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Last major overhaul: 04/22/2016: 6 outdated recommendations removed, 9 new ones added

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Basshead

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

Below $50

JVC HA-FX101

JVC HA-FX101

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

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

Popclik String

Popclik String

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

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

NarMoo S1

NarMoo S1

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

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

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

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$50-100

HiSoundAudio Wooduo2

HiSoundAudio Wooduo2

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

Buy from ebay.com | Manufacturer’s site

Retired: Pump Audio Earphones, Velodyne vPulse

Over $100

Beats Tour 2.0

Beats Tour 2.0

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

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

Retired: Future Sonics Atrio MG7

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Warm and smooth

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

Below $50

Dunu Trident

Dunu Trident

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

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

Sony MH1C

Sony MH1C

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

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

Retired: Xiaomi Piston 2

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$50-100

Shure SE215

Shure SE215

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

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

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

Over $100

RHA MA750

RHA MA750

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

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

Yamaha EPH-100

Yamaha EPH-100


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

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

 

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V-Shaped

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

Philips SHE3590

Philips SHE3590

Below $50

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

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

Soundmagic E10

Soundmagic E10

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

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

 

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

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$50-100

JVC HA-FXT90

JVC HA-FXT90

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

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

Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear

Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear

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

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

1MORE Triple Driver

1MORE Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones

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

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

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

Dunu DN-1000

Dunu DN-1000

Over $100

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

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

DUNU DN-2000

DUNU DN-2000

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

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

 

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Balanced

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

Below $50

Etymotic Ety-Kids

Etymotic Ety-Kids 3

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

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

Brainwavz M1

Brainwavz M1

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

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

Retired: VSonic VC02

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$50-100

HiFiMan RE-400

HiFiMan RE-400

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

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

VSonic GR07 Classic

VSonic GR07 Classic

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

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

Retired: MEElectronics A161P, Philips Fidelio S1

Over $100

Philips Fidelio S2

Philips Fidelio S2

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

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

Etymotic Research HF3

Etymotic Research HF3

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

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

Audio-Technica ATH-IM02

Audio-Technica ATH-IM02

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

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

Retired: Fischer Audio DBA-02 mkII, Aurisonics Rockets

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Other

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

Ostry KC06

Ostry KC06

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

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

DUNU Titan 1

DUNU Titan 1

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

Buy from Amazon.com | Manufacturer’s site

FLC Technology FLC8

FLC Technology FLC8

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

Buy from Amazon.comBuy from LendMeUREars

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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.

1,509 Comments

  1. 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

    • 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.

      • 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

  2. 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.

    • 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.

  3. Thanks for the awesome website. Really, deserves to be ranked higher on Google. If only I found you a long time ago. And it’s awesome you reply to each and every comment here. I’ve been searching for an earphone for the last two days and only now I notice the comments section, was on mobile 🙁

    One request that hasn’t been asked yet, earphones for motorcycle riding. I also like to wear earphones to the gym or running. I listen to audiobooks and podcasts most of the time. Once by chance i got to listen to some classical music on a short ride in traffic.. Was awesome, but I’m usually on sucky Samsung earphones that come with phone, so im sure I’d enjoy music much more with good earphones. The only somewhat good IEMs i bought were MEElectronics M6P, were good while they lasted, but they hurt to wear under a helmet at the outer shell was a bit far out.

    Most important for me:: 1) good but passive noise isolation, 2) won’t protrude much outside my ear so the helmet won’t press on it too hard. 3) durable thick cables that won’t snap, 4) somewhat tough build, angled input jack. 5) I’m in China right now, so some brands are more expensive. ++) Ok to sweat in but won’t get my inner ears all mushy (don’t know if that last one is possible if using in-earphones, guess i have to compromise somewhere, maybe here).

    There’s a lot of talk about how earphones are not safe while riding and what not. But that’s an over generalization lumping all earphones as the same. Earphones used under a helmet reduce fatigue on long commutes if they dampen the sound a bit, and of course if you don’t turn up the volume so much. Yes you would still be able to hear the traffic around you, only not so loud. The consensus (forgot where I first saw this) seems to be to dampen the sound by 25db.

    Love the Plugphones but they don’t have a microphone
    Yamaha EPH-C300 look compfy but no mic
    Brainwavz M1 love these but so far can’t find a shop selling in China.

    I’m still searching, and obviously i could really use your help

    • Thanks, I appreciate that!

      Hmm.. if the M6 wasn’t flush enough to fit under your helmet comfortably there aren’t too many options.

      Some that I’ve recommended in the past for use under helmets are the Aurisonics Rockets, Yamaha EPH-100, HiFiMan RE-400, ACS T15, and Klipsch X10/X11/X12. These are all very small plug-style IEMs that tend to protrude very little and provide higher than average isolation. Some of these fit your other requirements as well (Rockets are super tough and sweat-proof, for example) but I still think all of them stick out farther than the M6, at least for me.

      To be safe, in this case I’d try either a single- or dual-driver Westone model (as these tend to be even slimmer than the M6). I believe some of these come with a mic these days, and the detachable cables help with long term reliability.

      The other option is the super cheap Fidue A31s: https://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/fidue-a31s-in-ear-earphone-review/. These should be readily available in China, have a mic, and if they break they are cheap enough to just buy another. The reason I recommend them is that they are the smallest IEMs in my sizeable collection, and tend to be quite comfortable especially if you swap out the stock tips for foam ones. They are far from high fidelity, but awesome sound quality won’t do you much good when all the other options don’t fit properly.

      • Thanks for your reply. All the stuff you recommend were well above $100. I’m looking to spend about half or less than that. The M6 I was using that didn’t fit maybe cause the cable over the ear was pressing against my glasses. Or maybe I wasn’t using the proper insert. That was a long time ago. Almost three years ago. Not sure the current M6 you’re talking about are the same.
        I looked at the fidue earphones and im hesitant to get them cause the plug is straight. That will bend in my pocket for sure and cause strain on the cable. Any other suggestions? I’ve also came across the following earphsince iI lastlast posted this msg>>
        *klipsch S4A
        *AKG K323XSs
        *Sennheiser CX6
        *Brainwavz M1
        *LG HSS-F420W Quadbeat
        *any of the recommended MeElectronic ones I can give another try with foam inserts and without going over the ear

        • I only have experience with the S4A, M1, and Quadbeat. None of them are as flush in the ear as an M6. I guess the Quadbeat is probably the best of the bunch in this regard but I’m not sure it’ll fit comfortably under a helmet – it’s definitely not the smallest or most ergonomic IEM.

  4. Hello,

    JOKER I need your help! I have a huge problem with getting the right IEMs for me 🙁 recently I bought Pistons V3 and somehow they don’t sound as good as I would like. The V-shape is kinda too “deep” I mean the treble is nice but the bass hurts my ears a bit =/

    I have used for a long long time KOSS Porta Pro, they have a lot of bass but its warm and it doesn’t have a big punch. For example I bough Philips A1 Pro and it was ripping my head off with the bass even with the lowest settings on the EQ 🙁 it turns out that I lean towards “Warm and Smooth” signature instead of the v-shape and I need some help here. My budget is limited to about 50$ and my source is FiiO X1. I use that player stricly for the street and I need something that has a soft bass similar to Porta Pro and some nice treble. I’m pretty confused if what I want should play good in mids or not, but from what I have tested Shure SE215 and RHA750 both sounded really nice with the X1 and since it’s Warm and Smooth I would be very appreciated if you could propose me few other models that sound more or less like those two. The MH1C were an option but, they look really uncomfortable. I had problems with SE215 to fit them into my ears.

    Thx in advance and keep up the good work !!!

        • The MH1C was my first thought upon reading your post. Good sound for EDM, no sibilance, and the very essence of “warm and smooth” sound. The fit is actually pretty good, except for the flat asymmetrical cable which I am not a fan of. Still, I highly recommend them if you think you may be able to deal with it.

          I have also recommended the DUNU Trident many times in the past as a PortaPro alternative in IEM form. It’s not as good as the MH1C, but it’s quite inexpensive and the sound is rather inoffensive.

          Another option is the HiFiMan RE300h. This one is a little unusual as it has a lot of midrange emphasis and is quite on the extreme side of warm. More of a love-it-or-hate-it sound tuning compared to the MH1C and Trident. However, it’s extremely small and comfortable, and never sibilant. Might be an option worth considering as well.

          • Thank you!

            Looks like MH1C is a good deal then, but it seems they cost here around 10$ which doesn’t look right? I’m not sure if that can be a fake =/. Anyway If I would extend my budget to 100$ what would be the best choice? is there anything worth buying instead of the RHA MA750?

            I have tried many IEMs and V-SHape is definatelly not the thing. Your guide opened my eyes for the Smooth and Warm thing. Would be great if in your heaphone guide you could sort the headphones by sound signature.

            Thx for quick reply!

            • Oh and btw – the phones don’t have to be that small, I figured out that I am able to use the biggest silicone tips from Piston v3 so it looks like my ears are not that small 😉

              • MH1C was included with a number of smartphones as a stock/default earbud, so the price does fluctuate a lot. Normally it’s in the $20-$40 range.

                If you’re going up to $100 might as well stretch a bit more for an RHA MA750 or Yamaha EPH-100. Since those are pretty much the best you’re going to get for this type of sound under $250 or so, they’re worth the extra couple of bucks.

                • That’s why I can get here MH1C for such low money. I asked a guy who was selling them and yeah he said they were bundled with the Z5 premium phone. Anyway I had an occassion to use the RHA and yeah the sound is really nice for what I need. Shure SE215 was an option too even with a warmer bass but the construction is kinda bothersome… Is there anything else from the budget 50$ to try? I would go for DUNU Trident but they are unavialable anywhere in my city. Might have a try with the HiFiMan RE300h.

                  The bass of Porta Pro is ok and warm, what I need is a more present highs. I will have an opportunity to listen to MH1C today since one of my friends has them. I will share my expierience when I get them but I would be also very appreciated if you could find 1-2 more models to try out.

                  • btw – it looks like it’s pretty hard to get right headphones for my FiiO X1, on many phones it just doesn’t sound right. It’s considered to be a WARM player, so maybe some colder heaphones? heh… I hope the MH1C will solve the case.

                    • UPDATE – I have tried MH1A which appear to be the same phones as MH1C. The bass is really more what I like but… it’s still too strong. It looks like my X1 is giving ti a boost even on EQ OFF. I’m not sure, but maybe I should go towards balanced sound? Why did I like SE215 and RHA MA750 then? bass in SE215 was warm and “lazy” without that punch that hurts my ears. RHA have slightly weaker bass but the stage was way better. Now I can’t test the RHA anymore 🙁 on the other hand I was testing also the SoundMagic E10 and those were a bit weak on bass heh 🙁 will do some more testing on monday but it’s either something with my ears or the X1 is not a player for me =/

                    • Not sure about MH1C but the MA750 should have least bass boost between all of these except for the E10 and Piston 3. Seems like it may be worth it to just invest in the MA750.

                • Had to reply here since there was no option below for some reason. Anyway I have no more chance to try the RHA and I remember they had less bass than SE215 thats why I didnt pick them. It’s not about quantity maybe but the signature of the bass on Shure was just nicer. Also the over ear with thick cable in RHA wasn’t that comfortable but myabe it’s just a matter of getting used to it. If it was cable down I woulda take em. They are like 80$ atm here.

                  Monday I’m gonna try again E10, MEE m6p, MH1C (because a friend of mine has them for sure, he even had a spare but his sister took em :P). I tried also VSonic GR07, the normal edition wasn’t for sure what I am looking for but the bass edition sounded nice.

                  • Ok I will share my expierience now 🙂

                    E10 is garbage for me, after I stopped using Porta Pro, the E10 sounded so horrible I couldnt stand them in my ears for more than 1 minute,

                    MEE m6p – Well… here I got a problem. I really like their clarity. I noticed only slight harshness and it wasn’t really an issue. Some people complain about those phones being harsh in the highs and they can’t listen to their favourite electronic music. Anyway I liked it, especially on X1 which is a warm source. The problem was a slight lack of bass. It sounds really nice but it’s just not there. However they react really nice to the EQ setting and I could bring them to more or less good sounding level without much effort. Also the they are so much more comfortable for me than the SE215. Probably one of the most comfortable IEMs I have ever used.

                    MH1C – Still in progress 🙂

                    Also I would like to ask one thing – could you please compare the sound signature of m6p to a151p? people say that a151p is an upgrade over m6p but I can’t find much info about the sound signature…

                    Thx in adavnce Joker, you are a life savior!

                    Cheers

                    • A151 (and even the punchier A161P) has significantly less bass in comparison to the M6P. It’s a much more flat/neutral IEM than all the others you’ve tried, even more neutral than the E10.

                    • Ok then… Could you please compare for me SE215 to MA750? I read both of your reviews but you didn’t compare these too so I’m curious what’s your opinion?

                      E10… well I start to think the guy gave me wrong phones because it’s almost impossible for them to play so strong bass! will check that again today…

                      It turns out I don’t need too strong bass, just like it when it’s lazy and soft but doesn’t have to be dominating. If m6p had slightly more and warmer bass I would take them because the comfort is really great for me. Knowiong this maybe you got some other models in your mind I could try out?

                      And thank you for your help!

                    • Biggest difference between them is the treble – the SE215 is way more laid back, even rolled-off. The MA750 is the opposite, it actually has a slight lift in the upper mids/lower treble, and generally isn’t lacking in treble presence. For me this has always made the MA750 preferable.

                      Mids are more forward on the SE215 while the MA750 is a little more v-shaped. Bass tuning is also slightly different but generally not too far apart. Can’t think of anything I’d take over the MA750/EPH-100 in this instance.

                    • Hey again Joker!

                      I’m back to shae few thoughts. First of all I will have to trust your judgement since I have no option to test either MA750 nor the EPH-100. I have tested the MA750 some time ago for some time but I was then under the illusion of Porta Pro. What I wanted to say is that I have this FiiO X1 player and it seems it’s pretty hard to find good headphones for them. I read some review here where it was pointed out that it’s pretty hard to find the right phones for this player. It wasn’t bothering me until I have connected my Pistons v3 to my LG phone and started listening to EDM on youtube and guess what… it looks like the bass signature is less sharp. It’s still kicking but it doesn’t hurt! It seems that seriously this player is somehow odd and even though I have tried it with many IEMs it just doesnt sound right =/ an option I took into consideration was Cresyn C740S but on the other had it’s half of the price of MA750 and not even cloe to the build quality. The question now is if I should risk the RHA phones for a final test or just sell this bloody player and either look for something more expensive or just stay on a LG phone level quality with Xiaomi? I’m kinda frustrated already because I can’t find right IEMs for quite a long time =/

                      Regards

                    • I’m not familiar with the X1 and don’t know the technical details of what makes it different from other hi-fi DAPs but it seems like the MA750 is worth trying still – first, you’ve previously tried it and liked it, second, it seems to fit what you’re looking for, and third, it’s a pretty source-agnostic earphone and doesn’t seem to affected much by what it’s plugged into. It’s not difficult to drive, not overly sensitive, and has a rather “safe” sound tuning in that regard. Unless something is seriously wrong with the X1 you won’t get to the same level of performance with a smartphone and Piston 3, and if you end up selling the X1 you’ll like come out a few bucks behind anyway, which are better rolled into the price of the MA750.

                    • Well, you are right. Back then when I tried MA750 I was considering buying them… I liked back then SE215 more due to the bass signature, but as I said I was under the illusion of Porta Pro. Now it could be a completelly different outcome but unfortunatelly I have no more chance to listen to MA750. Finally I have narrowed my choice to MA750 and EPH-100. Could you shortly compare these two? I’m mostly interested how does the bass and treble sound in EPH-100 compared to MA750 since I have tried the RHA already I will have some good image.

                      Cheers and thx!

  5. Hey Joker, what would you recommend for vocals? I checked out your Holiday Buyer’s Guide where you recommended the KC06 and Titan 1/EX1 for vocals. I got the KC06 and I love their sound, but the corner hurts my ear and the shallow fit just wasn’t for me, not to mention the hiss which encouraged me to listen to lower volumes.

    This time around I have a similar budget; around 50~75 CAD, I really like mids and treble, and the music I listen to are mostly electronic and trance with female vocals, so in most cases bass tries to take the front stage when I don’t want it to. I currently have my eye on the ETY-Kids, Brainwavz M1, and maybe even bumping my budget up to go with the Titan 1/EX1.

    Thank you so much for your work!

    • Hmm.. the Titan 1/EX1 would definitely be great but it still has a shallow fit. I don’t really know of an exact KC06 alternative in a different form factor – the EtyKids and especially M1 will sound a little dull in comparison since the KC06 has some enhanced bass and bright, exciting treble. If I had to pick I’d go with the Etys – they’re more neutral and less colored compared to the M1 – but it is a flatter, more restrained sound for sure.

      • Which one has less bass between the two? I wouldn’t mind trying a different signature, so if the M1 has less bass it may just entice me more than the Etys.

        • Both have less bass than the KC06 but in slightly different ways. The M1 is a little warmer and has more in the way of mid-bass than the Etys, but rolls off more in the deep bass region. On the other hand the EtyKids are a little more linear in terms of bass response, but sound leaner and less warm overall.

          Bottom line – if you want flat/neutral/accurate, Etys are better. If you want warmer, smoother, more mid-centric, get the M1. Two different types of balanced/non-bassy sound.

  6. Hey ljokerl! Have you listened to the jaybird bluebud x? They are 70 bucks on amazon right now. How do they sound compared to the wired ones in that price bracket? Shall I go for these or would you suggest me anything else?

    • I’ve never been impressed by any Jaybird product. As wireless IEMs go I’m sure you can do worse but compared to the better sub-$100 wired IEMs I listen to every day they’re pretty middling.

  7. monkeydluffy on

    Hello LJokerl! I’ve been following your headphone reviews for the past couple of years and It’s been amazing! Thanks for all the stuff you have written so far. Okay…now the thing is I wanna upgrade my earbud. I’m currently using the JVC XX FX1X which has a lot of bass. But what I’m missing here is a clear vocal, wider sound-stage and good instrumental separation. The sound sometimes feel harsh as well. So, can you please suggest me a good earbud under 80 bucks which has great clarity, wider sound-stage, good instrumental separation and punchy bass? And I do love bass but I’m also ready to sacrifice some bass for the sake of other features that I’ve mentioned. So, please don’t suggest me any flat sounding earbud and I listen to almost every music genres. So an all-rounder would be great. Anyways, I’m considering buying Soundmagic E80 or Fiio EX1 or OSTRY KC06A. Which one will suit my purpose best? Or will you suggest me anything else? Any reply will be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    • It’s great that you’re realistic about needing to give up some bass impact to get all of the other things you want from this upgrade! It seems like all three of the sets you’re looking at are a suitable match and differ from each other much less than from the FX1X. Keeping in mind I’ve only tried the E80 briefly and only have the Titan1 (and not the Fiio version), I’d still recommend the EX1 – soundstage, clarity, and separation are definitely its strong suits, and while the bass isn’t hugely enhanced, it has better depth and punch compared to the KC06.

      • monkeydluffy on

        Thanks for the reply! In your review you have said that Fiio EX1 (Dunu Titan 1) has below average isolation and I’ve also heard about sound leakage problem. Do they really affect sound quality that much? Will comply tips help in this regard?

        • It doesn’t affect sound quality unless you’re in a loud environment and the background noise is so loud that you just can’t hear some of the sound in your earphones. In this case the mediocre isolation is more of a function of earpiece design, which Comply tips don’t address.

  8. Heya, been a long time since I asked for a recommendation since VSD2 / VSD2S, and been using a Xiaomi Piston 3 since I broke the former.

    Looking for an upgrade and eyeing the DUNU-1000 and Fidelio S2. Though I think I might go for the DN-1000.
    However, how would you compare the ATH-IM02 or ATH-IM70 (if you’ve tried them) to the DN-1000?

    I’m in between balanced and v-shaped sound signature in terms of preference. Something that’s flat, clear and with a decent amount of bass is what I’m looking for. I think I could test the DN-1000 and the IM70 locally but would like to know your opinions on the 3 of them.

    Thanks!

    • Not familiar with the IM70 exactly (the IM50 a bit, and I’m not sure how it differs from the IM70), but the IM02 and DN-1000 have pretty much nothing in common. The IM02 is quite flat with a very strong midrange (borderline mid-forward) and slightly dark highs. The DN-1000 is v-shaped with a somewhat recessed midrange, lots more bass, and bright, sparkly treble. I wouldn’t really ever describe it as “flat”, but of course it’s always best to try audio components for yourself – never know what you might end up finding appealing.

      • Well I found a T20 and might go for that instead since it’s closely priced to the DN-1000 here.

        Which would you prefer of the two seeing as they’re quite close in sound signature?

        • They’re about on-par, don’t think I have a preference either way. DUNUs are a little more crisp and clear, RHA is a little smoother and more natural. I could listen to either quite happily.

  9. Hi ljokerl,

    I’ve been wanting to upgrade from the RE400 since it has been dying for me. I’ve been looking into getting either the ATH im02 or the SE425. I would get the rockets but I’d much prefer a detachable cable at this point as a safety precaution. Just wondering what made you put the Rockets over the IM02 in this list? I’ve seen you say that the IM02 were very balanced and very clear but in that case would going for the Etys be a better choice? Really dig the midcentric sound of the re400 but it can be a little fatiguing at times (that may be just my music library). Just wondering which one of these IEMs is the most capable all rounder when it comes to any genre? SE425 isn’t quite tuned neutrally but from what I’ve read it has sort of a warm tuning. Haven’t demo’d them yet, but considering the SE425 is the only one I can audition, just wondering about your thoughts on the other two, ATH im02 and Aurisonic Rockets.

    All the best.

    • Hmm.. the IM02 and Rockets are both viable options here. The Rockets are just a little more airy and refined, to me that put them over the slightly darker IM02. But if you find the RE-400 fatiguing maybe that won’t be the case for you. It also doesn’t hurt that the sound tuning of the Rockets is more focused… it’s near-neutral with forward mids and smooth treble, and there’s not much else to it. The IM02 is a little more unusual – it has a more forward presentation, almost like a stage monitor, and while it is not bright at all, it still has slightly more peaky treble.

      For balanced and clear Etys are always a great choice, the IM02 and RE-400 and Rockets are just a little smoother and more full-bodied. It’s a slightly different take on neutral sound than the Ety signature.

      I’m not too familiar with the SE425, tried it a few times but never found it too impressive.

  10. Hey Joker,

    I’m in the market for a GR07 replacement in under 200$ price bracket. I mainly listen to guitar instrumentals, so I like my earphones to be mid-centric (a bit of a reverse-V, if you would). What earphones would you recommend?

    On a related note, do you have any near-term plans of reviewing the China-based MusicMaker earphones? Their TK12, TK13 and Shockwave III (5-driver, 4-way earphones for 250-ish USD) have been making a bit of buzz lately. I’m especially tempted by the Shockwave, but not sure if I should be splurging out, above my budget on an unknown quantity.

    Thanks.

    • Hmm… not much can keep up with the GR07 under $200. If you’re looking for a change maybe the Philips Fidelio S2 or the DUNU Titan 1? The S2 tends to be more similar to the GR07 but has less sibilance and a fairly forward upper midrange for that guitar “crunch”. Otherwise it’s pretty neutral. The Titan 1 is the more colored-sounding option. It has a brighter, more energetic sound with even more forward upper mids (but surprisingly no less smooth overall than the GR07). Great soundstage, too, and the bass is nice and tight. Both would be good options, the Philips a little more conservative and the Titan 1 a little more of a contrast to the GR07.

      I have never heard of MusicMaker, sorry.

      • Thanks for the response. 🙂

        I am (was) happy with my GR07 pair until it died. I’m open to re-buying a pair but wanted to explore if an upgrade was possible without breaking the bank. Titan 1 sounds like it could be something different enough from GR07 yet not too different. I’ll probably consider investing into those. Thanks again.

      • Hey Joker,

        I don’t have anything else to ask, just wanted to give you a quick update… I thought it’s only fair I follow up on my post since you took the time to respond and help out.

        I ended up being sucked into temptation and buying a Shockwave 3. While they are very impressive in their own right (massive gigantic soundstage, better highs and than GR07), the biggest conclusion I drew from it was how damn good the GR07 is. Based on other opinions on the internet, the Shockwave 3 is supposed to be able to stand up to anything under $1000 and yet the GR07 isn’t exactly outclassed by it.

        Objective assessment aside, my subjective taste in sound signature (mid-forwards) means that I actually prefer the GR07 over Shockwave 3 (I still very much like that soundstage though). I’m seriously considering just getting another GR07 pair.

        I can absolutely see why you so highly recommend it and I think and “Thank You” is due since it was your head-fi review that guided me to initially buy a pair, back in 2014.

        • Great post, appreciate the follow-up! I still haven’t explored MusicMaker but what you’ve run into mirrors my thoughts when comparing the GR07 with other higher-end IEMs. Diminishing returns are a very real thing, especially with something as capable as the GR07. Add in the fact that the GR07 sound sig is a good fit for you and a true upgrade becomes very difficult to find.

  11. I don’t know if I would call myself an audiophile but I know there is a specific kind of sound I like and that when I had to use a pair of HD201’s for a week I pretty much just stopped listening to music. I enjoy trance(and some other electronic music) with soothing vocals. Music for me is more of a physical experience than anything else – I love a song that feels just right, almost as if it is massaging my brain. That’s the best way I can think to describe my preferences. For a long time I used Dt990’s 250ohm with an amp/dac but I didn’t exactly get to try on any other headphones in the price category. I’m now switching to IEMs for my main headphones due to a life style change. What can you suggest? I have a budget of $150.

    • To be honest that’s a tough description to interpret into an earphone recommendation. I’ve only heard a DT990 once or twice, and I remember it being relatively balanced. In IEM form and under $150, that would translate to a VSonic GR07 Classic or Philips Fidelio S2 as my top recommendations. Both are great earphones, where they differ most is in design and the way they fit in the ear.

      If you’d prefer your IEMs a little more visceral (read: enhanced bass), the RHA MA750 or Yamaha EPH-100 are both great options. These won’t be as accurate as the DT990, but they’ll give you a very involving and exciting listen with more bass impact than the VSonics or Philips units.

      • I’m sorry, I struggle with the adjectives used to describe audio. I believe that I’m looking for a V shaped sound. The DN-1000 seemed perfect however there are too many reports of them failing with in the first year and being as they are Chinese made they essentially don’t have a warranty. What do you think the most similar sounding IEM is with superior build quality and preferably more isolation is at a similar price?

        I really appreciate you taking the time to respond, this post is the best source of information I have found on the current state of the market.

        • Hmm… best alternative to the DN-1000 from a western brand. Probably the RHA T20 if you can swing $240. 3-year warranty on those, too.

          Under $150 is tougher. I guess the JVC FXT90 is out because most of the ones available outside of Japan are imports… going to be tough to get warranty service on them. Same for Yamaha, and Klipsch products aren’t very reliable. I’d say the Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear is probably your best bet there.

  12. Hello ljokerl,
    I’ve long time not used iems, but Im getting back to using public transport. Does the Sony Z5 need an amp? I am goin to use my cowon J3 and sometimes my Xperia smartphone.
    Also why is the Sony XBA Z5 no more on the list?

    Thank You

    • The Z5 is in one of the holiday guides but it has never been this main guide. A little too pricy for a general recommendation IMO.

      It benefits a little from an amp, but not too much. Might be worth having a small DAC/amp on hand if you’re going to use it with a phone or computer a lot.

  13. Hi Jocker, thank you very much for your work.

    Till now, I own AKG K 141Studio, AKG K 271 MKII and AudioTechnica ATH-M40fs. Long ago I stop buying headphones, because I’m completely in love with K 141Studio. I’d define them essentially as clear (I can discern every instrument sounding in the mix) and flat in frequency response (altough maybe they’re not). Now I’m looking for IEM with this sound but I can’t find this features I perceive in my favorites. I was wondering about AKG K374 or AKG IP2, thinking that maybe same company similar sound… Please help me! ;-D

    • I’m not familiar with the IP2 but the K374 is not what I would describe as flat or transparent. It seems to be more of a consumer-oriented IEM than a stage/studio-oriented one.

      While I haven’t tried the K141, based on your requirements a good starting point for you would be one of the commonly-recommended “flat” or flat-ish monitoring IEMs, for instance the Etymotic Research HF5. You can’t really go wrong with it if you’re after a clean and resolving sound, and even if it’s not an exact match for the K141 sound you’re looking for, it’s one of the IEMs I think everyone should at least try once.

  14. Hey I was looking at the RHA S500 and I was wondering if youvhad any thoughts on that model. Reviews on head fi are good but they cant seem to agree with the sound sig of the cans I thought might as well ask you.

    • I have one but I have’t had the chance to listen to it too much. From the few brief listens I’ve had with it I’d say it’s mildly v-shaped with an emphasis in the upper mids/lower treble. It sounds unusual, but I don’t have anything conclusive to say about the performance yet.

      • Thanks. Checking reviews thats about the only thing people can agree with. Its a tester unit at a store and I might try it. I need a high quality pair that I wont betoo cautious about. seeing as my last pair got stolen

        • It’s a very competitive price point, we’ll see where the S500 falls in the long run. The design is quite nice – small and sturdy-looking.

          • So I did get to try them on and a few others. It does sound different. But I liked it. Unlike the tester model out of the box it can toe near harsh at time but maybe it will settle down like the tester. It wasn’t super bassy but had good enough bass. I did like that it was pretty detailed for what it is. I have had worse though tnat isnt saying much.
            I liked the different sound the build quality enough that I pulled the trigger. Excited how the coming weeks play out for this baby.

    • Not if you like the VSonic sound, but the VSD3 doesn’t seem to be all that reliable. I plan to add either the VSD5 or VSD2 instead, whichever I like best, after I review them both.

      • Hi joker.. Greetings of the day!!
        Makes me excited knowing that I have ostry, havi, vsd3s, vsd1s, piston 3, RE 400- all from your recommendation list. Got my RE-400 just a week before @59usd (cool yeah?). Initially I didn’t like it because of hot treble and upper midrange. I tried numerous tips since stock double flange were a bit small and I have considerably wider ear canal. After 2 days of tip rolling battle, I finally settled with medium white stock tips (I rejected them earlier seeing how awkwardly shaped they were). What i think now? Wow.. They are too good. Those highs just melt in my ear and coming from ostry unit, I don’t find the highs lacking any energy. I just wish Hifiman included more tips since with stock white tips, they lack just a lil bass..
        Thanks for all of your recommendations, they all are superb..

    • Love the VSD3S and Pistons, but it seems like Pistons are leaking significantly more sound than is acceptable for work environment. Any other options in the 30-60$ price range, similar to the two above, but with better isolation?

      • Hmm… for high isolation the JVC FXD models come to mind. Don’t think you’ll find the FXD80 for under $60 but the FXD60 should be right around there. I haven’t tried this one but it’s supposed to be very similar to the 80.

        • Thanks — this looks interesting, especially since I’ve been considering trying FXT90s next. There seems to be quite a bit of variance on JVC (both FXT and FXD) prices on eBay — are some of these fakes, or the price range really is this wide as far as you know? Do you have any recommendation on specific sellers carrying legit FXDs and/or FXTs?

          • As far as I know the pricing for these models has always been all over the place depending the location of the seller. It seems like JVC prices their headphones more reasonably in Japan and maybe some other markets. I’ve never seen reports of counterfeits of these models, either.

            Not familiar with any of the sellers for these, I guess I order stuff from China much more often than from Japan.

  15. Hello Joker! In the past, i had one Sony ex300 and i have good memories about it. I remember that I used to feel like I was inside the music, the soundstage was very good and I could feel the sound impacting me. Nowadays I have the VSonic GR07, I know, it’s a good earphone but I miss the sound signature of the ex300. Looking for your review of Sony ex300 it seems it has the following Pros “Punchy, clear, and open sound; almost no cable noise”. I would like to buy something like an upgrade of the ex300.

    I looked this ones but i don’t know if they are a good option for 2016:

    Soundmagic E10 ($35)
    Soundmagic E30 ($39)
    Dunu DN-12 Trident Review ($40)
    Beyerdynamic DTX 101 iE ($100)

    Would you have one better option for me?

    Thank you so much!

    • Well, keeping in mind that they won’t have the clarity you’re used to these days with the GR07, I’d say the E10 is your best bet out of those. It fits the quote above best.

      However, I would also suggest looking at the Ostry KC06 and DUNU Titan 1 if you’re open to other options, as they both have an even more “open” sound than the E10. Not as accurate as the GR07 or as rich and warm as the EX300, but they’re fun and bright and clear in ways these other ones aren’t, without being too neutral (like the GR07 seems to be for you) or overly bassy and muffled (as the DN-12 and DTX101 may be).

      • Just to give a feedback. I now have a E10 and i’m very happy with it! Thinking in getting the DUNU TITAN 1 also. Thank you joker!

  16. getclikinagas on

    Nice update to the list ljokerl!
    I seem to prefer “Balanced” or “Other” sound signature 😀
    Do you think the Havi B3 P1 deserves a sport on the list? Very good take on a fairly neutral inoffensive signature, very cheap, execllent stage for closed IEM, much better build than the difficult-to-recommend-for-that-reason RE400. Also more palatable bass than the RE400. Only real con is it being slightly hard to drive?

    PS: Link to the guide under the “News” section on the homepage is broken

      • Thanks very much – it should be fixed now! No idea how these things happen. Probably shouldn’t publish any major revisions after 3AM local time.

        Havi B3 would definitely be on this list if it was a little more “beginner friendly”. I understand a $300 earphone with low sensitivity – with an headphone budget like that one can buy an amp if needed. $60 is a little different though.

        The other major reason is that I’ve been through 3x B3 units that have had a left/right imbalance to some degree, so I don’t trust the QC too much.

  17. MarkMcCoskey on

    I truly love my HiFiMan RE400a’s and Etymotic Research HF2’s. Glad to see both still in the 2016 Guide. But cables seem to be the weak point. What are your recommendations, if any, for Balanced Bluetooth?

    • Most Bluetooth headsets tend to be bass-heavy. I’ve tried a few that are more on the balanced side, but the overall performance on those wasn’t that good (not like an Ety or anything). I would say the Plantronics BackBeat GO2 might be the best value for not-too-bass-heavy Bluetooth sound because you should be able to get one for <$60 these days. Ignoring price/value, the most decent-sounding is probably the Bragi Dash but that thing is $300 and it has a good amount of background hiss, so it's hard to call it an audiophile product or recommend it for sound.

  18. Hi, first I want to thank you for the awesome work you’re doing and the immense effort and time you investing in it (be proud not anyone can pull it off like you did) with getting that off my chest, I want to know your opinion on upgrading my SHE3580. I’ve seen it on head-fi so I bought one a year ago, and I really liked it (the bass was good, and the V shape). But now I want an upgrade in the range of 0-40$ that can improve the accuracy of the sound, I mean a flatter response in the mids without sacrificing too much of the good bass that the SHE3580 has (balanced with some ups in the bass).

    • To be honest there’s not too much room to improve on the SHE3580 in that price range – the improvements in audio gear never follow a linear scale, and when you get something that punches well above its price like the SHE3580, that makes “upgrading” tough. The two I’d consider if I were you would be the Xiaomi Piston 3 and Soundmagic E10. The E10 is not really an improvement over the SHE3580 in performance, but it does re-balance the sound nicely and in the direction you want. It’s one of the most pleasant-sounding IEMs under $40 and has a flatter response than the SHE3580 while maintaining nice bass punch.

      The Piston 3 is more v-shaped than the E10 but compared to the SHE3580 it is a more mild v-shape with a more linear response. Its sound is clearer and more resolving compared to the E10 and SHE3580, and the mids don’t sound too recessed because the bass boost is less strong overall compared to the Philips. Tonally it is brighter, but not overly so and can definitely be considered more accurate than the SHE3580.

  19. Hi joker,
    Are you gonna do a review on the Marshall mode eq? I own many earphones and find the modes one of the value for money hundred bucks iem on the market that will appeal to many. Pretty heavily coloured sound but strong and detailed across the frequencies. I keep it as a backup pair in my bag ????

  20. Hello Joker. That’s some seriously extensive list of reviews you have got there. Top effort and I would like to thank you for making it easy for the average person to make a choice while looking for a decent piece of earphone.

    I owned Sound magic E10 for about 2 years and it has finally died (may be due to poor handling). It was my first decent IEM. I am now looking for a new pair.

    I listen to lot of vocal, instrumental, classical, pop and occasional hip-hop music. I hardly go on the rock or heavy metal side. I have to admit I did like the E10s but I did feel I could hear better. Now for a layman’s ears, I don’t know if better means warmer sound or v shaped or Balanced in my case although I understand E10s were v shaped. I am probably clear in my head that I don’t need a bass heavy one but with others I don’t understand which one will suit my style while giving me a nice upgrade. I’d also prefer if the IEM had a mic to take calls. Fit and durability are important for me as I don’t intend to replace them every year. Although I should be more careful this time around.

    I did go through your recommendation by sound signature and did some research (not sure if it makes sense).

    Hifiman RE400a (£60)
    RHA MA750i (90)
    Yamaha EPH-100SL (£70) – mic version of EPH-100
    Shure SE215 (mic version) – (£99)

    I have omitted VSonic GR07 as they don’t include a mic. Same with Dunu Titan 1.
    Although I’d be willing to consider if they are superior than the above.

    Etymotic HF2/HF3 is probably over my budget and I am not sure if I am ready for the deep fit.

    I may have missed other better ones so do include if you think it I suitable here. My budget is under £100.

    Considering these requirements of mine, are you please able to suggest a good pair for me? Thank you so much in advance.

    • The MA750i is what I’d choose. It’s a relatively “safe” sound tuning – a little warmer and bassier than your E10, but still pretty well-balanced and versatile. Not sure if the sound is the absolute best match for your genres, but with all the other requirements I think it’s the clear winner. Build quality is definitely the best of the bunch except maybe the SE215 but the sound quality is better than the Shures and the sound tuning is less polarizing than the HF2 or RE-400a.

      By the way, I don’t think the EPH-100 has a headset version. “SL” is just a color code, for “silver”.

      • Thanks Joker. By safe, do you mean it won’t be bass heavy but still be detailed and offer clear, sharp mids and vocals ? Ideally i am not looking for those earphones with thumping beats which i can’t wear for long hours. I generally tend to wear them for 2-3 hours a day while working in office.

        If I were to ask you to purely pick one between Hifiman Re400a and MA750i based on sound quality alone leaving alone their build or durability, which one would that be and why? – This is for the version with mic for other decent ones don’t come with mic.

        I am contemplating another option, which is to go with a less decent pair with mic (something like Soundmagic E50S or Xiamo Piston) for rough use and pick a good earphone for music so that I don’t have to compromise sound quality because of mic.

        In that case, would that be a
        VSonic GR07 Classic
        Dunu Titan1
        Fiio EX1 (not sure of diff b/w this and Titan1)
        Yamaha EPH100
        Any other ones?

        While I was writing this comment I just realized you might asked 100s of such questions on a daily basis and I really wonder how you have the patience to answer each and every one. Kudos to you. i am not sure people actually realize the amount of time and effort behind.
        Thank you so much once again 🙂

        • They’re very different earphones and not really direct competitors. If you want accuracy and level, neutral bass the RE-400a is the clear winner over the MA750i. But everything comes with a tradeoff – it has less bass punch than even your E10 did and can sound a little dull and boring in comparison if it turns out that you’re not a fan of this type of ultra-smooth, midrange-focused sound. I rarely recommend HiFiMan earphones to those who aren’t sure what they’re looking for. Ditto on Etymotic.

          EPH-100 probably has too much bass for what you want but something like a GR07 or Titan 1 may be a good compromise between the more bass-heavy MA750 and the more balanced RE-400. I’d throw the Philips Fidelio S2 in that group as well as something of a middle point between the GR07 and RE-400.

          Again, I don’t have a whole lot to go on here to provide a sound recommendation but the Titan 1 (possibly same as EX1, not sure) will provide the clearest, most prominent vocals and “sharpest” sound of the bunch, and also has very controlled bass. There’s more bass compared to the RE-400, but I don’t think anyone could call it a bass-heavy (in a negative way) earphone.

          P.S. Usually only a dozen or two posts like this daily. Still takes a while to answer, though :p

          • Thanks again Joker. I have made up my mind towards going for Dunu Titan. Now after reading few reviews on Dunu Titan 1 where they have mentioned about these being not great for vocals(compared to its imaging and resolution) and have hence suggested Titan 3 for better vocals. But when I did read about Titan 3, the experts have said female vocals sound best and this should be avoided if you have heavy collection of male vocals (all these were on Head-Fi).

            Now, i am quite confused whether I should go for Titan 1 or Titan 3 as majority of my listening is with male vocals. Are you please able to provide some clarity on this ?

            • The Titan 3 is more v-shaped. While it is even more bright and clear than the Titan 1, it happens to be harsher which I don’t particularly like for vocals. I guess if you only care about pushing female vocals forward in the mix they are better but at some point you have to call the sound too colored. The Titan 1 is more neutral overall which makes it more versatile.

              • I have ordered the Fiio EX1 which is pretty much rebranded (better?) Dunu Titan 1 costing almost half the price (£50 against £90). I will let you know how I get on.

                Thank you so much in helping me in the deciding process 🙂

                • Hey Joker, got my Fiio EX1 (Dunu Titan 1). Here are my impressions and a couple of questions. Again 😀

                  Resolution, Clarity and detailing are a big step up from the Soundmagic E10s. I could hear a lot of instruments which couldn’t earlier on a lot of my favorite tracks which I pretty much know in an and out. I have to admit I had no clue what ‘soundstage’ means before putting this IEM on. The staging is just amazing. I would say listening to concert recordings or even watching movies should be an out of the world experience on this.

                  Coming to mids or vocals, I am a bit disappointed as they feel hollow and distant. It doesn’t have the ‘presence’ or the emotional quotient I was looking for. Its not horrible but its just not present as the main thing with instruments around it, instead it is pushed back if I can call it that. I mean my fingers are going towards the volume just to hear those vocals a bit more loudly (which doesn’t help as the whole volume increases) as reflex action!

                  Bass is low for me, well a bit too low in some occasions. I wasn’t expecting it to have strong thumping bass but may be I was hoping slightly more than what is there.

                  I can probably live with low bass but i do want the vocals to stand out a bit more 🙁

                  Do you think the vocals will improve after say 50 hrs of burn in?
                  Just for my information, what would give me same level of clarity, detailing, resolution but combined with more beautiful mids/vocals and slightly more bass?

                  Thanks once again.

                  • Unfortunately “beautiful” is not really a quantifiable term but I think you are used to the slightly warmer and richer tone you were getting with the E10. The Titan 1 (and the EX1, I’m assuming) is on the lean side in comparison.

                    I would definitely give it some time, not so much for “burn in” but more to give yourself time to adjust to a wider, less intimate sound. I don’t find vocals on the Titan 1 thin or recessed, but the whole earphone is pretty spacious compared to an E10 and also less thick, which is probably a strong contributing factor here.

  21. Abimanyu Gottumukkala on

    I am looking for a IEM with following characters
    Good Bass Quality with texture
    Good Resolution
    Forward Mids
    Excellent Vocals
    Excellent Imaging
    Good SoundStage

    Any Recommendation?

    • That makes me think of the DUNU Titan 1. Its strong suits are very forward and clear vocals, very good bass quality and resolution, and a wide soundstage.

      • Abimanyu Gottumukkala on

        Thankyou,
        I had my eye on RE-400 for a while now. How does RE-400 compare with my requirement?

        • Abimanyu Gottumukkala on

          Also i don’t have dunu in our country (India) but Fiio EX1 is available in india sound wise are they same or is there any fiio changes to sound profile?

          • RE-400 is still a good fit for what you want. It’s a little less clear, bass quantity is lower (and the bass is not as deep), and the soundstage is more narrow. What the RE-400 does have going for it compared to the Titan 1 are a warmer/more neutral tone and smoother sound.

            Not sure about the EX1, I don’t have one. Only the Titan 1/2/3 but I still prefer the 1.

            • Abimanyu Gottumukkala on

              Thankyou very much. I like a neutral iem but i think i will get bored with them very soon so i decided to go with Fiio EX1.

              Can you do a buyer guide on IEM for Movies/TV Show/Youtube
              Using a bass heavy iem for watching action movies is nice but when it come to TV Shows, Youtube or Drama Movies recessed mid is the worst and having a good sound stage also helps.
              Think about it.

              • Definitely never thought about it before, but as long as you know the sound signature you want for what you’re listening to – which you clearly do – that’s really all you need to find a match!

                Point well taken about IEM sound tuning for movies, though. Would be a good one to incorporate into my recommendations.

                • Abimanyu Gottumukkala on

                  Thankyou i brought Fiio EX1 it’s exactly what i wanted. Comfort and Cable are exceptional i give them 5/5. I tried more than 30 IEM and this is the first IEM that i feel comfortable and have a good fit.

                  Thankyou very much.

  22. Hey Joker,

    Are you going to review the Flare Audio R2A/Pro? There ain’t much review of this iem. I love my hifiman in-ears. It’s balanced sound, gentle emphasis on the mids makes it non fatiguing to listen on the commute. However the build quality kept me on the edge, fearing that it would fail one day. I’m really interested in the Flare audio iem as it has quite similar earpieces like that of the re400/600 that I liked so much; small and light while having great sq (not so sure about the flares), another reason for my bias-ness. Would you have any similar sets to recommend with the above qualities?
    (P.s Still anticipating your aurisonics rockets review :))

  23. I’m currently trying the DUNU 2000’s and I really like the soundstage, imaging and separation. Is there a headphone that has those qualities but more bass impact, close to basshead levels, preferably one that you wear straight down?/

    Instead of keeping the dn2000 and buying a budget basshead phones, I would prefer an all in one combo, let’s say around $500 price point.

    • If you add a lot of bass to the DN-2000 sound signature you’ll get a headphone with a very different balance and tonal character, so this is going to be tough to match exactly. The best compromise I can think of would be something like the Sennheiser IE 800 – it has more bass (maybe not basshead levels, but significantly more impactful than a DN-2000) while still maintaining solid clarity and detail and a somewhat V/U-shaped sound.

      If you instead go to a true basshead universal in that price range, like a Sony XBA-Z5, you’ll end up with something that sounds much warmer and somewhat more “muffled” than a DN-2000. A similar thing will happen if you try to sidegrade to a bassier set that resembles the DN-2000, like an RHA T20.

  24. I’m currently trying the DUNU 2000’s and I really like the soundstage, imaging and separation. Is there a headphone that has those qualities but more bass impact, close to basshead levels, preferably one that you wear straight down?/

    Instead of keeping the dn2000 and buying a budget basshead phones, I would prefer an all in one combo, let’s say around $500 price point.

  25. Hello Joker.

    I loved the JVC HA-FXT90! They are starting to break on me. I want something similar but maybe a step up. What do you recommend I try out? I am trying to keep it under 250.00. Thanks!

    • The FXT90 is pretty tough to upgrade from while staying within a similar sound signature. In that price range I’d say the DUNU DN-1000 is your best bet when it comes to sound – v-shaped with good bass, a warm-ish tone, and crisp, prominent treble. Biggest sound signature differences will be in the midrange ( a little more recessed in the case of the DN-1000) and presentation. Overall sound quality is of course better with the DN-1000.

  26. Hey ljokerl, I’ve been on the fence for a while now and just recently decided I’m going to buy some earbuds.

    So basically I’m looking for a set of balanced earbuds. My band makes music and I do the mixing, I currently use studio monitors for mixing and find I get a good representation with them (Yamaha HS5s). I’m looking for earbuds not to mix with but for everyday listening, something that will translate relatively well with the studio monitors.

    I listen to music from the late 60s and 70s. And subsequently that is the kind of music we play. I’d love to hear a balanced sound without bass boost or anything like that. My hope is, the more I listen to the accurate sound of the music I like, the better I will be able to mix towards that sound.

    Reading your reviews I feel like the Brainwavz M1 are right for me. The budget is a little tight for me so the price of the M1s works well. What do you think?

    • The M1 is a very nice earphone but my concern would be that its slightly mid-centric sound wouldn’t match your studio monitors to well because it’s a touch rolled off in the deep bass and upper treble. If you can spring the $60 for a Havi B3 or Etymotic MC5 instead those should give you a *slightly* more versatile sound for what you want. If you’re limited to <$40 then I can't think of anything that'll outright beat the M1.

  27. Hey Joker, kind of a different question for you. I’ve got a vsd3s for my v shape, a dunu titan 1 (fiio es1 really) for my balanced set.. just looking for something fun with enhanced bass, lush mids and rolled off treble, i guess dark sounding. doesnt have to be reference quality. comfort is important on these and they need to be able to stay in my ears while moving. price range is under 100, but with already having a pretty decent set for critical listening these don’t have to be great at all. I was thinking the yamaha eph100, but i’m not sure if that’s the sound signature i’m describing.

    • Yep, the Yamaha EPH-100 would be great for that if you can find it in the price range. A really nice addition to your lineup, actually.

      If you can’t find the EPH-100 you have a few step-down options, such as the Shure SE215. Definitely not as good-sounding but it fits your requirements and is very secure in the ear.

  28. Awesome list you have here ljokerl..

    I am a fans of v-shaped sound and with the budget I have now I’m inclined to get dunu-1000. I’m wondering is there any other newer IEM with more advance driver in the current market within the same price range? Secondly, if I’m able to spend up to 350, can you name a recommended IEM? Do you think there is a noticeable improvement on the sound quality? I’m thinking that if IEM with 350 price tag is just slightly better than 200 price tag, I might as well go for the 200 and save money until I have let say 700..

    • It might be worth to mention that I have a customart music one and while I appreciate how it handles the bass, I would love to hear more detail and clarity. I prefer the cymbal sound to be crispy so listening to pop or EDM can be fun and interesting.

      • The DN-1000 is awesome for its price. If you’re spending $350 you can “upgrade” to a DUNU DN-2000 or FLC Technology FLC8. These aren’t necessarily better IEMs than the DN-1000 specifically for a v-shaped sound signature, but they’re better overall. They are a little more balanced (less v-shaped) and give you an upgrade mostly in clarity and soundstaging. I’d say if you value that it would be worth it to invest the extra $150 over a DN-1000 to get an FLC8.

  29. Hi Joker! First, thank you so much for your reviews. They have been so helpful. I’m looking to replace my GR07 Classic which my dog destroyed and would love to hear your suggestions. I enjoyed the GR07, but the sibilance bothered me occasionally. I can’t really say what sound signature I prefer because I’ve listened to so few headphones, but I liked the GR07s more than my HD598s, which seem to be less detailed to me and I find a little boring. I listen to a variety of genres of music, lots of acoustic/folk (Ray Lamontagne, City and Colour), rap (Kendrick Lamar, Drake), pop (Adele, Beyonce), and classical. I can spend up to ~$250. I’d like something that is comfortable for listening to for many hours and something that with good build quality.
    Thanks Again,
    Emma

    • I guess the goal is to find something that’s not too far from the GR07 in balance, doesn’t give up the things that make the GR07 “fun” compared to the HD598 (mostly the punchy bass, clarity, and upper midrange/treble energy), while also trying to keep sibilance to a minimum.

      This would probably be the dream of most GR07 owners, but the GR07 is notoriously difficult to upgrade from. The closest thing I know of to a true GR07 upgrade is the FLC Technology FLC8, but that runs well north of $250.

      So with a lower budget that just leaves either a) getting another GR07 or b) sidegrading to one of its direct competitors. The one I’d go with is the Philips Fidelio S2. You may or may not like it better than the GR07, but it’s in the same ballpark in terms of overall balance, clarity, soundstaging, and so on. It also tends to be a little less sibilant, which is a big win. Full comparison here: https://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/philips-fidelio-s2-in-ear-earphone-review-2/ . Build quality is about on-par with the GR07 but the fit in the ear is very different – more of a conventional earbud, cable-down fit. Pretty much anything in this price range (that I’ve tried) will be a compromise from the GR07 in one way or another. This one seems to be the most worthwhile for what you’re after.

  30. Hi Joker,
    First of all, thanks for all your reviews. I heard about you since when I was reading stuff about headphones only in Italian.
    I was looking for some good earphones to replace my old jvc got for 10€ about two years ago.
    I mostly listen classic and psychedelic rock (like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, ACDC…) and heavy metal (Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden) but sometimes it happens to listen something a little less classic (like RHCP), singed stuff (like Italian Caparezza, Elio e le Storie Tese and Fabrizio de André, try them if you never heard about 😉 ) and even electronic music (just Depeche Mode and ’80s disco).
    My question is: like you (I read a lot of the comments) I think Rock needs a clear sound and a bit warm equalization, so my options were:
    -Sennheiser momentum (maybe they’re too much bassy, but I’ve seen good reviews)
    -Phillips fidelio
    -Ostry KC06 (too “flat”? Anyway they have the best accessory set included, which is good)
    -Ostry KC06A (they’re slightly warmer than not-A version, maybe it’s the best compromise between these ones)

    Which one do you suggest? Any other ideas?
    Budget is about 50-100€/$, and they have to be well-built because I’d always take them with me and use while walking.

    Thanks very much! 🙂

    • *little rectification about Ostry KC06: more than “flat” I meant “shrill” (I don’t know if it’s the best word: it’s already difficult to translate properly), at least for what I’m looking for. I’m quite afraid that my middle ears could be just destroyed by a very high Ozzy Osbourne pitch! XD
      Thanks again

      • I probably wouldn’t do the Sennheiser Momentum In-Ear for those genres – it’s not the bass that’s the problem, it’s the mids that are a little too far back. If I was considering the Momentum with that budget I’d be tempted to save up a few bucks for the RHA MA750 instead. It’s more well-built, too.

        The Fidelio S2 (the only Fidelio earphone I currently recommend) would be a good option for flatter sound with a little more in the way of crispness. I like this type of sound for rock, but it might be too balanced coming from a low end JVC earphone (which tend to be rather bass-heavy). Still, I think after an adjustment period you may enjoy it as much as or more than the MA750, especially with rock and metal.

        The KC06 I probably would skip for these genres – I like this earphone a lot but its sound is a little lacking in weight for hard rock and metal. I also don’t find these to be as well-made as RHA or Sennheiser products.

        • Ok, so what about MA750? S2 are out of budget (~150€), while MA750i (that I’d appreciate because sometimes it’s very useful change volume without use the phone) are sold on Amazon for 99€.
          Prices change very often, so it’s possible that when will be the moment to buy one they’ll be at same price.
          Which one would you choose? Which are pros and cons of those models?

          • As I said, the MA750 is the safer choice coming from your JVCs – it’s bassier, warmer, and more consumer-oriented than the Fidelio S2. It is smoother, more forgiving, and arguably more “fun”-sounding. And if it’s the only one in your budget, that only makes the choice easier.

            The Fidelio is better for accuracy, but we haven’t established that accuracy/fidelity is your aim here. Like other balanced earphones, it delivers a very clear and crisp sound, but you were worried about the KC06 being too flat and the S2 is definitely not the one I’d pick if that was a concern.

            • Ok, great.
              Well, I would have liked clarity too, but I think that coming from a 15$ JVC almost everything will be definitely better.
              Also I listen music mp3 320k (I don’t have enough space on my devices to listen something in FLAC), and realistically maybe S2 are too expensive for my effective needs and sensibility.
              Thanks very much!

              • 320kbps is not that bad (some people here still ask for earphones that won’t butcher 192kbps mp3s) but all in all it seems like the MA750 is the better choice here.

  31. Hi
    Have been a big fan of your reviews. Got my first headphone, creative aurvana live! after goin thru all your reviews. Its been a year now and i wud like to upgrade to a new one that has a similair or better sound signature and fun.
    Please suggest a good one as there are too many options its very confusing.
    Thank you

  32. LuckyJunkProductions on

    Dear Joker,
    A friend has recommended me here and it would be a wonderful if you could give me some insight.

    I work with field recording, monitoring, mastering and working with soundtracks like mixing occasional remixes. I am looking to buy something that is a portable IEM for general/daily and professional use, where transparency, neutrality and accuracy to the source concerns me a lot.

    It seems like the most recommended IEM for me is the Etymotic ER4S/PT. I have been lucky enough to try the ER4S and loved it, but I did not enjoy the thick bulky cable assembly and jack. It was also difficult to wear around the ear because of the design. Deep ear insertion did not bother me as much as the previously mentioned and I could take or leave the extreme noise isolation (though I still want at least decent isolation at the minimum). The design seems dated, but proven – I was surprised to see some people claiming that their unit was still in good condition after nearly 20 years of use.

    Still, I am completely fine and satisfied with getting the ER4S/PT, but are there other options that might be currently available to buy in a similar price range and a match for what I do? Something like a more user-friendly design that sounds like the ER4? I don’t want to get into custom ear molds at the moment as they seem too extreme for me and I wouldn’t be able to share them with someone else if I wanted to.

    • LuckyJunkProductions on

      Hey Joker, been looking at some other IEMS too like the Audio Technica IM02, Final Audio Design Heaven II, Hifiman RE 400. How do you think they compare to the ER4? Again, I am looking for something that is transparent, neutral, accurate to the source and good for portable daily use.

      But then again I’ve also heard it’s possible to get the ER4 recabled fairly easily with an aftermarket adapter (built-in resistor) and any aftermarket cable made for Shure or Westone IEMs which might solve all my problems with the stock ER4 cable being cumbersome and microphonic. The removable cables of the ER4 are much of a bonus if changing them out like this is as easy as they say.

      • For various reasons I don’t think any of these are a perfect ER4 substitute.

        The RE-400 is the farthest away due to its more mid-centric sound and somewhat dull, smoothed-over treble. Coming from the ER4 you’ll most likely find it lacking in clarity and crispness.

        The IM02 is better – it is less midrange-focused than the RE-400 and has more ER4-like bass as well. However, its sound tuning is a little darker, which is not a problem in itself but really makes a difference when comparing it to the ER4.

        The Heaven II is not very different from the IM02 – I think it actually sounds a touch brighter, but also lacks a bit of overall detail and clarity. It is much less expensive than the ER4, though, and is undoubtedly an excellent value. Also the Etymotic HF5 should be considered here – it too is a better value than the ER4 and is actually less bulky as well.

        Other than the Heaven II and HF5, your best bet for an ER4 alternative would be an earphones with a TWFK driver. This driver has been used in about a dozen awesome earphones over the years, including two of my favorites – the VSonic VC1000 and the Brainwavz B2 (also known as the Fischer Audio DBA-02). Unfortunately the only TWFK earphones still in production as far as I know are the ridiculously expensive new q-JAYS.

  33. HI joker,
    I had the jvc fxt-90 for quite some years already and recently it started to have some issues with the audio jack, and so I intend to get a new iem replacement. Honestly I enjoyed the fun musicality profile of this iem a fair lot; it is probably the value iem in the price bracket! Recently I strolled( well I can’t deny it’s intentionally) into the audio store and had a brief audition of the audio technica ath-im02 and was I’m impressed at how the Japanese tune their earphones! I listen mainly to pop, ballads, and lots of acoustics, and vocals really shine with this iem(this should be how earphones should be; vocals at the centre stage!). I glanced over at the im03 guiltily (hey an additional BA who won’t be tempted!) but didn’t had the chance to try it out. I saw from reviews that the additional BA may not be that worth the cash as the difference is just a lil juice in the bass. And that the housing is bigger in addition.
    So I was wondering should I get the im02 or the 03, or would you recommend iems for vocal heavy music?
    Thanks in advance!

    • Oh and I listen mostly to mp3 on my smartphone and pc, and I also heard that the im02 is more revealing that the 03 due to the output impedance( I’m bad at technical details; can’t understand the impedance concept haha!)

      • I haven’t tried the IM03 but I do like the IM02 for balanced/near-neutral sound. It’s a very different sound profile than the FXT90, but certainly not one unique to Audio-Technica. If you tried it with your phone and liked it, by all means buy it since that’s the device you’ll be using it with. It might sound a little different from devices that are not properly designed for earphones like these (e.g. a laptop with a high-impedance headphone jack) but the difference won’t be huge. There might be some hiss also but most people aren’t bothered by it once music is playing.

        Also, here’s a few lower-cost alternatives for this type of sound that ultimately aren’t as hi-fi as the IM02, but since you’re not using hi-res audio sources it may not matter: Etymotic HF5, Final Audio Heaven II, Phiaton MS100BA. In either case they are way more similar to the IM02 than to the FXT90, while being priced closer to the latter.

  34. Hey Joker,

    Thanks for putting up all the wonderful reviews and replying to our queries.
    I am looking for an upgrade iem. I own the tf10 and listening with it always itches me for more details in the mids and transparency due to tf10’s veiled mids. I also had the hifiman re600 and found a liking to its house sound. I find myself leaning towards iem with more mids or a balanced sound signature.
    Currently I’m looking up reviews on westone and shure’s flagships like the westone 4 and the se535, would you recommend any of these or any other iems?

    • If you liked the RE600 and value midrange clarity you’ll prefer the SE535 over the Westone 4. The Ultimate Ears 900 and AudioFly AF180 are two other IEMs that are better than the Westone 4 for balanced sound. But if you care more about midrange quality than bass/treble I’d still put the SE535 a touch above those two.

      For a more mid-focused signature like the RE600 my current favorite is the Aurisonics Rockets. At about $250, it’s not much of an upgrade to the HiFiMan in sound but its overall design is very good and the sound is definitely “worth” $250 in comparison to other flagships.

      • Cool, I’m really satisfied with your comparison. I did looked up more on the shures and considered rockets. Just curious how does the flc8 stack up in terms of mids/overall balance from its interchangable tuning system?

        • The balance of the FLC8 (in its natural configuration) is more similar to the TF10 than anything else discussed here. You can modify specific parts of it with the ports but it’s never going to sound like an SE535 or RE600 or Rockets when it comes to overall balanced and midrange presentation specifically.

  35. Hi ljokerl I read through a lot of your reviews and I think they are great. Thanks for them. However I am pretty new to quality in ear headphones so I need your suggestion between the following. I am looking for a around $50 in ear headphone and I mainly listen to electronic, rock, some metal and alternative but sometimes to other stuff like rap.
    I looked through your list and narrowed down my choices to the following:
    Dunu DN-22M
    Vsonic VSD3
    Xiaomi Piston 3
    Vsonic GR02 Bass Edition
    NuForce NF-NE-600X
    My main concern is when you talk about bass, because I don’t really know how much bass it actually is when you say a headphone is for a basshead. Currently I am using Panasonic RP-HJE120-K and those could use more bass and clarity seeing as they are like $10. I also have tried on Audio Technica ATH-M50 over ear before and I think they need more bass aswell.
    So what do you think of these would be a good choice for me? Or if you could suggest a different one around the same price?
    Thanks

      • It sounds like you’re after at least moderate (if not heavy) bass enhancement. Considering that you still want at least decent clarity, for the price I think the NE-600X would be a great choice.

  36. I’ve been lurking around the site for quite some time now, exploring the wealth of information found on here and figured I should consult with you and ask for your advice first before making any final decisions. This marks the first time I’ve went out and researched about IEM’s and explored the audio world, so I’m still very new to this whole thing. The guides are all beautifully written with lots of detail, but the sheer quantity of knowledge that comes with IEM’s are a little overwhelming for a newcomer like me. I’ve read review after review, comment after comment and still find myself a little lost on what to purchase.

    The most immediate concern for me is that I don’t have anything to compare to. I’ve never used any kind of high quality IEM’s and even my cheap on-ear headphones were bought with very little consideration. Whether something has more of a warm and smooth sound, or more of a V shaped sound, I mean I can sorta understand the description, but I don’t really know what that sounds like.

    With that being said, could you recommend me a pair of IEM’s that fit my sound signature? I usually listen to ballads with delicate instrumentals and power vocals in addition to other R&B/soul songs. However, I do also listen to the latest pop songs on the radio and other various kpop songs. In addition, I also watch the occasional movie and other videos on youtube. What kind of sound should I be looking for in an IEM?

    I’m looking for something for roughly $100 CAD, but I’m completely willing to spend more considering it’s my first pair, up to ~$200 CAD. I’m not looking to start a collection or anything, so I suppose durability would be important. I don’t mind splurging and getting something worth a little bit more if it’s truly worth it, but I don’t want to just throw money around either.

    I’ll mostly be using them in isolation, (libraries, my room etc.) and will be using them paired up with my phone (LG G3) and my laptop (Pretty new, Dell, about a year old). I would say that I have slightly smaller ears than the average person and would like a pair of IEM’s that drop down, not go around the ear. I hope I articulated my thoughts clearly and provided enough relevant information. I’ll take a stab at it first and show you what I came up with from reading around the site.

    I had initially looked into the VSonic GR07 Classic after reading your review and other reviews, but I’m not too sold on the whole idea of wearing it over the ear. It looks a little awkward and I think I’d start feeling self-conscious. They were under the “For balanced sound” section and since I didn’t quite know my sound signature, I thought they might be a good safe pick.

    The Yamaha EPH-100’s were another pair of IEM’s that I was looking at. They were under the “Warm and Smooth sound” section, so I thought this might match my sound signature as well. You had talked about the bass being strong, “deep and punchy” and although bass is always nice, I’m not sure if I’m looking for an emphasis on bass given my song genres. In addition, I noticed you had stated that “There have been counterfeit EPH-100s reported” so I was a little bit worried because I don’t think I would be able to tell the difference. I saw a lot of EPH-100’s on ebay with the cheapest one being $75 CAD so I was slightly tempted, but unsure if it was a counterfeit.

    The last pair of IEM’s I had considered were the Dunu Titan 1. There was a pair on ebay for $50, so I was worried they were counterfeit as well. Unfortunately you don’t have a review for this, so I went to this review instead. http://headfonics.com/2015/11/dunu-titan-1-fiio-ex1-vs-dunu-titan-3-vs-dunu-titan-5-clash-of-the-titans/ This lead me to discover the Dunu Titan 3. Do you have any experience with the Dunu Titan 3? It seems as though they are a step up from the Dunu Titan 1. I was particularly drawn to them because the “separation levels are actually the best on the Titan 3 with its clear and precise rendition of vocals and instruments.” Continuing with the Dunu brand, the seller of the $50 Dunu Titan 1 on ebay also has a pair of Dunu DN-2000 for $150. This also seems too good to be true, but I was slightly considering them too simply because of the price.

    You’ve probably been thanked numerous times but I hope you haven’t been desensitized from it all. I’m surprised you spend as much time as you do giving such detailed feedback. I don’t think people give you enough credit. Take another thank you from me and add it to your collection. I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Thanks once again!

    • Thanks, glad the review on this site have been helpful!

      I’m also glad you realize the importance of having a point of comparison – without that it’s very hard to know which way to go. What you’re giving me is not really a sound signature but more of a list of genres you listen to. The problem with that is that two different people may prefer two different headphones for the same track.

      Usually I recommend starting out with a warm or v-shaped sound. This type of sound is the closest to a “consumer” sound, but of course we’re only considering earphones that execute it the best. The GR07 is always a good option also, just because it’s so darn well-rounded, but if you don’t want over the ear fitment it’s not viable.

      The EPH-100 falls under the category of warm sound very well, but I wouldn’t risk a cheap one on ebay.

      The Titan 1 and Titan 3 are very interesting earphones, but kind of unusual in the way they are tuned. I wouldn’t consider them the “safe” choice for a beginner. The DN-2000 is more like it, and a used one can be $150 quite easily. Good option unless you have small ears (it’s not a small earphone).

      Other inexpensive options that would be a good way to go – JVC HA-FXT90 or Alpha & Delta AD01. Both fit cable-down and are quite straightforward in how they sound. Not as capable as a DN-2000, but you can pick both up (new) for under $100.

      • After looking into the Alpha & Delta AD01’s a bit more, I’ve decided to pull the trigger and get myself a pair of these. Lend Me UR Ears seems to have a good reputation and I thought the detachable parts were a convenient feature that could save me some money in the future should something break, or should I decide to stick with the brand. In addition, you had recommended a warm or v-shaped sound to start off my journey, and in your review of the AD01’s, you mentioned that these fell between those two regions, so I thought it would be a good place to start.

        Thanks for your help once again! In a couple years i’ll come back and ask for your advice! Who knows? By then I might be able to speak the language better. I’ll look forward to your reviews when that time rolls around. A final thanks for easing me into the audiophile world. Best wishes in the future.

        • I think that’s a very good option to start with. Hopefully it fits you well and I really hope you like the sound. Please feel free to comment back with your experience once you’ve had a chance to try it out – good chance someone else has a similar decision to make and will find the feedback very valuable.

          Happy listening!

  37. Hi, I really appreciate all of the reviews and lists. Can you please suggest an iem with a neutral to bright sound and a large soundstage for under $200CAD. Build quality is also important to me as well as I’ve already seen some previous iems bite the dust.
    Thanks

    • Purely for sound quality/performance I’d recommend trying to get your hands on one of the discontinued TWFK-based sets – ideally a Phiaton PS200 but a VSonic VC1000, Brainwavz B2, Fischer Audio DBA-02, or Ultimate Ears 700 would all be excellent for this. However, none of these are known for great build quality so with that thrown in, plus ignoring discontinued sets, I’d say a Final Audio Heaven II is your best bet.

  38. Thanks for the reviews…
    voiceover recording-wise would these fare well?
    in the studio I use AKG k240s..I love their natural “un-hyped sound”…
    i’m looking for some in ears to take traveling where i’m trying to stay compact..
    Brainwavz M1?…
    or do you have another suggestion?…not crazy about the Shures and their fit
    thanks
    Vince

    • The M1 is great for the price, nothing is too excessive. Just lacking a little bit at the ends of the frequency range. Similarly-priced Soundmagic E30 is a good alternative as well, and the HiFiMan RE-400 is even better if your budget allows.

  39. Hi
    I’m new to buying iems and am looking for a pair under £50 ($75). I listen to pop, hip hop but also acoustic stuff (and too much coldplay). I’m looking for something with detailed sound and clarity, a large soundstage, fairly balanced but with a slightly punchier bass and clear vocals. I also don’t want it to sound screechy at the highs however. I used to have piston v2s but they broke quite easily for me, so something that is known for durability is good. Does anyone have any good recommendations? I’m currently looking at the Sony mdrex650 ‘s and the rockjaw alfa genus v2s. Thanks in advance!

      • Not a very large budget and quite a few requirements so this is going to be a tough one. Not sure about the EX650 but I’d consider the Sony MH1Cs if you don’t mind their J-cord. Isolation is better than the Alfa Genus and the sound is much smoother.

        • Thanks for the quick reply first of all, much appreciated. Could you also recommend any other earphones in a higher price bracket, say upto $110? I’d like to know just in case I find one that fits my needs on a discount or something.

          • Also reading around forums and such leads me to believe the mh1cs may be too bassy for me, I’d prefer less bass if it means it is tighter and I can get clearer vocals and instrument separation.

            • The problem is that IEMs with very smooth treble and decent isolation tend to either have flat/balanced bass (e.g. HiFiMan RE-400, TDK BA200, Aurisonics Rockets) or moderately enhanced bass (Sony MH1C, Yamaha EPH-100). The middle ground is very rare.

              Your options are to try to find one of the few “middle ground” sets out there (all of which have some compromises) – for instance the Klipsch X10/X11/X12 (leaning towards MH1C bass quantity, but not quite as enhanced) or the Brainwavz R3 (leaning towards flat bass, but slightly more full-bodied than the ones I listed).

              Or you can try something with mild treble enhancement – won’t be as smooth as the sets above but not downright harsh, either. Something like the Alpha & Delta AD01: https://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/alpha-delta-ad01-in-ear-earphone-review/ . The Alfa Genus can fit in this category too, though it’s a little harsher than the AD01.

  40. Hi there, I’m looking for a new pair of balanced IEMs with a clear sound profile that doesn’t overemphasize the bass. The tip on the input plug in my UE600s frayed. Are those still the best option for a balanced sound at that price point (or up to $105ish)? Is there anything with a sturdier construction?

    • Technically the UE600 is discontinued, though I’m sure there’s plenty of them still out there. They were never really known for durability.

      As far as balanced sound goes, I’m a fan of the Final Audio Heaven II around that price: http://amzn.to/1U9i450 . Not sure about long-term durability but initial build quality on them is very good. Balanced sound, a tiny bit bright but very clear and with surprising bass punch and depth.

      I’ve also been enjoying the Phiaton MS100BA lately: http://amzn.to/1QRwUzg . These are a little less bright than the Heaven II and not as clear (more similar to your UE600) but for the price they’re hard to beat.

      And of course you have the balanced sound kings, the Etymotic HF5s, if you can find a set for under $105.

        • The RE-400 isn’t known for great longevity so if that’s a criteria in your search I definitely would. Not sure about the MS100BA (it’s a new model) but the HF5 and Heaven II should be a bit sturdier than the RE-400 in the long run.

  41. I’m debating weather to get the RHA’s or the Yamaha’s. On one hand the RHA’s seem quite sturdy and while the Yamaha’s I’m not so sure about. But then, there’s the fact the the yamahas are a lot cheaper, around 80 on amazon. Which ones so you think sound better? also which one is more comfy?

    • I don’t consider either to sound better than the other – just slightly different tuning, but in the grand scheme of things they’re similar earphones. The fit is definitely different, though – the RHA has to be worn with the cable looped up over the ear. It is the heavier of the two earphones but wearing the cable like that helps support the weight. The EPH-100 is smaller and more lightweight, but some people have trouble with its tips (which are all multi-flanged). I personally don’t have any problems with either but based on feedback others have left here I’d say the MA750 is the safer choice (by a small margin).

  42. Hi ljokerl,

    First off, really nice guide. It helped me made my decision buying my first IEM — the RHA MA750i.
    While I am happy with it, their highs are quite harsh to me at times (I immediately felt the harshness at 10-11K). Half of the songs in my library sound perfect with the 750s, but the other half are either too harsh or not bassy enough. I have decided I am going to pick up another pair of IEMs to complement the other half of my library.

    Here’s what I’m looking for:
    – Less harshness at high frequencies. My ears are very sensitive and prone to sibilant. The RHA’s took me a while to get used to, but often I still get ear fatigue. I want something without harsh treble while maintaining a clear sound.

    – More impact. My metal/rock music library don’t sound bad with the RHA’s per se, but they just lack the impact. I also want something that sounds well when watching movies. In addition, I recently also started listening to some EDM.

    – Yesterday I was playing monument valley where it had lots of low frequency ambiance BGM. I was blown away how well my crappy sony IEMs that came with my phone sound (it happened to be the only IEMs I had with me). It sounded very immersive and made me more ‘nervous’. The collisions of blocks sounded really great too! I want something like this. Too bad those buds sound crappy other than great impact.

    I’m pretty low on budget right now (hoping to spend around $50), but I’m willing to know any options up to the 150 mark.

    Thanks a lot, and have a great day!

    • It sounds like what you want is the Beats by Dre Tour2. More bass impact than the RHA and much smoother. Nothing under $50 will do that for you, unfortunately, especially without dropping a ton of clarity compared to the MA750. Maybe the UBSOUND Fighter, but it’s still not quite as smooth as the Tour2.

      Or you can keep the MA750 and pick up a budget bass-heavy IEM for your other needs. Nuforce NE-600X, for example. It should run you just $20 or so. Not the smoothest thing in the world, but for the price it’s quite good.

      • Thanks! I think I’ll look into the NE-600X. I wil be keeping my RHA’s since I really like them for most of my music.

  43. Hi ljokerl, I am looking for an iem with a Momentum Over the Ear sound. Currently using a Sennheiser IE60 and have owned GR07 and VSD3s. Considering an IE80 or Shure SE425 but would be open to any other brand as well.
    Thank you.

    • If you like the IE60 and the Momentum On-Ear it seems the IE80 would be a better choice. The SE425 is more neutral and VSonic-ish. Other options would be something like a Yamaha EPH-100 or Sony XBA-H3, but whether these will be better for what you want than the IE80 is a wash so it may be best to just stick with Sennheiser.

  44. Hello ljokerl, i really wish you can help me.
    Really need your review about “zero audio duoza” iem, it is japanese brand.
    Can you at least give me some clue about the sound quality or characteristic of that iem?
    How is it compare to others iem, etc.
    Thank you in advance.

  45. Hi Joker,

    First off, love the site. I have used it as a reference point many times and have never been disappointed so thank you!

    I have a question though… I upgraded from Shure SE215’s to the RHA MA750i’s and while I appreciate the RHA’s have a more balanced sound, I find that the bass was definitely better in the SE215s. I find that I really have to crank the volume on the RHA’s to get the bass I want which is not ideal. What I found (and I believe is the problem) is that the plastic tips (under the rubber) that go into your ears on the Shure’s are much slimmer than the metal ones on the RHA’s and therefore end up creating a better seal as they can go into your ears much deeper, creating a better fit. I was thinking of trying the Yamaha’s but lack of a remote / mic on a product that compares closely to the RHA doesn’t seem like a worthwhile investment. Appreciate your thoughts!

    • The Yamaha EPH-100 also has the largest nozzle diameter of the three, and doesn’t really need to go that deep in your ear. If you prefer a deeper fit it’s not a great option. The bass on it is more robust compared to the MA750 (with a good fit) but overall it’s no more similar to the SE215 than the RHA.

  46. Good evening from Spain Mr. Joker! 🙂

    I very much love the sound signature of my HD600 and have been unfruitfully seeking smilar qualities in a more portable and closed headphones or IEMs. I listen to classical music, folk, 80-90’s rock/pop, and stuff like Miles Davis, Sigur Ros, Sufjan Stevens, Kraftwerk or Jean Michel Jarre.

    I have tried Sennheiser Momentum 2 but returned them after confirming its bass bias and lack of detail retrieval (at least to my ears). I have also tried the Audio Technica MSR7, which I loved but I could not stand its harshness and sibilance (I was very sensitive to its trebble peak). I know I will eventually buy another MSR7 though…

    I am now widening my scope to IEMs given that I would appreciate more portability and isolation (I am moving to London soon and spect lots of commuting).

    I do really appreciate accuracy and detail retrieval, and would like to avoid bass-heavy headphones/IEMs as long as the overall sound remains natural. I am also very concerned about durability and built quality ( I have had a pair of Focal Spirit Classic whose metal-looking plastic joints completely cracked within 5 weeks, which is a pity given its very good sound despite the warm coloration).

    I am tempted to pull the trigger for the RE-400, but I am not confident about its durability. Is it that fragile or maybe those complaining users have been really abusing them? I expect a headphone/IEM to last at least 3 years.

    I am also considering RHA’s MA750 (I would prefer the T20 but I feel it is quite overpriced) for its outstanding built quality, but I am not sure it would be decently close to the HD600 sound signature-wise or even sound natural/neutral. Is it that bass-heavy? Is the trebble peak a deal-breaker?

    I would really appreciate your opinion. Thank you very much in advance!

    • The RE-400 would be a great choice for sound. It’s not a particularly durable earphone and probably won’t do three years of heavy duty use, but it’s also just $79 (or maybe cheaper over the holidays). You can get equally suitable sound tuning with better performance and a much more durable build with the Aursonics Rockets but it is my understanding that those can be tough to acquire outside the US. The TDK BA200 would be another excellent choice with this type of sound, but that’s hard to find period as it has been discontinued. These three will be the smoothest and most forgiving options while still giving you balanced, near-reference sound.

      Etymotic is always a good option for maximizing clarity and detail resolution, but their earphones are a little more finicky with fit (they require a deep seal) for getting smooth sound out of them and are never as forgiving as an RE-400 or Rockets. Ety does give you a nice spectrum of price options, though – the MC5 if you prefer to stick with your original RE-400 budget, HF5 if you want top-tier detail/clarity without spending a ton, and the ER4 if you want something that will do all that and easily last 5+ years.

      Another personal favorite is the Audio-Technica ATH-IM02. These would probably need to be imported from Japan but there’s options for that. Here in the US they are relatively easy to buy online. The IM02 is a balanced armature IEM also, but it’s a bit more forgiving than the Etymotic HF5/ER4 and also has the benefit of detachable cables. Still not quite as smooth as an RE-400 or Rockets, but the balance and clarity are very good.

      You also have a the usual high-end options such as the Ultimate Ears UE900, Shure SE535, Audiofly AF180, etc., but these are flagship earphones that tend to have $300+ price tags.

      The MA750 and T20 are not accuracy-oriented IEMs. As a fellow fan of the HD600, I can confidently say they’re not what you’re looking for despite the excellent build quality.

      • Thank you very much for your amazing response! 🙂

        Indeed, most of the IEMs you mention are difficult to find in the EU. Maybe easier in the UK.

        I have been researching the AF180 and I am quite tempted. It is slighty more affordable in Amazon. I have noticed at Tyll’s (Innerfidelity) FR charts that dip around 6Khz. Do you feel I will be disappointed in terms of treble and resolution compared to HD600? Also Audiofly’s team told me about the risk of buying from Amazon given that, despite their efforts to withdraw the early 2014 defective batches, the way Amazon handles stocks makes it more difficult to trace them. They told me that units bearing batch numbers 505 or lower on the earpieces are affected. Do you have further information worth knowing on those deffective units? What kind of problems are these causing?

        Thank you a lot again for helping me!

        • This is a relatively common tuning choice also seen one some products from Westone, EarSonics, Fidue, and so on. It is audible, but no more so than with the Ultimate Ears 900 and several other high-end IEMs. The overall resolution of the AF180 is still good – just that one small region where it doesn’t quite have the detailing of something like an HF5 or IM02. On the upside, the AF180 is also smoother and more forgiving than those two IEMs.

          And I actually did’t know about AudioFly production problems with early units – the AF180 I have is the same one Tyll measured.

        • The HD600 to me is a very refined and smooth headphone that doesn’t have any specific emphasis in any part of the frequency spectrum. It also never sounds recessed in the midrange. This is all much more HiFiMan than VSonic – all versions of the GR07 suffer from some treble harshness/sibilance and all have a very mildly v-shaped sound signature with the midrange being a little farther back in the presentation. The RE-400 may not have the absolute clarity or soundstage size of the GR07s, but those essential elements of the HD600s sound have more likeness to the RE-400 than the GR07/GR07BE.

    • I have a similar situation in that I love my HD 650 for the lushness and ease it gives to music and I have been looking for an IEM with a similar sound signature. I listen mostly at home using my desktop amp and like to use IEMs in situations where the ambient temperature is too hot and/or the environment is too noisy for the Sennheisers. Over a year ago I purchased the RE 400 and it just doesn’t quit do it for me. The sound of the HiFiMan is excellent on jazz combos, chamber music, and acoustic stuff of all kinds. But for rock, and especially orchestral music, the RE 400 just lack any sort of fullness or body. The sound is wimpy. My son loaned me his RHA 750 to try and they are the real deal. Nice warm musical sound. Rock and orchestral have the authority they need while the more acoustic stuff still sounds great. No overpowering bass like on many “popular” IEMs I’ve tried. Just a good solid sound. Plenty of detail. Pretty much, but not eaxactly, like the HD 650. Mine were just delivered today and I’ve listened for a few hours. Every other phone I’ve tried I end up switching back to the HD 650 after a few minutes but not with these RHAs. Many say they need extended break-in but mine sound great right out of the box.

  47. Hey ljokerl,

    Great guide! I’ve previously used the pistons v2.1 and sony xb90ex. Unfortunately both of them broke and I’m looking for new ones. I don’t really need too much off bass anymore. Something that’s warm, smooth and clear would be nice. I’ve shortlisted a few which are available for me to buy, can you tell me which one you’d recommend?

    Beyerdynamics dtx 102 ie – I’m getting them for 25 bucks which is 1/4th of its price

    Vsd1s – a tad bit more than Beyer

    Philips she9700 – half the price of Beyer (12 bucks!!!)

    Pistons v3 – almost the same price as Beyer

    • Unfortunately I consider the Piston 2 a better earphone than the DTX102ie, so even at $25 I couldn’t really recommend the Beyers. They’re not exactly balanced, either – I think they have at least as much bass as the Piston 2. The Piston 3 will have less, but it also sounds colder and brighter than the P2. Not sure if it’s what you’re looking for, it’s definitely less warm. Also, the VSD1S is a little sibilant. Dynamic-driver VSonics really aren’t known for being smooth. No idea about the SHE9700.

      Of I was buying warm and smooth I’d probably go Sony MH1C or another Piston 2 – pretty much everything else I’ve tried in that price range would be a downgrade. It’d be great if there was another option for warm, smooth sound but with better overall balance than these two under $35, but I haven’t found it so far.

      • Thanks for the quick reply! I just placed an order for p3 cause p2 is out of stock. I’ll order it when it’s back in Stock and use it alternatively. You saved me alot of time, I really appreciate it. Look forward to reading more of your articles, they’re amazing! Keep it up, mate. (:

  48. Hello Joker,

    Thank you for this wonderful informative post.
    I am looking to upgrade my VSD3S (thank you for suggesting). I loved them. I would call myself a basshead (but not a fan of mid bass) and I don’t want to compromise on clarity, separation.
    I usually listen to all genres blues, classical, EDM, hip-hop.
    My budget is 175-200. I have shorlisted EPH-100, RHA-750, DUNU 1000, DUNU Titan. I would welcome suggestions if you have any.
    How would you arrange my choices given my taste.
    Also, I am a little concerned about the quality of wires on EPH-100 (my VSD3S lasted for 6 months, thanks to the missing strain relief). Any comments on this too?

      • I’m pretty sure the VSD3S is the most sibilant of all those IEMs so it seems you don’t really have to worry about sibilance too much, but generally speaking the EPH-100 and MA750 are quite smooth, while the DN-1000 and Titan are more on the revealing side. The DN-1000 can be sibilant, especially with an imperfect fit, but again I think the VSD3S is worse in this regard.

        Likewise, I don’t consider the VSD3S a basshead earphone. Normally I would recommend the EPH-100 and MA750 when asked for one, but since you like the VSD3S maybe that’s not the right move.

        Long story short, based on the content of your post I’d recommend the MA750 or EPH-100, but based on the context (i.e. you liking the VSD3S) I’m leaning towards the Titan. It’s bright and not a true basshead earphone, but neither is the VSD3S, and it has the best clarity and separation (on par with the DN-1000) while being less sibilance-prone.

        No issues with the EPH-100’s build here – it’s not overbuilt like the RHA, but it does the job.

        • Thanks joker

          Sorry, I think I wasn’t clear in my first comment.
          I am looking to move towards a bass earphone (sub bass, not mid), without compromising on clarity and separation.
          Looks like rha 750 and eph 100 fits the criteria.
          Of those two which one would you recommend and why.

          • In this case I’d go MA750. The EPH-100 is warmer and slightly less spacious, and it sounds like you will appreciate the bit of extra airiness the MA750 provides. Clarity is similar, and do keep in mind that because you want to go bassier you won’t get much of a clarity improvement over the VSD3S – for that you’d need to go flatter/more accurate.

  49. Hi, great guide!
    I am currently using the urbeats (1st generation) and am thinking about an upgrade. There are so many different in-ears so maybe I can get some advide. I am mostly listening to EDM, sometimes stuff like Macklemoore but if I had to decide I’d pick EDM.
    Price range is ca. 100$ although if I could get a big upgrade for 30-50 bucks I would definitely go for it. So far I looked at the HiSoundAudio Wooduo 2, Velodyne vPulse and Sennheiser Momentum. Can not really decide between those, but the Wooduo 2 are probably my favourite right now. All 3 would be around 85-90€ in my country. Are there any other recommendations you could give or maybe some new stuff that came out meanwhile?
    Thanks in advice 🙂

    • All solid options but unfortunately I’m not familiar with how the Urbeats sound so I can’t say which of the three will be most and which will be the least similar. I think the Momentum sounds the best of the three overall even if it doesn’t have quite as much bass as the other two. For deep bass + clarity the Wooduo2 is hard to beat, but it’s also not as smooth and refined as the Momentum in-ear.

      The newer model with slightly better performance that I usually recommend over these (especially the Momentum because they’re somewhat similar in sound tuning) is the Alpha & Delta AD01 (https://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/alpha-delta-ad01-in-ear-earphone-review/), but those are only available for shipping from Singapore (via lendmeurears) and are a little rough around the edges in terms of design compared to the sharp-looking Momentum.

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