- Jul 6, 2019
- Jabberwock Island
Before my question, I'll write a small wall of text to narrate my current situation...
I like to listen to music and watch movies both at home and outside, so I enjoy iems, headphones and speakers alike. At home i tend to favor speakers, but on the go i don't have a clear favorite. In the past I used Sony, Ath and Shure iems, but eventually I started to favor headphones.
Recently I wanted something that I could bring with me when I don't have a backpack so i started to look into the iem market again, and found the Chi-Fi world. I was very skeptic at first, but my first order was so cheap that I thought:"Whatever, let's give it a try". My first two purchases were KZ Zst Pro and Zsn Pro. While I disliked the former with a passion, the latter blew me away. I was definitely not expecting that kind of sound quality in the 15$ price range. I then jumped into the rabbithole and purchased a few other sub 100$ iems from Kz, Trn and Dunu. Some were clear upgrades, while others offered a different sound, all at a very reasonable price.
I then decided to make my first over-100% purchase. It took me weeks to decide between the Ikko OH10 and the Bqeyz Spring 1. I eventually decided to go for the Spring 1 following several good reviews and a much lower price tag (here in Taiwan the Spring 1 are 130$, while the Ikko are around 230$).
I've been completely blown away by how good they sound. I know for many people they are are an entry/mid tier set of iems, but the Spring 1 coupled with my Fiio M5 are giving me such a great combination for the price that even when I would have the opportunity to carry headphones I still prefer to pick the Spring 1.
Which brings me to my question. In the 100-300$ range are there iems that are substantially better than what the Spring 1 can deliver at 130$, or would I be better off getting a better dap? I use the M5 all the time, so an option would be to invest money in a much better dap (dx160? fiio m11?) rather than other iems, and use the M5 for sports. I'm a bit worried about diminishing returns in this price range >_>
The past year or so, I think the most bang for buck range for CHIFI IEMs is the $30 - 100 range, beyond that there are diminishing returns in this hobby the higher u go up. U can try the Audiosense T800 ($298 USD) if u are looking for an upgrade over the Spring 1, though they are not tuned exactly the same. I would consider the Audiosense T800 a pretty versatile midrange IEM, it excels at details, though it is a bit bright. The brightness can be tamed with knowles filters, eartips, +/- cable change. For sure it beats my midfi Westones/Shures/Sennheisers that cost much more. I auditioned a few TOTL sets last year and definitely these TOTL gear are better than the T800, but maybe by about 30ish % better, though they can cost 10 times more.
Also, quite a few experienced audiophiles advised me to upgrade whatever is nearer the ears first (ie transducers like IEMs/cans), and then slowly go downstream (eartips -> amp -> DAC -> source file, maybe cables last if u ain't a cable skeptic). According to them, it's the most price effective way in this hobby, and I personally follow this advise and I think it works for me, though maybe others have different opinions on which to upgrade first, YMMV. IMHO, u still have some room to upgrade for transducers from the Spring 1, though it is quite subjective how deep u wanna go down this rabbithole*.
* pro tip: the rabbithole is endless and a new flavour of the month hypetrain (sorry scratch that, flavour of the week hypertrain) will soon come out. I've learnt the hard way to stop buying multiple budget gear < $50 USD and just save up and get one good set, once u know your preferred sound preferences.