The Ultra Cheap IEM Thread

I am shilling the Pioneer CH3…just kidding. 22 bucks on ebay (according to rumours) and sounding wonderful. The budget hybrids – while admittedly having come a long way in the last 2-3 years – are overrated especially the KZs, and a good price doesn’t mean a keeper sound…that’s why people hoard their models. One guy compared multis/hybrids to digital images: overly sharp but not natural.

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Hey guys, good to see all the great discussion here!

I figured it would be a good time to give a friendly reminder that while we are perfectly fine with talking about other forums and stores, we don’t encourage bashing those places. If you were banned or had a negative experience you can say why you were banned or why your experience was bad and then the discussion can end there. If you want to continue with it, please take it to the PMs.

Were all here to discuss good (or bad) gear and our shared interests. No need to dwell on the negative and welcome to everyone that came over from other communities!


Recommendation by a colleague for fixing the driver flex:


Interesting read and approach, and perhaps a useful reference for others - if it is adaptable to the ZS7.

I’m not going to fiddle with them further, though - beyond using the EDM to “drill” some tiny holes in the shell of the thing - which is precise and repeatable (something that will useful if it helps, not so much if it doesn’t). And I’m really only doing that because I enjoy playing with the EDM … not because the outcome really matters or it’s a sane investment of my time.

Sensible comment! I adjusted my post accordingly.

Eh your post was completely fine! Negative posts are fine, we aren’t going to censor your opinions. We don’t have any sponsorships and the forum is run as a separate entity from Headphones/ so you aren’t going to get banned for posting your opinion. We just don’t want threads to get de-railed with off-topic bashing.

Myself, I am completely unfamilliar with most of the Chi-Fi stuff out there so this thread is great to see what little jewels are hidden in a market with millions of products!


Being pragmatic, we will have to expand the threads/structure if more people join this forum. Soon this thread will get totally congested. We should also create showcases for reviews so that they are all in one place and not scattered around - and so that they can be found by search engines. Example: how will anybody find the recent reviews of the Yinyoo V2 in a few days from now?

Chifi is big in the blogosphere already as the industry has seen a huge development since 2016. Many bloggers focus on Chifi as it doesn’t involve outrageous cost…and some of them are here such as antdroid and audiofool.

The other interesting discussion is whether cheap multidrivers/hybrids are the way to go – as some “old” experts still vow for the single DD…and currently I don’t blame them.

Finally, what I particularly like about this forum is that it does not have an obvious hen-pick hierarchy where your name is associated with some strange grade. I also like the moderation which aims to optimize the flow of information. Both will attract new members.



This forum has a relative handful of regulars, including me. The regulars are all quite knowledgeable and none of them are children or into drama. Within this crowd, everyone treats everyone else with respect. Some are quite high profile online (e.g., @Torq, @antdroid), but they never talk down to people.

It’s a nice neighborhood and has so far attracted great people.


if you go to the first post it showcases top posts…and then reviews can be put into their own review thread.


We have a dedicated, curated, category for indexing reviews and impressions - including “show case” reviews which are featured on The better quality, and more formal, review and impression posts will be featured there.

And then creating dedicated threads for individual reviews (in one of the two primary categories for such things) is at the poster’s discretion - once they’ve been a sufficiently active participant here to gain posting privileges to those categories. Specifically those are the “Official Headphone Model Discussion” and the “Official AMP/DAC/DAP Model Discussion” categories.

This saves having 47 separate threads on the same $25 item, all of which wind up with subtly-useless titles and invariably the bulk of the posts are one-paragraph “this is awesome” or “this sucks” type posts.

No doubt this will evolve over time - other aspects of the forum certainly are (e.g. the "Community Preview Program" is likely to see some useful changes in the near future).

There’s even a dedicated category for suggestions about the site etc.


Thank you very much for this overview - it really helps.


Completed my EDM hole “drilling” surgery on the ZS7.

The patient didn’t survive.

Of note, the driver-flex stopped occurring more than just on insertion, removal, and deliberately pushing/pulling the shell into/out of my ear. But that was also the case simply by opening the case (you’ll want a T5 driver) and fastening it up again (I had the foresight to try that first).

All “drilling” (EDM tools are so much fun) a progressively larger number of 0.0001" holes in the face of the unit, in front of the dynamic driver, achieved was “nothing, until it killed the bass levels entirely”. About two minutes after which the unit failed entirely. The only surprise about which is, given how EDM works, that the thing worked at all after my first go at it!

So now I have two sets of ZS7 … both of which are now only crackling on insert/removal/deliberate abuse. And as I was feeling a bit more constructive after murdering the third one, I decided to do this:

Which is just a cheap (less than the cost of the cheapest IEM it is holding) watch-box from Amazon:

The box is MUCH deeper than needed. And the individual slots have little pillows in them when you get it, to hold the watch and strap in place. You can wrap the IEM cables around those, and still have ample room to put the IEM itself and the tips they ship with, on top of it, but it’s easier to just pull them out (and it looks better).


Brilliant! Added to cart!


I have the same watch box, but the 6 watch version. Great idea for using it for IEMs!


Here’s a stupid question from someone who only recently stopped cranking the phone on the wall and asking the operator to connect me. Although we did get some new operators down at the exchange, Alexa, Siri, and one with Googly eyes.

I know this thread is about cheap IEMs. Of what significance, if any, is a microphone in line so that they can be used to take, like, phone calls on your phone. (Assuming again that you have not yet bought a DAP, and that you receive anything other than text messages or robocalls).

I once bought a set of Skull Candy ear things at the Radio Shack before going on an airplane. (Yes, it flew above the clouds). The sound was awful, but I could use them while I was carrying luggage, and tell my spouse that I had landed. Now I use the 1More Triple Drivers, which I guess are IEMs (unless you call them something different because of the mike and phone ability and you can change volume too). I also have some $49 Klipsch IEMs (no idea what model, but they sound OK) that have no inline controls or mike, so they must be IEMs.

Do the inline controls/mike affect the sound by interupting the super-high quality 6 nines copper in the IEM cables? Pardon the Interuption. I really don’t know. I’ve heard that there are “Wireless” IEMs, but they seem to have a wire holding them together. I don’t count those.

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You’ll notice that headphones with inline controls have a 4th conductor (TRRS instead of TRS plug). I imagine that the signal on that 4th conductor is extremely weak, so I would be surprised if it affects the ones carrying audio.

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That’s a good question. If the microphone had a negative effect, this should show up in the frequency responses…and I have not found any issue so far. For example, see my Pioneer CH3 graph above.

I like the inline remote because I can forward/pause songs on my iPhone. Particularly handy in bed at night when my wife may not be impressed by a bright screen. One-button remotes appear to work universally for Android and iPhone alike but you have to make a decision with a three-button remote.

My issue with the microphone is: the rubber tips seal the ears and you cannot hear your own voice when speaking, which is somewhat freaky. That’s what makes Apple’s Earpods so useful (they don’t seal, voices come out clear but the music reproduction is only meh).

Some people outright dislike inline remotes/mics because they:

  • are potentially prone to failure
  • add cost
  • don’ work with most daps

You will also notice that most premium cables don’t have a remote/mic whereas most low to mid-priced single DDs by major brands (Sennheiser, Pioneer, Focal…) feature one.

So far, no remote/mic has failed on me.


I always tend to go for IEMs without the mic as i like to think that you would get a better sound without that getting in the way.

However even on the way more expensive IEMs I’ve not noticed any different with multi driver units. I’m sure if you’re the sort does ‘critical listening’ and are comparing a £200 cable with a £20 in line mic cable you might notice a difference, but on relatively budget sets I’m pretty sure you won’t notice any difference to be honest, especially if you’re listening through your phone instead of high end DAP.

So I’d say just go for it to be honest!

I’m not sure the rotary dial phones have a headphone jack though do they? :wink:


My TRN V80 IEMs ($35) came with a 3.5mm TRRS connector for voice and remote control. This cable gave me nothing but trouble as the length of the RR connectors seem a bit off. So, I experienced random pausing, random activation of voice mode, and endless issues in Apple product jacks. I swapped the cable with a spare TRS cable.

Similarly, the TRRS connector on the AQ NightHawk Carbons wouldn’t even work in some TRS jacks at all. So, that took another adapter and an eventual cable swap.

In the end the extra line definitely has the potential to interfere and is designed to support multiple functions. This usually means compromises in some way–even though it’s probably not an issue at the low to mid range quality level. The fourth line is never included with high-end cables either (excluding Sony’s 4.4mm TRRRS).

My TRN V80 IEMs ($35) came with a 3.5mm TRRS connector for voice and remote control. This cable gave me nothing but trouble as the length of the RR connectors seem a bit off.

Luckily, this model has a detachable cable. Have you tried a 3.5 mm female to male adaptor…one that people use when the phone’s case is in the way of the headphone’s plug?