– only on SBAF I figured this place could use some added IEM content, so here it goes... I’ve had the pleasure of hearing (owning, borrowing and auditioning) hundreds of in-ears and thought I’d share my top recommendations/favorites across all sound signatures and technologies. List will be updated as I continue to explore the rapidly growing portable market. All MSRP’s are approximate. To see a comprehensive list of all in-ears I've heard, follow this link to google docs: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/13oa1VMMKY0UjYbRuY0zsIEqGKp2R29O8tCYCKPzf82E/edit?usp=sharing __________________________________________________________________________________________________ Current Recommendations and Favorites In-Ears in demand and worth the price of admission. Campfire Audio Ara – MSRP $1299. 7 armature universal. Neutral signature. Superb bass texture and natural timbre for armatures. Crossover-less design with xcellent clarity and transparency. Slightly hard lower treble that can be mitigated with deeper fit that the longish nozzle make easier to acquire. Andromeda 2020 – MSRP $1099. 5 armature universal. A darker version of the OG Andromeda with improved clarity, resolution and separation, but missing the OG treble sparkle. The most technical Andromeda to date. Solaris 2020 – MSRP $1499. Hybrid universal. A brighter version of the OG Solaris with greater clarity and more filled in upper mid/lower treble. 8k treble peak is a somewhat metallic sounding. 20% smaller housings that feel much more comfortable. Solaris LE – MSRP $1499. Hybrid universal. Campfire put the 2020 drivers in the OG shell with a nice black faceplate with flower design. Result is something that sounds awfully close to the OG but had better looks. If you can fit the larger shell, it's a clear step up from the 2020 in SQ. Drop Noble X– MSRP $250. Dual armature universal. Downward sloping signature. Reminiscent of the NAD HP50. Visceral bass, slight bump in upper mids and smooth treble. Recommend wide bore, large tips with shallow fit. Plus– MSRP $299. Triple armature universal. Diffuse field neutral signature with an approximate 7 db deep bass boost. Similar tuning approach to Sony MH1 but much better implemented. One of the most ergonomic shells on the market. Extreme clarity, excellent distortion guitar crunch. Masters what the Ety XR failed to achieve. One of the best bang for buck iems on the market. RE00 – MSRP $39.99. Dynamic driver universal. Neutral, slightly midcentric signature. Lean and airy with solid bass extension and forward midrange. Reminiscent of the Hifiman legends. Can be modded for even smoother treble response. Dunu EST 112 – MSRP $489. Tribrid universal. Warm take on neutral. Fantastic bass texture and effortlessness. Pleasant warmth and clear midrange. Electrostatic treble will be a matter of taste. Ethereal soft edges to treble but uneven frequency response. Great looking and well built. SA6– MSRP $549. Six armature universal. Neutral with bass boost. Excellent tonal balance. Insane value. Only sonic complaint is slight armature timbre in treble. Super short nozzles, so longer tips recommended. Zen– MSRP $699. Single dynamic driver universal. Tiny and comfortable housings. Exciting W shaped signature. Might be the updated some FDX1 owners are looking for. Etymotic ER2XR – MSRP $119. Dynamic driver universal. Diffuse field tuning with an added sub bass boost, resulting in a more musical, less tool-like, presentation. Second bend fit required and can be annoying/itchy. Now with a removable, pliable cable. Also worth considering: ER2SR - MSRP $119. The more referenced tuned of the ER2 series. ER4SR – MSRP $299. Single armature universal. The replacement for the venerable ER4S. The new series is more sensitive and requires less power to drive to full performance. Tuning is very similar to ER4S, however it seems to lack the transparency of the previous generation. ER4XR – MSRP $299. The bassier, more musical of the ER4 series. Final Audio E1000 – MSRP $29. Dynamic driver universal. Warm and smooth signature. Male vocal and acoustic instrument specialist. Natural tone and timbre. Lacking macro dynamics and attack; a hair on the euphonic side. Fir Audio VxV – MSRP $999. Hybrid universal. Warm, rich and full signatures that doesn't stray too far from a neutral-ish sig. Dense satisfying bass and warmth that doesn't congest or suffocate the midrange. Treble is on the thinner more incisive side, yet is not traditionally lower treble bright. Fun, monochromatic aesthetics. Gaudio Nair – MSRP $849. Triple armature universal. In a word- neutral. Tonally a leaner ProPhile 8 without any hotness in upper mid/lower treble. Technical performance on the UERM level. Superior build to most IEMs on the market. The most comfortable universal come custom housing on the market. Nothing really to complain about; perhaps wish for a few more drivers for better separation, layering and note weight. InEar ProPhile-8 – MSRP $1399. 8 armature universal. Neutral Reference. Reminds me of the Etymotic ER4XR but clearer, more transparent and much more resolving. Comes with 2 switches: Bass switch that tastefully elevates bass evenly across the spectrum about 3 db's; Treble switch that supposedly elevates lower to middle treble by 2 db's (very subtle change). Biggest criticism is it’s lacking presence in the top octave. Jerry Harvey Audio Angie – MSRP $1399. 8 armature universal. Midcentric take on a neutral signature. Variable bass with mid bass focus; fantastic midrange with intimate and evocative vocals; laid back treble. Lacking reference level treble extension. Also worth considering: Layla - MSRP $2725. JH Audio's attempt at a warmish, neutral reference. JVC HA-FD01– MSRP $399. Dynamic driver. Universal. Needs to be imported from places like Accessory Jack. Universal. Requires simple and reversible mod found HERE. Pre-mod: bloated and harsh. Post mod: U shaped signature leans slightly more fun than neutral. Slightly hazy bass but fantastic timbre and naturalness. HA-FDX1– MSRP $280. Dynamic driver. JVC copied the FD01 mods and put them into production for a Drop exclusive. Bass is tighter than FD01 and shells have been smoothed for this model. Also worth considering: HA-FW1500 - $550. Woody that seems to be based off the FD01. Requires front vent mod to remove excess warmth and stuffiness. Moondrop Illumination – MSRP $799. Dynamic driver universal. An Etymotic inspired single dynamic. A must try for lovers of the ER4XR. With the right tips, frequency response is buttery smooth and natural. Slightly lacking in resolution for the money. While very comfortable to wear, the gold shells are a bit gaudy. A diffuse-field neutral reference. Blessing 2 – MSRP $319. Hybrid of one dynamic and 4 armatures. Neutral and natural, yet bit dry. Very slight bass boost centered on deep bass. Tonally accurate with a slightly sharp peak between 8-9k and slightly over damped bass. Kato – MSRP $189. Dynamic driver universal. Great all rounder and stupendously good value. Like a Starfield tuning improved and taken several levels up. Better bass articulation and texture; clearer, more transparent midrange; better treble presence and transients. Starfield – MSRP $109. Dynamic driver universal. A warm and smooth take on neutral. Pleasant and satisfying, do-no-wrong signature. A highly musical approach to a neutralish tuning. Aria– MSRP $79. Dynamic driver universal. A cheaper version of the Starfield. Imaging is maybe a little hazier but staging is a little wider. While slightly less solid sounding in bass, treble seems a little more livelier. A new budget benchmark. Softears RSV – MSRP $729. 5 balanced armatures. Warm and smooth take on a neutral reference. A pleasing, do no wrong tuning. While not necessarily class leading in any specific category, taken as a whole, the RSV is immensely satisfying and something I find myself coming back to time and time again. Excellent armature bass texture. Sony IER-M7 – MSRP $499. Quad armature universal. Stage monitor sound done right. Downward sloping sig that levels out instead of rebounding in treble. Treble is shelved down but with very good extension, timbre and evenness. Pleasant and easy to listen to. Hazy down low and intimate. Begs to be turned up to sound it's best. Excellent fit and build. IER-M9 – MSRP $999. 5 armature universal. Slight upgrade to the M7. Slightly better frequency response balance and slightly better resolution. Otherwise all M7 caviats and praises apply. Soranik Bastille Audiophile – MSRP $1299. Hybrid with 4 full range armatures and 1 dynamic. Tubeless/crossover-less. The more neutral of the two Bastille tunings and more neutral than Solaris OG. Among the best IEMs in staging (just behind Solaris OG). Bastille Signature – MSRP $1299. Same setup as Audiophile. Tuning is a very slightly neutral V. Nearly as big in staging as Audiophile, losing out in stage height; Less upfront sounding as well. Superb treble- just the right brightness and sparkle with zero fatigue. While the Audiophile is the better neutral reference of the two, the Signature has the X factor with it's well executed treble. Tanchjim Oxygen – MSRP $269. Dynamic driver universal. Tuned to the newer Harman target for IEMs. Slightly warm, neutral tuning. Fast, natural bass; forward and clear vocals; an extended but easy going top end. Very shallow fit-dual flange tips recommended. Zero Audio Tenore – MSRP $35. Micro dynamic driver universal. Warm, fairly neutral but downward sloping signature. Treble is virtually free from peaks and extends to 18k +; bass gives gentle rise to sub bass; inviting vocals. Build quality is inconsistent. __________________________________________________________________________________________________ True Wireless (TWS) Cables? Where we’re going we don’t need cables. Beats Powerbeats Pro – MSRP $249.95. Dynamic driver. Harman-like tuning; reminiscent of Moondrop Kanas Pro and Tanchjim Oxygen type signature but slightly richer sounding. Large vents for minimal isolation. Excellent bass extension; clear and transparent mids; slightly plasticky treble timbre. Perfect exercise companion. __________________________________________________________________________________________________ Legends and Classics In-Ears that will live on in fond memories and prized collections AKG K3003/i – MSRP $1299. Hybrid universal. Not the first hybrid and no longer the best but THE hybrid that started the craze. Moderate V shaped signature. Moderate deep bass boost with slow, lingering decay; engaging upper midrange; super sparkly treble with fantastic timbre. Non-removable cable with minimal strain relief. Treble may be too bright for some. Audio-Technica ATH-CK10 – MSRP $350 (discontinued; occasionally available from Japan importers). Dual armature universal. A portable audio classic. Neutral to analytical frequency response. Blazing fast bass; crisp and transparent midrange; super sparkly treble with very good timbre. Deep fit required. Super tiny housings. Aurisonics ASG 1 Plus – MSRP $499 (discontinued; used only). Hybrid universal. Slight V shaped response that is extremely fun and engaging but doesn’t stray too far from a more neutral signature like the Rockets. Satisfyingly powerful deep bass and effortlessly engaging and very sparkly treble. Rockets – MSRP $250 (discontinued; used only). Dynamic micro driver universal. Neutral frequency response. Bass is neutral and linear with roll off under 50 Hz; intimate and engaging midrange; very slightly shelved down but linear treble with excellent extension. Tiny shells with micro driver and Kevlar cable. Campfire Audio Andromeda – MSRP $1099. The OG Andromeda. 5 armature universal. Downward sloping signature with a rebound in treble for plenty of sparkle. Just slightly north of neutral. Excellent transients and leading edges of notes. Just lovely treble sparkle and shimmer. Super shallow fit due to squat nozzles. Large, industrial housings. Solaris – MSRP $1499. The OG Solaris. Hybrid universal. Neutral with an upper mid/lower treble dip. Dip gives very slight hallow effect and affects treble timbre. Otherwise bass and mids are evenly balanced and natural sounding. Vocals are very forward and layered. Class leading separation and sense of space; superb staging and excellent micro dynamics and resolution. Large, industrial housings. Some early reports of unit variation. Etymotic ER-4S – MSRP $299. Single armature universal. A portable audio classic. Diffuse field tuned neutral reference. Perhaps the best in-ear treble I’ve heard. Can be slightly hot in the upper midrange (2-4k). Noticeable bass roll off under 60 Hz. Second bend fit required and can be annoying/itchy. Microphonics are unbearable without shirt clip. Final Audio FI-BA-SS – MSRP $999. Single armature universal. Perhaps my favorite tuned single balanced armature. Somewhat V shaped and super transparent signature. Often described as RAW sounding. Plentiful bass with Final Audio’s BAM technology; transparent and crisp midrange; edgy and raw treble that either performs magically or disastrously. Art deco design. FitEar F111 – MSRP $500. Single armature universal. The FitEar single balanced armature homage to the ER-4S. Slightly warm take on neutral. Full mid bass with mild sub roll off; fuller lower mids but still good upper mid presence for great male and female vocals; slightly laid back treble. Horn design nozzle for help with treble extension. Easy shallow fit. Hard to obtain due to Japanese market manufacturer limitations. Also worth considering: TG334 - Quad armature universal. Tuning has possible changed over the years. Known for FitEar's midrange. Somewhat slow, lingering bass. Hifiman RE-262 – discontinued; impossible to find. Dynamic driver universal. The mids Hifiman was known for. Dynamic driver. Ortofon E-Q8 – MSRP $389. Single armature (moving iron) universal. Neutral leaning signature with focus on upper midrange. Very well extended bass for a single balanced armature. Midrange made to showcase distortion rock guitars. Could use a bit more treble sparkle; treble rolls off early. Sony MDR-EX1000 – MSRP $399 (discontinued in USA). The KING of dynamic drivers. Universal. A Sony classic. Very mild V shape take on a neutral signature. Fabulous bass; the best I’ve heard in an in-ear. Transparent mids and slightly analytical treble with a controversial 7k spike. Odd, yet comfortable perpendicular fit to ear. Also worth considering: MDR-7550 - MSRP $299. Stage version of the EX1000. Slightly toned down treble for a warmer overall tuning. MH1/C – MSRP $79 (but can be found for less than half). Dynamic driver universal. Warmish to neutral signature with prodigious sub bass boost. Similar to Quadbeat 3 but more sub bass; slightly warmer mids and slightly easier going treble. Worst flat cable known to man but there are many out there to re-cable them. MH755 – MSRP $7.95. Yup, Seven dollars and 95 cents. Dynamic driver universal. Exaggerated Harman type frequency response with large sub bass boost, very clear upper mids and slightly easier going treble. Less warmth than MH1/C. Once again Sony makes a budget gem and then screws us over with a J cable. Ultimate Ears UERM – MSRP (discontinued; used only). Triple armature custom. My personal neutral reference. Bass is mid bass focused with roll off under 50 Hz. One of the most resolving midranges I’ve heard. Sparkly and slightly analytical treble with upper mid treble focus; extension to 16k +; Open and airy presentation. Vsonic GR07 Classic – MSRP $99. Dynamic driver universal. A portable audio classic. A fairly neutral but warm signature. Often considered a baby EX1000 with slightly more agreeable treble. Also worth considering: GR07 mkII __________________________________________________________________________________________________ Retirees Once great In-Ears that have been lost to age and the winds of change AAW W900 – MSRP $2100. Hybrid. Custom/Universal. Easy going, polite all rounder. Bass and lower midrange enhanced with shelved down treble. Superb dynamic texture and decay with tame, yet very even and extended treble. Zero treble spikes. Fun done right. May be a hair dark and bassy for those looking for a more neutral signature. AKG N20 – MSRP $119. Dynamic driver universal. U shaped response. Moderate deep bass boost; full upper mid presence; sparkly but moderate treble. Brainwavz B400 – MSRP $189.50. Quad armature universal. 3D printed shells of so, so quality. Sightly warm and sweet signature that is moderately lower midrange centric. Impressive imaging and layering. Easy to listen to with slightly shelved down treble. Not too far of the neutral reservation but certainly thicker and richer than more neutral leaning sets. Huge bang for buck value. Campfire Audio Orion– MSRP $349. Single armature universal. Mid-centric, somewhat neutralish signature with middle/upper mid bump. Great Campfire Audio family treble. Large housings for single armature. Drop EDC3 – MSRP $99. Triple armature universal. Slightly warmish take on a neutral signature. The upper midrange gets a bump for upfront and very engaging vocals and guitars. Lower treble is laid back and treble timbre slightly plasticky. A true 'do nothing wrong' signature and wonderful bargain. Empire Ears Spartan – MSRP $749. Quad armature. Custom and Universal. Slight U shaped response. Bass is deep bass focused; clear and engaging midrange; sparkly but relatively easy going treble. Zeus (R) – MSRP $2099. 14 armature. Custom and Universal. Well balanced signature. Excellent treble clarity, resolution and sparkle; full midrange and bass with deep bass tilt. Exceptional at layering and imaging. Also worth considering: Cerberus FLC Technology FLC8S – MSRP $359. Hybrid universal. Comes with 10 tuning filters (3 sub bass, 3 bass, 4 mids/treble) to adapt to most preferences. Recommended setup: clear sub bass, clear bass, gold mids/treble for most neutral signature. Fostex TE-02n – MSRP $29. Dynamic driver universal. A modder’s gem. Stock signature is neutral leaning analytical. Modifications can bring it to an even more neutral signature. Great timbre and bass speed. Plastic but durable housings. iBasso IT03– MSRP $259. Hybrid universal. Bass forward signature that can sound like a minor V sig or downward slopping sig depending upon source. Balance of midrange tilting upper mid versus lower mid. Slightly plasticky treble timbre. Loads of fun. Concha housing protrusion can be physically fatiguing for some ears. Lime Ears Aether – MSRP $1250. Multi-armature. Custom. Downward sloping signature that’s somewhat similar to Andromeda but more V shaped in comparison. Aether has very slightly more bass emphasis, particularly in sub/deep bass. Excellent bass texture. Overall note thickness is slightly warmer and thicker than Andromeda. Treble is not quite as prominent as but still maintains plenty of sparkle; slightly accentuates sibilance. Mee Audio Pinnacle P1 – MSRP $199. Dynamic driver universal. Downward sloping response. Warm with mild bass boost; Treble has mild lower peak, then middle to upper treble focused; thin treble note in comparison to bass. Better than average head stage. Midcentury modern design. Moondrop Crescent – MSRP $29. Dynamic driver universal. Harman target neutral with mild mid bass boost. Good rumble, hits hard when called for; clear and sparkly. Could use a bit more refinement overall. Not much to complain about. Noble Savanna – MSRP $499. Quad armature universal. Slightly midcentric take on a neutral signature. Very good balance across the spectrum with just a bit of warmth through midrange. New Savannah tuning was peak free in treble, unlike previous Noble 4. K10U – MSRP $1650. 10 armature universal. Midcentric signature. Full, plentiful bass with deep bass focus; lush and engaging mids with excellent vocal; easy going treble with decent sparkle and good extension. Oriveti Primacy – MSRP $299. Hybrid universal. Downward sloping response. Warm with mild bass boost; smooth treble. Very comfortable housings. Ostry KC06 – MSRP $49. Dynamic driver universal. Midcentric signature. Plentiful bass boost peaks in mid bass but has good extension; lush, inviting midrange with excellent vocals; sparkly, slightly peaky treble. Perfect Seal PS4 – MSRP $450. Quad armature custom. Balanced but fun presentation. Mild bass and treble boost. Engaging clarity, sparkle and rumble. AR6 – MSRP $950. 6 armature custom. Available in acrylic or silicone (silicone is more expensive). Neutral frequency response with slight upper mid focus. Excellent bass extension and holographic presentation. Also worth considering: PS6 Periodic Audio Be Beryllium – MSRP $299. Dynamic driver universal. Requires simple and reversible mods. Stock signature is much too bassy with slightly uneven treble. After mods, the signature is slightly warm and smooth with excellent timbre and tonality. Bass speed is very good for a dynamic driver. Fixed cable and housings are cheap feeling for a $299 product. Also worth considering: Mg Magnesium - MSRP $99. Dynamic driver universal. Also requires modding. SoundMagic E10 – MSRP $39. Dynamic driver universal. Bass first signature. Bass boost peaks in mid bass but has good extension; full, engaging midrange; smooth treble with some sparkle. Metal housings and springy, stiff cable. Ultimate Ears UE18+– MSRP $1500. Multi-armature. Custom. Balanced stage monitor signature. Very slight upper mid veil but otherwise natural and resolving. Much better treble presence than UERR. Pleasing and easy to listen to. Also worth considering: UERR, UE4 Unique Melody Maestro – MSRP $1449. Multi-armature. Custom and Universal. UM’s North American take on a neutral signature. Slightly fuller bass and lower mids over Miracle, with more refined, less peaky treble. Martian – MSRP $700. Hybrid universal only. Slightly bulky but ergonomic and comfortable shells. Midcentric signature: Mild deep bass boost, clear and engaging midrange, laid back but crisp treble. __________________________________________________________________________________________________ In Retrospect In-Ears that just missed the list probably should have made it Audiosense DT200 – Dual armature universal. Sounds like a slightly bassier, warmer LS200 (see below). The added upper bass warmth and sub bass boost is slight but made for a thicker note than the LS200, while becoming a bit too sleepy and boring. Otherwise a very impressive in-ear for the money. Audio-Technica ATH-LS200 – Dual armature universal. The LS200 was originally on the list and was bumped off, due to small, in-head presentation. Good introduction to neutralish tuned in-ears. Also worth considering: ATH-IM02 Dunu Luna – Dynamic driver. I really would like to add this to the list, as it has probably my favorite bass since the Sony EX1000 but then the upper mid/lower treble elevation is a deal killer. And this thing is $1700. Fix the upper mid/lower treble elevation and get the price under $1500 and we can talk. The tiny round housing with fantastic fit and market leading cables. So close. Hidition Viento-R – Multi-armature. Missed due to compressed dynamics; Otherwise very versatile with neutralish tuning and well implemented switches to tailor the sound to preference. Dynamic Motion DM200H – Missed due to excessive brightness. One of the first coaxial in-ears made. Coherent and exciting but a bit too bright. If I'm not mistaken, Dynamic Motion is no longer in business.