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SteelSeries Flux In-Ear Review

84


Added September 2013

Details: dynamic-driver headset from Denmark-based manufacturer of gaming peripherals SteelSeries
MSRP: $49.99 (discontinued)
Original Price: $49.99 from amazon.com
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 19Ω | Sens: N/A | Freq: 20-20k Hz | Cable: 3.9′ I-plug w/ mic & 1-button remote
Nozzle Size: 4mm | Preferred tips: Klipsch oval gels, stock single-flanges
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear

Accessories (3/5) – Single-flange silicone tips (3 sizes) and zippered carrying pouch
Build Quality (3/5) – The metal-and-plastic housings of the Flux remind me of the HiSoundAudio Crystal in both size and shape. The strain reliefs are not flexible enough for my liking but the narrow, rubbery flat cable works rather well. It holds a single-button inline remote and microphone.
Isolation (4/5) – Good, thanks to slim form factor and well-sealing stock tips
Microphonics (3/5) – Bothersome when worn cable-down; good otherwise

Comfort (4.5/5) – The housings are compact and lightweight, providing an unobtrusive fit that is comfortable for extended listening. The stock tips are of very good quality. The earphones can be worn cable-up as well as cable-down, though the microphone position suffers with over-the-ear wear

Sound (8.2/10) – The first dynamic-driver earphone from SteelSeries, the Flux In-Ear uses 6mm transducers and delivers a lively, well-rounded sound that impressed me from the very first listen. The bass has excellent extension and delivers good punch with no bloat. I would put the overall bass quantity on-par with the VSonic GR07 Bass Edition – like the VSonics, the Flux offers more impact than strictly neutral earphones such as the HiFiMan RE-400 but retains better accuracy than properly bass-heavy sets. The bass is not enhanced enough for the Flux to sound bloated – in fact, it is only a touch more boomy compared to the pricier and more neutral-sounding RE-400 and VSonic GR07.

The midrange of the Flux is among clearest I’ve heard in the price range and maintains a neutral-to-warm tone. The mids are a little recessed compared to sets such as the RE-400 and Dunu’s Tai Chi model, as well as the pricier Flux In-Ear Pro. This is not to say the Flux sounds severely v-shaped – rather, it is balanced-sounding with just a bit of a bass enhancement and crisp, prominent treble. The top end is extended, has good energy, and sounds mostly smooth, with just a bit of grain compared to higher-end sets such as the Flux In-Ear Pro, UE 600, and HiFiMan RE-400. It’s not nearly as prone to sibilance as many of the popular VSonic models and makes sets that are more laid-back at the top, such as the Dunu Tai Chi, sound dull and smoothed-over in comparison.

The presentation of the Flux fits in with the overall signature, being neither as forward and mid-centric as that of the HiFiMan RE-400, not as wide and out-of-the-head as that of the VSonic GR07. The good top-to-bottom extension, bass control, and overall balance of the Flux all help make sure that no elements of the sound are lost, in keeping with SteelSeries earphones being marketed for gaming as well as music.

Select Comparisons

Sony MH1C ($38) 

Last year, Sony’s MH1C model took the audiophile scene by storm as one of the best bang-per-buck in-ears on the market, making it a great benchmark for the new SteelSeries earphones. The MH1C offers a little more bass impact and a warmer tone than the Flux at the expense of greater bass bloat. The Flux has tighter bass compared to the Sony, and less of it, but still maintains great extension and good impact. The Flux also has more treble presence whereas the MH1C is a little smoother up top and a touch more spacious. From a user-friendliness perspective, the appeal of the MH1C is limited slightly by the annoying j-cord setup and Sony Xperia remote whereas the Flux has a universal one-button remote and standard y-type cable.

HiSoundAudio Crystal ($99) 

The Crystal may be significantly more expensive than the Flux, but the two earphones have quite a lot in common. They are similar in size and shape, similar in fit, and, as it turns out, similar in audio quality as well. I’ve always considered the Crystal to be a very solid earphone – a more balanced but similarly well-isolating alternative to the popular Shure SE215. Happily, the Flux offers all that at a fraction of the price. Compared to the Crystal, it has a warmer tone and more bass presence. The midrange of the Flux is a little less prominent, making it sound a touch more v-shaped, and its treble – slightly smoother. The Crystal, on the hand, is brighter and boasts more prominent mids. It has a slight advantage in midrange clarity but also sounds more harsh and prone to exposing sibilance.

SteelSeries Flux In-Ear Pro ($130) 

SteelSeries’ two in-ear monitors are both impressive performers but the sound quality difference between them isn’t as great as the price suggests. The armature-based Flux In-Ear Pro is flatter and more accurate, with more prominent mids, less bass, and smoother treble compared to the dynamic-driver Flux. It is also more sensitive, requiring less power to reach listening volumes.

The cheaper Flux model, on the other hand, boasts more bass and appears to have better bass depth. In terms of clarity the two are very close, with the more prominent treble of the Flux sometimes giving it an edge in vocal intelligibility. That same treble can sound a little grainy compared to the Flux In-Ear Pro but overall the two aren’t far apart. The soundstages of both earphones are similarly well-rounded but the Flux can be a little more dynamic at times.

Value (10/10) – The SteelSeries Flux In-Ear headset is one of the very best mid-range earphones I’ve heard to date, delivering fantastic sound quality per dollar with  punchy, extended bass, good treble energy, and excellent clarity. SteelSeries’ freshman effort beats many higher-priced products from brands that have had years to refine their in-ear offerings, making its performance all the more impressive. The only shortcoming is the cable, which could use better strain relief and tends to be noisy when the earphones are worn cord-down, but it’s a small caveat on what is undoubtedly one of the best-performing earphones in its class.

Pros: Excellent sound quality; small & comfortable design
Cons: Cable is noisy when worn straight down


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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.

84 Comments

  1. Mehtab on

    Bought these because of your review about 5 months ago and still works like almost new. Im ready to buy new in-ear headphones. Any suggestions that are better than these for under $50?

  2. ZephyrSP on

    Gotta add my thanks to ljokerl for the excellent work – it’s been immensely useful for the many of us who come in with relatively little knowledge about headphones.

    I picked these up during their holiday sale – can’t beat $15 bucks. I liked them very much – for an inexperienced ear like mine they were just about perfect. That said, I do have to echo what several other commenters have said – the build quality is just lacking.

    After maybe a month at most of moderate use – which, yes, did include not using a case and often stuffing them in a backpack pocket, but no MAJOR neglect – one of the housings basically split in half where the plastic meets the rubber. the plastic that is on the front half of each unit (monitor? still figuring out terminology) is very thin and cracks easily.

    I would have been pretty disappointed if I’d spent $50 on them, but the flash sale price I got them for took some of that sting out. If you baby them, they’ll be a great for you. Just beware of their durability.

    • ljokerl on

      Wouldn’t they be covered by warranty even at $15? Would be quite a deal to get the Flux Pro as a warranty replacement for a $15 Flux.

      It looks like SteelSeries may be discontinuing these, perhaps due to the build quality. A shame as the sound is still very competitive – just wish they updated the construction instead.

  3. SC on

    Hi Joker, thanks for the fantastic reviews.

    How do these compare to the Beyer dtx 101ie across the sound spectrum. Are they very different from each other? From what i’m reading, the flux sound like they’ll be much brighter and less bassy.

    On ebay I can get the flux for 60AUD and the beyers are 100AUD…

    Thanks!

    • SC on

      Actually meant to say dtx 72ie (which have the same sound as the dtx 71ie from what i’ve been reading).

      • ljokerl on

        Yep, that’s correct. The Flux is more balanced than the DTX101ie, which is on the bass-heavy side and a little dark. The DTX71 was also more balanced than the DTX101 but still didn’t sound amazing – not the improvement you would expect from a more balanced tuning.

        At those prices I would go for the Flux if you’re after pure audio fidelity, but in keeping with some of the comments below I feel that the DTX71 would be more durable/well-made.

        • SC on

          Thanks Joker! Ordered the Flux.

  4. ricky on

    Well….built quality of the steelseries flux is bad.

    3 friends of mine bought the steelseries also…..but the cable broke after 3-5 weeks on all In-Ears.
    Mine broke after 2 months…..got it exchanged but it broke again after 5 weeks.

    Waste of money

    • ljokerl on

      Mine are still alright but I get the point. Appreciate the feedback. Will remove these from the buyer’s guide as soon as I can find a decent replacement.

      • Will on

        Bought 3 pairs last month. The one I use at home is fine, the other two I used for commuting are both dead and I was very careful with them. The jack cable connection is one of the weakest I’ve seen on a pair of headphones. Not sure the build quality deserves 3.5 points.

        I really like how they sound though and the spare Panasonic RP-HJE 120 I am using for now although not bad just somehow do not sound right to me now . I definitely won’t be getting another pair of Flux so what would be the best replacement for them?

        • ljokerl on

          Sigh… so many people have had problems with these. Mine are still okay after about 18 months. I have one pair that I use and another one that’s a backup.

          Maybe it’s time the build quality got taken down a notch and I replaced these in the Buyer’s Guide.

          I think the Havi B3 Pro 1 might replace them on the Buyer’s Guide… might be an option for you as well. I talked about its sound a little here: http://theheadphonelist.com/brief-impressions-vsonic-vsd3s-ostry-kc06-havi-b3-pro/. While I personally like the VSD3S and Ostry KC06 better, the B3 is the best match for the Flux’s tonal character.

          • chool on

            I have a pair that I use on the go because I don’t want to lose or damage my more expensive IEMs. They’ve been treated absolutely poorly (things put down on cable, dropped, got caught in clothing, etc.) and they’ve held up incredibly well.

            Other IEMs suffering this kind of (ab)use have had a tendency to fail me so either I’ve been incredibly lucky this time around or the build quality can’t be that bad.

          • Tainze on

            Hey joker, thanks for your reviews! They’ve been essential for my audio purchases over the past year. I just ended up picking up the a pair of Steelseries Flux and I must say I love them so far. The build quality comments are a bit disheartening though.

            My question is, I use these at the office and during my commute. The inline mic/remote is absolutely essential. During the cold weather months, being able to place calls while walking to and from work without having to really do anything provides a lot of value to me. If these are truly being discontinued and mine break, what are you recommendations for IEMs with a mic/remote similar to these?

          • ljokerl on

            The $40 Phonak 022 deal I posted a few days back (http://theheadphonelist.com/easter-weekend-deal-alert-phonak-022-40-earphone-solutions-dunu-dn-1000-172-dunu-dn-2000-252-ctc-audio-uscanada/) is the closest in value and sound performance to these. The 022 is a little less bassy/more balanced, but the overall sound quality is excellent for this sort of price.

            Barring that, it depends on budget and how far you’re willing to move from the slightly warm sound of the Flux. You could go with a flatter and more balanced earphone, for instance the Astrotec AM90-MIC or Meelectronics A151P. Or, you can go with a bassier one like the Sony MH1C (beware the asymmetrical j-cord) or the Xiaomi Piston 2 (especially if you have an Android phone).

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  7. Chris on

    Hey,

    Just a quick question I hope you can answer; if they were both $50 which would you recommend between these and the HiSoundAudio Crystal?

    Thanks

    • ljokerl on

      For sound quality I prefer the Flux but they’re quite close. The Crystal is a little more rugged in construction, though, so if that’s the priority, go for the Crystal.

      • Chris on

        Thanks… Hm, yeah I have heard some not so good things about the durability of the Flux but if they sound even a little bit better and include a remote I might have to get them.

  8. Joseph on

    Hello joker,

    First of all thanks for your passion in reviewing IEMs. It has always helped me with my IEM purchase decisions.

    I wanna ask your opinion on $50 IEMs. I’m currently going back and forth between steelseries flux in ear and soundmagic e30.

    My preference is clarity and detail. I have the Ety hf5 but i would love just a bit more bass. Which of flux or e30 has a more forward mid ? (as read both have slight recessed mids).

    Some other preferences: i enjoy TF10 for fun v sound. UE400/500 i feel its alittle too bassy. Phiaton ps210 a little too warm for me.

    Will I be satisfied with the flux or e30 coming from these sets? Which should I get? Or should I instead get the higher priced re400? Though i would have problems in local availabilty of the hifiman.

    Thanks very much,
    Joseph

    • ljokerl on

      With more forward mids as a requirement I’d go for the E30 between those two. It won’t be too bassy. You might also consider the VSonic VSD1S if it is available to you, or the slightly pricier Fidue A63, which has stronger mids: http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/fidue-a63/ . If those aren’t available I still think the E30 is a very nice earphone for the money.

      • Joseph on

        Thanks very much…I’ll be getting the E30 then.

      • Joseph on

        I’m loving my E30. Joker, thanks once again for the recommendation.

  9. pg on

    I’m looking for something to use for band rehearsals and inevitably I will use them for music on my phone as well. I play bass and will monitor bass (D.I.), guitar/keys, vocals through the headphones, and drums will be whatever gets through the isolation. Fit wise, I’m use to wearing Ety ER20 plugs for band rehearsals so deep insertion doesn’t scare me. I had a pair of Monoprice 9396 which had a fairly wide diameter nozzle which I found rather uncomfortable and I found the isolation insufficient for the drums. The SE215 are likely the most recommended budget monitors for musicians (by other musicians) but that’s probably because musicians know the brand. They are a bit pricier than I want to spend and something tells me there may be more value elsewhere. The Ety Kids or MC5 (if I stretch my budget…) have good isolation but might actually provide too much isolation to hear the drums acoustically and not enough bass to sufficiently monitor my playing. I’ve been looking at the DTX101IE as they are on sale right now and I am familiar with the DT770, which I understand does not have the same sound signature at all, still, Beyerdynamic has done well for bass players in the past. The wide nozzle on the DTX101 is a turnoff as I’m not sure they will be comfortable for me. Now I find these and they appear to be all the right compromises with a bonus mic. Price-wise, I’m not saving much vs. the MC5 or DTX101IE by the time I get a TRRS to TRS converter for the Flux, so price isn’t the only consideration. From your description on these and the others, the Flux have capable isolation, are more balanced that the SE215 and DTX101ie, more bass than the Etymotic sound signature, and slightly narrower nozzle than the DTX101. I guess I’m wondering if I’m making the correct assumptions in picking the Flux over any of the others I’m considering. Thanks,

    • ljokerl on

      Yes, you are exactly correct. The Flux seems like the right compromise in this case. It has boosted bass over the Etys by a good amount but not as much as the SE215 and especially the DTX101. The nozzle size of the Flux is good with the only real downside being that there’s no exact Comply Foam size match for it, though there are other options.

      • pg on

        Decision paralysis! Came across a good deal on the UE 500vm (Android remote) for a little cheaper total cost but went with the Flux anyway so the decision could be done. My impression from your reviews is that the Flux would be a little better overall that the UE 500 anyway. They should arrive in time to try out with the band next week. I will likely never know if they were the best choice of the options I reviewed but I plan to post back in a few weeks with how they are working out for me. From your descriptions they should work good enough for my hobbyist band needs.

        • ljokerl on

          I would have gone for the Flux as well – it’s simply the more balanced option, and I trust its build quality more.

          Hope you enjoy it!

          • pg on

            For fit I found a good isolation with the smallest tips. I wear them over the ear and have them inserted into my ear canals. I can also wear them with the large buds but they just nest in my ears outside the canal and the bass is seriously lacking. I can see why some people criticize the bass of IEMs if unfamiliar with the proper insertion techniques (I only know from wearing earplugs).

            I’ve been using them for music listening for a few weeks. No complaints, neutral about sums it up. I don’t find the highs or lows too forward, or the mids lacking. They aren’t fatiguing, I don’t detect any distortion. Nor was I blown away by an aura, or the sense of a greater power. They just make music sound like music. Isolation is good. I can’t have a normal conversation with them on and music playing. I keep the music at the lowest volume level in my work setting and it’s fine (OK, I have to crank it up a couple notches for some songs).

            In a live music setting (my reason for getting these), I finally got my first chance to test these out with the full band this week. I used a TRRS to TRS (headphone)+TRS (mic) adapter so they would play nice with the regular studio equipment (some Mackie mixer headphone out). They performed perfectly for my use case. The fundamental notes on my bass came in loud and clear and I had no issues hearing myself in the mix. Even the open ‘E’ string was well defined (just a 4-banger, didn’t have a chance to try a drop D tuning), so they certainly have the capability to play low. Finger style, slapping, popping double-thumb – the notes from the bass always sounded natural. I found the isolation no worse than my ETY earplugs which allowed everything that was piped through the headphones to be kept to a reasonable SPL, while still hearing the drums at a reasonable level. Again, everything just felt neutral. The bass guitar wasn’t boomy or boxy. The guitar wasn’t shrill or shouty. The synth didn’t bloom or drill through your head. The vocals weren’t recessed. I would call it a success!

            ljokerl, thanks for sharing your experiences in testing headphones. Hopefully my feedback here will help some other hobbyist musician on a budget. I probably won’t get a chance to compare to the SE215 ever, let alone any of the more expensive multi-driver units, but for now, I don’t feel like I’m missing anything.

          • ljokerl on

            That’s great to hear – thanks for relaying your experience! Your use is pretty unique as far as what these earphones were designed to do but in context I’d call that a definite success for the Flux. I’ve been thinking of putting together a guide to some decent budget (and otherwise) musicians’ monitors. I’ll consider including the Flux + TRRS headset adapter/splitter.

          • pg on

            Another “me too” in the dead cable department 🙁

            I always wear over the ear, and insert/remove using the body. The experiment was great while it lasted. If the manufacture isn’t doing anything about this through warranty (need to look at my box) I guess I’ll either look into replacing/repairing the cable or saving up for the Sure SE215.

    • pg on

      An update. Steelseries RMA’d my Flux In-Ear (rather painlessly I might add, really responsive customer service). They sent me a pair of Flux In-Ear Pros in place of my damaged Flux In-Ear (non-Pros). I asked if it was a mistake but they said they may ship out something equivalent/better if the other item is not available (this was around the time they were having the $10 sale). Anyway, not a guarantee for others but I now have the Flux In-Ear Pro. I don’t have the testing credentials of ljokerl, but my experiences mirror his comparison of the two. I think I like the detail of balanced armature better (this is my first pair of BA IEMs). I don’t miss the minutely less bass over the dynamic driver Flux In-Ear and the Pros fit me better. I have small ears and the smaller nozzle puts significantly less pressure on my ear canals so I can listen much longer. Actually, I probably get deeper insertion as they are more difficult to extract so possibly not any less bass in my case (but no way to compare the two now). Quite pleasing to listen to for music, and perform well in my band setting as well.

  10. Rendy on

    Hi joker, I’ve been loving my soundmagic e10 and they were broken yesterday. Is SS flux a great step-up from my e10?

    Thank you very much. Cheers!

    • ljokerl on

      I would say yes. It’s more accurate and balanced than your E10, with tighter, more controlled bass and no deep bass roll-off (the E10 rolls off a little bit in comparison). The mids of the Flux are just a touch recessed but the treble is smooth and not bright, with great detail. Soundstaging is not an improvement on the E10 because the E10 is already so spacious and pleasant in that regard.

      • Rendy on

        Sorry for little out of topic, but how do e10 compared with Dunu Trident in your opinion? I think my wallet couldn’t catch up with Flux price because it is around $70 here *sigh*.

        • ljokerl on

          Trident is a little too dark and mid-bassy compared to the E10. I personally prefer the E10 and Flux to the Trident. For another good option you can see how the Philips TX1/TX2 are priced in your country – they’re about on-par with the Flux in overall sound quality and might be easier to find under $50.

          • Rendy on

            Hi, Joker.

            No luck finding TX1/2 here, sadly 🙁 . I guess i’d go with E10 again if i got no other choices.

          • ljokerl on

            Others you might want to take a look at – Philips SHE3580 or SHE3590 and the VSonic VSD1 or VSD1S. The VSonics will have less forgiving treble compared to your E10 but are clearer and more accurate, with tighter bass. The Philips are comparable to the E10 but with better deep bass and a slightly darker sound. They’re also extremely inexpensive.

  11. Retwisted on

    Hi, one channel of my RE-400 is cutting off for the fourth time, and I was pretty careful with them. I am really dissapointed with their build quality, and I don’t know if I will ever buy a Hifiman product ever again. Luckily this time, instead of another replacement, I got my money back. I’m now looking for a new IEM. I admit I really like the sound of the RE-400s. I’ve had the fidelio s1 and thought it sounded great, but the earpiece was too big for my ears and it was a bit sibilant with my music. Now I’m thinking of getting the Steelseries flux, since they are available here and I rather not buy from Ebay. They are warmer than the RE-400s, but how does it compare to the fidelio’s? I hope not much warmer than the fidelio’s. Also since I come from more expensive IEMs, how much downgrade in sound quality will there be? Will it be easily noticable?

    • ljokerl on

      The Flux is less forward in the midrange than the S1 and has similar, maybe slightly greater, bass quantity. Treble is a little grainy on the Flux but should be smoother than with the S1 in the 4-6k region. Biggest step down will be in clarity – it’s good for $50 but just not quite there with the $100 heavy-hitters like the RE-400 and S1.

      If you want RE-400/S1-like clarity for under $75 and are willing to give up a little bit of bass, maybe BA is the way to go rather than dynamic – a UE 600, for example.

      • Retwisted on

        Thanks for your response. The UE 600 is available for 105 euros here, so it’s more expensive than most places (even more than the RE-400). I can get the ety hf5 here for 10 euros more, which I think is a better deal, but I don’t know if I will like the sound signature. A little less bass quantity is no problem, but I’m worried about the treble. I’m quite sensitive to sibilance, and the hf5 doesn’t seem like a very forgiving IEM.

        • ljokerl on

          That’s way too much for a UE600. You can probably import it from the US for less than half of that. And no, I wouldn’t recommend the HF5 for you. I only recommended the UE600 because of its smooth, slightly relaxed treble and good clarity.

          • Retwisted on

            Thanks joker, after thinking a bit I decided to still get the Steelseries flux, since they are alot cheaper. They sound good, but the bass was a bit too high. Luckily, I had some tips with a wider hole that fit it (from Nokia Lumia phone). When using them the bass get reduced a bit, and the treble inproves a bit, making it clearer and the presentation also became noticeably wider. They fit my ears better than the RE-400. So I’m very satisfied with them.

          • ljokerl on

            Sounds good, glad you like them!

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  13. bang naraj on

    Hi Joker! Can you confirm that the sound ports of the flux and the flux pro to be different?

    Comply TX-100s could fit the flux pro, I’m hoping that it could fit the flux as well.

    Thanks!

    • ljokerl on

      Yep, the Flux and Flux Pro have different nozzle sizes – the Flux has fatter nozzles. Someone posted pictures of the Flux with TX-100s on Head-Fi a while ago but said it was a pain in the ass getting them on.

  14. mashuto on

    joker, I have been following your list over on head-fi for quite some time and was quite happy to have stumbled upon this site.

    Anyways, I have a pair of vsonic gr06’s that are starting to go bad. The left earbud has started to cut out and I cannot get it consistently work. I pried open the casing, but wasn’t able to see anything immediately wrong. I have done some searching but haven’t found much. Either way if you know any resources that could help, that would be great.

    Regardless of that though, assuming the headphones fail, I have decided to start really looking for a new pair and I am at a bit of a loss. Your reviews are great, but there are just so many choices it is hard to know. Right now, these, the flux, are possibly my top contender, either that or possibly the UE 600vi. But I am still completely open. I think these are right in my sweet spot for price, and I can always reuse the ear guides and tips from my GR06’s should I need.

    Any advice would be super helpful, thanks!

    • mashuto on

      I should also say that I am considering going up to about $100 dollars and was looking at the Hifiman Re-400’s even though I know they are a more balanced set than both the gr06’s I own and the flux headphones I have been looking at. Honestly, I don’t know if I have ever had a pair of really balanced headphones, so I am not 100% sure they are what I want, but I am just kind of looking for the best, most pleasing sound I can get within my price range in a pair of headphones I can travel with should I need to.

      • ljokerl on

        I doubt the problem with your GR06 is at the earbud end – most likely there’s an internal fray somewhere along the length of the cable. Most likely suspects are places where the cable bends often – the plug, y-split, strain reliefs, etc. If you can find the exact point where it occurs (i.e. the exact point of the cable that, when you mess about with it, consistently cuts out the sound) that would be a start. Otherwise I guess you could just replace the entire cable now that you’ve got them open but that’s probably more trouble than it’s worth.

        The biggest difference between the GR06 and Flux are the mids – they’re forward on the GR06, but slightly recessed on the Flux. You’ll probably feel like vocals are “too far away” and quiet on the Flux, at least at first. The UE600 has much more midrange presence and very good overall balance but is light on bass compared to the GR06. The Fidue A63 that I reviewed recently is sort of the best of both worlds there – bass like the Flux, but also a strong midrange more akin the GR06.

        Of course the RE-400 is superb as well if you want to spend more. Sure, it’s more balanced, but it’s not anemic at the low end so if you’re willing to give it a chance I think you’ll get used to it fairly quickly. It is really enjoyable and still the best overall audio experience I’ve had for $100.

        • mashuto on

          Just want to thank you again, this whole site is an incredible resource, especially for someone like me who isn’t a true audiophile but wants much better sound that your typical cheap earbud provides.

          The weird part about the GR06 is that if I fiddle with the earbud while it is in the ear, that is what seems to cause the audio to drop in an out. Almost as if the problem is with the reticulating tip. I will check along the length of the cable too to see if I can pinpoint it elsewhere, but I am not sure what I could do about it, short of replacing the cable or something like that.

          As for the new headphones, I decided to bite the bullet and spend a little extra, I ordered a pair of the RE-400’s because based on everything I had read, they just seem like a great pair and it will probably be a new listening experience for me, listening to a more balanced set. I do like bass, but I don’t need it to just thump, and being able to hear it clearly might even be something I like better. They arrive today, and I am excited to try them out.

          Due to my GR06 starting to go bad, I decided I also wanted a “beater” pair as well so I also picked up the LG HSS-F420 Quadbeat, I am interested to see what kind of sound they put out and for only 20 dollars, I figure as long as they are decent, I can use them and abuse them and not get sad if they crap out relatively quickly.

          • ljokerl on

            They’re definitely decent and might outlast pricier sets, too. Congrats on your purchases!

  15. skyli on

    Hi!

    Could you write me some words about comparing the Xears N3i(i have now) with this?
    About sound, vocals (with my n3i, i feel like the singer sings next to me and it’s very loud, clear and bright), overall volume?

    Thank you very much!

    • ljokerl on

      I don’t think the Flux is right for you. The N3i has very lush and forward mids which result in the vocals you’re experiencing. It also has noticeably more bass (especially mid-bass). The Flux is more accurate overall and also more laid-back in terms of how it presents sound, so you don’t get that intimacy with vocals. Plus, it has lower sensitivity than the Xears so it will not be as loud at the same volume setting.

  16. Ryder on

    Amazing website, cannot imagine the effort taken for such a comprehensive list.

    Unfortunately now that I’m aware of all these choices, its made me confused.

    From reading all the reviews I’ve figured out that I like the sound signature and spaciousness of the VSD1S, but I want good build quality and cant digest the cheapness of the looks. I liked the flux for its flat cable and good build quality but It seems like the sound stage on them isn’t very good. I loved the Astrotec AM800s, they look amazing and from the reviews I feel they sound good too but poor isolation is a strict no as I will be using IEMs most while travelling.

    Im a sucker for good looking IEMS but being a noob I dont really know If I want V shaped sound or Warm sounding IEMS, I dont really know how they differ to hear, but I like hearing good detail tight controlled bass. Flux is the closest to what I want because Id like a flat tangle free cable, mic, and good build. Just wish the astrotecs isolated better.

    Budget is 50 Dollars give or take. Thank you

    • Ryder on

      Correction, Good detail in the instruments and tight controlled bass without drowning out the vocals, Dont like boomy rumbly bass.

      • ljokerl on

        Hmm… I think LG Quadbeat F420 (http://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/lg-quadbeat-hss-f420/) plus aftermarket eartips might be your best bet. It’s got a wider soundstage than the Flux (its sound overall is close to the AM-800) and has OK isolation (a little better than the Astrotec unit). Since it’s only $25 or so, you can spend some more $ on aftermarket eartips to bump the isolation a little. It also has a flat cable with mic.

        • Ryder on

          Thanks for the quick reply, but will I lose out on a significantly better similar option at maybe a bit more than 50 $ if I go for these, being half my budget? The microphone and flat cabling isnt a deciding factor, It would just be cool to have a mic and build quality that would make sure these don’t go bust anytime soon. I have to make a sound choice because Im from India and dont get most of the stuff on your list and will be asking a friend to bring them over from the US.

          • ljokerl on

            No, you’re not missing out by going with the QuadBeat. The next step up in sound would be something like the MOE SS01, which runs about $65. However, you would lose the mic, make only marginal gains in sound quality, and not really gain any isolation.

          • Ryder on

            Alright. Thanks a lot!

          • ljokerl on

            Sure thing. Remember to grab some aftermarket tips as well, if you’re having the QuadBeat imported from the US.

  17. aminfri on

    Thanks for your awesome reviews @ljokerl

    I need your help here. I really wanted to get one of these but here in South Africa no one seems to have stock of them. My other options here seem to be Razer Moray and Razer Hammerhead but i really cant get proper reviews of either one. I have had a set of Morays before and i really liked them. clear, powerful but i lacked a tad of bass. Any thoughts on either? I do everything with my earphones, gaming, movies, music (mostly rock but anything really).

    • ljokerl on

      My philosophy is this – if you’ve tried something and really liked it, the only reason to go for something else would be following an direct, A:B comparison between the set you liked and the other set by someone whose opinion you trust. The Razer IEMs are not very popular in audiophile circles so I’m not sure how realistic that expectation would be for them.

      By the way, Razer recently released a music-focused IEM, the Adaro. If Razer has distribution in your country you might be able to find those as well. I haven’t tried them but it’s probably safe to say they don’t sound worse than Razer’s gaming IEMs.

      P.S. Bass can typically be adjusted slightly via an equalizer (if your device supports it) without loss in overall poise.

      • aminfri on

        Thanks a lot for you reply, truth is i bought my Moray for $25 about 2 years ago. Now however its about $40 here while i can get the Hammerhead for $50. So why not get something a bit better for a bit extra. The fact that audio gurus are not fond of Razer products is one other reason that i am trying to get an IEM that you guys approve of. I have this feeling that i can get much better sound experience for $50 even though it might not be true.

        I am actually looking for something more gaming oriented and that’s why Flux got my attention.

        The equalizer advice was nice though. Maybe i get the hammerhead and if i find the bass to be too much then i can always tune it down a bit.

        • ljokerl on

          For all we know the Razer IEMs could be very competitive, just not something people on Head-Fi have tried 🙂

          • aminfri on

            True words.
            However things are not getting any easier here for me 😀 , now i can get the Sennheiser CX 300-II for $35 too (on special). You didnt seem to like the first version (price considered), any thought on the version 2. people say its about %15-20 improved (quality).

            On the other hand i just ordered 2 skull candy Titans for $10 each. hehe too good a deal to pass even if they dont sound all that awesome.

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  19. awhiterussian on

    Hey Joker, thanks for creating a great resource for people to use! I’ve gone through about 8 sets of IEMs in the last 2 months trying to find something suitable for me. (Bose MIE2, Phiaton, Klipsch S4, etc) I ride the subway daily so I needed something with good isolation, high quality build, a mic, and to be compatible with my android. I bought these Flux In ear headphones, but the silicone tips keep on sliding out of my ears no matter which size tip I use. How do I know which comply tips I should buy for them? I can’t seem to find this brand Steelseries on the comply website guide. Or is there something else you recommend?

    • ljokerl on

      I tried them with the Comply T200 and T400s and they were too loose. However, someone on Head-Fi reported getting them to work with the T100 with some labor. See here: http://www.head-fi.org/t/478568/multi-iem-review-307-iems-compared-inear-stagediver-2-stagediver-3-added-12-23-13-p-829/11850#post_9906638

      Audio-Technica heat-activated foam tips fit fine but I’m not a huge fan of those due in part to their cost.

      Another set I find comfortable are the silicone Klipsch Oval Gels.

      • awhiterussian on

        Will the Klipsch oval gels fit on the Flux? I did like the fit of the Klipsch but the sound was not very good in my opinion.

        • ljokerl on

          Yes, Ovals do fit. It takes a bit of effort but at least they won’t fall off.

          • awhiterussian on

            Thanks Joker. Got the klipsch tips in the mail today. Like you said, it was a bit of work to get them on, but once I did, the seal is great and the buds no longer slip out of my ear. Really happy with my headphones…. thanks again.

          • ljokerl on

            Great, glad to hear that! Thanks for the feedback – might help someone else with a similar issue as well 😉

  20. fabian on

    Hey I have some shure se215 earphones but they stopped working, I really liked the sound signature of them, from going through your list, I came across two earphones which I really liked. Those are the Sony MH1C and the SteelSeries Flux In-Ear, which ones have the sound signature closest to the shure. One thing I really loved about the shure was the base.

    • ljokerl on

      The MH1C has a little more bass than the SE215; the Flux has a little less. For you I would recommend the sound of the MH1C.

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  22. gunmetal on

    hey joker
    just like Rion , im torn between the vsd1 and the flux, however my music tastes are more on the level of alternative rock , hard rock , metal etc.
    i also listen to pop , EDM occasionally but my main focus is on rock
    also my DAP is a sansa clip + and im worried that the vsd1’s 32 ohm impedance would cause me to need and amp cause i own a set of CAL!s and i think they could sound a tad fuller than they actually do now (also 32 ohms )
    which would u recommend for my main music preference ?
    ps ( i want to feel the distortion guitar’s presence as ive also owned a shure se215 LE and the guitars sounded like they were covered with a plastic bag or something.
    thanks 🙂

    • ljokerl on

      For that crystal-clear guitar presence go for the VSD1 or VSD1S – the Flux is a little more relaxed and Shure-like in the upper midrange. VSonics tend to have good presence in that region.

      And don’t worry about the Clip – VSonic’s dynamic-driver IEMs are not very demanding. Even the GR07 sounds extremely consistent between sources.

  23. Rion on

    Hi joker ! I am currently torn between vsd1 and this steel flux. Can you recommend me which one would be suitable for me ? I mostly listen to pop/soft rock, edm and some acoustic. Thanks !

    • ljokerl on

      That’s a tough one, those are two my favorites in the price range and you really can’t go wrong with either.

      They are both pretty versatile but the VSD1 is a little more v-shaped and tends to have touch more bass impact, along with peakier treble. Like many other mildly v-shaped earphones (e.g. UE TF10 and LG Quadbeat), it has a pretty wide soundstage. The Flux is a little flatter overall and has smoother treble (a good thing) but sounds less spacious.

      I tend to think of the Flux as the safe option – if you listen at higher volumes or are sensitive to treble peaks/sibilance, I would definitely go for the Flux. Otherwise it’s mostly a toss-up but I tend to favor the VSD1 for its spaciousness.

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