What is the best (value) IEM between 50$-2k$

After years of spending not more than 20$ on IEMs, I recently got the Aria and I at first I was rather satisfied with the purchase. While I still like them, after upping my budget for a clearly better IEM, I started wondering what I am missing out on, if I would have gotten the blessing 2 for 300$ instead… while I was thinking about wether I should or shouldn’t purchase them, I realized, that the cycle will probably continue: Once I get the blessing 2 and assuming I like them, I will ask my self, what a 700$ IEM would offer above the blessing 2 and then again for the <2k$ price point.

At this point I am wondering what to get and at which pricepoint, since most of the headphones (especially chinese ones), I have no chance of testing. A 2k$ IEM wouldn’t bankrupt me, but could cause severe regrets, if the improvements are only marginally or if I simply don’t end up liking the frequency response, etc. I am not really looking to spending on multiple IEMs or to do this as a hobby. I would just like to get an IEM to enjoy music even more and stop wondering “what would I get if I got IEM X instead”.

What is your subjective opinion on the pricebracket and on the following models in those price brackets?

1-2k$ - MEST, U12T, Z1R
700$ - Monarch
500$ - Variations, Oracle
300$ - Tea, Oxygen, Blessing, MDR-EX800ST, Timeless
0$ - be happy with what I got…

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your price range / budget is way too big. you need to make it smaller…like $100 - $300…or $300 - $500…$1000 - $2000.

I think you should stay away from the Timeless. It offers a unique sound that is rather niche and not a good all-around. If you’re mostly into EDM and compressed music, it’s pretty sweet.

Since you already have a pretty good DD, a hybrid like the Tea would probably be of interest to you.

You should also get a nice balanced DAC/AMP while you’re at it.

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I will tell you what I read elsewhere in this forum, just because I totally agree with their point of view: what you will gain with higher priced sets is better technicalities: signature, separation, micro details, imaging,…
The sweet spot for now seems to be in the 300~400$ price bracket.

The best plan to be sure you don’t regret buying such expensive sets is to refine your tastes:

  • test what ba sound like
  • test what hybrid sounds like
  • determine, the most precisely possible, your ultimate frequency response for your library; your own target

Once you’ll know exactly what you want, you can chose your set based on its frequency response and be quite sure you’ll love it.

I can’t see any other way to diminish the risks of regret your buyings (other than testing the sets without buying it).

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The true answer is probably gonna be some iem that cost only a few bucks and sound competent enough. There are diminishing returns the more you spend, especially with how much better cheap iems have gotten. But since your bottom limit is $50, I would say it’s gonna be whatever is best in the $50-$60 bracket, probably something like the mele, or the dq6 + cable upgrade. But yeah, speaking value wise, the short answer is $0 be happy with what you’ve got.

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Thanks for the response.

To give some context:

  • in terms of frequency response, it is hard for me to put a definitive preference. I listened to many cheaper IEMs and many (also quite expensive) headphones and the thing that makes me like headphones the most is the perceived level of detail. So therefore I tend to lean towards bright headphones. I listened to the DT990Pro as my main driver for many years. When I got the Aria I really didn’t like the warmer tonality at first, but I listened to it for a week or so before I put on the DT990Pro again… and in that moment I learned why the DT990Pro sucks :smiley: While I still like bright and detailed, I realized how much music I miss out on, when the treble is overemphasized
  • in other words: warm = Moondrop Aria < oratory target < my preference < harman target < DT99Pro = bright
  • that being said, if I just had an Aria with better technicalities I would already be satisfied
  • I would be willing to eq as well to some extent
  • I have dynamic IEMs and hybrid IEMs (CCA), but can’t really say what makes them sound typically dynamic/hybrid and I don’t know if I could. I am sure you find hybrids/planars/ba/etc. headphones all sounding very different within the same category as to make it difficult to say I have a preference over the other. (maybe I like brunettes better than blondes, but would I trade a hot blonde for a bad looking brunett!? no…)

If someone could give me a more specific recommendation based on this information, I would be very grateful :slight_smile:

I think it would be helpful to let us know what the usual music you listen to is. It would help us give you better suggestions maybe.

For example there is a member called @Kalnet here who listens to a lot of Korean music.

@Kalnet had an Fiio FD5 initially which is not a bad IEM however @Kalnet really found the sweet spot with the Variations.

The Variations is a subbass booster neutral tuned set which is absolutely amazing with Korean music and to my ear sounds awesome for EDM too.

This kind of tuning (Blessing 2: Dusk (I own dusk), Monarch) to my ear doesn’t sound the very best for some of the kinds of music I listen to specifically Classic Rock, Rock, Metal for my ear because the bass guitar sounds muted and lacks the presence and authority that I like due to the relatively lesser mid bass quantities in this tuning. (whose frequencies are usually in the mid bass rather than subbass).

This being said, if I read what you said in your last post right, it sounds like you want a balanced tuned set with decent to good technicalities that leans bright.

Sorry I haven’t heard the aria. I don’t really know it well.

I have the MEST MKII now thanks to the great recommendations from @hawaiibadboy and @Resolution.

To my ear, it doesn’t lean bright but is more or less closer to the centre of balanced. Yet it has a very authoritative bass presence with great quality to boot AND at the same time it’s a detail monster. To my ear, I find it very much of an all rounder for my library however YMMV. There is a UM Mest thread somewhere that you can have a read of if you are interested.

I would recommend it highly if you can afford it and wish to skip the whole lofi/mid-fi sections and you have an eclectic library that spans a great number of genres.

I have not owned or listened to this set however it is very widely acclaimed as an all rounder. Some say it is better than the Mest. The 64 Audio U12T.

Again it comes back to your library, as if you are really focussed on one or a few genres it might be better to consider a specialist model like the UM 3DT for metal, or the Dunu Zen for bassheads (do you concur @luizgarcia ?) rather than an all rounder that does many genres at a good level but may not get to great.

If for you the sets above are a little too dear for your liking, there are many value sets that @Rikudou_Goku in his manifold awesome reviews and ranking list (find this in his thread) that you can look into. For example the GD3A which was so good at such a good price that it caused a whole number of sets on his ranking list to drop up to 2 points out of 5.

Hope this helps.

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Crin’s 2 cents worth…

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Thanks for the share! This was a great video! Hilarious too!

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The Dunu Zen “can” be a basshead set if you EQ it a lot which most are not willing to do, i love how its bass sound with a good bass boost but in stock form it is far away from being a basshead set.

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Aye. You are correct.

From how I browse my future IEMs now, I don’t look for the perfect IEM of an all-rounder. I will find the perfect IEM for my music library. Yes, I do listen to other music genres other than korean music but because I wanted something more specific for my korean music library with focus on female vocals, the variations just happened to be wonderful for it which made it my personal endgame at this time.

The variations is of course not great in other genres like rock or other instrumental focus tracks, but it gets the job done for the price and is able to one-upped my FD5 in some tracks in that genre. I’m not an EQ person so I leave it as is.

My opinion is to get an IEM that is perfect for your music library that you always listen to and then later down the line, you can browse for an all-rounder. If you find users here that are similar to your music library, ask them and you may find your answer much sooner.

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Thanks for the great reply :slight_smile:

In regards to genre: I really listen to pretty much everything and anything, so I guess it should be an all rounder for me.

In regards to @Rikudou_Goku , @Kalnet and the FD5: Thanks for the reference to gokus list. I looked at many different rankings, but somehow missed gokus list. I didn’t listen the FD5 per se (which is #3 on gokus list), but I did listen to it’s little brother FD3 and I thought it had a terrible sound! I rechecked the frequency response graphs, but the FD3 and FD5 look very similiar. Crinicale gave the FD5 a C+, which is something I can relate to (even if I don’t always agree with his ratings). The GD3A seems to follow the same frequency curve. I recently have heared about the Sony N3 quite often recently… does it hold up to something like the Blessing 2?

The U12T would be budgetwise doable but somewhat of an upper limit. So the mest would be well within budget.

I guess I will spend some time, asking around if I can try borrow units from dealers, even if I don’t have a lot of hope to get a positive response. Thanks for your input so far :smiley:

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I have a feeling that you would prolly enjoy the U12T the most. There’s also a bit of versatility considering there are 3 modules you can use to modify the bass response.

I gave it some more thought and I think I came to a conclusion:

  1. I will just blind buy the Blessing 2 (Dusk). Worst case scenario, it doesn’t fit and I sell it used, loosing 50$ or so in the process. At least I get to try and listen to the proclaimed value king and get a better understanding about how my taste overlaps with crinacles, who basically rates them on par with the MEST
  2. Once I have a better understanding of the Blessings value proposition, I will get the U12T and see how big the gap really is. While it is not straight forward, I have found an option to test the U12T so I don’t have to shell out the money, if I don’t like it.

Thanks again for all your help

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Sounds like a decent strategy!

I own both the Dusk and Mest MkII. Just know that they are very different beasts both of them. Ha ha.

Considering that you said that you liked things on the brighter side maybe you might consider getting the Blessing 2 OG instead of the Dusk.

Almost a month later, here is the update:

  • I got the Blessing 2 and my first impression was… underwhelming. In short: it is technically surely better than my other IEMs, but in terms of tonality it is much more laid back, then I hoped for. Also while technically better, it is not super obvious. If you A/B it with my other IEMs, it is clearly better technically, but going just from memory and factoring in tonality, I am not convinced it’s (according to my tonal preference) better than the Aria… kind of disappointing
  • After my first impression i fiddled with eq and got it to a place, where I think it is clearly the best of my IEMs, but it is it 200$ better? I need more time to say…
  • Now I was able to borrow the u12t and my first impression… again underwhelming (I think this is where I make a lot of enemies :frowning: ). Actually it was a repetition of the Blessing 2: Technically better, but bummed out by the tuning. I did some A/B testing with my other IEMs (incl. Blessing 2) and after a few hours of listening, I definitely found a lot of things to appreciate about the u12t, but again: in lack of a comparision and considering tonality, it is not that much better imho
  • So far I couldn’t spend a lot of time with the eq, but first impressions are, that it is much harder to tune than the Blessing 2.

So these are my first impressions (got the Blessing 2 a few days and the u12t even less), which I actually didn’t want to share, but seeing as I have to return the u12t, I still hope for your feedback, as you might have suggestions what I should test with the u12t before I have to return them very soon.

Some thoughts that are floating in my head, but none of which are set in stone yet:

  • probably won’t buy the u12t…
  • I suspect that the Moondrop Variations will better suit my preference, so I really would like to test it. However considering I already am not quite sure about the Blessing 2’s value, I wonder how much the Variations will improve on the tonality in regards to my preference… I am wondering whether I should just sell Blessing 2 + Aria, add some money and go for it!?
  • the Blessing 2 with eq actually sounds pretty good, so maybe I should just keep it and sell my Aria!?
  • Leaving money out of the equation: if I had to choose good technicalities and poor tuning vs good tuning and poor technicalities, at this point I think I would go for the later, assuming there is no chance to eq… so maybe I just should stick to searching at a lower price point?
  • Having listened to the u12t, I kind of have a lot more empathy for oluv, after I complained about him in the other thread xD
  • if I had to answer the thread title myself, at this point my answer would be: Price (even just looking at recommended IEMs) doesn’t correlate all that much with value of an IEM in the first place. I think a good 50$ IEM can sound better than a good 500$ or 5000$ IEM, depending on preference.

If you have any suggestions or thoughts, I would be grateful to read them

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Indeed it’s all subjective after all, I could’ve saved a shed loada :moneybag: and bought the Z1R on day one but what I rec for most of my library, fit and value for money might not work for you :man_shrugging: plus I use 2 other sets for more specific genre listening so finding just one :gem: set that covers a wide and diverse library is always going to be hard…A jack of all trades…
Ultimately it will come down to you putting listening time… demo’ing/borrowing or buying returning/selling sets to be 100% sure as there’s nothing better than firsthand experience I’m afraid :+1:

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Timeless :sunglasses:

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Oh man… did you just read my mind? The timeless is really tempting and may be worth buying if it brings nothing else to the table besides the experience of a planar IEM alone…

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