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