The "Too good for the price" list

Just for fun. Not only headphones, but mostly, for now.
This is “too good for the price” according to multiple sources.
Sorted by price, more or less.


  • Koss KPH30i (and PortaPros): Great sound quality stuff for 40$ and better than many pricier headphones. PortaPros are excellent “do-it-all” headphones with impressive bass for “on-ear” headphones.
  • Koss KSC75: Great sound quality stuff for 15$ and better than many many pricier headphones (but you may not like the “on-ear clip” style).
  • Coolermaster MH751: “Gaming” headphones that actually sound good, with a removable cable and a removable mic. For 75$?! Enough said!
  • Massdrop HD58X/HD6XX: The quality of the Sennheiser HD6–'s range, for 150$-200$. HD6XX’s are the “reference” Sennheiser HD650 headphones, just for half the price. “Do-it-all” headphones with impressive bass for open-backs, great mids and a present, but impressively innoffensive treble for something often used in studios (where the “harman curve” often reigns supreme). If you’d prefer more bass and… a more present but more offensive treble honestly, for a few bucks less, get the 58X’s.
  • Fostex T50RP MKIII: “Headphone modders starter pack.” Still the best entry into planars for the price that will show you “you’ve never heard bass”, or rather, “you’ve never been punched by bass”. 160$, but Zeos is right: Shure 840 pads (20$) are mandatory with these. And if you don’t like em? Ask how to fix em. Basically everyone modded these differently, me included.
  • Takstar HF580: 200$-ish planar detail monsters, because they got the same drivers as the 480$ Sendy Aivas. But bassy and dark-sounding. Probably a great mod project.
  • Beyerdynamics DT880, 600 ohms version: Hard to find better for a “neutral” sound at 225$.
  • Monoprice M570: Same drivers as the 480$ Sendy Aivas again, for 300$! A bit treble-y.
  • AudioQuest Nighthawk: A love/hate thing. Polarizing headphones. If you want something different, for 200 to 250$, these used to be 700$.
  • Verum Ones: Handmade planars for 350$, punching way above their price range.
  • Neumann NDH20: Monitors, detail monsters, bassy, 400$.
  • Hifiman Sundaras: They’re like 350$, but, they’re planar detail monsters for 350$. Here’s both Joshua Valour and “Resolve” / The Headphone Show basically saying that’s the best “all-around” you can get in hi-fi for cheap.
  • Koss ESP 95X: Electrostatic headphones (hmm, “earspeakers” ? :wink: ), energizer included, lifetime warranty included, for 500$.
  • Hifiman Edition XS: Yeah, they’re 500$ too. But a ton of reviewers are impressed by these. They’re possibly “the 500$ benchmark”. Big-ass open-back planar drivers for a big-ass soundstage.


(Note: For KZ earphones, get another cable. The standard, 1$ cable they come with, litterally can’t reproduce the mids properly. Even the 4$ “silver color” KZ cable is way better.)

  • KZ ZS10 Pros: Hybrid IEMs with 4x balanced armature + 1x dynamic, by ear, for 35$ – This technology was hundreds of dollars a few years ago! A bit V-shaped.
  • KZ AS06: 30$ for 3x balanced armatures by ear. No dynamic drivers! In-your-face sound. Planar-ish bass/kick slam in IEMs. Recommended if you’re treble sensitive and/or the ZS10 Pros have too much treble for you.
  • Panasonic HJE-120/125: Great, neutral-sounding IEMs for 10$. A bit bassy. But not detailed.
  • Sony MH755: Great sounding IEMs for 5$! For a bit more bass, and for the same price, there’s also the MH750s. Some people will pay 30$ to have them modded with MMCX connectors and say it’s worth it. Rank “B” in Crinacle’s list. Yes, for 5$.
  • Blon BL-03: Really well-received by a lot of people. Neutral-sounding. 40$.
  • Tin T2: “The only IEM you need” according to Zeos, also really well received by Crinacle. 40$ USD, metal enclosure, removable MMCX cable!
  • Moondrop Starfield: All-around great neutral-sounding IEMs for 110$ (and they’re beautiful!).
  • Final Audio E Series (E2000, etc.): When a company making 5000$ headphones starts making 50$ IEMs, it can only sound good. E2000s are neutral, E3000s have more bass. The new E4000 and E5000 have a detachable MMCX cable, but are 100$+.
  • Etymotics ER3XRs/ER4XRs: IEMs, detail monsters for 250$ – most “detail monsters” are 1000$ and over.

Active speakers:

  • Edifier R1700BT: DSP-corrected bookshelves for 150$. Digital Bass and Treble knobs. And Bluetooth, but no AptX.
  • Adam Audio T5V: Great studio speakers, but also great desktop speakers and home theatre speakers. 400$. Zeos also said the T7Vs could be seen as the “audiophile” version of the T5Vs.
  • …yeah I need to add more.

Passive speakers:

  • Neumi BS5: Best bang for the buck, 100$, balanced sound, front-ported bass ports.
  • Fluance SX6: Big ass bookshelves. 100$. Heard about people selling 500$ speakers and buying these instead. For bassheads, you’ll want a subwoofer. Otherwise, a tiny bit treble-y, but extended to 20khz+.
  • Sony SSCS5: Hard to beat. 150$. Looks good. Does everything well, but can be treble-y (there’s even a “super-tweeter” for “hi-res” audio… I don’t know if it annoys cats and dogs :thinking: ).
  • Micca OoO: “Centers”… for 100$ a pair. As Zeos said, just get 2 or 3 pairs of these and you have a great home theater! (…just don’t forget the actual center channel. :wink: )
  • Micca RB42: Excellent bookshelves for 150$ a pair. Someone at Zeos’s and DMS’s RMAF room thought these were 5000$. :laughing:
  • Triangle Borea BR02/BR03: More or less 500$. The least expensive speakers Triangle makes. These wowed a few reviewers who said the Boreas sound better than a lot of stuff under 1000$.
  • Ohm Walsh: Zeos’s main, omnidirectional, speakers. 1600$ for the pair I believe. But he was blown away by how everything sounds good everywhere in the room, and how it sounded as good if not better than 10 000 to 50 000$ speakers at an audio show. Edit/Warning: Apparently omnidirectional speakers sound different than anything else, but not necessarily better.

Desktop DACs:

  • Topping D10, SMSL M100, SMSL Sanskrit 10th and the JDS Atom DAC are all good desktop DACs, all 100$ . Considering you can’t hear the difference between DACs at this price unless (maybe) you have “golden ears”, choose the one which looks the best for you and enjoy. :slight_smile:
  • Behringer UCA-202: 40$-ish USB DAC with a 100+dB SINAD RCA line-out. Maximum 48khz. This is actually a DAC + Amp but with really low power, so it’s not included in the “DAC/Amp” list below.
  • Khadas Tone Board: Just a board. No enclosure. A board with an ESS chip and 110dB SINAD for 100$.
  • Topping E30 is a new and great DAC for 130$. Even if the name starts with E. (…Stand-alone Topping dacs before the E 30: D 10, D 30, D 50, D 90…). Will play all your files up to 32bit/768khz/DSD512 for all the bats around you.
  • Mass/drop Airist R2R: Ladder DAC for 350$ – This technology was THOUSANDS of dollars a few years ago!
  • Topping D50S: I believe this is the cheapest that does “everything”. Another “32/768/512”, with a screen showing the file format (Khz), with Bluetooth AptX-HD/LDAC, with volume and a remote.
  • Pro-ject Pre-Box S2: A dual mono DAC (two ESS9038 chipsets in two completely separate channels) for 400$.

Desktop headphone amps:

  • JDS Labs Atom: 1dB less distortion than the “benchmark” THX AAA 789 amp and [email protected] for 100$. And no, you don’t get the “effortlessness” and detail of the AAA technology, obviously, but wow.
  • Schiit Heresy: 119dB SINAD and twice the power of the Atom for the same price. In a metal box. Also made in USA. For 100$ too. Damn.
  • Schiit Asgard 3: 200$ for a 3.5 watts per channel modular headphone amp (you can transform this into a DAC/Amp for 100$ or 200$ – but maybe you shouldn’t).
  • Rupert Neve RNHP: A 500$ amplifier. Who’s Rupert Neve? The third person to receive a “Technical Grammy Award”. The “number one audio personality of the 20th century”… Well, just look at this thread.
  • Emotiva BasX A-100: A really special one. Not quite an AVR (but probably better than most AVRs). A 50W RMSx2 @ 8 ohms speaker amp, and a headphone amp with a special “jumper” allowing you to push really, really power-hungry headphones. 12 f—ing watts at 33 ohms into your headphones. Webpage says “USE WITH CAUTION”… Indeed. All for 230$.

Desktop, balanced headphone amps:

  • Geshelli Erish Balanced: Simply great. A balanced only headphone amplifier for 200$. Power: [email protected]
  • SMSL SP200: The latest THX AAA Technology for 260$. Others are all 350$ or more. Warning: THX sounds too clinical according to some! Power: [email protected] for XLR and 1/4". (Yup, for the purists: This one is not “100% balanced”.)
  • Topping A90: Excellent for some, “endgame” for others. A 500$ headphone amp even rivaling the 3000$ Benchmark HPA4 according to Soundnews. Powerful: [email protected] for the 1/4" and [email protected] balanced.
  • Monolith Liquid Platinum: A 800$ hybrid tube amplifier by Alex Cavalli, often on sale for 400$ or even less (293$!) on the official website. Balanced outputs and inputs. A “detail monster”, natural-sounding headphone amplifier. A few people here like it. :grin: Note: As they say here: “While the Liquid Platinum is a tube amp (…) there’s very little of the warm, saturated sound that tube amps are known for. Instead, what you get is subtle detail. It’s not overly neutral or clean, but is elegant and precise.”

DAC/Amps (All-in-ones… or daclifiers :woozy_face:):

  • Nobsound Mini: A 20$ DAC and passive speaker amp, now with Bluetooth 5 (…apparently). Old versions even include a headphone amp. And it all works. For 20$. Therefore it’s in the list, lol.
  • FiiO K5 Pro: 150$ DAC and headphone amplifier with pre out for speakers (says “line out” but it’s a variable, pre-out!). Power: [email protected]
  • FiiO BTR5: I mean, it just does everything… 150$ for a portable Bluetooth, battery powered DAC/Amp with LDAC which can also be used as a wired USB DAC/Amp , with dual ESS Chipsets, 3.5mm and balanced outputs. Screen shows encoding (AptX, LDAC, etc) or sample rate when used as a USB DAC.
  • Xduoo XD-05 Basic: So, you want more of everything, and more powah? 150$ for a portable, battery powered or USB powered (switchable) DAC/Amp big brick with a 500mW per channel Class A+Opamp 1/4" inch headphone out. You can also open it and change opamps. Can also be used as a desktop DAC via coax/USB input and 3.5mm line out for speakers or another headphone amp, and the headphone out will still work at the same time. Screen shows sample rate, input used, battery status and filters used all the time (but can also be turned off). There’s also a bluetooth module available, the 65$ Xduoo “05BL Pro”, with play/pause, next track/last track buttons and AptX/LDAC support.
  • Ifi Zen Dac: DAC + Balanced headphone amplifier + switchable (variable or fixed) RCA and balanced outputs, and it supports MQA. For 130$. USB-only power possible for a portable DAC/Amp. Beat that…!
  • Schiit Asgard 3: 200$ for a 3.5 watts per channel Class AB headphone amp. Add 100$ for the AK4490 DAC module, or 200$ for the True Multibit DAC module. (But maybe you shouldn’t).
  • Sabaj D5: ESS 9038PRO DAC + 118dB SINAD XLR OUT + 116dB SINAD RCA OUT and 106dB SINAD balanced headphone amp (only [email protected] ohms for 1/4", but [email protected] for XLR). For 470$! Above all, impressive XLR OUT measurements.
  • Topping DX7s: This “everythingizer” (sorry again) is now 400$. 2 x ES9038Q2M DAC + Full balanced headphone out + Balanced XLR out. For 600$, there’s also the DX7 Pro, adding Bluetooth AptX-HD/LDAC (among other things). Power: [email protected] 1/4", [email protected] balanced.
  • SMSL AD18: It’s been available for years and still got no competition, I think. A simple, inexpensive, “everythingizer” (sorry again). It’s a DAC (24bit/96khz max?), a headphone amp (only 52mw) + a passive speaker amp (80Wx2 @ 4 ohms), subwoofer output, and Bluetooth (4.2 though), and has a remote. Why does it deserve to be on this list with all these “low” specs? Because it’s 145$.

Speaker amps:

  • Topping PA3: [email protected] for 100$.
  • SMSL DA-8s: [email protected], and Balanced and RCA inputs, and Bluetooth, and a remote, for 170$.
  • Denon PMA-600NE: A 400$ stereo amp (70Wx2) with Bluetooth and excellent sound for the price.
  • Emotiva BasX A-100: A really special one. Not quite an AVR (but probably better than most AVRs). A 50W [email protected] speaker amp, and a headphone amp with a special “jumper” allowing you to push really, really power-hungry headphones. 12 f—ing watts at 33 ohms into your headphones. Webpage says “USE WITH CAUTION”… Indeed. All for 230$.
  • SMSL AD18: It’s been available for years and still got no competition, I think. A simple, inexpensive, “everythingizer” (sorry again). It’s a DAC (24bit/96khz max?), a headphone amp (only 52mw) + a passive speaker amp (80Wx2 @ 4 ohms), subwoofer output, and Bluetooth (4.2 though), and has a remote. Why does it deserve to be on this list with all these “low” specs? Because it’s 145$.

Doesn’t mean it was worth thousands, maybe it just dropped to a correct price. :slight_smile:


OR, it means they were able to create an entry level r2r that was actually affordable


Also Koss anyone???



Would also like to add the final e3000


Would also want to add the cm mh751

Yes, but the on-topic question is if it’s “too good”. Why is it spectacular that it’s an affordable R2R? Because it actually sounds better than most 350 USD DACs or just because fans of R2R said so? :slight_smile: For example Z if I remember said it didn’t sound that different from other DACs in the price range. By that account, it doesn’t qualify as “too good”, it’s just “as expected for the price” (where before it was grossly overpriced).


I guess I’m trying to say that there are r2r dacs in the 1K+ range that are worth their salt, and I didn’t find the airist too impressive vs other dacs below and slightly above the price range. So we agree that the airist isn’t super impressive, but I think that some high end latter dacs are really something to go out and listen to


Hmm, I remember him getting his 1000$ SMSL D1 to compare… also some people swear by ladder dacs, so it’s good to see one for “cheap”, for once.

I do think ladder dacs are great. When I heard the spring 2 kte, I know that was my upgrade. It just had something that other dacs didn’t. Ladder dacs are like tube amps almost. They do something to the sound that doesn’t measure well, but sounds excellent. It really made an audible difference in my living room system. Surprisingly though it wasn’t that large of a difference with most of my headphones except the abyss. But do I think it’s a better value then something like the su-8, no of course not, but I still love it


Added. Forgot about that. But many people don’t like the little KSC75 clip… oh well for 15$ they put Grados to shame anyway lol.

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I don’t know anything about the Final e3000, though.

Really excellent iem for the price. I like it more then the tin iems. Only caveat is the lack of removable cables

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The new E4000 and E5000 have a detachable MMCX cable, but are 100$+. Don’t know if they’re good.

Edit: Yeah, I googled a bit, added the E2000/3000 to the list. :stuck_out_tongue:

Yeah, which he said sounds 1.5%-4% better than other DACs. And later goes to say the Airist is in that “once you’re past 100-200 USD” category, and that it should really be compared to the JDS EL-DAC (but doesn’t actually do it himself). It’s one of his more ADHD reviews where he keeps changing directions mid-sentence, especially when talking about the sound, but overall I get the impression that it’s just an “expensive DAC” that sounds as good as all “expensive DACs” and wouldn’t be worth 500-1000 USD unless it had all kinds of fancy features and outputs along with the good sound.


I, for one think NDH 20 and Sundara are both priced accurately.


Fiio FH7 from what I read is very capable for under 500
always thought my DT 1990s are a very good deal, but now I believe these are still a good “monitoring” hf

… so the Airist R2R is not worth the purchase? quite a bummer for me.
Have to try it(+SMSL SU-8 and my ifi xDSD) myself after 789 arrived and maybe sell it with a small loss

It’s not that it’s not worth it, it just doesn’t fit “too good for the price” imo. I think it’s pretty fairly priced

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ok cool. Thank you @M0N

The FH7 is definitely something to add to the list. Iems are crazy good for the price these days

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another entry level - maybe to good for the price is the DT 770
top build quality, good comfort, well isolating, easy removable pads, nice subbass and a fun soundstage - if some one searches for a cheap closed back, that is always my recommendation
a few people followed the tip and are quite happy
one has modded it to removable cable and uses it with ES 100 clicked in the “new” 3,5mm TRS port