In-Ear Earphone Review List

Welcome to the headphone list, where we have listened to and evaluated hundreds of in-ear headphones to help you find the best fit for your needs and preferences. This is ljokerl’s table in interactive format that provides an easy way to narrow your selection down to fit your needs. To view all reviews (sorted by most recent), see here: All IEM Reviews. We are constantly adding new reviews, so be sure to check back or follow us on facebook, twitter, or google+.

Don’t see your model listed? Try checking the “Show Discontinued Products” box.

For a more concise listing of our favorite sets for various tastes and budgets, check out our continuously updated Earphone Buyer’s Guide by Sound Signature.

[wpdatatable id=27]

Color coding:
Blue = denotes custom-fit earphones (CIEMs)
Red = denotes discontinued models (select “Show discontinued products” checkbox on left to display)

i column denotes Headset functionality:
blank = no headset functionality
1 = mic + 1-button remote (universal)
3 = mic + 3-button remote for Apple iOS devices
a = mic + 3-button remote for Android devices
v = mic + 1-button remote + analog volume control (universal)

Rating Breakdown
All ratings are scaled to how the particular IEM peforms compared to the best set I’ve heard to date in a particular category.

Accessories: Depends on both quantity and quality of the accessories, as well as on how well-suited they are for the earphone.
Build Quality: Based on choice of materials, assembly quality, physical design, and overall feel. Also includes any observations on the durability of the earphones while in my care.
Isolation: Amount of reduction in ambient noise provided by the IEM. All IEMs isolate external noise by virtue of sealed ear coupling, some more than others. The most isolating IEMs are capable of providing is upwards of 30db of attenuation, an 8-fold reduction in ambient noise volume (enough to reduce the volume of a vacuum cleaner to a whisper).
Microphonics: Susceptibility to cable noise, a common malady affecting in-ear earphones. See here for more info. Mitigating factors such as the inclusion of a shirt clip or cable cinch and the ease of wearing the IEMs over-the-ear are taken into account.
Comfort: How comfortable the earphone is over long stretches of time. Typically tip- and ear-dependent, but general trends still apply.

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  1. When could we expect an update to this list? Some functions don’t work properly like sorting the list by price doesn’t display the items correctly, and also there are many iems that are discontinued or unavailable. This list is pretty amazing, and an update to it could really help everyone out a lot! Thanks for all your work Joker!

  2. Hi there,
    I’m very impressed with the in-depth reviews and rating system.

    Years ago I bought the Shure SE215 special edition iem’s and loved them. From my understanding they’re an entry level, single-driver monitor not needing an amp (fine straight from a mobile or iPod back in the day).

    Despite going through the washing machine a few times they were still great to listen to, until I lost them recently.
    At the time I think they were about $180 AUD. What I loved most about the Shures were their excellent isolation achieved with the foam tips.

    I figured in the time since I bought them, IEM manufacturing tech would have improved, so I don’t think I’ll buy them again given their price is about the same now.

    Given this, what would you recommend in the sub $200 AUD (~150USD) range? Would there be a marked improvement in something available for that price now?
    It seems that Shure have offered the same IEMs for a long time. Should I stick with Shure?

    The highest-ranking IEM of this sort in your table are the Custom Art Music One, but I can’t seem to find them for sale!
    Any help would be appreciated 🙂

  3. Arcollider on

    Hello Joker!

    Great to see someone so influential in the community and so helpful to indivudals 🙂
    Your list is hella impressive!

    I am new to IEMs and coming from headphones… my current favorites are the AKG K712 pro which are extremely analytical and pretty comparable to the HD800s. I enjoy extremely true representations of the music with some very slightly punchy bass and am looking for something more on the go (sold my MDR-1A and Momentum), hence my venture into IEMs. I’m also flexible with the sound signature as I generally enjoy change as well, so feel free to give your full opinion!

    Budget is something below 200$, but I’m living in the EU so it’s hard to get my hand on a lot of things. My options are:

    Shure SE215 / 315 / 425 (didn’t see the latter two mentioned which is why I thought I’d ask)
    RHA MA750 / T20

    I am generally a careful person (so I don’t think I’ll be ripping out cables) but I do think the modularity of the Shures is nice. I’m trying to convince myself not to splurge over budget on the 535 which costs something like 340 here and stick to the analytical 425s at most.

    What do you think?

    Thanks a lot! 😀

  4. Hey Joker!! Its been a long time, a year i think since i’d been here last time.. You already gave me two rommendation that really2 suits my personal taste.. Just last year you told me to go with piston if i have a budget below 50$ and like the sound of gr07.. And here I am, asking you again, what to pick if i want to upgrade my piston? My budget is below 100$.. Thank you in advance!!

  5. I am curious on your thoughts on the MEE Pinnacle P1 and the Brainwavez B400. I went to look for the Custom Art Music One and they don’t appear to be available. It looks like they have been replaced by the FIBAE 1. I am looking for a neutral IEM in the $200ish range.

  6. I am an old Klipsch X5 user and really enjoyed it, sadly cable build quality and accidental bath killed it. Microphonics on that was also pretty bad. I moved to a Sennheiser CX5.00G, which I also really liked, but that had an accident and lasted a year. So, right now I am trying to decide on a balance set in the $50-60 range. Thinking about doing another CX5 as I really like it a lot and really the only one to come with an Android variant. Downside is sound stage could be a tad wider, like the X5 I had. Another model I have my eye on are the Klipsch X6i(seen it going for $60, which is at $100 savings or maybe it was just priced $100 to much?). X6i looks to more or less like proper successor to the X5, with detail & balance sound sound, but sadly no Android variant(play pause work, but I’d like volume control). The other con is microphonics is still an issue on the X6i and cable build still maybe a bit questionable. The other models I am looking at are the Final Audio E2000C, which only has a mic & no volume control. If it’s anything like the E2000 microphonics could be issue, as can cable build quality. There is also the Meze 11 Deco, but like the E2000C only has mic, no volume control, and I am seeing reports of microphonics also being an issue. Seems like the common thread is good balance sound bring microphonic issues with it. Ugh

    Both the CX5.00 and X5 worked fine day to day and at the gym, so really just want something that will last and has the least microphonics and build quality issues of these choices. That is unless you know of a product that will better suit my needs of balanced, detail sound with good build and minimal microphonics? Thank you

  7. Hi ljokerl,

    Nice website and better comments. Congrats. I bought the Music One about 3 years ago following your recommendations at the head-fi forums. They were the best IEM’s I’ve ever had and your review matched my own opinion about them. Even though the sound was amazing, the build quality wasn’t. I had to change them once because one of the drivers started sounding in a lower sound than the other, and now they have failed again. I was about to order the acrylic version but I just don’t want them to fail me again, they cost some money.

    My question is: Do you know any non-custom IEM’s with similar sound for around 100€? I can raise my budget if necessary.

    Best regards.

  8. Hi Admin,

    Would like to know whether you have plan to review Shure KSE1500 and would love to see how it par in your headphone-list.


  9. Hi I’m new and I have a tiny question. Considering that I am a bass-head (I repeat, Im a bass-head), what’s the best Earphone in the range of 300-400$? Could FLC8s do it?
    Of course, I wouldn’t hate sound stage, clearity, imaging, build quality and …
    Thanks in advance

  10. Chee Chuen Lim on

    Hi Joker, thanks for your review list it has always been useful as a benchmark for purchasing new pair of earphones.

    I was following the review table and got to buy an amazing pair of budget earphones Xiaomi Piston 3!!

    Now I’m looking to upgrade it. I have a few on my list at my 100£ budget. Which one would you recommend/ I’m open to any not on my list. I normally use them during commute with my Iphone 7 and noise isolation / good microphonics would be useful as I do some travelling on the plane too.

    1More triple (85£)
    Same shape as piston 3.. 3 drivers and with good review on the sound quality. I like it’s package with airplane adapter as well! Sound quality seems to be one of the highest in this list?

    Ma750i (85£)
    Always a highly reviewed/recommended pair and now it’s available at 55£(Ma750) which might be the deal!!! However, my concern is that I have never tried over the ear and I’m wearing specs. A bit worried that it might not be comfortable. In terms of sound quality, is this better than the others on the list?

    Titan 5/1 or DUNU 1000 (110£)
    Heard good reviews about the Dunu but it’s a bit hard to find them in the UK. Not researched much about them yet.

    I’m open to any other recommendations but my main priority is obviously comfort, sound quality, and noise isolation. I’m sure a lot others had the same question at this price point! Any recommendations would be welcomed!

    I’m open to any type of sound signatures as I’m new into this price range and iem market. I listen to any type of music from pop to classical to rock on Spotify.

    Hope to hear back from you on the comparisons.

  11. Hi there joker, I’m in the search of a nice bluetooth IEM and these are potential finalists (current prices):

    – Focal Spark ($70)
    – MEE X7 ($80)
    – Brainwavz Blu-100 ($40)
    – Plantronics Backbeat Go 2 ($50)
    – Plantronics Backbeat FIT 300 ($80)
    – JLab Audio Epic 2 ($100)
    – SoundMAGIC E10 BT ($55)
    – beyerdynamic Byron BT ($90)
    – Optoma NuForce BE6i ($80)
    – 1More E1006 ($60)

    Any suggestions, would you avoid some in the list? Would you add some I’m not considering? Thanks a lot!

    • I’d add to this list a Shure SE215 with Westone bluetooth cables @ $180 and an RHA MA 750 @ $170. I’d try to avoid them (cost) unless they are far superior than the rest. Thanks again.

  12. Daniel Wiratama Pramono on

    This is really helpful! thanks! I am looking for a good bassy and warm presence IEMs. would you recommend westone UM PRO 30? or do you have any other recommendation? my budget is under $400. thanks

  13. If only we could order this list by sound signature, it would be perfect.

    I am looking for a budget flat/balanced in-ears. I listen to lots of podcasts and I only own V-shaped pairs at the moment. Any recommendations?

  14. Hi joker first time commenting here and i do hope you reply. I use iems for listening in my phone to podcasts and currently using the ha-fxt90 and i really love it but pretty bummed that it does not have a mic. I have the tcm125s as backup but they dont really sound as good as the fxt90s. Can you suggest an inexpensive as well as durable replacement that has a mic? I am also looking at between 1more e1001 and hifiman re400s. Appreciate it mate

  15. Hi Joker,

    Any chance you could list those SoundMagic E80/S/C. These are some budget reference ones. I already have these myself. I just wish you could make a review yourself and rank it here 🙂

    • Hello!
      I want to buy Custom Art Music One, but it’s a discontinued product? I search for EU shop. Thanks for help!

      • These are kinda almost like budget IEMs coming in at $100. Sometimes you’d see these go for less.

        Anyway, if you have a chance to grab these ones off the shelf or in coming sales that would be really nice.

        I could only compare these to IEMs that I have – It’s better than the ATH-CKM500 as you could hear a lot of ambient and subtle sound missed. However it isn’t as bassy as this or the MMX-102 by Beyerdynamic neither is it warm sounding. I’d say this is the most linear IEM I’ve ever tested. Separation of instruments is great. For soundstage I’d still say the ATH-CKM500 performs a bit better. Packaging is very nice since these comes with a hard case and not a soft pouch, also 3 pairs of Comply foam ear tips.

  16. Hi, I am new to higher quality IEM’s. I am about to buy Custom Art Music One’s. I dont have much experience with high quality earbuds and headphones(I have gone through a pair of ATH m-50’s and right now I am currently using Senheiser momentum’s). I wanted to know how these iem’s will stack up sound wise compared to the headphones that I have tried. If you could also let me know if the Custom Art music ones come with foam ear pieces or do iem’s not use those because it does not seem like the Custom Art music one’s come with them out of the box. I am buying from the website Wiplash Audio(is this a reliable website). If you could help me out that would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!


    • Hey did you grab the Custom Art Music One’s from Whiplash Audio because I’m looking into buying the exact same model. I was wondering if the website is legit. Also, it’s whiplash audio and not wiplash audio right? Thanks!

  17. Hi Joker

    This is such a brilliant guide. It’s helpful to folks to who want to pick what suits them as well folks like me who mostly end up advising friends and family what to buy. Well after a long time I find myself in the market for a pair of IEMs after my last pair Sennheiser CX 1.00 gave up the ghost. I enjoyed them quite a bit but the lack of a microphone bothered me. I’m looking for a budget pair and I’ve shortlisted a few. I’m not sure if I’m a bass-head or not but my music is mainly hard rock/rock n roll and EDM. I’ve tried the Brainwavz Omega (uncomfortable and muffled), the Brainwavz XFit (very nice), Sony XB-40 (too much bass). I’m looking for earphones with a headset with decent durability.

    Jays a Jays Five ($12) seems decent
    1More Piston Fit which is a rebadged Piston Classic ($15) 1 year warranty ????
    Brainwavz Delta ($25) breakage issues?
    Brainwavz S0 ($30)

    Also available at $30 are the Jays t Jays Three but they are low on my list because of the lack of a microphone.
    Any other options I should consider?? I’m leaning towards the a Jays Five but it’s hard to decide since most reviews rate them low value because they were priced in a different bracket compared to the others. Hope you can help. Thank you so much.

  18. Joker hello.

    First of all, i would like to thank you for this extensive list and the massive information provided… You have really changed my view on earphones and the ‘fashion’ models (like beats and so on) i keep on seeing every day..

    To my questions:
    1. I need a durable set of earphones for the gym and other external – ‘sweaty’ situations. Not interested in accessories, mic/remote capabilities and comfort but on the other hand I do not want to sacrifice sound (really enjoy the deep bass) and isolation. Could you please propose, some alternatives not above 100 $?
    2. I also need a quality set of earphones for my iPhone, able to handle music very well and accept-make calls etc. Using your detailed table, I identified the RHA MA750 as a decent candidate. Price limit is till 200 $ and again I would really appreciate some alternatives.

    Thanking you in advance

  19. Hi Joker

    This list is epic and super useful, I’m definitely no expert but i get a lot of question from mates looking to buy bc i do my research when buying headgear so the list has helped me as a guide with balancing quality and costs etc.

    I’m now looking for some assistance of my own with an upgrade from my DUNU DN-1000 which have served me extremely well but now looking for the next step up. From what I’ve read either upgrade to the DUNU DN2000 or 2000J would be good but I’m also open to change. I’ve notice you push that similar (slightly cheaper) price range towards the Custom Art Music One but just wanted to see what your thoughts were comparing differences between DUNU and Custom Art.

    • Custom Art Music One follows a very different sound signature from the DUNU hybrids. If you want a completely different experience from what you’ve had, it’ll provide a great contrast, but it’s difficult to view the Music One as a direct upgrade from the DN-1000 – it has much less bass and treble boost, and quite a bit more midrange emphasis.

      Besides the higher-end DUNUs the FLC Technology FLC8 is one that comes up when I think of ways to upgrade from mid-range hybrid earphones. I compared it to the DN-2000 here: . In the configuration I use it tends to be overall more balanced overall while maintaining the general sound signature of the DUNU hybrids. Might be worth a read of the review.

  20. Tiago Pereira on

    Hello Mr. Joker,

    Might as well try my luck 🙂
    After going through 2 sets of Vsonic GR07’s I am also looking for a little upgrade on my listening experience.
    I can say I am a complete fan of these and can’t really point a problem at them.
    It’s also rather for me to say the kind of sound I really like since I lack XP in this “world”.
    I’ve been looking into the Custom Art Music One’s for instance without really understanding what I’ll get.

    So I guess I just want an opinion on where to go. Doesn’t have to be the CAMO’s of course.

    Thanks in advance. And thanks a lot for spending time on helping everyone around here.

    Tiago Pereira

    • The Custom Art is a great value in the world of customs but it provides a different sound tuning than you’re used to with your GR07s, which tend to be a little more aggressive with their bass and treble. There’s an A:B comparison with the GR07s in my review: . If you think that the smoothness of the Music One will be a good step forward for you and you won’t miss the bass punch or treble energy of the GR07, it’s a good buy, but it’s not really a direct upgrade/competitor of the VSonics.

      The GR07 is tough to upgrade from, but the earphone that I’ve had the most success recommending as the next step up for GR07 fans has been the FLC Technology FLC8. It’s more similar to the GR07 in sound tuning and gets ahead in a few areas by a sizable margin. I think there’s even some feedback from ex-GR07 owners in the comments here and in the comments of the FLC8 review as well:

  21. Hi Joker,
    I am planning on getting a new pair of IEMS preferably around $50 CAD. I prefer to listen to rock, j rock, pop, hip hop. My past earphone include: Vsonic VSD3, Alpha+Delta D2, yuin pk3 (All which have did unfortunately). I am leaning towards the vsonics because they have lasted me the longest.

    • If this is your everyday IEM and you’re trying to make it last, maybe it’s worth to sacrifice a bit of audio performance for durability? For example the RHA S500 comes in right around 50 CAD: and is pretty well-made for something in that price range, better than the similarly-priced VSonics. Sound is a little brighter and not as accurate, but definitely not bad.

      • Thanks for the reply. So RHA S500 offers great durability for the price I’m assuming.
        Unrelated, but do you know the sound signature of HD 598? I really enjoy listening to music with them and I’d suppose I’d want to get earphones and headphones with a similar sound signature in the future.

        • Not sure about long-term durability since they haven’t been on the market that long, but the initial quality is very impressive for $50 and RHA has a good reputation in general.

          HD598 is more of a warm and smooth signature, a little rolled off at either end. Hard to find in an IEM under $50 as it’s not a very consumer-friendly sound tuning. HiFiMan RE-400 is probably the closest you can get to that tuning in a budget-ish earphone. Or maybe the Etymotic MC5.

          The S500 is definitely brighter, and doesn’t really compete with higher-end models in sound quality – it’s just well-made.

  22. Hi,

    What IEM would you recommend as an upgrade from Creative Aurvana Live, but without being limited by a budget?

    Many thanks!

      • Thanks, I’ve pulled the trigger and bought the Velvet in the meantime.
        Amazing bass and clarity, really great sound for electronic music but I need your help again.
        Is there a way to add more “bite” for electric guitars and a little bit more emotion for the vocals, by pairing with some specific source or providing more power from an amp or maybe changing the stock cable?
        That would be really close to an end-game for me.
        I’m using a Sony A25 for the moment because its size and battery life are really unbeatable.

        Once again, thank you!

  23. Hi,
    How would you compare the Audio-Technica IM-02 with the Aurisonics Rockets?
    I currently have the IM-02, but I don’t really like the fit and isolation. However, I find the sound quality to be quite good to my taste.

    • They’re actually pretty evenly matched in performance, and the IM02 is one of the better Rockets substitutes now that they’re getting harder to find.

      Overall I find the Rockets to have a slightly more mid-centric sound with more delicate and refined treble that still doesn’t sound dull. Vocals are a bit cleaner thanks to a bit more upper midrange presence. One thing the IM02 has going for it is much higher sensitivity. It also has a little more bass impact and a slightly warmer/darker tone (thanks to less upper mids).

  24. Eduardo Flores on

    I’m wanting to buy some new iems since I only have one working ear on my current headphones. I was wanting a recommendation since I am stuck. I’m trying to find the best overall monitor that would best suit a live setting at a church playing gospel type of music. My overall budget would be ~$400.

    Thanks guys.

    • Really depends on what you’re after. For $400 you could go custom-fit if you wanted to, but among universals and if your goal is accuracy and a comfortable form factor, I’d go with the Audio-Technica ATH-IM02. I used to recommend the Westone W20 for this, which I consider to be the sweet spot of the Westone line for accurate sound and also one of the most comfortable IEMs on the market. However, the IM02 can be found for under $200, is comparable to the W20 in sound, and is no slouch in fit and comfort.

      If you want something more traditional, the Westone UM PRO 30 is still a solid buy. It has a warmer sound than the more neutral W20, but since you’re not mixing/mastering the extra bass and smoothness could actually be an asset.

      Here’s why I recommend those two and not the plethora of other “musician’s” IEMs on the market:

      Ultimate Ears – UE900 is a great value for sound but the form factor is not quite conventional. Since you need something for a live setting I wouldn’t buy them without trying the fit first.
      Shure – SE535 is a little out of budget and the lower-end models aren’t great value IMO
      Audiofly – AF180 is out of budget and I can’t vouch for the lower-end models
      Earsonics – ES3 sounds great but like UE900 it doesn’t quite have the traditional stage monitor form factor. Could definitely fit well, but is a little more risky than a Westone or Audio-Technica
      StageDiver – the SD-2 model would be a good fit but the ATH-IM02 actually keeps up with it pretty well in sound and is much less expensive and more comfortable

  25. Hello Joker, great website!

    I am currently using the Creative Aurvana Live! and I am looking for something that will be more comfortable and offer better sound. Can I get IEMs up to $100 that will be an upgrade in terms of sound quality compared to the CAL!, or will I be better off with a more expensive over ear headphone (I was considering the Sony MDR-1A for $105 or the ATH-M40X for $95)

    I will be driving them directly from my mobile, using Spotify Premium (or Apple Music etc). I am going to be using them at home, so great isolation is not needed. Also I do not like over-ear IEMs and prefer to wear them cable-down.

    I mostly listen to POP, Alternative, EDM, Rock but I also listen to other kinds of music. I like music to sound exciting, bass should be there but shouldn’t take over other parts of the music, and I like vocals and instruments to sound clear but not harsh and fatiguing.

    Here are some IEMs I’ve seen you suggest and the prices I can find them:

    Philips Fidelio S2 – $52
    FiiO EX1 – $62
    1MORE E1001 – $92

    If the prices were the same I would have gone with the 1More, but would it really be better for my needs than the other two, or can I get the same sound quality for less money by choosing one of the others?

    One more thing: The EX1 and the 1More seem to be more universally liked than the S2, while you rate them all about the same. Do you know why?

    And one last thing: There is now the FiiO EX1ii (about $77) are you planning to review it?


    • It’s going to be hard to upgrade from the CAL! for $100, headphones or IEMs, unless there’s something specific you are looking for that is not the warm/bass/smooth sound signature the CAL! excels at. Also, while you will surely find some sets that do certain things better than the CAL!, they almost surely won’t be better at everything.

      Maybe this will illustrate what I mean:

      Fidelio S2 – very good value at $50 but more of a flat/neutral sound. It’s definitely less exciting than the others and coming from the warm CAL! may sound somewhat sterile.
      EX1 – has superb bass quality (exactly the way you describe what you want from bass) but tends to be strong in the upper midrange. I don’t personally classify it as harsh, but since you’re coming from the CAL! (which is somewhat subdued at the top end) it might seem a little bright, especially at first.
      1MORE Triple – always a solid buy but the v-shaped sound signature makes this the most “consumer”/least “Hi-Fi” sound of the three. It’s the “safe choice” here and performs great for the price, but won’t be as smooth or as rich in the mids as the CAL!.

      If I was looking for a compliment to the CAL! I think the EX1 would be quite a fun contrast to have. But if I was looking to *replace* the CAL!, the choice would be much more difficult.

      Can’t comment on others’ reviews of the S2 but to me they perform around the same level as the 1MORE and EX1/Dunu Titan. I personally actually like the S2 better because it’s more neutral- the 1MORE has more of a v-shaped sound signature and the Titan 1 has significant upper midrange boost.

      Also, keep in mind that 1MORE and DUNU/Fiio are very active in the audiophile community with tons of review samples being sent and lots of PR activity. Philips has none of that.

      Not familiar with the EX1ii.

      • Thanks for your reply!

        I will keep the CAL! (I am not into selling stuff) but how much I would listen to them would depend on how much more comfortable / better sounding the new IEM would be.

        The other thing with the CAL! is that my phone (Samsung Galaxy S4 mini) can barely drive them. I often have to max out the sound to get them as loud as I want them, and while I wouldn’t want it any louder I feel that my phone is not strong enough to drive them good and that an IEM would be easier to drive.

        Looking at the impedance / sensitivity of the 3 IEMs above I guess the S2 should be the easier to drive? How about the other two. 1More has 32 Impedance but 99 Sensitivity, while Titan 1 has 16 Impedance but 90 Sensitivity, which of them two would perform better when using a phone?

        • S2 is not hard to drive but it also doesn’t get super loud. Titan 1 is actually the loudest of the bunch. Comparing specs, even “objective” ones like impedance and sensitivity, from different manufacturers is tricky because there’s no set measurement standard (and noone double-checking/enforcing the advertised specs). In my experience specs across one manufacturer’s product line can be compared to each other somewhat reliably, but that’s about it.

          • Thanks. I ordered the Fiio EX1 which supposedly is the same as the Titan 1, although Fiio gives its sensitivity as 102db instead of 90db. This difference in specs had me worrying that maybe they are not the same, but maybe it is what you said – different manufacturers giving very different specs for the same thing.

            • Someone compared the two (I think it was in the comments of my Titan1 review) and found them to be extremely similar. I’d trust listening impressions over specs, so you should be safe with the EX1.

              • I got the EX1 and also the Sony MDR-1A (over ear HP). I actually really like the EX1 and prefer them to both the CAL and the MDR-1A.

                The EX1 have clear open sound and punchy tight bass, and can be driven fine by my mid-range phone. (I feel that the CAL and the MDR-1A could use a bit more power). Initially I felt that the highs are slightly harsh, but I got used to this now.

                I’ve already spend more than I wanted for headphones, but I wonder: What higher end IEMs/HPs have this kind of sound signature?

                • Haven’t had a chance to try any of the newest-gen Sony headphones myself, but I’m glad you’re enjoying the EX1! Your impressions are exactly as I would expect.

                  The EX1’s is not a very common sound tuning with higher-end headphones because a lot of higher-end sets tend to de-emphasize the upper midrange in order to reduce listening fatigue (especially earphones that are deemed stage/musician monitors).

                  There are still some exceptions among upper-tier earphones – the Aurisonics Rockets, for example, have what is basically a smoother/more balanced/more subdued version of the Titans’ sound signature. Great handling of the midrange with an overall sound signature that’s a tiny bit dull in comparison to the Titan/EX1, but super smooth.

                  Etymotic ER4 has similar midrange quality and presence but the bass is not nearly as emphasized or impactful as the Titan/EX1. The new extra-bass ER4XR model might be the answer to that but I haven’t tried it.

                  Final Audio earphones tend to not be shy in the upper midrange and can be considered upgrades to the Titan1/EX1 (in fact, a lot of earphones from Japan tend to have brighter sound signatures that what you see with US/European brands). Unfortunately all the FA models I’ve reviewed have been phased out. The Audio-Technica CK100 has this signature too but those are also discontinued.

                  You can also approximate this sound using the tuning system on the FLC Technology FLC8, but it will usually have the reverse upper midrange vs treble balance compared to the EX1 – i.e. it will have a little more treble than upper midrange.

  26. Hi THL!
    First time commenter here on THL, and I just want to thank you guys for the great in-depth reviews and insights.

    I currently have an Alpha & Delta AD01 that I got after you guys gave it a rabing review. No regrets! Loved the sound signature and the build quality. However I am looking to upgrade. Currently lookinh at the IM02, UE900, Westone 2 or maybe just getting my first CIEM, maybe the AAW A3H pro since I am here in Singapore.

    I would love a recommendation from you guys cause I am perplexed on what would be a good upgrade!

    • Glad you’ve found our reviews helpful!

      Is there anything particular you’re looking for compared to your AD01? Because the IM02, UE900, and Westone 2 are all much flatter/more accurate earphones. If what you’re looking for is a more uncolored and true-to-recording listening experience, then those are all solid options (I happen to think the IM02 is the best value of the three).

      However, if you’re looking for is more of a direct AD01 upgrade – something that resembles the more fun, bass-heavy, and warm/v-shaped sound of the AD01 – then those three are not great options because they’re so different. A better bet for that would be something like a Sony XBA-H3 or an EarSonics ES3 or Velvet.

      • Thanks for the reply!

        I would indeed love to keep to a fun sounding iem. Would probably head down to an audio store to audition the Sony’s based on your recommendation. Are there any other iem around the sony’s price? (I am a working student, so I don’t really have too much to splurge on D: )

        • If you have the chance to audition I’d see if you can find a Yamaha EPH-100, RHA MA750, JVC FX700 (or 750 or 850), Sennheiser IE80 – these are all fun-sounding IEMs in the same ballpark as the Sonys. I personally think the Sonys are a bit better, but in some cases you could be paying 3x more for them than these others. I’d maybe even try an RHA T20 and DUNU DN-2000 if you can audition them first.

  27. Hi Joker. I’m super perplexed. I have the sennheiser ie800, Sony xba z5, and Dunu 200j, all Pretty high quality universal iems. However, when I use my bloodroots earphones rbh epsb and jaybird freedom f5, I am more impressed with the sound. Now I bought my wired phones based on reviews of soundstage and 3D sound, but these two Bluetooth headphones really separate everything and attack from all over in a total 360 headspace. Ive never heard anything like it and they both cost $150. Any idea why these have this level of separation and 3D sound when totl iems don’t? And can you recommend any iems that would give me the sound I’m looking for? I ordered rocket r50 and Yamaha who 100 based on your reviews. They are on the way. But I am hesitant to get the flc8s as I’m not sure they will be very different from the dunu 200j. Is there something about the Bluetooth technology that adds to separation and soundstage? Maybe the additional amping? For sure other bt iems I’ve tried sound like crap so….

    • No idea, I have an RBH EPSB and I don’t really find it very impressive. In fact, it sounds (and looks) pretty much identical to an older Bluetooth IEM I’ve had for several years, which was like $50 new. It probably isn’t a good idea for me to recommend more wired IEMs for you if we can’t even agree on whether the EPSB sounds good – maybe it is something about the way you’re driving your higher-end IEMs, maybe it’s some kind of DSP or crossfeed effect that Bluetooth is introducing in your application – not really sure. But if you’ve found two IEMs you really like I don’t see anything wrong with that, most people here would love to be satisfied with a pair of $150 Bluetooth IEMs.

  28. Hi joker. Love your work

    For the time being, im still using xba 100. Im fairly new to iem, so i just dont know how to describe the sound. Any earphone that have same sound signature as xba 100?

  29. Hello! So I recently got the JVC FXT90’s as my daily drivers and they sound great, but now i’m really interested in trying out analytical earphones. Everyone recommends the Etymotic’s, but I really need my comfort. Don’t feel like you can enjoy the music when you don’t want to use the earphones. Anyways, what is the cheapest option for me?


    • Etymotics can be comfortable with the right tips, but you can also get a good contrast to the FXT90 with a different entry-level BA earphone, like a Phiaton MS100BA. These have a pretty conventional fit and while they’re not Etymotic-level analytical, they’re pretty flat compared to an FXT90. Final Audio Heaven II would be an even better option, but more expensive and harder to find.

  30. This is a really great list. Is there any chance you could offer a sort for j-cord models. I’m a big fan of j-cord headphones and I’m just looking for anything that has a j-cord and a three button remote. That appears to be pretty hard to find now, but if you know of any please let me know!


    • I actually haven’t come across any j-corded earphones as of late. Last one was the Sony MH1C, I believe, and that was 3 years ago or so. I also have a Sony XBA-3 which is j-corded, but I believe the headset version (XBA-3ip) has a y-cord.

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