Best IEMs Under $500 in 2022

Best IEMs Under $500 in 2022

Best IEMs Under $500 in 2022

It’s that time of year. Today, we’re giving the 2022 rundown on the best in-ear monitors under $500. Maybe you’re looking for a thoughtful gift, or maybe you’re a pleb like me just looking to invest a little something extra into their listening setup. One way or another, let’s jump in and see what 2022 had to offer us in the way of semi-affordable IEMs.

RaptGo, Hook-X, IEM, in-ear monitor

RaptGo Hook-X ($239)

Simply put, the RaptGo Hook-X is a lovable oddball, and is arguably the most uniquely designed IEM of the year. RaptGo’s Hook-X uses three different types of drivers: one planar magnet, one piezoelectric, and one bone conductor. As if these specs didn’t raise eyebrows high enough, this IEM also features an open-back design. The planar drivers deliver crisp and realistic highs, while the piezoelectric and bone conduction drivers push powerful and clean bass straight to your inner ear – literally. Quick note on bone conduction drivers: frequencies bypass the ear drum and are sent to your auditory nerve by vibrating small bones in your inner ear. This results in a subtle but noticeable physical sensation deep in the ear – curious listeners will be entertained, bass heads with fall in love.

Beyond its clean and entertaining sound, the unique technical build makes this a bit of a collector’s item as well, perhaps even a conversation piece (well, for the right crowd).

Did I mention it received a MajorHiFi Gold Award?

The RaptGo Hook-X is available here from Audio46.

Impedance: 15 ohms

Driver Types: (1) 14.2mm Planar, (1) Piezoelectric, (1) Bone Conductor

Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 40 kHz

Sensitivity: 105 dB

Jomo Audio S100 Cappucinno, IEM, in-ear monitor

Jomo Audio S100 Cappuccino ($299)

Haven’t heard of Jomo Audio before? That’s okay, I didn’t either until I had the chance to try their S100 Cappuccino, which was a pretty great introduction to the company. Beyond being one of the prettiest IEMs on the list, the S100 Cappuccino can be characterized by its darker sound signature, which is established by a dominant-yet-clear bass response and warm lower mids. While the treble roll off may be a little steep after 9-10kHz, highs are left naturally in tact and still contribute to the realism of the balance.

The S100 Cappuccino’s most premium feature, however, is its imaging and sound stage. It’s rare to get three dimensional qualities out of IEMs that cost thousands of dollars let alone a few hundred. The Cappuccino, however, offers exactly that. With a stage described as “forward facing” in its MajorHifi review, these IEM’s have a spatial presentation that I would personally describe as semi-spherical, surrounding the front part of a listeners head and sending tracks flying towards the ears at varying and engaging angles. If you’re looking for an IEM with a warm and driving balance, and some seriously spatial qualities, the Jomo Audio’s S100 Cappuccino is a more-than-worthy contender.

The Jomo Audio S100 Cappuccino is available here from Audio46.

Impedance: 15ohms

Driver type: 10mm Dynamic

Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz

Moondrop, Blessing2, Blessing 2, IEM, in-ear monitor

Moondrop Blessing2 ($319)

There are quite a number of IEM enthusiasts who live by the Moondrop name. The Blessing2’s sound can be characterized by its emphasized, well-controlled subs and twangy highs and high mids. There is a bit of a scoop that occurs in the center mids, though it’s not particularly dramatic and will please listeners who are appreciative of a well done “V” shaped frequency response. It’s imaging is substantially wide provides a surprising level of depth – which is probably what impressed me the most with this IEM. 5 drivers are contained within it’s 3D-printed housing: 1 dynamic and 4 balanced armatures. Its transparent shell, which leaves the drivers and acoustic tubing easily visible, is likely to be appreciated on a technical level by the nerdier ones among us. For those who have the more affordable Moondrop Kato, the Blessing2 will sound like a familiar upgrade with a fuller mids profile and even more spacious and energetic imaging.

The Moondrop Blessing2 is available here from Audio46.

Impedance: 22 ohms

Driver Types: (1) Dynamic, (4) Balanced Armatures

Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz

Sensitivity: 117 dB

Queen of Audio, New Mojito

Queen of Audio New Mojito ($429)

Coming in a little closer to our price cap is the Queen of Audio New Mojito. A balanced sound with a punchy mid bass and moderate treble emphasis characterizes the New Mojito’s general timbre. It’s sound stage has been described has “oval-shaped,” conveying a trace amount of depth and some serious width. 6 balanced armature drivers fit into its unique wooden shell. Being the most balanced sounding IEM on this list, it’s likely to thrill audiophiles with its high fidelity, vast treble, and entertaining imaging.

The Queen of Audio New Mojito is available here from Audio46.

Impedance: 23 ohms

Driver Type: (6) Balanced Armature

Frequency Response: 5Hz – 50kHz

Sensitivity: 118 dB

iKKO, Asgard OH5, IEM, in-ear monitor

iKKO Asgard OH5 ($489)

I’ve saved my personal favorite for last. iKKO released the Asgard OH5 towards the end of this year, making it a pretty fresh release at the time of writing. This IEM is a first of its kind for using lithium in its driver diaphragm. The Asgard OH5 in-ear monitor is characterized by its through-and-through full balance and dense low end. While a lot of IEMs that boost their bass end up scooping out their mids, the Asgard OH5 goes into its mids at full force. It also maintains a natural and easily audible high end that makes even the riskiest, shrillest frequencies sound smooth and musical.

Its imaging is as impressive and unique as its balance. While it doesn’t offer the external three dimensional experience quite like Jomo Audio’s S100 Cappuccino, it instead produces a very wide, internal 3D quality. Snare drums and vocals feel as if they come from behind your forehead, while stereo-panned drums feel like the drummer is using the back of your skull as a rack mount.

If you’re ready to fly close to the sun and spend just short of $500 on an IEM, you’ll be hard pressed to find one that is as primo as iKKO’s Asgard OH5. There’s a reason why we gave it the MajorHifi Gold Award.

The iKKO Asgard OH5 is available for purchase here from Audio46.

Impedance: 32 ohms

Driver type: Lithium-Magnesium Dynamic

Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 40 kHz

Sensitivity: 112 dB

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