhanced mid-bass because this could lead to a bloated sound and I want the clarity to be maintained as much as possible;
    – midrange: full & rich sound‎ with thick notes; emotional; intimate vocals and a very good presence of that guitars “crunch” in rock music;
    – treble: extended, very clear, with a lot of details and energy but not strident, piercing or metallic.

    Overall sound has to be very musical, rich, organic and engaging but without sibilance (I’m very sensitive‎), not lean, cold or analytical, fatigue free for long listening sessions.
    In the same time, I like a good clarity and resolution.
    I’m listening to rock (not alternative), blues & EDM most of the time and occasionally classics & jazz.

    I don’ t want to set a budget limit because I don’t mind spending for a good product but it has to be really good and to give me the feeling that I will not be in search for something else for a while.

    So, what do you think will be the best compromise here, considering the above details?

    Thanks for your time!

    • ljokerl on

      The Yamaha EPH-100. Honestly, it’s the closest to what you want out of what I’ve heard despite its (relatively) low price tag. Review: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/yamaha-eph-100/

      I like to give a few options, though, so there’s also the Sennheiser IE80 and Sony XBA-H3. Generally speaking, the biggest advantage these have over the Yamahas is a larger soundstage, but otherwise they don’t really fit your requirements any better. The Yamahas have a more subbass-focused bass balance than the IE80 and are a little more full-bodied and “safe” when it comes to treble than the XBA-H3. But these are still very good earphone with some of the best balance of strong bass, rich mids, and smooth but not shelved treble. It’s just difficult to ignore the EPH-100 at $150.

      • Reza on

        Hi joker

        Which is better between Philips 3590 and Xiaomi piston 3 for budget V-shaped IEM?

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