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Headfonics 2020

Top Reader Voted Earphones

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.

Top 30 universal IEMs as voted on by our readers

Vision Ears Phönix
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.
9.2
Reader's Score
Aroma Audio Jewel Review
There is no doubt that the Aroma Audio Jewel is a gem. Not just because of how it looks but in relation to its ability to produce a highly resolving and coherent listening experience with precision.
9.1
Reader's Score
Empire Ears Odin
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.
9.1
Reader's Score
Noble Audio Viking Ragnar Review
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.
9.1
Reader's Score
Nostalgia Audio Camelot Review
The Nostalgia Audio Camelot is the company's best iteration of flagship-level audio quality, delivering a smooth mid-range, well-textured mid-bass, extended treble, and an expansive soundstage. But do note, this is not a basshead in-ear monitor. Other competitors will yield more quantity if that is what you are after.
9
Reader's Score
Lime Ears Anima
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.
9
Reader's Score
€3400
Vision Ears EXT
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. 
9
Reader's Score
Noble Audio Sultan
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.
8.9
Reader's Score
64 Audio U18s
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. 
8.9
Reader's Score
JH Audio Contour XO
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.
8.9
Reader's Score
Astrotec Phoenix 6
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.
8.9
Reader's Score
Oriolus Szalayi Review
Make no mistake, the Oriolus Szalayi is an impressive IEM. For bass heads, this is pure delight as it is capable of delivering a thunderous bass response with a clean and crisp mid-range.
8.9
Reader's Score
Empire Ears Legend EVO
The Empire Ears Legend EVO is a bass monster, but a monster with refined taste and also one that brings some sort of A-game to the mids and treble table in terms of resolution and timbral balance. 
8.9
Reader's Score
Campfire Audio Solaris SE
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.
8.9
Reader's Score
Noble Audio Katana Wizard Edition
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.
8.8
Reader's Score
Audeze LCDi4
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.
8.8
Reader's Score
$2495
Clear Tune Monitors Da Vinci X
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.
8.8
Reader's Score
Empire Ears Valkyrie MKII
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.
8.8
Reader's Score
Sennheiser IE 600 Review
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. 
8.8
Reader's Score
Vision Ears EVE20
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.
8.8
Reader's Score
64 Audio tia Trio
This is not an analytical tone but it is a detailed one. There is just enough flair and warmth in the 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.
8.8
Reader's Score
Unique Melody Mentor V3+
The Mentor V3+ is an excellent V-shaped sounding monitor. Though not reference class it is well above the regular V-shaped stuff out there with impressive midrange imaging and a nice vocal presence to go along with that punchy low-end and finely balanced treble.
8.8
Reader's Score
Campfire Audio Solaris
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.
8.8
Reader's Score
64 Audio Nio
The 64 Audio Nio a very enjoyable listening experience with some excellent technical capability and a high degree of flexibility when it comes to synergy with the inclusion of the apex modules. 
8.8
Reader's Score
InEar ProMission X
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.
8.8
Reader's Score
€2089
Empire Ears ESR MKII
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.
8.8
Reader's Score
Noble Audio Khan
For those who want something more neutral to natural with a nice sub-bass weighting, good vocal presence and a very coherent and articulate treble performance then the Khan does a fantastic job.
8.8
Reader's Score
Empire Ears Bravado MKII
The Bravado MKII is like an initial welcome to the Empire Ears 'power game' and is probably one of the hardest hitting monitors sub-$1k I have heard lately.
8.7
Reader's Score
Meze Audio Advar Review
The Meze Audio Advar is a powerful, and potent single dynamic driver IEM. This is a full-bodied, unapologetically fun IEM that caters to both sides of the audiophile aisle; the fun-chasers and the clarity-seekers.
8.7
Reader's Score
AAW Canary
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.
8.7
Reader's Score
SG$2,999

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