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

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

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

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

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

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

Note: this page contains affiliate links. Using them does not cost you anything and supports this site by letting retailers know that we help their customers make buying decisions. All affiliate revenue will be used to make improvements to The Headphone List. See our Legal Disclaimer for more info.

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

Nuforce NE-600X

Nuforce NE-600X


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

Buy (amazon.com) | Manufacturer’s Page

NarMoo S1

NarMoo S1

 

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

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

 

Retired: RHA MA350, PADACS Aksent PD114


$50-100

 

Velodyne vPulse

Velodyne vPulse

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

Buy (amazon.com) | Manufacturer’s Page

HiSoundAudio Wooduo2

HiSoundAudio Wooduo2


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

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

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

 

Dunu Trident

Dunu Trident

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

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

Sony MH1C

Sony MH1C

 

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

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

$50-100

 

SteelSeries Flux In-Ear

SteelSeries Flux In-Ear

SteelSeries Flux In-Ear ($45 – $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 ($99) – Shure has been a serious presence in the professional in-ear monitor market for more than a decade, and it certainly shows in the refinement of their entry-level model. The SE215 is ergonomic, highly-isolating, and boasts a detachable, user-replaceable cable. The sound of the SE215 is smooth, with enhanced bass and relaxed treble. The dynamic microdriver also delivers impressive clarity and detail. It may not be a sonic upgrade to the Sony MH1C, but with durability and other considerations factored in, the SE215 delivers almost too much performance for the price. An optional mic+remote cable for the SE215 is available. Read full review

Buy (amazon.com) | Manufacturer’s Page


Retired: HiSoundAudio 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 ($130 – $150)
– Yamaha’s flagship earphone provides big sound in a small package, based around a dynamic microdriver wrapped in a compact, comfortable, and well-built aluminum shell. Noise isolation is outstanding and the sound quality is great as well, with strong bass, lush mids, and smooth – albeit slightly docile – treble. Add a dynamic presentation and impressive stereo imaging, and the EPH-100 is easily one of the best-performing earphones in its price class. Read full review

Buy (amazon.com) | Manufacturer’s Page

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

Buy (amazon.com) | Manufacturer’s Page

Soundmagic E10

Soundmagic E10


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

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

VSonic VSD3S

VSonic VSD3S

VSonic VSD3S ($45 – $55) – VSonic’s followup to the excellent VSD1S model, the VSD3S offers an accurate, yet energetic sound with good bass impact, fantastic clarity, and a spacious soundstage, achieving a large portion of the performance of VSonic’s highly-regarded GR07 model at a fraction of the price. The ergonomic design is worn over-the-ear and closely mimics higher-end models from the likes of Shure and Westone. Both fixed and detachable-cable versions are available, but considering that replacement cables are not readily found, I would go with the fixed. Unlike most other audiophile earphones, the VSD3S is available in a bunch of funky colors, too Read full review

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

Retired: VSonic GR02 Bass Edition, VSonic VSD1/VSD1S

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

ThinkSound MS01

ThinkSound MS01


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

Buy (amazon.com) | Manufacturer’s Page

 

Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear

Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear

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

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

 

Retired: Astrotec AM-800, MOE-SS01

Dunu DN-1000

Dunu DN-1000

Over $100

 

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

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

 

DUNU DN-2000

DUNU DN-2000

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

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

 

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

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

 

Retired: VSonic VC02

$50-100

 

Ostry KC06

Ostry KC06

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

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

HiFiMan RE-400

HiFiMan RE-400


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

Buy (amazon.com) | Manufacturer’s Page

 

Philips Fidelio S1

Philips Fidelio S1

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

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

 

Retired: MEElectronics A161P

Over $100

 

VSonic GR07 Classic

VSonic GR07 Classic

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

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

Etymotic Research HF5

Etymotic Research HF5

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

Buy (amazon.com) | Manufacturer’s Page

 

 

 

Retired: Fischer Audio DBA-02 mkII

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

 

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

 

Questions or comments? Leave them below.

Last major overhaul: 04/18/15

706 comments

  1. Joker,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  3. Hi,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Thank you very much in advance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

          Then MA750 it is.

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

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

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

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

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

    • I’m also very sensitive to sibilance.

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

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

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

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

            Not sure about the CKR10.

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

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

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

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

        • Any way to remove the volume limit?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            Thank you again, and much appreciated kind sir.

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

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

  8. Hey ljokerl!

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

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

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

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

  9. Hello,

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

    *Priced around $50, but ideally around $35

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Thank you very much.

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

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

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

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

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

          Thank you.

  10. hello!

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

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

    Requirements
    1. sound quality:

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

    2. soundstaging / imaging:

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

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

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

    5. BASS / TREBLE

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

    6. Price:

    $50 – $60

    looking forward to your valuable suggestions!
    thanks.

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

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

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

      • hello!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      • Thanks so much for your thoughtful reply!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  13. First of all Hello joker !

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

    Sorry for my bad english :(
    Cheers !

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

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

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

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

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

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

            Would you recommend these over the Yamaha ?

            Cheers !

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

  14. Hello ljokerl,

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

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

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

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

      No experience with the IM02 here.

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

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

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

        I guess I’ll try to sell my CK10 to buy the IM02 unless I can find a bargain on the IM02. Thanks for your insight!

  15. Thanks for the fantastic recommendations. HiFiMAN has dropped the price of the RE-600 to $199. Are these worth a try? How would they compare with the MA750 in terms of bass and overall sound quality?

    • I should have done more reading before posting that question. The MA750 description sounds like they have a lot more bass than the RE-600. I found the IE-80 for $257 on Amazon and from what I’ve been able to find for reviews, sound like they’re a good pick.

      Joker, do you have a review written up for the IE-80?

      • And are they that much better than the MA750? I like a warm sound but not over-the-top bass.

        • The IE80 and MA750 aren’t too different from each other in bass power. Both have what I consider heavy bass, but the IE80 has a slight advantage in not being perceived as a basshead earphone due to having flatter (on the whole) mids and highs. If you’re coming from a flat-sounding set, like an Etymotic or a HiFiMan RE-400 or something, the IE80 might be too bassy still. Otherwise, it should be OK.

          • Thanks for your help. The trouble for me is I have almost no experience with good IEMs. I have much more with on and over-ear sets. Currently I have the Beyerdynamic T51i and like them except for discomfort over time and a bit too much high end at time, otherwise they sound fantastic to me. I’ve tried P7, P5 S2, XS, X2, Momentum 2 in addition to the T51i. My ears are sensitive, which is why I’m thinking about trying a decent IEM to see if the comfort would be better.

            I know I don’t want a set that lacks bass but I don’t need booming bass either. Are the RE-600 anemic in that way? Or are they just more accurate than the bass leaning sets? So when bass is in the music, it reproduces it just fine?

            Any others that you think might be similar to the T51i (with a tad less high end)?

          • I have no experience with the T51i. Some people end up wanting more bass out of in-ears than out of headphones just because of the differences in the way bass is presented, but for me the RE-600 is accurate, not anemic. If I could change it one some way, I would raise the very bottom end a little to give the bass more depth, but I wouldn’t trade it for a more boomy and bloated low end.

  16. Hi Joker,

    I tried HiFiMan RE-400 last night; absolutely horrible packaging, flat, downward unexciting sound, and very questionable build quality. One of the cables appeared to be cracked right out of the box. Tried every tip that came with it, played them on Hi-Res Sony NWZ-A17, and after about fourth random flac from Allison Moorer (Down to Believing), The Blues Mystery (The Blues Mystery), Fourplay (Esprit De Four), .. I packed them and returned back to Amazon. These phones sound so unnaturally flat and unexciting that I simply could not have them in my ears any longer than that.

    My current street buds are Yamaha EPH-100, I have had them over several years, and I do like their overall soft, sweet, and with the punch when needed sound. The only problem with them is that I have wet year in the morning, with the drivers close in the nuzzle they do tent to shut down (one by one) by the time I exit the last U-Bahn train on the way to work. Getting the right tips for them is also somewhat a problem.

    With this being said, would you recommend a set that betters Yamahas for sound and comfort. I spend most of the daytime hours with DT770 in the office, and I am well aware it would probably be hopeless to wish for the similar sound from the tiny in-ear buds, but I would appreciate your suggestions on anything that comes near it?

    Thank you.

    • I wouldn’t go from the EPH-100 to the RE-400. Completely different earphones with very different strengths and weaknesses.

      They aren’t sweat/water-resistant, but if you want an earphone with a fun and punchy sound not unlike the EPH-100, but in a very different form factor, the RHA MA750 may be worth a try. It’s not better-sounding, but it may work better for you in terms of design.

      Otherwise you can look at something like the Sony XBA-H3 or Fidue A83 for an upgrade, but these tend to have worse noise isolation and quirky form factors.

      • Hello again,

        How would you say EPH-100 differ from Klipsch X10. I do read some good comments about Klipsch, and especially as they look very comfortable and unobtrusive, what sound signature group would you put X10 in? Say I did not like RE-400 (no way would I pay for them), and I still have UE triplefi 10 (the most uncomfortable buds man has ever made), can’t say I am impressed about how they sound either, would Klipsch be a better alternative instead?

        Have you already looked at Klipsch r6?

        Thank you,

        • I’m not a huge fan of the X10 for several reasons, but mostly the slightly dull treble. But it does fit the mold of warm, enhanced-bass sound that the EPH-100 is in. The X10 uses a balanced armature driver and lacks some of the sheer slam and rumble of the EPH-100, but it does better than the RE-400. It’s also a low-impedance earphone so it helps to have a good source to drive it.

          No experience with the R6.

    • Hi Joker I’m looking for most powerful earphones cuz I’m hard of hearing and I don’t need a specific cuz I won’t hear the difference between clearness and high frequency sounds, but will go for bass sounds, any ideas. Thanks

  17. Nice website joker very informative. Just would like to ask for a recommendation of IEM’s cant seem to decide on what to choose. I mostly enjoy symphonies. Though I do not know what sound signature they are good in. Durability is also a plus,maybe ill be taking them on a hike.
    These are what I have listed so far:
    mh1c,vd1s,piston 2,dunu trident,me electronics m6p2 maybe a vd3s if its worth but its going out of my budget. Or if theres one youll recommend within that price range is also much welcomed. Ill be mainly ordering them from ebay or aliexpress. thanks

    • VSD3S should only be a couple of bucks more than the VSD1S. Fixed-cable version is $45 at lendmeurears. I would go for that or the MH1C. The warm, smooth MH1C (asymmetric cable aside) is the safe choice with a more consumer-tuned sound. The VSD3S is more of an enthusiast earphone with a tuning more oriented towards clarity and accuracy. Both are great “starter” earphones.

  18. Sir you rock. Your knowledge and ability to communicate the subtleties of sound is truly amazing.
    Now for my question. I am an old school film editor and have studio monitors (Adams a5x), for the edit rooms and both adams and TDL’s and B&W C5’s for the screening rooms and a fun Klipsch reference series for the playstation 4. Up till now I have been toting around my studio cams for my laptop and iphone. Finally giving in to the portability of an in ear set. I will be using these for music and films while on the go but will not be “working” with them, so a more fun and open soundscape is where I’m headed. Fun but not “over” colored. Deep bass with a clear unveiled midrange and clean treble for films seem logical. I do however listen to an enormous range of music. Always on the lookout for soundtrack material. I will also listen to soundscapes. I feel like the 100 to 200 dollar range is fine… if I need to listen for work I will pull out the studio cams. Since these will be my first (other than the white things apple gave me with the phone) I have been reading up on many of your reviews and comments but I have not found any that address my unusually broad listening habits. So, what say you? Thanks again for your generosity and passion!

    • With the requirement of a fun sound and no other experience with mid- or high-end in-ears, I would consider the RHA MA750 as a starting point. Yes, it’s a little on the bassy side and not as tight or clear as a strictly analytical set, but it has good impact and is easy-going and relatively versatile. If you would rather trade a bit of that “fun”, warm character and bass power for a little more clarity (but still maintain more punch than a strictly flat IEM), I’d recommend the VSonic GR07 Bass Edition or the Philips Fidelio S2. These tend to be more neutral/clear/accurate and brighter in tone overall, but still have ~5-10 dB boost over flat at the low end for that punchier sound.

  19. Hello Jocker

    Thank’s for all you are doing here.

    You get so many questions, it gave me pause…

    So, i read as much as I could, but I am still uncertain. Let me set the stage first on my experience and taste. I come from the RHA MA750i, that I got almost a year and a half ago. As a side note, for those interested in anecdote relating to their durability, the rubber coating started to peel off at different places a couple of month ago (mind you, I wear them a lot, and they were still functionnal, just getting uglier by the day). I got a replacement from RHA two weeks ago, but the cat killed those.

    I want something different for my next in-ear. I don’t have much experience with good headphones, but here is what I liked and what I think I learned from the 750i : I enjoyed the detail and separation, I think. I could hear very nicely accoustic instruments, what sounded to me like very natural and at times almost scaringly present voices, generally more details than I was used to. I don’t know to much about sound stage, but sound did seem to travel and position itself better than I was used to, but not in a « I can tell the trumpet is right there… » kind of way. I got the feeling mids and highs where quite to my liking, even if I also remember enjoying what I believe were more brillant sounding headphones. I otherwise have cheap AKG K403 on ear, cheapo Sony iem from the bargain bin (the MDR EX38iP I believe), a pair of Koss SportaPro… and I prefer the mid and high balance of the 750i all the time.

    I did enjoy a lot the depth I could hear the bass reach, it was a novelty for me. But too often times (not always, by any means) I got the feeling that the overall bass was overshadowing the detail and clarity, killing a major part of the pleasure for me. I discovered what « veil » meant. This is in essence what is making me look elseware for my next IEM.

    Right now, I am looking at : HiFiMan RE-400, Fostex TE50, Vsonic GR07 Classic, Vsonic VSD3S, Audio-Technica ATH-IM50. I think you did not review the Fostex or the Audio-Technica so far, so I will not expect specific comments about those. It’s just that the Fostex is on sale right now at $129 at Headphonebar, a Canadian distributor, and the Audio Technica is rather inexpensive on Japan import at Amazon.ca
    I don’t know what to expect as far as bass is concerned in a more balanced headphone. I figure I can only bet I’ll very well survive the loss in bass quantity departement, as long as the bass is audible (I don’t have to concentrate on it to hear it) and present, and of some highish quality. But I am more concerned for the highs and mids.

    Question 1 : I am wondering for each of the IEM I’am looking at as to how they compare to the 750i in terms of separation, detail, clarity and overall soundstage. The soundstage part in that list is probably the least important for me, or the one I understand the least or that I am least conscious of.

    Concerning the Vsonic in particular and it’s reputation for tending to be sibilant, I have no idea what is my tolerence for sibilance or harsh highs. I have heard highs and high mids that were too much for me, but the only concrete but not very usefull thing I can state about my tastes in highs and high mids is that I seem more tolerant than my wife to them (also you can refer to what I stated about the 750i).

    So, question 2 : Specificaly, would you say the VSD3S suffers more or less in that department than the GR07 Classic?

    Question 3 : Is details, clarity, separation on the GR07 classic worth twice the price compared to the VSD03?
    That’l be all for now. Thanks in advance, and sorry for the lengthy post.

    • Right, I can’t address the IM50 and the TE50 but I tend to prefer the GR07 Classic to the RE-400 for the things you want, especially in the soundstage/separation and bass departments. Mids are kind of a toss-up – the RE-400 has more forward mids, but the GR07 is a little leaner and just as capable in the midrange despite being a little more laid-back. The top end is definitely smoother on the RE-400 (compared to the GR07 and MA750 both).

      Coming from the MA750, the GR07 does what you want. Even the bass edition of the GR07 has better clarity and tighter bass, as noted in my MA750 review: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/rha-ma750-ma750i/ . The only downside, as you noted, is that its treble is even less smooth and forgiving than that of the RHA. Where that falls on your tolerance is a mystery at this point.

      As for the VSD3S, I compared it to the GR07 here: http://theheadphonelist.com/brief-impressions-vsonic-vsd3s-ostry-kc06-havi-b3-pro/ . The GR07 is better when it comes to bass tightness, though I can’t really quantify the difference (beyond saying it’s noticeable/significant), or put a price tag on it for that matter.

  20. Hi |joker|,

    Firstly, thanks for the excellent buying guides and extensive reviews.
    I am looking for an upgrade to the GR07 Classic and would like to buy a pair with a similar sound signature and a little more controlled (but not too smooth) treble. I’ve been looking at the Alclair Reference, Audio Technica ATH-IM02 and InEar SD2. Which one would you recommend among these? If you have something else apart from these to mention, please do.
    I’ve mentioned a custom monitor here but (in case of refits) due to import/shipping issues in my country, I’d rather prefer a universal. Looking forward to your insights.

  21. Hi Joker,

    I have a pair of Shure e4c IEM’s that are literally on their last leg. I love the sound profile of these as well as the build quality.

    I have tried the new the shure product I thought would be similar, the SE215, and I did not like it at all. I also tried the Etymotic MC5 but I thought they had a bit of a cheap build quality but the sound was closer to my e4c’s. I listen mostly to jazz and a bass boost really messes with the tightness of an upright’s tone.

    can you reccomend something? I might try the ety HF5’s or Philips S2’s…would that be the right direction?

    Another thing that I liked about the Shure e4c’s was that they fit comfortably up over the ear OR straight in. I did not find that to be the case with the ety’s

    Thanks in advance!

    • Keep in mind that the E4c was like $300 (or was it $400?) when it came out (to the MC5’s $79.99, for instance). I had one ages ago and it was a tank. Don’t remember much of its sound other than it was balanced (whereas the SE215 is bassy, warm, and a little dull up top)

      The HF5 is built and fits in the ear quite similar to the MC5. Other than that it’s a great earphone for balanced sound but if you want something that’s shorter to wear either cable up or cable down, a HiFiMan RE-400 or ACS T15 may be a better choice. Neither is as beefy as the Shure E4c but they’re the closest to being wear-able both cable-up and cable-down with a flat/balanced sound sig and tight bass.

      The Fidelio S2 is bassier and can only be worn cable down, and has a bit of upper midrange lift compared to the Shure models I’ve tried. Not sure that’s desirable with jazz. It’s also got a rather large footprint in the ear compared to the rest of these.

      • Hi Joker,

        Thank you for your quick response. I forgot my Shure e4c’s where that expensive. They definitely were!

        I read both reviews on the T15’s and RE-400’s. One follow-up question…the T15’s are nearly 3x the price of the RE-400’s…so am i getting a noticeable step up?

        If the ACS’s are definitely high-end IEM’s comparable to the ER4’s and the RE-400 are more mid-range then I might spring for the T15’s. ACS has a location in NYC so I may contact them. I love the non-descript form factor of the T15’s.

        Thanks Again!

        • Not in sound – the RE-400 has a slightly warmer and less lean and balanced sound sig with a more forward presentation, but keeps up for the most part. Part of what makes it such good value. The T15, on top of being more neutral and a little more spacious, just has a nicer form factor and will likely last longer with heavy use.

          If you have ability to try the T15, I would definitely do so, but for sheer value it doesn’t really match the RE-400.

          • thank you joker!

            i am going to try the re-400’s and if that doesn’t work i will either go with the t15’s or just be stubborn and get an unopened pair of shure e4c’s haha

  22. Hey Joker!
    I have a bigg issue. I want to buy a new headphone. Now i useing Brainwavz R1 and i just LOVE the richness of the base, but it s getting uncomfortable for my left ear (hurting, pushing my ear canal a bit, and always getting out when i doing some sport). I listening hib-hop music all the time , and rarely movie soundtracks. So i want a good iem headphone with realy good base, and an OK durability for cycling. I red a lot of forums and reviews and i can’t chose . What do you suggest to buy: Shure SE215, Sennheiser MOMENTUM In-Ear, RHA MA750i. I red a realy good reviews about this new Dunu TITAN 1 headphone, but sadly i cant buy this in Hungary.
    So Joker pls help, which one do you prefer?
    THX

    • I would choose the RHA MA750i – the only limitation on that is comfort, because it is a large earphone. Not sure how its form factor compares to the R1, though. It has more bass than the SE215 and Momentum without sacrificing quality.

  23. Hi lJokerl! So im planning to buy the Shure SE215, and in comparison with the RE 400, i’ve got a few concerns, the RE 400 are too smooth for my liking, and seeing that you put the SE 215 in that category, how’s the smoothness on the 215’s? The RE 400’s are quite sleepy for me, and their soundstage is really average at most, will the SE 215 have a better soundstage and sound more lively? Thanks lJokerl!

    • I personally don’t consider the SE215 to be more lively than the RE-400. I’ve always thought its treble somewhat dull, and the heavier bass actually makes that a little more obvious compared to the flatter RE-400. Soundstaging is nice on the SE215s but if you want lively I’d go with something else – maybe an Ostry KC06 (wider soundstage and a more colored sound sig). Or a JVC FXT90 (SE215-like bass with more treble) if you don’t mind a more v-shaped sound.

  24. Hey Joker thanks for the list. I’m looking for a bassy iem as i listen to mostly edm. I currently own the JVC FX1X and am quite happy with the amount of bass on it…I’m looking at the Velodyne V pulse or the Hisound Wooduos 2 as comparatives, possibly the Yamaha EPH 100s as well. Which of the 3 would you recommend based on quantity of bass(im not too bothered about the quality it shld be gd). Especially between the Vpulse and Wooduos

    • The vPulse and Wooduo2 are more focused on sub-bass (deep bass, responsible for that low rumble and slam) rather than mid-bass like the JVCs. This helps keep the bass quality relatively high compared to other bass-heavy earphones, but it’s also a little different from mid-bassy sound of the FX1X, which just has a lot of impact with not too much depth behind it (though for the price it’s excellent). This is similar to what 1st-gen Beats by Dre did and why they weren’t particularly well-liked even by bassheads.

      Honestly, if you want that type of bass presentation the Beats by Dre Tour 2.0 or the new NHT Superbuds (review coming soon) would be a better buy than the Velodyne or HiSound. If you’re willing to try the deeper, more refined bass of the Wooduo2, by all means go for that – it’s better than the vPulse in both overall bass quality and clarity.

  25. Hi there, thank you so much for this page – the previous editions have been super useful to me and is the definitive guide to headphones/IEMs for me.

    Just wanted some recommendations – I recently lost my HifiMan RE400 Waterline, and am looking at the EPH-100, GR07 BE, GR07 Classic and the VC1000. Unfortunately, the TDK BA200 is hard to find where I am – so that’s kinda out of the questions.

    While I was okay with the RE400, I found it a little on the bright side – I also have a pair of Sennheiser HD25 Headphones which I really love. I listen to a variety of music – rock, jazz, acoustics, metal, blues rock, some EDM. Based on these, which of the above would you recommend?

    Thanks in advance and keep coming with fantastic reviews!

    • Barring any possible fit issues you may have had with the RE-400 (which would have made it sound brighter), your requirement for darker treble precludes the GR07s and definitely the VC1000. The EPH-100 is the only one of the sets you’re considering that has a chance of sounding smoother than the RE-400, but it’s also a fair bit bassier. Still a good option, though.

      Here’s some alternatives that I think sound very smooth but have less bass than the EPH-100:

      Brainwavz R1: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/brainwavz-r3-ver-2/
      SteelSeries Flux In-Ear Pro: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/steelseries-flux-in-ear-pro/
      Klipsch X10 or X11: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/klipsch-image-x10-x10i/

      The Flux and R1 are more similar to the RE-400 in balance while the X10 is warmer and bassier (not quite as bassy as the EPH-100, though). It used to be quite pricy but seems to be down to a reasonable $110 on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1DPqMiN

      • I think it might have been a fit issue – especially when I started using comply tips which were a little too big.

        I should’ve stressed that I quite like clarity & instrument separation. I’ve recently found a TDK BA-200 where I am as well, but it’s quite a bit more expensive than the secondhand EPH-100 that I found. It’s also really difficult to find VSonic stockists here.

        I’m thinking of going with the EPH-100 and waiting out for the VSonic GR07BE. But given that I found the TDK supplier and that I like instrument separation – what would you recommend? Thanks a lot!

        • I would probably skip the GR07 BE and either go EPH-100 (for bassier/warmer sound) or BA200 (for flatter/more balanced sound) depending on what you place more importance on. For instrument separation the BA200 is definitely superior but the EPH-100 is not bad by any means, especially considering how much more bass it has. I guess the difference in prices would have a lot to do with it as well.

          I actually think that with a perfect fit the RE-400 is still a touch smoother than either of these, but obviously fit variability can change that. The EPH-100 and BA200 are both quite high up there in smoothness when compared to other IEMs on the market.

  26. Hi there joker! Been visiting your website on and off whenever I feel like it and seems there are quite a lot of new ones.

    I’ve always wanted to get a JVC HA-FXT90 but things always come up so I can’t get them. I’m still looking forward to getting one but with the VSD3S out now, was thinking of getting that instead. How would you compare the 2? Which would you pick considering they’re both v-shaped.

    Thanks!

    • The VSD3S is a more neutral and accurate earphone with a milder v-shape (which I tend to prefer over deeper v-shape signatures, but that’s not true for everyone). The FXT90 has more of a mid-bass hump and a more warm and impactful sound overall, with a more forward and aggressive presentation. The treble on it can be a little harsh but the VSD3S can be a little sibilant so I don’t think either has an advantage there.

      • Wow, that was a quick reply! Thanks!

        Hmmm, I figured that would be the response haha. Anyway if it helps, I listen to different genres, from Rock to Instrumentals / Classical to Game / Movie OSTs to EDM (House, D&B, etc) and like the presence of bass as long as it doesn’t overpower everything else. Really wish I could test the FXT90 first.

        Anyway thanks again! Keep up the amazing work! :)

  27. Nice Guide Joker. I’ve been following your reviews for quite some time.

    I bought the Flux about a year back and since then two pairs have conked on me. It’s extremely frustrating because, while I’m not touting that I’m the most careful guy when it comes to earbuds, I really do try and take care of them as best as I can; wrapping them with good technique, putting them in a pouch in a pocket with nothing else in it, keeping the cord as loose as possible, etc…

    Do you know what would be a pair that has a similar sound signature to the Flux (which was top-notch for my tastes, admittedly) but with much greater durability? My budget is up to about 100-120 Canadian Dollars, which is about 80 to 100 USD. I’d be really happy with a pair that at least lasted a year or two. Also, even though the Flux sound signature was really to my liking, I wouldn’t mind something more v-shaped since I do tend to listen to rock/metal music more than other genres.

    Thanks in advance for reading. I truly value your opinion!

    • Just to let you know since I forgot to mention, I only use IEMs when I’m out and about. I have a pair of headphones that I use at home which don’t fit into my Ipod Nano jack. I don’t use the IEMs that often every day (maximum about 3-4 hours), and usually that time is spent only on commutes.

      • Hmm… three options come to mind –

        Sennheiser Momentum – might be a bit too V-shaped but it has a lot of similarities to the Flux and is very good overall. The build is not exactly heavy-duty but if taken care of it should last – the plug is much better than with the Flux, for instance.
        Review here: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/sennheiser-momentum-ear/

        JVC HA-FXT90 – a little on the bassy side and not as similar to the Flux as the Momentum, but it is v-shaped and the construction is good. http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/jvc-ha-fxt90/

        VSonic VSD3S – the flattest of the three but still more v-shaped than the Flux thanks to greater treble energy. Excellent value at just $50. http://theheadphonelist.com/brief-impressions-vsonic-vsd3s-ostry-kc06-havi-b3-pro/

        • Thanks for the reply!

          So I’m looking at these three IEMs on Amazon.ca right now and the Momentum is going for $96 and the Vsonics at 59$. The only JVCs I could find are called just “Victor”, which kind of look the same as the ones in your review but I’m not sure if they are the same model, and those are going for 78$. I’ve always ordered my earbuds and headphones over Amazon so I don’t know where else to look for better deals that can also get it here reliably and fast.

          In your opinion, which one should I go for out of the 3? I haven’t had any experience with any of them and they all fit my budget nicely so I wouldn’t mind. Sennheiser would probably be the best choice if anything ever happened to them because there’s a repair center very close to home, and in general I really like Sennheiser as a company even if some people think they don’t produce anything spectacular. Then again, there are the most expensive. At the end of the day, I just want a decent-sounding pair of earbuds that last a decent amount of time if they are taken care of. Whatever works, works.

          • Victor is often what JVC goes by in Japan. Most likely they are just Japanese imports. The packaging and some accessories might be different but otherwise they should be identical to the ones I reviewed.

            These ones are even labeled “Japan Import”: http://amzn.to/176dQIj

            If it were me, I’d go for the Momentum. Technically it doesn’t sound better than your two less expensive options and the construction can appear a tad underwhelming, but its tuning seems to be the closest to what you’re after and I tend to trust Sennheiser build quality.

          • Alright, thanks! I was leaning more towards the Momentum any way, since like I said even if anything were to happen a repair center is only about 45 minutes from home.

            Thanks for producing some amazing content here and other places!

        • Need help selecting some IEM’s. So many choices, seem to be getting lost. Looking for a do it all, however don’t want a Bass Monster. My full size headphones are Philips Fidelio L1’s, which I really like other than comfort. Also use a pair of Yuin PK3’s. Had some Grado SR80’s I liked also. Really interested in a well balanced set. Been eyeing HiFiMan RE-400’s, but also considering the Vsonic GR07 Classic & Bass, Ostry KC06a, Philips Fidelio s2, and the Sennheiser Momentum in ear. Looking for sound quality 1st, then comfort and finally build quality. Any thoughts on which I should use? Also open to other suggestions. Really don’t want to spend more than $100. Most listening will be done with an iPhone 6 plus or ipod Classic 5.5.

          • All very good options. The only one I would strike off (for not being all that balanced) is the Momentum in-ear.

            Not sure what the Fidelio L1 sounds like but the KC06 (no experience with the KC06A) is probably the most grado-like of the bunch, if you like that sort of thing, while the others are more flat. The RE-400 is the smoothest and most focused on the midrange while the S2 and GR07 (and KC06, too) are a little more bright and energetic, with punchier bass as well. I find the RE-400 and GR07 to be the most comfortable and the GR07 and S2 to be the best-built.

          • Thanks for the response, greatly appreciated. I forgot to mention what type of music I would be listening to. A few examples would be Drive by Truckers, Lucero, Eagles, Pink Floyd, Der Tick, Neil Young, etc…. Mostly guitar and vocal driven type stuff. Will also throw some Metal and Counrty their way. Also some Rush, want to hear Neil’s drums pound. What would you recommend?

            Thanks

          • It depends more on personal listening preference than music genres – you can ask two different people what type of headphone they prefer for country music and get two different answers. If you don’t have a particular sensitivity to sibilance, I’d go with the GR07 as a solid all-rounder.

  28. Hi,
    I was hoping to get some suggestions. For the past 9 or so years, I’ve been using JVC Soft marshmallow earphones (link: http://www.amazon.com/JVC-Marshmallow-Headphones-Discontinued-Manufacturer/dp/B0036RDVRI). At $20, they were great: awesome isolation, pretty great sound quality, extremely comfortable fit (memory foam ear pieces), extremely durable (I bought 4 pair over the 9 years), all while being extremely affordable. I loved everything about them. However, the model has been discontinued by the manufacturer, and the current model to replace these ones is absolute crap. Not at all the same quality as the first model I loved.
    I’m trying to find a replacement for them, my last pair is now on the fritz. I’m leery with the idea of spending $50 or more on a “good” pair of earphones in case I’ll end up being disappointed… One thing I cannot stand are the plastic (silicon I guess?) ear buds, I highly dislike them, I really want something close to the “marshmallow” ear buds of the JVCs.
    Which model do you think would come closest to my beloved (but now discontinued) JVCs?

    • You can buy memory foam eartips for most earphones from Comply (http://www.complyfoam.com/). They tend to be pricy but worth it if you prefer foam – the selection of earphones that already come with foam tips, especially under $50, isn’t very good.

      Anyway, since you’re used to lightweight, bass-heavy earphones I’d consider just getting a Philips SHE3590, which is very inexpensive, and a set of the corresponding foam eartips. Altogether should cost less than $30. The Nuforce NE-600X is another good option, especially if you prefer bassier sound. With a pack of Comply eartips it will still cost $30 or so.

  29. hi,

    i am buying a new in-ear canalphones and i need your suggestion. Thanks In Advaance!!

    i have had a Sony DREX13DPV. the problem with the sony was that at higher volumes, the sound felt harsh and distorted. the clarity was lost. felt painful on the ears.

    i also had Creative EP630 and Senheiser PMX 60. I found them both to be good.

    but I am looking for something better than these three!

    so my expectations are like…

    1. sound quality:

    smooth. clarity. good instrument differentiation. good vocals. most importantly good sound quality should be maintained at max volumes.

    2. Noise Cancellation:

    as much atmosphere noise cancellation as possible.

    3. BUILD quality:

    I have damaged all my 3 previous headphones one way or another! so i am looking for a sturdy one. especially the wires!

    4. BASS / TREBLE

    I am not a basshead. i dont want too much thumping or treble. a good enough bass/treble is fine.

    5. Price:

    under INR1500. would prefer closer to INR1000.

    LOOKING FORWARD to you suggestions!

    • oh the price range in $ is ,, below $25. prefer closer to $20.

      • That’s really not a big budget for sound AND build quality AND isolation. At best you can get something decent in all three categories. The three sets in the guide above under “warm and smooth below $50″ would all be worth looking at. The DUNU Trident is probably the best compromise of the three qualities you want – the Piston doesn’t isolate quite as well and the MH1C, while best-sounding per your requirements, is slightly over budget and has a j-cord.

        Because I value my hearing, I do not test IEMs at max volume, so the above recommendations are based on moderately high listening volumes. The MH1C stays the smoothest at the limits of my loudness tolerance, followed by the Trident.

  30. Hello! Great web and great list. Congrats.

    I have right now the CX310 Sennheiser by Adidas Originals (it’s not heaven but for me it’s ok). Could you recomend me some IEMS not very far from the sound of the CX310?

    My money limit is 50 euros. (or dollars)

    thanks for all!

    • Unfortunately I don’t have any experience with the CX310 so I don’t know what it sounds like. If I had to venture a guess, I would assume it’s not too different from the CX300, which is on the bassy side and quite smooth. In that general vein, something like the Nuforce NE-600X would be a good alternative, or the Xiaomi Piston 2, or the new HiFiMan RE-300.

      If you want to venture a bit more towards a more balanced sound profile, at ~$50 there are some very good places to start with higher-end IEMs, like the VSonic VSD3S for example: http://theheadphonelist.com/brief-impressions-vsonic-vsd3s-ostry-kc06-havi-b3-pro/ .

      • I’ll try but, I can honestly say that I bought the CX300 and I didn’t like’em at all. There was a sound like “can” sound that wasn’t as clear as the CX310 is.

        So CX300 is not my choice. It’s is supossed that my CX310 is a bit lack of bass so maybe you could help me more right now.

        thanks for your time!

  31. Which under 100$ IEMs have a signature similar to the Marshall Major? A little less bass (more clarity), and a bit more depth would be fantastic. Thanks!

  32. As I lost my Klipsch Image S4 a couple of months ago, I have been dying to get a replacement IEM. I bought that set from good reviews for a basic set that produced good sound. Now, I’m hoping to invest in a good pair of IEMs for the foreseeable future.

    From the research I have done, the S4s come across as bass-heavy IEMs (I’m not sure whether they’re classified as V-shaped or bassheads) and did not give me any problems. I would say though that sometimes it would be a bit tiring to listen to them, whether from long duration listening or plain fatigue from the IEM, I’m not sure. My playlist usually consists of mainstream music with the occasional foray into Indie, Electronic, Classical, Instrumental or even rock (All depends on my mood). I was under the impression that I preferred a more balanced sound with wide soundstage but the S4s to my surprise was not such an IEM.

    Suggestions from this thread and several other sites suggest the JVC FXT90 or VSonic GR07s a suitable replacement but I don’t mind getting a more suitable pair for my listening pleasure. I have also seen the Yamaha EPH100 as a replacement and my local audio shop let me listen to the Beyerdynamic XP2 and Shure SE215 for testing purposes. Ultimately, I am left as clueless and spoiled for choice as I was at the beginning of my search.

    My questions then are as follows:
    1. What would you say would be the sound signature that lean towards ie. warm and balanced, basshead, V-shaped?
    2. Suggested IEMs.

    • The S4 is moderately v-shaped. The highs can be sibilant and fatiguing on it, which is true to some degree of a lot of inexpensive v-shaped earphones. Some people also find enhanced bass fatiguing with IEMs, but it sounds like you enjoyed the bass quantity. That said, you might like another sound signature even more than that of the S4 – there’s just no way to know without trying.

      The SE215 is more on the warm and smooth side, for instance, while the GR07 gives you a more balanced sound with a wider soundstage (but the highs can still be a little fatiguing). The FXT90 returns to more of a v-shaped balance, but with good overall clarity and mids that are not thin. The The EPH-100 provides a bassier but also smoother sound than the GR07 and FXT90 – I find it to be better than the SE215 overall.

      If I were you I’d go with the FXT90 or EPH-100 – EPH-100 if you want a smoother sound and don’t mind strong bass. FXT90 if you want to stick a little closer to the S4 sound but with more in the way of layering, resolution, etc.

      • The S4 I guess did the job it was bought for, relatively good sound at a cheap price. Of course you have pointed out rightly that there was sibilance at times and made listening to music with these IEMs very fatiguing. The bass was nice with the S4, “loud” but rather shallow when I listened to EDM but a plus nonetheless.

        As I explore my choices, I want to ask: From what I mentioned regarding my music preference in the earlier post, what do you think would be a good IEM for me? Perhaps a more all-rounded set, a Jack of all trades so to speak. Although I would like to test out each pair and make a decision after, I can’t test out most of these sets so I’m relying on reviews and comments like this. Unfortunate actually.

        • The problem is that the sound signature I like best for your preferred music genres might not be the one you like best (if you had the ability to sample all of them, of course). I tend to like balanced sound as a jack of all trades signature, but that certainly isn’t true for everyone.

          I recommended the FXT90 and EPH-100 because I think they make for the best fit based on your post. The EPH-100 more so as it has both deeper bass and smoother overall sound than the S4 – both things you’d like to see improved. I can’t call the Yamaha a do-it-all as it is a bass-heavy earphone, but based on your posts it seems to be a good option.

  33. In the basshead section which would you recommend Velodyne vPulse or HiSoundAudio Wooduo 2. I am very interested.

  34. Hello ljokerl, a truly enthusiastic and passionate character you are, its damn so obvious. Now let’s cut off introduction a bit and see how my search goes within my second IEM decision with your help. Firstly my introduction to IEM had been quite tragic, by a pair of Rockit r50, (since I’d received the product damaged from oversea shipping – never could fulfil my needs at any level to be honest as a metal/rock listener) and on top of that until about few weeks, it died cause of cable off of jack output bended sharply in my pocket over time sadly.

    Now I need a fresh one badly and among aformentioned categories I’m a bit lost in which category would suit me best with the music I listen as often. In short, which signatures I should prioritize over others to get the most of them ?

    Price range would be $50-100 with of course an improvement over my ex, and not to mention durability from now on is quite on critical side along with moderate price ratio at best as possible as it gets. Thanks already for your suggestions !

    • It’s actually very subjective which sound signatures match which genres better. Generally speaking, there is no right or wrong sound for most music types. Personally, I prefer a neutral to slightly v-shaped signature for rock and metal. In this price range and without any additional requirements I’d probably go with a VSonic GR07 Classic – it’s just a good all-rounder that’s served me well for 3+ years.

      Or you could save a little $$ by going with any one of these three: http://theheadphonelist.com/brief-impressions-vsonic-vsd3s-ostry-kc06-havi-b3-pro/ . They’re all very solid in-ears with slightly different takes on balanced sound. From there, and with lots of listening, you can dial in your signature preferences a little better for your next upgrade down the line.

      • I read your detailed review for GR07 Classic and satisfied; and there are two sellers right now on ebay that sells GR07 Classic from $99 with free global shipping, seems legit enough, on the other hand I came across with this Chinese company that selling a fresh pair for $85 sounds both provoking and worrying;
        http://tr.aliexpress.com/item/VSONIC-GR07-BASS-MKII-Edition-High-Fidelity-Professional-Stereo-Inner-Ear-Earphones-Earbuds/1305115162.html?recommendVersion=1
        Not sure if it worths taking the risk though is another side of spectrum.

        Before giving a strict decision, I can try pushing my limits for a little bit more (~+$15) if there is a product to be suggested in replace of GR07 Classic as to be worthy enough, incase I would miss my chance having another one before 2-3 years.

        P.S. My listening experience vary a lot in terms of quality, from very raw demos to professional recorded albums of todays. But in this case, I’d prioritize demo listening experience to higher levels if possible due to other options.

        Thanks for allocating your time.

  35. Hi Joker,

    What you do for this community is incredible, thanks so much!

    I previously owned some open Grado cans and I loved how they sounded. Can you suggest some iems that provide a similar sound signature for less than $200? I realise thats probably not 100% possible, but what would you suggest I look at?

    Thanks so much!

  36. Hi Joker, thank you very much for this guide and your dedication to posting reviews for us common folk.

    I am in the market for a new IEM in the sub $130 range. My last IEM’s were the Brainwavz M2 which I enjoyed a lot. However for my next one I want something with a little better soundstage width but with equally good sound quality. Prior to that I owned the Klipsch S4’s which I also liked for the really punchy bass though I did find it a fatiguing listen, especially with the annoying sibilance. My ears are sensitive and the sibilance literally made them hurt. I also own a pair of the ATH-M50’s which has a sound signature I really like and don’t find too bassy.

    Things most important to me besides sound are build quality and comfort. Isolation is also important but not a deciding factor. I mainly listen to post-punk, indie rock and metal, but also some rap and random stuff like folk, flamenco and drone/ambient.

    I have so far looked into the MA750’s which look nice and I like the 3-year warranty and superior build quality although I am not sure if it is worth the money. I also have looked into the OSTRY KC06A’s and TTPOD T1-E’s (which look like a steal at $32). Not sure if you’ve tried the T1-E’s but out of those and other iem’s you have demo’d, which should I be considering?

    Thanks

    • No experience with the T1-E. The KC06 is pretty good but brighter than the M2. Good soundstage width, though, and not harsh/sibilant for how bright(ish) it is. The RHA MA750 sounds more conventional – it’s a warm-sounding IEM with more bass than the M2 but not harsh like the Klipsch S4. It’s not as neutral as your M50. Neither is the KC06, but it’s probably closer.

      One other set that might be worth considering in your price range with good build quality is the Brainwavz R3: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/brainwavz-r3-ver-2/ . Fit can be a little tricky but it’s not uncomfortable. Can’t really say it’s better than the MA750 or KC06, more of a different sonic flavor – smooth and balanced. Not as warm/bassy as the MA750 or bright/crisp as the KC06. Very solid construction, though.

  37. Hi
    I had hippo vb and loved them for the bass but it broke down 3 years ago and i bought jvc ha fx 200 and i have not been as much in love with those as my hippo vb. Do you have an recommendation for great basshead that are ok as all around ?

  38. Hi ljokerl thaks a lot for wonderful guidance.Following your’s as well as dozens of other headphones recommendation sites I end up with buying philips she3590, sony mdrxb30ex, soundmagic e10, hisound audio wooduo 2, xiaomi piston 2, klipsch image s4i and jays a jays five IEMs.For home listening i use sennheiser hd 598 . Can you recommend IEM/s which are far superior to these and i can notice the difference like in a huge margin(in terms of clarity,soundstage ).My budget is around 300 euro.I listen to almost every genre of music from dubstep to classical.So basically i want something which is all rounder but i don’t know if my budget is too less to get that quality.

    • A good place to start would be which one you like best out of the sets you already have, and what direction you want to go from there, both in general sound signature and where specifically you want to see improvements. The IEMs you have all seem to be v-shaped signatures to varying degrees (except the XB30EX and a-JAYS – haven’t tried those). However, your HD598 isn’t v-shaped, so maybe a more balanced/reference set is worth trying? You can get a very good one for 300 – for example a TDK BA200 or UE900 (if available in your region). Or you can try a more colored/less neutral set that still performs very well technically – for instance the DUNU DN-2000: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/dunu-dn-2000/

      • Thanks for reply but unfortunately only 1 of your recommendation (UE 900 ) is available in my region and it costs around 400 euro inc. shipping.I want your opinion , is it worthy to invest 400 eruo for UE 900( do they justice the sound quality in 400 euro range?) ? or do you have other recommendation which is widely available like sennheisers.

  39. Hey joker.. I’ve been using your multi iem review for years in headfi. I am really grateful for your effort. You have my thanks!

    To begin with, im a re0 fanboy..

    Since you have lot of experience with various analytical oriented iem, is there any clear upgrade route except the customs? I’ve tried ety er4s/p/b but i find them to be overly sibilant where as re0 retains the slight musicality with extended treble but not so sibilant vocal. I never find re0 bass lacking. I imagine a re0 with better instrument separation and more detailed without being sibilant.

    I’m not really good in perceiving sonic characteristic. I’ve listened to my friend’s shure se215 spe and i find the mids greatly detailed and refined, much thicker than re0, making the mids is pleasing too as i feel like listening to high resolution with thick wolfson-yummy texture when i listen to piano piece. however i find the treble kind of rolled off and the bass is bloated for my taste.
    I imagine an iem that sounds amix between those two would be just perfect.. But im affraid such iem only exist in top line iem.
    Because of budget limitations, im stuck with re0.
    Whats your thought about it? And oh i really like akg k550 and shure srh840 when i tried them.. Those are my sonic preference ^_^

    Your thought would be appreciated alot! I’ve been asking in audio forum and many recommend weston um4x, ety er4 series, or hippo pro one. I’ve tried them except weston and although the etys are technically better, it is too harsh where as i feel less fatigued with re0. I’m in constant fear that i’ll never be able to find an upgrade because there are moments where i find re0 can be better, but it’ll cost me alot to upgrade.

    Thanks again :)

    • Hmm.. if the ER4 was a little too energetic in the treble, maybe an upgrade in the opposite direction is worth considering. There are earphones that remind me of the RE0 but lean towards the warmer end of the spectrum instead, for instance the TDK BA200: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/tdk-ba200/.

      It’s a shame HiFiMan discontinued the RE272, that would have been a good one to recommend as well.

      I would skip the Westone UM3X unless you can try it before buying – it’s probably warmer than you want and has a bit of an upper midrange dip compared to the RE0, which comes across as a slight decrease in crispness.

  40. Hey Joker first off thank you for your dedication to this hobby and helping people like me.

    I’m looking for a item that’s good for edm. I have the dn1k and love them but sadly they are not very comfortable for me. Basicly I’m looking for the dn1k in a more comfortable package (think RHA T10). Any help is appreciated!

    • Nothing comes to mind with the same signature – closest I can think of with a more ergonomic form factor is the Fidue A83: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/fidue-a83/ . Has some pros and cons vs the DN-1000, though.

      If you want to look at higher price ranges, there are a few more possibilities such as the LEAR LUF-4B and Westone W30. If you’re willing to give up a bit of overall refinement and clarity but still get something that’s quite good for EDM and saves you some cash, maybe the Yamaha EPH-100 and RHA MA750 are worth checking out. The MA750 is just as heavy as the DN-1000 but the over-the-ear form factor may work better for you.

      • Sorry I forgot to mention my price bracket. At the most I can spend $200. Just to make sure I am getting the IEM that best fits my tastes here are some samples of music I listen to. It’s awful I know go easy on me :).

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQqw7QKEosY

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTxY93pA1zI

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDr0xxwdJd0

        So right now it looks like the RHA MA750 are my best option.

        As I said before thanks for what you do, and any help is appreciated!

      • Thanks for your response. I forgot to mention that my price range is roughly $200. Just to make sure I’m actually looking for the right thing I’m gonna link some songs I listen to.

        For some reason when I try to post things with links they don’t show up. So just copy and paste these into youtube.

        SmK – Take A Chance

        Main Reaktor – Salvation [NCS Release]

        TryHardNinja – All Nighter

        I know my taste is awful but go easy on me :)

        So from your first response the RHA MA750 is my best option.

        Also what is the difference in sound between it and the RHA T10?

        Thanks for all your help!

        • Links got stuck in the spam filter. Cleared now. EPH-100 and MA750 should both be pretty good options. I tend to favor the Yamahas for EDM but both are pretty good. The Yamahas are lighter and may be more comfortable in the ear but there’s less eartip options as well.

          The T10i is bassier and warmer than the MA750 but not as clear. It’s also physically heavier. I prefer the MA750.

  41. Hey Joker — Happy Holidays. Currently looking to upgrade from my standard iphone headphone and wanted to buy an IEM for under $200. I will mostly be using it for road biking. Thus, looking for a pair that is durable, microphonics limited, sweat resistance, and comes with an inline mic / volume control as well. I typically listen to classic rock, EDM, and oldies music.

    I was looking at Klipsch X7i In-Ear Headphones selling for $150. However, from the reviews, the microphonics might be an issue.

    Thanks for your advice! Trying to grab a pair before Christmas!

    -Mike

    • No familiar with the X7i. Sweat resistance is very limiting requirement – only a few IEMs have it. Pretty sure the X7i is not sweat resistant. If you want sweat resistance, the best set I’ve tried is the Audio-Technica CKX5iS. It has a volume control, too, but it’s an analog slider.

      If you relax the sweat resistance requirement you have more options, like a Shure SE215 + mic cable, RHA MA750i (if you don’t mind a bassier sound), and even the Klipsch X10i (has a bit more cable noise than the SE215/MA750i but still not too much). All of these have a warm and smooth type sound, the MA750i being the most v-shaped and also most bass-heavy. Still very good, though.

  42. Sir,
    Your reviews are like a ray of shining light in the dark obscurity covering the ear-phone world. I’ve been rooted to my PC for 14 hours straight researching various brands and models and my efforts started making headway only after I came across your article.

    I’m a complete novice regarding the whole system as the only earphones I’ve had the experience of using were the Soundmagic ES-18s (Which I really liked considering the price) and the Sony MDR XB30EX (Can’t say I was too impressed by this one regardless of various online reviews stating otherwise. I kept going back to the Soundmagics.)

    I’m an avid metal fan occasionally straying into classic and progressive rock, grunge and sometimes even blues and jazz.
    It’s been only a couple of days since I decided to fork up some cash and get a pair of earphones which would take my listening experience to the next level.
    My budget though is still pretty limited (60$) and after going through each of your recommended models individually and cross referencing with other reviews I narrowed my list down to four models.

    Steelseries Flux: Which I eventually crossed out because of the apparent durability issues.

    FIDUE A-63: Your reviews nearly convinced me to get these but when I checked other sites they did mention that the bass is sort of lack lustre.(Though I’m not sure to what degree)

    MOE-SS01: These looked good as well but I didn’t understand the deeper bass but brighter(cooler?) overall tone aspect(I don’t really prefer sounds where the treble stands out too much so I’m not sure if the SS01 falls into that category)

    V Sonic VSD1: Personally I would have gone with the VSD1s as they sounded perfect but when I checked amazon I found recurring complaints that the left earbud starts fizzing out after 2-3 months.(sigh…)

    Truth is, even I’m not sure what sound I really want and I’ve been whacking my head for hours now trying to decide amongst these four and would love it if you could offer any insight on which of these(Or any other actually) earphones would be best suited for my musical tastes.

    Some bands/artists I listen to include: Lamb of god,The Ocean,Opeth,Messhugah,Gojira,Megadeth,Porcupine Tree,King Crimson,Pink Floyd,Alice in Chains,Eric Clapton etc.

    On a side note, thank you for doing such an amazing job! I can’t even begin to appreciate the sheer amount of work you’ve put into these articles ^_^

  43. Hi Ijokerl. I’m coming from the re-262 and I love its sound and soundstage. However, it needs a amp and so that’s not so convenient for portable use. Can you recommend any iem that fits the category other than rha 750? The type of music that I listen most is vocal. More specifically, mostly man vocals. Also one female singer. Here is a link for you to listen how her voice is like: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=hk349GANmJ8
    My budget is below $200.

    • Sources I have are 6+, clip+ & HM603

      • The MA750 sounds very different from the RE262. For one it’s a lot bassier, but it also has an upper midrange boost that’s very different from the fairly smooth mids and laid-back highs of the RE262. It’s a good contrast, but not an alternative.

        How about a TDK BA200? It’s an awesome balanced-and-smooth sounding in-ear for the price: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/tdk-ba200/

        • The BA 200 actually is one of my consideration. I’m considering the RE-400, 600, Visonic GR07. I read all your reviews and so I know that they are similar. I still can’t decide between them.

        • And the Havi b3 pro 1 also.

        • Also brainwave B2

          • Not that similar. Also, the B3 Pro1 is a little outclassed here and you’re planning to use it unamped which most people don’t recommend.

            The BA200 and the other HiFiMan sets will give you an experience closest to the RE262. The BA200 would be my pick but if you find the RE-600 in your price range and don’t mind its slightly smaller soundstage, it’s a good choice as well. The GR07 has a more v-shaped signature and lacks the smoothness of HiFiMan sets while the Brainwavz B2 is a lot brighter and cooler in tone. Still a very good earphone, but definitely not too similar to the RE262.

        • As the B3 pro 1, I think that the hm603 has plenty of power to drive it. I read your brief review comparing it to the re-400 so it came to my list.
          The re-600 is $200 now.
          I bought the TDK IE800 but i don’t like it because its sound is lean. Do you think that I will enjoy the BA200?
          Between these four, which one is the better choice?
          Thank you.

          • While I don’t think the BA200 sounds lean, if you’re worried about lean sound you can stick with dynamic drivers instead of balanced armature. The B3 is also not a great option as it’s on the thin side for dynamic. Go for the RE-600 in that case.

        • I decided to follow your suggestion and bought a pair of second hand BA 200 for $90. Thank you so much for your help.

  44. Hi ljokerl,

    I’ve enjoyed NuForce NE-700M very much but need to buy a new set due to the cord fraying. What other sets would you recommend with or without a mic in the sub $100 range?

    Thanks!

    • Lots of good options. If you want to stick with bass-heavy sets, I’d recommend these: Audio-Technica CKM500 (has a mic version as well), Velodyne vPulse (has mic), Beyerdynamic DTX101 or DTX102 (or MMX101/102 for mic), and Rock Jaw Alfa Genus. All of these give you different sonic flavors – vPulse for deep bass emphasis, Beyers for a warmer and smoother type of sound, CKM500 for a more v-shaped signature, and the Alfa Genus for a v-shaped sound with the bonus of additional tuning ports. The common theme on all these is powerful bass.

      For something a little more balanced but still on the warm, enhanced-bass side – the Shure SE215 is quite good (mic cable can be purchased separately).

      • Thanks! For the sake of comparison, would you consider the NE-700 more deep bass emphasized, V shaped, or something else?

        • The NE-700X is bassy, but it has a pretty strong focus on both mid-bass and sub-bass. Wouldn’t call it v-shaped, just bass-heavy.

          • I gave the vPulse a go for the past month and feel lacking in detail and overall sound quality. The bass is excellent, however.

            The Beyers are next on my list.

          • I’ve been really enjoying the DTX 102s, thanks for the suggestion. Have you heard the DX 120? Saw these for fairly cheap ($45 shipped) l, his would they compare to the DTX 102?

          • I’ve only tried the 120 and 160 briefly at a show, but I don’t have any lasting impressions of them – they just weren’t particularly memorable I guess. At that time they were both priced above $100 and I didn’t feel the performance difference from the 101/102 (which was also on display) justified the extra cost. But at $45 it might be a very different story – not really sure.

  45. Hi there,

    thanks for working so hard and making this such an incredibly helpful and interesting resource!
    It’d be great if you would have some more advice to spare.
    Question:
    On the road I enjoyed my q-jays for the last few years. I loved everything about them until they broke.
    I’ve got very small ear canals and am looking for something similar or maybe better. What would your suggestion be?

    Thanks in advance.
    Oliver

  46. Hello, Joker. I would like your recommendations for the most suitable IEM for classical music under 200 dollars. The HiFiMAN RE-400 has been coming up a lot in my research, but I was not optimistic re their build quality. Build quality is very important due to certain circumstances of mine, and so the RHA’s MA750 IEM fervently caught my attention with its build quality and impressive three years warranty. However, all the reviews indicate that it is slightly bass heavy, which is, of course, undesirable for classical music. But, for its build quality, I might be willing to compromise a bit. How do you think they fare with classical, then? Do you have any better suggestions under the 200 dollar mark?

    • The MA750 is definitely bass-heavy. There’s lots of other options with much more balanced sound that are decently well-built – for instance the Etymotic HF5, Sony MDR-EX600, or even VSonic GR07. I think these would all do a better job sound-wise.

  47. Hello ljokerl,

    I’m looking to upgrade from ‘Philips SHE9700′. I liked them for every reason possible, but I’m willing to ‘move up’ and get something better.

    From what I’ve known, getting the bass right is a problem. They either are able to get the bass right or they compromise it for better ‘highs’ and ‘mids’. I’m not really into ‘highs’ but I would want to have at least something good enough to produce those notes at that far end of the spectrum if the need be. Still, my playlist typically includes EDM and Rock.

    Here, couple of tracks on my playlist to give you an idea
    ‘Evil Angel’ by ‘Breaking Benjamin’
    ‘Introvert’ by ‘KOAN’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-C0GHBp4_c)

    Now I’m not sure if ‘Signature Acoustics Elements C-12′ would hold up because of your less than 8 rating but I’d like to know more about your take on it. Also, I’d like to know how ‘VSonic VSD1S’ holds out.

    Thanks

    • Because I haven’t tried the SHE9700, I can’t tell you how the sets you are considering compare. However, I can tell you that the VSD1S is a better-sounding, more accurate earphone that the Elements C-12, especially when it comes to bass, which is just too overblown with the Signature Acoustics set. In the end it depends on what “getting the bass right” means to you – if it means sheer bass power, the C-12 may be the better choice. Otherwise, it’s most likely the VSD1S.

      • Hello again,

        I really couldn’t find anything on the SHE9700 but what I did find might be of some use to you. This is an excerpt of somebody’s post who knows more about IEMs than me. Here, have a look

        “The Main difference is in b/w sound signature,Build Qulity,Cable & Accessories.

        Philips SHE 3590 is very basic IEM with a V-shaped sound signature that resembles a rock setting of any media player. With a mild base & treble boost that does not relent other spectrum of the music at moderate volume it almost sounds neutral. Most audiophile like this sound signature and hence the wildly popularity. With bear minimum accessories just 3 tip S,M,L it the very basic in what you can get for an upgrade to a stock earphone. other IEM which similar Sound signature is Sound Magic E10

        Philips SHE 9700 has a sound signature that is Warm and smooth, enhanced bass level, laid-back treble & Emphasis on the mid-bass region. The IEM concentrates of mid bass more than on sub-bass. Sub-bass been as example of sony Xtra Bass line of IEM. (SONY MDR-XB30EX for example). The bass of Philips SHE 9700 is accurate & travels deep but also decays slow does making mid-bass seem more prominent in compare to other spectrum of the music. But been accurate & deep mid-bass is why its rated as highly on reviews sites. This along with the the tangle free & nice cord. Gold plated 3.5 mm audio jack. A case that has hard casing on the outside with enuf room to accumulate a small mp3 player like the clip & added tips makes it well worth the price asked about $17. In addition to this both have a design which as a noise cancelling effect due to both can slide right into the ear canal and form a seal with the ear drum means that most external sound is blocked out. When you have them in and playing music at a reasonable volume it is difficult to hear much else. This makes them ideal for use on busy public transport & other noise environment.”

        So basically, it can be concluded that SHE9700 is an SHE3580 ‘PLUS’. You can find some mentions over at the Head-Fi forum, one of which is particularly more objective than the one above. Over here,

        http://www.head-fi.org/t/586909/the-discovery-thread-new-dannybais-take-on-the-new-yamaha-eph-m200-pg-1769/3195#post_8671306

        Specifically, the quote from one of the better regarded users, ‘james444′, succinctly describes the SHE9700. I hope this clears it up for you and is detailed enough an account to provide you with an insight (though I know nothing beats the true test of actual listening)

        Now… could you please suggest anything ? (besides the ones I mentioned earlier).

        Once again, I’d like to repeat that I’m not too keen on the highs. Just the ‘mids’ and ‘lows’ are what makes up most of my playlist as I never listen to classical or jazz. This doesn’t mean that I want a muffled output, especially where the bass ‘overpowers’ everything else present in the track. I need the ‘highs’ too, but can compromise it a little for the bass.

        There, I hope I explained it well (with the help of the above playlist)

        • Sounds like it belongs in the warm and smooth category, so maybe the Sony MH1C instead of the ones you’re considering above? MH1C is a great earphone for the price, just has some ergonomic issues thanks to the flat j-style cable.

          The VSD1S and C-12 won’t have the right sound signature based on that – the C12 too bloated, and the VSD1S too v-shaped and harsh, with maybe not enough bass as well.

          • Actually, for quite some time I’ve been trying to get my hands on the renowned ‘MH1C’ but unfortunately, they were unavailable in my part of the world whether offline or online. My only option is to import them but then that would add to it’s cost, hence defeating the purpose of my purchase.

            Still, I’ll keep trying but I’m not too sure if they will remain available for long because it’s an old model.

            Now, just in case I’m unable to get them is there any other alternative ? I recently went through your review of ‘SteelSeries Flux’ and I must say, I’m quite impressed by its description. My only concern would be that of bass. I know there isn’t a good enough a metric to quantify human preference for bass, but, do you feel it is less ? Or is it that the spread of bass is different ?

            Finally, I must let you know that I’m not planning to spend more than what these cost, however enticing the EPH-100 might be.

          • The Flux is not as bassy as the Sony, nor is it as durable. It’s a great earphone for a slightly more balanced/neutral sound, but still staying on the warm side of a strictly “flat” headphone. Not an amazing MH1C substitute, though.

          • Is Sony XBA-H1 similar to the MH1C ?

            This detailed write up might help
            http://en.goldenears.net/25727

          • Hard to say from that unless they also have a graph of the MH1C done on the same equipment. But, the H1 is a hybrid system so it’s not likely that it will sound the same as/very similar to the dynamic-driver MH1C.

  48. Hi joker, I got a pair of Klipsch Image x10 IEMs for just over $110 on Amazon about a year ago after reading some good things about them, and I’ve enjoyed them a bunch, but I use them heavily and the stain reliefs are torn almost completely to the buds and the jack (they still work for now). Christmas is an excuse for me to get myself a new pair of IEMs, so I’m wondering what my best option would be. It seems like the x10s are around $180 now on Amazon and I would have no problem paying that for a new pair if the reason wasn’t that the first had fallen apart so quickly. Is there anything I can get for under $200-250 that would be comparable/an upgrade from the x10s?

    • The X10 is a pretty unique earphone – if you like that signature it might be best to stock with it. Klipsch did say the X11 had upgraded build quality, but looking at Amazon reviews, I’m not sure that’s actually the case.

      Here are some options I think have comparable quality with an enhanced-bass, warm sound that is at least somewhat like that of the X10: Yamaha EPH-100 (a little on the bassier side but very fun to listen to), Dunu DN-1000 (has a more v-shaped signature than the X10, with very good bass and more treble presence), VSonic GR07BE (more balanced overall but with a fun bass punch and brighter treble than the X10). Depending on what you like they may or may not work better for you than the X10.

      • I listen to a very wide variety of music, so would a more balanced pair be more “optimal” (of course this is partly subjective but in general what would you say)? I wouldn’t be opposed to straying a bit from the signature of the x10s, the main thing that makes me enjoy them so much is being able to wear them for extended periods and not feel any discomfort because they’re so near weightless and comfortable.

        • You’re right on both counts – one, that it’s partly subjective whether certain genres sound better with certain sound signatures (or that some sound signature can be more “versatile”), and two that one of the X10’s biggest assets is its tiny size and that comfort obviously has a direct effect on listening enjoyment. On that basis you can probably eliminate the DN-1000 for its significantly larger size and weight. The GR07BE and EPH-100 can be quite comfortable with the right fit, and if you would consider a more balanced sound, I guess the GR07 BE is what’s left. Between that, the biggest difference is of course the brighter, more v-shaped (but overall more balanced) sound of the GR07BE vs the more bottom-tilted, treble-shy sound of the X10.

          • Thank you for the help, I’ve looked into VSONIC a bit more and it seems like they are generally very well liked. I’ll probably order a pair of GR07BE for myself!

  49. Thanks for the great guide. My Soundmagic E10s stopped working recently and I got the Sony MH1C to check them out since they were cheap. I like the sound quality in general (like the extra bass), but overall I think I prefer a more V-shaped signature that I got with the E10, and I think the MH1Cs lack in treble which I’ve realised I don’t like so much.

    Most important though, is comfort and durability since I have small ears. The E10s fit well enough, the MH1C I can’t stand because of the cable, and the tips were horrible for me (had to use ones that came with E10 and even then, because of the cable, they don’t stay in my ears if I move around).

    So in other words, I’m looking for something like the E10 in sound terms (but better), but it needs to be comfortable. I generally stick to the lower end of the price range since I can never get more than 2 years out of a pair at best anyway, but I would pay up to around £50-60 max ($80-100). Any ideas? I’ve looked at the VSD1S but reviews seem to be a bit mixed around the internet regarding durability and quality.

    Many thanks in advance for your time.

    • Hmm.. maybe the VSonic VSD3S, if that type of design can fit your ears? See here for sound description: http://theheadphonelist.com/brief-impressions-vsonic-vsd3s-ostry-kc06-havi-b3-pro/ . It’s mildly v-shaped with a slight emphasis on sub-bass and great clarity. No lack of treble with these. There’s a new fixed cable version of the VSD3S now that’s supposed to be more durable. If you want to spend more, you may be able to find the JVC FXT90 in your price range. It’s got a more mid-bassy and aggressive sound, but quite good overall. Here in the US they’re about $85-90.

      • Thanks. It seems like both of those would have to be imported, VS3DS = ~£36 and FXT90 = ~£66 inclusive of taxes. I’ll probably do a little more research. Would you say that the FXT90 is justified being worth about twice as much as the VSonic (in your opinion)? They look tempting.

        • I don’t think they are significantly better than the VSonics but they seem to be a better match for what you want. While both are somewhat v-shaped, the JVCs have a warmer, more full-bodied sound than the VSonics, which tend to be a little more on the neutral and accurate side. Also, the treble is just a touch more refined than it is with the VSD3S.

          • The import route seems a bit risky if I have to return them etc. I noticed you recommended the Rock Jaw Alfa Genus to someone further down the comments. From your review, it seems like they might fit my requirements. Do you think they would be suitable as a step up from the E10s?

          • The Alfa Genus might work but it’s an interesting one in that its two best sound tunings are 1) a flat one and 2) a deeply v-shaped one. That means that you’ll have in the Alfa Genus an earphone that’s both flatter/more balanced than your E10 was, and one that’s bassier and more v-shaped as well. Neither is tuned similar to the E10, but you;’ll get an interesting contrast with them.

          • Well I got the Alfa Genus today – you are spot on with your description. I am glad I got them though because it’s nice to have the option of nozzles to see which type of sound I gravitate towards. I think the silver v-shaped ones but with a little EQ tweaking might work best, but one of the nozzles was defective so I’ll reserve judgment until I receive the replacement (their support was excellent). The comfort alone and the superior cable though justifies them to me over the MH1C, and I think they have more clarity than the E10.

            Also didn’t realise they had a microphone on them, nice bonus I suppose.

          • Mine didn’t have a microphone on them :p. Updated model, I guess.

            Happy listening!

  50. hey joker i tried the yamaha eph-100 today for at least 1 hour, it has very good clarity very bright, but because of that aspect it seems to lack base, the base that yamaha eph 100 is producing is not strong enough for genre like edm house or some r&b music. I’ve tried with music like Kanye West – Love Lockdown just on base and it feels very light, but then again clarity is there. In the end i tried beats tour in ear and i felt the base is good. what are your opinion on this, do u have some other model to rec for my liking? thanks alot appreciate it if u can rec :)

    • You sure it’s a genuine EPH-100 and you’re getting a good seal? Clear and bright is not really what the EPH-100 is known for. It’s a very popular EDM earphone on Head-Fi mostly for its bass. Yes, the Tours have even more bass (mid-bass, not deep bass) but it’s not a night and day difference between my Tours and EPH-100. If Tours have the type of bass you are looking for then by all means go for them, but at this point it does’t sound like your EPH-100 experience matches those of myself and others.

  51. How does the sound quality rating work? Jh13 has score of 10.0, GR07 has score of 9.1. I have heard both, JH13 is multiple classes above GR07 but the score doesn’t reflect that.

    Why the buyer’s guide stops at $200? There are plenty of good earphones and interest in earphones above it.

    • The scale is not linear, i.e. a 9.2 tells you that I think that earphone is better than one rated a 9.1, but not how much better.

      And, I do have plans to create more guides but don’t have the time or resources right now.

  52. hey joker im looking for good earphones, my budget is around 250-300 can u rec any i prefer bass heavy type, i was looking at jaybird x bluebuds, but reviews said sound aint that good, tried klipsch x4i i feel it is ok not that great, would really appreciate it if u can rec better ones or more accurate type of earphones for base heavy i listen to trance,house,r&b, and heavy metal

    • Most likely the Yamaha EPH-100 is what you want. One of my favorites for trance, house, EDM, and top-40 type music. An upgrade from that is the Sony XBA-H3 but the form factor is not as nice and it can be tough to find under $300.

      • if budget would to go lower like 200 i have sony XBA-A1AP or XBA-H1, and shure se215 in mind i’ve seen reviews on xba h1 mostly are positive or u have something else to rec? :)

  53. Soundwise I am extremely satisfied with the Sony MDR-EX300s but they are gruesome to the ears if used for many hours as they hurt the cartilage of the ear whereas the Sennheiser CX400 are super comfy but they fall a bit flat when it comes to the sound. Which of your below $50 and $50-100 suggestions do you think could be the perfect match for me?

  54. Thanks so much for this site. The reviews and info are really helpful. Looking for some pointers actually – I want some IEMs that will be used on the daily commute, so isolation is important (using an iPhone 5). I prefer IEMs worn down as I can’t seem to get on with the over ear models. Mic/Remote is a nice to have. The type of music I listen to is choral music, opera and classical so looking for something that is not going to be harsh on the high notes, and can cope with recordings often made in cathedrals (long decay). Detail is important as the music is intricate, bass should be there but not overly so. I have some UE 600s’s at the moment with foam tips, which are OK but I find them harsh towards the top end. Budget wise, anything up to $300. would like to hear your suggestions, thank you!

    • The remote requirement really narrows the field – a lot of hi-fi earphones simply don’t have them. With a cable-down fit, good noise isolation, and smooth sound, that pretty much leaves the Klipsch X10i/X11i . I don’t recommend this model very often as I just don’t consider it a great value (It’s about $300), but with all of your requirements it seems like the best option.

      • Thanks for the feedback. What would you recommend without remote/mic?

        • Custom Art Music One if you want to go custom, but it is over-the-ear :)

          In universals this opens you up to the HiFiMan RE-400 (similar balance to UE600 overall, but it has very smooth sound) and the Yamaha EPH-100 (quite warm and very bassy, but still a good earphone overall). These have good isolation for universals (especially the Yamaha) and are worn cord-down.

  55. Hi Joker,

    Congrats for your work. After loosing my E10 I’m searching for new in-ears. Checking the V-Shape signature I see the Thinksound MS01 as a good option but I’m not sure if its sensitivity (96 ±3 dB @ 1KHz 1mW ) will be suittable to be used with my Fiio X3 / Mobile phone. What do you think ? I prefer transparent/clear sound than bassy one….Any other option below 120usd you can recommend ?
    Thanks.

    • The MS01 is not difficult to drive so you’ll be fine from that perspective. However, if you can deal with a slightly harsher sound, a VSonic VSD3S (bassier) or GR07 Classic (more balanced) would give you a more noticeable step up in clarity – since your preference leans towards clarity these may be a better way to go. The MS01 does give you better bass impact and a few other improvements on the E10 while staying within a generally v-shaped sound sig, but clarity isn’t one of the things it really improves on.

  56. First off want to say I love this website and your attention to the many posts. I previously had NuForce 600M because they sounded great to me and were cheap, but they are too fragile. I tried the MA350 and SteelSeries Flux before and didn’t care for either, the former mostly because there wasn’t a lot of bass and the audio jack connection was very rigid for a phone-in-your-pocket setup. 600Ms also seemed louder and fuller than the others I mentioned, maybe because of the added bass? I really want something with an Android-compatible mic/button also, as I tend to cycle through songs quite often. I listen mostly to heavy rock like Stone Sour, Korn, Five Finger Death Punch, etc. Thank you for any help, there are so many headphones out there it’s kind of overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re doing.

    • Also wanted to mention less than $150 is my price range (less than $100 even better), and I would prefer something with good sound isolation for air travel.

      • It sounds like what you want is a basshead earphone with high sensitivity (loud volume). Unfortunately most higher-end earphones will be less efficient than the NE-600X so you’ll just have to turn up the volume to compensate. Higher-end sets also tend to not have as much bass, with some exceptions. Having to have the remote also limits your options – the only set that fits the sound signature and remote requirements is the Xiaomi Piston 2, but it has a little less deep bass than the NE-600X and also has a straight (I-shaped) plug, like the MA350. Another option that fits what you want is the Dunu DN-22M Detonator, but it doesn’t sound as good as the NE-600X.

        Hate to say it but your best bet might just be the Beats Tour 2.0. It has a remote with a slim L-shaped plug, tons of bass, and a very full-bodied sound.

        • Thanks for the response. I actually wound up ordering the new Sennheiser Momentum in-ear headphones. It sounds like they may be a really good fit.

          • I just wanted to follow up and say the Sennheiser Momentum in ear headphones are an excellent basshead replacement for $100. The buttons work great on my S4 and the bass is plentiful and overall sound quality is good as well. Hopefully you’ll get an opportunity to review them in the near future.

          • Yes, I have a pair and they will get a full review. Glad you like them!

  57. Hendra Suryawijaya

    Hi Joker,

    Two years ago after reading your review, I bought Fischer Dba 02-mkII and I really enjoy it, I would like to know how good Shure 535, and 1964 ears V3 compared to Fischer Dba 02-mkII, I’m really curious.

    Thank you

    • The DBA-02 mkII is a neitral to slightly bright earphone with a somewhat analytical sound. The two sets you are looking at are pretty different – the SE535 is warmer and more full-bodied through the bass and midrange, and gently slopes down the treble. It’s a very smooth-sounding earphone without the analytical tendencies of the DBA-02.

      The V3 is a v-shaped earphone with lifted bass compared to the DBA-02. It has quite a bit more bass compared even to the Shure, not to mention the DBA-02. Tonally it’s warmer and just has a very lively and powerful sound, but its signature is even less of a DBA-02 match than the SE535’s.

  58. Great review. I’ve been looking for a replacement for my Klipschs Image S4. I bought them on a whim since CNET recommended them and overall I’ve enjoyed til the day they broke. I’ve since tried replacing them with a MeElectronics A151 and a Panasonic Ergo-fit(they were really cheap and I wanted a second pair). However, I was less than thrilled by the A151s. In the comments section, I’ve seen that for people who’ve enjoyed the S4s, you’ve recommended “the Yamaha EPH-100 (my go-to EDM recommendation), the RHA MA750, or the JVC FXT90.” Does this list still stand? I’m looking to getting another IEM similar to or better than the Klipschs S4. Any suggestions would be great. Thanks.

    • Yes, that’s still my recommendation for replacing the S4 assuming a ~$150 budget. The A151, as you found out, sounds nothing like the S4.

      Of the three, the FXT90 will probably give you the closest signature match. If you want to spend significantly less and still stay close to the S4 sound signature with very good performance, the Brainwavz S1 is a good one for $60: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/brainwavz-s1/

      • Hello again. At the moment, the JVC HA-FXT90 is only $18 more than the Brainwavz S1 that you both recommended. Would you say the FXT90 is worth the extra money? I’m guessing the sound difference would be almost to a layman’s such as myself, but after my disappointment with the A151s, I want to get it right this time. Unfortunately neither IEMs is available to test out near me so I’m relying on reviews to make my decision. Thanks.

        • It is, with the caveat that it has a little more mid-bass focus and a warmer tone. If that sounds appealing to you, I’d pony up the $18. Otherwise, the S1 is very good.

  59. Joker! I’ve been following your reviews for years now. Just would like to ask you, would you prefer the Audiofly AF140 or the Audiofly AF180 for EDM music? I hear that the AF180 is pleasantly accurate and precise while the AF140 is unique and fun. Preferrably, I want something clear but just want to enjoy music in the end. I’m assuming the dynamic driver in the AF140 is better for my bass needs than the AF180’s 4 armatures. Any advice would be great.

  60. Hi, I am looking for an in-ear headphone around 150$. I usually listen to hippop, rap and play some video games. The most important thing I am looking for is the sound quality. I would like it to have a very good bass and a good mids, and I don’t think I will listen to a lot of highs. I want it to have an inline control that can let me play and pause or skip music and compitable with iphone(volume control doesn’t really matter).
    It also be good if it looks good too:)
    My current choice is probably Ma-750.
    Can you guys recommend something for me?
    Thank you.

    • Btw, I will take this headphone to the gym. I need a good sound isolation and noise cancelling as well.

      • Right up until you said “remote” it was the Yamaha EPH-100 but with the remote I would indeed go with the RHA MA750i. Next best choice would probably be a Shure SE215 plus mic cable. Both have good enhanced-bass sound – the RHA is a little bassier, the SE215 has more balanced mids. Noise isolation is excellent on the SE215 and pretty good with the MA750.

        Also, the vast majority if IEMs is not sweat resistant so if you sweat while at the gym you might want to consider getting a disposable set just for that purpose.

        • Thank you for the reply:)
          Just ignore the remote control pronlem for now. I am mainly looking for the sound quality.
          I will mainly just be listening to music(Hip-hop, Rap) somebody like Drake, Pitbull, FLorida and Akon.
          I am a newbie :( I dont even know if I need a good bass to listen to those songs, or do I need a better mid?

          So, my current choices are:
          1.shure 245 plus mic cable
          2.vsonic GR07 bass edition
          3.Ma750i
          4.Yamaha dn1000( I dont think i can get it from Canada… Unavailable from amazon ca…)
          5.welcome to recommand more~

          Can you order them from the best bass to the worst?
          Can you order them from which would perform the best with this song?
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0cfRjmZX7_U

          I also heard you said that a good bass will make the mids and highs’ sound quality bad? If so, how bad will it be?

          • I will stick to my original recommendations.

            There is no such thing as a Yamaha DN-1000 (or Shure SE215 for that matter). If you mean the Yamaha EPH-100, that still sounds more like what you were after to me (strong bass, pretty good mids, and treble that doesn’t intrude). It does well with hip-hop and has good noise isolation as well.

            The MA750 would probably be my second choice just for having a little less mids and more treble.

            GR07 BE has significantly less bass than those two and sharper treble as well. It also has probably the least noise isolation of the bunch. That said, it’s the most balanced of the four and the one I personally prefer – it just doesn’t seem to be what you’re looking for right now.

            The SE215 does well with bass and mids and again has smooth treble but to me is on a slightly lower tier than the others overall. However, if you add the value of its form factor (secure fit, really good isolation, solidly built) it’s still worth recommending.

            I guess if one or more are not available to you, that automatically narrows down your choices…

        • You said that comapred to yamaha eph100, MA750 tends to sound a bit more veiled. What do you mean by that? How is Ma750’s mids and highs compared to eph100? Is there a big difference? Thank you.

          • Veiled is the opposite of clear. The mids of the EPH-100 are stronger and its bass tends to creep up on the midrange a bit less than it does with the RHA unit. Not a big difference, but audible.

  61. Which signature would you suggest for clear dialog when watching TV?

    With my poor hearing, V-shaped would give me better treble, but I’m really interested in clear dialog more than anything else.

    I’ll be using the headphone via the Yamaha 1/4″ Silent Cinema headphone jack, so I’ll need a 1/4″ to 3.5mm converter and will need 15 to 20 feet of cable.

  62. Hi Joker, I currently have the SE215 but find it to be a bit dry and the treble quite weird sounding. My favorite full size headphones are the NAD Viso HP50 and Sennheiser HD650. Both offer a balanced, natural, warm & forgiving sound. I was looking at the GR06’s, Would you recommend these or another IEM?

    • Budget is under $110

      • GR06s are not that smooth, IMO not the best choice coming from an HD650, which is super refined. If it were me I’d play it safe and get something pretty neutral and with very smooth treble – the HiFiMan RE-400, for instance. It’s a little mid-centric and won’t give you that deep, rumbling bass that you’re getting from the SE215 or the sense of space that you might get from a brighter earphone, but it’s got a very nice and “sweet” sound with a touch of warmth and no harshness up top.

  63. Hi, this will be my first time buying a earphone. I am looking for a earphone around 50$ to replace my old iphone earbuds. I want to use it to listen to hip-pop, rap and play video games. Volume control really doesn’t matter, but I would like it to have a inline control that can let me pause/ play or skip music. I also need a decent noise cancelling and a decent isolation, but this is the least important. The most important thing I am looking for is the sound, maybe a bit bass. It would be good if it looks nice too.

    Can you recommend an earphone for me?

    From you reviews, I think steelseries flux would best fit my requirements? But, I don’t actually know.. Lol

    Have you ever tried razer hammerhead pro and Sennehieser cx 300ii? If so, would you recommend them?

    Thank you:)

  64. Hi, first off great list! I’ve recently become an audiophile (since like a year), and I got myself a decent pair of headphones (AKG Q701) plus a FiiO E17 as a DAC/amplifier. I was thinking of getting a decent pair of earphones too that I could possibly use with my FiiO E17 and my cellphone when I’m out.

    I mainly listen to rock music (hard rock, grunge, alternative rock), industrial/electronic rock (Celldweller and Blue Stahli). Sometimes I may listen to orchestral/symphonic music too. What would earphone would you suggest? My budget would be below 100.

  65. Hey Joker,
    My Phillips SHE3590s just recently broke, and I really liked them but I feel the need for an upgrade. The bass from the Phillips was almost perfect, but I would prefer it to be a little stronger. The mids were ok but I prefer it to be a little more forward. Basically I’m looking for an upgrade to the Phillips but with slightly stronger bass and a little more forward mids around 50-100 dollars.
    Thanks!

  66. Hey Joker,
    I’ve heard of your reputation on reddit, and I need some advice
    I’m in agony deciding between VSonic VSD1 (with or without S), SoundMagic E10 and VSnoic VSD3 (with or without S).
    Could you please help me
    Thanks

    • They’re all really good earphones so you can’t go wrong. The VSD3S sounds the best of those three to me (review should be up in a day or two) but the VSD1S is not far behind – just has a little more bass and a little less mids and clarity. The E10 sounds different – it gives you a more smooth and laid-back sound, but doesn’t have the tight punch, clarity, and resolution of the VSonics. The E10’s greatest strength is that it has no real weaknesses, but it’s not as Hi-Fi as the VSonics in my opinion.

    • Joker,

      Thank you for putting together such a huge and exhaustive list of both universal and custom fit IEM’s from manufactures throughout the world. It’s really quite impressive! Based on your experience I’m reaching out to you for some audio guidance/advise. Specifically I’ve been searching for a replacement IEM’s to my current Shure SE-846’s. I’ve noticed that you have never review the Shure flagship and frankly I’m surprised? Could you please tell me why?
      My current portable rig includes the Cord Hugo, AK240 along with the Shure’s SE-846’s. At home, I have both the Fostex TD 900’s and Sennheiser HD 800’s but neither of these headphones are really portable. The Shure’s are in my ears about 3.5 hours a day. They sound good using the neutral filter but.. I’m looking for a new set of IEM’s that can get me closer to the sound of my Fostex headphone. Your comments and suggestions are very much welcomed. Another question is how can I make arrangements to have Hidition and/or Unique Melody send over a demo pair to audition. Thank you for you reply sincerely Speed.

      • Shure was not amenable to sending one out for review and when I got a loaner from someone else I found they weren’t a great fit (to put it mildly) in my ears. As I had only limited time with the unit, I decided it would be unfair to try and take listening impressions of it with what was probably an imperfect fit. I haven’t tried the TD 900 at all and only heard the HD800 at shows so I can’t be of much help there either.

        As for making arrangements for a demo – just contact the manufacturer and see what’s available. Ultimately it will depend on where you’re located. UM has distributors worldwide so it’s probably best to contact your local branch. If you’re in the US, it’s Stephen at http://www.custom-iem.com/

  67. Hello joker,

    I need neutral and technical sound of CK90ProMk2 with IM03 detail and RE600 stage. IM03 much too colored and sibilant, RE600 much too thick and muddy, CK90Pro neutral and perfect but not enough microdetail and stage.

    What do you recomment?

    • Not having any experience with the IM03 or the second-gen CK90Pro, not sure how much help I could be. There are lots of things that are clearer and more lean than an RE600, but few that still retain a neutral sound (the DN-2000 from Dunu for example, does all that and has a good soundstage, but also follows a u-shaped sound signature with lifted subbass and fairly bright treble). Sticking to more neutral-sounding sets means something like the Etymotic ER4S (great detail, not so great soundstage), VSonic VC1000 (better soundstage, but a little brighter tonally), Ultimate Ears UE900, or the new AudioFly AF180, which I’ve been enjoying more than I thought I would. Very nice neutral-sounding in-ears with a little bit of treble brightness a-la the VC1000. Better overall, though.

  68. hi joker,
    could you please advice me whether to get fidue a63 or re-400 or any other earphones in the same price bracket? i listen mainly to indie pop , alt rock , electronic and some metal music.
    i prefer a mid forward sound however i do not like bass shy earphones..although the main priority is vocals, i want to be able to feel the bass presence as well.
    thanks and regards

    • If you really want a sound that focuses on the midrange, the A63 is probably your best choice. It’s not a bass-heavy earphone, but it has more impact than the RE-400 and I don’t think it can be fairly called bass-shy in any context.

      The other option around this price range is the Brainwavz R3, which has a little more bass (especially deep bass) than the RE-400 but retains better overall accuracy and clarity than the A63. As it happens, I compared the R3 to both the A63 and RE-400 here: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/brainwavz-r3-ver-2/

  69. Hi, I was hoping you could verify whether or not the Xiaomi Piston 2 would be the best choice for me. I’d like to pursue an IEM with a mic/remote combination and a warm/smooth or neutral sound signature, and I am willing to pay up to $30. The Xiaomi Piston is described as a wonderful IEM for android phones, but as an iphone 5c user, is it still worth it, based on the reduced functionality of the remote? Also, what do you mean by the “bloated bass” associated with them? Thank you for your assistance!

    • Under $30 the Xiaomi Piston 2 is definitely one of the strongest options for a warmer type of sound. The strongest alternative is the Sony MH1C, which sounds more neutral but still has a non-apple remote, has a more annoying cable, and is harder to find in that price range.

      Bloated bass means that the bass is overemphasized (in the specific region known as mid-bass) to the point where it can be uncontrolled/intrusive. It’s the opposite of “tight” bass. See here also for a better definition: http://www.head-fi.org/t/220770/describing-sound-a-glossary

  70. Hey, thanks for the guides, quite invaluable.

    Was wondering if you ever encountered Audiofly gear, AF56 to be precise. They are an Australian brand, but apparently they are distributed in the U.S as well.

    Cheers for your time!

    • I’ve tried the AF56, AF78, and some of the new (triple-digit) models at a show. The AF78 was my least favorite. The AF56 had a nice design and I remember it being rather bassy and warm, but otherwise it wasn’t very memorable . The newer ones I thought were all quite good, though, especially the AF140 and AF180.

      • Hey Joker, I’ve been seraching for some decent earphones for my HTC One M7 since last few days and im just confused which one to buy, the choices are Soundmagic E10M, Singature Acoustics C12 (if you’ve heard about them), V Sonic GR02 bass edition and Astrotec AM90, can you please help, just give me your preference.

  71. Dude, i think the vsonic gr01, monoprice 9927, and soundmagic es20 deserves a spot on the balanced sound sig.

    The philips sho2200 o’niel tread on the warm and smooth.

    Philips she8000 is pretty good and affordable too for vshaped to warm and smooth.

    Then Sennheiser cx870 on basshead.

    • I’m sure there’s lots of other deserving models on the market too, maybe some that no one has discovered yet. Would be great to try them all but it’s probably beyond any one person’s ability.

      The VSonic GR01 and VC1000 are not manufactured anymore as far as I know, which is a shame and probably means they’ll get harder and harder to find. This is also the reason for the TDK BA200 and a few other sets not being on the list. The Monoprice is too hard to fit for some people so again not something I want to have on a recommended list.

  72. Hi Joker,
    I have a dilemma. I am looking for something along the TF10s, with a little more forward mids and something that keeps the shrills of the highs. I’ve tried the pistons (too bass heavy), Phillips 3580 and Aurisonics ASG-01 (wayy too flat). My main jams are kpop, classical and female vocals. Thanks in advance!

    • I’m not entirely sure what you’re after – the TF10 is a slightly v-shaped earphone, so if you have something with more forward mids you just end up with a flatter earphone, which you don’t want. I also not sure what you mean by wanting to “keep the shrills of the highs” – do you want less treble than the TF10?

      • I guess to clarify, I’m not sure if flat is the right word to describe my distaste with the ASG-1’s. You’ll have to excuse me, my understanding of iem terminology is very lackluster. I liked how vocals and violins sounded on the ASG-1, but not much else about it. Didn’t like how the bass sounded, there was no impact, no V-shape, really cold. I was coming from the TF10 and the ASG’s gave me buyers remorse.

        The Pistons are great for club music and hip hop, just not for the other two categories I listed. The voices sound so far away and veiled. Sometimes I feel like they are the bomb only to take them off the next track. Wicked bass, no voices!

        I really liked the TF10’s but they broke and to be honest, the design was really tacky and I didn’t want to reshell. The cable definitely needs work too, which was just too much investment. The shrill refers to the harshness of the treble that you sometimes get with the TF10. I don’t mind it at all and prefer to have some sparkle high up. I do wish the mids came up a tad bit though.

        The Phillips are the only working headphones with a signature that I can stand. I know the Pistons enjoy a v-shape as well, but they sound worlds apart to me with the Phillips taking the lead. Voices sound better, bass is in a more comfortable spot for me. I can listen to vocal with it but not suffer too much when switching to a hiphop track.

        I am looking for earphones that are kind of like an upgraded Phillips for under $200. One earphone that I am currently looking at and have a lot of questions about are the B2’s, which you are fond of. How much bass do they deliver? I’ve heard answers from anemic to a decent amount. Also I would also like to ask if they sound remotely close to the ASG-1’s just because they were such a turnoff. I haven’d had any experience with other flat earphones so I’m not quite sure what to expect. Other headphones I’ve tried are the EPH-100/50s and a Panasonic RPH-s. Other considerations are the GR07’s and Shures.

        In any case, thank you so much for getting back to me and for helping out this community as much as you do.

        • I don’t have vast experience with the ASG-1… I only tried the 1.1 version, once, and did not particularly like what I heard.

          I’m not sure exactly where your bass preference lies – the TF10s and SHE3580s aren’t bass light, and compared to the B2 they can appear downright bassy. You probably won’t want anything with less bass than a GR07 BE, and I would skip the B2s.

          Truth is, I don’t have a perfect recommendation for you – most of my top recommended sets will either be too flat (e.g. TDK BA200, Westone W2) or risk being too bassy (e.g. EPH-100, RHA MA750). There are some good sets that are neither – the Westone W30, for example, but that’s a different price range entirely and doesn’t have very prominent mids. Ditto on the GR07 BE – it’s just not the best vocal earphone.

          At $200 your best bet is probably the Dunu DN-1000 – v-shaped sound sig with some (But not severe) midrange recession, strong (but not Piston-strong) bass, and sparkly treble. Doesn’t really fill the requirement for more forward mids than the TF10, but I can’t think of anything that does and still covers everything else.

  73. Hey there! Great work testing out all this stuff. I’m looking for iems with lots of bass as i listen mostly to edm. I want something which sounds fun. Currently looking at the Shure SE215 or the Yamaha EPH100. What would you say between the 2, and should the V-pulse be up on my list compared to these 2? Thanks!

    • I would definitely go for the EPH-100 – it’s among my absolute favorites for EDM music. The vPulse has more subbass than these but the overall sound quality isn’t as good. Unless you’re tight on cash or value deep bass above all else, I wouldn’t pick the vPulse over the EPH-100.

      P.S. Beware that cheap EPH-100s on ebay may be counterfeits.

      • Hey thanks for the feedback and the word of caution! Was considering the Yamahas too based on reviews. Its at the top of my list now and thx for the clarification. Cheers, keep up the awesome work!

      • Hey Joker just to pose a qn. I currently own JVC FX1X which have pretty xplosive bass as the name is and I totally lose myself in the sound. Will the EPH-100 be able to match the ‘immersiveness’ with its bass? I know the sound is going to be way more clear but will I feel a significant difference(drop) in the bass if I change to the Yamahas from the JVCs?

        • The Yamahas have great bass in both quantity and quality – I can’t imagine anyone finding them “bass light”. However, the bass on the FX1X is quite overblown and you definitely won’t get that eye-popping amount of impact with the Yamahas. I personally think the EPH’s bass is plenty immersive and the lack of such a big mid-bass hump as on the JVCs lets the deep bass be more audible, which is a good thing. That said, if your primary concern is bass of the type found on the FX1X, it’s probably best to stick to lower-end earphones as they have the most. The FX101, FX1X, and FR301 are still three of the bassiest earphones I’ve heard recently.

  74. Joker, thank you so much for this site, it has been ENORMOUSLY helpful. I have one quick question for you, and I understand it may be a simple matter of personal preference, but if it was you deciding between the HF5 and RE-400, which would you prefer? Again, I cannot thank you enough!

    • Sure thing – I prefer the HF5 just because I like the extra little bit of treble energy compared to the more relaxed RE-400

      • Interesting. Thanks for the input. I’m pretty new to both the world of IEMs and semi-audiophile grade equipment, but based on everything I’d read thus far it sounds like it would be hard to go wrong with either, though that may seal the deal for me.

  75. Hi joker,
    I’ve shortlisted 2 IEMs for me. Xiaomi Piston 2 and philips she 3590 or she9700. These will be my first IEMs bought before which I used the ones that came with some samsung galaxy phone. I prefer a V-shaped sound signature but I have a diverse taste in music. I mostly listen to shoegaze, instrumental rock, orchestral symphonies, drum and bass, edm, classical, post rock, metal, a little trance, alternative rock, mostly songs that involve guitars, pianos, violins, cellos etc. So I’m mainly looking for IEMs that are versatile and give good instrument separation and clarity as well as good bass for techno music. I don’t mind EQing to get the best out of these. Please recommend me what to get from these or any other IEM within 25$

    • I forgot to mention that I also record music so something that will help in differentiating instruments will be helpful. I’ve also started listening to a lot of 80s synthpop/rock. As i mentioned earlier, I need a versatile IEM. Also, how is sony mh1c compared to these?
      Thanks

      • Not sure about the SHE9700 but the Piston 2 and SHE3580 are slightly v-shaped whereas the MH1C isn’t. While I generally like the Piston 2 and MH1C better, I would recommend the Philips to you for its slightly less bloated bass and more v-shaped signature. It’s also quite happy to be EQd so if you’re going to be doing that you might as well save a few bucks.

        • Thanks for the recommendation for the philips. I’ve been using them for about a couple of weeks now and they are just perfect to my liking. Beautiful sub-bass, brilliant clarity and separation and very comfortable. I just want to mention that out of the box, they sounded pretty good but a little closed, less space, I don’t know what to call it but the speakers needed to be broken into. After about a week and many equalizer changes, they sound absolutely brilliant. After demoing my earbuds, a couple of my friends have also ordered one for themselves. Once again thanks for the advice.

          • I’m very glad to hear that! I’ve had mine for well over a year now and still very happy with their performance as well.

            BTW the “break-in” effect is usually called “burn in” in audio circles. It’s a hotly debated topic :).

  76. Hey, I’m a complete newb when it comes to this stuff. I’m considering the Xiaomi Piston 2 ($25) and Velodyne vPulse ($30) at the moment. I’m not sure what sort of IEMs I’m looking for, but I listen mostly to rock, post-rock and Nujabes ( instrumental hip hop?). I have an android phone. Which IEM would you recommend?

  77. 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.

      • BTW, Joker, any opinions/reviews on VSD3/VSD3S? I saw those on LMUE, and grabbed a pair of VSD3S … will check those out, while deciding between GR07BE, HF5 and RHA750 (the latter don’t seem to be the ‘balanced’ group, but sounds like a good all around pair — do you think they’d work for the music types above?)

        • Not yet – I hope I’ll get to try the VSD3/S soon but have not heard it so far.

          I think the MA750 will be too bassy for your genres. Unless you felt the GR04 was significantly lacking in bass I would definitely go for something more balanced.

  78. 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.

  79. 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?

  80. 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.

  81. 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.

  82. 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.

  83. 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.

  84. 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.

  85. 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?

  86. 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

  87. 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.

  88. 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.

  89. 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.

  90. 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! 😀

    • 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! 😀

        • 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).

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

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

  93. 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.

  94. 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.

  95. 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.

  96. 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.

  97. 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! 😀

    • 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.

  98. 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.

  99. 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.

  100. 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.

  101. 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.

  102. 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!

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

  104. 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.