Best IEM under $500

Anshul_J

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As the title suggests I am looking for IEMs for under $500, Eg Sure se535, Westome W40, AKG N40, etc. I can source these from the US, but I have very little idea about how these sound or what to expect out of them, my primary source would be my Lg V40. My concerns/questions
1. What are the best brands available, various options in the US
2. Would these sound good with the LG, I don't intent on buying separate amp for the same
3. What to look for in these IEMs, like frequency, impedance, sensitivity, etc
4. Is there any way of trying any headphone of this price point

I would appreciate if people with experience and knowledge in the area could guide me and give me options.
Thanks in advance.
 

chander

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1 - MANY - from the well established brands like the Shures, Westones, Sonys to the Chi Fi brilliance.
2 - For MOST IEMS under $500 range you should be able to drive them with portable devices, they may or may not benefit from the use of a separate amp.
3 - If you know what you like - BA/Dynamic - that should help with shortening the list, they have very specific signatures. I personally prefer Multi BAs but there are some incredible Dynamics too. Sensitivity yes, but like I said MOST under $500 will be good enough for portable use - so shouldn't matter.
4 - In India I don't know of any. In my own friends group we used to exchange our devices a lot. You can buy and sell but you lose money every time. The other option is buy Used in the US, get a few models for $500 :)
5 - SUBJECTIVELY - I would like you to also include comfort in your shortlist of features, I have sold some very expensive IEMs I had as they were not comfortable - I have small ear canals. Shures and Campfire primarily and anything big. Westones I love because they have a very non-fatiguing sound and extremely comfortable, so I could use them all day, even while sleeping. Also check out Etymotic ER4 series. Very uncomfortable in the beginning to make them sound right, you do eventually get used to them. One of the cleanest sounding things as far as I am concerned.

Check out this list if this helps in any way - https://crinacle.com/rankings/iems/
 

dextrostar

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1 - MANY - from the well established brands like the Shures, Westones, Sonys to the Chi Fi brilliance.
2 - For MOST IEMS under $500 range you should be able to drive them with portable devices, they may or may not benefit from the use of a separate amp.
3 - If you know what you like - BA/Dynamic - that should help with shortening the list, they have very specific signatures. I personally prefer Multi BAs but there are some incredible Dynamics too. Sensitivity yes, but like I said MOST under $500 will be good enough for portable use - so shouldn't matter.
4 - In India I don't know of any. In my own friends group we used to exchange our devices a lot. You can buy and sell but you lose money every time. The other option is buy Used in the US, get a few models for $500 :)
5 - SUBJECTIVELY - I would like you to also include comfort in your shortlist of features, I have sold some very expensive IEMs I had as they were not comfortable - I have small ear canals. Shures and Campfire primarily and anything big. Westones I love because they have a very non-fatiguing sound and extremely comfortable, so I could use them all day, even while sleeping. Also check out Etymotic ER4 series. Very uncomfortable in the beginning to make them sound right, you do eventually get used to them. One of the cleanest sounding things as far as I am concerned.

Check out this list if this helps in any way - https://crinacle.com/rankings/iems/
Hi Chander

I am looking to get a good IEM preferably CA.
I use a basic one now which was about $250.
Having used CA can you advice if there are better options in the range of $1500.
CA Solaris is what interests me.
 

chander

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@dextrostar - hey man for CampFire, I am not the right man. I do not have a lot of experience with them, except a couple. I do not find them very comfortable, so sound becomes secondary really. Campfires are particularly uncomfortable for me, so I will not be able to tell you much about them. Here if this helps -

***also check the crinacle link I posted above if it helps.
 

bloredude

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You may add AK Billie Jean, Etymotic ER4XR to your shortlist. These are very well regarded monitors and well under your budget too.
 

dextrostar

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@dextrostar - hey man for CampFire, I am not the right man. I do not have a lot of experience with them, except a couple. I do not find them very comfortable, so sound becomes secondary really. Campfires are particularly uncomfortable for me, so I will not be able to tell you much about them. Here if this helps -

***also check the crinacle link I posted above if it helps.
Thanks for mentioning about the comfort part...if such a hi end product is not comfortable then it would be a tremendous waste. I have seen all related videos and one compared Audeze lcd i3 with Andromeda and Audeze was more uncomfortable.

You may add AK Billie Jean, Etymotic ER4XR to your shortlist. These are very well regarded monitors and well under your budget too.
I do have the Billie Jean with upgraded balanced cable. So thinking of upgrading from that segment.
 

chander

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You may add AK Billie Jean, Etymotic ER4XR to your shortlist. These are very well regarded monitors and well under your budget too.
+1 for Etymotic ER4XR, I own one and am absolutely happy with the sound quality - in 'many' ways better than the Multi BA IEMs (to my ears) I own which are way more expensive - Obviously nothing is perfect. These are the earphones I will suggest to anyone who just wants to see what hi-end can do. These could even be where your search ends. I was out to buy the Westone W80s (upgrading from W60s), but due to the pandemic bought these to calm the itch to buy something, not too sure about buying the W80s anymore, unless I get a killer deal. I also owned the ER4S at one time, but always found it too Neutral.


Thanks for mentioning about the comfort part...if such a hi end product is not comfortable then it would be a tremendous waste. I have seen all related videos and one compared Audeze lcd i3 with Andromeda and Audeze was more uncomfortable.
Yes Audeze are another thing altogether, and sound was not that great (to my ears) for the pain of dealing with a non-ergonomic design. Campfire is a close second for being uncomfortable. Mind you - I have small ears and ear canals.
 

dextrostar

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+1 for Etymotic ER4XR, I own one and am absolutely happy with the sound quality - in 'many' ways better than the Multi BA IEMs (to my ears) I own which are way more expensive - Obviously nothing is perfect. These are the earphones I will suggest to anyone who just wants to see what hi-end can do. These could even be where your search ends. I was out to buy the Westone W80s (upgrading from W60s), but due to the pandemic bought these to calm the itch to buy something, not too sure about buying the W80s anymore, unless I get a killer deal. I also owned the ER4S at one time, but always found it too Neutral.



Yes Audeze are another thing altogether, and sound was not that great (to my ears) for the pain of dealing with a non-ergonomic design. Campfire is a close second for being uncomfortable. Mind you - I have small ears and ear canals.
Let me look into Westone and Etymotic.
 
D

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Let me look into Westone and Etymotic.
Suggest you also consider ER4SR along with ER4XR that FM Chander suggests. While XR is more euphonic, SR comes closest to hearing the recorded sound. I wanted that with the earphones (though I have different philosophy when it comes to home audio) so avoided the XR’s lure and went for the ‘neutral as neutral gets’ SR.
 

mannukiddo

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I own the CFA Andromeda 2020 and I upgraded from the 2019 version and the newer one is a clear upgrade. However it may not come within your $500 budget. But if you can get, it is a TOTL iem and even after spending a lot more may not give you any better sound.

For a more reasonable budget, try the Etymotics, though they have their issues like the deep fit my not be for everyone. I have the Er2XR and have the Er4XR on its way to me. Tonality wise the Er2XR is as good as it gets but misses out on sheer resolution and technicalities compared to the CFA Andromeda.

But important point to remember is that ensure you have a good source that can take advantage of these iems.
 

dextrostar

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Suggest you also consider ER4SR along with ER4XR that FM Chander suggests. While XR is more euphonic, SR comes closest to hearing the recorded sound. I wanted that with the earphones (though I have different philosophy when it comes to home audio) so avoided the XR’s lure and went for the ‘neutral as neutral gets’ SR.
ER series looks promising but not sure how much of an upgrade it will be from Billie Jean which has a balanced cable.

How do you think I upgraded to the 2020 version
How is the fit? Is it comfortable? One of the FM mentioned that it isn't comfortable for small ears. One of the reviews said that Andromeda is more comfortable than Audeze lcd i3. Would love to hear your opinion on Andromeda.
 

mannukiddo

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ER series looks promising but not sure how much of an upgrade it will be from Billie Jean which has a balanced cable.


How is the fit? Is it comfortable? One of the FM mentioned that it isn't comfortable for small ears. One of the reviews said that Andromeda is more comfortable than Audeze lcd i3. Would love to hear your opinion on Andromeda.

The Etymotic should be a lot better than the Billy Jean, I have no doubt it. Only issue I see is the deep fit which may not be for everyone.

The Andromeda is very comfortable and I can hear it for a long time without any discomfort. But remember it needs a good source, is sensitive to tip rolling and may hiss on many sources. So do you homework, I know many folks who did not like it coz the source was not well matched. if you can get these things right, like I said earlier it is very difficult to upgrade to anything else after the Andromeda.
 

dextrostar

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The Etymotic should be a lot better than the Billy Jean, I have no doubt it. Only issue I see is the deep fit which may not be for everyone.

The Andromeda is very comfortable and I can hear it for a long time without any discomfort. But remember it needs a good source, is sensitive to tip rolling and may hiss on many sources. So do you homework, I know many folks who did not like it coz the source was not well matched. if you can get these things right, like I said earlier it is very difficult to upgrade to anything else after the Andromeda.
Thanks for that. Will keep the Etymotic in mind when I do want to move from the Billie Jean. Having the Hifiman Ananda I decided to upgrade my FS for now.
 
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