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 Electronics 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. $5. Incredible
Unless you haven’t read the review, you should know what I’ll say here: get a pair of KZ ZS5. It’s a cheap, great-sounding, hybrid IEM. Commonly, cheap + hybrid + chi-fi doesn’t equal success but KZ proves me wrong with the ZS5. It has been my daily driver for a few weeks now and they never fail. The build is sturdy, which is great for my daily traveling. The bass is astounding and the mids can surprise you more than once, thanks to a carefully designed crossover (the real hero here). It’s comfortable, so light you’ll forget them (I did) and you can fit all the cables you want. The only real drawback being the highs, not as refined as you’d expect… for a classic 4 drivers IEM.
Sure, you can get better IEM with wider soundstage or more detailed mids. Sure you can get fancier ears with Campfire and their Ceratoke finish. But, for T-W-E-N-T-Y F-I-V-E dollars ? I don’t think so, and that’s why you need a KZ ZS5, or two, in case you lose the first. This is a Recommended Buy for sure!!
Shozy V33 (Added 01/01/2020)
Shozy always offers great value with their products and this “vinyl” V33 series once again proves that point. These earphones have a very nice and elegant design, good build quality, and a very comfortable fit. They also have a heart-warming sound with that vinyl touch in their presentation.
With its 49$ price, the V33 is an excellent earphone with a very coherent, slightly warm, and organic presentation. Also, it has the same aluminum parts as the Pro model in the cable. The y-split, the neck slider and the 3.5mm jack are exactly the same as the V33 Pro. The only addition with the Pro is the SPC cable, which I don’t think matches very well with the presentation.
Final Audio E2000 / E3000
the most comfortable and versatile of the lot are the Final Audio E2000 and E3000. And of the two, I find the E2000, the cheaper model, to be the most well rounded. Final Audio really did a great job with both of these models. I have said this time and time again, but I love seeing cheap gear step up and deliver great performance. I wouldn’t want to be without the E2000 for general listening, and taking leisurely strolls around the neighborhood, and I wouldn’t want to be without the E3000 when I want Dvorak to play me to sleep.
The ZS10 left me with mixed feelings. I loved it but something felt missing with its sound, and the huge part had something to do with its midbass. Yet, the AS10 proved itself to me in many ways.
Now I know I praised the Hibiki a lot. But sorry, Hibiki is not alone in there anymore and it has a new companion in our Universal IEM Recommendations list. I recommend the AS10 to anyone who’s looking for an IEM that costs less than $100 and has a warm, organic tuning with good midbass body. Not to mention its nice fit with very good isolation. Overall it’s a really successful piece of work and I need to say I’m surprised.
Shozy Form 1.1 [Added 27/02/2020]
Shozy once again have put up an IEM that performs seriously good for the price. However, they decided to go for a big bass in the mid-bass section to appeal general music audience. I did not like this tuning simply because the IEM performs very good in other sections, and the mid-bass distracts you with its overly impressive presence sometimes.
This is truly an exceptional IEM from iBasso and I simply can’t criticize any aspect here. The only thing I could say is the slightly thinner tonality and that’s it. There’s nothing else I can bring up for this price level. Packaging is also impressive, and even though I haven’t seen it myself, I can tell from the photos that it’s nicely packed. Most importantly, they ship it with a great and durable cable and you just can’t ask for more than that. What the IT01 gives you is one of the best performances you can find for 100$. Great energy, good bass, crisp mids and treble with a perfect resolution for the price. I definitely recommend it.
The TinHifi T4 is a great IEM, period.
If I didn’t want to believe the hype at first, I had no choice but admit that TinHifi completely overturns the tide in their favor. The T4 sounds and feels like a major in-ear: a clean shape with sturdy construction and the right amount of sophistication, combined with one the best dynamic driver you can find in this price range.
The sound stage is amazing, sound pressure is astounding and once you’ve changed the tips and cables, they’ll fit perfectly in your ear. A massive update of the T2/T3, and a great choice for any Chi-Fier, or anyone.
I’m very happy that I got referred to Akoustyx by Knowles as I think they have created something really good at the price point they’re selling it for. The one Knowles BA-driver R-210 is my personal favorite and if you’re into great sounding, neutrally tuned IEMs, then you really should add this R-210 IEM to your collection. For only $199,99 this is a no-brainer and as a result I am putting the Akoustyx R-210 on our Best universal IEM list with all our Best IEM buys. It’s the discovery of the year so far for me.
Fiio FH3 [Added 07/09/2020]
Another day, another win for FiiO. Take a good, affordable, IEM, and take it to the higher ground. For the same price. That’s basically the story behind the FiiO FH3.
Performances are on par, if not better than the FH5 for almost half of the price. The Bass is delightful, the vocals superb, and in this price range, there isn’t anything that really competes in terms of comfort/robustness/design. If you want deep, authoritative lows in a good looking package, this is the one. To me, it’s the perfect contender to the AudioSense DT200, the latter one beating the FiiO in terms of sound stage.
That said, at the end of the day, I think both should deserve to be in my recommendation list: they’re awesome. So to the list it goes. Well done!
Shanling AE3 [Added 11/11/2020]
The Shanling AE3 is great IEM, in every way. Build quality is superb, comfort is excellent and, even if didn’t expect much from them at first, I became immediately hooked the moment I put them in my ears. The AE3 sound and feel like a top-tier IEM – clean mids, sharp highs, deep bass – for a quarter of the price.
Up to date, this is one of the best three-driver / dual-way IEMs I ever encountered, for now. And what’s even more surprising, is the fact that Shanling achieved this level of performance and production, at such a low price. With the FiiO FH3 and AudioSense DT200, the AE3 proudly deserve to be on my recommendation list, as one of the best choice if you seek a sub-$200 IEM.
The TinHifi P1 is very good overall, excellent for the price. The sound is nice with overwhelming precision, impressive sound pressure and a sound signature that 90% of listeners will love, and 10% will tweak. The build quality is superb, with the shiny Stainless Steel shell and the copper braided cable. I love it. It needs a (very) good source to fully deploy its wings but, do it and you’ll be pleasantly rewarded. For 199$, you really can’t go wrong on this one. Enter the chi-fi train, it keeps speeding up !
Shozy Rouge [Added 26/08/2020]
Shozy once again has put up an IEM that performs seriously good for the price. For me, it’s one of the few companies that didn’t jump on the bandwagon of releasing ridiculously priced IEMs one after another. So I think they deserve respect for what they do.
The Shozy Rouge is certainly recommended and you’ll not be disappointed. For 179$ you get a well-balanced presentation with very impressive clarity and resolution. The tonality is also great together with a definitive treble performance with great extension and articulation.
The ER4-series IEMs already were in our Buyers Guide for universal inear monitors, and I have added this ER3-series to that list. The ER3 IEMs really are the ER4’s little brother and they share the exact same characteristics, yet they perform at a lower level, which is only normal with the price difference between them. For only $179 you get a set of wonderfully tuned, neutral, very impressive IEMs. If you like a little bit more bass, the XR-versions for sure is the one to go for. All in all, I am convinced these will seriously impress you if you haven’t heard the ER4-series yet. And it will make you wonder about the price/quality relationship of a whole lot of other brands.
Shozy Form 1.4 [Added 09/09/2020]
Once again, Shozy has put up an IEM that performs very well for the price. If you’re looking for an all-rounder with a warm and full-bodied presentation, the Shozy Form 1.4 can definitely be your answer. Don’t miss out that it has a great treble performance as well, despite its warm tuning.
Also, I think it’s hard to find this timbre success in this sub-300$ market and that’s why I think the 1.4 is a great performer. Since its overall performance is very close to the BG as well as being the more all-rounder IEM with less cost, I remove the Shozy BG from our Best Universal IEMs page and put the Form 1.4 instead.
Thieaudio Legacy 4 [Added 22/04/2021]
If you’re after that tight and rumbling bass, crisp treble, and high-resolution instrument reproduction, the Thieaudio Legacy 4 is an excellent performer for this price.
I would say that the L4 is a great performer and it impressed me since I opened its package and put it in my ear. This is a highly competitive market especially in this price range, but the Legacy 4 is definitely a viable choice. It’s not that impressive and game-changing as the ER2XR, but it’s recommended. Good job.
Most hybrid IEMs mostly have a V-shaped sound to me. But the OH300 puts a different aspect to the table and proves that hybrid IEMs can also sound very balanced and coherent. Not many IEMs have managed to achieve that, so I think this new model from Oriveti is very successful. The tuning is masterful except that subbass focus, which can become a little too much with wrong source pairings, but to me that’s acceptable. Most importantly, Oriveti presents the IEM in a perfect package for the money. It feels like I’ve purchased something that costs double the price. Another aspect is the premium looking, slick design language that feels great in the hand. Everything in this IEM smacks of quality.
When I finished my listening test with the oBravo Cupid, I was quite confused about putting it in our recommendation list. Everything in its sound is high quality, despite its price level. The dynamic driver performs exceptionally well for bass, and the planar driver inside performs great for resolution, transparency and positioning. However, the issue in its timbre confused me for quite some time.
Yet, I decided to put the Cupid in our Best Universal IEMs Recommendation List in the end, because it’s very hard to find something in the market that can give this type of an overall performance for this price. Sure, tonality is very important in my book, but it’s impossible to overlook the IEM’s performance in the rest of the field. Not to mention its great build quality and comfortable fit.
To me, the oBravo Cupid is certainly a winner.
Sennheiser IE 300 [Added 08/02/2021]
Sennheiser stands for quality in both build quality as well as sound, and it’s no different this time. The IE 300 is a very affordable IEM that not only looks nice, it’s also very well built, very comfortable and great sounding. The IE 300 has a more U-shaped sound signature but it to me in the graph looks more extreme than it really is. The bass is impressive and addictive, the mid timbre is to die for and the treble is energetic. It’s just an easy end engaging IEM to listen to, no matter the music you throw at it.
The Sennheiser IE 300 for $299 delivers great value for money and it’s impressive to see what tonality and sound quality Sennheiser managed to get out of a single driver.
Fiio EM5 [Added 28/09/2020]
nd therein lies the brilliance of the EM5: it allows you to create a no-compromise, open sound reminiscent of a full-size set of open-back headphones wherever you are, without fuss. I did think initially that its use-cases would be limited, thereby making them somewhat of a niche proposition, but thinking of the EM5’s in IEM-terms isn’t the right way to view this talented little pair of earbuds.
The FiiO EM5 has a properly grown-up and impressive sound that will reward the listener with an open, spacious, and surprisingly natural performance when fed with appropriately matched music. Let’s just say I’m never going to the trouble of packing a pair of open-back headphones with me when I travel going forward – the EM5 is simply superb. It gets our nod, and certainly earns a place on our ‘recommended buy‘ list.
Again and again, BGVP keeps improving and the DM7 are the finest model they offer up to date. It’s a good improvement from the DM6, even if they both share the same sound signature. The improvements in the upper range really make a difference in the long term. To be blunt: it’s better than the DM6 in every way. If the DM7 cost is 50% more than the DM6, that’s just 100$ more if you want the big picture and, in my opinion, this is more than fair. This is a serious IEM with a very high quality/price ratio. If the Fearless S6 Rui is too much bass-oriented for you, get the DM7, you won’t be disappointed.
What a nice and pleasant surprise and experience listening to the Etymotic ER4-series has been. My ears and brain very quickly got used to the sublime level of clarity and cleanness and going back to other IEMs was quite the challenge. The ER4’s precision and speed is remarkable and it clearly shows Etymotic has all the experience to make this happen. The Etymotic ER4-XR and SR both sound incredibly good and looking at their price, they’re an absolute steal. I absolutely recommend everyone to get one of these at least once to experience the Etymotic sound signature. You can’t call yourself an audiophile if you haven’t ????
Astell&Kern (JH Audio) Billie Jean
Sonically the Billie Jean is a delight, great dynamics, well bodied, heaps of resolution and a clean signature overall. Bass is punchy, mids are well formed and rich and treble is energetic and fast. If you’re sensitive to brighter tuned monitors, you might want to give it a careful listen first, but to me, at this point there is hardly anything to complain about. To me there are only two things where the Billie Jean could improve, that’s extension on both ends and a more solid sub-bass foundation. At this price however, it is the best I have heard. I even go that far to say, it punches well above its suggested retail price and fights back models that set you back heavier.
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.
FiiO has finally managed to create an IEM that sounds correct, coherent, and high quality this time around. And with its 450 $ price tag, it’s a wonderful IEM in the Mid-Fi area. I’m sure it will be a fan favorite in this price range soon. Considering the rich package content, build quality, fit and sound, the FH7 deserves great attention in the portable audio market.
Oriveti came back to the market in a timely fashion with their new IEMs. With an aggressive price policy, beautiful ergonomic design, and great packaging, the new OH series certainly tick lots of boxes. The OH500 in particular, reminds me one of my favorite IEMs ever, the Oriolus MK2. To achieve that with a fraction of the price is somewhat remarkable to me. It’s not the MK2, but it comes close. Very impressive. I recommend these two new IEMs from Oriveti to everyone who’s looking high-quality IEMs for their money.
Final Audio B3
The New Final Audio B Series has style, uniqueness and great build quality. These areas are nothing short of impressive with these three IEMs, but especially for B1 and B3. They fit great and they’re very comfortable too. So in terms of practicality and usage topics, they ticked a lot of boxes for me. In terms of sound, the B2 didn’t reach my expectations. There’s not enough resolution to me, and too much treble roll off. I realized it sounds like some bookshelf speakers to some degree, which can attract the lovers of that kind of a sound signature.
The B3 in my opinion is the best value and the best IEM among the three. It stays loyal to technical guidelines and presents a very honest sound which impressed me from start to finish. It’s very coherent in its own flat presentation, with a great sound-stage and imaging performance.The B1 is the most suitable IEM for me in this lineup, but due to a few reasons I couldn’t justify its price tag against the B3. It surely has the better bass response and instrument timbre, but its somewhat thin and light treble presentation forms an inconsistent sound overall. I liked it pretty much, but I can’t deny the tuning success of the B3 model, which offers a much better value.
Unique Melody Mini MEST [Added 13/10/2020]
The Mini MEST is just as special as the MEST in this regard: it performs incredibly well for the price it is selling for and it easily beats many monitors in its price class with it’s engaging tuning and bone conduction experience.
For only $599 you get one heck of a universal hybrid monitor. I’m not the biggest fan of universal fit IEMs, but this one is so good that I have to give it our Recommended Buy award. To the Best Buy list it goes!
Softears RSV [Added 20/05/2021]
I simply can not find any weakness in the sound of the RSV. Maybe I can only mention a slight boost in the sub-bass region and relatively small sound-stage. Nothing else made me feel uncomfortable. After listening to three models from Softears, I can honestly say this is their bang-for-buck product.
I don’t think anyone would find a problem with the sound of this monitor. Does it excel in a certain area? Not really, as it has this “safe” approach to the sound so it doesn’t take any risks. That may sound like it doesn’t have the best resolution or transparency. But that’s not the case. And this is the exact reason that it’s a successful IEM in my book.
Back in the day when Audeze introduced their iSine monitors, they had the guts to try something different. In my opinion it really paid off. The LCD-i3 creates a sound that is hardly comparable to your typical IEM. The experience in total is so very different. The only thing the i3 has in common with In Ear Monitors, is the fact that there’s a nozzle that goes into your canal. The LCD-i3 is the closest I’ve come a headphone experience, with an earphone.
The comparatively big drivers create a sound that really is on par with some open Over Ear headphones. The stage is massive for an IEM, the layering, imaging and separation are just incredible. Audeze’s IEMs are the only ones I would consider wearing at home instead of a full sized headphone. It’s just that good. A big plus is also that you get two different sounding monitors in one package. Just slap on the Cipher cable, given you have an Apple device, and you get a different beast all together. The Bluetooth cable is a nice addition for those who want extra convenience.
I know this review sounds like pure rave, but honestly, I am deeply impressed. That doesn’t happen a lot anymore.
Shozy & AAW POLA
I loved POLA from the start. I quite like my treble section detailed, extended and clear with a lot of energy and the POLA delivers just that with the Electrostat tweeter. The beauty is that it’s not only the treble that shines but the bass is equally impressive: it goes down low, has good impact, shows great detail and has excellent layering. The mids section is spacious, detailed smooth and well layered though it mostly depends on the source used how they will sound exactly. Anyway, it’s important to say that POLA isn’t just about bass and treble, as the mids are very good on their own.
Kinera Nanna [added:16/07/2020]
Overall Kinera Nanna is an excellent IEM and I think it has one of the best treble performances in the market right now. Highs are simply phenomenal and if you like your treble to be sparkling, this is one the IEMs that you should look for.
Other aspects like bass quality and depth, sound-stage, and smooth mid reproduction are the other things that shine in this IEM. For this performance, it earns a spot on our Best Universal IEMs page. This is the first time a Kinera product manages to be on that page, so they should be proud, shouldn’t they?
FiR Audio VxV [added:27/04/2021]
The FiR Audio VxV article has been one I have been looking forward to write, simply because I have been enjoying this IEM so much. It just has that magical something that makes you want to listen to it more and more. The VxV sounds exciting and natural, yet also offers good quality.
The VxV was set in the market with on original marketing approach. Not only does it look great, it also offers sublime comfort and it doesn’t break the bank at all. (certainly not at the DROP price). Tuning-wise the VxV is very easy to like. FiR Audio really succeeded in building a great an affordable all-round EDC IEM. It doesn’t matter what source you hook it up to and what music you play through it, your ears will always like the result. For me the FirAudio VxV has a great price-quality ratio and as I really enjoy listening to is so much, I am awarding it with our Recommended Buy award.
Beyerdynamic Xelento Remote, Wireless & AK
The Beyerdynamic Xelento Wireless doesn’t come cheap but you get a beautiful, comfortable, well-built and very good sounding IEM in return.
The Xelento wireless is small and the mini Tesla inside is doing miracles, delivering a real high end sound. The wired version still sounds the best to me but the wireless version together with the MIY is getting very close.
The Xelento Wireless won our best wireless IEM of 2019 award a few weeks ago, and just like the regular and remote (+ AK) version, its’s featured on our best universal list. This is a Recommended Buy for sure.
$999 from Astell&Kern
Empire Ears ESR MKII [added:25/02/2021]
The Empire Ears ESR MKII is just like those studio reference monitors. Those have a linear presentation, but you actually enjoy certain reference speaker models. The ESR MKII is exactly like that. It has a flat response, but you still find yourself enjoying it. And because it’s an extremely smooth and balanced IEM, you can listen to it all day without any fatigue. It just flows through. No distractions, and nothing overdone.
It’s one of the best tunings I’ve come across. And the price? Well, it’s not crazy expensive money in today’s IEM market, so I think it actually has great value. As a result, I recommend the Empire Ears ESR MKII as a great reference monitor. If you’re looking for a true-sounding IEM and had enough of the V-Shaped, fun-oriented gear, this might be your best bet at this point.
Meze Audio Rai Penta
The 5 driver Rai Penta isn’t only comfortable, it looks beautiful and sounds like a high end IEM should sound. Rai Penta is detailed, precise and transparent and with its neutral yet musical tuning the Rai Penta will win over many hearts. Making a correct sounding hybrid is hard but Meze makes it seem oh so easy. For a high end universal IEM costing over $/€1K the package it comes in, as said, is a little basic and it’s mostly the lack of a balanced cable which saddens me. But sound wise – if you’re a fan of the typical high end reference/neutral tuning – you’ll get all you ever wanted.
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.
The new limited production IEMs from Hyla Audio certainly work wonders. If you have a chance to listen to these two anywhere, just go for it. Besides being limited units, they surely sound great, tuned for being assertive in the polar opposite parts of the spectrum. I got the impression from the crowd that the TE-5B is more liked in general, but the TE-5T also has good qualities. I’ve read some other impressions for the TE-5T which state that it’s great as well. It all comes down to your preferences.
What an impressive IEM Earsonics have come up with. This one I think will touch a lot of hearts in the audiophile market very soon. I’m really impressed by the level they’ve climbed up to after releasing the Velvet in 2015. This is simply one of the best products Earsonics have ever released to the market, there’s no doubt about that imho. I think every audiophile around should give it a go if they have the opportunity. For Earsonics fans though, it’s a MUST to listen to this monitor. Good build quality, a great fit with a small footprint considering the technology and the driver sizes inside, and a great sound in all tuning options. That is what the new Earsonics Purple is all about. If you have a chance to listen to this IEM, don’t miss it. One of my friends already purchased it after a short period of listening. Congratulations to Earsonics, easily recommended.
Sennheiser IE 900 [Added 10/05/2021]
I don’t think anyone expected Sennheiser to come with a new high end IEM and a successor of the classic IE 800 but I am sure many will be pleased with this new audiophile unit.
The Sennheiser IE 900 truly is a high end IEM. For a 1-driver model it comes with a higher price tag but you however do get a luxurious package with plenty of accessories in return. But that’s not all. With the IE 900 you also get a perfect fit and an awesome design, an precise high end sound in return. The Sennheiser IE 900 has a tuning in which energy, clarity, extension and vocals play a key role. The IE 900 does respond nicely to different sources, tips and cables and it as such allows you to finetune the sound to your liking.
If you’re on the look for a high end, dynamically driven IEM with a high quality sound, then the Sennheiser IE 900 should be on your list of IEMs to audition. It does have its own specific tuning/sound, but if you’re in to the high end type of tuning, then you’ll be very pleased.
Empire Ears Valkyrie
Empire entered the tri-brid challenge with a bang. The Valkyrie offers many things of its bigger brother, the Legend X. Valkyrie is one of the most exciting and fist bumping monitors I have heard to date. It takes you on a journey of pumping through your music while your feet can’t stay put. People who want a warmer sound, won’t be satisfied as Valkyrie is not about warmth. Valkyrie is all about excitement.
The newly designed shell is a big plus in my opinion, as previous universals from EE have been quite big in size. It’s not just the size though, as the improved form also comes in for comfort.
With the right source Valkyrie absolutely delivers, and for me, it offers a lot bang for buck. Out of all of Empire’s models I know, Valkyrie is the one with the best price to performance ratio. For its high value it goes straight to our Best UIEM list.
Vision Ears VE7 [Added 03/06/2021]
The Vision Ears VE7 has endgame technical performance, a fantastic treble response, incredible resolution, and transparency, all in a neutral and reference-like signature. If you like having your treble crisp, articulated and transparent, this is a no-brainer, if you have the budget of course. Speaking of it, I think the VE7 is well worth the price in the portable market at this time.
I expected nothing less from Amin and the team though. Vision Ears always delivers when it comes to sound, and fit. I think I can’t emphasize that aspect enough, because it amazingly has a custom-like fit to my ears with fantastic comfort. I think all in all this is an excellent IEM with a sound performance being nothing short of spectacular. Just like VE said, “pure clarity”. It can’t be described better.
Lark Studio LSX
This is one of the best universal IEMs that I’ve ever tried. It’s remarkable. I should congratulate the guys at Lark Studios who worked hard for producing this special monitor. It’s very organic and the philosophy of its sound is simply like an analog system. Lush, meaty, slightly dark but with a very realistic and life-like tune. This assertive character and approach is not easy to find among IEMs. There are usually some sacrifices to be made in the tuning process while creating this kind of a sound which is always risky. But Lark Studios deserve a very warm praise for actually pulling it off.
Lime Ears Pneuma [Added 19/11/2020]
What more can I say about Lime Ears Pneuma? Although being late to the hybrid market, they took their time and release one of the best hybrid IEMs you can find. Sure, it doesn’t come cheap but so do others. In return, you have great musicality, an incredible tonal balance, a huge sound-stage, tremendous imaging, and great definition in all frequencies. It also comes with a quality cable in a nice packaging together with an absolutely stunning design. Build quality is also fantastic. It also fits well with great isolation for a universal (thanks to not having any bass ports). I’ve been using this IEM day after day and I realized; I’m listening to more music than I used to. Pneuma has already become a very special unit for me and I’m sure it will be many people’s favorite as well.
With all that being said, Pneuma is definitely award material.
64 Audio tia Trió
The Trió might be the perfect fit for those who want a seductive sound, that’s easy to love and enjoy during extended listening sessions. It’s a monitor that convinces with excellent body and a mildly warm sound, a monitor that lets me forget about the rapid life in a big city.
If I were to pick a single universal monitor of all my inventory, I would go with the tiatm Trió as it features the sound closest to my listening preference. It has great body, emotion and guarantees me a fatigue free listen, where enjoyment is more in focus than technical excitement.
Audeze LCD-i4 [added: 14.01.2020]
The LCD-i4 has been in the market since May 2017. This review went live almost three years after its introduction, but even after all this time, the LCD-i4 still is a very solid piece of equipment and very relevant in the flagship scene.
Audeze has created an almost timeless monitor, that redefined the possibilities of what an In Ear Monitor can do. Although I don’t agree on the term IEM for the LCD-i4, it is one of the very best in this category. The i4 presents music like no other monitor I have come across and is probably one of the best I have heard to date.
The LCD-i4 is a monitor that can absolutely take it up with the big boys with its open, natural and high quality performance. It does sound very good on its own already, but with some EQ-tweaking it can become an absolute beast. Spot on timbre, precision, speed and a natural sound. What more could you want?
InEar ProMission X [added: 14/11/2020]
The InEar ProMission X takes its place among the best in-ear monitors I’ve ever heard. Frankly, the presentation, balance, tonality, and technical performance of the IEM, which I cannot find a point to criticize, have been magnificent.
Of course, with the eye-watering price of the PMX, this performance can be called “only normal”, but among the IEMs I listen to in this price scale, there are some products that do not really reflect their huge prices. To be clear in this hobby, the fact that an IEM has a very high price tag does not make that IEM directly successful. I’ve experienced this many times.
However, PMX is not one of them. InEar did not surprise me, frankly. There were some issues with the sound of the old SD3 model, but all the other IEMs they’ve released have always been impressive in terms of pure sound performance. With the PMX, they even achieved a better performance than the Prophile 8 and frankly, it truly deserves the title of a “flagship IEM”.
Empire Ears Odin
The Odin might be the perfect candidate for those who thought the Legend X was too overpowering, or for those who liked Wraith’s midrange clarity, but didn’t cope with its light bass. The Odin creates the best of both worlds, but keeps things more civilized in the bass. Empire created a monitor that definitely will speak to many people. To me, it’s my favorite product of their lineup so far. The elephant in the room clearly is the price. 3,399 USD is not cheap. Not even close. But it gets you absolute top level performance, all put together in proprietary hardware that was made from scratch.
The Legend X has always been touted as the bass-heads’ dream IEM. Built around a similar driver configuration, the Odin is so much more. Yes, the bass is spectacular, but it is not as forward and attention seeking as with the Legend X. Odin is more versatile than the LX, it is better suited for a wider range of different genres.
The Odin to me offers something unique. Something that makes me crave for more time with it. Its full, dense and powerful bass, coupled with an open and smooth midrange and a detailed and clear, yet inoffensive treble makes it jump right at the top of the shortlist for best universal IEM this year.
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