There are some exceptional budget IEMs out there, with earth-shattering bass, wide soundstage, and crystal clear treble. Whatever your preferences, you can’t go wrong with any of these from the list, as all these entry level IEMs are at least good, if not superb.
What is the best budget IEM? For those who have $80 to spend, go for Moondrop Aria, or BLON BL03 with an amp. If you just want a good sound without all those DAC/AMP stuff, go for Tin T2 Plus or Tripowin Mele. For the cheapest IEMs, look for KZ DQ6, and for the best bass IEM go for FiiO FH3.
Are IEMs better for your ears? There are some really comfortable IEMs, which you can wear for entire days without noticing. And if the tips don’t fit, and you don’t like the cable, you can always change either tips or cable and get different ones.
What to look for in IEM when choosing:
- Comfort (the best ones can be so comfortable you don’t even notice them)
- Sound (always test them from your own source, the device you’re going to use it with most)
- Fit (Fit impacts both comfort and sound quality. Most should have extra tips)
IEMs listed below are among the best, yet affordable. I’ve tried to show the best value to each IEM individually, so you’ll know what is best for you personally.
If you don’t know what soundstage, imaging or isolation is, just check this amazing glossary, or this glossary from Moon Audio.
What Are the Best Budget IEMs for 2022?
- Moondrop Aria 2021
- KZ DQ6
- BLON BL03
- Tripowin x HBB Mele
- KZ EDX
- Etymotic ER2XR
- TinHiFi T2 Plus
- KZ ZS10 Pro
- FiiO FH3
- Moondrop KATO
- IKKO OH10
1. Moondrop Aria 2021
Best budget IEM
Price: $79.99 | Buying options: Amazon | Apos Audio | HiFiGO
A very well-rounded budget IEM offering a balanced sound, great clarity, and a bit more bass for some extra fun. For only $80, this high-value budget IEM can’t be beaten at its price for the sound quality. Great overall set, and probably the best IEM under $100. Compared to Starfield, Aria sounds are wider and an improvement, except maybe for the midrange.
- Neutral-warm IEMs that don’t sacrifice clarity or tonality
- Harman tuned, with enough texture and detail so it’s smooth but doesn’t sound flat
- good sense of clarity in the midrange, with excellent female vocals
- good treble, but may not be great for metal/rock
- very comfortable because of a good fit
- Work well with Spinfits (such as CP145)
2. KZ DQ6
Best Budget IEM under $50
Price: $27-29 | Buying options: Amazon | Linsoul Audio
Having one of the best prices to performance ratios, these DQ6 are a great experience overall, especially compared to EDX. With superb technicalities, great design, and good fit, DQ6 is highly recommended as one of the best budget IEMs you can get.
- Punchy and clean bass, with an emphasis on the sub-bass
- Good tonality, well-tuned and coherent
- Natural midrange, with an emphasis on the upper range
- Focus on the lower treble (with some roloff at the mid)
- May not be perfect for treble sensitive
- Good build quality, with nice looking shells
3. BLON BL03
Best Bass IEM for under $50
Price: $27-39 | Buying options: Amazon | Linsoul Audio
With an excellent price to performance ratio, BLON BL03 is a balanced all-rounder, musically coherent IEM, and very fun to listen to. A great entry level IEM, though it may take a few things to really make it good, such as new tips, cable, or a portable amp, which makes a big difference.
- Thumpy, full-bodied bass with an excellent sub bass
- Colored mids and excellent highs and treble
- Very good soundstage, imaging, and separation
- Good vocal tonality, beautiful and natural timbre
- they sound better with Xelastec tips or SpinFit CP100
- cables could be better, replace with TRIPOWIN C8 or Zonie
4. Tripowin x HBB Mele
Best Budget IEM for Drums and Guitars
Price: $49.99 | Buying options: Amazon | Linsoul Audio
If you enjoyed BLON but disliked the fit, or just want a step up, then HBB Mele might be an excellent choice for you. This is a great set that plays many genres well, especially drums and guitars, and is perfect for those looking for a warm-sounding set with a great timbre.
- Deep reaching sub-bass, with a powerful mid-bass
- Nice tuning in mid vocals, and smooth highs without sibilance
- Non-fatiguing, warm with a mellow quality to them
- Good detailing, and isolation for the price
- Lightweight: aluminum shells with decent fit
- Exemplary build quality for the price
5. KZ EDX
Best cheapest budget IEM
Price: $10-16 | Buying options: Amazon | Linsoul Audio
At only $16, these IEMs are very good and will surprise you. The sounds are excellent for this price, the quality build is good, and you get the cheapest IEM with removable cable.
- lots of balanced bass, but not overly boomy or punchy
- good imaging and staging for the price
- good coherence of mid voices
- robust build, good quality cable
- treble, sub-bass, and layering could be better
6. Etymotic ER2XR
Best Isolation IEM
Price: $99 | Buying options: Amazon
Only slightly more expensive than Aria, ER2XR blows most other budget IEMs out of the water through their focus on detail. With superb balanced tuning and isolation, the sound quality is incredible compared to other competing IEMs at a similar price.
- Excellent technical performance, with fantastic detail
- Engaging bass, dynamic, and accurate timbre
- No sibilance or harshness; incredible isolation
- The stock cable could be better, as well as soundstage
- Deep insertion fit may not be for everyone
7. TinHiFi T2 Plus
Best tuned budget IEM
Price: $59 | Buying options: Amazon | Linsoul Audio
With a better bass than the original, the Tin T2 Plus is a bit more broadly appealing and controlled. Easy to drive and a good set, with their pleasant tone they offer an outstanding value for the money. Super comfortable, with clear treble and strong but controlled bass.
- Neutral tuning, balanced and cohesive
- Good timbre and tonality, wide stage
- Good imaging, resolution, and detail for the price
- Warm bass, clear mids, airy and detailed treble
- Comfortable, great design with a quality stock cable
8. KZ ZS10 Pro
Best budget IEM for Metallic Sounds
Price: $45-49 | Buying options: Amazon | Linsoul Audio | HiFiGO
With a bright and clear sound and a good amount of soundstage, KZ SZ10 Pro is one of the best budget IEMs out there. A bit heavier on the bass, but overall nicely balanced. If treble is a bit too sharp for you, then you can tone it down with a different ear tip.
- Good bass layering, with decent sub and mid-bass
- Impressive and bright treble (perfect for those who like metallic sound)
- Sufficient V-curve, with lively mids and decent tonality
- Fine mid-range and wide imaging for the price
- Good looking, and works well with Comply tips
- Soundstage and cable quality could be better
9. FiiO FH3
Best bass IEM under $150
Price: $130-145 | Buying options: Amazon | Linsoul Audio | HiFiGO
If you’re looking for a great sub-bassy sound, without too much mid-bass bloat, then FiiO FH3 is your best choice. With great noise isolation, these are very good IEMs, and quite comfortable. FH3s have a quite natural and neutral sound, with exceptional sub-bass and excellent and sharp imaging. Overall, remarkable IEMs, and arguably the best bass for the price.
- clear sound with good separation, not bloated or muddy
- slightly boosted bass, but clear and nicely defined
- good tonality with prominent vocals
- the smooth sound and a good fit with the included foam tips
- excellent build quality and premium packaging
10. Moondrop KATO
Best IEM under $200
Price: $190 | Buying options: Amazon, Apos Audio, HiFiGO
With a Moondrop House sound, new cable, and newly created tips, Kato takes the place as the new and current flagship of the Moondrop. The competition is high at this price, but with the noticeable improvement in imaging and resolution, KATO manages to outperform most other IEMs at this price range. Arguably, the best separation out of <$200 IEMs.
- Improved imaging and resolution, with incredible separation
- Warm-neutral tuning, no sibilance
- Natural timbre, wide open soundstage, and very good mids
- Very fast and accurate bass, nicely defined
- Good looking shells, strong, ergonomic, and comfortable
11. IKKO OH10
Best Soundstage for under $200
Price: $179-199 | Buying options: Amazon | Ikko Audio | HiFiGO
Designed to further improve the OH1, the OH10 comes with a dynamically superior driver from higher quality materials, with better performance overall. With a polished and slightly more accurate presentation, the OH10 brings a pleasantly warm sound, better defined, and impeccable sound quality overall.
- Clean, accurate, and polished sound with a tight and well-controlled bass
- Engaging U-shaped sound, with extended highs, but not harsh
- Very big soundstage, great image, and dynamics, and excellent separation
- Full-bodied, meaty, and precise sound
- High-quality material, comfortable and lightweight
Are IEMs good for movies?
There are many IEMs out there that are great for watching movies as well as gaming, and you can get one of these for as low as $20. They’re comparable to headphones, however, the bass may be lacking in some of them, but the imaging is better. There are some great cheap IEMs for movies, so check below.
Best budget IEMs for movies
Here are some of the best budget IEMs for movies from user feedback:
- KZ ES3, $20
- KZ DQ6, $29
- BLON BL03, $40
- CCA C10, $41
- KZ ZS10 Pro, $49
- KZ ZAX, $71
- Moondrop Aria, $80
- Thieaudio Legacy 3, $179
- FiiO FH5, $200
Are IEMs water resistant?
Whether your IEM will be waterproof depends to what extent is the water affecting your IEM. There are different categories for water resistance, called IPX levels. IPX6 is, for example splashproof, while IPX7 device can be submerged in water, and is therefore safe for showering. You could try showering with IPX6, but I wouldn’t risk it.
If you want an IEM for swimming, you need to be looking at an IEM that’s IPX8 rated, because nothing else will protect them with full-on swimming.
Are custom IEMs more comfortable?
Custom IEMs (CIEMS) and universals are a night and day difference when it comes to comfort. If they fit right, once they’re warmed up they disappear and you can wear them 8+ hours a day without problems. With better seal and isolation, you’ll perceive a greater sound stage as well, but comfort is really where it’s at.
Are expensive IEMs worth it?
When you jump from $25 to $200 IEM, you’ll notice a huge difference in sound, isolation, bass, and probably comfort too. However, if you already own a $400-500 IEM, and are looking to those above $1000, then they may not be worth it. At a certain price the quality is about the same, doesn’t matter how high you go.
Are custom IEMs worth it?
Compared to universal IEMs, custom IEMs (CIEMs) isolate better than most universal IEMs (UIEMs) and headphones as well. If comfort and isolation are the most important to you, then CIEMs are the way to go They also generally look better than OEMs.
Most universals can usually compete with any cheaper CIEM, but once you get into the range of about $1000, they are where ciems start to shine. If you decide to buy one, keep in mind that they have low resale value, and are hard to evaluate before buying.
How much do custom in-ear monitors cost?
Custom IEMs (CIEMs) cost usually above $300 and all the way up to $3000. There are some CIEMs that you can get for about $200-250, but in general, expect to spend at least $300.
Are IEMs better than Airpods?
Airpods have noise-canceling combined with an open design, which is convenient. For some people, they’re comfortable and good enough. Airpods have decent sound quality, but the lack of sub bass and highs extension, imaging, sense of space are all lacking compared to a good IEM.
AirPods Pro are decent for watching a movie, and their spatial audio is a nice addition. Their main advantage is in the seamless integration with Apple hardware. When it comes to sound quality, there are better options out there.
Are IEMs better than earbuds?
IEMs generally have better isolation and sound in general because they are transmitting directly into your ear canal, rather than diffusing. This means that the bass response will be tighter with less sibilance. The soundstage can be better with some earbuds, but they also have worse imaging. Comfort is subjective, some people prefer IEMs, others prefer earbuds.
Are Headphones better than IEMs?
If you prefer simplicity and detail or are constantly on the move, then IEMs might be a better choice. When it comes to soundstage and bass, over-ear headphones are often a better pick. Headphones are also generally more comfortable, but this is subjective. So it’s really up to you what you prioritize, and what’s important to you.
Can IEMs cause ear infection?
Unless IEMs/tips are cleaned regularly, any moisture and debris buildup on your IEMs for extensive periods can be potential contamination that can irritate your ears. Next to cleaning your IEMs regularly and your ears with cotton tips, look into using eardrops.
If you’re still having problems, try changing tips for your IEMs, to something like COMPLY with memory foam. If after this you still have problems, then I suggest switching to some large open headphones, or some earbuds because you might be prone to infections.