Rare high-end IEMs that are worth trying

IEMs are more popular in certain parts of the world and there are quite a few brands that fly under the radar (e.g. Asian brands that fly under the radar in North America).

I’m wondering if anyone has tried some of the less well known high-end IEMs and what their thoughts are.

I know the subject is IEMs that are “worth trying” but I’d also appreciate hearing about disappointments.

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If we’re talking about Asian brands…in no particular order

  • QDC. One of the highest quality CIEM builders out there, founded by former contractors who designed high-tech personal monitoring systems for PLA special forces. Lightning fast turnaround, deep customization options and tuning switches on higher end models. They do some pretty incredible stuff, although there’s a “tuned by committee” feeling, balanced and robust signatures that just happen to be a little generic. I’m (mostly) a fan.

  • Moondrop. The owner is a friend with some, well, interesting ideas about tuning to the Harman curve which results in generally bass-shy signatures. Still very good IEMs especially for the price. I tend to think that his best work comes from mixing Knowles with Chinese branded BA’s for some really good resolution in the sub-$400 range.

  • Kumitate Labs. Japanese brand with the deepest customization I know of any CIEM brand. Everything from wood, precious metals, lacquer, ceramics to multi-thousand dollar hand painted artwork on the faceplate. Signatures are a bit all over the place, I like their all-BA’s much better than the hybrid (KL-REF).

  • Canal Works. Tuned for Asian female vocals across the board. Feels a bit one-trick-pony for my tastes. Some really pretty faceplates and an interesting bass tuning system using replaceable resistors.

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Awesome reply.

I’ve been hearing a lot about QDC lately but still haven’t had a chance to try any of their IEMs.

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They’re at some of the Canjams. The lab is in Shenzhen so best to order from a show floor if you find yourself liking them.

I should also mention Fitear even though I don’t think they’re “rare”. Very hit and miss but that’s part of pushing design boundaries. My favorite tuning from Suyama is probably the Air 2 followed by the 335dwsr and Monet. The hyper-midrange-focused 334 also has lots of fans.

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+1 for QDC, the Anole VX was excellent if not particularly exciting in any one way.

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Do not forget about Dita Audio from Japan. I own Dita Truth Black and am a big fan of their sound. Very authentic and involving. Now, looking to move to Dita Brass when I save up some cash.

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Funny because Dita is also a Japanese designer of eye glass frames. I’d actually never heard of The headphone manufacturer until now.

You can check out my qdc Anole VX at the Seattle meet!

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Wonderful. It will be my first qdc experience.

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That is why I mentioned them here, there’re not popular with the wider audience but certaintly deserve attention. In my local audiophile circles these are rated at the top along with CA products.

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Has anybody tried iem’s from Jomo? Some of them seem to be quite well regarded by Crinacle in his iem rankings. Specifically the Samba as they are said to have great clarity and detail.

Also although maybe not rare but I would say high end I would love to get my hands on the Shure KSE1200/1500. I can see myself owning these in the future.

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They’re fine, although I think that Crinacle is far too lenient on the high end with his ranking. I’m pretty much 100% in agreement with him on his B- and below IEMs but the distinction between his A- and B+, for example, seems to me little better than arbitrary.

Tuning is a bit hit and miss with Jomo too, I haven’t heard the Samba but the Haka was weird, the Flamenco pretty good but seriously overpriced, and the Trinity very competent but ultimately not as interesting as the Khan (if you’re after something that really shows what a triple hybrid could do).

The KSE1500’s DAC is little better than budget DAPs and unless you want to run them straight off your phone I would recommend the KSE1200. Out of the box it’s as or more resolving than any IEM I’ve heard short of maybe the LCDi4 on a super strong source. A bit too bland for me unfortunately but the technical aspects are superb, and they take EQ exceedingly well.

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Thank you very much for your thoughts on these.

I recently tried Empire Ears Zeus, of which I bought from Torq. Wow! Ian keeps his stuff like new.

These are very expensive iems. I must admit they were excellent, but I enjoy full-size much more. I can certainly see many like them. I would use iems and most less costly ones for portable use.

For me , they don’t get it for home use.

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I also use Zeus while out of town driven by Dell Laptop or Galaxy Cellphone.

While at home, I enjoy Stax009s or HD 800s with wider and deeper soundstage.

But Zeus is good for portable use with lively and detailed sound.

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I’m with you on the electrostatics. I’m Mrspeakers Voce w/ TT2 w/ BHSE

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Bose Quiet Comfort 20. I go to clients on shows while the bands are playing and yell, “Try these”. The client can’t believe I’m asking them to put my ear phones on. I say “I know. Do it anyway. And flip the switch”. The look of astonishment is always a joy. One client said “Can I borrow these? I want to show my friends!” I have too much fun in my job.

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I’ve got to agree with you. The Bose QC20s are very surprising. I have had JH13s, and other high-end IEMs and I keep picking up the Bose QC20s.

I did have a minor problem of them falling out of my ears, but solved it with these ear clips (from Amazon). Need to cut the plastic sheathing to put around the QC20s.

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While I agree the the QC20’s are good at what they do, I wouldn’t call them high-end these days and I certainly wouldn’t call them rare :wink:

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Always good to hear about different types of mods that fix issues that may help others

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