IEMs for Serious Music Listening

Due to unavoidable circumstances, my loudspeaker based system is getting less use. I recently acquired some mid-range IEMs to experiment and surprisingly the result isn’t too shabby. I was wondering if there’s anyone here who owns costly IEMs and derives enjoyment from them.

FWIW I’m not into full-sized headphone and prefer IEMs over them.

A few years ago I bought some Shure SE846 IEMs, which were their top of the line model at the time. I was really impressed by them, and especially their ability to do low frequencies well.
I found that getting a good seal was absolutely critical to performance, and the flexible silicone rubber tips they provide are the only ones that work for me. So I would recommend taking time to get this right if you want good performance from any IEM.


Thanks for this. I will investigate the Shure when the time comes. I bought some Simgot EA500LM about two months ago and was impressed by their price to performance ratio and got the EA1000 last week. I will try the Elysian Pilgrim after this but will need to stop somewhere.

I have had a couple of pairs of the Shure 535’s. I have a pair to wear and a spare to press into service when needed. They are discontinued but available on .Amazon and worth a try.

Great factory service, too

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I struggled to get a comfortable fit with every IEM I tried and ended up with custom moulds and Jerry Harvey JH 13v2Pro. Excellent performance and the comfort problem solved. Thread below gives more information. There are a few brands and models from about £1k-£3k, some aimed at performers but others more for the audiophile.

Custom IEM experience.


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Fiio make a large range of IEMs.

I had two pairs of their lower end models to use with iPhones which were very good.

They come with plenty of ear tips, so you should find a comfortable fit.

A lot of them have filters on them, so you can adjust the frequencies on them, for example: more / less bass, more / less treble.

Worth looking at.


I ruled out headphones as I dislike having something resting on top of my head and cups gripping at the sides in prolonged listening sessions. IEMs are the only way for me and the current ones I have are rather comfortable. Comfort is top priority when it comes to headphones and IEMs, and the latter is coping a lot better for me.

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I have a pair of Beyerdynamic Xelento remote IEMs (not the more recent 2nd gen ones) that I normally use with iPhone/Dragonfly Cobalt which I find is a very good combination. The Xelentos are very light and, with the right tips, comfortable for longish periods, with what I think is very good sound quality.

Agree with DG above that some of the Fiio offerings are worth a look too. I have a pair of the FH7S which are OK but they are quite bulky compared with the Xelentos and more difficult to position comfortably, although the sound is not at all bad.


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I bought few iem from Earsonics, Campfire Audio, Sennheiser, Audeze… but I really fell in love with my Earsonics Stark! I think I could live with those ones!

I will leave Europe for China in 2 months, and I’m considering moving with my Starks and a good DAP and let my Naim or Audeze stuff in France !

I recently explored the world of IEM monitors to go with an Astell and Kern portable file player.

I have two sets of Earphones, the Sennheiser IE400 and Shure Aonic 5. Earphones are very dependent on the tips. When I travel the IE400 gets used as the large silicon tips were good enough.

The Aonic 5 is a different beast. It sounds much better than the IE400, when used with foam tips, which are a bit of a pain to use. You need to compress them before putting them in your ears, and let them expand to fill your ear channel. The also do not last very long, a few months with heavy use. Shure supply a set of Comply tips, which are the best choice for me. The Aonic allows has three different tubes that allow you to change the sound signature.

There are obviously higher end models from Sennheiser and Shure, as well as an infinite choice of Chinese models.

InEarMonitors are, like any speaker purchase, a deeply personal choice that will factor a range of preferences over a list of preferences the next person may favour.

I have learned comfort is key with regards to headwear/headfi…

It is hard to coax me out of some Ultrasone Edition 5 (over ears, “very comfortable”)…
but when I do, some bluetooth sennheiser ‘buds’ often get the duty… (IE80BT) mostly due to being bluetooth/apt x and used for phone calls…

for music listening, the best bargain I have found in recent years are some Astell and Kern ZERO1 IEMs.

If a pundit looks into the Zero1’s they will quickly learn that AandK had a few cooalaborations in the IEM market with a couple of companies famous for ‘multidriver’ In Ears.

They even write it into the blurb on the side of the products box’ - they basically liften the Research and Development from some of the best on the planet, and then derived their own ‘perfect’ InEarMonitor.

The Zero1 have a Planar tweeter, two balanced armatures for the midrange frequencies, and a dynamic driver for low down ‘bounce’…

The replacement Zero2 double the price point and also the tricky amplifier loading’ I’d say the Zero1 are the perfect IEM whose only caveat is - like being played ‘soft’.
At low volume, the lack of distortion and their cohesive sound (again; stole the R and D from some of the best!) make them a great ‘reference’ sound.

Their failing is in the distortion that kicks in with a moderate volume level…
if a user doesn’t seek out an in ear for super loud listening, these should be a short list contender.

I auditioned against some ‘massive multi driver’ designs and found their timing (of frequencies) to be an issue, and a mess to listen to.

The Zero1, for their relatively low price point (vs competing products), are what I consider a true bargain, and as an avid headfi pundit myself; amazed at how these slipped under the radar…

they deserve amplification much higher in price point than they will typically be paired with, and scale up beautifully with better equipment.

I’d say they sold for half their true value (or less), and now, on sale, are a real steal for getting ‘a lot of bang/to buck’ as a ratio.

Their included mmcx cable is decent as well, equivalent to the couple of hundred price point silver hybrids by ALO…
black Zero1 come with 4.4mm balanced cable,
silver Zero1 come with a 3.5mm cable…

Sure the price point IS higher than a lot of budget stuff,… but these seriously flogged flagship parts from a few of the high end and ‘better’ IEM makers.

(seriously Astell and Kern liften years of research and design from several of the best IEM makers and launched with these IEMs at ‘too cheap a pricepoint’)
Bargains (in a first world hobby perspective)

Be careful. There are a lot of fake 535s out there on the flea markets.

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I was a long term user of Shure 535s which I carelessly lost in an airport a couple of years ago. Selfridges carry a good range and I tried several alternatives but I stuck with Shure preferring the Aonic 4 over the 5 and AQ dragonfly Red over the cobalt. Very happy with this combo.

Another very satisfied Shure SE846 user here. As Chris mentions, they come supplied with plenty of tip options to allow you to find the best fit/comfort. I’ve also got the KSE1200 Electrostatics which (added complication of the energiser pack,aside) are rather special.

Plenty of choice out there, but I’ve found the Shure IEMs to be robust and well engineered, with excellent SQ.