What IEM truly impresses you? (minimum cost for real hifi satisfaction)

I’ve tried a lot of IEMs under $300, and some up to $799 so far. Some are pretty good, and some have amazing qualities, but they still lack in some way(s) or have problematic treble/fit/whatever. What do you have to pay to hit IEM gold…?

For myself, headphone gold lies around HE-6/LCD-3/Arya(?)/Ether 2(?), with a minimum cost at about $1500, so at least I know what gold costs on the headphone side.

If this Oracle I ordered doesn’t impress me(lacking bass, too boring, lacking depth), I don’t want to try another ThieAudio, so I would either try something at least at MEST level, or go back to the headphone world and try Arya.

I personally feel that the midrange IEM market has a very awkward limbo, to a point where it probably has the worst value. I think entry-level is great. There are pairs that far outperform earbuds or the classic comparison of airpods. Mid-tier pretty much carries over entry-level with more exotic material or experimentation, which ultimately does not sound too much better. Unfortunately, this is the range where most companies just try to do their one-offs or experiment to see if it sticks or even worse with chi-fi, with zero R&D.

I know this is an unpopular statement, but I think there is a substantial jump or as you would call it, IEM gold when you hit the $800-1000+ used price. These are companies that put a lot of time, care, research, and feedback into their products. They usually have good service and hold their value well on the resell market.

I want to say there are a few more members on here that have recently discovered the same sentiment and may agree as well.


What would gold be for you? U12T? MEST?

It’s kind of a difficult question to answer without knowing what type of music you listen to or what you look for in an IEM.

Just to share my personal journey, my first dabble here was Hyla Sarda and a few members here have been posting their experiences with them as well. It would be great for a very pop/modern music IEM with a ton of technicalities. It really has some of the best bass you can ever hear, headphones included. This can be found for about 800-850 used.

I ended up replacing those, since there was some overlap with with 64a tia Trio. Again, some members have mentioned their love with these as well. It was many of our first step in serious IEMs and seeing what they can really do and finding our end game. These were the first IEM that truly felt comfortable. I could wear these all day. Aside from that, they also had very good bass, not Sarda, but still very fun. I really liked the stage-like presentation of these and were great all-rounders. You can find these for 1.2k-1.4k used, depending on condition.

I don’t have experience with MEST and didn’t really care to follow the hype of it. I know a few more members have these as well and seem to love them.


First of all there is no such thing as perfection when it comes to audio, this is something i’ve learned time and time again. There will always be something to replace or tweak in your setup, it’s never ending. With that said you can get pretty damn close for your own preferences if you are willing to spend the money, but it is different for every person as well at the threshhold for when diminsihing returns kick in. Me personally having heard 3k sets on similarly exspensive daps with kilobuck cables… I still haven’t hit that ceiling. But like I said it’s gonna differ for everybody since everyone has varying goals, values, and hearing/listening skills.

I agree with @Veritas on his opinion with the current state of mid range, imo it’s a way better idea to bite the bullet and go for higher end in 1-1.5k used range, so much value to be had ime.

Sarda is one of those sets that are a really great value and bring a lot of quality at a relatively lower price used. Another set that I currently have in for audition is the FIR audio 5x5 coming in at a 1k msrp, it is quite a good value for what it is and while I have heard more expensive and higher quality (more technical and just overall better) sets it still does a damn good job of engaging me and making me not feel like I’m missing out when listening to it. Part of that is because FIR actually has done a ton of R&D on the tech that has trickled down to this IEM overall increasing it’s quality while not charging more or compromising the product. This set as well as the sarda is what I would consider the sweet spot for value vs performance especailly if you can score them secondhand.


+1 for Sardas. Still hesitant about buying a new pair of IEMs because of them.

  • 1 for the Z1R’s …in Chris’s, Crin’s and precog’s “s” tier so says a lot…an awesome IEM with my library :heart_eyes: it.
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Surely perfection exists for specific genre + IEM/phone matches. I’m just after products that pretty much sound excellent with most everything, and what those products are & cost, at the bottom end :slight_smile:

I wonder if I have been lead astray by this whole chi-fi revolution… A more world-wide approach would be better.

I am intrigued! Any dislikes about it at all…? Only heard 1 Sony so far, the ancient MDR-MA900. Oh, and some MUCH more ancient Sony monitor-style phones.

3 IEMs in fact as of the moment that impresses me a lot, that would be the Moondrop Starfield, BLON BL-03 and BLON BL-05S. The sounds from those each IEMs that I have mentioned are to me are just top-notch and some of these imo can rival IEMs that is on the $300 range (Take this with a grain of salt, because it might not be like that for other people, but for me it is.)

Sure there are some compromises, such as the stock ear tips being all meh or just not good (I am looking at you BLON, for the love of God improve your goddamn tips!) and the stock cable being all flimsy and fragile. (AGAIN! BLON! your goddamn cable as well, make more it durable ffs! Also Moondrop, you too should have better tips and cable!) But the value you get from IEMs like those 3 with of course with the tips and cables changed makes those the best value to add in your collection.

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This is not true and is why I hesitated in give you a recommendation. It really depends so much on tastes, what you are looking for in your headphones, what you enjoy, and what you value. I really cannot answer that for you, hence I just gave you a price range. I shared my personal journey, but I know some members disliked what I liked and vice versa.

For example with your question about the Z1R, a ton of people love that pair, but I disliked them quite a bit. They did some things extremely well, but not things I valued. One love/hate is the fit.


I am one of them, picked up a set of 64 audio Tia Trios about a month ago. What a jump it was from some of the entry to midrange things i was using previously. Some may say there cant possibly be enough better to warrant the price jump, and i was honestly one of them not too long ago, but the Tia Trio completely changed that for me.


Not really any dislikes for me but a couple of things to note is it’s shear size, it’s a bit of a unit so fit and heft can be problematic for some, the other is it’s slight mid/lower mid dip which may be noticed, personally neither of these two things effect me or my enjoyment of them…the most dynamic and entertaining set I’ve tried to date and I’d like to be buried with them as I know the devil sold his soul for Rock ‘n Roll :metal:t2:

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I don’t see why there can’t be IEMs that cover the basics excellently(extension, impact, detail, imaging, tonality). I don’t really care about ultimate performance in the fringe genres, like classical, JP, thrash metal. But those should still sound good on an IEM that nails the essentials, I would assume.

What I personally value most is spaciousness, spatial accuracy(gaming), bass, and no treble/fatigue problems. I listen to basically all genres, though mostly rock, electronic, soundtracks, smooth jazz, chiptunes, folk, ambient. Ideally the sound is nice & full, but also superbly clear & textured, with fantastic separation between bass/mids/treble, like FD5 but far better. HE-6 & LCD-3 blew me away, on the headphone side. For IEMs, I like FH3 & Tea pretty well(FH3>Tea kuz beefier bass & more engaging), or FD5/YBF for gaming.

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Same here and I’d never look back or drop a tier in my audio quest, don’t get me wrong I still listen to my other sets but I probably wouldn’t spend less again than I did on the Z1R’s the next jump if I make it will be costly :moneybag::grimacing:

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Etymotic ER4SR, it remains a well made superbly accurate and neutral IEM with outstanding noise isolation. They’re not cheap but neither are they that expensive in todays market and I think they offer excellent value for money. I’d be quite happy for it to be my only IEM.


Sad to say, but it’s all subjective and what you find value in.

All I can say is this… Pricier products do not guarantee better sound or quality. I’ve had many $3,000.00 plus IEMs in my ears and many times, I’ve preferred IEMs that are less expensive. The big lesson learned is when you spend big bucks on an item you’re hoping will be your IEM gold, only to find out, you hate it.

You’ve gotta learn what you’re after, try to listen to everything you can, do as much research as possible and be smart about your choices. Just know this for a fact, there is no price-line you have to pay to automatically obtain audiophile heaven. It’s a voyage you have to take for yourself. Maybe for you, an $3,000.00 Empire Ears Odin will be IEM gold. For many, it was a $26.00 Blon 03.

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Probably because they’ve never heard HE-6 or similar. =P I’ve heard that, but not SR-009 yet… Judging by the sound improvements I’ve heard from the 03 to Starlight 4, if Oracle doesn’t impress me, MEST will be my bottom barrel next IEM. But, I agree that LCD-3($1945) sounds better (to me) than Abyss 1266($5000), and SR-007($2205) & Ether 2($2299) may, also. HE-6/LCD-3 is the quality level I want.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.


What can 03 do better than HE-6?