The Ultra Cheap IEM Thread

Ikko Opal OH02

After some time away from my review desk and a series of mini reviews, I am finally back to my normal set up and it is time to start making my way through a few things that have piled up while I was away.

The first on the list is the Ikko OH02 Opal, a set of IEMs that has been kindly sent to me by Hifigo in exchange for me publishing this review. As usual, the only request has been that I include links to the IEMs via their website, therefore my review will aim to be as unbiased as possible, although it is always good to consider the fact that these IEMs have not cost me anything.

You can find the (non-affiliate) links to the Opal by visiting the version of this review published on my blog here.


Starting off with how these IEMs arrive, I must say that the packaging and contents are quite impressive and are certainly original, moving away from the usual way in which IEMs in these ranges are usually presented.

The box itself is large and colourful, as you can see in the image above, with a sleeve that has a shaped cutout to allow the artwork to show.

Inside the box we get the IEMs, as is to be expected, placed in a foam cutout that also includes an Ikko branded pin in a combination of gold an black. Personally I have no use for a pin but I always mention unexpected contents and I don’t think I have ever received a pin with a set of IEMs before.

Also in the box we get a cable, which I quite like except for the black covering for the pre moulded ear shape (which detracts from the nice aesthetics of the cable in my opinion) and the fact that they use MMCX connectors. To be honest, the MMCX connectors seem to be of good quality and look like they will last fairly well, but I guess MMCX is just a personal phobia of mine.

Also included is a leather (imitation?) carrying pouch that is also different to any other pouch or case I have received in the past. It is actually more of a pouch that I would use for other things more than IEMs, and is closed by means of a leather string that wraps around the pouch. I can’t say that it is a great solution for IEMs but again, they deserve points for originality.

The last thing to mention as far as contents, other than the documentation that is in a nicely branded envelope, a couple fo replacement filters and a cleaning/MMCX extraction tool, is the amount of tips included. There are a lot. I don’t think that this is the most tips I have ever received but it is certainly the largest selection of uncommon tips I have received. As the nozzles are oval in shape (I’ll mention more about that in a moment), there is also a large selection of oval shaped tips included, with one set that is possibly the largest I have ever seen, along with a selection of hybrid foam/silicone tips. In total there are 9 sets of tips, so there should be something for everyone, well, maybe everyone except me, more on that in the next section.

Build and aesthetics…

As far as build quality, while all plastic (or at least I think they are all plastic), they do seem to be decently made and I see no issues with the build at all.

In terms of aesthetics, in my opinion they are also good looking. The set I have received are a dark green colour, with a small transparent green tinted window that shows a circuit board below. As with the packaging, the aesthetics are original enough to be different but without being so off the wall to look strange.

When it gets to comfort, here I wasn’t quite as lucky, at least with the included tips. As the nozzles are oval, as I mentioned above, they have also included oval shaped tips. In my case, no matter which way I tried to orientate the tips, and no matter which size, I never felt that I could get a proper seal and they never felt overly comfortable. The result with some of the other tips was better but still not something that I enjoyed too much. In the end, I opted for Azla Crystal tips and these solved the issue of seal but I still didn’t find them overly comfortable.

The angle of the nozzle just seems to be a mm or two away from matching my ear anatomy and I always feel like they are putting pressure on the front of my ear canal. I will say that they are very light though, so there is no sense of fatigue from weight, even after long sessions of many hours, just that little issue with the pressing on my canal.

Obviously we all have different ears and this is only an issue for me personally, I imagine that these will be extremely comfortable for most people.


As we are back to my normal review format, I will mention that, as with all of my normal reviews, each track mentioned is a clickable link that will allow you to open the song in the streaming service of your choice. The measurement of these IEMs can also be compared with any other IEMs I have reviewed here:

Starting, as usual, from the lowest ranges, the Opal have quite a roll off in the subbass, however, due to a fairly boosted midbass range, they never seem to be lacking in the low end. If isolating the lowest notes, then yes, the roll off is noticeable, but I can’t say that it is something that I notice while listening normally.

Into the midbass, here there is a boost that does make itself the centre of attention in the low end. The mid bass is controlled fairly well and actually works ok for a lot of modern pop music, such as “Get Lucky”, but when moving to more acoustic focused music, I feel that the midbass focus makes it seem a little unnatural. Even with electrical based instruments as the focus but with simple songs, such as “Crazy”, I find that it is a little too present. In the case of this specific song, it causes a sensation of reverb in the midbass of the electric guitar and I can’t say that it sounds very natural.

Moving into the mids, there really isn’t too much bleed due to the fact that the midbass is fairly well controlled, meaning that while it is very present, it doesn’t interfere too much with the mid range. There is a slight dip in the centre of the mids and while the higher midrange doesn’t climb as much as it does on many other set, the vocals stay present for the most part.

I say for the most part as, depending on the instruments in play, the midbass boost can become a little overpowering and make the voices suffer a little to be present on certain tracks. This is something that I experienced on a lot of hip hop, such as “Bang Bang” for example, where that midbass can make the instrumental sound impressive but make the vocals seem to struggle.

One thing I will say is that voices do not come across as harsh, even “Don’t You Worry Child” is quite smooth in the vocal range (a track that I find harsh on a very large selection of IEMs).

Moving into the treble, there is actually quite a decent job done in this area to compensate for that midbass boost and not make the overall sound seem dark. There are occasions on which I find certain tracks to also be a little unnatural in the higher ranges but in general I feel that a good job was done to balance out the highs with the lows without becoming overly harsh in the upper ranges either.

The sensation of air and spaciousness is not bad, considering the low end boost, and while the soundstage is not large, more towards intimate I would say, it still doesn’t seem too cluttered, with things having space to breathe.

Last of all, detail. I don’t think that these can be considered highly detailed IEMs, yet they still manage to give a sensation of everything being in its place. I wouldn’t pick up these IEMs to find small nuances but at the same time, I feel that they can be enjoyed without the sensation of things missing.


The Ikko Opal OH02 is its own thing. From the packaging, to the aesthetics, to the sound, everything is different to normal but not so different it is “off the wall”.

As far as sound, it’s like an IEM that manages to be V shaped without actually being V shaped. Depending on your choice in music, that midbass boost will either be very impressive or irritating. If you enjoy vocals on hip-hop, or on bass heavy RnB, then that midbass does get in the way. I also feel it can be problematic with some of the simpler vocal/instrument tracks. However, when moving to more modern pop, it can actually be the opposite and work quite well.

At a price of less than 80€, I feel that you are getting a good deal on these IEMs considering everything you get, but the sound signature will not be for everyone. They by no means sound bad, they are just different, and whether that difference is for you, only you can decide.

As always, this review can also be found in Spanish both on my blog (here) and on YouTube (here).


This would also fit well in this Ultra Cheap thread:

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Tin Hifi T1S

The Tin Hifi T1s have been sent to me by Linsoul in exchange for the publication of this review. They have not made any specific requests but I will leave a (non-affiliate) link to the T1S via their webstore on my blog, as usual in these cases.

I will do my best to be as sincere and unbiased as possible in this review but it is always worth considering the fact that these IEMs have not cost me anything.


I have owned a few Tin Hifi IEMs over the years, with the T2 being one of my first sets back when I started in the realms of IEMs, something that seems like a long long time ago, seeing how many models have been and gone since then.

I have also reviewed a couple of Tin IEMs on Acho Reviews, one of which were the Tin T1 Plus, back in 2020. This set is the T1S and I believe they are an an updated version of the the Plus, although I have done my best to not really know anything about them (as usual, when possible).

I do know that they use a Beryllium plated dynamic driver (according to the spec) and that they come in at less than 20€, placing them firmly inside the sub 50€ category I like to point out.


I got a little smile when opening the T1S as it is basically the same presentation as the T1 Plus, in fact, when sliding the box out from the cardboard sleeve that shows the model and the spec of the T1S, the box actually says T1 Plus on it.

Basically it is a no frills presentation, containing the usual IEMs, cable, a few sets of silicone tips and the warranty card. Nothing special but nothing to complain about at the price.

Actually, after recording the video for this review, while taking photos, I noticed that it is not only the box that has T1 Plus on it, the shells of the IEMs also say T1 Plus on them. So I guess that they are using up what they have in stock left over from the T1 Plus. I have no idea if at some point the T1S will start to have its own name on the shells, I suppose it depends on how much stock they have left and how many T1S are sold.

Build & Aesthetics…

The T1S are available in 4 colours. In my case I received the black which is the only set that features a semi transparent faceplate, with small silver speckles on them. They are completely made of plastic and are (obviously!) the same size and shape as the previous T1+.

This means that they are very comfortable and also very lightweight. They are amongst the lightest sets of IEMs that I have (as are the T1S). There is no discomfort or fatigue from them over long periods, due to the ergonomics (which fit me well, but obviously everyone is different) and the lightness.

The cable is also quite thin and light, and although it does get prone to a little tangling, is not terrible. Nothings special but again, nothing to complain about at the price, it gets the job done. They have also stuck with the use of 2 Pin connectors, something that I personally appreciate.


Before commenting on sound, let’s take a quick look at the graph comparing the T1+ to the new T1S:

(all measurements are available on

You can see that there isn’t a lot of change between the tuning of the two, however, I will say that the small tweaks have been for the better. Now, it is not a night and day difference between the two, but I do find the newer T1S to just be more cohesive overall.

Starting off with sub bass, there is a roll off as we get down into the lowest notes, with even less presence than on the previous set, however, it still gives enough rumble for things to be pleasant enough in the bottom frequency range.

I don’t think these are going to be the pick of those that want a huge rumbling low end, but the boost of the midbass is enough to give the impression of them having quite a presence down low. This gives a warmth and smoothness to electric bass guitars and other instruments sharing the same sonic space, and while it is a little too much for my personal preference, it is by no means offensive nor overpowering.

The midbass boost does roll over into the mids and while it may seem like there is some bleed on the lower end of the mids, it doesn’t really sound too bad, it gives a nice warmth to the lower ranges of vocals, adding a bit of smoothness to male and female vocals.

There is a dip as we get to the middle of the mid section, although it is less pronounced than on the T1+, with the climb towards 3kHz starting a little earlier than on the previous version. This actually makes them sound less V shaped in my opinion (although it is still really a V shaped tuning overall), giving them a little more clarity in the upper ranges of vocals and presence of the notes found in the higher mids.

As we climb into the hr ranges, there isn’t much extension up there, I don’t think anyone is going to consider these “airy” or “extended”. The upper treble does remind me of the typical upper treble found on so many budget IEMs with single dynamic drivers.

The soundstage is pretty much average for a set of IEMs, with nothing spectacular going on. Images are easily located but they are not pinpoint images, more of a general placement that works for things like binaural and panned stereo images, without any real placement of background details.

Speaking of details, they are also nothing extraordinary, although I do feel that they are a step up from the T1+ in this regard. There is nothing that is going to jump out and make you say “wow, I didn’t know that existed”, but at the same time, they don’t make you feel like your music is missing anything.


I feel that the T1S are more similar to the T1+ than not. There have been some tweaks and these are for the better, in general they are a better set of IEMs, although I don’t think there is anything amazing about them.

When I reviewed the T1+, I said they were more focused on the casual listener than anyone looking to focus on details, and I feel that the T1S are in the same category. They are a set of IEMs with a fairly safe tuning, with a pleasant overall sound that shouldn’t really offend anyone. I can’t see them polarizing opinions.

They are very comfortable (for me) and very lightweight, so if you are looking for a budget set of easy listening IEMs for daily use, then I think you can do a lot worse than the T1S, there is no doubt that they are worth their price tag.

As always, this review is available in Spanish both on and on


The HZSound Waist Drum is a fairly priced V-shaped IEM, but I would not purchase it expecting it to be anything more than that.

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TRI Meteor

The Tri Meteor have been loaned to me as part of a European tour that has been organized by KBear. As with the TK-2 that I recently reviewed, I was not actually part of the tour but Cqtek, from, very kindly spoke with the organizers who allowed him to send the Meteor (and the TK-2) to me while they are here in Spain.

I am obviously very grateful to Cqtek and the organizers for this opportunity. They have not requested anything from me (I haven’t even had any contact with the organizers), therefore I will include the links that Cqtek included in his review (which, as usual, I have not yet read yet, except for the first paragraph to see the links) in the version published on my blog.

This means that I will do my best to be as honest and impartial as possible but you you should always consider the fact that it has not cost me anything to try out these IEMs.

Here you can find the review by Cqtek: TRI Meteor English Review - Hi End Portable


I have not tried a set of Tri IEMs before and I really didn’t know what to expect. Reading the first paragraph of Cqteks review, I found out that these are a hybrid set of IEMs, featuring a DD and a BA, and that the cable that came with them is actually the Grace-S cable. That is the limit of what I know about these IEMs going into the review.

Well, that and the price of them, after a quick search online, seeming to come in around 100 to 120€, with the cable costing almost the same.

I am glad that his review mentioned that it was and aftermarket cable, as I obviously didn’t get to open them, so I couldn’t know what was included. My first thought was “wow, this is the cable they include??”.

I also want to mention that I have only spent a week with both the TK-2 and the Meteor IEMs, it has also turned out to be quite a busy week, spending quite a bit of time with the TK-2, so I have not spent quite as much time with them as I would usually like to. I still got plenty of time to listen to them but haven’t really had much time to do any direct comparisons with other models or play around with more sources.

My review is based exclusively on using them with the Gryphon and the Go Blu. I didn’t even test them with the TK-2 as I didn’t feel that using a set of unknown IEMs with an unknown source would be the most productive use of time as far as creating a review.


As I said, I didn’t get to open these so I can’t vouch that everything included is actually what is included with a retail set, but I believe it is, with the addition of the Grace-S cable.

The IEMs were shipped to me inside a semi rigid case with the Tri logo, with the Grace-S cable attached. I think that this case (and obviously the cable) are the only things that are not included in the usual package, due to there being another case inside the actual box.

The box is rather large and the contents are fairly impressive for a set of 100€ IEMs. Inside the box there are 5 sets of coloured silicone tips, plus another 3 sets in a bag, a brown (faux) leather carrying case, a single ended cable, a microfiber cloth and a little brush for cleaning purposes.

I didn’t actually use anything that was inside the box (I stuck with the Grace-S cable and my own tips), but the contents are certainly enough to not have any complaints at this price.

Build and aesthetics…

Let’s start with the cable. It’s a rather chunky one. It is good looking and uses good hardware, however, it is heavy and is on the thick side for my personal tastes. I like well built cables but I mentioned in the S12 review that the included (balanced) cable was a little big for me, this one is much bigger. Therefore, I have no complaints about the cable from a functional or build point of view, but it is not a cable I would choose personally.

The IEMs are quite a generic shape, reminding me of things like Thieaudio, although maybe a little bigger. I have no issues as far as comfort, although the nozzle is a little chunky, but the right tips (I ended up using the Crystal’s) help with a slightly deeper fit and while they are not the most comfortable IEMs I have ever worn, they are not bad and I can wear them for extended periods.

As far as build, they seem to be well built and don’t have any glaring issues that jump out at me. The aesthetics are also quite pleasant, with a black tinted, transparent shell, and a black faceplate sporting the logo in silver along with some silver swirls.

I can’t say there is anything that makes me very passionate about them, good or bad, so I have no complaints.


The first thing that stood out to me about the Meteor is the smoothness of their sound. They have a warmish tone to them without actually sounding dark or too blunt, something that I do find with a lot of IEMs with a low end focus.

Before getting to the usual sound categories, let’s take a quick look at the graph in comparison to my personal preference…

(all measurements of IEMs are available on

Now it’s not difficult to see that the low end is quite a bit above my usual preferences in this zone, all the way from the subbass up through the midbass. If I was to just look at the graph of these IEMs, I would probably immediately think “no thanks” and move on. However, even though the low end is boosted, it doesn’t come across as the center of attention and it is kept very clean and articulate.

The subbass extends low and with authority, giving “Chameleon” all the bass it needs, but it still sounds articulate. While the low end rumble is no doubt there, it doesn’t overpower the rest of the bass frequencies.

In fact, the remaining bass frequencies, in other words the midbass, is also rather boosted, but as with the subbass, it still manages to not take over the whole sound signature. The dynamic driver does a very good job of keeping things clean and coherent. Listening to “I Fink U Freaky”, expected the bottom end to take the rest of the frequencies hostage with such a bass boost but it is not the case. Even with “When the party’s over”, the parts where the bass comes in strong, Billie’s vocals are still clear in the mix.

Moving into the mids, I was surprised that they keep a clarity that I really didn’t expect. Now, clarity shouldn’t be confused with “detailed”, as I feel that the mids are not really that detailed, in fact, I feel that the whole sound is general is rather smooth, throughout the whole range.

Vocals have a smoothness to them that, while not as detailed as I enjoy from many other sets, make for a very pleasurable listen. From “I Concentrate on You” to “Strange Fruit”, female vocals have a nice warmth and body to them, without becoming dull. Male vocals are just as smooth, although listening to “Hallelujah” and “These Bones”, they did give me an impression of taking just a step backwards in comparison to female vocals, but still, they are very pleasurable.

The higher ranges continue with the smoothness, without any specific sharp peaks or even sibilance, proven by the usual “Code Cool” test. The extension is maybe not the greatest but I feel that the general sound signature also adds to the sensation of roll off in this regard.

As I mentioned a moment ago, details are not the strong point of the Meteor, they don’t present you with tiny nuances, especially with regards to background details, but that really doesn’t seem to be the vibe they are going for anyway.

Soundstage does seem to be on the higher side of average, not exactly huge but still more than the majority of IEMs, with image placement that is very well done. Maybe this gives a sensation of being better due to the fact that I am not searching for the placement of all the tiny details, just the larger images in general. “La Luna” is a very pleasurable experience with the Meteor.


The Meteor are quite far from my preferred tuning for a set of IEMs, yet they are a very pleasurable set of IEMs. I found that I was very happy to listen to a lot of my preferred music genres while doing other things, they didn’t make me focus on the music and dissect it, they made me enjoy listening to music as I went about my day to day.

They actually remind me quite a bit of a set of Sony speakers that I have had for a long time and have given me many hours of joy (although they have not been out of storage for quite some time now). They are not something I turn to when I want to “experience” the music, they are miles behind other speakers that I use, but they are something that always brings a smile to my face when they just fill the room with great BGM.

The Meteor have left me with a similar sensation, they are not a set of IEMs that I would usually turn to but I have not found myself not enjoying the music at any time while using them.

As always, this review is also available in Spanish both on and on



The CCA CRA+ have been sent to me by Linsoul in exchange for the publication of this review. As usual, they have not requested anything specific but I will leave a non-affiliate link to the CCA CRA+ via their webstore on my blog.

This means that I will be as honest and unbiased as possible, as I always am, but it is always good to take into consideration that these IEMs have not cost me anything.


As you probably already know, CCA are a brand owned by KZ. I have not been paying any attention to KZ lately, since the whole “non working driver” fiasco. Not because I specifically have anything against them, it is just that there are so many IEMs available on the market that I have no need for drama. In fact, the last set of KZ IEMs I was sent were the DQ6s (which I did a very brief impression video of) and the ZES which I didn’t even review (you really didn’t miss much there).

However, not long ago I reviewed the CCA CRA, the predecessor of the model I have here today, and I said that “what if the best KZ IEMs are not KZ?”. So, when Linsoul asked if I wanted to try the CRA+, I was more than happy to give them a listen and I am actually quite glad I did.

According to the publicity, they are an upgraded model with completely new drivers and while I take this with a grain of salt, there are noticeable differences between the original and the plus.


There is absolutely no difference in presentation between the original CRA and the CRA+, the same box, the same contents except for the cable ( in this case I have received the version with microphone) and generally the exact same everything. So, if you really want to know more about the white box, you can check my review of the original CRA.

Build and aesthetics…

The publicity jargon also says luxury appearance, which I guess means they are gold coloured. The originals were available in Black (actually a dark grey metal colour) and White, whereas the new CRA+ are only available in Gold.

That is literally the only difference I have been able to spot between the two.

Personally, I am not a fan of gold but I am not going to complain about it, these IEMs come in at around 27€ (at the time of publishing this review) and aesthetics are not something I worry about too much at this price, although I will say that the original CRA comes in under 14€, so these cost almost double the older model.


So, we have established that so far there are very few (if any) differences between the two models, but in the sound category is where things start to stand out. Before I get into it, let me mention that my listening has been done almost exclusively with the Gryphon (with no EQ) and using both the stock cable and tips from the original CRA. My choice of tips and cable was to keep it consistent between the two, that doesn’t mean that different tips won’t react differently on each model, just that I haven’t tip rolled.

As a quick recap of the original, I said that they had a lot of bass, more than I would choose, but that it is very good quality bass and that although I wouldn’t use them all the time, that I liked them. In fact, they (the CRA) have actually been in my box of reference IEMs since then.

Well, the CRA+ seems to have kept the qualities of the original and changed the tuning slightly, making them more enjoyable (for me personally) than the originals.

Let’s take a quick look at the graph of the two:

(all measurements can be seen and compared on

So, starting off at the bottom, there is quite a difference in the subbass quantity of the two, with the newer model having much less. Putting them through my usual “Chameleon” test by Trentemoller, this makes itself quite apparent. However, I will say that I don’t find myself missing any subbass in this song with the CRA+. There is still plenty there and is still above what I would usually choose in this region, it is just not as spectacular in the ultra lows as the original CRA is.

The CRA also did a good job of controlling this low end and the CRA+ keeps things just as well defined as the original. I can’t say that it is the most defined and clean subbass I have heard but it is still quite a way above other options, especially in such a low price bracket.

Moving into the midbass, there is slightly more presence on paper with the Plus, hower, it is more of the fact that the focus is moved from the subbass of the original to the midbass on the newer version, putting more emphasis on this range and seeming like it is more present than it actually is.

In this range, the midbass punch is very impressive, even without factoring in cost, with notes presenting themselves with authority and definition. This can make songs that have plenty happening in the midbass region come across more impressively on this new set. Personally this is not something that I enjoy, I mean, I like a little boost in the midbass on certain genres (such as classic rock etc), but I feel that the CRA+ is a little overdone in this area. Again, that is just a personal preference and I feel that it is something that will be very impressive for those that enjoy it.

The mids are very similar between the two, however, on the Plus there is a little more presence in the 2k range and that peak at 5k, as we start to reach into the higher frequencies, has been tamed quite a bit. This is something that pleases me, as I am not a fan of the 5k being above everything around it, but at the same time I feel that a little more in the 3kHz zone (rather than just the 2kHz bump) would have worked better to bring vocals a little more forward and avoid a little of the darker smoothness that has resulted from the actual tuning.

I am actually nitpicking here, it is really not bad and I prefer the tuning to many other sets that are much more expensive, however, there is always room for improvement :wink:

As far as detail, this is still an impressive set for the money, sounding very well controlled and offering details that are usually not as apparent on IEMs with this kind of tuning. It is not detailed to a level that will be mind blowing but it is more than adequate for the price range that it sits in, in fact, it would embarrass some options that go for 3 or 4 times the price.

Soundstage comes across to me as being around average, much the same as the original CRA, with good image placement inside the space that it works with. You can easily identify images and while it may not have all the details that I am used to hearing, it is not something that I would point out as being bad, far from it.


I don’t think I can say that the CRA+ are not as good, or better, than the original CRA. When I first tried (and reviewed) the original CRA, I said that they were possibly the best KZ IEM to date, even if they are not officially KZ. In the case of the CRA+, I feel that most of my opinions regarding the originals can easily be referenced to these also.

Would I say that they are better than the originals, well it depends. For me personally, I prefer the higher mids of the CRA+, whereas I prefer the low end of the CRA, which takes a bit of emphasis away from the midbass and puts the focus on the subbass. Both of them are very good for the price and I think the preference will come down to the personal taste of each individual.

The new model is more expensive, but it is still way inside the bracket of what I would consider a cheap set of IEMs, therefore I don’t think that the price will be a deciding factor for the majority. The included accessories are also identical, so no points added or deducted there. I would say that, basically, it comes down to whether you prefer your slam to happen in the subbass or midbass regions.

(as usual, this review is available in Spanish both on and on


It is difficult to recommend the TinHiFi T1S given the current market landscape at the sub-$20 price point. While a simple 10 dB boost to 8 kHz fixes nearly all the issues I encountered with the T1S, the target audience for an $18 IEM is likely not going to want to have to use such drastic if uncomplicated EQ to achieve a level of technical performance that other sets at this price point achieve straight out of the box. For someone who wants to grab a pair of inexpensive wired IEMs and listen to music on the go with minimal fuss, the T1S is not the way to go.

My full review, with measurements and additional images, is available on my blog:

TinHiFi T1S Review. Kissed by a Freight Train



The TRN TA1 Max have been sent to me by Linsoul in exchange for the publication of this review, they have not made any specific requests, therefore I will do my usual best to be as unbiased as possible in this review, although you should always consider the fact that I have not had to spend any of my own money on these IEMs.

As always, I will leave a non-affiliate link to the TA1 Max via Linsoul on my blog, as it is the least I can do.


Lately I have had quite a few new revisions of older models come across my desk, such as the T1S and the CRA+, just to name a few. Today’s set is also a set that I reviewed some time ago and has been revamped into a new release.

I will do some brief comparisons between the original TA1 and the new TA1 Max as I go along but, to be honest, apart from some brief listens this week to compare, it has been quite a while since I spent time with the originals.

Once thing I will say in favour of TRN is that the new model keeps almost the same price as the original, around 35€, which not only keeps them well inside my favoured sub 50€ category, but also means that they have introduced the upgrades without increasing the price.


The IEMs arrive in a fairly simple box with an image of them on the cover. Inside the box we find the IEMs in their cutouts located at the top, with a hard shell, round, storage/travel case below, sporting the TRN logo on the lid.

Inside the travel case we find the cable and attached to the bottom of the foam holding the IEMs, there is a box containing the remaining accessories, these being 2 different types of tips, with 3 sizes of each included.

This is not a lot of content but is enough to be able to enjoy the IEMs straight out of the packet, with the hard storage case being a nice touch.

Build & Aesthetics…

The TA1 Max are the same shape and style as the original TA1, round with a small cylindrical shape offset to the top which holds the connector for the cable. They are slightly larger in size than the originals, not by a huge amount but certainly enough to be noticeable. Personally I find them to be comfortable but that is going to depend on each person and their anatomy.

One thing that has changed quite a bit in comparison to the original TA1 is the looks. While the shape is still the same and the colour is also very similar (slightly more matte on the Max), gone is the anime art (on the Japanese version of the originals, or plane silver on the regular version) and has been replaced with an X type design that has cutouts and a grille below.

They do state that these are a “Half Open Balanced Pressure Relief Cover” and the vents are in fact functional, giving them an open back look and feel.

I actually like the aesthetics, preferring them over the originals, and feel that they have put some thought and originality into the design.


Let’s do the usual and show a graph of the TA1 Max vs the original TA1, plus my personal preference target, just as a reference point before we start.

(all measurements of IEMs I review can be found and compared on

I am going to go through my usual steps but straight away we can see that the overall curve is very similar to the original, with a few tweaks.

Starting off with the subbass, I really can’t hear any lack here but I must say that it is difficult to actually focus on the subbass due to the rather large midbass boost. If I actually pplay subbass tones, then maybe I could start passing comments but test tones are not really something I listen to. Therefore, let’s just say that I don’t think that people will complain about any lack of subbass on these IEMs.

Moving up into the midbass, here is where the low end is dominated by a strong focus on these frequencies. Now, as most of you probably know already (if you follow my reviews), I am not someone who likes an excessive amount of bass and yes, I find the amount to be excessive on the TA1 Max.

However, I must also say that the control over these midrange frequencies is impressive. With such an elevated frequency response in this area, it is very easy for a set of IEMs to lose control and become undefined and muddy in the low end, even carrying the excess through into the lower mids. The TA1 Max do a very good job of avoiding this problem.

There are certain tracks where I find the bass to be overwhelming, such as “No Sanctuary Here” (and quite a few more), but at the same time, it does let me distinguish between the notes and while the midbass is definitely the center of attention, it does still let other frequencies through. I feel that many people will find the pressure of the midbass slam very impressive but personally I find it tiring.

In the mids, there is a clear drop in the center but again, they surprisingly keep the mids present, and do so without overdoing the boost at the higher end of the mids. The higher mids follow a similar tuning to the original TA1’s but they have smoothened them out a little. Even the peak at almost 5kHz is not offensive to me, I don’t notice any harshness, and I am quite sensitive to those specific frequencies.

The higher ranges are also quite calm and collected. There are no annoying peaks, at least to my ears, and sibilance is kept in check without being overly dull. I would still say that the upper ranges are a little behind the lower ranges, with the bass being the center of attention, but they are surprisingly present, I expected much worse.

The soundstage is also not bad, on the higher end of average for a set of IEMs, although they do not sound as “open” as the aesthetics may lead one to believe. While the image placement isn’t going to win any awards for being the most precise, it is also by no means bad. Things are where they should be and details can be easily identified in the background. In fact, while these are also not the most detailed of IEMs, they are not bad in this regards either. I wouldn’t say you are going to be blown away by things you have never heard before but they certainly don’t come across as one dimensional and lacking.


Sadly for the TA1 Max, they are a sound signature that I am not a fan of, meaning that they weren’t off to a very good start. However, they have still surprised me by managing to keep an overall presence and clarity to the rest of the frequencies, they are not just a wall of bass.

If you are someone who likes having a lot of slam in the midbass range, then I certainly think that you should give these a listen as they are quite impressive, especially with regards to how they create such a sensation of moving air in those ranges without really taking over the rest of the spectrum. Yes, these are on the bassy/warm side, which is to be expected, but they still present you with plenty of coherency in the rest of the music.

Personally, I just don’t get on with this tuning but I know that and my personal tastes aren’t something that can lead me to say that these are not good IEMs, as they are.

As always, this review can be found in Spanish both on my blog ( and on YouTube (


Budget IEM sale on Amazon alert!

Master & Dynamic ME05 arrived today. It cost $7.95 price + $0.67 sales tax + free Amazon prime delivery. After just unpacking these and not hearing them, I determined that some would likely be happy paying the price of admission just for the accessories alone. Four sizes of ear tips, cloth carrying case that auto closes tight, and leather round storage case. Nice value already right out the gate!

I compared the Master & Dynamic ME05 to the pinnacle budget IEM, the wonderful $20 Moondrop Chu. Yes, the Chu costs three times as much as the ME05, but $20 is still extremely budget friendly. As expected, the Moondrop Chu still outperformed the ME05 in sound quality and detail. Yet ME05 was still very enjoyable. The Moondrop Chu remain my goto portable champions.

So, on to compare ME05 to my second favorite budget IEM, the $14 CCA CRA. The CCA CRA present a lot more bass. I enjoy the CCA CRA more of the time than the ME05. But once in a while it is fun to listen to music without excessive bass to focus more on the mids and highs. The Monoprice Liquid Spark amp provided some warmth to the ME05 and would make a decant budget desktop amp to pair with the ME05.

Yes, the Master & Dynamic ME05 on sale for $7.XX is a great deal. They make for a good spare backup/throw away IEM that would not hurt the bank account when lost or broken. The ME05 even has a mic and remote if you need them for phone use.


Digging through my drawer of mystery IEMs (wanna make life interesting, put all your IEMs in identical cases and toss em all in a drawer) I ended up with the KZ ED9. For a $10 IEM, it sounds pretty darn good - except KZ should be put on trial for crimes against humanity regarding the cable they used (I see an mmcx mod coming)

Speaking of modding… does anybody happen to know if there’s anywhere in North American to find mmcx & .78mm sockets for IEMS - my google-fu is failing me on this one

Tangzu Shimin Li

The Tangzu Shimin Li have been sent to me by HifiGo in exchange for the publication of this review. HifiGo have not made any specific requests or comments, therefore, as usual, I will attempt to be as unbiased as possible in my review but you should always consider the fact that these IEMs have not cost me anything.

As always, I will leave a non-afiliate link to the Shimin Li via HifiGo on my blog, as I feel it is the least I can do when somebody is kind enough to send a product in for review, you can find said link by visiting my blog here.

Edit: HifiGo have reached out to me and requested that I include the actual purchase link in this review. You can purchase the Shimin Li via HifiGo here: TANGZU SHIMIN LI Single Dynamic Driver In-Ear Monitors — HiFiGo


In the later part of last year, I reviewed a set of IEMs called Yuan Li, by a company called T-Force. I really enjoyed those IEMs and still do, being one of my favourite sets around 100€ and actually getting more ear time than many other sets that I have reviewed. In fact, they still live in my case of 6 pairs of IEMs that are available to quick grab and I also use them for comparisons a fair bit.

Why am I mentioning the Yuan Li? Well, the Yuan Li was called “Trilogy Part I”, something that was shown quite clearly on the box. Fast forward som 9 months and here we are with the “Trilogy Part II”, although it is a little confusing I must say, as the brand has now changed from T-Force to Tangzu, the price has dropped from just over 100€ to just over 30€ and the whole package is quite a bit different.

When something is from the same series, specifically called a trilogy, then it is only normal that comparisons be drawn between them. However, in this case, while I still want to compare them, and will be doing so, it is difficult to do a direct comparison when they are in such vastly different brackets.

Anyhow, let’s take a look at the Shimin Li on its own merits as see what they offer in this ultra-budget IEM category.


It is no surprise that the presentation of the Shimin Li has been cut down when the overall package has had such a price cut but that doesn’t mean that it is bad, it is still good for its new price bracket.

Inside a box that is quite reminiscent of the Yuan Li, with traditional chinese artwork decorating the exterior, we find the IEMs, a cable, and quite a large selection of tips (7 pairs in total).

Ok, there is no carrying case and a lot of the additional paperwork has been reduced, but honestly, I have absolutely no issue with the contents. As I always say with IEMs in this price bracket, I would rather them spend the money on the IEMs themselves than a bunch of accessories that I may or may not (probably not) use.

Build and accessories…

The aesthetics of the Shimin Li have also changed a lot in comparison to part 1 of the trilogy. My understanding is that they are available in both gold and silver, with me having received the gold version.

Personally I am not a fan of gold coloured anything to be honest, it is just something that I don’t like, which is unlucky for the Shimin Li as there are probably people out there that love it. The finish is a mirrored gold which does attract a lot of fingerprints and I can imagine being quite delicate if you don’t place the IEMs correctly when transporting them.

The shape of the IEMs is actually quite unique and I must say that I don’t dislike the shape, I find it very comfortable and the overall look with the honeycomb style part is a nice original touch. I think that if they were in another colour, I would probably be saying how great they look, whereas gold (to me) makes them look cheaper rather than more expensive.

As far as build quality, they are all metal and seem to be well assembled. As with anything, only time will tell if this is the case or not but at first glance, I don’t see any build issues. The only thing that I see as being a possible issue is the mirrored finish that I already mentioned.

The included cable is also a little unique, I don’t remember having had a cable quite like it. It is sort of a matte rubbery plastic finish, which is nicely woven and has decent hardware at the TRS end, although the IEM end does have plastic connectors that don’t really scream quality. The connections are 2 pin, which I like, and although at first look and touch of the cable, I wouldn’t say I loved it, it is actually not a bad cable. It doesn’t tangle too much, it is not too thick or thin (in my opinion of course) and all in all it does its job without causing any issues.


Let me preface this by saying that I tried the included tips but in the end opted for Spring tips as I found they balanced the sound better and gave me a better seal and fit. As tips are very personal, you may find that a set of the included stock tips work better for you but my following opinions are based on using the Spring tips (powered by the iFi Gryphon as usual).

Although this is not exactly an updated version of anything, like a fair few of the the IEMs I have reviewed lately, it is the second in a series so I think that a comparison graph is in order between the Yuan Li and the Shimin Li. That and the fact that it is quite interesting to see how similarly these measure:

(all my measurements can be found and compared on

As you can see, the tuning is very similar between the two and although they are slightly different, they are very reminiscent of each other. However, since I took this measurement, I was discussing it with a couple of other reviewers and it seems that my measurement of the Yuan Li does not match the retail version of those IEMs. In fact, the measurement matches what was originally a pre-release version of the Yuan Li, which was later modified when released for retail.

Now, the Yuan Li I received was not a pre-release model, it was sent to me by a store that had them in stock months after the official release. Therefore, I have no idea why I may have received a version with that tuning but that is what I have (and I like it) and wanted to include this in this review. I will actually go back and add a note to the original Yuan Li also with this info.

The main thing that this affects is that when I am comparing the new Shimin Li to the Yuan Li, I am actually comparing it to the Yuan Li that I have, which is not necessarily the Yuan Li you will find on sale.

But anyways, back to the review…

Starting off with the subbass, there is enough to make me happy. These are not IEMs that are really focused in the subbass area, they don’t rumble and produce a huge amount of subbass, but they don’t sound rolled off or anaemic either. My usual “Chameleon” test comes across with a nice amount of subbass and while it is maybe not a “wow” experience like it is on many other sets, I don’t have any complaints.

Moving into the midbass zone, there is a little more emphasis here than in the subbass category but again, it doesn’t come across as being overdone. There is enough midbass to enjoy a little extra warmth in the low end but at the same time, it doesn’t place too much of the focus on these lower notes. With tracks like “No Sanctuary Here”, the low notes are present enough to be impressive whereas with things like “Give Me One Reason”, there is not too much as to make the electric guitar seem bloated in the low ranges.

In fact, the whole low end of the Shimin Li is very very similar to the low end of the Yuan Li, which I believe to be the same on both tunings of the Yuan Li, something that I really don’t have much to complain about.

Moving into the mids, there is a slight recess in the middle of these frequencies but the presence around 2kHz does its job of bringing back the presence of vocals and other instruments in the higher mids.

I do feel that the additional presence in this 2kHz area is a little overdone, making it come across a little harsher in these frequencies than I would prefer but it is not too bad and it does do a good job of counterattacking that extra presence in the mid bass. I find that female voices especially show this extra presence, even more so when they are already a little harsh themselves, such as Beth in “Don’t You Worry Child” or Alicia Keys in “No One (Acoustic)”. The higher mids of female vocals are really what I would claim to be the weaker point of the Shimin Li tuning.

In addition to this 2kKz presence, there is another peak slightly higher up in the spectrum but it is actually not as high, or as present, as on the Yuan Li that I have. This means that the Shimin Li avoids the dreaded 5kHz peak that I fear so much, but at the same time, it does add even more to the sensation of the 2kHz being just a little too hot.

Moving into the treble areas, it does seem to roll off quite early, which leaves the sensation of a lack of air and breathing space, but at the same time, this does avoid sibilance quite well. I would like it to extend a bit more in these upper ranges, having a little more openness, but to be fair, the vast majority of budget single dynamic driver IEMs suffer from the same thing in these regions. The ones that don’t are more of an exception than a regular occurance.

One thing that I do find to be quite a step down in comparison to their previous model is the soundstage. I actually found the Yuan Li to be a little above average in this regard, whereas the Shimin Li is a lot less spread out. It is not terrible but things are a lot closer on this new model, with image placement that is acceptable but by no means spectacular.

Finally, details. As with soundstage, I feel that the Shimin Li is not quite up to the performance of part 1, or at least the part 1 that I have here. I would not say that these IEMs are a set that will impress those looking for appreciation of the minute details of recordings. With the reduced soundstage and a reduction in the reproduction of the smaller details, songs like “Strange Fruit” can become a little one dimensional, taking away from the experience of these kinds of recordings. Even with more separated recordings, such as “La Luna”, you just don’t get the sensation of the instruments surrounding you like you do on other sets.


There is a common saying that second parts are never good, and while I don’t agree totally, I do agree that in this case, the second part is not as good as the first. It is possible that I personally expected more due to how much I enjoy the first part of the trilogy, meaning that I was already starting with an expectation bias that wouldn’t have been the case if it was an IEM that I had never heard of.

However, while this second chapter may not be as good as the first, or at least not the first chapter that I enjoy, they have done something that I feel makes this a lot better, which is drop the price. If they had kept the price around the same as the original, then I would certainly say skip this but as they have reduced the price by almost 75%, they deserve to be recognized for they have done, and that is put out an extreme budget set of IEMs with some things that it does very well.

I know I said that the aesthetics are not my thing, but that is just as personal as the fit (which is very comfortable for me by the way), so that is something that people don’t really need a reviewer to comment on, although I do it anyway :wink:

That leaves the sound and to be fair, I do enjoy this tuning. Yes it is a little hot around 2kHz but I much prefer that than a 5kHz peak and in general, the tuning is very similar to the Yuan Li I have in my possession, a set of IEMs that I really like.

There is a lack of detail and soundstage in comparison to the Yuan Li, but again, it is not really a fair comparison when looking at the price brackets. If we compare it to other sets around the same price, yes there are some that are subjectively better, but there are also a lot that are subjectively worse.

I’m looking forward to finding out what they will surprise us with in the third part of the trilogy.

(As usual, this review can also be found in Spanish both on and on


Very nice review. Do you not like gold “colored” or do you not like gold? Is it just IEM’s or will Mrs SenyorC ever get 18k to 22k gold earings?

1 Like

If you know anything about the Tang Dynasty you might be able to predict the name of the next IEM from them.


I am just not a fan of gold colouring in general. I have a gold watch that was a gift and I never wear, in fact I don’t wear any jewelry at all other than a watch (which is more about it being useful than looking good).

I have no issues with others wearing gold, including SeñoraC, but I find that anything other than specific jewelry in gold to be more cheap looking than anything else. I once had a car with gold rims (which was part of the “uniqueness” of that model) and the first thing I did was paint them :smile:

I once did a yacht for a rather important figure who had the whole dining room decorated in gold leaf and turquoise crystals, to put it in a politically correct way, it wasn’t something I found aesthetically pleasing.


KBEar Lark, a ChiFi Midranger for 30 Dollars

A dealmaker or dealbreaker, depending on the use and user.

I recently got into IEM’s. I learned about the multidriver design and I understood the point, saw some recommendations from people, searched something on amazon, and grabbed it. I am actually on my second pair as the first one died, unfortunately. But, I was glad to get another pair as there can be any number of issues in manufacturing, and I recognize that.

Its sound is whatever, V shape blah blah, I don’t care about that. I work in different areas and I need separation. When I looked at my old larks, before I bought something else, I recognized that the construction was very specific. I looked up the BA and DD they used, and while I don’t understand how they tune these, I can understand that the audio is set up to split the work up enough that when I play, say, a game, that the BA driver is going to do most of the work for foot steps. But when I listen to podcasts, the DD does most of the work. I thought this was neat, and having used them for a while, I like some of the qualities they have. But thertes one issue that I have.

I don’t know if you all would call it Tambre, I call it shimmer. The BA just has an extra sparkle at the top end where hi hats and SSSSSSSS sounds live. It must resonate with the casing of the driver, or the driver isn’t seated all the way in, something. Its not even just… sharp, its a needle. Its almost painful.

As these are 18 ohm IEM’s, I got a 24 core cable to raise it a little bit. I think this is working some, but I think I just need different tips or a filter.

But the other thing is, comparing models, the BA is just slightly closer to the end of the pipe, and I am pretty sure you can’t change the pipe. I tried some flumed tips and they actually moved the pipe closer to my ear drum, and didn’t cover over some of the output like the KB tips. It def made the shimmer worse.

Anyways, I use these for gaming, listening to music when my Pioneer HDJ-X7’s aren’t appropriate, or for mixing music. Kleptophonics demands clarity, and I use a multitude of sets while mixing and finalizing, but I use IEM’s most of the time. These are my only IEM’s atm, but I am interested in a multi BA part and a planar pair for at some point.

Extra Notes:

Why did you get another cable? What was wrong with the stock one?

My shimmer issue was accented. Now it isn’t AS much. Simple

I need a IEM that I can used mainly for watching movies/tv shows/podcasts from my M1 Mac.

Any suggestions?

Ohhh, :poop:

I can’t be your friend…



THAT must be too much for you


1 Like

The Go Blu I can live with :wink:


Blon Fat Girl

The Blon Fat Girl have been sent to me by Linsoul in exchange for the publication of this review. They have not requested that I say or do anything specific, however it is always worth considering the fact that these IEMs have not cost me anything, no matter how unbiased I try to be.

As always, I will leave a (non-affiliate) link to these IEMs via Linsoul on my blog, as it’s the least I can do.


I really can’t start this review any other way than with the name of the IEMs. I haven’t read any reviews or comments about these IEMs but I am guessing that this is something that has already been commented on by many, all I am going to say is that I don’t think the name is a very good choice, no matter how much you want it to be remembered. Yes, there are probably a lot worse names out there but still, I’m sure Blon could have come up with something better. Let’s just call them FG.

I just said that I haven’t read anything about these, which is true, but I do remember them being launched recently as an ultra budget set, coming in at around 10€, which is probably within the top 5 of the cheapest IEMs I have ever reviewed.

So let’s see if they are any good for such an extremely cheap price.


There is not a lot to say in this section, I mean, what can you expect for this price?

A simple box containing the IEMs with their fixed cable and a couple of spare tips. That is it, but again, we can’t ask for more.

Build and aesthetics…

The build of these is actually not bad. It’s not stellar (did I mention 10€?) but it is completely made of metal and the attached cable is not the worst you can get, even in higher price brackets.

The size and shape are going for a smaller bullet type style, similar to something like the Quarks or the Tanya, but a little bit bigger then either of those. They are sort of reminiscent of the Koss KEB90 but without the angled nozzle.

As far as comfort, they are not bad either. They aren’t small enough to disappear inside the ear but aren’t overly large either, so I really don’t have too much to complain about at this price.


Before getting into my opinion of the sound, let’s look at a graph of the FG compared to my personal preference target. Also, at the same time let’s add the BL03, Blon’s most successful model, to the graph.

(all IEM measurements can be found on

Ok, now, for those of you that know what to look at on a graph, I don’t think that you will be surprised at what is coming. For those that prefer my subjective findings…

There is an elevated bass range that is something that I don’t personally care for. Usually I would break this section down into subbass and midbass but I feel that there is no real need here because the IEMs don’t do a great job of distinguishing between them.

Looking at the graph, you can see that there really isn’t much difference in the bass zone between the FG and BL03, in fact, the BL03 has slightly more. However, the big difference is in the quality of the bass. The whole low end just seems to merge into a large… I’m actually looking for a word to best describe this here… maybe “blob” would be a valid description.

There is just an overall lack of definition and clarity in the bass section, making things feel congested.

As we move into the mids, we have the opposite problem. Instead of a large blob, we have a large hole. There is a space in the center of the tuning which is where the mids should be, and they are just not there. I can’t say the mids sound bad, in fact, I played some simple mid focused tests and the mids aren’t terrible, but bring back anything that has lows or highs (we are getting to the highs!) and the mids just fade away into the shadows.

And the highs. The highs are over elevated and not elevated enough, all at the same time. There is a mismatch of frequencies happening in the upper ranges that can really create a weird sensation with instruments in these frequencies. There are peaks, including a fairly large one at my dreaded 5kHz range, which just present a treble that sounds… again searching for words… wonky?

Sound stage and image placement is very difficult to judge, well, actually it’s quite easy to judge negatively, as the mass of bass, lack of mids and random treble, all contribute to things not sounding like they should nor where they should.

Details… Well, I imagine you can guess.


Blon really made a name for themselves with the BL03, a set of IEMs that was loved by a lot of people. I don’t mind the BL03 even though they are not something I highly praise as I preferred the BL05s, but that is a personal opinion. Since then they have released quite a few models, some quite “off the wall”, but none have really had the success of their first model.

I’m afraid that I can not relate anything from the FG to the BL03. While I may not have been the biggest fan of the tuning of the BL03, it’s performance is fairly decent, whereas I have struggled to not be more negative in this review towards the FG.

I really don’t like leaving negative reviews, as I feel that this hobby is so subjective that somebody is always going to like things that I don’t. That might also be the case with the FG, who knows, but there are just so many good alternatives out there, even at the same price (and sometimes even cheaper), that I really can’t see the point in owning these IEMs.

(As always, this review is also available in Spanish on and on


I would have thought that in view of the name you might have tested them with a certain famous Queen song.