The Ultra Cheap IEM Thread



The same reason why TVs are set to eye-burning-brightness-of-the-sun on the display floor at Costco or Best Buy: It looks/sounds better for the first few seconds in a fluorescent lighting (or noisy) environment. Fatigue may not set in for 30 minutes or more. And, many people simply don’t know better – they have been fed horrible dynamically compressed music their entire lives.


But but. People SEE the TVs in the store, Best Buy has a headphone display and you can listen to crunchy bits of horribly compressed pre-recorded pablum (a new musical breakfast food idea there - add milk and it plays ABBA) but there are not IEMs in the display. Probably for sanitary reasons, even though the touchscreens probably test positive for feces.

I have honestly never had the opportunity to listen to an IEM before buying it. Always did it based on impulse/need or a review.


Maybe the Japanese audience fancies a certain sound. In the 1980s, Japanese Hifi had a reputation for being relaxed sounding and tailored for small apartments. Well, that doesn’t mean these Alpex HSE-2000 are designed for small ears…

Or I got a fake :slight_smile:

A better analogy would be “consumer” or “fun” tuning (=V-shaped), as Sennheiser et al. do: they cater to the broad mass and not hobbyists like us. What may be bland to us is probably appealing to most others: it is like sugar, salt, and fat added…comfort food for the ears.

Back to the Alpex: I have given up on them. Yes, the original bass was overdone and boomy – and air venting fixed this. But I could not tame the 3 kHz peak that adds too much harshness to the sound. Rhythm guitars turn into chainsaws and the midrange becomes a bottleneck where musicians step on each others feet.

But on the good side: air-venting my boomy and veiled Sennheiser (Momentum in-ear; CX 5.00) reduced the overwhelming bass (but did not increase its speed, sadly) so that the vocals are not recessed anymore. This also adds detail and resolution.

I am currently summarizing this universal, fast, and reversible mod for my forthcoming blog (original post here).


Basically this same thing can be done by flipping the tip inside out and taking a needle and heating it then puncturing just the inner layer of the tip. This gives the air an escape. That way no tape to shift which can lead to variability. Also, needle size can be used to control amount of venting.


Yes, this works, too…but it is not reversible. You need a lot of tips of the same kind to be comfortable doing this.

Also, this can be done with string…pull through, cut off…but then you need tons of thin string of slightly different thickness


Here a word on the Focal Spark…I am presently annotating FR graphs for my forthcoming blog.


I usually buy a lot of tips so I guess I don’t worry about that part quite as much.


Sure, but my Senns only come with a single set of high-quality tips…I have tons of starlings and will experiment…

BUT…a good idea – and implemented in my forthcoming blog…


Snowpacolypse 2019 in Seattle has allowed me plenty of listening time on headphones the past week. Here’s my review of the Tin Audio T3.



Tin Audio has been one of the rising stars in Chinese earphones the past 2 years with the release of their Tin Audio T2 and T2 Pro in-ear monitor headphones. The T2 and T2 Pro were previously reviewed by me and received high marks due to their clean, neutral sound signature, and budget price.

Tin Hifi is back at it again with their T3 model and this one replaces one of the dynamic drivers with a single BA and is a hybrid model instead of the dual dynamics of the previous generations. In this new scheme, the dynamic controls the bass region, while the BA handles the upper mids and treble.

The T3 is available now at Massdrop exclusively but will be available on Amazon via LSR-Direct, Ali Express and other stores, including who provided me this exclusive preview sample unit prior to market.

Accessories & Build


The T3 comes in a similar but larger blue faux-leather box with a window cutout to show off the hardware. Inside, you’ll find the T3 with a slightly different housing and a very premium yellow/silver cable that has quality mmcx and 3.5mm connectors. This cable has heat shrunk bends to it so the T3 is meant to be worn over-ears. In addition, three types of tips are included in various sizes in this set. The default tip is a silver memory foam one, which is a bit large for my liking.

I never found the T2 and T2 Pro that comfortable to as an over-ear style earphone, but with the T3 barrel being slightly longer, it does help a little bit with fit. While the new cable is gorgeous to look at, and feels great, the hooked cable along with mmcx connectors, which allow the cable to move around freely, makes it hard to get a good fit wearing up. I switched it out with a cable I have that does not have memory wire and it can now freely move to wear it needs to go quickly without re-adjustments. For this review, I mainly used Comply foam tips.


This review of the Tin T3 was heavily auditioned on the Pioneer XDP-300R Digital Audio Player using a 2.5mm balanced cable from Yinyoo. In addition to this primary setup, I also tried it with the Hidizs AP80, and Monolith THX-AAA Balanced DAC/Amp and iPad Mini.

For music, I listened to some random playlists and various artists including: Norah Jones, Fleetwood Mac, U137, Cigarettes after Sex, Kenny Chesney, Coldplay, Massive Attack, Cocteau Twins, Alvvays, and others.


Generally, I find the T3 similar to the T2 and T2 Pro where they are all diffuse-field neutrally-tuned but with upper end energy that makes them a little bright. Some people may hate this and find it harsh and sibilant, while others, like me, are perfectly fine with this type of tuning. Let’s try to go over it with some comparisons thrown in-between.


The bass region, measured, remains very similar. And that’s kind of true. The T3 has very clean, linear-ish low end, but it does feel weightier and more extended than the T2 and T2 Pro. In Massive Attack’s “Unfinished Symphony,” the opening few seconds has a much more rumble and punch to it then it ever sounded and felt like on the previous models. Perhaps its due to some slight tuning differences, though the vent holes are pretty much the same size and location as before, but I don’t know if the driver has changed within.

Another explanation is that the mids and treble have been more balanced than before, which would help bring the bass higher up in the mix. The mids are more coherent this time around and thanks to the new BA driver, the details are quite good with improved soundstage that’s similar to the T2 Pro. Male vocals like Kenny Chesney in his popular song, “You and Tequila”, sounds excellent. Likewise, I found Chris Martin’s voice in various Coldplay songs to sound accurate and pleasing.

Certain female vocals, though, can sound slightly off. Alvvays’ Molly Rankin sounds just a little too high and strained, for example, in their song “Dream Tonight.” The T3 treble can be a little hot. The lower treble has been toned down with the new driver and there is no longer as large of a peak in this region, but there is still some elevated peak starting at around 8-10KHz that can cause some sibilance and some harsh graininess in some tracks. In my measurements, a lot of the upper treble is basically missing or rolled off as well. This was an area where the T2 Pro improved upon, adding more extension in the treble, but it also created much higher peaks in the rest of the region causing some to find it very high pitched and unnatural.

The T3 luckily lowers most of the frequency response closer to neutral in general, and with a weightier bass, really balances out better than the T2 and T2 Pro. The treble peak around 8-10KHz can be a deal breaker for some, but I found that EQing this area down just 3-4dB and increasing the 1-2KHz area up 1-2dB can really improve the overall tonality and timbre. It removed sibilance from songs from Norah Jones and other female vocals with emphasized “S” and made some unnatural sounding high pitched instruments sound more normal again.

Wrap-Up & Conclusions

The Tin T3 is an actual improvement over the previous T2 and T2 Pro and is probably the most balanced of the three. I still recommend it only if you like a brighter sound signature or are willing to EQ it but I find this IEM to have good detail, soundstage, and energy at the price point and with the improved bass, I think many will enjoy it over the T2 and T2 Pro. If you already own one of the other two, the decision is probably a little harder. I’d recommend it over the T2 Pro if you found the Pro too bright. If you have the T2 already, it’s a toss-up. The T3 has some improved details, bass and soundstage over the T2.

In short, it fixes a lot of the user complaints about the previous two models but does open up a new one with the large treble peak that shifted over the previous models to an area that may cause some sibilance. EQ can manage this and make it a very well balanced IEM for the $69 offering price.


Is this a beard-grooming kit for hipsters?


It would be more useful if it was… luckily it wasn’t expensive…


Thanks! The fuzz over at Hype-Fi was once again not warranted.


It’s not a bad purchase for someone new to it. If you already have a T2/Pro, it may not be worth upgrading to when you can get a better all-around performer for the same price as both of them combined.


Great review as always @antdroid. Really enjoyed it.


What would you recommend at that price?


My current flavor of the month is the Moondrop Kanas Pro. I bought it a couple weeks ago and really love it. It’s got a Harman IEM target response with a little more upper treble boost. It’s somewhat of a hybrid between harman and DF target curves. I bought it for $179, but it was on Massdrop for $149 recently. You can easily find deals for it for somewhere between those price points. The regular Moondrop has more boosted bass and slightly more v-shaped.


Thanks! Sadly I’ve found that I’m not a fan of the Harman target in IEMs - too bright and not warm enough for me. I recently bought a pair of Samsung AKG EO-IG955’s that are tuned very closely to Harman and they’re not my thing.


These do not sound like those. Those sound like garbage to me. :slight_smile:


Me too. There’s a lot of counterfeits out there. I’m pretty sure that I got a genuine pair, but can’t be 100% certain.

What compensation are you using in that graph?


Diffuse Field, or close to it. These were measured using Dayton IMM-6.