It is no secret that being an audiophile can be an expensive hobby. You’ll always see the most high-end items available costing well above the thousand-dollar range, which of course, not everyone that wants to be an audiophile can afford. The IEM market is very much like this, however, there seems to be a shift happening where the most talked-about releases seem to be these impressive budget-fi and mid-fi selections that give you that valuable audiophile experience without having to spend an arm and a leg. Many of these IEMs come from the Chi-Fi camp, where you’ll find the most generously priced products. Here are just a few of the best IEMs I would recommend for less than $200.
Kinera has been one of my personal go-to brands for quite some time. Their IEMs seem to always set a nice standard for whatever price range they occupy, constantly delivering an immersive and textured sound signature. Their IDUN model offers exactly that for the price of $139. There isn’t an IEM more quick and clean for the price, with tight bass that is clear and precise, a full-bodied midrange, and transparent highs. It welcomes a perfectly ergonomic fit as well, fitting naturally within your concha. You also get Kinera’s killer artistry for its design, with an even more awesome faceplate artwork for their recent Golden Edition.
Final Audio’s E and A series IEMs are a staple of budget-fi listening. When I first listened to the A4000, I just knew that it was going to be one of my favorites from the brand. While somewhat of a more linear presentation, the A4000 is still impressively wide. Everything about its stereo imaging is traditional but nothing gets muddled in the process, as Final Audio always keeps its spatial properties intact with each new release. Its bass punches hard, while its mids and highs retain a crisp response that always appears natural and never overbearing. It also has a smooth design that is both light and easy to wear. YOu can get the A4000 for $159.
One of the most recent options that I have come across, the Power Planar really impressed me when I reviewed it a few months ago. Being a relatively new brand, I had no expectations for what Muse HiFi can deliver, so I was pleasantly surprised when I listened to the Power Planar. This is also the only Planar IEM on this list, which has been getting less expensive with each new release. For $199, the Power Planar has an open soundstage with larger-sized sound elements for a more gripping image. Its bass has a significant amount of slam, a midrange with detail, and a well-defined treble response. While its main design is quite striking, its size can be somewhat of a drawback for those with smaller ears.
Not a lot of IEM brands have as wide of a selection as TinHiFi. They offer a variety of IEMs in various price ranges, with their T5 model being one of their best budget options at $129. This IEM also has a punchy bass, but the soundstage is its most impressive aspect. It creates a more spacious showcase for various frequency ranges, especially those that occupy the midrange. The treble is a little bright on this one, but I never thought it was too harsh in any way. If you’re sensitive to that type of tonality then the highs are definitely something to look out for here.
You can’t beat a classic, and the Shure SE215 is just that. Shure is one of the most notable brands for IEMs, as they’re used for both audiophile and professional use. The SE215 only costs $125, and it has a reference sound signature that doesn’t hold anything back. It has a rather thick tonality, delivering a hard-hitting bass with a sense of solidity and weight. This echos well into the midrange, where the frequencies are meaty and rich, elevating instruments and vocals with a clear shape. With the addition of well-rounded high frequencies, the SE215 is a winning pair of IEMs that are sure to be with you for a while.
Another recent release that has been highly regarded is the Olina from Tripowin. Tripowin has a great selection of budget IEMs, and the Olina is one of their best at $99. When I reviewed the Olina a few months ago I thought the Olina had a great sound signature that blended well with a plethora of different genres. Like many budget IEMs, the Olina really showcases its bass with a powerful resonance. It is thick but well-controlled, offering a sense of scale while keeping the frequency content separate from the midrange. With a bit of added detail in the highs, the Olina becomes a major contender for one of the best budget IEMs you can buy.
This is the cheapest option on this list, but nothing about it feels cheap in any way. Being a Kinera adjacent brand, Queen Of Audio boasts a striking design as well as a clear sound signature. Priced at $69, the Vesper really feels like an IEM that is a true steal, giving you a full body of tones and textures. Enough space is presented to make sense of the Vesper’s wide range of details, with a soundstage that has just enough depth to properly stand out. Its treble is tight and tuned well so that the response never comes off as hollow. The Vesper is one of the best options for IEMs for less than $200, and even less than $100.
You can find more great IEMs at Audio46.