The Pre-Show Update (IEM Ranking List)

Table of Contents

Yes, I’m still working on that Headphone Ranking List update you’ve all been asking for. In the meantime, here’s a little pre-show entertainment to whet thy ravenous appetites.

This update also pushes the total number of IEMs ranked past the 900 mark, bringing to the total to a whopping 913. The big 1,000 looms ever-closer.

The Usual Disclaimer

Before I begin, I shall copy and paste the disclaimer that has been on the Ranking List since its very inception.

Yes I know it’s wholly unnecessary for most of you dear readers, but it’s no secret that some of you have some literacy problems and require the section to be crammed down your slimy throats before you acknowledge its existence.

So… ahem.

  • The IEMs are ranked purely by sonic performance. Fit, isolation, durability, build quality etc. are ignored unless they interfere with the sound itself.
    • The IEMs are not ranked in terms of price-to-performance value. They are ranked according to what I think is “objectively” the best.
  • Most of the IEMs in this list are determined based off (universal) demo units from shops.
    • Customs tried will be specified as “custom”. A “Third party custom” is someone else’s customs that I forcefit into my ears. Any other use of the term “unit” will be universal.
  • The positions are not set in stone. I’m only human; I may miss out on certain details or traits that may only be apparent with repeated listening. Expect changes.
  • Ranks will be determined based on the best unit tried. Because of this, I am not accounting for unit variation. I cannot guarantee that what I’m hearing is what you will be hearing.
    • This will revert to the most recent unit tried if there is a significant time gap between the last and most recent times I tried a particular model.
  • Unreleased products will not be included in the ranking list until they are officially out of preorder stages or have production units sent to distributors. I will still be talking about them in my subreddit if I ever get the opportunity to try such units.
  • Prices are at MSRP in USD. Prices not directly available in USD are based off the exchange rate during the time of writing.
  • A (non-complete) list of IEMs that I’ve tried can be found on my measurements database.
    • If you can tell, some of IEMs on the database (that I’ve tried) may not be in this list. This is could be due to lack of interest or lack of enough ear time to make a proper decision on tier placement.
  • Yes, this is the opinion of one person on the internet. Please do not get too offended if your favourite IEM isn’t graded as highly as you’d like. (vice versa applies)
  • This list is meant to be used as a reference point. I highly recommend against blind-buying and suggest to have a listen to the IEMs yourself. By all means, use this to shortlist what you should try in the future but don’t take it as gospel.

Also, here I reference my “Tonal-Technical” post which highlights the process in which said IEMs are ranked:

So if anyone has any complains on certain rankings on certain IEMs, do acknowledge the whole “tonality versus technicalities” split. Just because an IEM may be “technically excellent” does not necessarily mean that it may be tonally so, and vice versa. And since I rank by a weighted system… well, the criteria for good rankings get even stricter.

The New Entries

ModelRankValue RatingTone GradeTechnical Grade
Dita Project 71C CB-
Dita Sakura 71B- B-B
DUNU EST 112BB+B
EarFun x Oluv Free ProC+ BC+
FiiO FH5sC CB-
JH Audio JoleneC- DB-
Kiwi Ears OrchestraA★★A+A
Monoprice Monolith M-TWEC C+C
Moondrop SparksB-A-C+
Neusonk direm E3C+ BC
Neusonk direm PROC+ C+C+
oBravo Ra C 21D- D-D
qdc Anole V14A+ A+A+
Sennheiser IE900B+ BA+
Shanling ME700 LiteB- B-B-
ThieAudio ExcaliburB+ BA
ThieAudio OracleA★★SA-
Tin HiFi T5C CC
TRI StarlightC C-B
TRI StarshineB BB
Unique Melody MEST Mk2A+ A+S-
Vision Ears VE7A AA

Additional Changes

And here’s a list of changes to existing entries on the ranking list. Not a lot really, but good to keep a changelog at the very least.

  • Hidition Viento: awarded ★★ value rating (up from ★)
  • ★ value ratings removed from the following:
    • In-Ear ProPhile-8 (no longer competitive at $1,600 MSRP)
    • 64 Audio Nio (no longer competitive at $1,700 MSRP)
    • qdc 8SH (barely competitive at $1,450 MSRP)
  • ThieAudio Clairvoyance: tech grade adjusted to A (down from A+). Overall rank unchanged.

Support me on Patreon to get access to tentative ranks, the exclusive “Clubhouse” Discord server and/or access to the Premium Graph Comparison Tool! My usual thanks to all my current supporters and shoutouts to my big money boys:

“McMadface”
“Uncharted Waters”
Timmy
Man Ho
Denis
Alexander
Tiffany
Jonathan

25 thoughts on “The Pre-Show Update (IEM Ranking List)”

    1. Oops.

      But I think that the Aria would get the same tonality score as the KXXS and the Starfield, as the three have almost-identical tuning. Dunno about the tech part though

  1. Hi Crinacle… This is my request IEM to review:

    InEar ProMission X
    Oriolus Traillii
    Clear Tune Monitors Da Vinci X
    Unique Melody MEST MKII
    Lime Ears Pneuma
    Rhapsodio Supreme MKII
    UM Mason Fabled Sound Special Edition

    I hope you can review them as soon as possible…

    Thank you…

    1. Mate, that’s too much… Be more realistic and watch the way you ask for favor, someone’s gonna interpret it as you are the boss. Just ask for one, and in a more polite manner.

    2. The MEST Mk2 is already in the database, plz go check before you post your requests. (added on 5/16/21)

      +1 to what Avv said: crin is a human being, not a headphone/earphone reviewing machine. Don’t request too much, as he may not have the time to review all of the ones you want, and the ones he himself wants to hear and post here. Moreover, he is based in Singapore, which may be different from where you live, and thus, may not contain certain models in your wishlist.

  2. Only a B grade for tone for Oluv’s babies, that’s interesting. As someone who uses the Etymotic ER2XR as reference, I think that Oluv got a good tone from these cheapish TWS earphones and I would have graded them higher.
    I would have gone A for tone and B for technicalities, which is a good achievement for what he aimed to do.
    Curious about what the perceived inaccuracies were.

    1. It’s tonality only close to the 2XR, but not the same (tad bit worse, according to the FR). The 6k dip may be the main factor why it received a lower tonality score (hole in treble). I haven’t heard this one yet, so I can’t justify nor criticize crin’s claims on the tech part.

      Plus, B is also pretty good for TWS IEMS considering the highest score for this category is B+ (N400, GBP).

      1. My bad, C+ is the score for the EarFun Free Pro (Special Edition). But still, there are not too many TWS IEMS that can outperform it.

        I’d consider the Tevi to be more “2XR-ish” in the mids and treble, so unless if the EFP is up to that level of tonality, which it’s close, but not there, I don’t see exactly why it deserves an “A”. Tuning has to be precise, and flaws like that 6k dip can still affect your listening experience.

  3. I second Oriolus Traillii request, would be really interested in your thoughts Crin.
    Not necessary a review, just 5 min impressions, or a rating number, whatever.
    There is so much hype around it, but i don’t trust any of the people who praise it )

  4. Dang Crin, all the hype as of late hasn’t really lived up to it (other than oracle ig)

    I really thought that the v14 was going to be the first s+ iem lol.

  5. Not sure whether the Neusonk Direm lineup is what I’m thinking of but if my assumption is correct, it’s probably Direm E3 and Direm Pro from Sonicast (South Korean Company) but imported by the company called Neusonk (Never heard of it, Can’t find their information), rebranded with their name without permission (My assumption), since Sonicast is planning to release their Direm lineup to overseas.

    I’ll leave the original link of Sonicast’s product page for both Direm E3 and Pro for verification.
    (E3) https://smartstore.naver.com/sonicast/products/4699427458
    (Pro) https://smartstore.naver.com/sonicast/products/5175828781

  6. Just got the Kiwi Ears Orchestra and they are indeed impressive. “Balanced” is often overused but these are truly what it means.

  7. Looking forward to seeing where the Moondrop Variations land on the rankings- especially against the clairvoyance!

    1. +1 on the Variations, hope that it still lives up to the reputation Moondrop gained from the Blessing 2.

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