This topic is to discuss the classic Ear Bud category of headphones. There’s been a major improvement in this category over the past 3 years beyond the traditional Sony walkman buds and the Apple earbuds that come with your old portable music players and phones. The Chinese market has exploded recently with higher quality ear buds with some getting extreme popularity worldwide, such as the Venture Electronics Monks.
I’ll be posting several impressions and reviews of buds I’ve owned and still have. But just to get this started, some of my favorites right now in this area are:
Rose Masya - Awesome dual-driver ear bud. Sort of an unusual fit but sounds very good. It’s roughly $100 with a new Pro model that just came out that’s $150. I have yet to try the Pro.
Yincrow X6 - This is my favorite sub-$10 ear bud. It’s just got a fun, but well balanced V-ish signature. Good bass response for an ear bud and fun sound.
Yincrow RW-9 - A more mature version of the X6 with better balance and soundstage. The X6 is more fun, the RW-9 is more detailed. Vocals are less forward though.
I’ve been a big fan of the Yuin PK1 earbuds for years. Very unassuming looking all black design, but they sound like a million bucks. Very extended, but natural sounding treble. I listen to mostly classical music.
One question and one suggestion:
Question: Where do you draw the line between Ear Buds and IEMs? Dynamic driver versus BA and planar drivers? One driver versus more than one? Round body versus ear shaped chassis?
Suggestion: For a common point of reference, compare everything that comes out to the Panasonic ErgoFit (RP-HJE120 and RP-TCM125). These have a known profile and are extremely common. I’ve had two sets for several years, and always thought they were pretty decent for $10.
Well I was hoping to find a good deal on Amazon with a $16 Faereal Datura-X ear bud. Its made of a nice metal construction and braided cable and looks fantastic. Unfortunately it sounds awful. Maybe the worse earphones I’ve ever listened to. No bass at all. No mids. Crazy veil. Do not buy. Im returning it immediately. I am actually surprised some reviews said it was loaded with bass. I dont hear any bass at all. (Also the product description says low bass response).
@generic when I say ear buds, I mean… the old style ear buds.
Here’s the classic Sennheiser MX series:
Here’s the popular VE Monk Plus:
Here’s the more unique dual driver Rose Masya, which I mentioned above. I have yet to try the Pro or the Mojito.
This was a post I made a while ago on reddit /r/headphones:
Senfer PT15 Mod:
So, I have had the Senfer PT15 for a little while but I always found the bass to be anemic however the upper end was a bit peaky but full of detail. I decided to enlarge the rear vent tonight. I originally tried to dremel it but quickly changed it after not liking how the results were looking on the right side. I changed to drilling a 1/16th inch pilot hole into each vent, and followed with a 1/8th inch hole afterward. So far I am liking the results. It does increase the low end a bit without being muddy and bloated.
Now, after doing this, I took measurements. I wished I took them prior to modding but I forgot.
I have a MiniDSP EARS rig and I’ve been playing around with it on my IEMs and Headphones lately. The ears on the EARS unit are very small. They must have modeled a young child’s ear. Putting ear buds in them is challenging because they are a bit large for the ear. I had to stretch the ear and let it collapse on the ear buds. I also had the ear buds worn over-ear like IEMs are worn, so that I got better fit and making the cord wrap around the ear twice to prevent movement.
Anyway, I measured several ear buds I had on hand:
- Red: Yincrow X6 with foam - a fun ear bud. Great linear response in the mid-low mids with a slight upper bass hump – measurements seem pretty accurate there. The upper end is a bit peaky than it should which could be a limitation of the earbud and the unit combo, but the curve looks good.
- Yellow: Senfer PT15 with the described mod - It somehow became v-shaped. lol! I dont know if this is representative or not because I had a heck of a time trying to get these to fit and stay still. The mids get more recessed before peaking up in the treble region to the highest of all the ear buds tested – the treble peak is probably representative.
- Blue: BlueEverBlue 328R - I really like this and I found the signature to be pretty neutral. The curve looks representative of that with the bass roll-off starting way early. That was a surprise to me actually. There’s also a big dip in the mid-mids.
- Green: Venture Electronics Monk Lite 120 Ohm – These seem to follow the Senfer mod and the BEB through the mids but is then has the most treble and possible air according to this FR graph. I don’t know if I totally agree with it. The VE Monks Lite, while more spacious and neutral compared to the VE Monk Plus is still more mid-focused than the others in actual listening to me.
Anyway, take these graphs with a total grain of salt because of the measurement technique and inability to get great fit with the device. The MiniDSP EARS also has its limitations in general and isnt industry standard.
I suppose a useful distinction is whether or it penetrates the ear canal.
Yea. That could work. Those sort of hybrid IEM/Ear Bud things probably can count too. I’m actually listening to one now that sounds excellent and is $17. The NiceHCK EP10. If you get too much seal, it’ll be extremely bassy, but if you find something that’s got good seal but leaks just a tad, it’s extremely well balanced and detailed. It looks like an Apple Ear Pod but with IEM tips, and made of solid metal. Feels great.
I paid $7.99 for it on 11.11 day.
In most cases yes, but the $10 ErgoFits (per their name) are bent and go deeper like a good IEM. Using classic products, and ear bud has: (1) a round head that doesn’t penetrate, (2) a single dynamic driver. Until a couple years ago IEMs were always very expensive, had odd shaped cases, and at least one BA driver.
Today, cost is the most impactful distinction.
Ear buds have dual drivers now too. Rose Masya and rose mojito are two that come to mind.
To be honest @antdroid I haven’t had a pair of earbuds in years and the ones that I had were just cheap things that came free with stuff. They never fitted correctly and sounded horrible. I am an Iem lover through and through. But I think I should give earbuds a go too. What do you prescribe to a good earbud verging like me? VE Monks?
I think the VE Monk + is overrated to be honest. I am glad they got the revolution of ear buds started but I think the following is a bit maddening. It’s like how the ATH-M50X is overrated.
I never listened to the original Monk though, so I can not comment on it. The Monk + was very mid-centric and very closed in. It’s good for vocals. It has no upper end sparkle and missing width. It is very full bodied and laid back, but it’s not really my thing.
That’s why I feel like the Yincrow X6 for $8-10 or the Vido for $3 is a better option. The Vido and X6 may actually be the same ear bud but of lower quality than X6. They are more spacious sounding and have better bass response and more of a fun V-shape that has better sound width and treble extension.
Earbuds, in general, are very mid focused though, which is where they excel at. Due to the amount of leakage, getting low end extended bass is a challenge. Some of the higher end ear buds in the $100+++ range can come close from what I’ve either listened to or have read about.
A lot of times, FOAM rolling is a thing, and it does change the sonic signature of these ear buds. There’s density of foam, donut foams, and just foamless that can change sound significantly. Rubber o-rings can help with seal as well.
Some buds, I use donuts + thin full coverage foams.
Back to the Monk thing, I really can’t complain though. Its $5-10. You should try it out. It’s still a big improvement on the freebie buds you get.
This was a reddit post I made a while back, but this Ear Bud occasionally pops up on Massdrop for only $10.
The Blue Ever Blue 328R was featured on Massdrop recently for only $9.99. Being an earbud fan, I quickly stuck them in my cart and ordered it. They arrived about a week ago and I’ve been listening to them since. The BeB 328R features the licensed HDSS technology which I don’t fully understand. What I do understand is that it supposedly reduces heat and pressure build up in the enclosure allowing for reduced distortion in the music coming out.
Its very lightweight and made fully of plastic. The photo I showed is modified from the original ear bud. What changed? I removed the cable and put on my own cable. The stock cable absolutely sucks. Its one of the worst cables I’ve ever used - flimsy and easily tangled. I opted to solder on a braided cable I had available. Removing the housing wasn’t as simple as other ear buds. The driver and the housing are connected by a rubber silicone gasket that surrounds the outer edge of the ear bud, and it’s glued into place. So you have to remove this piece and then the driver falls out really easily. It’s not attached by clips or anything, so putting it back together required some cyanoacrylate glue (i.e. superglue).
These are very comfortable for me. They are similarly sized to the VE Monk Lite and Yincrow X6 - probably right smack in the middle of fit between the two, which is perfect in fit for me. I wore them for hours yesterday without any discomfort. Since they are extremely light, they didn’t bother me at all.
Overall sound quality is pretty good, especially for $10. While the advertising states “sweet bass”, I don’t find it bass-heavy like mainstream popular sound signatures provide. It’s actually quite neutral and balanced. There’s a tinge of warmth but it’s subtle. I am using these with the stock foams but I haven’t had a chance to try donuts with them yet. I don’t think I have to. I’ve heard people complain that these are muddy but I have yet to hear that issue.
They are pretty detailed and have some good extension on both ends, but does roll off slightly in the upper treble. I do notice that these ear buds can be a little “shouty” if turned up. This typically is due to some peakiness in the region near 1Khz. I haven’t played too much with eq but I imagine this would help this. It’s not overly distracting though. I found it very distracting in my (much more) expensive UM ME.1 IEMs.
When songs get a bit busy, they do seem a little messy and compressed, but overall the stage is intimate but imaging is pretty good for this price.
As far as EQ goes, I’m using these without EQ and I am enjoying it mostly. Again, reducing 1Khz may help if you listen to it loudly.
Other buds in this price range that I have at my disposal are: Yincrow X6, VE Monk +, VE Monk Lite 120, VE Monk Lite 60, Senfer PT15
Yincrow X6 are more v-shaped. They have more bass impact and a lot more FUN sounding. The 328R is more neutral and balanced.
VE Monk+ are more mid-focused. Better for vocal heavy pop music. Sounds more congested than 328R. I prefer the 328R for my tastes.
VE Monk Lite have similar balance but after switching back and forth between these and the 120Ohms, I found the 328R much more resolving and energetic. The Monk Lite sound very veiled and unnatural after listening to these.
Senfer PT15 are a very bright ear bud and lacking bass. It definitely shows. The PT15 is slightly more detailed but very thin sounding compared to these, and all others in this review.
Yeah, I don’t really want to get the Monks but it’s just the one that popped into my head at the time. What I would like is some buds which sound like my Andromeda’s at around £20. But seriously though I like a decent soundstage not too bassy and very good mids oh and lots of sparkle and air. A very tall order but even a few of those on the checklist would suffice. If it had good Mids and a bit of sparkle I’d be happy.
Glad you mentioned Goam rolling as I cannot wear them without foams. They just don’t sit in my ears otherwise.
So any suggestions Upto about $50.
have you tried NuForce EDC? (around $60)
V-shaped signature, warm, good dynamics. Sound really good (airier top) hooked to Apple cable dac out of a Xs.
Ordered the EDC-3 looking for a sparkle improvement, but they were flat, unengaging and sterile-sounding to me in comparison, not to mention price > $100.
I haven’t tried them no. They seem like quite decent iem’s. Problem is I have so many I would like to try.. It’s another one on my to try list. Thank you very much for your recommendation.
This was my NuForce EDC review:
impressive value for the money.
Really comfortable. Most IEMs tend to cause soreness on my ears, not these.
Love their V-shaped sonic signature, which makes enjoyable all kind of music regardless of their production finesse.
These replaced a pair of Yamaha EPH-100, not missing them at all.
Great with the hands-free cable, really good sound quality, use it daily for minimum 3 hours conferences and no one so far complained about voice quality.
Took a star out due to no volume buttons, and the included one (hands-free button) not working on iOS devices.
These replaced my EPH-100’s for mountain biking and the gym (BA’s and sweating don’t mix)
Similar sound, much better ergonomics and fit, and better convenience (detachable cable); I have dissimilar size ear canals, and had to use different size tips on each bud for proper fit; not the case with the NuForce.
NuForce cable also is easily routed around the ear. (I use a pair of Vsonic GR06 ear-hooks with the EPH-100)
Using them also as musician monitors.
I just in the PMV B01 AOEDE from Penon. They shipped a Penon Audio Scarf with my package of new toys! It’s actually a decent quality scarf too!
Anyway, only have listened to this PMV model for a little bit, but its treble extension and clarity is very good for $30. The mids sound nice and warm. The bass is very lean and fast and rolls off pretty early but sounds clean and won’t be disturbing your mids at all.
Build quality is mostly great, though the first time I pulled the 3.5mm connector out, the cap on it came unglued and popped off. A little superglue should fix this pretty easily.
I don’t think earbuds and ears fit well together…because of the angling, much of the sound, mostly bass, gets lost. I get the best sound by applying the “Slater fit”, that is rotating the bud by 90 degreess so that the screen faces the front of the ear. This is difficult to achieve on the go and bystanders won’t like it.
Slater himself described this:
When you wear an earbud the “normal” way, all of the sound hits the inside of the ear, (dissipating in multiple directions), before making a 90 degree turn to travel down the ear canal. That’s like facing your full size speakers directly towards a wall, and you standing besides them to listen. It makes no sense because so much energy is lost bouncing against the wall.
“Err…the annotations are a bit tongue-in-cheek”.
The best earbuds I have heard at the $30 NiceHCK KB2, which finally beat my old Sennheiser MX560.
My other buds:
Joyroom JR-EL117 1200 mm Driver
VE Monk Plus
FAAEL 32 ohm earbud
…all of these are not great.
As to the Monk Plus, about which I have read reviews as long as a book. In short: they are utter garbage and a classic example of hype. Whereas most reviewers were ranting and raving about them, one reviewer said even using them for listening to FM radio was a waste of time.
And they ain’t cheap: $5 for the basic model, textile covers and remotes extra plus expedited shipping…added up to almost $30 for 2 specimens, one even without a remote.