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

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The earphone market is huge and encompasses everything from dollar-store buds to $2000 custom-fit monitors. Differences between them abound, but neither price nor brand name guarantee that you’re getting the very best performance for your needs.

We’ve tested over 350 earphones from all around the world in order to find the best values for every preference and budget. For this guide we confined our selections to sets currently available in the US through either US-based or global retailers. In addition to sound quality, we considered factors such as construction quality, comfort, and convenience, holding pricier models to a higher standard.

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

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

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

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Last major overhaul: 04/22/2016: 6 outdated recommendations removed, 9 new ones added

Basshead

Earphones for fans of heavy bass who value bass impact, depth, and power above all else. Because heavily enhanced mid-bass often results in bloated, boomy sound, we focused on finding earphones that provide deep, rumbling sub-bass and maintain decent clarity. In addition to the boosted bass, some of these sets emphasize treble for a v-shaped sound.

Below $50

JVC HA-FX101

JVC HA-FX101 ($20) – JVC’s enhanced-bass “Xtreme Xplosives” earphones are a bargain find for the bass-obsessed, combining plentiful bass with prominent, somewhat harsh treble. The overall sound is competent, if slightly unrefined compared to pricier sets, but two things are certain – the low end is sure to please bass fans and the sound is excellent for the price. It comes in several colors and a version with a built-in microphone and remote, the FR201, is also available. Read full review

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

Popclik String

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

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

NarMoo S1

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

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

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

$50-100

HiSoundAudio Wooduo2

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

Buy from ebay.com | Manufacturer’s site

Retired: Pump Audio Earphones, Velodyne vPulse

Over $100

Beats Tour 2.0

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

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

Retired: Future Sonics Atrio MG7

Warm and smooth

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

Below $50

Dunu Trident

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

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

Sony MH1C

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

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

Retired: Xiaomi Piston 2

$50-100

Shure SE215

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

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

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

Over $100

RHA MA750

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

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

Yamaha EPH-100


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

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

 

V-Shaped

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

Philips SHE3590

Below $50

Philips SHE3580 / SHE3590 ($9 – $15) – These bargain-bin miracles may look like average dollar-store in-ears but their sound tells a completely different story. With excellent presence across the frequency spectrum, enhanced bass, and crisp, clean treble, the sound of the Philips is worth much more than what you pay. Small and comfortable, they come in several color combinations and are the perfect small gift for music fans of all ages.

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

Soundmagic E10

Soundmagic E10 ($35 – $45) – Though not quite as clear and resolving as the Philips SHE3580 or Piston 3, the E10 is a great all-around alternative with less bass emphasis, smoother treble, and a wider and airier sound. A headset version with mic and 3-button remote, the E10M, is also available. Read full review

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

 

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

$50-100

JVC HA-FXT90

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

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

Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear

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

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

1MORE Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones

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

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

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

Dunu DN-1000

Over $100

DUNU DN-1000 ($160 – $210) – The DN-1000 is a hybrid earphone – that is, it combines a dynamic driver acting as a subwoofer with a dual balanced armature setup handling the mids and highs. It has superb bass – deep and hard-hitting, with almost no bloat – as well as very good clarity. Its V-shaped signature makes it especially great for modern music – EDM, pop, and so on – and the excellent construction and good noise isolation, though typical for DUNU, still stand out among $200 IEMs. Read full review

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

DUNU DN-2000

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

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

 

Balanced

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

Below $50

Etymotic Ety-Kids 3

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

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

Brainwavz M1

Brainwavz M1 ($35 – $45) – Of the many budget earphones offered by Hong Kong-based Brainwavz, the original M1 still stands out many years after its release with its smooth and natural sound. There’s no bass boost here – just a balanced signature with a mild focus on the midrange and very smooth and pleasant treble. The small size, comfortable form factor, and complete accessory kit all make the M1 a user-friendly all-rounder perfect for first-time earphone users. Read full review

Buy from Amazon.com / Buy from mp4nation.net | Manufacturer’s site

Retired: VSonic VC02

$50-100

HiFiMan RE-400

HiFiMan RE-400 ($60 – $80) – The folks at HiFiMan have been perfecting the accurate dynamic-driver earphone for the better part of a decade, and the latest iteration offers a very balanced, slightly mid-focused sound with a hint of warmth, providing a noticeable step up in performance from even the best entry-level models. With its comfortable form factor and good noise isolation, the RE-400 is difficult to fault on any front. Versions with microphone and remote for iOS and Android are also available. Read full review

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

VSonic GR07 Classic

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

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

Retired: MEElectronics A161P, Philips Fidelio S1

Over $100

Philips Fidelio S2

Philips Fidelio S2 ($100 – $135) – Philips’ new flagship earphones are well-built, well-accessorized, and reasonably priced. Offering a flat and level signature with a mild bump across the bass range, the S2 also features tangle-resistant cabling and a built-in microphone and remote. The semi-open design makes them great in situations where the higher noise isolation of most other high-end earphones is undesirable and a great choice for those who don’t like the more intrusive fit of most other IEMs. Read full review

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

Etymotic Research HF3

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

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

Audio-Technica ATH-IM02

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

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

Retired: Fischer Audio DBA-02 mkII, Aurisonics Rockets

Other

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

Ostry KC06

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

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

DUNU Titan 1

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

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

FLC Technology FLC8

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

Buy from Amazon.comBuy from LendMeUREars

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

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

 

Questions or comments? Leave them below.

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

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About Author

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

1,498 Comments

  1. Julio on

    Hello Joker! You’re the man for all the time and effort you put into responding to all these comments.

    I’ve spent the past couple years researching stuff..buying a pair of something and not having them work for me..mostly fit/comfort. The most comfortable pair i’ve owned was a pair of Klipsch S4i. They were light weight and had the angled insertion. Love the sound. The pair I use everyday at work are just some Bose soundsports. They are super comfy since I bought them for the gym but I’d really like a pair that are comfy AND sound good.
    I own the DUNU-1000’s.. sound great, aren’t comfortable. That direct “bullet” like design doesn’t feel good in my ears+the metal heft makes it worse.
    I owned the RHA MA750i’s and they sounded great..but again..too heavy and uncomfortable. Very rugged but hated the think bulky cable.
    I tried the Aurisonic 2.5’s awesome sound again, lots of bass… again fit issues…returned them
    Most recently I tried the V-Moda ZN’s smaller bullet like design. More comfortable than then DUNU’s great sound. Cable was light and durable (though cable noise..) ..still that bullet design does not feel good in my ears.
    The type of music I listen to varies. EDM,(most common) Jpop(most common), orchestral(VG music)(tied with all the other random music I list after this, Some oldschool country(ha). Music from my HS days(Sum41 greenday, basically pandora playlists when I get bored of my own music, always DL as hit Bitrate as possible(etc).
    Source Iphone 7 with stupid white adatper.
    This is for when I’m at work 99% of the time.
    I need a pair to fit comfortably..otherwise I can’t stand having them in my ears. Price range would be up to $300 maybe $500 if there is something that’s (that much better).
    I like bass if its accurate, doesn’t need to be be basshead level. Jpop has a lot of vocals and not a ton of bass so it opposite EDM. Of course orchestral(video game music).. being able to hear the individual instruments is plus>
    So a mixed bag there but it boils down to whats comfortable and sounds good. That angled insertion like the S4i was the best.
    Sorry for the over abundance of possibly useless information. Driving myself nuts trying to find something. I’m lucky V-MODA lets you test drive and return..most companies don’t do that.
    I appreciate any advice. In regards to Iphone controls..its fairly important when I’m at work to be able to easily pause my music when a co-worker comes to talk to me. If a pair doesn’t come with inline controls but can have the cable switched to have controls..that would work too. ( I know the ue900 cable works with some shures and stuff? not sure how common that is across brands with detachable cables.)

    • ljokerl on

      I like the information, makes it much easier to narrow down from 400+ IEMs to 3-5 that will actually work.

      Anyway, my #1 recommendation for comfortable fit with built-in controls and good sound is the Klipsch Image X12i (or X11i or X10i if you can still get them with a warranty and save some $$$ – they’re basically the same, new one just has improved build quality). Super tiny earphones, possibly the most comfortable I’ve ever tried. Nice warm sound, not the best overall quality you can get for $280 but certainly not the worst. I reviewed the original X10 here, right before it was replaced by the X11: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/klipsch-image-x10-x10i/

      My #2 recommendation with comfort in mind is any Westone model. These have an over-the-ear fit but they are very light and I think have the most polished version of this form factor. The W30 has the closest sound to something like the DN-1000 or Klipsch S4 and is the best for EDM, but it is pricy at $400. W20 has similar performance and is a lot more accurate, but it is very flat in comparison to the other sets you’ve owned, so you might end up missing some bass. Both of these should already include the mic cable in the box in addition to the regular cable.

      Moving away from western brands, there’s what I think is the most high-performance option – the FLC Technology FLC8: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/flc-technology-flc8/ . These have truly top-tier sound and a pretty cool tuning system (which you can also set and forget, it’s not imperative to tinker with it). You will need to get a separate mic cable for these – apparently cables that are compatible with the old Ultimate Ears Triple.Fi 10 will also work for the FLC8, and there were mic cables for those. Comfort-wise these do not have raked/angled nozzles like the S4 but they still have a very lightweight and ergonomic form factor. Think plastic MA750 with 1/3 the weight and less metal to put pressure on your ear.

      And lastly there’s the value option, the 1MORE Triple driver in-ears. These have an earbud-style form factor that’s generally very comfortable, and you can get them for as little as $80. Not the clearest set if you compare them to $200+ IEMs, but very good for the money. They keep up with the X12 pretty well in terms of sound and only start to fall behind when compared to the FLC8 and W30.

      • Julio on

        Thank you, tons of info. I appreciate it!! I have not looked at the FLC8 or the X12-X11 yet so I will do so now. I’ve looked into the Westone’s and always heard mixed reviews about their price/value etc.. but I will re-investigate.

      • Julio on

        Just ordered the FCL8S’s!! (and a ios cable from UE)

        • ljokerl on

          Cheers, hope they fit like a glove!

  2. Mobius on

    Hey Mr. joker!

    I was wondering what your thoughts are about the ‘MEE audio M6 PRO’, maybe you can review them as well sometime? please.

    I switched to M6 Pro for now after I washed my ‘Logitech UE350’, was due for an upgrade anyway. I’ll either get ‘Logitech UE600’ or ‘Sure SE215’ and am leaning towards the SE215.
    I dont really like the idea of too much of any frequency range and I dont really enjoy over the top highs. So coming from UE350 I feel like SE215 would be a step-up in the right direction.
    But, since I kinda made a stop in M6 Pro I’m really curious about how you’d rate them. 😀

    Really enjoy your rating charts & reviews. Quite helpful, thank you. (^_^)=b

    • ljokerl on

      I actually don’t have an M6 PRO, just the old M6 and the newer Pinnacle P1.

      The UE600, aside from being discontinued and not all that durable, is a very different IEM from the UE350. It lacks pretty much all of the warmth and bass emphasis of that model and has a much more midrange-focused sound. SE215 is a lot more UE350-like in being a little warm and biased towards the low end, moderately punchy, and quite smooth. Maybe that will help.

  3. Sofie on

    Hi joker, I’m looking for a balanced earphone. How would you compare gr07, fidelio s2 and final audio heaven ii? Thanks!

    • ljokerl on

      Can’t go wrong with any of them. Considering that they’re all very balanced compared to the vast majority of other IEMs, between the three of them I consider the Heaven II to be the most flat, the GR07 to be slightly v-shaped (meaning bass and treble are lifted a hair), and the Fidelio S2 somewhere between the two. It has a little more bass than the flatter Heaven II but also more mids than the GR07.

  4. Ken on

    Hi!

    Bought the GR06s and then the GR07s on your recommendation. The wiring on the 07s has started to fail and I was looking for a replacement. I’ve become a big fan of the balanced signature since the GR07s and looking for something similar, but with more reliable/replaceable cabling.

    Any recommendations?

    Regards!

    • ljokerl on

      My go-to recommendation for a GR07 upgrade right now is the FLC Technology FLC8, which also has a replaceable cable. My FLC8 review (http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/flc-technology-flc8/) has a GR07 comparison and some relevant discussion in the comments from previous GR07 owners (might have to go back a page or two of comments).

      If the FLC8 is too pricy, you can consider the MEE Pinnacle P1. It’s reminiscent of the GR07 in many ways, mostly the clear and balanced, slightly v-shaped sound. If your favorite thing about the GR07 is its linear bass, I’d pass on the P1 but for pretty much everything else it’s a solid replacement. Other caveat is that it’s more difficult to drive than a GR07. Cables are the common MMCX standard, which is a plus.

      Or you can skip the detachable cabling and get a GR07 Classic (now that they’re under $100) or Philips Fidelio S2 if you really don’t trust another VSonic. Can probably get 3 of these for the price of one FLC8, which may be more cost effective even in the long term.

  5. Fery kurniawan on

    Hi Joker,Great review as usual!
    I want to know how if FLC8 compared with JH5?
    I’m currently using the TDK BA200 and want to upgrade it.my budget is about $300-400, what your best recommendation?
    Thank You

    • ljokerl on

      I’ve never tried the JH5 and the BA200 and FLC8 sound pretty different from each other so it depends on whether you’re looking for something that’s tuned like a BA200 or for something that will be more of a contrast.

  6. Fery on

    Hi Joker,great review like usually! I want to know how if flc8 compared with jh5?
    I currently use Tdk BA200,i need your recommendation what the best iem if i want to upgrade it?
    Thank You

  7. Joe on

    I’ve been looking to get a good IEM for a while now, and I’ve narrowed it down to the Pinnacle P1’s, because of the rave reviews from other buyers. However, before I was about to make the purchase, I noticed that on ebay the UE900s’s are only $40 more than the p1’s (canadian money). So, my question is, is the UE900s worth the extra $40 in terms of build and sound quality? Or are there other options I haven’t considered? I want a good, durable, neutral-sounding IEM with replaceable cables and over-ear design.

    Thank you!

    • ljokerl on

      I don’t think the UE900 is as well-built as the P1 and for me the P1 is a little more comfortable, but in terms of sound the UE900 is more neutral. It’s more of a classic flat(ish) balanced armature sound, while the P1 is what I’d call a “v-shaped” take on neutral (a-la the VSonic GR07). Of course compared to consumer-grade earphones they’re both quite neutral, so it depends on what you’re coming from and how far in that direction you’re looking to go.

  8. Gaelar on

    Dear Joker,

    Which one of the following IEMs would be better assuming they all cost the same?
    My preferences are towards a more neutral/balanced sound, but I’m okay with something else if it’s overall quality is worth it.

    >HiFiMan RE-300
    >Brainwavz S1
    >Fidue A31s
    >SoundMagic E10
    >Xiaomi Hybrids

    If Xiaomi is the best option, which one would be the second best option? I have my doubts about the shop I would be buying those from if they sell the original ones or not.

    Any answer other than the ones I mentioned probably won’t satisfy me because I want to buy them from a shop instead of ordering them online and this is what I have so far.

    How would the best option compare to the HiFiMan RE400? I’m wondering if it’s worth the extra money (75% more than the IEMs mentioned before).

    Thank you for your reply and all your GREAT effort on this site! It’s very, very appreciated!

    • ljokerl on

      E10 would be my pick for a balanced sound – most of the rest are way off from what I consider balanced. RE-300 would be the runner up for balance but it has a really odd tuning that I rarely recommend except when someone is specifically looking for a smoothed-over earphone.

      In the sub-$60 range you actually have better options for balance than the ones you mentioned, such as the Etymotic MC5 or MK5, Brainwavz M1, maybe even the VSonic VSD3S. If you’re in the US you can also find the Phiaton MS100BA around that price, which is a very good deal.

      RE-400 will be a step up above any of these (least so the Etymotics and the Phiaton) when it comes to balanced sound, even at $100 it’s very difficult to beat for that.

      • Gaelar on

        Thank you for replying! I only mentioned the earphones above because those were the ones I had access to. The options you mentioned are not available in my country and I don’t want to bother with online deliveries.

        I decided to increase my budget now, so I’m torn between the Shure SE215 (90$), HiFiMan RE400 (100$), and maybe Etymotics HF5 (150$). I used to use a Philips SHE3590 before.
        Ideally, I would prefer the flattest sound possible, but since I’m already used to a very V shaped IEM maybe something completely flat would be too much? I wouldn’t know.
        What would be the advantages be between each of those three? What are the reasons I should choose one over the other? Which one is flatter? Which other things should I consider before buying them?

        Thank you!

        • ljokerl on

          SE215 is not very balanced, it has boosted bass and rolled-off treble compared to the Etymotic and HiFiMan.

          Etymotic HF5 is one of the flattest earphones on the market, regardless of price range. It’s always a great choice for anyone who wants the flattest sound possible, and coming from a v-shaped IEM it may actually be safer than the RE-400.

          The RE-400 has a slightly mid-centric sound, which is the opposite of “v-shaped”, so it’s about as far in the other direction from your current earphones as you can get. Usually I consider it a safe choice and it is a very good value, but you’re right to be concerned about radically changing sound signatures – it will at the very least take some getting used to, and I think you’d have an easier time of it with the Etymotics.

  9. Dean on

    Howdy joker!

    I’ve spent a lot more time reading your awesome in-depth reviews than I have actually buying IEMs in the past, but I just pulled the trigger on some UE900s. The reason is I found these were on Amazon with free one day shipping and no tax for $250. They seem to be a good fit for my needs based on your headphone review chart, but I had a couple questions.

    The UE900 was a really high rated choice in your chart but missed this list. At a $250 price tag, does it slip in to one of these categories?

    I listen to a lot of different styles of music, primarily Prog/Classic Rock (Phish, Pink Floyd, Umphrey’s McGee, etc.), Funk (Earth Wind & Fire, Lettuce, Parliament), Reggae (Sly & Robbie, Bob Marley, Tribal Seeds), Hip Hop (A Tribe Called Quest, The Pharcyde, Black Star), and Jazz Fusion (Pat Metheny, John Scofield, Herbie Hancock). I do love bass, but I’m not the kind of guy who needs 2 12″ subs in his car. Just need the bass to be present and clean, especially when it comes to the bass *guitar*. Do you think this pair will be sufficient?

    I’ve been using a set of Bose QuietComfort 35s for the past few weeks and a pair of Sennheiser CX 1.0s before that. I’m not super fond of the over-ear style of the QC35s and the Sennheisers, while a great value, sound a bit dull to me, have poor microphonics, and lack an inline mic. I’ve also got a pair of AKG K240s as a set of reference headphones, but those don’t do the job for blocking noise in and out in the office and also lack an inline mic. Those two pieces of info are important because I use these headphones often at work to listen to music and make/receive calls, and I also use these for about an hour a day on a loud subway. I have found that the Sennheisers actually isolated sound more effectively than the ANC of the Bose set.

    Based on this description, do you think the UE900 is a good choice? Thanks!

    • ljokerl on

      The UE900 was something like $400 when I reviewed it originally, and with a few exceptions I shy away from recommending IEMs that pricy in guides if there are less expensive alternatives. At $250 it’s very recommendable, but it’s hard to predict if the price will hold. I do need to replace the Aurisonics Rockets in this guide since the supply of those seems to have run dry, and a $250 UE900 would be perfect.

      The UE900 is a very balanced earphone, close to “reference” sound. Bose QC25s and Sennheiser CX-series earphones are much more consumer-friendly. CX 1.0s probably sound dull to you because they’re overly warm and lack energy up top. The bass is somewhat muddy, too. UE900 does not have these problems – the bass is very tight and treble is well-extended. The only thing it lacks in comparison is the “wow” factor of a bassier, more colored sound, but I think it will grow on you.

      I’m with you on preferring IEMs to ANC headphones for noise isolation – I use the Aurisonics Rockets for all flights these days, but the UE900 will work well too. All in all, it seems to tick all of your boxes.

  10. JR on

    I just received my RE-400 Waterline and I am pleased, they are for sure the best IEMs I have had and the comfort is amazing which was key for me. I have come to a realization though that I had wished I come to earlier, getting headphone level quality from an IEM isn’t easy and will cost you much more to attain.

    I was comparing the Superlux HD668B review of 8.25 sound quality to the RE-400’s 9.0 and I was excited to be getting an upgrade to my main favorites but I was let down in this area. I was naive, I guess, to think that a ~$100 IEM could match a ~$60 headphone. The amount of detail the Superlux has is immense it’s kind of startling how much better it sounds over the RE-400. Phenomenal treble extension and mids are so mind-blowingly crisp and detailed on the Superlux and this is after listening to the RE-400’s for a good 45min and then going back to the Superlux to compare. Also the fact that there’s a certain range of sounds around the low-mid trebble that’s tinny/fake sounding (I found this on the Piston 3’s as well but much worse) and s’s can sound harsh as well which is not present on the Superlux. (the harsh s’s can show it’s on the Superlux at extreme volume levels)

    I have a question though for anyone who want’s to reply am I correct that it’ll take much more $ to get headphone level quality in some IEMs? Or am I missing something? If anyone has any insights please share them.

    I like to think I am as unbiased as possible and that the Superlux HD668B’s are as amazing as I am hearing. It’s not sound signature that I am liking more in the Superlux over the RE-400 since it’s not the “way” they sound that I am comparing but how much more I am hearing and how accurate it sounds and in this respect the Superlux outclasses the RE-400’s by a mile. Is that not how “Sound Quality” is measured? Please someone explain all this too me, I feel like an amateur all over again.

    Sorry for the wall of text.

  11. Alan T on

    Thanks for the guide ljokerl! I started getting into higher-fidelity audio about a year ago and your reviews helped me immensely. I’ve been using the Piston 3s for outdoor usage but they were recently stolen from me. Since they’ve been discontinued by Xiaomi, I’ve been looking for something similar.

    I mostly listen to orchestra music or soundtracks. I think I’m aiming for something closer to neutral or leaning slightly towards bright, since the MDR-v6 I own has been fantastic for home use. They’re not so great for videos though (I think the bass response is a little lacking as the voices overpower the rest of the audio).

    I’ve been recommended the Etymotic MK5 but that’s close to the upper limit of what I’m willing to spend.

    • ljokerl on

      Etymotic would be an interesting choice… not as much bass as the Piston 3 or V6 and more focus on midrange and keeping things uncolored from a tonal standpoint. It’s a solid choice, but unless you need the isolation I’d recommend the Ostry KC06 for the same price as an alternative – it’s got a bit of bass boost which brings it closer to Piston 3 signature, and also some upper midrange/lower treble lift giving it a bit of brightness. Vocals can be a little strong but not too bad.

  12. aag on

    Hi,

    VSD3S had been my favorites for the longest time, but they had recently been displaced by SE215s. Absolutely love the latter, except for one gripe — getting them off and back on isn’t quite as straightforward as others, which makes it a problem to use at work, where interrupts are common.
    What would be the closest option, but with a bit easier insertion and/or straight down, rather than over the ear, cable?

    Thanks!

    • ljokerl on

      Probably the Sony MH1C as long as you don’t mind the j-cord. Just leave the j-cord around your neck and remove/re-insert earpieces as needed.

  13. Rhondi S on

    With a budget around $40, I was pretty set on ordering VSD1S before I came across this guide. But then I noticed the VSD1S on the retired section under the Piston 3. Do you think the Piston 3 is a better option for my budget? I want to have whichever gives a tighter bass ( I get ear fatigue pretty easily from boomy bass), better voice reproduction, and more sparkly treble. If it helps, some songs that represent my music library are Mountains by Message to Bears which has a lot of treble and God’s Gonna Cut You Down by Johnny Cash where the vocal is much more prominent. Basically, most of my songs have the basic rock structure to them.

    • ljokerl on

      Bass quality is about on-par between the VSD1S and Piston 3, vocals are better on VSD1S, and treble sparkle is about on par but with the caveat of the Piston 3 being smoother. The Piston 3 is in the guide primarily because it is less expensive and better-built than the VSD1S, not because it sounds better, so if your primary concern is sound and you value your mids I’d still get the VSonics in your situation.

  14. garlandbriggs on

    Hi Joker,

    Does it go w/o saying? (I’m saying it anyway)… many thanks for the time/effort/research. I was raiding the net for an authoritative site, and am grateful to have found yours.

    I’ve been looking closely @ the VSonic GR07 Bass Edition, the Etymotic Research HF5 (which falls into my price-range a bit more tidily than the E4), and the HIFIMAN RE-600 Songbird, and I’m at an impasse of sorts.

    Hoping you might shine some light on what you think’d be… “best” for my purposes. (Granted that’s a bit relative, but I trust it’s not too vague).

    I’m not too well-versed in the terminology here. For instance, “sibilant” as a word sounds/reads like it might be a lot more intolerable than it is. (Much as I’d like to, I’m not going to blame a particular recording/bootleg etc. for something “it” has no say in). I think I might be willing to accept a “hissing” or a “harshness” if it can’t be avoided, especially if comes with a certain territory/soundscape. Then again, I might be wrong…

    That being said, I hope you’ll forgive me if I attempt to (aesthetically) qualify “my purposes” via a somewhat longwinded list of what I listen to? A lot of it falls under Noise/Noiserock/No-wave, w/ some sludgier stuff, harsh noise and Drone/Dark Ambient or Industrial thrown in… Some of it’s so-called “experimental” or “avant-garde,” and there’s some postrock, avantfolk, minimalism, and electroacoustic/concrete music tagging along. So not a lot of pre-20th century classical, bar the rare foray into, say, Bach’s piano suites/variations. I don’t necessarily have it out for a bit of “traditional melody” now and then… but, yeah, even then it’s more H. Cowell than H. Purcell.

    I’m sort of stumped re descriptive terms. I’d say there isn’t necessarily too much bass in a lot of what I listen to, and doubt I’m looking for a bass-head (is that what their called or is that what the listener is called?) set. But I might be wrong. A lot of it runs the “all over the place” gamut at times. I mean synonyms are a dime-a-dozen: distortion, extreme volume, feedback, static, hiss/hum, cacophony. But I’d still bank on the fact that they only really amount to (at best) 70% of what I’ll listen to.

    Maybe I’m asking too much of something under $200. I’ve tried to keep most of my files between 320kbps and ALAC, for what it’s worth. Still hanging onto an old 80G iPod. Am considering an iBasso Dx80, but the ‘phones’ll take precedence, I think. I’m something of a neophyte, especially when it comes to IEMs. Years ago I “invested” in some Bose over-ears but… lifestyle choices… saw to it that the connecting-cable was quickly severed. I haven’t really bothered w/ upping the ante in a while. Until quite recently I was slumming it with some airport-bought Sennheiser Cx 175s. They weren’t (I think) half-bad for the price (nor really half-good either). Those lasted about a year (durability matters, I’d say).

    I do plan to cherish my purchase, and would cherish your opinion on the matter as well sir.

    • ljokerl on

      Hm.. I think you’re on the right track with the VSonics being more or less the best “first” high-end IEM, being pretty balanced (i.e. not having too much of any one thing) without being as polarizing as the Etymotics. Etymotics tend to be more of a love-it-or-hate-it thing, especially for those just venturing into higher-end IEMs for the first time.

      That said, while GR07s are in the right ballpark, for noise rock I’d want something just a bit smoother – say, the Philips Fidelio S2. The S2 is not something that will “dull” the track as, say, a Shure SE215 would, but it is a bit more forgiving than the GR07.

    • garlandbriggs on

      Thanks for the reply ljokerl. Actually, I’d like to apologize: I should’ve thanked you months ago, but it took me “ages” to track down my comment. Am especially grateful for the descriptive language because… well I know one doesn’t “visualize” sound, per se, but my overriding concern remains the fact that I might be overreaching when it comes to picturing the pay-off/play-off between complexity, smoothness and my ideal or imagined/desired sound. Is what I want balance, and does this come into conflict with clarity high volumes? Am stumped (to say the least), and apparently have no qualms about pestering you (maybe the fact the I’ve reccomended the sit to others evens things out… but given my tendency to blather on…. probably not).

      So I’m still fiddling around with whatever I’ve got at home, and am yet to take the purchase-plunge. Chalk it up to a case of idealism butting heads with frugal times, but I hope you don’t mind my asking a couple of follow ups…

      Shortly after I posted my question I discovered the lists on the site. The RHA750s grabbed my attention (performance aside, their attractive and look like they would be more sturdy/durable as well).

      The fact that they’re quite favorably reviewed also leads me to wonder how they stack up vs the the (now discontinued) Fidelio 2s? The Fidelio 2s are still kicking around online, but when I came across the RHAs at a store I was on the verge of grabbing them up, and then decided I’d put it off and reconsider. I don’t mind the bulk that comes with the RHAs and the Fidelio 2s look a bit frail.

      Your ability to describe the sound “quality” has been a great help because I’m not necessarily able to try these different sets out. That being said, I was recently able to give some Etymotics a whirl, although I didn’t necessarily hate them, there was something too-close-for-comfort there. I think I might not be used to the experience of music playing all the way “inside my head,” as it were.

      To that end, at the risk of circling around something I feel you already answered, I’m hoping you might help me figure out how/why a VSonic Classic might differ from a Fidelio 2 or an RHA?

      I hope I’m not being too vague w/ my question, and am sorry for the over-abundance of info. I do feel like I’ve managed to narrow it down to the VSonics, the RHAs, and the Fidelio 2s at this point (unless you suggest otherwise). The latter doesn’t look like it’s going to stick around as a model/make though, and although I think I might grow used to the accuracy of the Etymotics… I might be wrong(ish).

      I’m just trying to figure out whether I would even (ultimately) notice the difference (punching above my weight etc.) between any of them given the fact that I couldn’t appreciate the Etymotics.

      I’m not just an knowledge-junkie (I don’t think), and I do plan on settling down. The info and research you’ve put up on the site has been v interesting. And I think will put me in a great position to make a regret-free purchase.

      Greatly appreciate it,

      • ljokerl on

        It all comes down to sound tuning, not performance. The MA750 is a very good IEM, but one tuned for a more consumer-friendly sound than all of the sets you were originally considering. That’s not to say it’s better or worse, it just fills different needs, and it seemed from your original post like you were looking to take the plunge into something more accurate. Maybe that’s not the case, but I do agree that an accurate sound is something you are likely to get used to (and grow to really enjoy) given the chance.

        I did compare the Fidelio S2 head to head with the GR07 and the MA750 in my review: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/philips-fidelio-s2-in-ear-earphone-review-2/ . These comparisons will have more detail than I’d be able to recall right now off the top of my head, so they’re always the best source for this type of info.

        It can be hard to narrow down so many options and there’s rarely just one correct choice, so the best route is often to research -> demo -> evaluate your experience, then rinse an repeat. At some point you do have to take a risk on something you may not like, but each iteration gets you closer to your personal “end game” component.

        • garlandbriggs on

          Thanks ljokerl, really appreciate it. I mean it’s thoughtfulness for someone who doesn’t have the knowledge to think something through for themselves, and that’s v generous… and thoughtful. I think the “look” of the MA750 may have “seduced” me and am sort of glad you’ve likely helped to steer me away from it toward what I’m probably looking for re what I listen to (and the ever-elusive ideal).

          Shall check out the review and comparisons, and – for what it’s worth – I think I’ll drop a line about my purchase when I make it.

          Thanks again

          • ljokerl on

            That’s always appreciated, not only for other readers who may be going through a similar purchasing decision but also for me to hone my recommendations.

  15. junmilreyso on

    Hi, would the Philips TX1/2 be considered a budget alternative to the Philips Fidelio S1/2? What is the TX1/2’s sound signature in comparison with the Fidelio S1/2’s balanced sound signature? Im asking this since Im having trouble looking for Fidelio S1/2s in my country and am a bit budget-constrained. Would like to have a balanced, flat-cabled IEM basically.

    • ljokerl on

      TX1/2 are more v-shaped than the Fidelio sets and lack much of the smoothness and full-bodied midrange that makes the S1/S2 interesting in their price range, so they wouldn’t be a great alternative IMO. Good IEMs in their own right, especially for those who want a brighter, more energetic sound, just not tuned like the higher-end models.

  16. dODo on

    Hi ljoker! I have been following your reviews for a while now, right from the days you created the Headphone list on Headfi. I had been using piston 3s for a while now and they broke down recently after a year or so of use.
    I am looking to replace those with iem that has a similar balanced – Vshaped iems. I have a budget of $50. I had Vsonic Vsd3s, the newer model in mind. Please let me know if you have any other suggestions.

    • dODo on

      Forgot to mention, I listen to Blues, Jazz Rock and Metal.
      Thanks a lot for all your reviews.

      • ljokerl on

        Yeah, with a $50 budget the VSD3 is the one I’d go for – really difficult to even match it, never mind do better, under $100.

  17. scottmc on

    Hi, do you think the VSonic GR07 has good enough isolation for plane rides? I’m looking for an earphone under $125 with a big soundstage for watching movies on a laptop.

    • ljokerl on

      I’ve used the GR07 on planes and it worked fine. The isolation is not huge, but it’s just sufficient for general use, and the sensitivity is not too high.

      These days I gravitate towards slightly more isolating earphones with even lower sensitivity in order to have better control over the volume of in-flight entertainment systems (not a factor for you if you plan to only use your own laptop). Last few flights I’ve swapped between the Aurisonics Rockets and MEE Audio Pinnacle P1 and both worked very well, but under $125 I’d still be happy with a GR07.

  18. monza on

    Hey Joker…I am on the point of ordering a pair of VSonic VSD3 and I want to make sure this is the better decision that I can make.I usually listen to Rock and Metal(all types of metal) and maybe some old school hip hop and more casual things sometimes.So Is there anything better for that in the budget of VSD3s.I mention that I will buy the VSD3 not the S version cause from what I’ve heard has a little bit more bass.
    Is there a major problem if im oredering the non-detachable version? I heard that the silver cable may have imporved the sound quality over the detachable ones,but some says that it is kind of fragile?
    Thank you and respect for your work.

    • ljokerl on

      I still prefer the VSD3 in that price range, so it’s the one I’d go for. And I would get the non-detachable version because DUNU’s detachable cable connectors are pretty useless – they’re non-standard and it seems they’re not that durable, either.

  19. Jerry Snow on

    Hey Joker,

    I was wondering what you think of the Zero Audio Carbo Tenore IEM’s. I see them all over the headphones subreddit and they are talked about on head-fi but I wasn’t able to locate any reviews on it by you. How does it compare to other IEM’s in terms of value in the same price range?

    • ljokerl on

      Sorry, haven’t tried these. I had contacted Zero Audio a few times a while ago trying to get a pair and eventually gave up.

  20. Bobby Jenkins on

    Hey Joker,

    I was wondering if you could give me a recommendation for a solid IEM under $50. I primarily listen to popular pop music and am looking for an IEM with good both sound quality and isolation.

    Thanks alot!

    • ljokerl on

      For pop music I’d honestly just get a Philips SHE3590. It’s got a nice amount of bass enhancement and a good balance of overall sound quality and isolation. Tends to last, too, and the comfort is very good.

      Sets in the $50 price range that isolate significantly better (such as Etymotic Research earphones) tend to have a sound tuning less suitable for pop music while earphones that have better overall sound quality and the right sound tuning (e.g. the Xiaomi Hybrid Earphones) isolate less than the Philips, so I think the Philips are the best option/compromise despite their low price.

  21. John Arganaut on

    @LjokerL: What do you think of the Fidue A65 versus the A63?

    • ljokerl on

      Sound is about on-par but the form factor is more comfortable. Who would’ve thought that removing sharp edges from an IEM would do that?

  22. Edward on

    Hi Joker!

    I’ve been following you for a while and I took IEM’s and sound seriously after purchasing the Piston 3’s based on your review. These IEM’s have great clarity and are extremely cheap, but I’ve gone through 2 pairs in the past 8 months and am now looking for a replacement. I don’t really mind what type of sound the IEM specializes in, I’m just looking for a replacement IEM under $50 that you would recommend over the Piston 3 for primarily music and movies.

    Thanks!

    • ljokerl on

      Personally I’d get a VSonic VSD3S. I like the slightly more accurate yet still punchy sound of these, and it’s one of the few sets under $50 that won’t be a step back in clarity compared to the Piston 3.

  23. dfm1a1 on

    Hi Joker,
    I have been following your site for a while. Really enjoy your works here! Thank you!
    Could you please help me with an upgrade to my current PFE122?
    My budget is $500 usd.
    Preferred music genres are classical (40%), metal(Groove/thrash) (40%), and some rock(alternative)/Jazz/acoustic(20%).
    I mostly like current PFE’s balanced signature(w black filter,bass enhancement) on the genes, however I am hoping for
    1. more sound stage — For symphonic music.
    2. a touch more bass. However not bassy/warm – I want keep the quickness/responsiveness on riffs/fast drums from metal.
    3. Not overly emphasizing on treble. Many of my favorite classical recordings are quite old/low quality. Treble emphasis IMO amplifies the recording limitations.

    Thanks ahead for the help!
    Joseph

    • ljokerl on

      Not a lot of options for what you want – earphones with enhanced bass (compared to a black-filter PFE) and wider soundstages (again, relative to a black-filter PFE) tend to have more v-shaped sound signatures, which means more treble emphasis. So what you’re looking for is more of an exception than the rule.

      My suggestion would be the Aurisonics Rockets, if you can find a pair – it’s based on a dynamic driver, has good bass depth and a wider than average soundstage (at least on-par with PFE, again hard to do better here without accepting higher treble quantities), and very very smooth up top.

      Another option is the Sennheiser IE80. These might be a bit bass-heavy but bass quality is good (and bass is easier to EQ down than up). They also have a smooth sound and massive soundstage.

      Last option would be the most straightforward – go for a multi-BA set. You’ll typically get a little more bass (esp bass depth) and a wider soundstage than with the PFE, but the overall difference won’t be as great compared to the dynamic-driver sets above and it’ll be expensive (i.e. less risk, but also more cost and potentially not as great an upgrade as you want). There’s a lot of these – the UE900 and AudioFly AF180 are pretty “safe” options but the Shure SE535 (a little more mid-centric) and EarSonics SM64 (more deep bass, less upper midrange) are also solid.

  24. vv2v on

    Been following your reviews since the head-fi days, and picked up the Astrotec AM-800 and Meelectronics M6 based on your recommendation. Thank you. Now that one side of my M6 went out (bought them in 2011, can’t complain), I am looking for replacements/upgrade for both.

    M6 is great for workout (sounds okay + cheap). Do you know anything that sounds better but doesn’t kill the bank? The M6 Pro looks like the logical upgrade, but beside the recessive v, does it sound better?

    Love both the sound and the look of AM-800. What would be a good replacement and/or upgrade if I am looking for that mild v-shape sound?

    Again, thank you. Best resource for iem for sure 🙂

    • ljokerl on

      Honestly not very familiar with the M6 PRO, but most people say it sounds more neutral than the regular M6, not more v-shaped. The M6 is pretty v-shaped to start with so that makes sense to me. Among dedicated “sports” earphones it’s still the one I recommend most often. Next best thing is the Audio-Technica CKX5, which has a similarly v-shaped sound with a bit more clarity and typical audio-technica upper midrange, but I honestly prefer the fit of the M6.

      Sports earphones aside, IMO the 1MORE Triple Driver Hybrid is as good a value as you’ll get for that sort of sound under $100. If you were thinking of spending less, something like a VSonic VSD3S, Ostry KC06, or even Xiaomi Piston 3 would be a good buy. These are all more along the lines of the AM-800 (fairly accurate, mild v-shape) than the bassier M6. Not sure about the aesthetics, though – the AM800 is still one of the better-looking earphones I’ve reviewed. Maybe the Thinksound MS01 can be a competitor in the looks department, but that’s about the same price as the 1MORE and not as good when it comes to audio performance.

      • vv2v on

        I guess M6 is still the best bang-for-your-bucks sports earphone, and I like the over-the-ear wire design, so I will probably get another pair. With that said, I wonder if you have any experience with the Audio Technica ATH-Sport3 and Koss KSC32? The Audio Technica one looks interesting and could be an upgrade, and Koss get good review elsewhere.

        For non-sports earphone, I forgot to mention that I have already bought 2 pairs of Xiaomi Piston 3 for my family (again, thanks to your recommendation!) It sounded great for the price, and I like the clarity when I tried it.

        I have not hear about the 1MORE Triple Driver before this, and it looks like the hyped sub-$100 earphone right now. Don’t mind about the price as long as they are durable, so this is probably my next earphone. Since 1MORE designs the Pistons for Xiaomi, I am just wondering if you can compare the Piston 3 with the Triple Driver so I get a sense of what to expect?

        • ljokerl on

          Yeah, the 1MORE Triple is pretty much a direct upgrade to the Piston 3. From listening to them side by side it seems like it was designed that way as it’s basically a more refined Piston 3 – larger presentation, better detail, bass more quality, cleaner mids, and warmer yet clearer overall sound. Not 6x better of course but that’s the rule of law in audio – you never get 6x the performance for 6x the price.

          Haven’t tried the ATH-Sport3 or KSC32.

          • Shen on

            When you do your review for the 1More Triple Driver, can you kindly compare it against the Ostry KC06? I’m highly interested in both, though there are very few comparisons between the two. I currently have the Xiaomi Piston 3 and I love their sound, though I’d like to try something that is more mid forward aand has a bit more sparkle in the highs.

            Cheers ljokerl!

  25. Erik on

    Hey Joker,
    This is my first comment. But your website is my go to when it comes to iem. And thank you so much, this list guide me to picking up gr07 back in 2014 or 2013, don’t really remember it. But i love it till the day it dies, which is last week. So here i am, asking you.

    I’m searching for similar sound signature with gr07(those detail!! I’m still head over heels about it) but with less price and if possible includes a mic. I live in southeast asia, so ety is not easily available here. And currently, based on this updated list, i’m eyeing brainwavz m1, xiaomi piston 3, and phillips 3590. I also hears the soundmagic e10c is good too, but i want to know your opinion. I love the gr07’s sound sig, mainly listening to jazz, pop, classical, instrumental, and opera.
    Thank you again for your help, you don’t know it, but you are a life changer for me.

    • ljokerl on

      Awesome to hear – glad the site and IEM recommendations have been helpful!

      To be honest, the best way to get close to a GR07 under $50 is with another VSonic – namely the VSD3S. Of course, you don’t get a mic with those but in terms of sound performance they are much closer to a GR07 than a Piston 3/M1/3590/E10C.

      Barring that, I’d probably choose the Piston 3 – it’s no match for the GR07 but it is best-in-class for sub-$50 IEMs in many of the same ways the GR07 is best in its category.

      From Philips you can also consider the TX1/TX2, if available – these have a less bassy, more GR07-like sound than the SHE3590 and are about on-par in performance with the Piston 3. I personally like the Piston 3 a little better due to its smoother sound, but the TX1/2 have better clarity and detail at the expense of being harsher.

  26. mo on

    Dear Joker,

    Thanks for all the detailed reviews. I’m currently looking at a few IEMs available here in the uk and wondering how big of a difference I’ll notice between (good) £30 IEMs and £60 IEMs.
    Specifically I’m looking at the MEE 151P and JVC ha-frd80 for £30. I was really leaning toward the former before I did some more digging.
    At £60 I can get the Ultima Ears 600vi, Etymotic Mk5 (apparently the MC5 is sold out otherwise I would have got it, should I assume this is similar?), Hifiman RE400a, or Soundmagic PL50.

    I listen mostly to rock but also some more jazzy technical things. I tried someone’s Soundmagic E10 and they were a very poor fit on any tips. I’m currently using a pair of IEMs that came with an old phone so really I can’t be too picky, but the point is I don’t know much about fit or tips. Generally I’m wary of single flange but maybe undeservedly so. This is putting me off the Soundmagic, JVC, Hifiman, and UE, although I haven’t tried foam and might love that.

    Are there any tips you could give me? Are the JVC and Hifiman just no-brainers in their price class?

    • ljokerl on

      I wouldn’t say no-brainers because there’s always a chance they won’t fit the type of sound one is after. For instance, the RE-400 will easily beat the A151P in almost every way because the two are tuned somewhat similarly, but the FRD80 is tuned differently so the comparison with the RE-400 wouldn’t be nearly as meaningful or as conclusive.

      Most of the sets you’ve listed (with the exception of the FRD80) are more of the balanced/accurate variety, in which case the RE400 or UE600 are pretty close to each other in performance and ahead of the rest. However, the UE600 is no longer in production so I’d be wary of that. Even if you get it with a warranty and you end up using that warranty there’s a chance you won’t get another UE600 in exchange. So I’d say get the A151P if you’re more comfortable spending £30 (or aren’t sure that a balanced sound is something you’ll enjoy) and the RE-400 if you want to jump straight off the deep end and get a mid-tier set.

      • mo on

        Thanks so much!
        I especially appreciate the advice about holding back to see if the type of tuning is right.

        Would you mind providing Amazon UK affiliate links, especially for the MEE and Hifiman? I’m not sure the US ones work for me.
        I’ll be sure to let you know what I choose and what my impression is.

  27. truckyyyy on

    Hi joker,

    i bought the FLC8s last year based on your recommendation and
    I’m really enjoying the sound of them.
    But I have one complain:
    The eartips (esp. on my right ear) keep popping out,
    as if they don’t have enough grip.
    I already tried the different sizes, but neither one worked right for me.
    Do you have a solution for my problem or can you give me an advice?

    Thanks in advance!

    • ljokerl on

      This doesn’t happen to me personally but I think the most surefire solution is switch to foam tips – the way foam grips the ear canal is a little different and is the best way to get as far away as possible from the fit of the stock FLC8 tips to give yourself the best chance at a secure fit.

      • truckyyyy on

        Thanks!
        I’ll try out foam tips.
        Do you have experience with crystal tips from this website?
        http://www.crystalline-audio.com/#title-intro

        Do you perhaps know, what core size fit to the FLC8
        and how the tip size compare to the sizes of the stock FLC8?

        • ljokerl on

          No, I’m not familiar with this eartip brand at all.

          From the Comply lineup the *400 size is the one that fits the FLC8. Since Comply is the most well-known foam eartip brand I’d be surprised if someone on the Crystalline staff couldn’t tell you which of their sizes is equivalent to a Comply *400 size.

  28. Hooked on

    Hey joker,

    What are the clearest sounding IEMs/Earphones that you’ve tried under $25 that’s currently on the market? I want to use them primarily for watching videos/TV and for listening to calls/podcasts, not for music. Clarity and detail are really the keys for me, not bass presence or impact. Any recommendations?

    • ljokerl on

      Would probably just get a Piston 3 – you might be able to find something that’s a hair clearer but you’ll be sacrificing elsewhere for that clarity. If you factor in overall sound quality (and mic quality for calls, etc) it’s the best I’ve tried.

      Next best thing would be a Philips TX1/TX2. They fluctuate a little in price but I have seen them around $25 online.

      • Hooked on

        Ah, interesting. A little surprised because of highly you recommend them for music.

        Thanks as always!

  29. justblue on

    Hi Joker,
    Have you thought about putting on the list the SoundMAGIC E80/E80s earphones? They’re reasonably cheap (53-56 USD on Amazon) and worth recommending as balanced sound, good detail and fidelity. I estimate you would rate them something near 8.7 🙂

    • ljokerl on

      I’ve tried these previously at a show and thought they sounded quite good. Just haven’t gotten my hands on a pair for a full review yet.

  30. kurc on

    My Vsonic GR-07 already giving up on me after years of use. So I plan to upgrade do u have any recommendation, my friends suggest me go for westone UM-30, any thought ? budget wise still little bit flexible but not plan to stretch too much. Btw thank you for creating this helpful guides

    • ljokerl on

      While the UM30 is an impressive IEM in its own right, I don’t really see it as a direct GR07 upgrade – its balance is very different with a lot more warmth and a much more intimate sound. If that sounds like the direction you want to go from your GR07 then it will be very hard to beat the UM30, but again it’s not an upgrade in the sense of being a higher-performing IEM with a similar sound tuning.

      The GR07 is actually notoriously difficult to upgrade from due to its unusual (especially for a dynamic driver) tonal balance . The closest I’ve been able to come up with is the FLC Technology FLC8. You can see the last discussion about this IEM as a GR07 upgrade here: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone-list/#comment-132558

  31. Stefano Broccoli on

    Good evening. I am searching a pair of in ear earphones until 150/200 $ with good isolation and that works good with all genres. Pop, rock, jazz, classical, Electronic. For my request is more correct a earphones of categories “warm & smooth”, “V sound”or “balanced” ?

    This models are good for me?

    DUNU DN-1000
    Custom Art Music One
    Etymotic Research HF5 / HF2 / HF3
    VSonic VC1000
    VSonic GR07
    Rock-It Sounds R-50
    Philips Fidelio S2
    RHA Ma-750

    Thanks 😉

    • ljokerl on

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

      GR07, Fidelio S2, and MA750 are all great starting points. Probably no reason to get S2 over GR07 if isolation is a priority, either, so that just leaves the MA750 if you think you’ll like a little more bass and warmth and the GR07 if you want something more Hi-Fi and resolving.

      • Stefano Broccoli on

        Thanks for your answer…i have considered these models…a doubt, in addition to working good with different genres, i would like to have a earphone with a natural sound. For this reason i’m considering also the Hifiman re400 and the Etymotics HF 2 or 5. For your opinion which earphone is more natural, with a sound more near to reality? Reading your reviews, the answer could be Etymotics…thanks again;)

        • Stefano Broccoli on

          for more clarity, i consider natural a sound closer to the original recording, that don’t change too much the music as it was engraved. I’m sorry for the double post 🙂

          • ljokerl on

            The GR07 is still a very good choice for this – it’s pretty close to neutral, and what little extra enhancement it does have in the bass and such sounds pretty natural. The Etymotic HF2/5 is more neutral and would be my personal choice for a more transparent sound, but ultimately they are both close enough answer to which is more “natural” will depend on who you ask.

            • Stefano Broccoli on

              I have chosen the etymotic hf2 and are fantastic. Maybe because are my first in ear of good level, maybe because i like a balanced bass, not exagerated, but i think that these etymotic, are good also for this aspect. Great Sound quality and superb isolation. When I have these in my ear, i don’t hear almost nothing other of music. Thanks ljokerl for your precious reviews.

              p.s. ah banal consideration but to do, is important choose the correct tips for have a real isolation and good bass. try every tip and use that one that isolate better.

  32. Manuel Jenkin on

    Hey |joker| I’ve been using the Vsonic VSD3S and have enjoyed it a lot, and now it’s cable got broken.. It was gift that kept on giving as I moved through laptops and phones with better dacs (sounded best with my surface book, next best with iphone). I loved the highs, especially the upper mids(female vocals felt amazing although a little artifical), the energy and the bass (was plenty enough and were soo damn fast for me). The only complaint I have after having them for a year, is that I felt the lower mids lacking something. Body I guess, Sorry i’m not familiar with audiophile terminology . whenever the song gets too complex, I felt that pianos were the first to get lost, and the sibilance which I earlier thought to be a flaw with recordings! I earlier had the E10s and I liked their sound, but with the vsonics, I simply love them. I listen to almost all genres from classics from 60s to 90s pop, rock, jazz, vocals, acoustics to the current edms and hip hops. Would you call me a basshead, neutralhead or treblehead? What should I be looking on further from here.. GR07 classic or Momentums? (I was told the vsd3s were v-shaped, but I listen with low volumes and they felt pretty natural). What would be a good choice if I was to go over ear open back.. HD598? HD600? or DT990? I will actually be getting a HD598 pretty soon, and am crazy excited. And btw, thank you guys soo much! You guys are doin an amazing job! I was introduced to soundmagic and vsonic, and then piston 2 here and all I can say are these are really amazing for their prices. Many of my friends now have the pistons 2 and 3 (and love them), I’m don’t like the piston 3 compared to piston2 tho!!

    • Manuel Jenkin on

      Btw, forgot to mention, I also listen to a looooot of soundtracks and instrumentals. One more thing I felt was male vocals felt a little less impactful compared to female vocals, especially when both were together in a track.

    • Manuel Jenkin on

      and I love listening to micro details in songs like the sort of fast fade in and fade out of … I find it hard to explain… something like the something moving fast effect that comes in around the 4 minute mark of breakn a sweat remix by zedd .. or the effect in around 3-3.5 mins in contact by daft punk.. Sorry for the multiple posts, wish there was an edit button!

      • ljokerl on

        I would not recommend the momentum in-ear after the VSonics… it’s a lot more v-shaped and you’ll find the mids lacking and the bass overwhelming.

        The GR07 is a good upgrade as expected. Philips FIdelio S2 is a strong alternative. Anything other than these two would be very spendy if you want to stay at the same level… like an Aurisonics Rockets for $250+. You really can’t beat the combination of balance and detail that VSonics provide if you happen to also like the sound signature.

        As for headphones, I’m not too up to date on newer releases (most of my time is dedicated to IEMs) but I do think you would like the HD600. It’s a very difficult headphone to dislike and one of my top recommendations regardless of budget. Not the exact sound signature of VSonic IEMs but definitely something every headphone fan should try at least once.

        I personally prefer the DT880/600 to the DT990 but that’s only semi-open. It is a good headphone companion to VSonic IEMs, though not quite as smooth and refined as the HD600.

        • Manuel Jenkin on

          Thanks. Probably gonna get he GR07 once the vsd3s cable tear up completely. Btw I am curious to what made you retire the VSD3S from the recommendations list? The nearest one I saw in the list was the E10 and I felt that vsds are a lot better. I’ve actually wowed soo many friends with the Vsonics ( I owned both, loved both, but just my opinion). Just curious!! And I happened to see that the HD25 I II is among your top rated portable headphones. I am sold on it’s modularity and ruggedness. I am now actually looking into it to complement the HD598(arriving soon) down the line and wish to know how it’s tonality is compared to vsd3s/gr07.

          • ljokerl on

            VSD3S is supposedly on its way out, I plan to add either VSD2 or VSD5 in its place later.

            As for HD25, it’s more akin to the VSonic with its somewhat v-shaped sound signature than it is to the warm and smooth (and somewhat dull, IMO) HD598. But I think if you end up getting the GR07 you’ll have a benchmark for how natural a slightly v-shaped headphone can sound, and the HD25 won’t be as impressive from a tonal standpoint. It’s a little artficial-sounding compared to a lot of upper-tier full-size cans and IEMs.

  33. boxwino on

    I found your site bouncing around through the internet and eventually landed on one of your guides that was linked from reddit.

    I figure I’d actually throw a comment in to see what recommendations you may have. I am new to trying to put what I like musically into words but I’ll try and give a reference point for what Im in the market for: So I’m looking for replacement IEM/Earbuds and I find that headphone wise that musically I’ve enjoyed Apple 2.0 Earpods (I know) and Beats Studio 2 Wireless/Beats Solo2 Wireless (before I lost them in a move)…a friend recently lent me his Skullcandy Ink’d 2 w Supreme Sound and I found it to be to high for me on the high end (treble I’m assuming) sounded really tinny and did not have enough kick to the bass for me. I defintley prefer the Apple Earpods over the Skullcandy, treble/tinny end was less over whelming (muddy even)

    I feel tend to listen to harder hitting music…styles I tend to gravitate towards on a daily basis listed based on priority: metal/harder genres(metallica / Rage against the machine / black sabbath / acdc / danzig / misfits / motorhead)…some hiphop, movie scores etc.

    So figured I’d kneel at the throne and come to you for some suggestions.

    Questions:
    1. From what I’ve described, musically I’m not sure if this means I like Basshead or a more Warm and Smooth style phones? I definitely like to FEEL my music.
    2. What recommendations would you have for 100.00 or below IEM/Earbuds?
    3. And recommendations for 50.00 and below?
    4. While at it what kind of 300.00 or below Over Ear Headphones would you recommend? (in the market for both new IEMs and Over Ear cans)

    Thank you again for your help and time.

    – Dustin

    • ljokerl on

      I’d probably avoid jumping off the deep end and spending a ton on your first researched headphone purchase until you have a better idea of what you want. How important bass quantity is to you will be vital information – more bass almost always trades off with clarity, and the genres you listed don’t benefit from a bloated/clarity-deficient sound. Therefore, the least amount of bass you can tolerate will be best for overall fidelity. It sounds like you want maximum impact but you like EarPods which aren’t all that bassy, so perhaps a more Hi-Fi earphone will still have enough bass.

      At the extreme end of the bass spectrum you have sets like the Beats Tour 2.0 and NHT SuperBuds. These will make you feel the bass for sure, but clarity on them tends to be average at best.

      I’d probably start with a quality warm and smooth set instead. The Yamaha EPH-100 and Sony MH1C deliver really good sound and value at their respective price points and will give you a much better idea of just where your preferences lie.

      Keep in mind also that these are proper in-ear headphones and as such getting a good seal will be very important to how they sound. Coming from earpods, this is something you’ll have to get used to. It might also have been part of the issue you had with the Skullcandy set – tinny sound is very often indicative of an incorrect fit.

      As for headphones, that’s much easier – you can get a quality set of cans for well below what a set of Beats Studio costs. I’d probably make this decision after you get your IEMs and have a better idea of what you like, but some safe bets for higher-fidelity headphones that still deliver good impact are the Audio-Technica M50X, Beyerdynamic Custom 1 PRO, Beyer DT770 PRO, etc. There are probably newer ones that are good as well, I just don’t keep sufficiently up to date with headphones.

  34. Ed briscoe on

    No idea what to do.

    I have the Image S4, then went to IE80 but they broke and listening at loud volume kind of caused grainyness and sibilance. I then tried over head V Moda 100 but they are too uncomfrotable so want to go back to IEM. I got the UE900 but they are too flat. Where to go next?! Image x11?

    • ljokerl on

      You’ve tried three very different-sounding earphones. If you liked the S4 best, you should probably stick to a v-shaped sound. Maybe the JVC FXT90 or Alpha & Delta AD01? Neither is a huge investment and both offer a slightly more level and refined version of the S4 sound signature. They aren’t necessarily as Hi-Fi overall as the IE80 and UE900, but it sounds like they may be a better fit. This is what I would do instead of investing another $250 into an X11.

      If you’d rather look at top-tiers with a v-shaped sound, you have options such as the JVX FX850, DUNU DN-1000, and RHA T20, but these are all slightly more specialized and not as easy-going as the FXT90 and AD01, IMO.

      • alejandro on

        joker, whats your opinion about ivc fx 850 , vs the dunk dn2000 or 1000,
        now i use fischer audio dba-02mkii, i love the clarity and the extension of these ones, but i want more bass and a little more vivid sound,
        what do you recommend to me?
        also, i have the beyer dt770 pro 80 ohm, i like it sound, but i think it has too much bass.

        thanks

        • ljokerl on

          FX850 is more of a warm and smooth sound, very full-bodied and “rich”. DUNU hybrids, thanks to the armatures they use, sound much thinner and more analytical through the midrange and treble. DN-1000 or DN-2000 is going to sound more like a DBA-02 with a subwoofer, while the FX850 will sound like a completely different sound system that’s a lot more bass-biased.

          If you’re worried about bass being too intrusive I’d go for the DN-2000 over the DN-1000. Or even the FLC Technology FLC8: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/flc-technology-flc8/

  35. john Kappa on

    How frequently is this list updated? I see the original post date, which is ‘BY LJOKERL ON MAY 21, 2013’, but no where do I see a ‘Last edited on XXXX’.

    • ljokerl on

      It says it at the very bottom of the post: “Last major overhaul: 04/22/2016: 6 outdated recommendations removed, 9 new ones added”

  36. Pikaplier on

    I have a pair of beats studio wireless and I was looking to get a set of iem’s that have a similar sound with better mids (the mids are not the best when listening to metal). Are the momentum in ear a good option?

    • ljokerl on

      The Momentum In-Ears have pretty recessed mids (i.e. a little distant relative to the bass and treble). This is not necessarily a bad thing, but usually is not what people mean when they say good mids. In a similar price range, the RHA MA750 has comparable bass quantity but better mids.

  37. ctqw on

    So I bought Philips 3590 a while ago (based on this recommendation among others) and they turned out to be godawful. Granted, my bar was set rather high as I came from UE10 TripleFi (which died on me, sadly), but still. There was just way too much bass, to the point where I had to significantly tone it down with EQ. Thankfully, 3590 are gone, and now I’m trying to find a half-decent sub-$50 replacement for my beloved UE10. So what are my options for good soundstage, V-shaped (but not as ridiculous as 3590) earphones in that price-range?

    • ljokerl on

      Sorry but there’s nothing equivalent to the TF10 under $50. If you want a v-shaped earphone under $50 with less bass than the SHE3590, I’d look into the Soundmagic E10 (or the LG Quadbeat F420 if you can find one), but your expectations need to be realistic.

  38. DJ Peeti-V on

    I have a general question in regards to sound quality, clarity, separation etc. It seems that a flat, neutral, and balanced sound signature is often times attested to having a more clear analytical sound. Does adding bass to the equation take away from some of that clarity?

    Thank you for your expert knowledge as always 🙂

    • ljokerl on

      Yes, that is generally the case. It is illustrated easily with either a parametric EQ or with one of the earphones that has multiple tuning settings for the bass (e.g. EarSonics Velvet).

  39. zio on

    what about sennheiser cx 5.00? it has wide soundstage, treble n mid is amazing.. how is compared to GR07 shure 425 dll… id like to know,, thanks

    i want to upgrade cx 5.00

    • ljokerl on

      Sorry, never tried the CX 5.00. I have a CX 2.00 and 1.00 but those are pretty sub-par.

  40. GN-0015 on

    Philips TX1 was a disappointment for me, and when I was looking to buy S2 or S1 locally they were nowhere to be found. Philips oh Philips why do they pull this kind of stuff oh so often. I think the only IEMs that they stuck with for a lengthy period were SHE9850 and SHE9700, both were pretty good.

    • ljokerl on

      I think back then Philips’ headphone division wasn’t a part of Gibson yet. Unimaginative product names and a more “boring” brand image, yet much more consistent product availability worldwide.

      I’m a big fan of the budget SHE3580/SHE3585/SHE3590/SHE3595, too. Hopefully this line stays on the market in one form or another for many years.

  41. hotcold on

    How much of an upgrade is the hifiman re-400 over the brainwavz m1 for a neutral and detailed sound? I can get the m1s for just $25, but the re-400 are also on sale for $60.

    • ljokerl on

      Sizable. The RE-400 is more of an entry-level top-tier IEM for its sound tuning (with one of the side effects being that it itself can be pretty tough to upgrade from). The M1 is definitely mid-tier.

  42. Ron on

    Hi Joker, I would love to get your recommendation on an IEM.

    My all-time favorites were the Fischer Audio DBA-02. Unfortunately I lost them and decided to trade up to the Fischer Audio TBA-04. They were not bad but I actually preferred the DBA-02… I found the TBA-04 to be not as bright or accurate… so finally I felt that the TBA-04 were just not worth the extra money.

    Now I’ve lost my TBA-04 (yes, it is a bad habit) and I’m in the market again. I would buy the DBA-02 but I cannot find them anywhere. I’ve contacted Fischer Audio to see if I could get them directly or the DBA-02 MKIII (new generation of DBA-02 with new cables which they announced last year but it looks like were never released) but they say they dont have any… 🙁

    So now the question is what to buy? I’m ready to spend up to US$300 but prefer not to spend the maximum and be disappointed (again).

    I think you liked the DBA-02 also so hopefully you can recommend something similar to me…

    Thanks
    Ron

    • ljokerl on

      There have actually been a number of IEMs on the market that used the same driver as the DBA-02, the Knowles TWFK. Not all of these sounded identical but they’re definitely your best bet for the DBA-02 replacement. The only two that I think are still in production are the q-JAYS (which were just re-released with a metal housing instead of plastic) and the Rock-It Sounds R-50 (which I think are only available on their site).

      You can also look around for used to old-stock units of the other older TWFK models such as the Brainwavz B2, Phiaton PS200, Ultimate Ears 700, VSonic VC1000, etc.

      Failing all that, just buy an Etymotic ER4 – when it comes to accurate, super-clear IEMs these are always a part of the conversation. It’s what I’ve gone back to after years of enjoying TWFK-based sets, and it never disappoints.

  43. Peter on

    Hi Joker, a while back, I got the Ostry KC06’s based on your recommendation. I loved how they sounded. Unfortunately, the internal wires in the left side got torn despite the cable sheathing being intact. Their customer service is basically non-existent, so now I’m looking for a new pair, preferably, not the KC06’s because of my experience. But the thing is, I absolutely love the sound signature. Are there headphones around the same price with similar sound quality and signature? I think it could use a tad bit more bass, but I’m not sure if that falls into the V-Shaped sound signature, because the Piston 3’s sound muffled to me. What do you think I should get?

  44. TMinus on

    Awesome site! After almost 3 years, my VC02’s have finally given up the ghost. I purchased them based off your review on head-fi and have enjoyed them immensely – thanks for the recommendation! Love their sound signature, lean but not thin with crisp highs and a taught bass that is surprisingly detailed and deep. Wondering if you have any suggestions for equal or better replacements, possibly looking to upgrade up to $100. Thanks again for your recommendations!

    • ljokerl on

      It’s surprisingly tough to find this type of sound under $80 now that the VC02’s are no longer being produced. Spending more you have some options, though.

      To get an upgrade in the neutral/accurate/analytical direction I’d recommend something flat and BA-based, like an Etymotic HF5/HF2/HF3. If those are a little out of budget, then the Final Audio Heaven II is a good substitute.

      If you’d rather try something a little more fun and energetic, but still crisp, lean, and tight in the grand scheme of things, I’d aim for the DUNU Titan 1 (which can often be had for $100), or the closely-related Fiio EX1.

  45. Harmik on

    Way too good a site, way too low a listing on search engines !!!

    I am looking for earphones / IEM’s. I have had Soundmagic PL21, Soundmagic E10 & Sony MDR XB50AP. I have had good experiences with the Soundmagic’s but the Sony’s mic has started having problems within 6 months of purchase.

    I need 2 earphones :

    1 for the gym under Indian Rs 1000 (roughly $15-20) to be used with Cowon iAudio 10. Gold plated connectors, sturdy wires are required. L-shape / bent connector is good-to-have but not necessary. Mic not necessary.
    I am considering JBL T-200A, Sennheiser CX 213, Sennheiser CX 180 Street II, Brainwavz Omega, Brainwavz Delta, Cowon EM1, Soundmagic ES18S, Soundmagic ES19S, GranVela V1 (based on availability) and open to any other suggestions within the budget. Have had bad experience with Sony. So, staying away for now.
    Would prefer good bass but not overly crazy.

    1 for calls, movies, music et al with my laptop and Android phone under Indian Rs 2000 (roughly $30-$35). Mic, gold plated connectors and sturdy wires are required. Flat wires / tangle free wires & L-shape connector are good to have.
    I am considering Sennheiser CX 275S, Brainwavz S0, BrainwavzS1, Brainwavz M5 or MEE Audio M Duo.
    Would prefer bass but more inclines towards neutral sounds as it will be used primarily for calls, movies & little music.

    Let me know your recommendations. Total budget is around Rs 3000 ($50).
    Thanks a lot !

    • ljokerl on

      I haven’t tried most of those earphones so I can’t be of much help sorting through them. The ones I have tried are the three Brainwavz models and the CX275, and between those the S1 is by far the best for a compromise of sound and build quality. If you can get them for under $50 with enough room in your budget for another set, I’d say that’s a good deal.

    • Harmik on

      Thanks ! I think I missed out earlier. S1 is out of my budget and it doesn’t have a Mic. Any other suggestions ? How is the Vsonic VSD1S ?
      Any suggestion for the second pair ?

      • ljokerl on

        My Brainwavz S1 has a mic and a remote. The VSD1S doesn’t have a mic, though.

        I’ve only reviewed a handful of very inexpensive IEMs and all the ones I recommend are listed right in this guide (Piston 3, Philips SHE3580, Popclik, JVC FX101, etc). Beyond those few options I’m probably not the best person to ask.

  46. Patrick on

    Hey Joker, I’m looking for earphones with a smooth and balanced sound around $250 range. I’ve been leaning towards the Aurisonics Rockets and the Custom Art Music One. I would appreciate it if you could do a min comparison the two, thanks.

    • ljokerl on

      They’re pretty similar to be honest (aside from the very different form factors, of course). The Rockets are a little warmer and have more robust bass while the Music One is a little thinner and carries a tad more energy up top (upper mids and treble). All things considered I’d probably get the Rockets unless you need one of the things the Music One’s custom form factor does better, such as the super-secure fit.

  47. Mark on

    Hi joker, following your advices I already bought a pair of MA750 and I’m really liking them. Now I’d like if you could give me some more suggestions. I’m interested in trying some new sound signatures. I’m especially looking for:
    1. A neutral pair of iem with good clarity and details (I thought about FAD Heaven IV, Heaven II, re-400 and Fidelio S2)
    2. A pair of iem with good soundstage and imaging ( was thinking about fidelio s2, because of semi-open design and Fiio ex1 since in your review you wrote these have great soundstage)
    Obviously I’m open to every suggestion of different models for each point.

    If you don’t mind I would also ask you some questions:
    -Did you happened to try Dunu Titan 3 and 5? And Trinity Delta? Thoughts?
    -What are the differences between Fiio ex1, Titan 1 and Titan 1es?
    – Is it possible that there is a new fidelio iem line coming? Because I noticed that from yesterday the black/gold s2 in not available on (sold directly by) Amazon in the US and also here in EU

    • ljokerl on

      I’m not a big fan of the Titan 3 and 5 – compared to the Titan 1 they are both more colored-sounding and less refined. No experience with the trinity delta or the other Titan 1 versions but there’s a number of comparisons with the EX1 by other users in the comments of the Titan 1 review.

      I wouldn’t count on a new line of Fidelios, either – availability of these has been spotty from day one. Have to keep in mind that Fidelio is not part of Philips proper but is a separate brand, which has changed hands recently. And IEMs haven’t been a strong focus in the Fidelio line.

      Anyway, if you were thinking about the S2 as an intersection of the two new types of IEMs you want to try, it makes sense, but it’s not the single most neutral or the best-imaged earphone in its class. If I wanted to really experience neutral sound and maximum detail I’d go with an Etymotic HF5 or the Heaven II – the RE-400 and Fidelio S2 are both a little farther off neutral and less resolving. As a slightly more spendy option, there’s the Rock-It Sounds R-50 too. Really difficult to beat the clarity and detailing of these,

      Likewise, for soundstaging and imaging the S2 would be fairly high up the totem pole for me, but not at the top. A VSonic GR07 Classic or Titan 1 would rank a little higher in that regard at a similar price.

      • Mark on

        Thanks for your advices! Really appreciate!
        Regarding the soundstage-oriented iem I’ve decided to go for the EX1 because it should offer me also a different sound signature that the neutral of gr07. For the other one, unfortunately I couldn’t find a place where I can get Rockit Sounds R-50 so I have to exclude them, is there anything else I should consider? . May I ask you a last advice? Between HF5 and Heaven II which one do you suggest the most? Are they any different or pretty much the same?

        • ljokerl on

          The difference between them isn’t that great but I would go with the HF5 – it’s really the quintessential balanced-sounding BA earphone and I’ve always though that everyone should try this type of sound at least once. The Heaven II is a little more colored, but close enough that it’s a great substitute if the HF5 is not available or just a lot more expensive.

          • Mark on

            The difference in price is about 50€ in favor of Heaven II. Thinking about it.
            Thanks again, you are always really helpful!

  48. Michael on

    Hey Joker, I’m trying to find IEMs that I can use for the gym as well as on public transportation and general on-the-go use. I’ve had the RE-400s but they were a bit boring and the wiring gave out on them, and I’ve got the BEB 328R right now and they’re just fine, but the wire is also starting to give out on me. I listen to everything from Radiohead to MF Doom beats to death metal so a versatile IEM with a fun sound is what I’m after. I tried the Meelec sport at some point and I couldn’t get them to fit properly which might be an issue. My budget is 0-200CAD, preferably it ships from within Canada because customs fees suck. Thanks!

    • Michael on

      As far as IEMs on my radar I’ve got: Xiaomi Piston 3, Philips SHE3580, DUNU DN-1000, and the Fischer Audio Eterna. I have noticed I tend to be hard on my wires, so it might be a bonus if there’s good warranty/durability on the next pair I buy, or just cheap replaceability like the Xiaomi or the Philips. Sound quality isn’t a huge deal for me since I’ve got headphones I can use if I want better sound.

      • ljokerl on

        Hmm.. the Eterna is pretty beefy and fits somewhat like an M6 so fit might be an issue, and the DN-1000 is a little large/heavy to be used at the gym. It’s more of a walking around IEM.

        I’d just go with one of the cheapies – if you managed to at least try the meelec M6 briefly and didn’t think it was too bassy, the SHE3580 would be a good one to get. It’s very fun, not a reference/neutral IEM on any level. The Piston 3 is a little more serious – more balanced sound, better clarity, but the fantastic deep bass of the Philips isn’t there and it’s not quite as smooth if you crank the volume up a little. Leans a little less towards fun and more towards reference than the SHE3580, but definitely not to the extent of the RE-400.

        • Michael on

          I’ll probably pick up the SHE3580s then! How well do they isolate? I’ve been listening to my music too loud for quite a while now because I’ve been using earbuds, so if there’s a pair that has similar sound as the SHE3580s with isolation that’d be great. I could always but tips externally, too.

          • ljokerl on

            They isolate OK, about average for an IEM. Better than a Piston 3 and at least on-par with the M6.

  49. Greenday741 on

    Hey man! Loved your guide.

    I recently broke my pair of a151p’s and I really enjoyed them. I really liked their sound, but I kinda wanna try a different pair of earbuds. Ofcourse, the Xiaomi Piston 3’s came to mind but also the M6 Pro’s. I was wondering what kind of earbuds you think I should go for. I listen to about every kind of genre except classical.

    Thanks in advance,
    Hechun

    • ljokerl on

      Those would be more v-shaped and bright than the A151P. Good if you want to try something radically different, but not a natural step up from the A151P, which has a very smooth and slightly mid-centric sound.

      If I was upgrading from the A151P I’d probably try for something with plenty of mids, cause you’ll notice if mids are lacking coming from the A151. For something with a different tonal character but still plenty of midrange presence the Ostry KC06 comes to mind. Or the Rock Jaw Alfa Genus with gold filters if you can find one for cheap. And of course the HiFiMan RE-400 is always a good option for a balanced-sounding upgrade, if it’s within budget.

      • Greenday741 on

        Thank you so much for the reply! Yeah, I’m probably just going to buy a pair of pistons anyways, just to try them out, but i’ll definitely look up the options that you recommended.

        Thanks,
        Hechun

  50. Kritkin on

    Hey,

    I am currently “on the hunt” for the new IEMs, as my Mee M-Duo are dying out. Is there any chance you could help me pick some. I read few reviews and looked through your list but still would like to hear your opinion. I mostly listen to Death/Black Metal.

    Currently thinking about
    Sony MH1c
    JVC HA-FRD80
    Jays a-Jays Four+

    Or can you advise anything else for around ~60$ ?

    Thanks in advance.

    • ljokerl on

      Lots of options out there under $60, kind of depends on what you want from your new IEMs. The MH1C and FRD80 really sound nothing alike – the Sonys are smooth, warm, and pretty well-balanced aside from the boosted bass. The JVCs are bright, crisp, and somewhat recessed in the midrange in comparison. Unfortunately I’m not familiar with the M-Duo or the a-JAYS, but I suggest figuring out what the sound tuning of those is/was so that you don’t accidentally get something so different from the M-Duo that you won’t enjoy it.

      For what I know of the M-Duo’s sound signature, it’s more on the warm side and not too bright (so more MH1C than FRD80). I would also lean towards the MH1C for metal in general, just because it gives a much smoother and less fatiguing sound.

      • Kritkin on

        Thank you kindly Joker, you’re a life saviour!

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