In-Ear Fidelity

The Almost-Thousand Update

Table of Contents

Not quite there yet, but basically already there.

This update adds 78 new entries into the ranking list, bringing the grand total to 993 IEMs now officially ranked under the IEF system. All the to-the-point details are down below but for those who prefer me ranting to a camera about these entries, this week’s video will be me doing exactly that.

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Due to scheduling issues, “comments” have not been added to the new entries yet. I will have them completed at a later date.

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
Acoustune HS2000MX “SHO-笙-“C DA
Ambient Acoustics MAD16C C-B
Ambient Acoustics MAD24C+ CB
Ambient Dynamics AD-006 “Lyndale”B-B-B-
Audio LokahiB-A-C+
Audiosense DT100C+BC
Audiosense DT600BB+B
BLON BL-A8 PrometheusC CC
Cayin FantasyC- DB-
Clariar i640B+ AB+
Colorfly QuintetB- B-B
Craft Ears ArgentumB- B-B-
Craft Ears AurumB B+B
Craft Ears CuprumC+ C+B-
Dethonray Tender ID- D-D
DUNU Falcon ProC+ C+B
Elysian Annihilator (2021)SSS
Elysian XA+ A+S-
Empire Ears Legend EVOB+ B+A
Etymotic ER4BA- A-A-
Fatfreq 20.6C C-B-
Fatfreq 20.8C CC+
Fatfreq HayabusaB- B-B
Fatfreq MusicianC CC
Fatfreq Musician PlusC- C-C
Fatfreq Musician ProC- C-C
Fatfreq ReferenceC+ BC
Fatfreq Reference PlusC- C-C
Fatfreq Reference ProB- B-B-
Fatfreq SakuraB A-B
Fatfreq TsuruB A-B
FAudio Dark SkyB+ A-B+
Fearless BarcelonaC C-B-
Fearless ProvenceC B-C
Fearless Shangri-laB- B-B
HarmonicDyne P.D.1C- D+B-
iBasso IT01XC CC
ikko OH1SC CB-
KBEar AuroraC+ B-C+
KBEar NeonD+ C+D
LZ A2 ProD DC-
LZ A4 ProD+ DC+
Mangird MT4C+ B+C
MiM Dark MagicianB+A-B+
Moondrop AriaB★★★A-B
Moondrop KatoB+★★AB+
Moondrop NekocakeC+C+C+
Moondrop QuarksC+★★C+C+
Nostalgia BenbulbinB- A-C+
Oriolus IsabellaeB B+B
Oriolus TrailliiA+ S-A+
Qudelix Qx-overD DC-
SeeAudio BraveryC+ BC+
Shozy CeresE ED
Shozy ElsaD- D-D
Simphonio VR1C CB-
Symphonium HeliosAAA
Tanchjim New Hana (2021)B★★B+B
Tanchjim PrismB BB
Tanchjim TanyaC+★★C+C+
Tansio Mirai LandC CC+
ThieAudio Legacy 2 (L2)C+B+C-
ThieAudio Monarch Mk2S★★S+S
Tin HiFi P1 PlusC+ C+C+
Tin HiFi T2 EvoC- D+C+
Tripowin x HBB MeleC+BC+
Vision Ears EXTA- A-A-

The Reranks

ModelPrevious rankNew rank
qdc Gemini/8SL/Anole VXSS-
Vision Ears VE8SA+
Jomo Trinity SSA+B+
Sony MDR-EX1000AB+
Sony MDR-EX800A-B+
qdc 5SHAB+
Oriolus MK2AB+
Jomo Trinity BrassAB+
JH RoxanneAB
Stealthsonics U9 JDMAB
Stealthsonics U9B-C+

Data Analysis

Ranking distribution by subgrade
Ranking distribution by whole grades
Subgrade population data

As it has been since the very beginning, the ranking list has sort of targeted a “normal-ish distribution”. There’s still some selection bias of course (I haven’t actively sought out the real bottom-of-the-barrel stuff, hence the lack of D/E/F-tiered entries) but nothing I’m too concerned about at the end of the day.

Some notable stats:

  • Getting at least a C+ rank puts you in the top 50-ish percentile. C+ is, quite literally, “above average”.
  • Getting at least a S- rank puts you in the top 1-ish percentile.
  • Getting at least an “A-” rank puts you in the top 10%.
  • The top 25% lies around B.
  • The C-ranks (C+/C/C-) make up almost exactly half of the ranking list (50.10%).
  • There are only seven 3-star (★★★) IEMs (with the inclusion of the Aria and the Timeless, up from 5 from the previous update), making it the most prestigious award where only 0.71% have it.
  • There are thirty-five 2-star (★★) IEMs, making up only 3.53% of the population.
  • The 1-star (★) award is a lot more attainable in comparison. 112 awardees, or 11.29% of the population.

Remember kids: if it’s not on the list, it doesn’t exist.

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:

GY Audio
Weng Yuin
“Preaching Hanar”

41 thoughts on “The Almost-Thousand Update”

    1. The tonality probably doesn’t live up to its S-class status anymore. The Monarch MkII and the Annihilator 2021 seem to best it in that category. The tech didn’t change though

    1. Variation is on the list, ranked as A+, two star value. S tone and A technicals. “Sub-bass-focused signature with Moondrop’s clean tuning makes this one of the best $500 tribrids.”

      1. Could I have an answer for this? Why Moondrop Quarks only has C+ Tone Grade &
        C+ Technical Grade but is still ranked 2 ★★? Is there any shadow strength?

        1. He may include it in the future. I remember he said V16 kinda like Traillii but cheaper. I do not approve of V16 either, no specialities.

  1. Epic update, thanks! Can’t wait for the comments as well.
    And i guess VE8 doesn’t really hold up against the rest of S-ranked iems anymore? But do you really think that M9 is a better iem?

    1. Can’t speak for Crinacle but the VE8 deserves the derank. Its basically a better Fitear 334 in that its warm as heck with no treble extension, which IEMs don’t have in general but its even worse. Its a pleasing IEM but not a fantastic one.

      But what really kills it is the price. Its a coloured warm blanket of an IEM but priced like a flagship technical and tonal marvel. As rankings are subjective, there’s no way the pricing wouldn’t influence someone’s opinion on the VE8.

  2. wondering how the seeaudio bravery’s are so low on the list. I havent tried the anole vx but many people say the bravery’s sound like them. no doubt technicalities are worse, but id expect them to be at least a bit higher for tonal grade.

  3. Hey crin,

    I love your tests and opinions on Inears. Is there any chance, that you will test the Bowers & Wilkins PI 5 and PI 7 in the near future? I’m looking for some TWS for work, but I’m unsure, whether one of them is worth the money or not.

    1. I’ve seen graphs of the PI7, it’s a very typical V-shaped IEM. Gobs of bass, excess midrange, very little treble extension…
      If neutrality is what you’re looking for, these are not going to hold a candle against the Buds Pro, XM3/XM4, AirPods Pro etc.
      Don’t know about the PI5, but it will be a surprise if that’s better than the flagship.

      Personal opinion: it’s average in the scheme of TWS (despite tech reviewers and a few audiophiles hyping it), not worth it at all. Remember, higher price doesn’t always mean better performance

  4. Oh no, crinacle! Look at this!

    It seems they don’t know what is preference ranking list and a ranking list based on sonic performance alone.

    Here’s my take on this, for example, like the Empire Ears Legend EVO’s tonality is graded B+ and the technicalities is graded A, whereas the ThieAudio Monarch MKII’s tonality is graded S+ and
    the technicalities is graded S, you can still prefer the Empire Ears Legend EVO even though the ThieAudio Monarch MKII have better tonality and technicalities because you have a preference for bassy sets, and that’s fine.

    But is seems that they didn’t read the ‘Notes & Disclaimers’ though, like these ones:

    *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.

    The ranking list is *not* based on preference, it’s based on how crinacle think is “objectively” the best.

    And the thing is, *the value rating and the tone & technical grade are separated.*

    For example, the Oriolus Traillii, its tone grade is S- and its technical grade is A+, no matter how cheap or expensive it is, like under a $1000 or over $10000, it won’t change the rank itself, only the value rating will change. I think if the Oriolus Traillii’s given price is at a $1000, crinacle would give it at least a ★ which is “Worth the price”, but since the given price is $6600 for an S- tone grade and A+ technical grade, it’s unacceptable for its given price. For $6600, I think it should be an S+ grade both in tone and technical performance.

    And no, more expensive doesn’t mean it’s a better IEM.

    Preference ≠ Better

    Sorry if this post is too long.

  5. Is there any chance that you will rank Tanchjim Ola? Eagerly waiting for it and thoughts about sub bass roll off.

  6. When will the Moondrop Aria (Snow Edition) be added to the ranking list? I know they are on the graph database, but they aren’t on the list.

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