Universal IEM Recommendations - Headfonia 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: https://headfonia.com/review-ve-monk-4-99-miracle/


nless 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 withe 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 travelling. 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!!

$25 from KZ

Review: https://headfonia.com/review-kz-zs5/


Shozy V33 – V33 Pro

Shozy V33 (Added 01/01/2020)

Shozy always offer 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 with the Pro model in the cable. The y-split, the neck slider and the 3.5mm jack are exactly the same with the V33 Pro. The only addition with the Pro is the SPC cable, which I don’t think matches very well with the presentation.

$49 from Shozy

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/shozy-v33-v33-pro-review/

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.

$45 / $65 from Final Audio

Review: https://headfonia.com/review-final-audio-e2000-e3000-nice-surprise/


Fiio FH1S [Added 18/06/2020]

We have a good fit and isolation, good content, nice build, and good sound all together in a sub-100 package. FiiO managed to improve the FH1 model and the difference to me is significant. Along with a good bass performance, you have great mids and treble thanks to the brass sound tube and Knowles BA driver. A total winner package as a whole. I honestly did not expect this kind of sound performance, especially in terms of treble.

$60 from Fiio

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/fiio-fh1s-review/




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 listI 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.

$69 from KZ Acoustics

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/review-kz-as10/

Shozy Form 1.1

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.

$75 USD from Shozy

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/shozy-form-1-1-review/

1More Triple Driver

1More Triple Driver

1MORE Triple Driver

For the asking price of only 99$ the Triple Driver by 1More is a complete steal. It is punching above its price point sonically and the included packaging could be the one of a unit much more expensive. Sound wise the Triple convinces with good natural bass and heaps of details with an above average sound stage and outstanding imaging. The build quality is impeccable and if it had a removable cable, it would be more than perfect. Does the Triple Driver go on our recommended list? I’d be stupid not to. It certainly will make it hard for a lot of incoming future products to get on there. I applaud 1More for their outstanding work!

$99 from 1More

Review: https://headfonia.com/review-1more-triple-driver

iBasso IT01

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.

$99.99 from iBasso

Review: https://headfonia.com/review-ibasso-it01/

TinHiFi T4

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.

$119USD from LINSOUL

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/tinhifi-t4-review/

Akoustyx R-210

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.

$119.99USD from Akoustyx

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/akoustyx-r-210-r-220-review/

fiio fh3 headfonia review

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!

$149 USD from Fiio

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/fiio-fh3-review/

TinHifi P1

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 !

$169 from TinHifi

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/tinhifi-p1-review/

Shozy Rouge

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.

$179 from Shozy

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/shozy-rouge-review/

Etymotic ER3-Series

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.

$179 from Etymotic

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/review-etymotic-er3/

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.

$199 from Shozy

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/shozy-form-1-4-review/

Oriveti OH300

Oriveti OH300

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.

$295 from Oriveti 

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/oriveti-oh300-review/

Obravo Cupid

oBravo Cupid

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.

£ 249 from Audio Concierge

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/obravo-cupid-review/

FiiO EM5

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. 

$299 from Fiio

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/fiio-em5-review/



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.

$299 from BGVP

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/bgvp-dm7-review/

Etymotic ER4-Series

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 ????

$349 from Etymotic

Review: https://headfonia.com/review-etymotic-er4-xr-er4-sr-impressive/

Astell&Kern Billie Jean

Astell&Kern Billie Jean

Astell&Kern (JHAudio) 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.

$349 from Astell&kern

Review: https://headfonia.com/review-astell-kern-billie-jean/

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: https://headfonia.com/review-oriolus-forsteni-not-just-a-baby/

FiiO FH7

Fiio FH7

FiiO have 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.

$450 from Fiio

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/fiio-fh7-review/

Oriveti OH500

Oriveti OH500

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’re looking high quality IEMs for their money.

$499 from Oriveti 

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/oriveti-oh500-review/

Final Audio B Series

Final Audio B Series

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.

$499 from Final Audio 

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/final-audio-b-series-review/

Earsonics Blade [Added 13/08/2020]

The Earsonics Blade is a good performing hybrid IEM from Earsonics, and it has much much more value than the bigger brother Stark. It has a nice technical performance. The sound stage, separation, layering, depth, resolution, and bass are all quite impressive. The tonality is also very nice to listen to. Overall I personally think that the Blade is more coherent and balanced than the Stark.

When you use a Plastics One cable, things get even better. This is a more versatile and easy-going IEM than the Stark with a much lower price bracket. If you don’t listen to the EDM tunes or more popular music, there’s no reason to pick the Stark over the Blade model. The Stark has its strong suits, but its presentation is like the edge of a knife.

€549 from Earsonics

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/earsonics-blade-review/


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!

$599 from Unique Melody

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/unique-melody-um-mini-mest-review/


Audeze LCD-i3

Audeze LCD-i3

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.

$899 from Audeze

Review: https://headfonia.com/audeze-lcd-i3-review/


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.

$800 from Shozy/AAW

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/review-shozy-aaw-pola/

Do note that POLA39 is also a recommended IEM at $1,050USD. But as we received it as a custom, it’s featured on the CIEM LIST.

Kinera Nanna

Kinera Nanna

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?

$899 from Kinera

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/kinera-nanna-review/

Beyerdynamic Xelento AKT8iE MKII

Beyerdynamic Xelento AKT8iE MKII

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 to $1199 from Beyerdynamic

$999 from Astell&Kern

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

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

Review: https://headfonia.com/beyerdynamic-xelento-wireless-review

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: https://headfonia.com/picture-sunday-ak-jh-angie-irreplaceable/

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.

$1099 from Meze Audio

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/meze-audio-rai-penta-review/

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: https://headfonia.com/review-inear-prophile-8-high-prophile/

Hyla TE5B

Hyla TE5B

Hyla TE-5B

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.

1250$ from Hyla Audio

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/hyla-te5b-te5t-review

Earsonics Purple

Earsonics Purple

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.

€1190 from Earsonics

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/earsonics-purple-review/

Empire Ears Valkyrie

Empire Ears Valkyrie

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.

$ 1,599 from Empire Ears

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/empire-ears-valkyrie-review

Lark Studio LSX

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.

$1700 from Lark Studios

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/review-lark-studio-lsx/

64 Audio Tia Trió

64 Audio Tia Trió

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.

$2,299 from 64 Audio

Review: https://headfonia.com/64-audio-tia-trio-review/

Audeze LCD-i4

Audeze LCD-i4

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?

$2,495 from Audeze

Review: https://headfonia.com/audeze-lcd-i4-review/

Empire Ears Odin

Empire Ears Odin

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.

$3399 from Empire Ears

Review: https://headfonia.com/empire-ears-odin-review

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: https://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:





  • 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:


    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:


    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


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

    • Reply April 16, 2020


      Hi. I am used to Sennheiser over ears, can you recommend an IEM not exceeding USD50 that have similar sound signature to Senn?


  • Reply January 31, 2012


    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


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

    • Reply February 3, 2012


      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


      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


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

  • Reply February 23, 2012


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

    • Reply February 23, 2012


      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


      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


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

  • Reply November 23, 2012


    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


      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


          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


                  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


              Some recommendations for audiophile recordings:

              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


                  I’ve yet to audition them, and sorry

                  Sent from my mobile device. Sorry for any mistype.

  • Reply March 19, 2013


    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


    Any impression for ASG-2? Thanks.

    • Reply September 18, 2013


      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,

    • Reply January 20, 2014



      • 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


      I’d still take the UE TF10

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

  • Reply January 24, 2014


    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?


    • Reply January 30, 2014


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

  • Reply March 23, 2014


    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?


    • Reply March 24, 2014


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

      • Reply May 6, 2014


        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


      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


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

      • Reply April 6, 2014


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

        • Reply April 6, 2014


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

          • Reply April 7, 2014


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

            • Reply April 7, 2014


              This already is THE place 😉

              • Reply April 7, 2014


                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


            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


            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


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

    • Reply August 24, 2014


      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


      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


    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


    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.


  • Reply April 10, 2017


    You should update the buyers recommendation…

  • Reply October 28, 2017


    Hi! Please update this page to help other audiophiles know whats best in the price range they can afford.

    Also kindly update the dap section.


  • Reply March 27, 2018

    Randy Widjaja

    What do you think of Advances S2000 iem? I know it’s an entry level but i just want to know what’s in your mind about that one..

    Many thanks before..

    • Reply March 28, 2018


      I have no clue what that is, sorry

  • Reply May 20, 2018


    No 64 Audio? Best in-ears I have heard…

    • Reply May 20, 2018


      They’re in the custom IEM recommendations 🙂

  • Reply July 19, 2018

    Steven Zore

    Hmmm… Surprised the Shure SE846’s didn’t make the cut.

  • Reply August 28, 2018

    Gregory Wodark

    Me too! A huge oversight, in my opinion.

    My question is why are these not on your list? I also own the iSine 20 from Audeze (which are on the list).They are almost the polar opposite of the SE 846! Extremely open, with no isolation to speak of. While I concur that in quiet environments, they are indeed excellent, the Shure SE 846, which have a very different sound signature, are also more than worthy of being on the list.

  • Reply September 27, 2018

    David Becker

    Round 2, this one’s got my name all over it!

  • Reply September 27, 2018

    David Becker

    Wrong page and no edit function 🙁

    • Reply September 28, 2018


      You’re on the wrong page indeed. And also, reviewers of any level can’t enter. It’s in the rules.

  • Reply November 16, 2018


    What IEMs would you recommend for running/gym? As I see you are a maniac of isolation just like me, and I would like sound quality as well as proper fit and comfort when I’m working out. Thanks in advance!!

  • Reply November 24, 2018


    No Oriolus V2 on the list?

  • Reply December 7, 2018

    Phillip Linford

    You recommend the IT01 and also the Ety ER3… I am looking to choose between them both.

    I want to upgrade from my Ety HF5 which are getting worn in the cables.

    I can get the ER3XR for 150 right now, and the IT05 for 99.

    HELP! 🙂

  • Reply January 25, 2019

    Jonathan Uriostegui

    Thanks! This recommendation list was very useful the day I bought my Ibasso it01. Could you tell me about the it03? I wanna read your opinion.

  • Reply June 28, 2019

    William J

    Since ProPhile 8 and Rai Penta are both neutral, how would these 2 compare? Would you say ProPhile 8 to be more superior in term of technical capability? I’m interested to get one of these. It ain’t easy to find units for audition.


    • Reply July 11, 2019

      David Levinger

      After finding your site and reading through a ton of reviews / prices / options etc I picked up a pair of KZ AS10 to try out and they do not disappoint especially for the low price point. I started looking for a short set of new cables so I connect it to my earstudio es100 without coiling cables around my neck but had little luck (so far) finding any. Do you have a recommendation perhaps?

      Thank again for all these reviews. Awese awesome resource.

  • Reply August 23, 2019


    Why In Ear SD5 didn’t join best uiem recommendation?

  • Reply January 2, 2020


    Nice list, super helpful.
    I definitely tapped out after the 500$+ range, but found some few nuggets in there.
    Now to decide between the FH7, ER4XR, Shozy BG, and LZ A6…

  • Reply April 9, 2020

    Phil Gissen

    I am new to the entire headphone/earphone/IEM world, being an old stereophonic audiophile 70 years young. I enjoy reading your reviews, and you have been extremely helpful as I “dip a toe” into this new audio place. Thanks much and stay safe.

  • Reply May 10, 2020


    Hi, Ithanks for all the reviews and recommendations. The audiohpile world it’s crazy for us who really love music. Today I’m trying to have equipement for long terms. I have tryed many DAP’s. Today I own a Shanling M6, KANN, r6 Pro, M2x and the Fiio Q5s. Probably I will sell some of them but before I will try to find a goos iems. Today I have the Sennheiser HD650, Grado sr80 for headphones and for iems I have the fiio f1, fiio fh1, sennheiser IE40 pro and recently I have received the Tin Hifi T4 ( I loved it). But I looking better sound, probably I will buy the Fh7 but I’m really curious about the Beyerdynamic Xelento Remote. It’s a big diference between those Iems?

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