Do all "In Ear" headphones sound this bad?

I love to listen to my portable setup of an ibasso dx220 and grado sr325es in bed.
Absolutely love the sound of my grados, but they are rather bulky to say the least, especially when lying in bed, and leak sound to my wifes displeasure.

I decided for the first time ever to look into some good quality “In Ear” phones and came across a pair of reasonably priced AKG N40s.
They came with 3 swappable sound filters for extra bass, treble tweaking.

Tried the AKGs with my ibasso and was immediately shocked at how tinny and bad they sounded.
Tried all the different filters supplied and none could make up for the overall awfull thin and tinny sound.

I also tried the AKGs plugged in to my nait xs2s headphone output and still they where painfully awfull to listen to.

The AKGs cost me slightly less than my grado sr325s and the two pairs are worlds apart in a sound quality comparison.

Are all “In Ear” headphones this bad of is it a case of having to pay substantially more compared to their “Over Ear” equivalents for a similar performance?

I find that in-ear phones only sound good when rammed into my ears so as to completely occlude the ear canals. They then produce a reasonable sound - but also compress and pack down the wax in my ears so that my hearing overall is significantly impaired.

There are excellent in ears available. They are even so good that they very often beat the over ear brothers. However with inears you need to also consider proper seal of the sound. If you forget that even the best ones can sound thin.
And of course you get what you pay for, so don’t take the cheapest versions and expect the world of it…


Not needed when you have the proper fitting tips for you. They should sit comfortable for extensive listening. If that’s not given you have to select a pair with better fit.

Completely agree with what Bert says. My Shure IEM’s can sound awful if the seal is not right. Worth experimenting to ensure a good seal and good comfort. The effectiveness of the seal also affects the isolation from external noise.

The AKGs come with 4 different sized ear plugs and were around the same price as my grado sr325s.
They are also on the what hi fi website as best buy, highly recommended and need a high end source to get the best out of them.

![filters|480x351](upload://67b5V s03vbdBZy1b3IxJQms5Gvb.jpeg)filters

Well a quick google turned up a review that reckoned they were demanding of source but the iBasso (not used one myself) should be adequate. I’d have a play around with the ear tips to see if you can improve things.

love my Shure SE425’s they sound great. You have to get a very good seal for IEMs to work at their best, I found the armature variety are considerably better than traditional ones to.

I was originally looking to purchase the shure SE425s, but was informed from another headphone forum that the AKGs where a better option with a higher end source

Try using comply eartips if they come with them basically it’s memory foam, squish them before putting in the ear and they expand when in the ear to make a nice seal. If you use bog standard tips then they never seal right I found.

My Shures sound great whatever the source. The next one’s up even better and have a much fuller bass.

I have also used them in my nait xs2s heaphone output, which has to be easily good enough to drive the AKGs. Maybe it is a fitting issue, I have tried all the included ear plugs?

There are many good options. Shures are mentioned, with a good fit as well. Going from cheaper version to electrostatic option. My recent SE846 is a really excellent model. But also many other options, I have personally now changed to the excellent Sony IER-1zR, they are expensive but worth the price…

My £100 Shanling ME100s came with 10 pairs of eartips designed to enhance Vocal, Bass and Balanced in small, medium and large sizes, plus a set of memory foam.

I was very surprised at how much difference the various tips made to the sound and as has been mentioned the correct fit is vitally important too.

The Shanlings started off really tinny and took about a week to run in though they are still improving. I’m currently using the medium Bass tips but if the bass continues to improve then the Vocal set may well sound better.

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Shanling stuff is such VFM and we’ll made . There little DAPs are really good.

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Think I may try a memory foam set.
While I am wearing the AKG N40s, if I touch the back of the ear phones adding very slight pressure it improves sound quality dramatically.
Think it is an issue with getting the right seal and fit ear buds
Could I purchase a memory foam set for the AKGs?

Possibly you need to Google to find out. I’m surprised they don’t come with them as most come with a variety of ear fittings. To get the best fit you can get customs made and they take a mold or a scan of your ears and they fit perfectly and have maximum isolation. It’s on my list to get done. Doesn’t cost the earth either.

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Like suggested google it. For most of them you have similar sets of tips - so it should be possible to get it for a rather acceptable price. Could also be that with the one size larger size of your current set things are also solved, once the initial stiffness of the material is gone…

There is no reason for in-ears to sound bad. Unless they were badly designed in the first place.

From my experience a custom-moulded versions are the best - but that requires a visit to an audiologist, who will take a cast of one’s inner ear canal.
The manufcturing tkes around 3 weeks.

Personally I use Westone headphones for on-stage monitoring.
Tried them once with my Naim - they actually sounded very, very good.

A respectful alternative to Westone - Ultimate Ears.

From ready-to-wear - Shure SE series are hard to beat.

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I use the Shure 535 with the stock tips and they have worked very well for me straight out of my iPhone or iPad. I had used the Etymotic ER4S before but the Shure are a nice upgrade.

I can’t get a good seal with those memory foam tips on my Shure IEMs. I’ve tried the Comply tips as well as the ones supplied by Shure. The soft silicone rubber ones work a lot better for me.

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