To continue the trend Andreas started with his Accessories post, here’s a quick reminder of some of the best in-ear phones we reviewed.
Let’s start with one of our Editor’s Choice phones, the Phonak Audéo PFE 112. They are the right choice for clarity, precision, and speed. They are very dynamic and revealing, with a neutral bass response – basically, they work with any music you throw at them, no matter how complex. For mixing, mastering, and critical listening they are one of the best choices available. In the meantime, Phonak released a version with bass heavier filters as well, called the PFE 012. A new dual-armature model will be coming soon, called the PFE 232. Read the Phonak Audéo PFE 112 review.
Our other Editor’s Choice IEMs are the Hippo VB. Compared to the Phonaks they are a very different animal. The VB provide quite the earth-shattering bass experience, both quality- and quantity-wise. They are extremely fun to listen to, exciting phones that work well with rock, metal, and any kind of electronic music. Their huge bass doesn’t overshadow the rest of the frequency spectrum, they are clearer and more detailed than comparable bassy phones in the sub-$100 price range. The bass response of the VBs can even be tuned to one’s liking with the included three different bass filter plates. Read the Hippo VB review or the huge forum thread about them.
The Panasonic RP-HJE900 are a bit of an underdog that got their deserved recognition as well performing IEMs a little too late. Nobody is quite sure if they’re already discontinued for good, but they can still be bought in several stores. Their MSRP was around $230, but they can be had for as little as $80 nowadays, if one looks around a bit. They are the fanciest looking IEMs of the bunch, made from high quality materials (Zirconium Dioxide), and have user replaceable cables. They’re also quite exciting sounding phones, with a bit less bass and more treble than the Hippo VB. Their dynamics response is outstanding, and their stereo imaging is excellent as well. Read the Panasonic RP-HJE900 review in the forums.
Last, and definitely not least: my personal favorites, the EarSonics SM3. Of all the 50+ IEMs I’ve tested so far, those are simply the best to my ears. They are not cheap (even if they look and feel cheap), but they’re basically worth every penny. One could describe the SM3 as a beefier, more lush sounding version of the Phonak PFE, as a much improved Shure SE530, as an Etymotic ER-4 killer, and a lot of other things. Be that as it may, to my ears they just do everything right – period. For me, they combine musicality, clarity, dynamics, precision, fun, and most every other positive treat one could think of into one. They make my custom Ultimate Ears UE11 look quite old. Read the EarSonics SM3 review.