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Earbuds Round-Up (Update: April 25th, 2015)

post #1 of 1562
Thread Starter 

I have always want to do a short comparison of my earbuds collection, but the task of listening them very critically in one session isn't for the faint of heart - while I have listened to each of them fairly extensive in the pass, it still took me over 4 hours of going back and fore (almost back breaking work) just trying hard to sort them out. With over 20 earbus currently in my possession, I realize a compilation with detail review of each will be a massive undertaking that I can't sure I can finish in a satisfactory fashion or even have the time to do so. So the decision went to separate them into categories based on my own interpretation of SQ, complete with a simple impression. Hopefully this is enough to provide some useful info for those who are interested in earbuds. Cheer.




  1. Sennheiser MX985 - Share the top spot with TM7. Warm and rich, not as wide a soundstage as TM7, but more immersive. Excellent all-arounder.
  2. Blox TM7 - Lush, lively, dynamic with an excellent 3D soundstage and life-like presentation. Great all-arounder.
  3. VE Zen - 320ohm monster that needs an amp to shine, Warmish and rich, offers some of the best bass and PRaT in the earbud world.

Category 2: THE GREAT


  1. Blox ANV3 - Almost the same as TM7, but slightly less lush and more forward.
  2. 湖西小筑 DIY Dual Driver - OEM Dual Dynamic Matrix driver from PowerBeats, some of the best soundstage and micro-detail, but very neutral and doesn't have much bass reach or depth.
  3. HiSound Audio Living - Lean, clean and analytical. Fit is finicky to get the bass out. Scale well with a bit of bass boost.
  4. Yuin PK1 - Effortless sound but does require an amp. Warm, a bit slow on speed and attack so it might not be best for fast music.
  5. VE Asura (beta) - Similar to Zen, but more compressed though doesn't need amping to sound good.
  6. Baldoor E100 - Really sweet and euphonic vocal, rich, full and very engaging sound.
  7. JiuShao E600 - Nothing standout but good all-arounder nonetheless.
  8. JiuShao E300 - With more dynamic and excitiment than E600 but quite balanced but less refined on treble.
  9. DUNU Alpha 1 - Great sound with good dynamic and IEM-like tuning, but is extremly finicky on fit.
  10. Creative Aurvana Air - Clean, slightly lean, great detail, wide open soundstage. Finicky on fit.
  11. Ubiquo ES903 - Warm and mid centric, excellent vocal but small in soundstage. More of a Rock and POP maintream sound
  12. Blox M2c - Fun, lively, clean and specious but slightly short in depth. Great for just sit back, listen and enjoy. Good upgrade for PK3.
  13. Tingo TC-100 - Dual Dynamic Matrix, good detail, saperation and soundstage, but dry mid and neutral bass.
  14. Pioneer SE-CE521 - Like E600, a good all-arounder with nothing standout, but a bit more distanced sounding.
  15. Panasonic HJ329 - Dual driver, Stock earbuds for TOTL Pany discman. Slight dry mid but have good end to end reach and soundstage.
  16. Audio Technica CM707 - Warm and thick to almost veil. Would have been great if it has better treble extension.
  17. Dasetn MC5 - Treble could have been better but otherwise fun and full sounding. Questionable build quality
  18. NineWave NW-Studio Pro - Very warm, full and forward with a great bass and vocal performance. Slightly rough on the 12kHz region. Intimate sound.
  19. CrossRoads HR1 - Not as effortless as PK1 but still pretty good. More balanced and slightly mid focused with a better sense of speed.
  20. Sunrise AS-Charm - Very warm, a little mid centric, good with vocal and laid-back music. Smooth signature with a weakness in air and soundstage.
  21. Sennheiser MX90vc - Excellent sound. Warm but overall balanced. Fit can be difficult at first with the twist and fit system and it will need an amp to sound great.
  22. AKG 319 - Little warm from being balanced and very decent mid / lower-mid performance. Balance and smooth overall.
  23. Sennheiser MX760 - Also a fairly balance sounding earbud that is cleaner and more transparent than MX90vc, but has a lot more low end resonance which lead to slightly artificial 'surround sound' effect.
  24. Sennheiser LX90 - Same transducer as MX90vc with almost identical sound signature. Good fit is not easy to maintain (which is why I rank it lower than MX760), also requires an amp to sound at its best.


Category 3: THE GOOD


  1. B&O A8 - Bass light but very airy and detail, great synergy and sound with a warm amp.
  2. Tingo TG-38S - Slightly hallow mid and grainy treble, but has an fast and engaging sound.
  3. VSONIC UU2 - Good treble, clarity and soundstage, but let down by a dry midrange and bass.
  4. HiFiman ES100 - Warm, if not a bit dull and not particularly exciting.
  5. HiSound Audio PAA-1 Pro - Rich, warm but most neutral, smooth and relaxing. A bit slow and flat in dynamic.
  6. CrossRoads HR2 - Not as bassy as PK3 but has a slightly more spacious, neutral sound.
  7. Yuin PK3 - Detail, fairly balanced and pretty good bass impact. Lively presentation.
  8. Blue Ever Blue 328R - Warm, well textured with a deep bass that captivates the audience.
  9. Sunrise AS-Feeling - Warm yet fairly detail, good body and balance.Smooth top-end and a generally enjoyable sound.
  10. Apple Earpods - Fantastic bass response and sweet vocal but let down by weak treble and detail. Silky smooth to almost a darkish presentation.
  11. Xiaomi 1MORE Design - Warm to slightly veil. Nothing really standout except for the build quality.
  12. Sennheiser MX581 - Similar to AS-Feeling when used with foam pad, slightly less dynamic but better on soundstage
  13. Sennheiser MX580 - Neutral to balanced, very good soundstage but dry and grainy mid and a little edgy on treble.
  14. HiSound Audio PAA-1 - Bassy with really good rumble. Dry mid with grainy treble. Not far apart from the two Senn. above.
  15. Marshall Minor - Warm, smooth, laid back, slightly thick but not to a point of feeling veil. Well rounded bass that required a good fit to show.
  16. Final Audio Design Piano Forte II - Warm, mid dominance, thick and tends to be a bit veil.
  17. Panasonic RP-HV600 - Neutral and a bit lean on mid with a tunable XBS switch.
  18. Sony MDR-E888 - Good bass impact but too mid focus, bloated in a sense.


Category 4: THE DECENT


  1. SoundMAGIC PH-10 - Well balanced and smooth sound, but soundstage is a bit small. Very well controlled.
  2. Panasonic RP-HZE70 - Clean and airy sound but can't get a good fit easily despite of the earclip.
  3. Sony MDR-E805 - More upper mid focused, airy and detail but can be harsh at time. Wide bud, not as comfortable.
  4. Panasonic RP-HV337- less bass than MX500 but very clean and more detail.
  5. Sony MDR-A34 - similar sound signature as MX500, slightly less detail and soundstage but sweeter in vocal. The headband makes it very comfortable in long term use.
  6. Sennheiser MX500 - BenQ rebranded (same Foster-JP model ), warm but over all balanced, slightly congested in mid.
  7. Apple iBud (2nd gen.) - very similar to MX500, slightly less sparkle but have a stronger bass slam. Said to be a tuned variation of the same MX500 series by Foster-JP.
  8. Sunrise AS-Miss - Full and forward mid, Good vocal. Very warm and can be a bit congested especially on complex music.
  9. AKG K311 - Big warm bottom, good detail but not airy enough. Excellent build quality.
  10. JVC HA-F130 - Very lively presentation with PK3 like signature, but lack control.
  11. Sony MDR-PQ5 - Very warm, full to slightly thick, lacks a good treble to show detail.
  12. Sony Ericsson Bass Flex - Warm mid and bass with a good impact. sweet vocal. Stock earbuds for many SE cellphone models.
  13. Sidy DX1 - Overly warm, distanced, veil with very little detail.
  14. Sennheiser MX50 - Not as easy to drive, warm mid but still airy.


Category 5: THE BAD


  1. Panasonic stock earbud (L0BAB0000188) - Warm, smooth but lack detail.
  2. Creative EP380 - Very warm, bloated mid, small soundstage.


Remember, always take this with a grain of salt  

Edited by ClieOS - 4/27/15 at 7:57am
post #2 of 1562
Excellent work as usual. Sad to see that the PH10's didn't do as well as I hoped. Time to cancel an order. :P
post #3 of 1562
Thread Starter 
PH-10 is a very well made earbud, consider that it only costs $10. It just lacks a bit of airiness and detail to make it to the next level.
post #4 of 1562
love this thread , hope u will add cm700 to your collection in the future

already bookmark this thread
post #5 of 1562
MX90vc?? what a surprise..!!
post #6 of 1562
Nicely done! Thanks ClieOS!

The subtle differences you described between the Yuin PK1 and CrossRoads HR1 are interesting to note if I ever decide to upgrade to high-end earbuds. Surprised to see that you own the LX90; I almost pulled the trigger once when I saw it for $20, but the design just seems too awkward to be comfortable or to get a good fit.

Also, good to see that the SoundMagic PH-10 is a solid earbud for the price. I'd like to see them make a higher end open model, but the market may not be big enough to justify it.

Finally, I don't think we'll ever see designs like the Panasonic RP-HV600 again. I should have gotten into this hobby sooner, as many of the Japanese companies had some rather interesting earbuds released throughout the 1990s.

FAKE EDIT: Just realized that the HV600 was first released in Japan in 1991. See boys and girls, if you take care of your stuff, it will last forever, or at least 18 or so years.

Like a_tumiwa, I'll be watching this thread closely. Thanks again!
post #7 of 1562
Very nice comparison! Hope you add the OK1 and OK2 both are outstanding in their price points, with the OK1 the best bud I have heard.
post #8 of 1562
Thread Starter 
IIRC, I bought my HV600 back in 1999, then it was boxed up and went to the storage room around 2001 for a good 5~6 yrs (I went oversea during those time) before I dug it up just yrs ago.
post #9 of 1562
Hi ClieOS,
I've always been tempted to pick up the PK3's,but I missed out on the group buy and never got around to it. I have both the MX90VC's and MX760, which you rate above the PK3s. Am I missing out on something not having the PK3s?

P.S. anxiously awaiting Fuze LOD.
post #10 of 1562
Another contender in the top two categories is the Hisoundaudio PAA-1 buds that come stock with the Amp3. Excellent buds, comparable to the PK3, but a little higher SQ across the spectrum. Unfortunately, not for sale individually, but I heard they may be someday.
post #11 of 1562
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Drpepper View Post
Am I missing out on something not having the PK3s?
PK3 is unique in a way that it is very fun and engaging. Many actually find the kind of coloration to be great. Personally, I find PK3 to be slightly too fun and it becomes a weakness in some genre of music.
post #12 of 1562
Where is PK2 o.O missing?
post #13 of 1562
Well, I'm not so much into earbuds, but hey that's an impressive collection, LOL
Excellent overview for potential buyers with spot on descriptions, as always - thanks!
post #14 of 1562
Originally Posted by chicaman View Post
Where is PK2 o.O missing?
you can send it to ClieoS
post #15 of 1562
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by a_tumiwa View Post
you can send it to ClieoS
x2. Send one to him so he can add it to the list!
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Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Portable Headphones, Earphones and In-Ear Monitors › Earbuds Round-Up (Update: April 25th, 2015)