Is it just me or do iems (in general) give better sound quality than over-ears?

I would like to hear your impressions.

I have tested different open/closed over ears of different prices like the hd560s, closed ones like the Robin and higher end ones like the edition xs which are supposed to beat the Ananda.

I have also used different dacs and music qualities.
I have also used different iems of different prices.
These are the conclusions I have come to:

-I consider that iems of only 200 euros (then you can like the signature more or less) can sound better or at least equal in terms of quality than over ears of medium-high range like the edition xs/Sundara…
I’ve used for these tests iems like the Spring 2, the kato, the tea I had… The aria itself which may be less technical or resolving has an extremely fun sound signature for certain genres.

-I consider that soundstage in many cases is not synonymous with open headphones. In my experience (I have tried about 7 open over-ears) it corresponds mostly to the sound signature (tonality). Whether it is open has less or almost no influence.

-The precision of the image or rather a higher quality image does correspond to the fact that it is an open headphone and that it has a higher quality. For example, the picture is more accurate on the Edition xs/Ananda than on an hd560s. However, the difference is not very noticeable.

-The detail or resolving power depends on the headset. The timeless has a resolution that I honestly find higher than the Ananda itself. The Spring 2 or the tea also gives more than the edition xs itself in many songs.

Do you think that there are iems that can compete with expensive over-ears?


nope, it’s just you.

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Very detailed analysis, mate. I respectfully disagree.

I have yet to hear an IEM around $200 euros/USD or less that has tonal quality, separation, imaging or soundstage of even a quality $500 headphone like the HiFiMan Edition XS or my Focal Elegia.

That said, I’m not an IEM hater or over-ear fanboy. Many IEMs deliver terrific sound for the money and are a better value than most comparable over-ears at the same price point. For example, the Moondrop Aria at $80 or the Moondrop Starfield at $105 sounds better than just about every over-ear at that same price point except for the AKG K361.

But does a $100 IEM sound as good as my Elegia or Edition XS? No. Hell, the Starfields don’t even sound as good as the $150 HiFiMan HE-400se entry-level planar magnetic.

400se is built different though lol closest competing IEM I can think of is the timeless and that’s more expensive for something that only gets close
honestly think I prefer the 400se to the XS at least for music

i find them all bright. driver 3mm from eardrum and all. treble murder.

Personally I prefer the Timeless to Sundara. I’m not sure I would call the overall sound quality better, I would have to EQ them to match to give a fair comparison as I prefer Timeless FR curve.

Really? Interesting. So for you which over ear is better than 400se?

while I can’t say I have something that’s a upgrade over the 400se (with the same sound signature) I generally prefer a more balanced sound for my more general use so AKG K700 series, DCA Aeons, DT 880

I questioned that, too, when I got my Edition XS. But I did some A/B testing with the XS and the HE-400se. Both cans have that “HiFiMan sound” of slightly recessed mids and a slight treble peak, but the XS just does everything better that the HE-400se does. Better separation, imaging, soundstage, less grain in the treble. The Edition XS also has far better sub-bass and sub-bass extension.

Now, the big question is whether the Edition XS are worth $500 when the HE-400se exist at $150. I think they are, but I also understand people who don’t. The HE-400se is a fantastic can – along with the $9 Apple DAC dongle perhaps the best value in audiophilia.

One area where the HE-400se prevails: Fit. While my slightly large ears fit into the cups of both headphones fine, the clamping force of the HE-400se is perfect for me. The Edition XS is a bit loose.

Still, the HE-400se are terrific headphones, especially at the retail price of $150.


I can’t get the XS to fit properly so that might be my problem they don’t clamp enough to seal even with me bending the crap out of them and having to reposition them every 5 seconds because I turned my head slightly and they started falling off lol

best bang for buck is nearfield speakers, I don’t ever wanna listen to headphones if I can use even something like iloud micros or vanatoo t0s

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I do think that speakers properly set up are better. Near field gets rid of a lot of room problems. Timeless vs Sundara is to me close. I owned Sundaras and now Timeless . The sound is very good for both. I do like the fact I can listen and not disturb others.


Overall I’d say IEMs and headphones are very close nowadays. For example, the Sony Z1R’s has better bass texture and soundstage imaging than my LCD-X; whereas the B2 Dusk, Oxygen, and Mangird Teas are very competitive to the Sundara and Monolith M1070 last time I A/B them. I find headphones to have better dynamics and timbre, whereas IEMs tend to be better in bass and technicalities at similar pricing.

With the release of the Olina, an $100 IEM now competes with $300+ headphones like the Sundara and Monolith M1070. This rapid improvement in IEMs is mainly due to the high competition between many ChiFi brands (which the headphone market lacks) that overall drives the price down while improving the price to performance value. At this rate, I think in a year or two IEMs will overtake headphones in-terms of value/price to performance judging by the onslaught of new ChiFi brands fighting each other for a spot which in-return increases competition and benefits us consumers. So it’s more due to the market context and manufactures (supply) rather than “iems are better than headphones” or vice-versa.


Yes, we are in the era of IEMs. There is no such competition with headphones.

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If you’re comparing closed back headphones, then i think iems can compete on a like-for-like cost but with open back headphones, nope not a chance.


I need you to give me examples (recent/up to date).

For comparisons, Sundara, M1070, and LCD-X are all open-backs; I’ve owned all of them as well as IEMs like the Z1R, B2 Dusk, Oxygen, Tea (with A/B) which are very competitive and cheaper since you don’t need an amp. A Sundara setup is around $550-600 whereas an IEM one is around $400-450 since you don’t need an amp.

So if we’re talking about price-to-price here IEMs are better value no competition. Close-backs are even worse price to performance wise. Again, this mainly has to do with IEM Chifi saturation vs the lack of Chifi competition in the headphone market. What you’re saying would’ve been correct 2 years ago, but not anymore. The IEM market has changed drastically and is simply not the same. Especially Olina ($100); there are no headphones I can think of that can compete with it under $300. I recommend you trying the Olina for yourself :slightly_smiling_face:


And how about Mon MK2, Helios, UM MEXT which cost about 1000 dollars? Are they competing with headphones for $ 1,000? I have no experience with headphones, only with IEMs, so I ask. :sunglasses:

i think its most likely the tuning of some iems u might like more like for instance i love my 7hz timeless but i find the bass quantity a little bit much but everything else i love about them and i compare the bass punch to the he6se v2 over ear headphone even though the quantity of bass is completely different.

Open backs and I have owned them are nice. However it is impossible to be around others without interfering. . That for me is a no. I also feel just like planars play a role in open back sound there are planars that will raise the stakes and my guess it within a year or tops 2. I sold my open backs not because they were not great but for the fact of limited places to listen.

Personally I think both can be equally worthwhile depending on what you are going for. I will say imo in the ultra budget realm hands down iems tends to run circles around the sub 100 buck headphones in most aspects, but for more entry level or midrange headphones they can even out with different priorities and goals, and I think that’s the same as you continue up even into the higher end. It’s really going to depend on the person and what characteristics they want to focus on, and generally also what presentation style they prefer. Some love how iems present, some absolutely do not, so that’s going to be a deciding factor for sure regardless of all other technical performance something may have. I might be able to make an argument about value per dollar for iems over headphones, but from my experience they really aren’t that far off from each other and it will depend on the specific headphone or iem at hand. I will say in general with the more entry level to midrange iems their source gear demands are lower so that can factor into being cheaper overall (but they tend to scale less because of that in the future, I will also say the idea that iems don’t need good source gear isn’t true from my experience, both headphones and iems need good sources to really sound their best, this isn’t that big of a concern in the more budget ranges, but when you get higher end in either side the source gear demands can get fairly strong and not be a cheap endeavor).