crinacle's IEM Ranking List (154 Entries) [LCDi4, iSine20 Cipher updated 8/11]

  1. crinacle

    Grades
    S: Must try. Experience what the best has to offer.
    A: While not at the top of the summit, Grade-A IEMs are still very respectable performers that would still be considered as some of the best by many.
    B: Can essentially be described as "very good".
    C: Good. Not great, not bad... good.
    D: Unmemorable but not horrible. "Meh".
    E: Bad. Still listenable, but not pleasantly.
    F: The failures. If I only had to use these, I'd rather not listen to music at all.​


    Notes and disclaimers

    • The IEMs in each tier are sorted alphabetically. They are not ordered by performance within the tiers themselves.
    • The IEMs are not ranked in terms of price-to-performance value. They are ranked to personally determined objective performance (an oxymoron, I know).
    • The positions are not set in stone. I'm only human; I may miss out on certain details or traits that may only be apparent with repeated listening. Expect changes.
    • Most of the IEMs in this list are determined based off auditions in shops.
    • Prices are in USD and based off the exchange rate during the time of writing.
    • A (non-complete) list of IEMs that I've tried can be found on my measurements database.
    • If you can tell, a lot of IEMs on the database (that I've tried) are not in this list. This is either due to extremely polarising opinions or lack of enough ear time to make a proper decision on tier placement. Will probably focus on them as I continue on this journey.
    • Yes, this is the opinion of one person on the internet. Please do not get too offended if your favourite IEM isn't graded as highly as you'd like. (vice versa applies)

    Use CTRL+F to find your desired IEM.





    Tier S
    ModelCommentsSignaturePrice
    64 Audio U18 TzarA rather simple and "mainstream" tuning that is taken to a whole new level of resolutionBassy with subdued midtreble$3000
    64 Audio Tia FourteUnique sound; immensely wide staging with great clarity and bass responseW-shaped$3600
    Empire Ears Zeus-XR ADELDetail and resolution monster with the typical staging benefits of ADELNeutral-bright$2730
    Hidition Viento-ReferenceRare combination of reference tuning and natural tonalityNeutral$1300
    Jomo SambaLively and engaging with big clarity and detail, perhaps too much for someV-shaped$1500
    Jomo FlamencoOne of, if not the most detailed IEMs availableV-shaped, neutral with bass boost$2200
    QDC GeminiReference tuning with good tonality and top-level resolution. Well-implemented bass boost.Neutral with bass boost$1800
    Shure KSE1500Easily at the top in terms of resolution and detailNeutral with bass boost$3000
    Ultimate Ears UE18+ ProSomewhat reference tuning with emphasis on tonal accuracy and naturalnessWarm neutral$1500
    Unique Melody LegacyBeautifully tuned yet highly technically proficientNeutral with bass boost$1650 (SG exclusive)
    Vision Ears VE8Coherency through the roof with a tuning that little would hateWarm neutral$2700
    Tier S-
    ModelCommentsSignaturePrice
    AAW W900Natural bass, extremely wide soundstage, very linear trebleWarm with laid-back treble$2050
    Campfire AndromedaHighly coherent, easy-to-love tuning and spacious headstageWarm with upper treble sparkle$1100
    InEar Prophile-8Very "studio" like sound, heavy priority on technicalitiesNeutral$1600
    Kumitate KL-REFReference tuning with a little upper midrange emphasis and beautifully done DD basslines"Japanese neutral"$1350







    Tier A+
    ModelCommentsSignaturePrice
    64 Audio A12Very smooth, very warm, heavy and decadent almost to its detrimentWarm with laid back treble$2000
    A&K T8iEHard-to-dislike tuning with excellent clarity and resolutionNeutral with bass boostReplaced by Xelento
    Beyerdynamic XelentoLike the T8iE, with a little more trebleV-shaped$1000
    Noble K10 EncoreReference oriented sound focused on technicalitiesNeutral$1850
    Ultimate Ears Reference Monitor (UERM)The benchmark of an era, dead-flat with a upper treble boostNeutralReplaced by UERR
    Rhines Stage 7Rather coloured signature that works amazing on certain instruments but not so much on othersWarm with laid back treble$1900
    Tier A
    ModelCommentsSignaturePrice
    64 Audio A1064's take on reference. Good clarity and resolutionNeutral$1800
    AAW W500Energetic mids and highly natural bassWarm with upper midrange boost$1100
    Campfire VegaPowerful bass, equally powerful trebleV-shaped$1300
    Dita DreamExcellent resolution and detail let down by its metallic tonality and thin midrangeV-shaped$1800
    FitEar MH334Perfect for female vocals, but otherwise quite colouredWarm neutral$1900
    FitEar TG334Like the MH334 with quite a bit less trebleDark$1400
    Hidition NT6If Etymotic made a multi-BA IEM, this would be the closest to that dreamNeutral$1050
    Ice Lab Zen 12It's an all-rounder. Nothing much to sayV-shaped$1500
    JH RoxanneRich and smooth, perfect for male vocalsWarm neutral$1745
    JH Audio JH13v2 Performance SeriesGood all rounder, slightly warmer and more coherent than the custom versionV-shaped$1000
    Jomo 6RJomo's take on reference. Good technical abilityNeutral$1050
    Kumitate KL-LakhEngaging, intimate sound that works well for chill genresWarm$1700
    Lime Ears AetherExcellent clarity and tone but marred slightly by slightly lackluster resolutionNeutral with bass boost$1350
    Noble K10Very safe tuning, almost to the point of boredom. Does nothing wrong but nothing right eitherNeutral with bass boostReplaced by K10 Encore
    Noble KatanaLike the K10, except with less bassNeutral with laid back treble$1850
    Rhapsodio GalaxyLively and engaging but avoiding fatigue still. Rare comboV-shaped$1450
    Rhapsodio SolarGood bass, good treble, good midrange... an all-rounder, essentiallyMild V-shape$1550
    Soranik IonClearly inspired by the 334, follows the same strengths in female vocalsWarm$1100
    Ultimate Ears Reference Remastered (UERR)Warm with good tonality. Good all-rounder albeit definitely not a reference signature.Neutral with laid-back treble$1000
    Unique Melody Maestro V2It's... there. Hard to find words for this one"Balanced"$2000
    Westone ES60Great timbre and well-tuned, held back by its resolutionNeutral with laid-back treble$1300
    Westone W80Nicely balanced, intimate and slightly dry. Perhaps the least Westone-sounding Westone.Warm neutral$1500
    Tier A-
    ModelCommentsSignaturePrice
    64 Audio A8Bass monster. Bass, bass and more bassBassy$1400
    Audeze LCDi4Low distortion, high resolution and excellent clarity marred by poor tuning which destroys timbre."Balanced"$2500
    Empire Ears Spartan-IV ADELGood clarity, good staging, good resolution"Balanced"$930
    Etymotic ER4XRA more mainstream tuning of the ER4S/SR with slightly boosted bass.Neutral$350
    FitEar ParterreIntimate, smooth and laidback soundWarm$1200
    Hidition NT6 ProA V-shaped version of the NT6. The change in tuning kills the technical ability slightlyNeutral with bass boost$1100
    Massdrop PlusReference-targeted sound with excellent clarity and detail, with a slightly more fun tuning.Neutral with bass boost$300
    Oriolus MK2Lively yet non-fatiguing hybrid experienceWarm$1100







    Tier B+
    ModelCommentsSignaturePrice
    Acoustune HS1551What is essentially supercharged GR07 with better tonality and smooth sound.Warm V-shape$600 (no official store)
    Etymotic ER4PTNeutral with good detail and resolution. "The Benchmark"Neutral$300
    Campfire JupiterGreat clarity and staging though with odd upper midrange."Balanced"$800
    FitEar F/A111A laid-back take on reference with Suyama's FitEar colouration mixed inWarm neutral$780
    NocturnaL AtlantisReference signature with immense clarity and energy.Neutral with upper midrange boost$600
    Sony MDR7550Jack of all trades with good sparkle in the highs.Neutral-bright$350
    StereoPravda SB7Technically proficient but marred by a sharp timbre. Interesting concept.Bright neutral$2500
    Unique Melody MartianWell-tuned hybrid with excellent bass response and smooth midrange.Neutral with bass boost$700
    VSonic GR09Smooth and laid-back while hitting the right timbreWarm$350
    Tier B
    ModelCommentsSignaturePrice
    AAW AXHExcellent clarity, balanced midrange and bass. Good tonality.Neutral-bright$440
    AAW W350Warm, smooth and easy to listen to.WarmDiscontinued
    Acoustune HS1501A more textured, bassier and more energetic version of the HS1551.Warm V-shape$500 (No official store)
    ACS EncoreGood all-rounder. No slouch in the technicalities.Neutral$1130
    Audio Technica ATH-E70Clean and clear sound with a slight warm tilt without losing treble sparkle.Neutral with bass boost$400
    Aurisonics ASG-2.0Decent hybrid with good balance throughout the spectrum. Potential for monstrous bass.Mild V-shape, bassyDiscontinued
    Campfire DoradoExtremely coherent albeit slightly congested. Great for intimacy lovers.Warm$1000
    Campfire PolarisPseudo-Japanese tuning focusing on female vocals and very lively signature. Good cohesion.V-shaped$600
    Custom Art Harmony 8.2Smooth and easy signature. No fatigue whatsoever. The definition of a lounging IEM.Warm$1300
    Dita BrassVery nice tonal characteristics with good bass, though nothing special technically.Warm V-shape$1000? (Limited Edition)
    Dunu DK-3001Well-tuned and coherent. Does little wrong and very easy to like.Mild V-shape$500
    Fidue A91 "Sirius"Uniquely tuned hybrid. Not very powerful DD bass with Diffuse-Field midrange.Mid-centric$900
    FitEar Private 333Very exciting and sharp signature. Almost seems like it's made for higher-pitched vocals.Bright$1500
    FLC8SVery good technicalities with a well-tuned signature. Filters change the sound a lot.Variable$350
    Hifiman RE2000Lively sound with great technicalities with substandard timbre and tonality.Mild V-shape$2000
    Jomo Jomo4v2Somewhat "reference-style" V-shaped with reduced upper treble. Very good clarity and detail.Mild V-shape$750
    Periodic Audio BeMeaty with decent sparkle in the treble, whilst remaining clear and clean.Mild V-shape$300
    Oriolus ForsteniGreat sparkle, deep-reaching DD bass and high clarity. Spacious staging.U-shaped$375
    Rhapsodio EarthPowerful, deep bass with somewhat neutral mids and treble.Neutral with bass boostUnavailable?
    Sennheiser IE800Good bass with shimmery treble. Decent tonality.Mild V-shape$800
    Shure SE846Deep reaching bass but with an odd tonality in the rest of the spectrum.Neutral with bass boost$1000
    Sony XBA-Z5All-rounder. Somewhat neutral both in FR and tonality."Balanced"$700
    Ultimate Ears UE7 ProGood clarity and detail with boosted, warm bass and controlled treble.Neutral with bass boost$850
    Unique Melody MacBethExtremely clear but may be too thin for some.U-shaped~$600 (No official store)
    VSonic GR07XJack of all trades. Has all the fundamentals down to a T.Neutral$200 (No official store)
    Tier B-
    ModelStrengthsSignaturePrice
    AAW A3H Pro V2Smooth, coherent sound with wide staging.Warm$370
    Audeze iSine 10Low distortion, high resolution and excellent clarity marred by poor tuning which destroys timbre."Balanced"$400
    Audeze iSine 20Low distortion, high resolution and excellent clarity marred by poor tuning which destroys timbre."Balanced"$600
    Audio Technica ATH-IM02Well-balanced, excellent tuning and good technical ability.Warm neutralReplaced by LS200
    HUM Pristine ReferenceVery coloured, early treble roll-off. Calling this "reference" is a joke.Dark$1300
    InEar Stagediver SD2Well-balanced, excellent tuning and good technical ability. Similar to IM02.Warm neutral$450
    Oriveti New PrimacyRather balanced, almost neutral hybrid. All rounder.Warm neutral$300
    Ultimate Ears UE11 ProQuite a bit of low-end emphasis. Overly-congested and smeared transients.Bassy$1150
    VSonic GR07 Classic/BassWell-balanced, well-tuned, good technicalities. The $100 benchmark since ever.Mild V-shape$100







    Tier C+
    ModelStrengthsSignaturePrice
    Audio Technica ATH-LS200Somewhat Diffuse-Field neutral with its own quirks. Good technical ability.Mid centric$250
    Campfire Lyra IICampfire's take on a V-shaped dynamic sound. Wouldn't call it exceptional.V-shaped$700
    Custom Art Music TwoEnergetic sound yet not intense due to treble roll-off. Interesting sound.Upper midrange emphasisedReplaced by FIBAE 2
    Final Audio Design Heaven IIGood detail, good clarity, great for the price.Neutral-bright$90
    iBasso IT03Excellent bass and clarity. Hollow midrange and somewhat metallic treble.U-shaped$260
    JH x A&K MichelleStill sounds typically "JH" with a slightly V tuning, with slower transients and a non-fatiguing signature.Warm$500 (No official webpage/retailer)
    Periodic Audio MgNot the most clear or detailed but a very clean sound with good timbre.Warm$100
    Ultimate Ears UE4 ProVery flat, very clear. Unfortunately harsh and somewhat shrill in its presentation.Bright neutral$400
    Super Audio "Supermeme" 2BA+2DDA decently tuned V-shaped hybrid with energetic upper midrange. May be intense for some.V-shaped$150 (No official store)
    Tier C
    ModelStrengthsSignaturePrice
    1More Quad DriverOkay-ish technical ability in a mainstream tuning. Can get congested."Balanced"$200
    AAW Nebula TwoExcellent clarity and wide staging due to semi-open design. DD bass manages to shine through.U-shaped$150
    AAW W100BassV-shapedDiscontinued
    Advanced Evo XA well-balanced Bluetooth IEM. A very nice surprise.Neutral$60
    AKG N40A rather typical hybrid all things considered. Nothing special especially for the asking price.Warm (varying)$400
    Campfire NovaSomewhat dead-sounding with no shimmer or sparkle in the upper registers.Neutral with laid-back treble$500
    Custom Art Music OneDecently balanced. Energetic midrange. Lacking in upper octave air.Neutral with laid-back trebleReplaced by FIBAE 1
    Earsonics SM3Non-fatiguing, relaxing listen. "Normal".WarmReplaced by SM64
    FiiO F9Good technicalities, average timbre, perhaps a little excessive on the highs.V-shaped$100 (No official store)
    Focal SphearGood timbre, good bass and well-balanced tuning.Mild V-shape$150
    Fostex TE100A little boring and dead in dynamics. Not fun but not really reference either. Average.Warm neutral$1800
    Lear LCM-BD4.2Harsh, overly-textured and extremely fatiguing. Excellent technical ability completely shut down by tuning and timbre mismatch.Bright, V-shaped$1030
    MEE Pinnacle P1Upper midrange emphasis with soft, warm bass. Nice for mainstream listening.Warm V-shape$200
    Shure SE535Tonally dead. One-note bass. No treble worth mentioning.Mid-centric$500
    Simgot EN700Good clarity and energetic signature.Mid-centric$100 (No official page)
    TFZ 5SWarm and somewhat slow in transients. Good timbre, average tuning.V-shaped$80 (No official page)
    TFZ KingBetter tuned than the 5S with a little extra treble which improves clarity and overall staging.V-shaped$100 (No official page)
    Zero Audio Carbo Tenore ZH-DX200-CTA well-balanced V-shaped signature that maintains solid midrange and excellent clarity.V-shaped$40
    Tier C-
    ModelStrengthsSignaturePrice
    1More Triple DriverGood clarity with unfortunately thin midrange. Flat bass, not in a good way.V-shaped$100
    Fostex TE-02WPBalanced and clear. Very good value.Neutral-brightDiscontinued
    Heygears AnoraVery good tuning, well-balanced signature.Neutral with laid-back treble$80
    Oriveti BasicLots of sub-bass rumble with an energetic midrange. Roll-off for non-fatigue.Bassy$100
    Vive XE800A mini GR07. Need I say more?Mild V-shape$30







    Tier D+
    ModelStrengthsSignaturePrice
    AAW W300Thin and brittle midrange that easily gets harsh.Bright neutral$660
    Hifiman RE1000A mediocre take on V-shaped. Intense yet with no upper treble to speak of.V-shaped$1000
    Ultimate Ears UE5 ProDead dynamics, overly warm and congested.Warm$600
    Tier D
    ModelStrengthsSignaturePrice
    AAW A1DSounds like a V-shaped dynamic. As anticlimactic as it sounds.V-shaped$180
    Earsonics SM64v2Weirdly incoherent and disjointed. Good warmth, though.Warm$500
    Eternal Melody EM-2It just sounds "meh" to be. Nothing much to say.V-shaped$290 (universal)
    Jomo PLBBloated, congested and oh-so-slow.Dark$510
    Rhapsodio ClipperLots and lots of bass. Slams you in the face with bass.Extreme Bass$55
    Sennheiser IE80SWarm, bassy, congested and lacking in dynamics. Oddly sharp yet lacking in sparkleV-shaped$350
    Shure SE215Sounds like a typical dynamic IEM. Slightly bloated bass and narrow staging.V-shaped$100
    TFZ 3SIt's okay. It's a Chinese dynamic IEM, nothing special.V-shaped$65 (No official store)
    Tier D-
    ModelStrengthsSignaturePrice
    KZ ZS3Something you would expect from a free earphone. It's okay.Dark$15 (No official store)
    KZ ZSTDecent bass. Odd timbre. Odd tuning.V-shaped$30 (No official store)
    TFZ 1SA little bloated at times and definitely congested.V-shaped$40 (No official store)
    AAW A2H-Pro V2Good coherency but sub-par tuning and sluggishy slow.Dark$220







    Tier E
    ModelCommentsSignaturePrice
    AAW A2H Pro V1Dead, bloated, congested. Feels like I have to strain to hear even surface-level detailing.DarkReplaced by A2H Pro V2
    AAW M40Very shrill and thin, completely destroying timbre. Just sounds awful."Balanced"$660
    Audiofly AF160Not just dead but almost completely devoid of treble. Double whammy.Dark$430
    Kinera H3Completely off timbre, extremely recessed midrange and sharp, painful treble.Extreme V-shape$100 (No official store)
    Nuforce HEM4Dead as a doornail. Missing bits and pieces in its tuning.Warm$330
    Nuforce HEM6Refer to HEM4Warm$450
    Sensaphonics 2MAXOdd timbre. Technical ability isn't even that great.Bright neutral$850
    Sensaphonics 3MAXIt's a slight improvement over the 2MAX but not by much.Warm$1050
    Shozy HibikiSharp, shrill tonality. Average everything else.Bright$60







    Tier F
    ModelCommentsSignaturePrice
    AAW Nebula OneExtremely bloated. Like wading through a tar pit.Warm$100
    AAW QJust a wall of bass with sluggishly slow transients. Extremely congested.Dark$220
    Clear Tune Monitors CT6-ELiterally missing an entire frequency range. How did this pass R&D?Failure$1000
    Clear Tune Monitors CT-500ERefer to above. SMH, CTM.Failure$700
    Oppo MH130The horribleness of this can only be experienced in real-life.Complete failure$14
    Earsonics S-EM6Disjointed staging and screwy tuning. Like listening to an earphone that finished a dive underwater.Warm$1000
    Sensaphonics 2X-SSharp and shrill yet surprisingly dead. Like shoving blunted icepicks into your ears.Bright neutral$750







    Changelogs
    29/10/17
    04/11/17
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2017
  2. WaffleIron
    SHE3595 is god tier and you know it.
     
  3. crinacle
    -For future use-

    ... nevermind
     
  4. saltyrabbit314
    Could you elaborate on how you rank them?
     
  5. Mimouille
  6. Ahmad313
    Sorry for a stupid question ,
    What do you mean by + and - , for example S+,S- and A+, A-,
    The - sign you use for negative or what ,???
     
  7. crinacle
    Slight reshuffle, still WIP. Currently playing with the idea of tables and have formatted the S tier accordingly; please take a look and provide feedback.

    It's based on (a) overall detail retrieval, (b) tone/"naturalness", (c) transients and (d) tuning. Tuning in a more objective sense like unwarranted peaks and dips that affect the overall flow of the sound.

    I've gotten concerns that certain IEMs seem to not belong in a certain tier, even though they may just simply be at the bottom rungs of the tier itself. So I decided to go with a positive-negative grading system to segment the tiers just a little more.
     
    Ahmad313 likes this.
  8. Ahmad313
    I've gotten concerns that certain IEMs seem to not belong in a certain tier, even though they may just simply be at the bottom rungs of the tier itself. So I decided to go with a positive-negative grading system to segment the tiers just a little more.[/QUOTE]
    Thanks friend , now i can understand your list correctly ,
     
  9. Arysyn
    Crinacle,

    Your iem comparison posts are great and quite helpful. I'm very appreciative you've decided to do this, and hope your continued research keeps growing this list and your excellent audio frequency response graphs on the other thread you've created.

    However, I didn't get a response to a question I asked over at the other thread with the graphs regarding the Grado GR10e, which I thought at one point there was a graph for both that and the GR8e. If you have both graphs, could you have both of them posted, as that would be helpful. Although there is a possibility I could be mistaken thinking they both were there at one point, as I'm thinking the one for the GR8e went missing.
     
  10. crinacle
    Hi, sorry for missing your question.

    I just checked my files and no, I didn't make a graph of the GR08 before. I'll try to get it in on my next trip to the shop though.
     
    Arysyn likes this.
  11. silverbox
    S tier is so expensive. Can't afford :frowning2:
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2017
    alphanumerix1 likes this.
  12. Arysyn
    Thank you for informing me. I may have seen the two Grado graphs somewhere else, but I can't really remember right now. Although, your graphs were very helpful to me in showing that there is a general tendency for Dynamic Drivers I've seen from graphs here and on InnerFidelity, to be either too bass-heavy for me, and/or V-Shaped. Balanced Armatures, while having a closer sound signature to my preference, sounds too artificial to me, which is a shame they just do not have that emotional sound capability of Dynamics.

    What I'm really looking for is a Dynamic Driver iem that is tuned more like a Balanced Armature , but still has an emotional warmth to to vocals, rather than the artificial sound Balanced Armatures sound like to me. On a few threads here on Head-Fi, I've posted a graph I had designed for me to show what my ideal sound signature frequency response is. I'll add it to my post here too.

    Essentially, I want a below neutral sub-bass becoming neutral through the low bass, mid bass, and high bass points, then upwards 5db through the low mids to the mid-mids, which are neutral, until beginning another 5db climb through the upper mids to the treble. There in the treble, I want a flat treble that is 10db above the bass, and 5db above the mid-mids.

    Sound wise, vocals more forward than bass, but more treble detail than vocals. I want the vocals to sound front and center, but just back enough for a wide stage presence to where the vocals aren't intimate, but present enough to get an equal sense between vocals and stage, or perhaps a slight bit more stage than vocals, depending on detail retrieval. Yet, the vocals have to be more present than the bass.

    I'd say that another good way to describe what I want is like an opera house or orchestral staging, but not like a huge concert venue, as the vocals would have to be far enough back to get the entire width of the stage in terms of presence equivalence.I'd prefer a sound where on the stage, the instrumentalists positioned equal distance left to right on the stage closest to those in the front row, with the vocalist in the center, but a slight bit back from the instrumentalists, exception being the bassist near the back with the drummer, with me seated within the first ten rows. That probably would be far enough to get a wide soundstage, without the vocals being recessed, especially with the bass and drums in the back giving the presence to the instruments and vocals.

    iemearphone-audio-frequency-response.png
     
  13. crinacle
    Just finished formatting the tiers into table formats. Cells will be filled in over the next few days, and then I can take off the [WIP] tag for real.

    That is a very specific sound signature and I don't think a lot exists with that particular FR (there's the Canalworks CW-L05QD2 but it's full BA) especially with a dynamic driver. If the measurements are to be trusted, perhaps the Hifiman RE800 or the RHA CL1 can suit your needs. Never heard them before though.
     
    Arysyn likes this.
  14. goodvibes
    The massdrop hifiman re-00 sounds a bit like that if you leave it stock. Nor that exaggerated but ascending from bass to treble.
     
    hakuzen and Arysyn like this.
  15. Arysyn
    Wow! You are right!

    I just searched for it on Google and saw some graphs for it on a Head-Fi competitor site I won't name nor link to, because of possible conflict with Head-Fi policy. However, it is very close to my preference. Any idea how I might be able to get these though, since they are an older model?
     

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