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

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Last major overhaul: 04/22/2016: 6 outdated recommendations removed, 9 new ones added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

ljokerl

ljokerl

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.

RELATED POSTS

February 3, 2019

8

1,509 Responses

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

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

    Cheers for your time!

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

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

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

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

  4. Hi Joker,

    Have you tried the DN-2000? Are they better than the 1000s or should I pickup the 1000s before they are gone?

    Thanks!

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

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

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

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

    Then Sennheiser cx870 on basshead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  22. Unless you need extremely large amounts of deep bass, go for the Piston 2. The deep bass and its lighter form factor are pretty much the only two advantages the vPulse has over the Piston – other than that, the Piston is better.

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

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

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

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

  26. They have similar bass quantity but the S2 has a flatter/more linear low end with while the GR07 has a bit more of a mid-bass hump. The GR07 sounds a bit warmer and more full-bodied. It also has a slightly more 3D soundstage but tends to be more sibilant than the Fidelios. Both are a step up from the AM-90 in bass qty.

    The DN-1000 is heavier on bass and a little thinner/less forward in the midrange. Coming from the rather mid-centric AM-90 it might be too v-shaped.

  27. Thanks — so it looks like GR07/GR07BE or Etymotic HF5 would be a good bet in 100-150$ range. Would have to give one of these a whirl.

  28. Awesome, thanks! How would you compare the sound of the two? And how’s the bass on both? I’m definitely not looking for basshead levels, but a decent step up in low range quality/power from the AM-90 would be nice.

    Oh, and thoughts on the Dunu DN-1000 for this purpose too?

  29. Somehow the GR04 model passed me by – never got to try it before it was discontinued. I was always told that the GR07 is an upgrade from it and I do like the GR07 for the type of music you listen to. Generally speaking, balanced sound, maybe with a bit of added bass, is what I’d go with, depending on your budget – higher-end VSonics, Philips Fidelio, that sort of thing.

  30. The Fidelio S2 is good for what you want. It’s got a lot of presence in the range that gives guitars that “crunch” you’re talking about. My second choice would be the GR07 Classic from VSonic – this version should be well within your budget. If you don’t mind an over-the-ear fit, the GR07 is actually easier to fit properly than the Phillips.

  31. Not sure about longevity past six months but the initial build quality is good. I haven’t had any problems with my unit.

  32. Thanks for the list!Which headphones on the list go VSonic GR04 are most comparable to? I’ve really liked them, and they survived 2 years of abuse, but it’s time for something better … GR04s somehow sound a bit ‘raspy’ on certain kinds of music.

    Also, what are the best of the above to handle a mix of Prog Metal (Dream Theater, Opeth, Riverside etc), Progressive (Porcupine Tree, Genesis, Rush etc), and Classical music?

  33. To clarify what I mean about the treble, I want it to “cut”, for instance if you were to listen to chvrches, those high pitched synths really making an impact.

  34. Hi joker, loving the site so far, I’m looking at a few pairs and was hoping for some advice.

    I currently have astrotec am-90s which I love the mids on, vocals sound amazing and surprisingly they work pretty well with electronic stuff too. I mainly listen to rock and dancey/trance stuff, with a bit of prog and other random synth stuff thrown in. (Genesis, Justice, Floyd, Van Halen, Moguia, etc)

    I’m looking at the Fidelio S2s, Thinksound MS01s, or Hifiman RE-400s. But am open to other suggestions too. My price range is around what those cost. So £100 or so tops.

    What I’m looking for is something with similar mids to the AM-90s but with a bit of extra bass, and brighter slightly more piercing treble for guitar solos and the like, without being overpowering or screechy.

    Not sure which of those three would be the best option, any thoughts?

  35. Thank you for your thorough reply!

    Of the four you’ve listed, the Brainwavz seems the most attractive option to me. The NarMoo sounds a bit too bassy for my taste, the Piston 2 seems like its not isolating enough and as for the MH1C, I’d rather avoid cables with phone controls on them.

    However, I was going over reviews of the Brainwavz, and many people complain that they start developing issues within a couple of months. I can’t really afford to send it back to claim warranty since I’d already be pushing my budget. Does it really have build quality issues or have those people simply been abusing their pairs?

  36. This site has been up for about 10 months now but most of my reviews are still posted on Head-Fi as well. Always happy to see more readers here, though.

    Sounds like you’re after a bassy sound with decent treble presence. “Dull” is probably the result of the smooth, somewhat dark treble of the PX100s. I’ve outlined a few options below that I think will work for you, arranged from least to most bass-heavy:

    Sony MH1C – Good but not overpowering low end (more deep bass than mid-bass, which means better quality but less “Bassy” sound in the conventional sense) and very good quality mids and treble. It’s a smooth-sounding earphone, but more neutral than the PX100, so it should be less dull-sounding. The least efficient of the four, but not a problem unless you listen at max volume. Cable can be annoying.
    Xiaomi Piston 2 – Very good but again not quite “basshead” bass. It’s got more bloat than the MH1C but the treble is more exciting, giving it a slightly v-shaped signature. Lowest isolation of the bunch, but also the least expensive.
    Brainwavz S1 – goes a little over budget at $60, but it’s basically a slightly clearer, more v-shaped version of the NarMoo listed below.
    NarMoo S1 – pretty bassy earphones that manage to avoid sounding boring by having decent-quality mids (still a little veiled compared to the Brainwavz, though). Good sound for hip-hop, in my opinion, but might seem a little bloated at first coming from the more accurate RX700.

    Can’t beat $2 FX34s dollar for dollar, though 🙂

  37. Hey Joker,

    Excellent website! When did you transition over from head-fi? I’ve been following your list for quite some time now and have made pretty much all my purchases based on your reviews.

    My current pair of earphones are finally dying, so I’m looking for something new now. Problem is, I don’t know exactly what to get. I mostly listen to hip-hop, along with a bit of electronic and alternrock. What kind of sound signature should I be looking for? The headphones that I’ve owned are JVC RX700 (my favourite, though I wish they were a tad bit bassier), Senn PX 100-II (pretty good, though at times they felt a bit ‘dull’), VSonic GR02-BE (can’t say much about them since they were DOA) and JVC FX34 (loved them to bits, excellent purchase for $2).

    My budget this time around is $50, though I can extend it a bit if its really worth it. I’ll be using them pretty much everywhere, so the more isolating, the better. Also, I won’t be using them with any sort of amp. I do love my bass, though I don’t want it to be overpowering the vocals – should I look at a v-shaped sound then?

    Looking forward to your reply,

    Thanks!

  38. It’s a small step up from a DN-1000 but both sound very different from the UM3X so I’d just go with the less expensive one.

  39. Thank you so much for quick response, I just read your review on the dunu dn-2000. Is it worth the extra 100. If not, I’ll go with your recommendation.
    Again, thank you.
    Anthony

  40. Sure, to have a nice, fun contrast to the UM3X I would either go either v-shaped or warm and bassy.

    For warn and bassy, the Yamaha EPH-100 is a good bet at $150: https://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/yamaha-eph-100/ . It’s got deep-reaching bass that doesn’t sacrifice much in the way of quality. Mids are not too recessed and it’s not harsh or sibilant. Second choice for this type of sound would be the RHA MA750.

    For v-shaped, I would go Dunu DN-1000 at about $200: https://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/dunu-dn-1000/ . Like the EPH-100, it has deep bass (just less of it) but it is clearer in the midrange and brighter up top. In terms of sound signature it’s more like the Westone 3 than the UM3X. My second choice would be the VSonic GR07 Bass Edition.

    Personally, I’d go for the Dunu.

  41. Hi,
    I love your review.
    After reading so many, I am still confused.
    Currently I have westone umx3, like your review on it. it’s a really good iem but kid of boring.
    Can you recommend something that’s more exciting, something that the umx3 does not have.
    I like to keep it around 150-225.
    Thank you
    Anthony

  42. I haven’t tried the IM70 but the GR07 BE is as promised – a GR07 with a bump in the bass. It’s not a huge bump – for GR07 owners it will make sense but someone who blindly buys it just because it is called “Bass Edition” will be disappointed.

    Another option with a similarly clear sound and slightly greater amount of bass is the Dunu DN-1000.

  43. Hi Joker,

    I have being using GR07MK2, although i do like the overall sound signature i found it abit lack on bass.

    I’m currently looking at GR07BE and ATH-IM70. I need your view on it.

  44. Thank you for your time and the detailed reply. I think I will take it slow and build my way up. I read your review about the VSonic VSD1 and I am going to give them a try. I will also get the MEElectronics M6 just because of the price.
    Now the only problem is finding online store that ships the VSD1 to United Kingdom.

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