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.
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 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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
For those wondering if it will match yours, the Dmagic 3D is coherent sounding, natural to slightly euphonic, and very suitable for a wide range of genres, particularly rock standards, and vocal performances. It is not super sensitive so not a hiss detector and will blend very nicely indeed with plenty of resolving sources.
I have heard three or four of these hybrids to date and by far the Trinity Brass is the most musical sounding of the flagship hybrid 'stats' IEMs. This is the one I think the vast majority will find the smoothest and most forgiving for a very wide range of genres.
The IX is the perfect complement to the clean detailed delivery of the X. This is a tastefully tuned smoother, more full-bodied sound. There is more emphasis on bass weight, a richer and closer sounding vocal delivery, and a relaxed more forgiving top-end.
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.
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.
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 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 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 hesitate to say it when the 64 Audio U6t costs a bit over $1k but this is a great everyday carry and plays very well with just about any vocal-centric genre you throw at it. The fact it can be easily driven by most DAPs makes it all the more appealing. Very little to fault here.
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 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.
If you are into something less fussy, more laid back, and easier to drive from DAPs there are plenty of excellent options that cost less than the Ra. I won't sugarcoat that part of the decision-making process because most people do see an IEM as a pick-and-go kind of headgear. The Ra is not that sort of IEM.
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.
The Major once turned me away with its over-sharp treble and skewness but FAudio Dark Sky has proven to be a much more mature, comprehensively tuned product that is easier to drive on any gears while being able to scale with stronger amplification.
This is my new favorite IEM, there is no doubt about it. It is immensely difficult for me to go back to anything else at the moment, due to the epic airiness factor of the imaging experience of the LCD-i3. If I am able to, I tend to adjust DSP on each album that pops in my playlist, which adds to the musical experience for me as a listener. I am able to customize.
The SB-7 is the most reference and technically the most accurate sounding IEM I have reviewed for 2017. StereoPravda has done some fine-tuning on the SB-7 to keep this 7-driver single axis so transparent, so detailed, and yet so immersive.
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.
I think Lime Ears have a bit of a hit on their hands with the beautifully styled universal flagship Pneuma. This is a monitor with a very nice technical capability, particularly with staging, and fused with some very enjoyable bloom free, PRaT heavy coloration.