/iemg/ recommends === Welcome to the /iemg/ recommendations guide. In this guide we have listed a couple of good in-ear monitors/earphones, tips and cables that are recommended by /iemg/. Click the links in the sidebar or from the index to navigate. Index --- * [Descriptions](#Descriptions) -[Sound signatures](#Sound-signatures) -[Driver Types](#Driver-types) -[Timbre](#Timbre) * [IEMs](#IEMs) -[Important things to consider when buying an IEM](#Important-things-to-consider-when-buying-an-IEM) -[Hall of Fame](#Hall-of-Fame) -[Honorable mentions](#Honorable-mentions) * [Eartips](#Eartips) -[Short explanation of eartip types](#Short-explanation-of-eartip-types) -[Recommendations](#Recommended-eartips) * [Earbuds](#Earbuds) -[Earbuds vs IEMs](#Earbuds-vs-IEMs) -[Short explanation of foams and silicone stuff](#Short-explanation-of-foams-and-silicone-stuff) -[Hall of Fame](#Hall-of-Fame1) * [Cables](#Cables) -[Short explanation of cable and connector types](#Short-explanation-of-cable-and-connector-types) -[Recommendations](#Recommended-cables) * [Cases](#Cases) * [IEM reviewers and other sources](#IEM-reviewers-and-other-sources) -[Reviewers](#Reviewers) -[Sources for other stuff](#Sources-for-other-stuff) Descriptions === If there is a specific term you don't understand can use CTRL+F to search this page. Alternatively, head-fi also has [a page](https://www.head-fi.org/articles/describing-sound-a-glossary.12328/) that explains terms used to describe sound. Sound signatures --- **Tuning:** The terms used to describe the tuning of an iem may not always be obvious to people who are new to these terms. Some terms such as neutral, flat, bassy or bright may not require much explanation, but terms such as V-shaped or U-shaped may take a little explaining. ****Neutral/Balanced:**** A tuning that does not overly exaggerate any frequency ranges or color the sound. ****Neutral/Flat:**** A tuning that follows a target curve, such as the diffuse field target curve (DF) or a variation there of, that has a perceived sound that is similar to a flat tuned speaker. ****Bassy:**** A tuning where the bass is greatly exaggerated or the main focus of the sound of the iem. ****Bright:**** A tuning where the treble is greatly exaggerated or the main focus of the sound of the iem. ****Neutral Bright:**** A tuning with exaggerated treble, but an otherwise neutral tuning. ****V-shaped:**** Boosted bass and treble, this often results in a subdued midrange (vocals). ****U-shaped:**** Boosted sub-bass and upper treble. ****W-shaped:**** Boosted bass and treble, with a slight uplift in the vocals. Often this means only boosting certain parts of each range like a sub-bass boost, upper mids boost and upper treble boost, as there would need to be relative dips for there to be the perception of a boosted area. ****Bass-boosted Neutral/L-shaped:**** Boosted bass, with neutral mids and treble. ****Harman neutral:**** A preference target curve with boosted sub-bass, lightly boosted mid bass and boosted treble. **Additional things to note:** * A bass boost is recommended for use in loud environments such as on an airplane, on public transport or for stage use, as loud background noise reduces the perception of bass. * A treble boost or strong bass boost may be fatiguing for longer listening sessions, this also depends on your treble sensitivity. Driver types --- **Drivers:** There are shortened terms for certain driver types, there will also be explanations for uncommon driver types. **DD:** Dynamic driver, the classic design used by almost every cheaper pair of headphones, speakers and iems. **BA:** Balanced armature, much different from DD's, they are more effecient, usually more detailed and sound a little different. Notable brands are Knowles and Sonion, there is also Bellsing which is a decent knockoff chinese Knowles. Balanced armatures are more prone to water damage. **Planar magnetic:** A planar magnetic driver uses a more similar design to DD's but faster, more detailed and more accurate. They are also less effecient, often requiring quite a bit more power to drive them well and a lot of planar magnetic iems don't have a very likable tuning. **EST:** An electret is an electrostatic driver. It runs on the electrostatic principle, but it doesn't require external polarization. Transformer constraints limit the Sonion EST unit to high-frequency output. It doesn't necessarily have more useful upper response than the WBFK balanced armature, or a carefully crafted moving coil. This is in the sense that the useful response of the alternative drivers goes well above 20 kHz. They appear to be are hard to implement so many iems using this technology sound inferrior to similar balanced armature designs. There are a couple other types of drivers like AMT, piezoelectric and electrostatic, but you are very unlikely to run into those in lower price ranges, especially done well. Timbre --- **Timbre:** The tonality and texture of the sound. Most notable is the timbre of balanced armatures, which can often sound different to the classic dynamic drivers. Some describe BA timbre as plasticky, BA's when used for bass will often sound light, have a very different texture and lack impact. Though not everyone hears this BA timbre and their better detail retrieval will often make them worth having in an iem. IEMs === Important things to consider when buying an IEM --- - Wide nozzle iems (5.5mm and above) may be uncomfortable to those with smaller ears. - Your iems can lose sound or even get damaged by humidity or sweat. Metal shelled iems are especially prone to this, so you should always store metal shelled iems in a case with one or more silica packets. Good storage is extra important if the iem uses a balanced armature as those are more likely to get damaged by moisture and shock from dropping them. If the iem uses a filter comprised of a fabric damper right behind the metal mesh in the nozzle, then the damper can absorb moisture over time leading to loss of sound. This is sometimes the case with some of the Blons and the older Moondrop single dynamics as not only do those use these types of filters but they are also metal shelled. Luckily if this issue arrises it can be fixed by simply replacing the filters or swapping them out with foam filters though this would also change the sound signature. - If your iems don't come with replacement filters, you can buy any filters that fit the nozzle diameter of your iems like [meshes without dampers](https://www.aliexpress.com/item/33040223675.html), [foam damper filters](https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32453706088.html), [generic/OEM meshes with filters](https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1005002875037663.html), or [Moondrop replacement filters](https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000898373412.html). Do keep in mind that replacing the filters with different ones can alter the sound signature. Hall of Fame --- * ***CCA CRA* $15** The CCA CRA are **V-shaped or Bright V-shaped**. Some may find their treble a bit too much, but if treble doesn't bother you their v-shape is one the most well tuned. They use 1DD and have average isolation. They use a QDC style 2-pin connector. * ***Moondrop Chu* $20** The Moondrop Chu are **Balanced or Neutral**. Some may find the bass a bit lacking or the treble slightly too boosted, but they are the most neutral IEMs you can get at this price. They use 1DD and have average isolation. The cable is non-removable. * ***Moondrop Aria* $80 or *Dunu Titan S* $75** Both of these are more or less **Harman neutral**. The Titan S has less of a bass boost and more upper mids, the Aria is warmer and has more bass. Both of them use 1DD and have average isolation. Both use some form of 2-pin connectors for the cable. * ***Etymotics ER2SE* or *ER2XR* $50~120** The Etymotic ER2SE are **flat/neutral**, the ER2XR version is **Balanced or Bass-boosted Neutral**. Both use 1DD and have high isolation. They use proprietary mmcx connectors for the cable, 3.5mm nozzle. Some people may find the deep insertion fit on Etymotic IEMs uncomfortable. * ***FiiO FH3* $140** The FiiO FH3 can be described as **v-shaped or w-shaped**. They use 1DD + 2BA’s and have above average isolation. They use mmcx connectors for the cable. * ***Moondrop Kato* $190** The Moondrop Kato are more or less **Harman neutral** and can be seen as an Aria/Titan S upgrade. They use 1DD and have average isolation. they use 2-pin connectors. * ***Moondrop Blessing 2* $320 or *Blessing 2: Dusk* $350** The Moondrop Blessing 2 are **neutral**, the Dusk version is **bass boosted neutral**. They both use 1DD + 4BA's, have above average isolation. They use 2-pin connectors for the cable, 5.5mm nozzle. Honorable mentions --- * ***Blon BL03* $25** The Blon BL03 are **warm v-shaped** with somewhat relaxed but sometimes spiky treble, use 1DD and have below average isolation and comfort. They use 2-pin (TFZ not QDC if you want the shielding) connectors for the cable, 5mm nozzle. Replacing the cables and tips is highly recommended as the fit with the stock cable and tips isn't good for most people. You may also want to use an o-ring to increase the insertion depth of your tips, to do this you would place an o-ring on the nozzle of the iem before putting on the tips. A mod you can do to increase the clarity of the BL03 is replace the filter with a 4.00mm damperless mesh from the Important things to consider section. * ***Moondrop Quarks* $10~15 or *Tanchjim Tanya* $20~25** The Moondrop Quarks can be described as **warm, bass boosted diffuse field**, the Tanchjim Tanya are like Quarks with **more bass**. Both use 1DD and have average isolation. They both have non-removable cables. * ***Tin Audio T2 Plus* $50** The Tin T2 Plus can be said to be somewhere between **warm neutral to warm v-shaped**. They use 1DD and have average isolation. Some have problems with the treble being too sharp on these. They use mmcx connectors for the cable. * ***YU9 ER4 Clones* $80** These are clones of the ER4B/S/P which are **bright neutral, neutral and neutral with relaxed treble** respectively. They all use 1BA and have very high isolation. Mainly an alternative to the ER2SE for those outside of the US who can’t get them for a decent price. * ***SeeAudio Yume* $170** The SeeAudio Yume are **neutral**, use 1DD + 2BA’s and have average isolation. They use 2-pin connectors for the cable. * ***Tanchjim Darling* $420** The Tanchjim Darlings are **bass boosted neutral**, they use 1DD and 2BA's. They might be a step up from the MoonDrop Blessing 2. They have very good imaging, but they are also more expensive than the B2 and have a larger pinna gain boost (3kHz boost) which may lead to some people finding them too shouty. They use mmcx connectors for the cable. Eartips === Short explanation of eartip types --- **Supported tube diameter width:** The width of the sound tube of the iem that these tips fit onto. You can often squeeze tips meant for smaller size tubes over slightly larger ones, the other way around they will just fall off the tube when pulled out of your ear. **Bore type:** *narrow bore, medium bore, wide bore*; they all change the sound of the iem in different ways, if you have the money it is recommended to try different types of tips with your iems to find the perfect pairing. **Silicone tips:** Often lower isolation than foam or hybrid, but you can wash these to keep them clean and they will probably last for years if cared for properly. **Foam:** Foam tips have better isolation but lower longevity than silicone tips. **Hybrid tips:** Tips with silicone on the outside and foam on the inside, high isolation and better durability than plain foam. **Double/triple flange:** Silicone tips with multiple flanges for deeper insertion and higher isolation. some good websites to look for earphone tips you can't find in local stores/local websites are Amazon [Japan](https://www.amazon.co.jp) or [US](https://www.amazon.com), [mtmtaudio](https://www.mtmtaudio.com), [Aliexpress](https://www.aliexpress.com), [Linsoul](https://www.linsoul.com). Sometimes you may also need to use [Ebay](https://www.ebay.com) to find certain hard to get tips. Recommended eartips --- Below $5 per pair * *Foam* Anjirui 20 Pair Pack Tennmak Ultra Strong * *Silicone* Tennmak Whirlwind [Reversed](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ak4T0mfP_UY) KZ Starline Sony Hybrid * *Multi flange* Misodiko S270D Acoustune AET06 * *Hybrid* Misodiko Mix460 --- Above $5 per pair * *Foam* Comply Tx series * *Silicone* JVC Spiral Dots Azla Sedna Earfit Spinfit CP800/CP100/CP145/CP155 Final E Type * *Multi flange* Klipsch Oval double flange Spinfit CP220/CP240 * *Hybrid* Symbio W/Wa/Wn Sony triple comfort * *TPE* Azla Xelastc Earbuds === Earbuds vs IEMs --- Earbuds are the showerhead type (MX500 shells or similar) or Airpod type earphones that **don't form a seal** like IEMs do using their tips. Because earbuds don't form a seal they don't isolate, or in other words they let you hear your surroundings. Also because they don't form a seal they often don't have great sub-bass extension, though the sub-bass can be increased to audible levels with EQ. Short explanation of foams and silicone stuff --- Foams and silicone hooks/rings are parts that you put over your earbud to either help with comfort and/or alter the sound signature. The different types of foams and such are given simple abbreviations, which are named as a recommended combination in the HoF. **F** = *full foams* **FF** = *double full foams* **D** = *donut foams* **S** = *silicone hooks/rings* **N** = *no foams* As for which foams to buy: [Hieigi](https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32753761717.html) > Washed [Trig Rain](https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32671911259.html) > Thin Foams Hall of Fame --- **MX500 Shells:** * ***Vido (White+Red) / KBEAR Stellar / Yincrow X6* (F) $1-10** These are **Bass boosted neutral**, but come in many tuning variants. Differently colored shells may have a (slightly) different tuning so make sure you buy a specificly recommended set. * ***VE Monk Plus & VE DACs* (F) $5-10** These are **Mid-centric bright** and have no sub-bass. Comes with VE DACs. * ***RY4S 32Ω mmcx PLUS version* (F) $9** These have a **Bright V-shape with big sub-bass**. They have MMCX connectors. * ***Faaeal Rosemary* (FF) $25** These are a direct sound quality and bass upgrade from Vido and the other similar earbuds. They are 150Ω, but are sensitive so driving them shouldn't be a big issue. **Other Shells:** * ***Qian39* (F) $9** These are **Bass boosted neutral**. They have small shells. * ***K'searphone Bell-LBBS* (F) $40** These are **Neutral**. They have small bell shells. For High-End earbuds visit the [Head-fi DIY earbud thread](https://www.head-fi.org/threads/diy-earbuds.822327/) & DIY earbud EQ thread. Cables === Short explanation of cable and connector types --- ***Connectors:*** **2-pin:** A connector type using 2 pins with a 0.78mm gap between the pins. Often seen as more durable. Has shielded sub-types including QDC and TFZ/NX7, there is also the recessed 2-pin sub-type. All of these sub-types fit more securely than regular 2-pin and are recommended over regular, if your iems use their respective connector types. **MMCX:** A connector type using a coaxial connector that snaps into the female connector on the iems. Rated for up to 500 pairing cycles but may last longer, often seen as less durable mostly because Chinese iem manufacturers often cheap out on the connectors. Cables that use mmcx connectors imported from Taiwan might be higher quality, because they are said to have a tighter more secure fit. ***Plugs:*** **3.5 unbalanced:** The plug used to plug into common headphone jacks. **2.5 balanced:** The plug used to plug into 2.5 balanced out that some pmp's and dacs/apms use. **4.4 balanced:** The plug used to plug into 4.4 balanced out that some pmp's and dacs/apms use. ***Cable materials:*** **Copper:** There are many types of copper cables such as OFC (Oxygen free copper), single crystal, OCC (ohno continuous casting), and variants (UP-OCC, PC-OCC, ...), freeze treatments, etc. Not all cables are created equal, sometimes the quality control isn't great, often Chinese manufacturers lie about the specifications. Some people believe that copper cables sound more warm and bassy or that better quality cables sound better, though there is no scientific proof of this being the case. **Silver:** For all cheap Chinese manufacturers: when they say silver plated copper (SPC), it is usually tin or alloy plated. When they say pure silver wire, it is pure silver plated copper wire frequently. You often won't find actual pure silver wires in lower price ranges. Some people believe that silver in cables makes the highs more sparkly or accentuated, again there is no scientific proof of this being the case. **Painted:** Sometimes the copper/plated wires are painted themselves, sometimes it is the plastic coating that's colored. If you believe better cables improve sound, you might want to avoid painted wires as some people say it "degrades" the sound. **Foil:** In these types of cables foil strands of metal are used instead of metal wires, usually wrapped around a tough core such as kevlar. The idea is that because of the skin effect these types of cables may have a slightly lower resistance, similar to using more cores instead of a thicker wire. If you don't care about lowering the resitance of your cable you may still want a foil cable simply for the aesthetics. Recommended cables --- **Recommended brands and places to buy:** [Yinyoo](https://wooeasy.aliexpress.com/store/group/Yinyoo-Cable/519064_513225789.html), [NiceHCK](https://www.aliexpress.com/store/group/Earphone-Cable/1825606_504888717.html), [Kbear](https://kbear.aliexpress.com/store/group/KB-EAR-Cable/5017064_516671707.html), [Tripowin](https://www.linsoul.com/collections/tripowin) and [Kinboofi](https://wooeasy.aliexpress.com/store/group/Kinboofi-Cable/519064_513058438.html) make very good budget cables, have a look at their products yourself if you don’t like any of the cables listed below. Aliexpress is the best place to get cables since the price is by far the lowest for the exact same cable, if you need it quickly you can also order Yinyoo, Kinboofi and Tripowin from Amazon. * Under $5 [KBEar 4 core](https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000272626428.html) * Under $10 [NiceHCK 8 Core](https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32916162030.html) * Under $20 [FAAEAL 4 Core](https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000400771561.html) [Yinyoo 16 core](https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32873260968.html) * Under $30 [Tripowin C8](https://www.aliexpress.com/item/33038475232.html) [Kbear 16 Core](https://www.aliexpress.com/item/33042884481.html) * Under $50 [EAC RS 6N OCC 4-core](https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000413868760.html) [EAC 6N OCC + SPC 4-core](https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000009633191.html) Cases === * **Pelicase 1010 micro** A durable case. The case is able to be submerged under 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes in accordance with IP67 testing parameters and is Watertight, crushproof, and dustproof. * **Campfire Audio Leather/Canvas case** A nice looking case. * **Etymotic ER38-65-4SX Deluxe Zippered Pouch** A useful case. The case features Three interior pockets and two interior zippered pockets. IEM reviewers and other sources === Reviewers --- This is a list of links to good reviewers • [Crinacle](https://crinacle.com/) • [Audiodiscourse (various reviewers)](https://www.audiodiscourse.com/) • [Banbeu](https://banbeu.com/) • [Primeaudio](https://primeaudio.org/) • [Toranku](https://www.head-fi.org/threads/torankus-thoughts-and-reviews.895832/) • [Aminus](https://www.head-fi.org/threads/aminus-hates-everything-or-aminus-rants-and-reviews-stuff.911048/) • [Shotgunshane](https://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/shotgunshane%E2%80%99s-iem-custom-and-universal-recommendations-favorites-and-classics.2229/) Sources for other stuff --- •Graph comparison tools [Crinacle](https://crinacle.com/graphs/iems/graphtool/) [Oratory1990](https://headphonedatabase.com/oratory/iems) [Banbeucmas](https://banbeu.com/graph/tool/) [Audio Discourse](https://iems.audiodiscourse.com) [Super*Reviews](https://squig.link) [Bad Guy](https://hbb.squig.link) [Rikudou Goku](https://rg.squig.lin/?share=RikudouGoku_Target) [Precog](https://precog.squig.link/?share=Precog_Target) [Hype the Sonics](https://www.hypethesonics.com/iemdbc/) • Rockbox https://build.rockbox.org/ • SonyNWDestTool to remove the volume limiter/warnings on most of the Walkman series https://www.rockbox.org/wiki/SonyNWDestTool • Head-fi cable thread (beware of the snakeoil audiophoolery) https://www.head-fi.org/threads/resistance-of-cables-pics-comments-and-links.907998/ • Oratory1990's EQ presets https://www.reddit.com/r/oratory1990/wiki/index/list_of_presets