Universal IEM Recommendations - Headfonia Headphone Reviews

 

The list is sorted based on price, starting from the lowest to the most expensive. This is an ever evolving list. There are so many good sounding IEMs out there that we can’t list them all, but here are our favorites for now.

Venture Electronic Monk

One of the most talked about products this last year and probably one of the most bough earbuds in the world, ever. The VE Monk is popular, not only for its $5 price but also because of its extremely good sound. You would never expect an earbud to sound this good for this little money. It’s not the very best earbud (that might be the ZEN) but for this price, nothing will beat it. Over the last few months, Lee from VE has been adding a lot op cable and color options. Every music lover should at least buy one Monk in his life. $5. Incredible

$5 from VE / Venture Electronics

Review: http://www.headfonia.com/review-ve-monk-4-99-miracle/

Knowledge Zenith ATR

Just like the Monk, the KZ ATR is one of thise $5 gems. This one however is a real inear and not an earbud. Great sound for the price, you have to hear it for yourself but it will blow you away for this little money. Great bass, lovely treble and rich mids, the KZ ATR does it all. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money but get great sound for the price, then I can only fully recommend getting the KZ ATR.

$5 from Knowledge Zenith

Review: http://www.headfonia.com/review-knowledge-zenith-kz-atr-budget-miracle/

FiiO F1 and F3

These new earphones speak for themselves. Just get them and listen, you will be impressed by the sound quality. What are you going to lose anyway? $40 dollars? That’s basically nothing in today’s market and Berkhan really believes you can’t get better than this for the price. FiiO F1 and F3 have the portability and durability for an active lifestyle, good comfort and more importantly, great sound.

$25 from Fiio

Review: http://www.headfonia.com/fiio-f1-and-f3-dynamic-duo/

LZ Hifi LZ-A4

Simply put, LZ-A4 is the BOMB. The sound is kind of out of your head thanks to the great sound stage and speaker feeling, with a non-aggressive smooth sound with a tremendous bass. The mids and highs are maybe not quite as impressive as the bass, but still very coherent and high level for the cost. It combines these with nearly unlimited options for altering the sound, a good build quality and accessory package. And this was the first time that I (Berkhan) liked an IEM with filtering options. I think every audiophile should give this IEM a try to see the amazing performance.

$195 from LZ HIFI

Review: http://www.headfonia.com/review-lz-a4/

Oriveti New Primacy

New Primacy’s 3D layering, soundstage, and new, more extended high frequency extension are worthwhile, iterative improvements. The new, stereo-wide bass is the bee’s knees. What’s not is its insertion and same-old MMCX neck angles. Still, it is a damn fine earphone. It is built well. It looks great. Oriveti brand their stuff great. New Primacy is worthwhile, but not altogether New, not altogether a fix to the original. If you’re in the market for a new earphone, the Oriveti New Primacy, like Primacy before it, remains a recommended buy. It comes in at the same price as the original, which makes the decision easy. But if you are a happy Primacy owner – and you should be – stay happy with what you have.

$299 from Oriveti

Review: http://www.headfonia.com/review-oriveti-new-primacy-newer-primmer-just-as-precious/

Earsonics ES-2 and ES-3

Our French friends have made a nice push to the mid-fi IEM market with these. The ES-2 was the obvious surprise with that veiled and dark sound but if you match it with a reference DAP with a brighter sound I think you will get a great musical result. If you’re treble sensitive like me, you can go for it. ES-3 on the other hand, sits together with the best price/performance IEM’s according to me. With its speedy and funny approach to music it will make the ES fans fully satisfied. The sound is also very dynamic and articulate and I personally think it’s a junior S-EM9 for less than one-third of the price.

$299 & $399 from Earsonics

Review: http://www.headfonia.com/earsonics-es2-and-es3-review-jumeaux/

Oriolus Forsteni

Forsteni is the IEM that was released after the already legendary Oriolus V2. With one less BA driver, it could be seen as a baby Oriolus but it’s not just that. It’s such a great mid-range monitor that gives a little flatter and brighter sound compared to original Oriolus and it fits much much better with a smaller body. You can even prefer the Forsteni over Oriolus if you like a little more open and closer sound with articulated treble.

$374 from Oriolus

Review: http://www.headfonia.com/review-oriolus-forsteni-not-just-a-baby/

 

Grado GR10

To quote Nathan:”The GR10 is almost perfect”. It’s got a sound that stands toe-to-toe with much more expensive earphones, but it’s far more comfortable and costs far less. If only it isolated a bit better, it would completely dominate all of my out-and-about listening. But even with those mild digs, it is one of the best earphones out there, at any price. The Grado sound is something you have to experience. It defines its retail space. It is addictive. And even though my long-term experience squeezes in just two earphones, it is proved every time I come back to the GR10 after reviewing and enjoying larger, much more expensive earphones.

$399 from Grado

Review: http://www.headfonia.com/grado-gr10-away-the-avoirdupois/

Noble Savanna

Maybe it’s not an all-around IEM, but with the right source and right recording, Savanna is a true reference monitor. I recommend this pretty IEM to everyone who doesn’t want to throw over 500$ at an IEM and to who seek a reference like-tuning with high quality mids. In the right circumstances, this one can even compete with IEM’s in much higher price classes.

$499 from Noble Audio

Review: http://www.headfonia.com/review-noble-savanna-special/

Noble Sage

Sage offers a lot of the delicious things from the current Noble flagships. Its superior instrumental separation and imaging together with the balanced yet fun signature are Sage’s key strengths. Noble’s entry level placed universal IEM sure punches way above its price and has outdone many more expensive models I have heard. For its incredible sound quality and price position it is highly recommended.

$599 from Noble

Review: http://www.headfonia.com/review-noble-audio-sage-fantastic/

UM Martian 

It’s good to see a high performing IEM with a price below 1000$. I give UM a lot of credit to try to change things in the business and I hope more manufacturers will consider this as well. I would like to invite other brands to put up these type of IEMs with acceptable prices and better value for the hard earned money we audiophiles spend. There is fantastic bass presentation from top to bottom in terms of quality, true sounding mids with good resolution and good tonal accuracy and great extending treble. An open and airy IEM, Martian is a brilliant piece of work and I recommend it for open/brighter sound lovers.

$699 from Unique Melody

Review: http://www.headfonia.com/unique-melody-martian-curiosity/

Beyerdynamic Xelento Remote & AK 

Nathan has a hard time deciding which one of these he likes best but he insisted both would be added to the recommended universal line-up. The latest TK8iE mkii is one of the best-sounding, most dynamic earphones I’ve ever had in my ears. And it is even more comfortable than it is good sounding. Its over-engineered accessories are completely forgivable in light of its incredible sound and fit. It’s a concession to which I give full, unbridled consent.Deciding between Xelento and the AKT8iE is difficult. When my music queue is long on non-rap male vocals, and when my album list is full of live audiences, I prefer the AKT8iE. Despite the mild disconnect between bass and lower mids, Xelento pulls as my reference heart strings

$999 from Beyerdynamic

$999 from Astell&Kern

Review: http://www.headfonia.com/review-beyerdynamic-xelento-remote-anthem/

Review: http://www.headfonia.com/review-astellkern-akt8ie-mkii-age-of-consent/

AK & JH Angie

This, Berkhan thinks, is the best designed IEM in terms of color mix and shape. The tall and wide sound stage, or heart-touching mids are just another part of the story, as well as the relaxed and soft approach to music. Angie is the most smooth and romantic IEM that I’ve experienced. You only find that every once in a while.

$1099 from Astell & Kern / JH Audio

Picture Sunday: http://www.headfonia.com/picture-sunday-ak-jh-angie-irreplaceable/

CA Andromeda

The Andromeda is brilliant according to Nathan. More engaging than Jupiter, but still erring chalkily rather than wetly emotional. There is so much space in Andromeda’s mids and high mids. So much. If you’re into rock, singer/song writer, heavy metal, and even uplifting or vocal trance, Andromeda is brilliantly adaptable. Its mids you can’t get over. No way. So if you love mids and still dig sparkly highs, and can do with a comparatively laid back bass, Andromeda is your ticket. It is as solid as it is finely machined. Campfire Audio are on the top of the maker game.

$1099 from Campfire Audio

Review: http://www.headfonia.com/review-campfire-audio-andromeda-topping-maker-game/

Oriolus V2 

It simply is a masterpiece. From the perfect bass to lively mids and kind trebles, it’s a joy to listen to, every single time. You can’t deny the success of this wonderful IEM, regardless of your preference. It’s technically very strong and sits at the top with the best, and it undoubtedly gives a musical perfection. If you’re after this kind of reproduction, just go for it. It’s also a great all-rounder thanks to the amazing cohesiveness, so you can listen to almost everything with it. Self-evidently; It’s one of the best.

$1100 from Oriolus

Review: http://www.headfonia.com/review-oriolus-v2/

InEar ProPhile 8

Inear has the very best fitting universals on the market. Their latest unit is a reference tuned monitor with a treble and bass boos switch. With its flat, neutral tuning it manages to show you all the details in the music without boosting anything at all. Clarity, precision and speed are key. While the sound stage width is good, it could have been a little deeper with better layering. With its neutral and coherent tuning from bass to treble, the ProPhile 8 doesn’t sound dry or boring and it even – with the switched turned off –sounds musical and engaging. If you want a neutral tuned universal IEM that almost is a custom and which sounds musical on top of that, you better start saving up for the ProPhile 8. I think Inear has managed to check off a lot of boxes with their latest creation and I am sure the sales numbers will prove it.

1298€ from Inear Germany

Review: http://www.headfonia.com/review-inear-prophile-8-high-prophile/

Obravo EAMT-1A

Crazy. Crazy expensive but crazy good, that’s what this IEM is. The oBravo EAMT-1A is a unique sounding universal that wowed me from the start and believe me, after 7 years of doing personal audio reviews, that isn’t something that’s easy to do. All I can say is that this simply is the best sounding universal inear monitor that ever was in the HFN headquarters. It does leak sound out and noise in, so this isn’t the kind of IEM to use on the way to work (if you want to carry around an IEM of that price class on the train that is). Crazily good.

$4350 from Obravo

Review: http://www.headfonia.com/review-obravo-eamt-1a-start-saving/

 

Only the most popular products are listed here. If you feel it to be too limited, feel free to browse the reviews on the Headphones Category:

 

 

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66 Comments

  • Reply January 30, 2012

    Hep Dude

    Mike – You need to be aware that many fakes of Sennheiser IEMs are being
    sold, especially CX-300 and CX-500.   Sennheiser has a list of
    authorized retailers at:

    http://www.sennheiserusa.com/serviceandsupport_dealer-locator_authorized-retailers

    Amazon is on that list, but Sennheiser warns that Amazon marketplace
    sellers are NOT:

    “Amazon.com is indeed a dealer…but do not purchase Sennheiser from
    their 3rd party marketplace unless from J&R or Tiger Direct as they
    are also authorized dealers.”

    The Amazon comments on those IEMs are filled with reports of fakes being
    sold even with “Fulfillment by Amazon” (evidently they have a pallet of
    fakes sent directly to the Amazon Warehouse and let Amazon handle
    everything).  A1 Accessories does that, and comments reports those are
    fakes, and Sennheiser lists them on their Non-Authorized sellers page:

    http://www.sennheiserusa.com/nonauthorized

    The CX-500 is officially discontinued, and out of stock everywhere –
    except for ridiculously low prices from nonauthorized dealers – and have
    the most reports of fakes (probably all CX-500s are now fakes).

    In contrast, the CX-300II is available as:

    ” Ships from and sold by Amazon.com ”

    and you really need to advise your readers to look for that, since you
    are using Amazon links.  Just shopping on the Amazon site does not
    protect your readers – as Sennheiser themselves state.

    • Reply January 30, 2012

      Mike

      Thanks for the information. This sure makes things complicated. I may just take them off the list. 

  • Reply January 31, 2012

    Anonymous

    You can check out more info on the Shure SE215 IEH’s at http://www.shurese215.com.

  • Reply February 3, 2012

    Hep Dude

     Mike – I ordered the CX-300 II from your link, and I made sure that it was “Ships from and sold by Amazon.com ” and that was all that was necessary to get a genuine product.   Currently $30.28, it is an excellent value – simply much better sound quality than the HD-202 II that are the same price, although I understand that is apples and oranges.  Nevertheless, timbre and details are significantly better (and the fit is surprisingly good).  Probably best headphone under $50 currently.
    So, my personal recommendation is that you remove the discontinued CX-500 entirely, and change the red typeface to advise readers to choose the “Ships from and sold by Amazon.com” choice only – which is also the Sennheiser rep’s recommendation.
    I previously disliked IEMs, but I may try the SE215 since it is so widely applauded.

    • Reply February 3, 2012

      Mike

      Thanks for helping me out with these issues, Hep Dude. 

    • Reply February 3, 2012

      Mike

      For the same price, usually it’s easier to get things to sound right on an IEM which is what you’re witnessing between the HD202 and CX300. 

      The CX300 is good, just underrated. The CX500 is actually even better, too bad they discontinued it. 

  • Reply February 14, 2012

    Ryan Adiputra

    hello mike, you should try the Phonak PFE012 for the sub $150 recommendation 🙂 , it is pretty nice 🙂 .

    • Reply February 15, 2012

      Mike

      Thanks Ryan,
      I’ve tried it many times. 😉

      • Reply February 16, 2012

        Enoch Wong

        How is the musicality of it? How does it compare to high end iems? I got one, and the treble is very very good.

        • Reply February 17, 2012

          Mike

          It’s okay. It’s not a bad IEM.

  • Reply February 23, 2012

    A83

    Have you had any experience with the Beyerdynamic MMX 101iE?

    • Reply February 23, 2012

      Mike

      Wow, sorry not with that one.

  • Reply March 2, 2012

    Jeff Kong

    Hi Headfonia,
    I’m just curious about the HF5 which you have linked under the etymotic ER4; seeing as you haven’t really written much if anything at all on it. Would you mind giving me a short brief on it?

    • Reply March 3, 2012

      Mike

      Hi Jeff,
      Last time I had both HF5 and ER4P, I think the sound is mostly the same.

      • Reply March 4, 2012

        Jeff Kong

        Ah, I see. thank you Mike.

  • Reply July 22, 2012

    Stephen Loke

    Hi,

    Which IEM would you recommend for Pop, Rock & Alternative? I have a budget of 450USD.

  • Reply November 23, 2012

    reckoncile

    I recently heard the CX300 II. I very much like the sound signature, it has the bass punch exactly where I want it and in appropriate quantity, and not too much rumble (which gives me headaches). I’d also would’ve liked the bit more treble. I was wondering if the IE8/IE80 would be a logical upgrade, if I wanted the same/similar sound signature with more texture and detail?

  • Excuse me have anybody tried the monster turbine before and how it compare to shure 215 cause the price is about the same.

    • Reply January 8, 2013

      Mike

      Monster turbine is far more bassy, recessed midrange and the treble is sharper.

      • Ok thnks mike for the reply. If i want to get iem that allows me to hear audiophile song and r & b song which do you suggest and my budget is about 200 dollar max

        • Reply January 8, 2013

          Mike

          Ugh not easy

          • Is the shure 215 good for audiophile? Also what do you think is the closet iem that can get close for the req above and if it cost more than 200 still ok just than it is still below 400us.
            Thanks for any info you can provide mike.

            • Reply January 9, 2013

              Ken Stuart

              The Shure 215 has a very accurate midrange, especially for a budget product. It is definitely good for an audiophile. Also it is US$99 not US$200.

              • Thanks for the info ken. Also i am planning to buy hifiman 601 for the player cause now the iphone i am using the sound is very sharp and little detail come out of it.

                • Reply January 9, 2013

                  Mike

                  The Hifiman should be good.

                  • Now i am using iphone 5 with hippo cri cri as amp and i borrowed my friend turbine. My own iem is ajays 2.

            • Reply January 9, 2013

              Mike

              Some recommendations for audiophile recordings:

              SE535LE
              Sony EX1000
              T-Peos H-100

              • Dear mike how about fisher tandem. I was looking at jaben indonesia couple of days ago and they give me a demo for a couple of iem.

                • Reply January 9, 2013

                  Mike

                  I’ve yet to audition them, and sorry

                  Sent from my mobile device. Sorry for any mistype.

  • Reply March 19, 2013

    Marcilio

    Between the SE215 and The X10, wich one is better for pop/rock music? I like it a little warmer and bassier

  • Reply July 16, 2013

    Navneet Sinha

    Hey guys, Urgent help needed. Plz help me decide inbetween:
    1.SoundMagic PL11
    2.Panasonic RP-HJE355E
    3.Audio Technica CKL202
    4.Philips SHE9700
    5.Philips SHE6000
    6.Philips SHE9550
    7.Sony MDR-EX220LP

    Help me decide amongst them. I’ve used SoundMagic pl21 and es18 before. Loved both of them. Want to try something new. i wanted Audio technica cor150, but its not available in India. If any other at the same price, let me know. Thanks 🙂

  • Reply September 17, 2013

    HZE

    Any impression for ASG-2? Thanks.

    • Reply September 18, 2013

      Mike

      BRIEF listening session impression:

      I thought that the ASG-2 is supposed to be the universal model of the AS-2 custom. Since I was the distributor for Aurisonics, we had an AS-2 universal fit which was supposedly the closest thing to an ASG-2. It has a smooth dynamic driver bass and a relaxed though extended balanced armature treble. I think the tonal balance was very good, well balanced. I didn’t have any complain with it except that it’s probably not dark enough for me.
      That was the AS-2 universal demo.

      The ASG-2, the official ASG-2 sounded very different as if with a different driver. It sounded like an ASG-1 tuned with more treble, less dark, more upfront mid.
      That was just a brief listening session though.

  • Reply January 20, 2014

    Alberto Martinez

    Hi all, I need your help for best option of IEM, if possible with noise sealing.
    I only listen to rock (’70, Eric Clapton style) and jazz guitar, in a 65/35 rock/jazz time, thru Spotify in extreme quality downolads; half of the time I connect the android or PC to an old FiiO E7 DAC AMP.
    In the wired configuration, which one?

    In the wireless (bluetooth) configuration wich one? In this category is there one with mic to make mobile phone calls with enough quality?
    Thanks in advance,
    Alberto

    • Reply January 20, 2014

      L.

      Budget?

      • Reply January 21, 2014

        Alberto Martinez

        Note: when I wrote noise sealing I was referring to noise isolating as well.
        A max of 150€, but preferly less than 100€

    • Reply January 21, 2014

      Mike

      I’d still take the UE TF10

      And if you want something more refined, the Heir 4ai

  • Reply January 24, 2014

    Shilelis

    Hey. I’m thinking about new IEM, about Hifiman re-400 because of good reviews. What do you think? And what is alternative to it?

    Thanks.

    • Reply January 30, 2014

      Mike

      I haven’t heard the RE-400 to be honest.

  • Reply March 23, 2014

    Tronco

    Hi all,
    I have been using the Shure SE215 for over half a year now and I love them! Isolation is very good and I absolultely love the sound.
    I have been using them mostly at work and at the gym but I am thinking to get something cheaper for the gym. I want the SE215 to last and I don’t think sweaty ears will help at that.
    The Sennheiser CX300-II might be a candidate given the price. What do you think?
    Any other suggestions?

    Thanks!

    • Reply March 24, 2014

      L.

      You’re right. Also good is the Ficher Audio Eterna Rev 1 or 2

      • Reply May 6, 2014

        Tronco

        Thanks, I got the CX-300 and they truly are excellent value! I prefer the SE215 but these are perfect for the gym or sports.

    • Reply January 26, 2016

      Irfan Fazdane

      Ive had them for about 2 years now, and I can say that they are pretty mediocre for gym use. They fit amazingly, though sweat would easily make the ear tips fall out of your ear. I wanted to ask you if the shure se215s are worth it!

  • Reply March 24, 2014

    Laurent F.

    You should consider the Shure SE846, it’s an universal with an CIEM sound, and 3 IEMs in one with the sound filters

    • Reply March 24, 2014

      L.

      Are you talking to us about doing a SE846 review?

      • Reply March 24, 2014

        Laurent F.

        I meant the Shure to be one of the recommended, but if making a review first is the condition for being in the Recommendations, then of course 🙂
        I don’t own any CIEM but from the head-fi appreciation thread I understand that it can compete with a lot of them.

        • Reply March 24, 2014

          L.

          oh , I get it. We’re working on updating the quides together with Dale

      • Reply April 6, 2014

        2jono

        Yes please , more IEM reviews .. Thats what we need )

        • Reply April 6, 2014

          L.

          We have some customs coming up but this isn’t the place for IEM reviews in general

          • Reply April 7, 2014

            2jono

            But if you did IEMs , this would be the place )

            • Reply April 7, 2014

              L.

              This already is THE place 😉

              • Reply April 7, 2014

                2jono

                It sure is THE place , with such quality company !
                But with so many IEMs hitting the market ,
                We missing out on them .. with all the good company and all 🙂

        • Reply April 7, 2014

          ohm image

          Hey, lots of great IEM reviews coming up. Got awesome stuff coming from very esoteric manufacturers as well as more consumer kind, too. I think you’re in for some reading/dreaming fun. I know I am. I have fallen so deeply in love with two IEMs for review that I purchased them.

          • Reply April 7, 2014

            2jono

            Phew , you have my interest after such contagious IEM enthusiasm ,
            and lots of reviews @ that )
            What a prospect and thanks for heads up , already following !

          • Reply April 7, 2014

            L.

            Dont push it with the iems dude 😀

    • Reply April 7, 2014

      ohm image

      SE846 will be reviewed soon. Hot on the plate.

  • Reply August 24, 2014

    Venci

    So are these recommendations still current ? I am mainly looking at shure 215.

    • Reply August 24, 2014

      L.

      That still is a good one!

  • Reply September 24, 2014

    Tofan Yatnakriana H

    Is there any new recommendation for rock music since tf10 is hardly to find in the fair price and its 2014 😛

    • Reply September 24, 2014

      Headfonia_L.

      We’re working on updating that section. What’s your budget?

      • Reply September 24, 2014

        Tofan Yatnakriana H

        I think between 200-300 usd, i really love the hd25 sounds, hopefully there is an IEM that pretty similar with hd25 sounds.

  • Reply November 24, 2014

    Suzana

    Hi all! I’ve been using CX 300 II for over two years now and I’m thinking about getting a Shure SE215. The sound quality really is better compared to CX 300? I also wanted to know if SE215 is confortable like sennheiser’s 🙂

    • Reply January 26, 2016

      Irfan Fazdane

      I’m in the same boat right now! I’ve had the cx 300 II for about 2 years and my second pair just broke. I’m looking into the shure se215s as well but Im still on the fence

  • Reply February 8, 2016

    Tronco

    Hi guys,
    I just sold my car and I can’t find a reason not to invest part of that money in head gear 🙂 I’m thinking of getting my first pair of custom IEMs. I have the Sennheiser CX 300II, Shure SE215 and SE535. I listen mainly to radio, rock music and electronic.
    Which custom IEMs would you recommend? I am looking for something that is a step up from the IEMs I already own, but not much more than 500 Euro. My car wasn’t worth much after all. 🙂
    I was looking at the CosmicEars CE4P/CE5P because I like the idea of the Pre-Fit service.
    Any recommendations or thoughts would be appreciated.

  • Reply October 28, 2016

    Andrew Lewis

    Hi guys,

    Looking for some advice, looking to spend $100-$150 on a set of earbuds. I’ve been using the Dre urBeats but in the past 3 years 2 pairs have crapped out on me so I’m looking for something different. I’m an avid runner so I’m not sure if that should factor into the decision.

    Thanks

  • Reply April 10, 2017

    yoann

    You should update the buyers recommendation…

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