Rank the IEMs You've Heard

This is one of my favorite threads on Head Fi…curious to see opinions of the people on this forum.

  1. *QDC Anole VX --> Clear, resolving, balanced, impactful, detailed, well executed bass, stage deep AF…ticks all my boxes.
  2. *Campfire Solaris --> Very close to #1, with better bass texture, but lacks just a touch of impact in the midbass region.
  3. EE Legend X --> Excellent detail and bass texture but not qualified as an “all rounder” like the top 2.
    4)* Sony IER Z1R --> Excellent treble and bass texture/extension, midrange too recessed for my liking and has coherence issues between the drivers on the top and bottom.
  4. *Campfire Atlas --> Excellent bass impact, very clear and isolated, but a slight step below the above, not really an “all rounder”
  5. Campfire Andro Gold --> In some ways like a VX with the bass switch on but not as clear and detailed, bass a bit congested.
  6. 64 Audio U12t–> Similarities to VX with bass switch on, midrange is a little more diffused and overall a little bright for my tastes.
  7. Campfire Andromeda–> Excellent just not my thing, needs bass and more mids
  8. Empire Ears Phantom–> Well executed but…dull.
  9. 64 Audio Tia Trio–> Same as above…I found it boring.
  10. Noble Kahn–> All mids…where is the bass and treble. Great for some but not for me.
  11. Moondrop Kanas Pro

*These are IEMs I’ve owned and demoed extensively for days/weeks on end and am much more confident in my impressions of them than of the others where my demo time was much more limited, often less than an hour.

8 Likes

1 - Sony IER Z1R
Jesus Christ that bass. It’s natural, it’s extended, and it’s damned powerful. Best thing this side of a subwoofer. Low mids are slightly recessed, making things like vulfpeck and Frank Sinatra hard to listen to, but they are detailed and have nice timbre. Upper mids are presented a bit forward, making higher pitched male vocals and female vocals a treat. Tonality and dynamics here are quite good. Treble is smooth and extended. I find it doesn’t have coherency issues but ymmv. Detail isn’t absolute tops but it’s good enough. The one area it struggles as a totl is separation, busy tracks can get congested.

2 - 64 Audio U12t/A12t
These have the best bass I’ve heard from a BA set. Not quite as natural as a DD but fast and impactful, with a bit of subbass boost to help add punch. Where 12t really excels is dynamics and resolution. These are at the top in those categories, without sacrificing natural tonality and timbre. Mids are slightly recessed, but not to the level of Z1R, meaning both male and female vocals shine. Treble is peaky but extended. Soundstage is wide but imaging isn’t super precise, things tend to get pushed to the side.

3 - Vision Ears VE8
Ohhh man all those male vocals we’ve been neglecting? Yeah here’s their time to shine. Bass isn’t a highlight here, you get punchiness and a natural timbre, but you won’t get the rumble that 12t and Z1R give you. Good enough, but not stellar. Mids though, now we’re talking. VE8 lends all the warmth you could ever want, allowing gravelly male vocals to occupy center stage. As vocals get higher, they become sweeter, still warm but not as powerful on this set. Female vocals aren’t as crystal clear as on the previous sets. Treble isn’t emphasized, but it is extended. Soundstage is rather average, but imaging is quite good. Detail is not top tier, but this is easily the highest res warm IEM you can get.

4 - Shure KSE
Now this is a strange pick for #4, but hey it gave me one of those “oh shit” moments so I had to rank it high. Detail detail detail. That’s what these are about. The speed of the electrostat driver allows these to give you that crystal clear sound that nothing else will, making them sound insanely good on certain tracks, for instance acoustic guitar. However they have a few fatal flaws. Their extremely fast decay doesn’t lend them to having pleasing bass. It’s tight but lacks impact, and isn’t particularly textured. Timbre is all over the place in the mids, making vocals sometimes sound great and sometimes exhausting. Treble is great. Soundstage is below average, but imaging is excellent. Definitely worth the listen just for that experience of rethinking what is possible in an IEM, but I wouldn’t buy these.

5 - QDC Anole VX
These are objectively very good but I can’t get myself to like them. Detail is top tier, with above average soundstage and imaging. However these die in the bass for me. It’s got plasticky timbre, lacks impact and reminds me exactly why people always shill DD over BA. Sure it’s fast and textured, but it just… Sounds wrong. Mids are a very clinical affair, very dynamic and detailed, but a bit dry. Treble is extended and smoother than A12t, so I guess if you value treble more than bass (smh) these would be your A12t from anotha motha.

6 - Sony IER M9
These are a bit boring, but boring doesn’t always mean bad. Bass is a bit flabby compared to the totls before, but it’s natural and impactful. Bit more emphasis on midbass than subbass here. Mids are warm and well suited to both male and female vocals, and treble isn’t very forward but it is extended. Soundstage is below average in width but imaging is very precise. Dynamics aren’t great but layering and separation are tops. Detail is good, but not top tier. This is overall a poor man’s VE8, which ya know, is still pretty good.

7 - 64 Audio Tia Trio
This guy is very V-shaped. Your male vocals will disappear, moreso than on Z1R. Bass is very textured and impactful, but not super quick. Mids are ok, but you can barely hear them. Treble is elevated but fairly smooth. Where these excel is providing a huge Soundstage, much like the fourte does, but these aren’t tonally fucked like those are.

8 - 64 Audio U18t/A18t
Bruh moment, your flagship is worse than its lower priced siblings. So these have timbre issues. They’re still top in terms of detail layering separation all that shit. However, in their quest to make the ultimate “reference” monitor, 64 forgot to make things sound good. Bass is textured and detailed but not impactful. Mids have those timbre issues I mentioned before. Vocals sound unnatural, as though they’re being filtered before they hit your ear. Detail and dynamics can’t be faulted though. Treble is very extended and prominent, but it reaches levels where it’s sibilant to me. Overall a significantly worse iem than 12t.

9 - Campfire Andromeda S/Solaris
Andro S - Slightly more elevated upper mids than the Andromeda, which you’re all familiar with. These have really nice treble but that’s about all I can say I like about them. The mids are rather hollow and lacking in detail, and the bass is just muddy and flabby. Better than original andro for sure tho.
Solaris - HOW DO YOU MAKE A HYBRID WITH BASS THAT SOUNDS LIKE A BA??? Only campfire audio can seem to manage this, but otherwise Solaris is quite nice. Hollow mids again, but more detailed than Andro, and treble is extended. Soundstage is great on these, though imaging is average. I would rank Solaris slightly higher than Andro, but it has QC issues and the bass has BA timbre and lacks slam, which is unacceptable for a DD hybrid.

10 - Empire Ears Legend X
BAAAAASSSSSS. That’s it. Mids are sacrificed a bit due to the very elevated bass but wow these sound like club speakers in your ears. Get them if you want bass only.

Edit: IEMs I definitely want to hear: Hidition Viento, Pears SH3, Jomo (any of them lol), Elysian Annihilator

IEMs that are the opposite of being on this list: Shure SE846, Campfire IO, Delta Airlines Earbuds, anything Sennheiser, KZ… well there’s a lot of garbage out there :joy:

5 Likes

my current favs:

premium tier:

  • qdc anole vx
  • 64 audio u12t
  • sony ier-z1r
  • campfire solaris
  • custom art fibae 7

lower price tier

  • etymotics er2xr
  • moondrop kanas pro
  • samsung galaxy buds
  • sony wf-1000xm3
  • tin hifi t4

hopefully hidition viento-r tops this list soon.

8 Likes

My Current List (as at 13/01/2020)

  1. Sony IER-Z1R
    I agree with most of @Kandhi’s sentiments. To add on, it has the best bass in any IEM for me. Extension, rumble and slam are all excellent while maintaining control in the mid and upper bass regions to prevent bleed and bloat which are big no-nos for me.

  2. CanalWorks CW-U77
    An IEM unknown to the Western audience. This is the king of uppermids and female vocals. Female vocals are sweet and engaging in a way that I don’t get with any other IEM. It’s warm with elevated uppermids and treble to balance it out. Coloured in all the right ways. It can be seen as a 1-trick, being tuned for female vocals (especially Asian), but that’s majority of my music, so I am its target market. I can’t sing enough praises of its vocal performance, it is tear-inducing.

  3. Hidition NT-6
    Another IEM that’s lesser known in the Western market. The reference IEM. Neutral-bright signature that just sounds correct and superb treble extension.

  4. Acoustune HS1695 Ti
    Acoustune’s new flagship. Very agreeable and fun sounding IEM without going overboard. For less critical listening, this is great. Good bass response with adequate extension and rumble. Very airy sound. Will work well with most genres. Technicalities and resolution aren’t special for its price but they ain’t bad either.

  5. Shure KSE1200
    The last say in resolution and speed. Tonality issues can be fixed with EQ.

  6. Hidition Viento-R
    The FOTM for Asian TOTLs it seems. Very deserving of its praise. Very well-tuned, good technicalities and resolution, and switches that aren’t gimmicks. My favourite tunings are B (bass up) and D (bass and mids up). It needs bass switch up to have any presence in the bass at all. Mids switch is genre-dependent, I like it with acoustic vocal tracks. BA timbre comes off strong. An all-rounder IEM.

  7. 64 Audio U12t
    Best bass in any full BA setup. Top tier resolution. Upper treble peaks are undesirable for me and midrange tonality sounds off.

  8. qdc TOTL (VX, Gemini, 8SL)
    Resolution and technicalities-focused lineup. “Neutral” with bass boost signature, safe tuning but doesn’t do anything special for me. Midrange tonality sounds off.

  9. Vision Ears VE8
    ZMF Aeolus with stock pads in an IEM for me. Warm and thick sound which benefits male vocals, especially gravelly male vocals like Louis Armstrong. Not so much for female vocals. And it does this while maintaining a high level of technicalities, a trait that other warm and thick IEMs fall flat on. As my music has a lot more female vocals than male vocals, it finds itself lower on the list (but still makes it!).

  10. In-Ear ProPhile 8
    Dead flat reference sound focused on technicalities. Excellent layering. Can sound anemic and sterile, the switches help but don’t eliminate the issue.

6 Likes

Lots of new comers, that’s really nice ! Cool to have some IEM connoisseurs as well !

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This might be my last update for a while (famous last words) as I’ve recently acquired an Empire Ears Legend X to fulfill my “endgame goal” of having on hand an IEM that delivers a balanced presentation (Solaris SE) and another that delivers a more fun and “basshead” presentation (Legend X). Fundamentally these two IEMs epitomize the two major pillars of my tastes. A couple caveats about the list that follows (apart from the usual preamble that audio is subjective, YMMV and all that).

First : The order here is simply a representation of their relative positioning in my life at this moment-- some of them are “all rounders” and others attain their position by doing a few things very very well. It is no way meant to convey any sort of absolute order of said IEMs’ objective worth.

Second : IEMs, for me are more a “whole is greater than the sum of the parts” sort of deal. A superficial demo (~1 hour or less) will give you some idea of salient characteristics and certain technical features, but to really get a sense of where something fits in the grand scheme of things you need to spend some time with it. Some IEMs only reveal their true worth after you’ve spent a good deal of time with them. As such my first list will comprise those IEMs which I have owned, spent a good deal of time with and am thus better prepared to rank them more meaningfully according to my preferences. The second list will consist of those IEMs I had a chance to demo only briefly and never owned. Anyway, on with it.

List 1-- IEMs I’ve owned

  1. Campfire Audio Solaris Special Edition -> The top of the pyramid, for me. This IEM encapsulates everything I look for in a monitor-- natural, balanced, spacious, clear, impactful, dynamic bass, not to mention beautiful. A subtle but clear step up from OG Solaris to my ears with improved clarity, more robust and forward vocals and cleaner bass. What the Solaris does better than any other IEM I have heard is provide coherent and well balanced signature within a fully rendered 3-d space combined with impeccable layering and separation-- it doesn’t excel at any one thing FR wise, but it does “everything” better than anything I’ve heard (to my ears). I know many have cited “weirdness” in the upper midrange as an issue with Solaris…but I’ve never heard it. And yes, there is a hint of the “BA texture” to the bass…but it’s far and away a DD above all. What I really appreciate about this IEM more than anything is the perfect balance it brings to the spectrum-- there’s just enough of everything and nothing is overwhelming…and this is something that stands out more and more as my hours on it wear on-- CFA has, imho, reached a “zen” level of balance with Solaris. It might not be for everyone, but it’s definitely for me.

  2. Empire Ears Legend X -> Bass of the gods. The thundering yang to complement the ethereal yin of the Solaris. With the LX the whole signature is defined by the bass-- it’s large, it’s powerful and it’s everywhere. Thankfully it’s also very resolving and detailed so that the rest of the sound isn’t drowned out in the bass. Nonetheless the bass is present and it dominates. The sheer quantity of bass makes the sound is a bit “closed in”…like you’re in a club with the bass pounding…I wouldn’t go so far as to say congested, as one of the great things about LX is that it somehow avoids this despite all the bass…it’s why I would call it the ultimate “basshead audiophile” IEM. The key is that it’s so refined and resolving. The CFA Atlas (which I also love) was described as having “get off the bus and shit yourself bass”, well by that metric the LX has “park your Mercedes and shit yourself bass”. It’s definitely a “guilty pleasure”, but I’m ok with guilt and I love pleasure. Nonetheless, due to the robust low end on the LX it can be said to be lacking a bit of air, which I get from my #1 above. Thus the 2 are a perfect pair for me. The LX is akin to listening to music in a club-- a more confined space, with the thundering bass permeating everything, much like the oil in an olive. If the LX is like listening in a club the Solaris is like listening on a mountain top-- grounded in the bedrock of the powerful bass, but wide open up top, and to the left and right, so everything has room to breathe. Together they are a great 1-2 punch.

  3. QDC Anole VX --> Clear, resolving, balanced, impactful, detailed, well executed bass, stage deep AF…if anything a little too “analytical”. It’s very detailed and involving but it lacks the sheer sense of space as well as the beautifully natural timbre and DD bass that the Solaris provides. When I first heard this I was very impressed with its clarity, balance and detail. Some have described it as “boring” but I would disagree with that-- it’s more for the analyst and less for those who need to be “swept off their feet”. It’s very vivid in some regions of the treble, to the point that certain instruments, like pianos, sound a little unnatural, and just ever so slightly fatiguing on poor recordings. Still a solid top tier IEM and one I was very grateful to have spent some time with.

  4. Campfire Solaris OG --> See #1. I’m really splitting hairs here with #3, but since the VX did what no other IEM was able to do-- lure me away from Solaris for a bit-- as a respectful nod I’ll give it the #3 position in this list. While I stand by my assessment of the improvements of the SE over the OG, I’m not entirely sure if Solaris SE winning me over again was a result of said improvements, or of the fact that I just was just missing the Solaris sound. In any case, here we are.

  5. Sony IER Z1R --> Natural timbre (about on par with Solaris for me), excellent treble and peerless bass texture and extension, but I found this to be a bit of a double-edged sword in that I wished there was more impact in the bass-- it’s about on par with Solaris in terms of sub-bass impact and less than Solaris in mid bass impact to my ears. The recessed lower mids were one of the deal breakers for me here-- I listen to a lot of male vocals (Sinatra, Knopfler, Morissey) and I found them all a tad lacking…which I could have forgiven if there was more impact in that delicious bass. Ultimately the Z1R occupies a weird sort of “no man’s land” for me in that it lacks the bass impact I crave in a “v shaped” monitor but its mids were too recessed to satisfy me as a balanced one. Also, to my ears there is strange disconnect between the upper and lower drivers and once I picked up on it it more-or-less signaled the death knell of my relationship with this IEM. I understand that this IEM game is constantly a game of give and take and that some sacrifices were made in coherence to preserve the purity of the bass, which may work for some but it didn’t work for me. YMMV, and all that. I think it’s still a great IEM, and I know it’s beloved by many-- it just doesn’t float my boat in the same way that the ones above do.

  6. Campfire Audio Atlas --> I’ll always have a soft spot for the Atlas as it was basically my “gateway” to TOTL IEMs. Excellent bass impact, very clear and isolated, but a slight step below the LX in terms of refinement and not really an “all rounder.” Still, if you had the money to spend and were after “shit yourself” bass cannon but didn’t want to shell for the LX, this would get my vote in a heartbeat.

List 2-- IEMs I’ve demoed

  1. 64 Audio U12 t --> I demoed this when I owned the Solaris. Has more bass impact than Solaris but, while “good for a BA” lacks the DD texture I love. Balanced and laid back, slightly diffused mid-range but overall less vivid, detailed and layered than VX, which might be why it totally didn’t grab my attention. Treble was a little intense for me at times. Definitely one I need to try again some time.

  2. Campfire Andro Gold --> In some ways like a VX with the bass switch on but not as clear and detailed, bass a bit congested.

  3. Campfire Andromeda --> Excellent and much heralded just not my thing, needs dynamic bass and more mids.

  4. Shure KSE --> Overwhelming clarity and detail…but failed to move me in the slightest. Lacks bass and overall tone was a bit odd.

_________________My time with the IEMs below was too limited to be meaningful so I’ve numbered them according to when I heard them, starting with the most distant.

  1. Empire Ears Phantom --> Well executed but…dull.

  2. 64 Audio Tia Trio --> Same as above…I found it boring. This is one I need to try again as I heard it right after the VX and I think the VX ruined me for other IEMs that day.

  3. Noble Kahn --> All mids…where is the bass? Great for some but not for me.

  4. Moondrop S8 -> I really enjoyed my brief demo of the S8. It’s probably tops in its price bracket but a (often slight) step down from the TOTLs elsewhere on the list. If you don’t need DD bass, crave a balanced natural sound and don’t want to break the bank…this would be a great place to start.

8 Likes

Great impressions and a very nice list of TOTL iems. Bass is not my thing and tend to steer in the other direction. I respect your tastes though. You have also listened to some great gear.

4 Likes

In lieu of ranking (I’ve listened to way too many IEMs for that) I’ll list a few options across a couple categories.

Monitoring IEMs (resolution + neutral tuning)

  • Shure KSE1500/1200. Hyper-resolving, hyper-fast, nothing too weird about the FR. The only real downside is the mandatory portable amp. I find the DAC on the KSE1500 pretty mediocre and would recommend the 1200 unless you plan on running them with a smartphone.
  • 64 Audio A18t/U18t. My own choice for testing equipment and occasional monitoring work. I still think that these are the pinnacle of all-BA designs with an arguably more useful signature compared to the Erlkonig and various triple-way hybrids.
  • LCDi4 with desktop sources. The LCDi4’s (and to an only slightly less extent, the LCDi3) scale up with sources in the way that big planars do. You can legit run them off a speaker amp and get really, really good performance matching the Shure E-stats in resolution. But they diminish somewhat on portable sources and get dark/bassy when you don’t feed them properly.
  • Fitear MH335DW/DWSR. Fitear’s take on a high performance monitoring IEM. I won’t call its resolution matching the A18t but it solves the A18t’s two main problems (coherence and the BA bass). You still get seriously good resolution but with near DD-levels of coherence and bass extension.

Vocals

  • VE Erlkonig. Extremely dense, clear and well-controlled midrange good for all manners of vocals. If you’ve tried the VE8 demo it’s largely the same signature but cranked up to 11. I find the density a bit overpowering for my own tastes but I appreciate the idea behind the tuning profile.
  • JH Lola. Dual DD midrange is thick and great for male vocals and Jazz. Arguably the best male vocal take I’ve heard in a UIEM.
  • Canal Works L72PST. The ultimate Asian female vocals one trick pony. I’ve tried a few companies’ takes on the idea (Fitear, QDC, ATH, Sony’s special JE custom for the WM1, etc.) and IMO Canal Works takes the idea the furthest. On my future purchase shortlist.
  • Fostex TE200. Not particularly resolving but extremely natural and easy to listen to. I could swear that it was a single DD design when I demoed it. Great for anything not super-well recorded.

Good price/performance ratio

  • Noble K10u (Massdrop). Arguably first-tier SQ from a pretty venerable 9BA design at a sub-$1,000 (or sub-$700 used) price point. Reasonably all-rounder tuning is a plus.
  • ACS Evolve. Solid 3BA soft-shell design with great bass and superb isolation for $700-ish (ACS runs sales semi-frequently and if not, you can always ask for freebies like custom fit earplugs). They have a 5BA design but IMO the extra $200 isn’t worth the performance increase.
  • CA Solaris. I’m generally not a huge fan of ALO’s house designs but the Solaris is a really decent choice at around $1,200 street price. I really enjoyed mine when I had them, and the only major issue is the fit which runs very large.
  • Inear PP8S. Street prices comparable to the Solaris. Neutral, clean and very, very wearable.
  • Anything from QDC (if you can get in somewhere in Asia). Superb build quality and lots of customization options on both CIEMs and UIEMs (they can also build universals to order).

Orchestral

  • IE800/800S on strong sources. Another one that’s tough to drive. With the LCDi3/i4 I think that they’ve been more or less superseded on desktop sources but if you have a portable amp that might just be short on getting the most out of planars, the IE800 is a great option for the right tonality and balance for classical music.
  • Hifiman RE2000 (at the right price with the right source). Similar to the IE800 in drivability but don’t pay a hair more than $900 for them, Hifiman’s pricing in the US is severely inflated although the IEMs themselves are quite decent if a bit tough to drive. Arguably the best single DD IEM on the market today (although I might give this to the JVC FW10000).
  • Sony MDR-EX1000. I had a pair for 6 years and loved them. Old but still respectable when it comes to instruments. Can run a bit peaky with modern processed vocals.
  • Tia Fourte. Try this for yourself as people seem to either find the artificially huge staging charming or forced. In terms of staging only a few IEMs even come close (LCDi3/i4 of course, Elysium, Fitear EST/Titan, etc.) I lean toward the former and it’s the one UIEM I regret selling the most. Can’t say that it’s not overpriced though.
  • VE Elysium. Holographic treble and energetic mids makes for powerful overall presentation that’s great for big ensembles. Bass is just good enough though and they are pricey.

(More to come)

10 Likes

If there’s any earphone I’m going to up and blind buy one day simply because of everything I’ve read about it it’s the LCDi4. Save its lack of isolation it’s the one piece of gear I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone criticize.

3 Likes

I like to think of them as a substitute for big cans when isolation isn’t of importance. For example, I travel with a pair of regular IEMs for planes/trains/etc and the LCDi4 for hotels or when I get my own office on business trips.

Not sure if this is kosher, but I’m actually selling both the LCDi3 and LCDi4 (but only one of the two) right now. Got both and decided that I could live with either one. If you’re interested in either one let me know.

1 Like

Yes, it’s kosher.

You’re welcome to list them in the Buy & Sell category.

3 Likes

Thanks. I’ve been wanting to do a comparison review but with some new incoming stuff it’s not a priority, and I figure that I’ll just try to sell halfheartedly and if they don’t sell by the time I get through the other reviews, I’ll do a real i3 vs. i4 writeup.

Procrastination and all that…

3 Likes

Thanks that’s tempting but given that I’ve bought both a Legend X and Solaris SE in the past month I’m probably going to cool it on buying anything new for a while.

“Don’t ask for better gear, ask for the strength to enjoy the gear you already have.” - Bruce Lee

3 Likes

Thanks so much for this. I find it incredibly useful. Glad to have all your experience getting passed on.

2 Likes
  1. LCD-i4 - It’s not even close. Ridiculous soundstage and incredibly transparent. Obv eqs well. Can be bassy. True jack of all trades, minus isolation.
  2. Anole VX - A tad bright but another jack of all trades. Can do any genre very well. Incredible bass for a BA. Almost enough to satisfy a basshead. Big soundstage, INCREDIBLE detail. Fun but reference tuning.
  3. Solaris - similar to the VX. Does everything well. I heard a bit of nasal quality in the mids, but that’s allegedly been resolved. There are not many hybrids that are very well balanced and have present mids, so the Solaris gets my respect for that.
  4. 64 Audio U12T - great bass, great separation and soundstage. Highs extended to a crazy degree but were also never sibilant. Their only problem for me was that they were too bright.
  5. Andromeda Gold - I only listened for 10 minutes but it was love at first sound.
  6. Sony Z1R - this one hit some bad notes with me but still does a lot pretty well. Big bass, big soundstage.
  7. Andromeda S - pretty fun iem. Could sometimes get congested with very busy music. I sold it off because I had excessive moisture buildup on the nozzle.
  8. DUNU DK3001 - can get a little hot sometimes. The crazy thing about this little guy is that it EQs really well. You can bring up the vocals and the bass and they remain clear and punchy.
7 Likes

Here are the IEMs I’ve owned and/or tried over the last couple years of doing IEM stuff. I rank primarily on sound, but as I live in a noisy apartment building, isolation is quite important as well. Hopefully, I get to try more stuff in the new decade. I have my eyes set on many high-end and totl pairs for demoing.

  1. Etymotic ER2XR - Fantastic imaging, and detail retrieval that punches above it’s price tag. Driver speed is very fast, and comes close to the speed of a BA. Great bass that never bleeds into the mids. Mids are very pleasant on these. A near-perfect IEM for me, other than the terrible soundstage (It’s an ety, what do you expect?), and not enough treble extension. It has incredible isolation, and even with triple flanges, easily manages 35 dB noise reduction or higher across the board.
  2. Sony MDR-EX800ST - A great IEM from Sony. It’s tuned similar to diffuse field, but much warmer. Some sibilance is present, bass is slightly rolled off in the lowest of registers. The soundstage and imaging capabilities of this IEM are mindboggling. Unfortunately, these don’t work for me, as I live in a noisy apartment. The EX800ST has almost no isolation, and is similar to an open-back headphone when it comes to that. If it was quieter, these could be very close to my endgame. These really do deserve the praise they get for the tuning and technicalities alone.
  3. Samsung Galaxy Buds - Harman-neutral tuning. One of the best-tuned IEMs I’ve laid my hands on so far. Has good technicalities, but is held back by SBC and AAC only support on non-Samsung phones. Mids are slightly recessed, and just a bit of thinness, but never ends up being sibilant. Signature sounds bright to me, and the treble is good. Latency bugs me when playing games or watching movies. Other than that, they’re a very good TWS, and a good IEM in general. Isolation is beaten by ER2XR and DM6, but still manages to isolate me from outside noise well.
  4. Sony MH755/MH750 - Another well tuned IEM from Sony. Absurd bass response, but doesn’t bleed into the already-recessed mids. Treble is a bit bright, almost edging on shoutiness. Requires a cable mod for more flexibility. Mids are very recessed and thin. Soundstage is hovering around average. Isolation isn’t as good as Galaxy Buds. Fit has a lot of suction on the ear drum. Causes them to be fatiguing.
  5. KZ ZS10 Pro - A decent IEM from KZ. One of the few models of sub-$100 chi-fi I can recommend to people wanting to save money. Soundstage is alright, imaging is there. Detail is surface-level. Bass quantity is great, and it rumbles. Sibilance is present, but it appears to be a lot more controlled than other KZ models. Midrange is slightly recessed, but is paper-thin. Most songs sound correct on these if vocals aren’t important.
  6. TIN T2 Pro - With a tape mod, it’s a V-shape IEM. Without it, it’s unbearable to listen to. Extremely bright, piercing, and sibilant stock. Still is piercing and sibilant with most tracks after taping the front vent with 3M micropore. Soundstage and detail is pretty damn good for sub-$100 IEMs.
  7. BGVP DM6 - Another unbearably bright IEM. This one follows a slight v-shape with elevated midbass. For some reason, these have a huge peak in the mid treble, that is at least 8dB above the second-smallest peak. Crinacle has a graph of them, if you would like to see.
  8. Senfer DT6 - Do ya like jazz? Piezo drivers that turn off on low-power dongles? This IEM is for you. Just kidding. Please don’t buy this IEM. Brass makes me cry on these.
  9. NiceHCK EP10 - Warm, very warm. Almost too warm for my taste. Surprising amount of detail for such a cheap, and warmly tuned IEM. Bass is okay. Just your standard chi-fi.
  10. Campfire Audio IO - Oh god. Everything sounds nasal. It’s so lo-fi, and the technicalities are trash. Who at Campfire thought this tuning was a good idea? It almost sounds similar to the Geek Wold GK3 when it comes to it’s lo-fi, and tonally screwed signature. Unfortunately, I have nothing nice to say about these. Big 1.7 kilohertz HONK for pinna comp. Avoid.
  11. Geek Wold GK3 - Chi-fi blunder. Just, sounds like pure crap. Tonal balance is screwed, one side sounds like it could be out of phase, it’s just overall wrong with any genre I throw at it. Help.
  12. KZ ZS6 - Extremely bright, sibilant, piercing. Soundstage isn’t good. Treble very grainy. Bass is severely rolled off. Shell has sharp corners, and requires sanding and/or polishing to prevent it from irritating the ears.

Oh, I almost forgot. I think I’d rank these between the IO and TIN T2 Pro, before they ended up dying on me. I had a pair of EarWorkz (Now known as Empire Ears) Supra-II. The bass driver died in the left IEM on my meet in Halifax, NS. During that time, they had pretty good isolation, and with foams was getting closer to my ER2XR. I loved and hated the sound signature. Something didn’t sound right with the upper midrange, it had a very edgy and shouty quality to them.

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That’s quite a list. Very thorough impressions of each.

Thank you.

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@nitrokojote Hey Raymond,

this is a interesting list . Thanks for the explanations for each unit!

The Etymotics are somehow often forgotten or overlooked, maybe because of the deep insert triple flange. In germany Ety’s are nearly double your US prices.
Crinacle has the Galaxy Buds on #2 /21 TWS in his buyers guide for the best (sounding) True wireless earphones.
Had to buy a TWS for my wife and got recommended his work on the topic- would never placed a bet on him testing this genre :slight_smile:
We ended up on #7 from his list for 35€, the “QCY T5” is good. Arrived today and she wore it at the gym, with us sharing some music… me with Tin Hifi T4 out of ES100 connected to my Android.
Apple should finally come up with Dual BT and some modern codecs.

You are so right about the T2 Pro :slight_smile:

The Sony you mentioned sounds like something I would celebrate, if there weren’t the Koss KSC75 (ok no real IEM)

have fun with your planned auditions

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Thank you!

I agree. Many people overlook the ER2/ER3/ER4 earphones. Since I got these back in November, I really enjoyed them. However, due to fit issues with triple flanges, and my extremely small ear canals, I nearly sold them. I decided to give them one last shot with Westone True-Fit foams, and now I can finally listen to them without any issues, keeps the FR too. I wish triple flanges worked for me, since they’re much more durable than any foam eartip on the market.

I’ll use foams until I decide which TOTL or high-end IEM I want. So far, it looks like it could be Hidition’s Viento-B, based on the frequency response of the ER2XR. The only problem is, BA bass. Not entirely sold on it yet.

As for the Galaxy Buds, they’re awesome. I enjoy quite a few features. I’ll likely be doing a full review of them soon. QCY T5 looks promising, that FR looks pretty fun. Funny you mentioned KSC75, they’re my favourite headphone! Bright signature, but it’s never fatiguing for me. Those earclips though… they’re better on a headband. Let’s just leave it there haha.

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I ordered the short ones with black ring - thank you for the tip!

for the KSC75, I tried them under a wide wool hood yesterday and it helped :slight_smile: - sure not the most practical solution
have to check out mods for a headband