A good all around IEM for ~$500 or less?

Hi All,

So after 16 years of using a beat up pair of Bose QC2 headphones, I’ve decided to try to upgrade. I want to go the IEM direction so that I have something I can easily use on the go/while working. My musical tastes range from classical (choral/symphonic/chamber music/solo piano) to classic/progressive rock, heavy metal, grunge, some trance/techno/Dnb (Tiesto to pendulum), electronica, triphop. In short, a little eclectic. Very little rap or jazz.

I’m looking for an IEM up to about a $500 price point that can perhaps be a jack of all trades. I was thinking either the Blessing 2 Dusk or the Variations.

However, from my reading it seems like the best IEMs for acoustic/classical are single DD models, whereas for other genres a hybrid model is a better fit. I’ve heard models like the Etymotic ER4SR, Tanchjim Oxygen or JVC FDX1 are solid.

So a couple of questions…

1). Are the Blessing hybrid models actually bad for classical? Or just not as good a solid DD IEM? Or to put it another way, is my jack of all trades approach possible at this price point?

2). I’m obviously new to this space. Instead of leaping in at the 300+ price point, would it make more sense to maybe try one or two sub $100 IEMs to get more of a sense for what I like? The Blessing Aria seems relatively cheap and good value. Or maybe the ER3XR?

Anyways any thoughts or advice would be appreciated. Thanks for your time!



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First off welcome to the dark side. If you do choose to stay your wallet may be at risk. Do please try the IEMs before you get them if you can, not only could the sound be not to your liking, it might not fit you as well, but most IEMs these days really only struggle to fit really small ears.

  1. IMO hybrid models are not bad for classical, some BA and hybrid sets do to have a certain timbre (BA timbre as some like to call it) that some notice and or dont like, I personally dont mind it. A thing to take note of is that certain single DD or even single driver designs (less planars) tend to struggle slightly on busier tracks, but that is usually for cheaper sets (<$100 from my exp).

    At $500 I would say it is doable to get a good jack of all trades IEM.

  2. Personally I reccommend getting multiple IEMs to fit in your budget. There are many options these days. I would say getting the Moondrop Aria plus is a pretty safe bet. You can use these as a base to help you choose another IEM in the future (most people with multiple IEMs tend to have either or some even both lol). Another safe pick for your first IEM would be the Tin T3 Plus.

But if i had to pick only one IEM for $500 straight out of the gate I would probably go for the Thieaudio Oracle, though I personally don’t own one as I already have the Clairvoyance. At $300 I would go 7Hz Timeless / UM 3DT / Mangird Tea. Honestly I can’t choose between these 3 lol.

TLDR: Trying multiple IEMs is what I would still recommend though. Demo if you can, pick the Aria/T3 Plus if you can’t and work from there.

Hope this helps, Good luck!

  1. Yes, the Blessing models are pretty horrible for classical, due to their extremely unnatural timbre and incoherency. (jack of all trades is possible, like LZ A7.)

  2. I recommend trying cheaper models to get a feel on what you like/dislike.
    Blon BL-03 (L-shaped/ bass-boosted neutral)
    KZ DQ6 (V-shaped)
    Etymotic ER2SE/XR (assuming you are in the US where these are cheaper) (Neutral / bright-neutral)
    GS Audio ST1 (BA)

From what I remember about my Variations, you’d appreciate its technicalities for orchestra.


This is not true! It depends a lot on IEM! There are sets of 500-1000 dollars that are difficult to handle on busy tracks! :slightly_smiling_face:

Thanks all. I might lean towards trying a few cheaper models and then going from there. Right now the BL-03 and DQ6 are on sale for a combined $45 so I’ll probably pick those up. Will probably add either the Aria or the T3 plus as well. That brings it to about $120-130 to start getting my feet wet which doesn’t seem terrible as a stepping stone towards a high end model. Anyone have thoughts on which genres the Aria or T3 shine in? The ER2SE/XR do look interesting, but I’m not sure I want to deal with navigating a deep canal insertion for my first IEM.

Thanks again,



Might be of interest: Best Headphones / Earphones of 2021 - Under $100 | Tinhifi T3+ - YouTube.

IMHO, if I were to buy one now, I’d get T3+.

I think that’s a great plan. You could add the KZ CRN/ZEX Pro (same model with two names). It’s a tribrid and you can get an idea of the Dusk tuning. Should be around $35 these days.

Or you could get T3+ and CRN.

BL-03 head great timbre and tonality but fit is pretty bad.
DQ6 can be cool but a lot of people including me find it sibilant.

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I’ve had the ZEX PRO. I wouldn’t really recommend it… Maybe CCA CRA since it’s getting better reviews overall. Or some other budget Harmon target IEM

Thanks for this. Really interesting. I definitely didn’t like the Meles. Felt too muddy too me. I’m going back and forth between the Arias and the T3s; I wish he’d put the Aria on the prog rock track. But yeah, definitely it feels like picking up a few cheaper options with different tunings is the way to go. People’s preferences seem really different and until I know what I like I’d rather not drop hundreds on a model.


Keep in mind that Dan likes the OH10 which is very V shape and people have said it’s a bass head IEM.

Have you looked at the Titan S?

So yesterday after reading a bunch more reviews I pulled the trigger on the T3 plus and the bl-03. The T3+ seems to be viewed as a strong all-rounder and for $70 it doesn’t seem like a huge risk. I’ll give it a listen for a few weeks with a variety of tunes and go from there.

Also, I’m still trying to learn more about this stuff. Does anyone have a link to a nice review on what the tuning curves for v-shaped/u-shaped/bright etc. look like? I’ve seen monitors that have a dip in very different parts of the frequency curve both referred to as v-shaped…



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I’m sure you’ll enjoy them :slight_smile: if you do want to trial more IEMs but don’t want to spend more on new ones / want to minimise your footprint, don’t forget the Buy/Sell thread on HifiGuides! Some solid options there (like my Mele, cough cough :wink: just kidding).

Good tutorials:


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