The following Top Reader Voted IEM & Earphone scores are assigned by the readers, (Score) and apply only to all reviews before this calendar year and where a slider voting system exists. This list includes the top 30 universal type monitors only.
Please note the list will change dynamically as readers continue to vote. Higher-scoring IEMs will automatically replace lower-scoring IEMs. They will also continue to change as we progressively work our way through historical reviews and add a voting system.
These lists are not to be confused with our Award Scores which are the top gear as reviewed and scored by our review team in the calendar year. Those scores will form the basis of our Awards at the end of the year. Once the year is completed the Award scores will be deleted and the ‘annual awards race’ will start over again.
The Vision Ears Phönix is a pricey but beautifully designed high-end monitor built for blissful and stress-free listening. Its coherent timbre has an inviting and intoxicating blend of smooth-sounding mids and gorgeously rich vocals backed up by a punchy low-end performance when called upon.
I can still see vocal lovers cling dearly to their Elysium but for those who wanted bombastic lows and a much bigger soundstage whilst still retaining the magic of a dynamic driver timbre for the mids then the EXT should answer that and then some.
The Noble Audio Viking Ragnar is probably the company's most high-fidelity in-ear monitor to date. It is also unique from the competition in its spatial grandeur but no less of a technical performer with impressive levels of precise imaging and detail.
The Lime Ears Anima is a balanced yet joyful tuning with a deep resonating bass performance and almost ethereal highs with plenty of headroom from those e-stat drivers. It competes well with other hybrid electrostatic standard-bearers such as the Odin and the EXT but is unique enough to set it apart as a viable alternative on your shopping list.
The Odin is a technical beast bar none with masterful levels of control from the dual subwoofer configuration right up to that nuanced treble tuning. Nothing is overdone, even those forward upper mids are beautifully tempered by a coherent treble tuning.
The U18s is one of the most balanced offerings I have heard to date from 64 Audio. Nothing feels out of whack with a tuning that is effortlessly smooth, non-fatiguing yet every bit as resolving as the original A18t.
I honestly cannot pick any holes in the Sultan's performance, at least from a personal perspective. It is a vivid and exciting blend of different driver timbres that tease out some excellent power, clarity, and above-average headroom. If you are sitting on the Savant II wondering where to go to next then this is it.
The sound is smoother, more coherent with a better mids presence. The timbre is more natural to my ear and sweeter sounding for vocals and instrumental notes. This is a clever tuning with less of an apparent traditional hybrid driver separation from the lows to the highs.
The InEar ProMission X is lightly colored with some nice quality bass for a BA, a slightly forward midrange, and almost the perfect treble for my tastes. It also looks bloody nice out of the box with that two-one hybrid wood and aggressive contouring design.
Despite the fact this will be filed under earphones/IEMs the LCDi4 is anything but that. Its unique design, presentation, and in-depth DSP pulls it above into some sort of super-tiny headphone category but with a sound quality that is anything but super tiny.
The EVE20 is a faithful and beautiful interpretation of the classic Vision Ears house sound. This time they have gone for a clever mix of low-end body and a more ethereal treble with excellent headroom to combine for a sweet-sounding midrange with just the right balance between instrumental and vocal positioning.
I consider the Effect Audio Gaea a very successful collaboration. One that offers a mature tuning with great synergy between the cable and the IEM. You get an outstanding performance on smaller outputs and decent distortion control also.
The Solaris is Campfire Audio's most mature and refined sounding universal monitor to date. The hybrid tuning is very coherent sounding and definitely a qualitative upgrade on the now discontinued Dorado.
The JH Audio Contour XO has a physical, articulate, and high-energy tuning that, whilst top class for detail retrieval, also never really loses a sense of joie de vivre when it comes to pure listening enjoyment.
As a cleaner more neutral and balanced flagship sound the Katana Wizard Edition is going to be very hard to beat in our universal IEM reviews this year. It ticks plenty of boxes with a sound that's close to neutral with a little boost at the low end, vocals, and treble to give it a very engaging but detailed sound.
The Da Vinci is a tremendously versatile reference type universal monitor and one of the better 10-drivers IEM's I have heard at this price point. The tuning is a clever mix of natural and analytical with a strong emphasis on clarity and air.
The Empire Ears ESR MKII has a flexible sound signature, excellent on the detail with a subtle but attractive lightweight snug-fitting design. In today's market, the ESR MKII might just prove to be Empire Ear's best value to performance offering to date.
This is not an analytical tone but it is a detailed one. There is just enough flair and warmth in the 64 Audio tia Trio™ delivery to make most genres outside of gut-wrenching low-mids guitar work sound engaging and immersive. There is very little that it trips up on and next to no DAP or source that it fails to mesh well with.
Should you upgrade from old to new? Depends on your preferences but do not go looking for a new reference monitor here as with before. The core sound has not changed but the MKII is technically a better performer for me and just the perfect 'fun' monitor for my synthwave collection.
The Westone Audio MACH 80 has superseded the previous generation products with superior visual appeals and stronger technicalities, especially the delicate control in the treble that scales with stronger outputs.
I would have to consider the AAW Canary to be a detailed all-rounder or the "Michael Chang" of audio as I like to think of it. It lends itself well to a wide range of genres with perhaps vocal focus the weakest point in an otherwise excellent performance.
The IE 600 is probably the most credible-sounding monitor I have tested from Sennheiser in a while. Granted, I have not heard the rest of the new releases but compared to their classics the dynamic driver tuning is relevant, modern, and more engaging.
The Astrotec Phoenix 6 is a surprise package for me. I wasn't expecting such a mature, smooth, and agreeable sound signature. This is a tuning clearly aimed at the Western market with a thumping bass performance, smooth and inviting vocal tones, and a coherent but inoffensive treble.
The Tux 5 has huge potential and the tuning is possibly one of the best I have heard from a non-electrostatic hybrid this year. This hits hard and low but with buckets of sparkle and a clean mids to treble timbre. Some heavy interesting contrasts but not a v-shape for me, the vocals do have some good presence.
The Westone Audio MACH 70 is an absolute joy to wear and it is definitely not a boring IEM with strong technicalities and deep, immersive bass. Westone Audio could have named it a bassy version or something but they don’t, somehow justified by the strong performance in the upper register that isn’t covered by the bass lift.