Looking for the best universal IEMs? We’ve got you covered! This list is ordered from the lowest to the highest price (List updated January 2023).
This is a dynamic list, meaning it will change often as IEMs/earphones come and go. We can’t cover them all but here are some of our favourites.
CCA CRA (US$14)
The CCA CRA is one of those IEMs that makes everything else in its price range look a whole lot less tempting. This budget gem has a Harman tuning with stunning tonal balance, weight, detail and clarity.
There’s not much else to say – this earphone does pretty much everything right from its punchy bass and vibrant mids to its smooth, crisp treble.
Buy on AliExpress or Amazon
Moondrop Chu (US$20)
When it comes to trickle-down audio quality, there’s no one who does it like Moondrop. The Moondrop Chu adopts the brand’s house sound and makes it available to lucky audio fans in the budget segment.
This earphone is also super comfortable and really well built, although it does have a non-detachable cable. But as far as sound goes, there are very few IEMs that can match the Chu at this price point.
Buy on AliExpress or Amazon
7Hz Salnotes Zero (US$20)
Here’s another great example of winning Chi-Fi value. The 7Hz Salnotes Zero picks up where the Moondrop Chu left off and impresses even more with a detachable cable and beefier sound.
It’s balanced, dynamic and detailed and I think it’s currently the best budget IEM on the market. If you love midrange and budget IEMs then you owe it to yourself to get these for yourself today.
$19.99 from AliExpress or Amazon
Review: 7Hz Salnotes Zero Review
KZ ZS10 Pro X ($33)
KZ’s iconic classic is back better and stronger than before. The new ZS10 Pro X has better sub-bass extension, instrument separation and a smoother treble.
Featuring some of the best imaging and positioning in its price range, this IEM scores highly in both fun and technical performance.
$33 from AliExpress, Amazon or Linsoul
Tin Hifi C3 (US$49)
The Tin Hifi C3 might sound a LOT like the Tin C2, T2 DLC and T4 Plus but it sits right in the middle price-wise and has the best shells + cable.
It’s detailed and resolving with good soundstage and imaging but it’s also super smooth and free of sibilance or shoutiness. This one is a solid all-rounder and easy to recommend.
$49 from AliExpress or Linsoul
Tin Hifi T2 Plus (US$59 US)
If you’ve done any research into budget Chi-Fi you will probably be familiar with Tin Hifi and the T2. This double dynamic driver IEM made a huge impact on its release for its neutrality, transparency, tonality, soundstage and build quality. Yes, I did just say all that in a single sentence. The T2 rocks!
But now there’s an even better option, the T2 Plus. The T2 Plus brings a more robust, full-bodied sound with improved ergonomics and a better cable. This is (IMO) currently the best IEM in the Tin T-Series.
Check the latest price on Amazon.
Tin Hifi T3 Plus (US$69)
The T3 Plus has a bold, exciting presentation with punchy, controlled bass, forward mids and a detailed but smooth treble.
This is a budget IEM that performs in tonality and technicalities. And the resin shells are comfortable as well. The T3 Plus is one of the best earphones you can get in this price range.
$69 from AliExpress or Amazon
Moondrop Aria (US$79)
The Moondrop Aria basically supersedes its bigger sibling the Starfield. Aria adopts a practically identical frequency response and the same technical abilities as Starfield with some very subtle differences.
Aria is tuned based on the Harman target which means it has a balanced tonality with a lightly boosted bass plus and upper midrange and lower treble lift. The result is a clean, clear sound that’s lively yet smooth and versatile enough for all music genres. This is currently one of the best IEMs you can get for less than $100.
$79 from AliExpress or Amazon
Whizzer HE01 (US$79)
Who would have thought that such a pretty little IEM could go toe to toe with the big boys when it comes to audio quality? The HE01 is a great sounding earphone with a U-shaped sound signature, giving it meaty bass, forward, intimate midrange and crisp, clear treble.
Not only does the HE01 sound great but it has gorgeous shells that are really comfortable and perfect for smaller ears too. If you like the look, this one should be a no-brainer!
Hidizs MS2 (US$79)
Here’s another sub-$100 gem that we didn’t expect to find on our rec list. The Hidizs MS2 has great build quality, is comfortable and looks great. Inside the shells is 1 dynamic driver and 1 balanced armature driver.
The MS2 impressed us with its punchy bass, midrange clarity and smooth treble with excellent detail retrieval. It also comes with a high-quality stock cable and a really good carrying case. This one’s a no brainer!
$79 on AliExpress or Amazon
FiiO FH3 (US$129)
Every now and then an IEM just resonates with me on all levels and that is what happened with the FiiO FH3. It’s supremely comfortable, built like a tank yet lightweight and stylish and simply sounds fantastic.
Bass extension, warm, inviting, natural mids and a light, airy treble with a touch of warmth all come together in this earphone. This is one that I think punches above its price point and is one of my favourite in-ear monitors.
$129 on AliExpress
$129 on Amazon
Review: FiiO FH3 Review | Take No Prisoners
Letshuoer S12 (US$152)
Letshuoer has been around for a while and was previously best known for the Shuoer Tape earphones. But recently they careened back into the vision of audio enthusiasts with the Letshuoer S12 planar magnetic IEM.
The S12 has a great tonal balance with meaty bass, resolving natural mids and a detailed but non-fatiguing treble. No wonder people are loving it.
TANGZU Zetian Wu ($149)
Joining the planar wars with vigour, the TANGZU Zetian Wu is a fantastic IEM. It goes toe to toe with the Letshuoer S12 and performs extremely well.
The Zetian Wu has a balanced sound with an emphasis on the sub-bass. Its planar drivers maintain the utmost control over those big bass notes and deliver clean, natural mids. The treble is detailed but never harsh rounding up Wu’s fantastic presentation.
$149 on AliExpress or Amazon
SeekReal Airship (US$179)
I hadn’t heard of SeekReal until this IEM arrived but I guarantee, it’s a name I hope to become more familiar with. Because the SeekReal Airship is a real banger sub $200 IEM I would be happy to call my daily driver.
Warm and inviting in its tonality, the Airship is also quite airy and detailed. It gives you the best of both worlds. I can’t wait to hear what SeekReal does next.
Review: SeekReal Airship Review – Prime Audio Reviews
IKKO OH10 (US$189)
Following the success of the original OH1, IKKO built on its strengths to create the successor, the IKKO OH10. This impressive in-ear monitor has copper-alloy shells for improved acoustic properties. The shape of the shells is near identical to the OH1 which is great because it means the ergonomics and fit are great.
The OH10 Obsidian has a light v-shaped signature with a slight emphasis on sub-bass and upper midrange. It’s topped off with an airy, non-fatiguing treble. A neutral, slightly laid back midrange and the airy treble combine to create a sound that is spacious and open, even despite the powerful bass. As such, the OH10 has an expansive soundstage and a sound you can listen to all day long.
$189 on AliExpress
$189 on Amazon
Moondrop KATO ($189)
Say what you will about re-hashing the same sound signature. Moondrop has proven again and again that it’s a worthwhile pursuit. We saw it with Starfield, Aria and now the KATO.
Rather than trying to invent the wheel, Moondrop has focused on improving on its winning formula. Not only does the flagship dynamic driver model get improved but the same tech trickles down to the more budget-oriented models. It’s a win-win for everybody.
Shanling ME500 Platinum Edition (US$289)
Although Shanling has just started making their own earphones, they’ve already delivered a real winner with the ME500 PE. This triple hybrid driver IEM has an engaging, lively presentation with a meaty, tight bass, clear and natural midrange plus a crisp, non-fatiguing and detailed treble.
All this is wrapped up in platinum-plated brass shells that are rock solid and built to last. You get a vast assortment of eartips, a silver-plated copper cable and a carrying case included too. This is a fantastic IEM at a competitive price and what a way to enter the earphone space Shanling!
DUNU DK-2001 (US$299)
The DUNU DK-2001 turned out to be an absolute gem in pretty much every way. Crafted from stainless steel these things are built like a tank but they’re tuned like a luxury supercar. Beautiful clarity and timbre with a nice tonal balance, detail and expansive soundstage.
In addition, these come with a high-quality modular cable that lets you switch your termination plugs quickly and easily. So it’s compatible with every source without needing to change the cable which is super convenient. These are an all-round great IEM and I couldn’t even think of anything negative to say about them.
FiiO FH7 (US$449)
FiiO’s FH7 is a beautifully built and comfortable earphone with a super engaging and lively sound signature that will keep you captivated. It is a great example of what good bass sounds like with its powerful yet fast low frequencies.
Using aerospace-grade aluminium-magnesium alloy, the FH7 shells are a joy to behold and feel fantastic in your ears too. Finally, the FH7 comes with a gorgeous cable and a bunch of awesome accessories. Highly recommended.
$449 on Amazon or $469 on AliExpress
DUNU DK-3001 Pro (US$469)
DUNU has created magic again with their DK-3001 Pro. 316 stainless steel shells, the modular Lyre cable with multiple terminations and the leather carrying case set it off to a good start. But it’s the audio quality that really sets this IEM apart.
This earphone has a very balanced and linear sound signature but it’s one that is intensely musical, resolving, nuanced and non-fatiguing to boot. It delivers in every way and is one of the best-sounding earphones in this price range bar none.
$469 from AliExpress
Panther Audio Aura DX4 (US$469)
Panther Audio’s DX4 is a gorgeous quad-driver earphone with 1 dynamic driver and 3 Knowles balanced armature drivers. It has an immaculate build and is very comfortable. Without a doubt, the best thing about the Aura DX4 is its sound.
Punchy, resolving, clear and detailed are some of the words I use to describe the DX4. End-to-end extension is excellent but it’s also a very smooth sound that is never harsh or sibilant. The dynamic driver delivers a solid visceral bass that can thump and rumble. Midrange notes are sweet and articulated with above-average resolution and the treble is handled really well too.
$469 from Panther Audio https://www.panther-audio.com/product-page/dx4
Fearless Audio S8F (US$489)
Fearless Audio continues to advance and is showing no signs of slowing down. The Fearless S8F combines excellent build and audio quality into an IEM that provides a great price-to-performance ratio.
It has a balanced, textured bass, clear, accurate mids with a touch of warmth and crisp, detailed but smooth treble. This one is a real winner.
$489 on Amazon and AliExpress
Audiofly AF180 MK2 (US$499)
The AF180 MK2 has 4 balanced armatures per side and a 3-way electronic crossover. When Audiofly says linear they mean it because that’s just what the AF180 MK2 is. Don’t mistake linear for boring though because these sound sumptuous and oh-so-accurate.
Super lightweight, small and comfortable, these can pleasure your ears for hours on end. Also worth mentioning is the solid accessory bundle which includes a high-quality weather-sealed carrying case. I was really impressed with these.
$499 from Audiofly
DUNU Studio SA6 (US$549)
Yes, it’s yet another DUNU IEM on the best list. The reason? Well, they just keep making good products! The DUNU Studio SA6 is impeccably crafted with stabilized wood faceplates and packed with 6 balanced armature drivers per side. But the real kicker about the SA6 is its accuracy, speed and musicality.
Audio engineers, musicians or everyday audiophiles will find the SA6 to be a real contender in its price range in terms of timbre, tonal balance and accuracy. This is yet another winner from the DUNU team and one that you should definitely look into.
$549 from Amazon
$549 from AliExpress
Meze Audio ADVAR (US$699)
The Meze Audio ADVAR is an in-ear monitor (IEM) with a balanced and engaging sound. It has a warm, full-bodied and spacious sound that is rich in dynamics and detail. The bass is exceptional, with impact, naturalness and texture, and it provides a strong foundation for the lush and velvety midrange.
The treble is airy and precise, adding clarity to the midrange and definition across the spectrum. The ADVAR has a moderate-sized soundstage with excellent separation and imaging, and it maintains a black background between instruments and vocals.
The build quality and design of the ADVAR are also noteworthy, with a robust and emotive delivery that perfectly embodies the idea of musical expression. The ADVAR is more than an IEM, it’s an experience.
Review: Meze Audio ADVAR Review – Prime Audio Reviews
Sennheiser IE 800 S (US$999)
It’s hardly surprising to find something from the portable audio giant in our recommended list. The Sennheiser IE800 S is a stunning achievement in earphone technology. Its tiny earpieces are exquisitely crafted and very robust. The cable has an adapter system allowing you to switch easily between the 3 available plugs: 3.5mm SE, 2.5mm TRRS and 4.4mm TRRS.
It’s incredible what Sennheiser has done with this single dynamic driver. It delivers supreme coherency and a natural tonality that puts you right in the middle of the music. The IE 800 S remains one of my high-end reference IEMs and absolutely has to be part of this list for its masterful audio capability and triumph of engineering.
FiR Audio 5×5 (VxV) (US$999)
In a field of interest where everyone is so serious, it’s nice to see something come along that injects a bit of good old fun back into the scene. That’s exactly what FiR Audio did with their 5×5 hybrid in-ear monitor.
But don’t be fooled by the cute bunny and fun shell design because, at heart, this earphone is a technically agile and competitive item. It has a lively, dynamic sound but one that is smooth and versatile enough for every day carry.
If you’re looking for a top-performing earphone but don’t want to pay the outrageous TOTL members fee, the 5×5 has got you covered.
$999 from FiR Audio
Meze Rai Penta (US$1099)
After reading mixed reviews on the web, I wasn’t sure how the Rai Penta would perform. But when I put them in my ears I knew right away they would end up on this list! The Meze Rai Penta feels as good in the hand as it looks but the real pleasure begins when you start listening.
This is such a sumptuous, smooth and inviting IEM that wraps you up in the music and is perfect for long listening sessions. It has a fun, boosted but controlled bass, excellent midrange resolution and clarity, plus a buttery-smooth non-fatiguing airy treble.
Although it is the most expensive earphone on this list, it is actually quite reasonable for a TOTL flagship model compared to what other brands are putting out there. In a lot of cases, the Rai Penta also outperforms its more expensive competition and at the same time is one of the most attractive and comfortable IEMs on the market.
Westone MACH 60 (US$1100)
Based in the USA, Westone Audio has been catering to audio professionals going back many years. The Westone MACH 60 is one of the latest batches of universal IEMs from Westone. They’re designed primarily for music professionals as stage or studio monitors but they are also fantastic for audiophiles who want smooth reference tuning.
You’ll be amazed how this IEM mixes a warm, inviting sound signature with high-level technical performance. In particular, the soundstage, imaging and timbre are on another level compared to other IEMs in this price range.
$1100 on Westone Audio Official