My IEM Ranking List

This post will always be updated with my current IEM ranking based on Sound quality alone. It is important to note that this is based on my preference. As we always say, YMMV (Your Mileage may vary).

Now the Icons.......

While this entire list is volatile and can change whenever I A/B, those marked with the icon next to them are under evaluation and the position in the list is just indicative. These may be new IEMs which I've just bought, IEMs that are either under review or planned to be reviewed and the IEMs that will be used for comparison during the reviews.

is an IEM I just got and did not have time to evaluate properly. The position is more indicative of which tier I think it might belong rather than where it will end up.

  indicates it was loaned to me by a friend. Head-fi or TechEnclave ID of the person would be mentioned next to the note icon. Since I won't have them with me to A/B, these typically stay in their relative position. If the IEM I consider a step above or below them move in the list, these probably will move along with them.

is a review sample sent by a manufacturer or distributor.

While I've bought almost all of the IEMs for my own use, there are free ones too. An IEM marked with  is of course free - either a prize (like Fischer Daleth), unsolicited (like Hippo Epic-Sparkle with Alessandro MS1i), free with another purchase (like Hippo Pearl with Maverick D1), bundled with a Player (like Brainwavz Alpha with Nanite N2) or just a gift.

An IEM with is either sold / gifted away / lost / dead. Just like the loaners, I cannot evaluate or A/B them any more, so they'll move up or down based on their relative position.

Some IEMs perform better with a mod, but their ranking would not change irrespective of the mod being performed. Such mods are mentioned in a different shade of blue within brackets where appropriate. Some IEMs cannot be ranked in the same position without performing the mod. Such mods are mentioned in blue color.

I also use a Tier system to easily identify buckets within which each IEM goes. It goes without saying that IEMs that fall within the same tier are (according to my personal preference) more or less similar in SQ rating.

A note: By beginning of 2012, I have sold most of my IEMs especially those in the lower tier, so ranking them accurately is no longer possible. Tiers should be given more importance than numbers. The IEMs which were placed in tiers based on memory and without any comparison are shown in bold font. For such IEMs, I am guesstimating even the tier based on volatile memory. So much for objectivity within subjectivity :)

Note 2 (13 July, 2012): While I don't write reviews that much anymore, I posted initial impressions for some of the recent IEMs I bought/tried in TechEnclave in the Random IEM/Headphone Rants thread. All the relevant links can be found here.

So the current ranking looks like this.... (Last Updated: 07 December, 2014)

    Tier-I: Favorite
  1. Noble 4C (Diary of my first Custom IEM)

  2. Tier-II: Other Favorites
  3. Custom Art Music Two
  4. Sony MDR-EX1000
  5. JVC Victor HA-FX700 (Initial Impressions on TE)

  6. Tier-IIA: Almost Favorite IEMs
  7. Earsonics SM3 v1 (Initial Impressions
  8. Audio Technica CK10 (Initial Impressions on TE)
  9. Hifiman RE-272  (Review

  10. Tier-IIB: Almost Great IEMs
  11. Fischer Audio DBA-02 MK2  
  12. Fischer Audio DBA-02 (First Impressions on TE)
  13. Head-Direct RE-262 ( mukulymn) (Impressions and Comparisons on TE, Condensed Review on TE)
  14. Radius HW-TWF21 / W n°2 Pro / DDM2 ( ljokerl) (First Impressions on TE)
  15. Ortofon e-Q5  (Initial Impressions on TE)
  16. VSonic GR07   (Review on blog) (Slightly trimmed version on Head-fi)
  17. Shure SE-535LTD-J ( itsvel06) (Review on TE)
  18. Ultimate Ears Triple Fi 10

  19. Tier-III:  Excellent IEMs Level 1
  20. Final Audio Design FI-BA-SB (Heaven S) ( psygeist)
  21. Shure SE-535CL ( turgid) (Review on TE
  22. Phonak PFE 111 v0 (amplified)
  23. Hifiman RE-400
  24. Etymotic HF2
  25. MEElectronics A161P ( psygeist) 
  26. Yamaha EPH-100 ( abhi_jollyguy) (Review on TE)
  27. JVC HA-FXT90
  28. Futuresonics Atrio M5 (MG7)
  29. Radius HW-TWF11K Pro (or) DDM  (First Impressions on TE)
  30. Head-Direct RE-252 (Review on TE)

  31. Tier-IV: Excellent IEMs Level 2
  32. Sony XBA-3   
  33. Panasonic RP-HJE900 (Foam mod) (Review on TE)   
  34. Sunrise XCape v1
  35. Head-Direct RE-ZERO
  36. JVC HA-FXD70  
  37. JVC HA-FXD80 
  38. Sunrise XCited    (Review)
  39. Head-Direct RE0 (amplification)  
  40. Fischer Audio Tandem
  41. Sony XBA-1

  42. Tier-V: Very Good IEMs Level I
  43. Fischer Audio Silver Bullet v2
  44. Xears TD100-II (11 IEM comparison)
  45. VSonic GR06 ( hzant6681) 
  46. ECCI PR-401 (Review on TE)
  47. Hippo VB (Foam mod)
  48. Fischer Audio Eterna V1 (Re-release version)
  49. Steel Series Flux In-Ear 
  50. Xiaomi Piston 2 
  51. Xears Experience XE200Pro
  52. Sony MH1C 
  53. Xears TDIII v2  / Xears TDIII   (11 IEM comparison)
  54. Monster Turbine ( haraakiri) (Quick Review)  
  55. Brookstone Clear Dual Driver
  56. Brainwavz M3 ( Brendon) (11 IEM comparison
  57. MEElectronics CC51
  58. MEElectronics A151 (Review on TE)
  59. Xears TD100-I (11 IEM comparison)  

  60. Tier-VA: Very Good IEMs Level II
  61. Signature Acoustics C-12 Limited Edition  
  62. Brainwavz M4 ( gReen) 
  63. Playaz N1
  64. Head-Direct RE1 ( haraakiri) (Review on TE) (Revisited - an updated review on blog)  
  65. MonoPrice 8320 ( 3.14or22by7)
  66. Brainwavz M2 (11 IEM comparison)  
  67. SoundMagic E30
  68. Soundmagic PL50 ( haraakiri)
  69. Brainwavz M1 (11 IEM comparison)
  70. SoundMagic E10M
  71. Dunu DN-18 Hawkeye ( psygeist) 
  72. Brainwavz Pro Alpha ( haraakiri) (11 IEM comparison)
  73. Etymotic MC5 ( James444)

  74. Tier-VI: Good IEMs
  75. Hippo Shroom EB ( Faheem)
  76. Klipsch S4 ( singh)
  77. Microsonics Epic X ( Brendon)
  78. Hippo Pearl (amplified)
  79. Crossroads Woody Two ( Brendon)

  80. Tier-VII: Nearly Good IEMs
  81. Playaz N3
  82. Xears XT120Pro (Equalized) (11 IEM comparison)
  83. Xears Bullet XB120Pro (11 IEM comparison)
  84. Nuforce NE-7m ( haraakiri)(Quick Review)
  85. SoundMagic ES18
  86. Brainwavz Delta 
  87. Blue Ever Blue 866B "The Red" HDSS (Review on Head-fi)
  88. MEElectronics M6 (Some foam + Equalization - Memory Wire)
  89. Head-Direct RE2 ( iaudio)
  90. Philips SHE3570 ( hzant6681) 

  91. Tier-VIII: Casual Listening IEMs
  92. Tekfusion TwinWoofers 
  93. MEElectronics M31  (Review on TechEnclave) 
  94. Fischer Audio Daleth ( Prize for ljokerl's contest)
  95. SoundMagic PL30 ( iaudio)
  96. SoundMagic PL11
  97. Brainwavz Alpha (11 IEM comparison)
  98. V-Moda Vibe  (Equalized)

  99. Tier-IX: Other IEMs
  100. JVC HA-FX34 "Marshmallows" (Kramer Mod)
  101. Xears TM2Pro (11 IEM comparison)
  102. Hippo Epic-Sparkle (MEElectronics M9 Balanced Tips) (Review on TE)
  103. Creative EP-630

Expected list (Updated 19 December, 2013)

Last re-write and update : 16 April, 2012