The Ultra Cheap IEM Thread

iems

#1

I thought it might be fun to create a thread to share experiences and reviews of the ultra cheap bargain find IEMs out there.

Most of us here will generally be spending a few hundred at a minimum, however I always like to pick up a few pairs of cheap ‘Chi-Fi’ bargains that pop up on some of the other forums as there are some seriously impressive sets available in the under £50 price brackets now and the bang for buck on some of these is just insane.

This is a part of the hobby I really enjoy as it lets you try all sorts of varied models for next to no cost.

So feel free to post any interesting finds you’ve come across!

THREAD RULES ----

1 - Let’s keep posts to non ‘high-street’ big brands, as there’s thousands we could add but they’re not really all that interesting. So keeping to just the smaller boutique manufacturers - ie no Sony’s, JVCs, Beats etc. this should keep the finds more interesting.

2 - I’d suggest we put a price limit of $100 / £70 at the most to keep it in the budget range.

3 - The idea is to keep this more of a fun and interesting thread to highlight the ever changing budget, generally Chinese market that is often hard to discover, but fun to get into.

Post your interesting finds!


Chinese Brands - IEMs Discussion
#2

I’ll start the thread off with a recent impulse buy I got a few days ago from amazon that really surprised me; the KZ ZSA hybrids.

These are hybrid single DD and BA units with a full aluminium chassis and 2 pin cable. I won’t post the manufacturer’s description as it makes next to no sense but the specs are:

✲Driver unit: Armature And Dynamic Hybrid
✲Earphone type: In-ear
✲Impedance: 18Ω
✲Earphone sensitivity: 101dB/mW
✲Frequency Response Range: 7-40000Hz
✲Interface: 3.5mm Gilded
✲Plug Type: L Bending
✲Cable Length: 1.2m±3cm

The case is slightly vented… or appears to be as it leaks next to no sound. They are incredibly comfortable and light weight and the fit and finish on these is stellar, I’d be more than happy if they cost 200+.

So with such a high quality cnc’d metal case I thought they must have REALLY skimped on the drivers to sell these for so incredibly cheap, especially with what looks like a relatively nice cable too.

But I have to say I’m massively impressed with them. Trebble is bright and crisp with no sibilance, and bass goes REALLY guttsy and low. As I mainly listen to various types of electro, the V signature and lashings of bass are exactly my prefered sound signature. Punchy and fun.

There is some drop off in the mids for sure, and the bass can get a little too boomy and uncontrolled on some less well produced tracks, but on well produced aiffs these sound stunning. I’d be more than happy with these at the £100 price point, but at just £25 I’m genuinely blown away by these little gems.

So if anyone is looking for some dirt cheap backup phones, I can really recomend these.


#3

Good to hear.

For me, IEMs are a necessary evil. I don’t like the feeling of stuff in my ears, and they are easily lost or damaged. But they are light and fit under hats in winter. So, I look for good enough quality and a low price.

I recently ordered a set of KZ ZS10s ($43), and plan to write a review and comparison with my other IEMs. The ZS10s have 4 BAs and 1 dynamic driver per side.

My truly “ultra cheap” in-ears are the Panasonic ErgoFit ($8 no mic; $14 with mic at Amazon). They are rated better than 4 stars with 50K+ reviews–strong mass market product. Much like the Koss PortaPro ($35), they aren’t great but are hard to hate.


#4

Great stuff, I’ve heard interesting things about the ZS10’s, I’ve just ordered KZ’s ZS6 as well and should have that in for review in a few weeks.

I have a strange rule of only ever buying metal IEMs now with removable cable - as my logic is I want them to last… despite the fact I always seem to flip them within about 6 months!

Definitely add your review in this thread when you get a chance to have a good run through with them, as it would be great to build up a little a reference thread here for some of the bargain sets out there.


#5

#6

Awesome! This is exactly why I thought it would be good to start this thread, it’s shocking just how good some of the new Chinese manufacturer’s gear can sound and look.

Yinyoo and some of their brands look like they’re creating some great gear (as per your review!) but they’re band for discussion on one of the largest head-f-one :wink: forums for several reasons so it will be great to build a little review directory here.


#7

The KZ ZS10s ($43) just arrived. Here are my initial impressions after 1 hour of listening time.

Setup: I use IEMs in mobile settings only. I always choose regular headphones unless weight and space are primary considerations. Apple device Bluetooth -> FiiO Q5 DAC/Amp -> ZS10.

  • Out of box experience not great, as the inner plastic cover is nearly impossible to remove. KZ – use thumb tabs or cutouts!

  • Factory cable is split half way down (e.g., about 2 feet, by design). I used the twist-tie to link the split portion together closer to my chin.

  • Broken English in the user manual, but has interesting content.

  • As expected, very tip dependent for bass response. The factory default tips (medium silicone) had zero bass and fell out of my ears, so I swapped them for the factory large silicone. Bass improved but they made hot spots. So, I’ve done most of my listening with medium to large closed cell foam tips.

  • The memory wire ear hooks are easy to adjust and effective.

  • Extremely clear and detailed, non sibilant, and not fatiguing so far. These easily outclass my Massdrop Noble Universal IEMs ($250; 2 BA drivers) for range, and compete with my Sennheiser HD-600s ($300) in quality and profile. They are not a threat to full range headphones (Focal Elex, $700).

  • Cold, precise, and analytical, absolutely not warm, thick, or rich. With very large tips this may change; pending further experimentation. The ZS10s emphasize the upper mids, and the bass rolls off pretty fast. They remain cold even with bass boost on the Q5.

  • They require a surprisingly large amount of power (i.e., same volume setting as the gigantic Elex).

Preliminary conclusion: These are great value for the money, and high end vendors (e.g., Noble) should be very scared.

More to come, but probably a few weeks away due to other obligations.


#8

Some amps like the Ember II put less power into low impedance headphones, so the volume dial might seem surprisingly high but it’s not putting out a crazy amount of power.


#9

Nice write up! I’ve heard nothing but good things about these.
I’ve got some ZS6s coming in a few weeks, for the money I thought why not give them a try.


#10

Well I’ve just had the TRN V80s arrive today.

THE SHORT VERSION - These are pure fire, destroying anything I’ve heard before up to the £300 price range. If you’re after crystal clear detail and rich velvety gutsy bass - in short I’m in love with these!

THE LONG VERSION (I’m in love with these things so this may be long as I tend to waffle when I get hyped up!) - I’ve been delving into a range of new IEMs over the last few months, from big name UK and US brands like RHA & Campfire Audio, and some of the amazing quality brands coming from China such as the Oriveti New Primacies.

These arrived yesterday and are already hands down one of the best quality and best sounding IEMs I’ve heard at any price point (that I’ve heard anyway), EASILY destroying the RHA T20s, Campfire Comets and Oriveti New Primacy’s I recently bought and then sold.

I first saw these reviewed on Bad Guy Good Audio Reviews on Youtube, and I’d not heard of TRN before, but he is HARSH on gear if there are any issues with them but was buzzing about these so I thought I’d give them a try. Apparently they are a new company formed by some of the ex engineers from KZ - so you know you’re going to get good value for money.

I’ve bought quite a few IEMs from Yinyoo and they’ve always been great so came back to order from here again.

So let’s get to it:

• BUILD:

These are amazingly well built, super solid metal casings, and are really quite weighty! However, they are also hands down the most comfortable and well fitting IEMs I’ve ever had. I usually really struggle with fit as I have super small ear canals, but these fit perfectly out of the box, and I didn’t even have to delve into my bag of 20+ different types of tips, which is a first for me!. These would be great for gym or running use as they are LOCKED into your ears once in despite their weight.

Wire’s are also really nice, with a perfect curve to the memory wire and nice metal connectors and points on the cable with zero microphonics.

So all good here. The colour isn’t quite what I was expecting, as all the pictures I’ve seen are of an almost mirror like reflective blue colour, however, these are more of a mat metallic blue - still look great though and different to the normal boring black. I’d love to see them come out in a raw or polished silver colour though as they would look great!

• SOUND:

I listen primarily to various types of EDM, Electro Soul, Glitch Hop, Dubstep and Drum & Bass. However I do also listen to the odd bit of jazz, acoustic and poppy stuff. My preference is usually more of a slight V signature, BIG bass, super sharp and crisp treble and vocals. Because of this I usually prefer hybrids to get the best of both worlds.

Bass - These however are next level. With 2 DDs for the bass and sub bass, the low end is incredibly well handled, with a great mix of super deep and gutsy sub bass, and rich textured bass, the full spectrum is here and handled superbly without bleeding into any of the other frequencies.

Treble - Stupendously detailed and clear. I’m not usually a fan of multi BA IEMs as I can find the top end a little too bright and painful, so I wasn’t sure what to expect with these. However these are just insanely detailed and clear. Comparing them to some of my other sets that I thought were clear and detailed, these just blow them away. Stupendous separation and detail, without being too harsh.

Mids - This is where I’m really shocked. As I love a good V shape (I’m more of a ‘fun’ lover than a ‘neutral/analytical’ lover), usually killer bass and great treble will mean a drop in the mids as there has to be a compromise somewhere - but these seem to cover all aspects pretty equally. The mids I’d say might have a very slight bias towards top higher mids, but only marginally. The twin DDs really help to give a solid warmth to mids along with the bass.

CONCLUSION: So yeah, this is probably the most ridiculously long review I’ve ever written - and if you’ve got this far then fair play! All I really have left to say is go buy these bad boys!.

The fact that these blow some of the £200-300 IEMs out of the water in EVERY aspect - from the build, comfort, sound quality and detail in every frequency range is just crazy (at least for my personal preference of sound signature - which I realise varies from person to person). I genuinely don’t understand how they can make something so damn good for such an affordable price. I’d be happy with these if I’d paid 10x the price, so at this price, these are just silly good.

I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on what TRN release next.

For anyone in the UK, highly recommend getting these from Yinyoo Audio on Amazon as they’re one of the few Official dealers, and there are a lot of fake Chinese brand knock offs out there.

Not sure if we’re allowed to post links or not here, but below is where I got them from for £45. (Mods please let me know if we can’t post up links and I’ll get this removed).


#11

If you get the chance, I think you would really like the Campfire Audio Cascades. Based on your review.


#12

I dug out the largest tips I have: some cheap foam New Bees size “Large.” They are truly large and approach the diameter of an earplug. The bass becomes warm and even thick to fuzzy with these. However, the ZS10s remain relatively weak with truly deep sounds (i.e., The Dark Knight “Why So Serious” at 3:30). I’ll compare directly to the HD-600s when I have a chance.


#13

Id love to give these a try, but sadly the only UK dealer I can find is a good 5 hour drive away from me.

I’m more than happy with my Beyer DT 770 Pros for full headphones, but would love to give these a try still.

Really tempted to try the Campfire Dorados as well as they sound like a great hybrid mix, but at £1k I can’t really justify it, especially without being able to demo them.


#14

That’s the problem with living in the UK, the US seem to have an abundance of places to audition nice audio gear. Also they seem to have More meets and shows to go to. I don’t know of many groups that meet in the UK although there must be some.

-Paul-


#15

If you were so inclined I’ve had markedly better performance with foam tips or spinfits. The tips that came with mine were harder rubber and not comfortable at all.


#16

Yes, I have much better performance with the New Bee large foam tips. These were marketed as designed to improve bass response, and they do work.


#17

Here are some additional findings of this (now piecemeal) review.

I listened to the ZS10s for 3 hours straight today, using New Bee large foam tips to maximize the bass. New analogy: These sound like a very good pair of speakers paired with a limited sub-woofer. This follows from having 4 BAs with 1 dynamic driver. One thought is to compare with the KZ AS10 ($69), which has 5 BAs.

  • Truly excellent clarity, imaging, and localization
  • No fatigue or high end harshness
  • Very forward with tenors and female vocals, violins, and snare drums
  • Nice low mid detail until (apparently) the BAs cross over to the dynamic driver – then they have a “one note” rubbery presentation. The bass is fuzzy and bloomy relative to the mids and highs. Also, the BAs are near the sound tube and close to the ear while the dynamic driver is way back in the shell.

Comparisons, with 15 minutes of listening to each and the tone generator here: https://www.audionotch.com/app/tune/

  • Sennheiser HD-600s roll off substantially around 130-150 Hz [Mid focused, smooth, and the most balanced overall; best bass integration]
  • KZ ZS10s also roll off substantially around 130-150 Hz [Much brighter high mids but not radically different from the HD-600; often have one note bass]
  • Massdrop Noble Universals IEMs roll off a lot around 250 Hz [Quite thin and a bit like a tin can, as the 2 BAs only generate mids and highs; zero bass]

With the tone generator none of these made a peep at 20 Hz, all three were very soft at 40 - 60 Hz.


#18

These showed up today. The new KZ BA10. It’s a 5-BA IEM, like their AS10. Should be out in the very near future.

The BA10 is dark. It’s bass-centric, laid back and has no upper end energy at all. That said, it does have decent to good details, thanks to the BA driver I’m assuming. As pictured, and as you imagine, they are awkward to wear. The square body does bother my left ear pretty quickly and starts to bother my right one after a short time.

Will post a full review at some point.

KZ AS10 - A bit more balanced than the BA10, and this one is available now. Recessed mids and elevated bass. Sort of U-shaped. Good details and medium soundstage/imaging.

Tin Audio T2 Pro - available on Massdrop now only.

Great IEM. Best budget IEM there is in my opinion. Great linear bass, highly detailed mids/treble. Lots of air in the newest model. Really enjoying it so far.

TRN V80 - just got these in. havent uploaded photos yet.

These sound a lot like a slightly tamer T2 Pro. I’d take these over the T2 now, but I’d take the T2 Pro over these because T2 Pro has more detail. The V80 sounds good to me, though a bit tame across the board.


#19

Some interesting new additions!

I recently picked up the KZ ZS6 as they were only about £10 in the AliExpress sale. Along with an ‘upgraded’ cable that was horrific and sucked the bass out of every set of iems Ive tried it with. So if you see this popping up and are tempted, I’d avoid it. I presume I got a faulty one but all connections felt solid so not sure what could have gone wrong with it?

At first I wasn’t a fan of the ZS6 at all with the stock cable. But switching over to the v80 cable they have a lot more punch and weight to the bottom end, and hooked up to my little Fiio e10k with bass boost turned on I love them. A very punchy and bassy little bargain and some great detail with foams. (but can be a little overwhelming in the trebble as stock).

For the grand total of £10 though these are ace for edm and electro/bassy tunes.


#20

Copy/Paste from here: http://www.antdroid.net/2018/09/kz-ba10-putting-square-peg-in-round-hole.html

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Knowledge Zenith has yet another new IEM on the market. This time it’s the BA10, which like their last release, the AS10, has 5 balanced armatures per ear piece. The spec sheet shows that 4 of the drivers are the same which control the bass, upper mids, and treble, however the BA that controls the mids, shows a different driver number – though it could be a number error.

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Disclaimer: I received this for the purpose of providing an unbiased review from LinSoul Tech. The review is my own opinion of it and I have not been compensated with any monetary or benefits. If you are interested in purchasing this item, the following links will take you to some of the popular marketplaces:

LinSoul: https://www.linsoul.com/product-page/KZ-BA10-Earphone

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/KZ-BA10-Balanced-Armatures-Earphone/dp/B07H7NNHC3/&keywords=kz+ba10

AliExpress: https://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/KZ-BA10-5BA-Balanced-Armatures-Drivers-HiFi-Stereo-in-Ear-Earphone-IEM-Metal-Earphone-0-75mm/2894006_32923468108.html?spm=2114.12010615.8148356.1.31fb490fiopABg

Presentation, Package, Accessories, Comfort and Fit

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The KZ BA10 comes in the same packaging style as the AS10, with a larger premium box than their lower cost options. The inside of the box features a metal name plate, the two ear pieces, and below the presentation is a set of starline tips, and yet another braided cable.

This newer cable is more of a light copper color as opposed to the dark brown/copper ones in some of the recent KZ releases. The new cable is also less sticky and overall an improvement in functionality.

The biggest difference between this earphone and the other KZ offerings, or really ANY HEADPHONE EVER MADE is the shape and size of this odd beast. First off, it looks like Tony Stark had a little fun one day in his mansion and decided to make himself some custom Ironman Ear Monitors (IEMs). The red and yellow colorway, along with the vents and metal housing and square, sharp body all remind me of the robotic appearance of Ironman.

And that housing, everything about it. It looks awkward and uncomfortable. And no surprise, it’s extremely uncomfortable to wear. I’ve written a few headphone reviews now, and this is the first one that physically hurt me to review, because the fit on these is really awful.

I had quite a time trying to find a good set of tips to use, and I have dozens upon dozens of tips in my possession. I ended up finding the best fit with the included KZ tips, ironically. Other favorites just couldn’t go in deep enough, or cause other issues.

Then you have those square corners. Those slightly rounded, but still sharp, hard metal, corners. And that really thick, deep housing. And the wide body length, and the heavy weight. 6.9 grams (compared to say 4.8 grams of the Tin Audio T2 or the 5.4 grams of the KZ AS10). Those all combine to give me a very painful experience wearing these almost immediately after wearing them. The corners dig into my ear, no matter what orientation I put the earphones in with my left ear almost immediately and my right one within 10 or so minutes of use. This is pretty much a dead IEM to me at this point, but I struggled to continue to use it to give it a proper listening before I wrote this review. And so here I go…

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Sound

The KZ BA10 differs in sound than the AS10 in many ways. Again, I don’t know if the driver spec on the marketing pages of the BA10 and AS10 are a typo or not, but my listening and measurements actually seem to infer that the mid-range BA is actually tuned differently or a different driver all together.

The AS10 was a U-shaped, warm IEM that had elevated bass and treble and slightly recessed mids, which was balanced in sound with a slight tilt towards warmth. The BA10, on the other hand, is a darker sounding IEM where it seems the mids and upper mids are less pronounced and treble sound tamer and less energetic. But, that said, there’s still great detail thanks to the double treble BA drivers, and although they sound darker, there are instances of very sharp, harsh peaks in the sound. You hear it especially in acoustic tracks where plucks of guitars will sound rather sharp.

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The soundstage has got an intimate sound to it and imaging is quite good, both characteristics similar in the AS10 model.

Now, I want to explore the sound a little bit more with the MiniDSP measurements I took. I think that can help explain the differences between the two IEMs in my listening.

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The bass region is elevated as stated before and follows almost exactly the same curve as the AS10. While the bass on the AS10 provided a good warm detailed sound, the additional recessed mids of the BA10 make the bass sound slightly more exaggerated in some songs and does sometimes create some muddiness to songs that are heavy in this area.

The upper mids and treble is actually lifted and this gives the BA10 a lot of good detail, though it can come across very sharp as I previously described. All in all, this sounds and the response looks like a V-shaped headphone, albeit a dark sounding one.

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Conclusions

I found the BA10 an interesting experience. The build quality is exceptional and I feel like if I threw it at someone (I WOULD NOT DO THIS), it would hurt a lot. It’s got a big metal build, but with this, comes weight and pain. The pain is mostly due to the unusual shape, which is square. Putting a square peg in a round hole doesn’t work. Please remember this.

In terms of sound quality, these have very good detail and an intimate sound that some may find good for laid back listening. The darker sound isn’t something I prefer though. That along with the occasional sharp piercing peaks can be frustrating when you’re getting into a song. It’s the downside of having details to your music. But if it did not have that treble, I can see this IEM being extremely dark.

So for me, I can’t really recommend this IEM. It strikes out on comfort – being the most uncomfortable IEM I’ve ever used, and on the sound signature – it’s just not for me.