PC Specs: i7-7700K 5GHz, EVGA Hybrid 1080Ti FTW3 SLI, 16gb 4000mhz DDR4 Ram, 2TB SSD, AX1200i
Monitors: Acer Predator XB271HU and an LG 4k 27in IPS monitor
Keyboard: Realforce 55UW
Mice: Logitech G703 and G900
Controller: Xbox One Elite Controller
Game Consoles: PS4 Pro, Nintendo Switch, Hacked New 3DS XL
I'm a Reddit user (/u/Josh1551).
A list of what I've tried in the past and ranked by how much I personally enjoyed them:
RME ADI-2 DAC: This beautiful unit makes some of the most familiar songs I've listened to hundreds of times seem new; details are brought forward in a pointed but delicate manner, notes become seemingly airier and the soundstage is stretched out even further. Reminded me of the HDV 820 when I first paired it with the HD800S, but this amp is able to bring out the most audiophile characteristics with a wide range of IEMs and I am enthralled. The Hi-Power mode is more than adequate to power hard-to-drive headphones like the HD800.
Vioelectric HPA V200:This amp brings some much needed acoustic heft to a large variety of headphones; every single sound carried with it a physical presence and the authority to do most energetic songs justice; the one drawback is the overall warmer tone (it is almost as warm as the WA8 Eclipse which is a transportable tube amp though it does not nearly have as much power to drive high impedance headphones like the V200). The treble is not as extended, but despite that, I absolutely love the sound.
Questyle CMA600i ~ CMA400i: Some of the most satisfying balanced amps I've heard to date; Neutral enough to let the capabiilities of headphones/IEMs to shine through. Preferred the 600i for its power and the 400i for its higher compatibility with a good range of IEMs (barring really sensitive ones).
Sennheiser HDV 820: Expansive, airy, sharp and yet subdued at the same time. A perfect companion for the HD800S and a driver that works perfectly on Windows 10. Completely unveiled the HD800S for me compared to other amps I used them on and the power from the balanced XLR-4 output gives a whole lotta oomph.
iFi AUDIO Micro iDSD Black Label: Love the extra and optional bass flip switch and the 3D sound setting. Musical and very expansive soundstage. Slightly lean sounding and a little brighter than I'd like with certain headphones, but for IEM use, it's addictive with the extra settings flipped on.
Woo Audio WA8 Eclipse: Smooth and detailed. Warm overall and pretty damn engaging. Not as powerful as some amps I've tried, but it still drives the HD800S wonderfully. Conflicted if this would top the HDV820 since that was designed with the HD800S in mind, but this does an amazing job of making the mids come forward. Some would probably value that more for a more intimate listening session. It's a toss up really.
Marantz HD-DAC1: Warm overall and a musical presence which can be great for more neutral sounding headphones.
iFi AUDIO Nano iDSD Black Label: Pretty natural sounding and impressively resolving given its small size; capable of driving a variety of easy to drive headphones and IEMs and it's small enough to carry around. It would have been nice if it had just a bit more power to drive some headphones like its bigger brother.
Audioquest Dragonfly Red: Sparkles and bright overall, loved the convenience and form factor, but really wished I had a knob to adjust the volume.
Chord Mojo: Power and lots of it. Sounds were more congested than I'd like and the soundstage was narrow compared to other amps I've tried. Very good portable, but it gets a little too hot for my comfort. I was not a fan of the interface with the marble buttons.
Fiio E17K: Used to pair this with my DAP and I recalled that it did make a great partner to a lot of IEMs I had at the time. The EQ function was nice to use on the go and I did feel like it gave more life to the music I listened to.
FiiO K5: Can recall that it was a pretty warm sounding amp to my ears and pretty clean as far as background noises go; I liked the docking feature which I used with the E17K. The build quality was a little lacking, but I did like the looks of the unit.
Magni 2U/ Modi 2U: Bright and grainy, they were pretty to look at but their sonic characteristics left a lot to be desired for this listener; recall the DAC was a little on the noisy side when gaming, which was a real bummer.
FiiO E10K: Functional and pretty nice for what it provides at its inexpensive pricepoint; I remember that this was where it all started for me and I did immediately notice the lack of background noise compared to listening through the headphone jack of my pc.
Sennheiser HD800:Loved the pairing with the CMA600i, the treble never bothered me too much and the soundstage felt just a little more open compared to its tamed successor and remains one of the largest I have ever heard. Imaging is absolutely superb. The comfort it provides is supreme for me.
Focal Utopia: While this has excellent imaging and separation, the soundstage is lacking. I'm thrilled with the punchiness of the bass however. They are pretty hefty, but the weight seems to disappear thanks to the comfort of the fenestrated sheepskin ear pads and headband.
Oppo PM-1: A much more refined version of the Hifiman Edition X and the build is top notch. The mids are intoxicating on these and the treble was nice and smooth. That planar bass I usually desire was given in spades. Oppo really hit it out of the park with this one and I can't help but feel they could have accomplished so much more if they stayed in this line of business.
Hifiman Edition X V1: Mids to die for and a nice bass bump; imaging is great on these and while the treble is noticeably rolled off, I find myself enjoying the music like I used to. Build quality is severly lacking however and I get nervous whenever I handle these.
Sennheiser HD800S: Nice natural tuning when paired with the CMA600i and I enjoyed the slight bass boost for more energetic songs.
ZMF Eikon: Whoever mentioned the fact the Eikon sounds like a bigger and smoother Andromeda was right on the money; this headphone exudes all the pleasant characteristics that make the Andromeda so alluring and as a result I just can't stop listening to these. The treble does not extend nearly as far as more technical high end headphones, but this smoother treble response and the more than adequate bass makes this addition a smashing hit to my ears. I dare say I enjoyed this more than the Focal Utopia on an overall fun level.
Hifiman HE1000 V1: Beautiful mids, but the treble bothered me quite a bit. The Edition X was warmer overall and not as detailed, but there was something really special about its sound signature; this high end entry was quite a disappointment as I was expecting more of the same.
Sennheiser HD600>~=HD650: w/ a good amp like a CMA600i
Fostex TH900 Mk II: Mids were way too recessed for my liking, absolutely gorgeous cups though. I didn't perceive as much bass as others stated about these headphones, don't know what's up with that.
Philips SHP9500: These are great for entry level audiophiles and I loved their comfort almost as much as the HD800s.
Sony IER-Z1R: These are the most natural/immense sounding IEMs I have worn and I cannot believe my ears with that bass response. Despite it having such heft and extension, the mids and the treble are well in tune with it and provide copious amounts of detail that I feel makes the Z1R belong at the very top of my IEM list. These sound just as good as some of the best headphones I've heard, which is really saying something. I feel the build quality alone makes this entry worth its price tag and I had no trouble getting these to fit my ears. The soundstage is also unbelievable/insane as the width just keeps stretching out. Well done, Sony.
LCD-i4 w/ Cipher Cable: The open-back design allows a supremely large soundstage that few, if any IEMs, can emulate. Planars as large as the ones embedded in these odd looking IEMs (I mean, just look at them) allow for a supreme physical presence that other offerings can only dream to obtain. The Cipher Cable is critical in obtaining the true technical potential of this entry, however.
64 Audio U18 Tzar: The resolution is absolutely top of the line and while the sheer amount of detail is not as staggering as the Samba, I find it to be so balanced and technically accurate that I find its versatility to be its strongest suit and possibly the best in its class. The ability to switch between modules to shift its sound signature makes this IEM hard to pass up for this user. When paired with the Lionheart cable from Effect Audio, the mids became much more present and the details were emphasized a little bit better in the highs while retaining a sense of body to the sound.
QDC Anole VX: Mids are supreme to a lot of recent high IEM offerings (the resolution here revealed the same type of extreme detail I experienced with the Jomo Audio high end IEMs on this list) and I was thrilled with the ability to switch the sound signature. The treble was not overly high and the bass was present enough to jam out to. I was also blown away from the comfort of these and was relieved I did not experience fatigue (with all the switches down).
Shure KSE1200: I must admit, I had a less than ideal beginning with these IEMs due to a lack of volume with the required amp, but having a dac with volume control to create a chain with the KSE1200s made everything right; I'm able to boost the volume enough to really pick up the incredible resolution and undeniable transparency. That being said, having to watch out for distortions from upping the volume too high and a lack of bass/musicality makes this entry a little boring and the build quality leaves a lot to be desired.
Massdrop x Empire Ears Zeus XIV: Fantastic transparency and the mids are extremely enjoyable; resolution is superb and for an unbeatable bargain of $750 off of drop, you can't do much better than these when it comes to the price. The treble was subdued yet present enough to give a great sense of air and the bass was sufficient, but not the main star of the show. If you're seeking an IEM with tremendously engaging mids, this one fits the bill.
Empire Ears Legend X: The reputation of these having monstrous/intrusive bass seems to be unfounded, at least to my ears. Granted, these were purchased with around 100+ hours of use on them, so within that time frame I'm sure the burn-in had tamed it quite a bit. Compared to the CA Vega's, I was not overwhelmed with excessive bass, but instead very impressed by the resolution presented in the low end to the mids and the treble was nice and smooth; there was a nice sense of body throughout the frequency range.
Campfire Audio Solaris: Highly resolving and incredibly coherent; there's no gaps in this signature and I love the fact it makes everything so musical and engaging. The imaging on these were also some of the best I've experienced. The fit of the shell and the size of the nozzles made this a tough relationship to maintain however, and is its one main fault.
Jomo Audio Flamenco: With all switches flipped on, this hyper realistic and dazzlingly musical IEM engages me at all times; I'm thrown off by how it feels like there is no veil between the artist and my own ears. I hesitate even wearing these while watching movies just because the thought of watching a scary film with the Flamenco would floor me. The soundstage and the overall body may not top the U18, but when it comes to the staggering amount of detail that exceeds even the Samba, my own needs feel overwhelmingly satisfied and the compromise to reach this level feels justified. Treble fatigue remained an issue like its predecessor.
Jomo Audio Samba: There is only one way to describe these: there is absolutely no veil and the amount of separation is mind boggling. I thought the Andros were detailed, but these take detail to another level completely. A true sense of airiness is felt everywhere when I listen to music with these and the soundstage feels more open. The treble did wear on me after the first hour of listening, however.
Campfire Audio Andromeda: Warm and lovely/musical mids and highs, speedy bass; feels like right at home to me whenever I was on the go with these on. Only IEM I've had that I'd describe as holographic.
HYLA CE-5: Very well defined bass and incredibly expansive soundstage, the treble can be a little hot, but paired with a copper cable like the Ares II, this became a non-issue and compliments it extremely well. Not sure if the mids are as recessed as typical V-shaped IEMs and I felt there was quite a bit of it emphasized. The bass has an overwhelming response to energetic songs and I feel it has a technical edge similar to how the Samba defines details in an almost exaggerated but controlled manner.
UE 18+ Pro 2nd Gen: Very resolving and warm, I could listen to these for hours on end. Not really sure if they were as natural as others claim, but I did like the tonality when it came to acoustic instruments.
Sennheiser IE800: These from time to time make me love them more than the Andromedas with the right amount of musicality and soundstage with a nice amount of bass on certain tracks; treble can be a bit much though. Comfort is fantastic due to how small these things are.
Sony MDR-EX800ST: Bass is the name of the game for this particular entry, and taping the vents makes this one of the most pounding experiences one can place in their ears. Resolution was fairly good, and while the soundstage was expansive, there was a lack of depth. Much funner than its high end counterpart, the MDR-EX1000s.
Klipsch X20i: Warm and one of the most comfortable IEMs out there; slightly punchy but resolving as well and I find myself relaxing a lot while listening to these at work.
Sony XBA-Z5: The bass on this is powerful and I can feel its presence; the mids and highs are wonderfully combined. It's not sibilant at all and the soundstage is expansive. These are among one of my favorite IEMs and it costs a significant amount less than some of the more popular high end models on this list.
Campfire Audio Vega: That bass is bitchin' and I can feel the weight, but my god do my eardrums feel like used punching bags after listening to them for hours at work; really energetic, but it was hard for me to keep up.
Sony MDR-EX1000: At its price point, this IEM surprised me when it came to extracting details in all the songs I listened to and was impressive overall on this front; however, the treble spike was a bit much at times and while the bass extends a lot, it didn't have the impact I tend to prefer.
Noble Audio Kaiser Encore: Very natural sounds for the most part and a hard to love peak in the treble with certain tracks, kind of too neutral and not really noteworthy to me overall, but very technically proficient.
Sennheiser IE800S: Was disappointed by this addition, the lack of oval ear tips that were present on the IE800 made it difficult to get an ideal fit and the presentation overall mirrors the IE800 with an overly subdued amount of treble. A little lackluster and not worth the price premium I purchased it at.
Noble Audio Kaiser 10: Nice amounts of bass, mids and highs were run of the mill to me compared to recent offerings. Felt too closed and not open enough for my tastes.
Heir Audio 10.0: Similar to Kaiser 10 with less bass, nothing really stood out to me, was bored with these.
AKG K3003i: Reference sounding and nicely articulate bass, reminded me of a miniature version of the HD800, but soundstage was a little lacking and I felt it is outclassed by the IE800 as far as entertainment goes.
JVC FX850: Timbre and enough bass to make me say wow from time to time; was my main go to IEM for a while, but their weight slouching out of my ears was annoying.
Final E4000: Good amount of soundstage and natural sounding mids with a subdued amount of treble. Bass had a good amount of weight to it, though I felt the signature overall felt constrained for some odd reason. Housing on this unit is small and there is a large amount of sound leakage, but I found this addition to be really relaxing thanks to its form factor and comforting sound. The ear tips are among one of the best fitting which isn't a small feat.
RHA MA750s: Nice and solid build with a nice even sound signature if a bit shrill; my first IEMs that got me into this hobby.
ER4SR: Comfort a HUGE issue; couldn't enjoy music with it due to having to insert these things deep into my ear which felt violating. The sound was very neutral and revealing, but I hated putting these on properly and a shallow fit made it sound too thin.
Trinity Phantom Master 4: Overly metallic sound with punchy bass, very closed sounding; I was always yearning something more with these. Build quality was severely lacking.