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Best in-ear headphones to buy in 2014 - Expert Reviews

"Expert reviews of the best in-ear headphones from 2014 - we rate the top 10 best in ear earphones you can buy from £50 to over £500."
Top 10 Best In Ear Headphones

Looking for a new pair of in-ear headphones?  We've collected the best in ear headphones available in 2014 and reviewed them to help you choose.

UPDATE: New updated best in-ear headphones from 2015

Shop: Visit our in-ear earphones store

More Info: Best portable on-ear headphones buying guide

 

Best In Ear Headphones Under £50

SoundMAGIC ES20

soundmagic es20SoundMAGIC have again pushed the boundaries of what can be expected from an entry level earphone with the SoundMAGIC ES20, which makes this model a strong candidate for the title of best budget in ear headphone. The sound is a quantum leap up from the cheap earbuds supplied with most MP3 players, with warm deep bass and plenty of detail in the trebles.

While you might expect an inexpensive earphone to be poorly made, the ES20 is a part aluminium construction and comes fitted with good quality braided cabling (normally reserved for high end in-ear monitor earphones) with strain relief that is built to last. The quality of the product is truly commendable. The ES20 is like the baby brother of the award winning SoundMAGIC E10 which adds a full metal body and even higher sound quality - for a little more money.

Supplied with a neat carry pouch that is very usable and three size ear tips to get a good seal, the SoundMAGIC ES20 is a very well thought out package.

If you have a little more to spend, consider the SoundMAGIC E10 or SoundMAGIC E50 - also both amazing value at their price points.

HiFi Headphones Verdict:

In times past the Sennheiser CX300 was the first choice for entry level in-ear earphones, but the ES20 has just stolen that spot. Sound quality compares with earphones costing two or three times the price.

Shure SE112

shure se112Shure's addition to the sub £50 earphone range is very impressive. They are very well built with a tough cable and solid speaker housing. The sound rolls off slightly at the top which takes away any harsh frequencies and the bottom end has plenty of punch!

The Shure SE112 are a great alternative to the award winning SoundMAGIC E10 – especially if you prefer a mellower presentation.

For a more professional in-ear monitor design we also recommend the Shure SE215 – tight bass, crisp mids and great soundstage.

HiFi Headphones Verdict:

The Shure SE112 has punchy bass and smooth top end detail. They are very comfortable with great isolation and they are tougher than most.

 

Best In Ear Headphones Under £100

Audiofly AF45 / AF45M

audiofly af45The AF45 is an impressive pair of earphones.  We think the AF45 is one of the highlights of the Audiofly premium range and one of the best in ear headphones available at this price.

The AF45 successfully marries fashion conscious design with excellent sound. The earphones are sturdy and the sound is big – full bass and crisp detail.

The cable on the AF45 is made from Audiofly's Audioflex braided technology and is covered in a Cordura fabric outer sheath for extra durability. There is also an option of an in line microphone with the Audiofly AF45M.

HiFi Headphones Verdict:

The AF45 is a truly superb earphone that excels all round. Big bass and crisp highs makes them ideal for someone looking for big sound and great looks from their in-ears.

Final Audio Adagio III

Final Audio Design Adagio III In Ear Isolating Earphones - BlackFinal Audio's Adagio III is sleek in design and gives a more refined sound than many of it's competitors. The earphones are very well built with a tough cable and airplane engine like design to the earphone body.

Thanks to the balanced air movement internal speaker design the bass is big yet not bloated and the upper detail is crystal clear – this gives an exciting and refined sound.

Some reviews complain that bass is too powerful, but after running in (this earphone changes a lot during the first 50 hours) we think the Adagio III offers plenty of clarity and detail for the price.

Final Audio Design earphones come with excellent eartips, but as with many better quality earphones they benefit from upgrading with Comply tips.

HiFi Headphones Verdict:

If you like powerful bass, but want a more refined sound then these earphones are for you. Tight and full low end, cracking mids and the top end has real sparkle.

RHA MA750

rha-ma750-500x500_1With the RHA MA750 earphones you get a lot for your money. The build quality is extremely solid and you get a 3 year warranty – this shows how confident RHA are with their products. You get a good amount of ear tips supplied and a very nice leather carry case.

The overall sound is warm with great bass quality and lots of energy in the upper frequencies. The soundstage is large and separation is very good. There is also the MA750i for those of you wanting iPhone controls.

HiFi Headphones Verdict:

If you're after a great all rounder then the MA750 could be the one. Solidly built, comfortable, 3 years warranty, lots of accessories and great sound – a lot for under £100!

Westone UM Pro 10

westone-um-pro-10-redThe new Westone range of 'UM Pro' headphones come with a varying amount of balanced armature drivers to suit all ears and pockets.

The UM Pro 10 model has one balanced armature, so a good seal with the ear is important to benefit from the full frequency range. The sound is extremely accurate and fast-paced, with superb soundstage and imaging. Some may find the design more ergonomic than similar single balanced-armature designs by other makers, as the UM Pro 10 rests in the bowl of the ear as opposed to protruding out of the ear.

Hifiheadphones Verdict:

Sometimes the best designs are the simplest and I really think there is something to be said for single-driver IEMs. Makers may be able to tune the sound signature a little more with multiple drivers, but this risks muddying the sound with possible phase/imaging issues as the audio from these different drivers reaches our ears at different times.

In short - choose the simple life and get the UM Pro 10!

Final Audio Design Heaven II

final audio design heaven IIThe Heaven II replicates the intense auditory sensation of fast-paced live music with accurate speed and harmonious stereo separation.  A truly high end sound at a bargain price.

Final Audio Design's special Balancing Air Movement mechanism optimises air movement inside the housing that eliminates unwanted sibilant high-frequency sounds. Proprietary balanced armature drivers developed by Final Audio Design (one of only a few manufacturers in the World who make these micro-drivers) deliver concentrated bass performance and perfectly balanced spatial separation.

To replicate the auditory sensation of live music ambiance with speed and accuracy Final Audio Design have crafted the housing of the Heaven II from solid stainless steel. Final Audio Design's Heaven II is a handmade product, made by Japanese sound engineers with a full-focus on ideal sound with no compromises.

HiFi Headphones Verdict:

It will be hard to find an in-ear headphone that can challenge the Heaven II's sound quality for under £100. They use a balanced armiture driver, which is uncommon for sub £100 earphones. This gives you great clarity and separation as well as superb soundstage. Using the supplied tips you also get full and rich bass which completes the well balanced sound.

 

Shure SE215

shure se215Shure's SE215 personal monitor earphones are designed to meet the demanding requirements of your audio lifestyle. It features a Dynamic MicroDriver for a detailed, warm, sound with improved bass. With the Shure SE215 you can concentrate on your music, whether you are on-stage, in a train, on the street or working out

Shure's SE215 earphones features a durable Kevlar reinforced cable that allows easy replacement or customisation. The formable wire ensures secure placement, and over the ear configuration keeps cables out of the way. The gold plated stereo connector has a lock-snap mechanism allowing 360 degree rotation for comfortable fit

Because every ear is different, the Fit Kit of the Shure SE215 includes an assortment of foam and silicone sleeves in different sizes. Experiment with the size and style that creates the best fit for you. A good seal is key to optimising sound isolation and bass response as well as maximising comfort during extended wear

HiFi Headphones Verdict:

For under £100 the Shure SE215 give you the most for your money. You get well detailed sound with crisp highs and tight bass, a removable highly durable cable, a wide selection of eartips including Shure's own Foam Tip and to seal it off a tough carry case.

 

Best In Ear Headphones Under £200

Final Audio Design Heaven IV

final audio design heaven IVHeaven IV achieves the truest possible expression of live concert hall sound.

With the incorporated balancing air movement mechanism the earphone body design has evolved into an uncomplicated, slender structure.

Final Audio Design's special BAM (Balancing Air Movement) mechanism, optimises air movement inside the housing, has pushed the evolution of earphone body design to the next level with a simpler structure and slimmer body. The result is a balanced, natural sound that reduces unwanted sibilant high-frequency sounds.

The Heaven IV is handmade by Japanese sound engineers with a full-focus on ideal sound with no compromises.

HiFi Headphones Verdict:

Final Audio Design have managed to create an earphone that not only looks great, but sounds it too! You get a refined sound with clear and textured detail as well as deep, tight bass. The flat cable design has also been well thought through, it is very durable and eliminates tangles and microphonics.

 

Best In Ear Headphones Over £200

Audiofly AF140

audiofly-af140Audiofly's new range of IEMs are exceptional for fit, comfort and sound; available with a hybrid driver arrangement or multiple balanced armatures.

The AF140 model offers both dynamic and balanced armature drivers for a warm, yet detailed presentation. With a slight roll-off at the treble end, the midrange is sweet and smooth with a slightly accentuated bass which is beautifully controlled.

Hifiheadphones Verdict:

As you would expect, the whole Audiiofly  range has superb detail retrieval and very impressive instrument separation.  As you move up the range you find a lot more body and purpose, although the AF140 – featuring a hybrid two balanced armature and one dynamic driver set up – is simply the best earphone we’ve heard for below £250

EarSonics SM64

earsonics sm64Technology taken from EarSonics' EM series achieves audio quality never reached before with universal IEM earphones. The research and development department of EarSonics worked hard to match sound quality of their custom EM4 and EM6. The result brought forward EarSonics' Flagship SM64, a new professional audio quality reference model.

With new HQ crossover technology with impedance corrector, the SM64 provide a balanced sound spectrum making it very musical and accurate. Earsonics' SM64 in-ear monitor earphones were made to handle music of all intensities and all volumes on any device, absolute control of the audio spectrum. Pairing the SM64 with a headphone amplifier unleashes incredible stereo imaging and maximum headroom.

Earpieces, designed to sit securely in the ear when on stage or on the move ensures that the SM64 stays in place. The rugged, non-microphonic twisted cable is detachable and guarantees long lasting pleasure and serviceability.

HiFi Headphones Verdict:

We love these earphones! If you’re looking for an earphone with a balanced and neutral sound then these are a great choice. The bass is tight, mids cut through without being too harsh and the highs extend very well and naturally.

DITA – The Answer

Dita Audio AnswerThis little brother to the pricier ‘Truth Edition’ model is no stranger to sincerity itself; machined from solid aluminium, the capsules are designed to avoid adding their own colouration to the sound, and are weighted to lean into the ear for greater comfort and a better seal. They aren't heavy but just weighty enough to let you know they mean business, and the cable is reassuringly stout.

Much like other similarly-priced dynamic driver IEMs, the sound is what you might expect; bright without being sibilant, well balanced mids, well controlled but slightly elevated bass. There’s a smoothness from this type of large diameter driver which I never fail to appreciate, and along with its speed and accuracy, it brings any music to life with aplomb.

Soundstage and imaging are first class, and the use of a headphone amp can really add the cherry to the cake in terms of realism.

HiFi Headphones Verdict:

IEMs like the Dita are showing once again that dynamic drivers can be every bit as fast and vibrant-sounding as their balanced armature counterparts, with added smoothness to give a wonderfully analogue impression.

Sennheiser IE800

sennheiser- e800The IE800 are Sennheisers new flagship audiophile earphones. Featuring a linear-phase driver system that achieves distortion-free audio even at high sound pressure levels. Surely Sennheisers most innovative portable music solution, the IE800 meets the demands of portable audio with truly superb sound and comfort. The extra wide band transducer system, with a diameter of just 7mm is the smallest wide-band driver system currently available in dynamic earphones. Innovative vent holes in the housing of the IE800 direct the air flow resulting in minimal distortion levels. Sennheiser's revolutionary dampened two chamber absorbers eliminate the masking of low volume frequencies by absorbing the energy from the louder low-frequency sounds. Build quality is amazing, scratch-resistant ceramic housing, stainless steel air vents and Kevlar coated audio cable, the IE800 is built to last. Two special meshes protect the IE800 against residue and contamination.

The package includes 5 pairs silicone eartips in different sizes, premium leather carrying case, a cleaning tool and instruction manual.

HiFi Headphones Verdict:

Brimming with ground-breaking technologies the IE800 are the ultimate IEM for bass lovers. Big warm and powerful sounding, beautifully engineered with an ergonomic and attractive design, these are very special IEMs.

Shure SE846

shure-se846At the summit of Shure's classic range is the 846 - a no compromise IEM with a lot of tech tucked away. They feature an 'acoustic chamber' method of producing bass frequencies, creating 4 inches of space within each capsule for that true subwoofer sound.

Together with filters in the nozzles to customise your sound, the SE846 is currently one of the best universal IEMs on the market. Let no detail be missed.

Hifiheadphones Verdict:

For the current king of universal IEMs, get the SE846. Custom earmoulds are not essential, but recommended.

 

 

About Shaun Gostelow

Shaun is co-founder of hifiheadphones.co.uk and spends most of his time dealing with the business side of running the store, but still loves listening to music with headphones just the same as ever.
Follow Shaun on Google+
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6 thoughts on “Best in-ear headphones to buy in 2014 - Expert Reviews”

  • Samuel

    how you guys reviewed the beyerdynamic XP1? what is your opinion?

    Reply
    • Shaun-HiFi

      The XP1 appears to only available in Asia, so we haven't heard it yet. Beyerdynamic are a quality brand that mostly gets it right, so we'd be very interested to try the XP1.

      Reply
  • Alex

    I had a pair of the Shure SE215. They were great, I couldn't ask for much more in terms if sound quality and the spongy tips blocked exterior sound out really well - even on the noisy tube. After 3 months one of the earphones just stopped working. I contacted Shure and they got straight back to me with return details, but then I couldn't find the place where I'd safely put them away. So, I'm in the market for a new set. I would buy the same ones, but they were such a pain to put in and loop around the ears then get the wire right so that they would sit right. Once in they were great, and didn't fall out when I went for a run - which was important too!

    Can you recommend an alternative:

    - same sound quality and seal as the Shure
    - won't fall out of my ear when I go for a run and sweat
    - don't stick out of my ears like bolts on Frankenstein's Monsters neck (gotta look good too)
    - up to £150 pounds but less is better

    Reply
    • Shaun-HiFi

      The Shure SE215 is a very solid earphone and we'd probably recommending sticking with it, especially if you are using it running.

      Another recommendation at around the £100 point is the truly awesome DUNU Titan 1. Read a review of the DUNU Titan 1 in our latest round-up of best in-ear headphones for 2015. It might be a bit heavy for running though.

      Also worth considering for a bit less than the Shure SE215 is the FIDUE A71. These have over ear cabling like the Shure SE215, but it's less fiddly. Coupled with Comply foam tips the A71 is an excellent earphone if you want to use it for sports.

      Reply
  • Lui

    You have to be really naive to believe that review is not prepaid, notice all the brands mentioned in this "review" are below as featured brands.

    Reply
    • Shaun-HiFi

      Actually, none of the reviews or featured brands on our site are paid for by manufacturers. We choose products to review and brands to feature that we think are the best available on the market. The products featured in our reviews are chosen by the team here here at hifiheadphones.co.uk.

      If you have specific questions about any of the products in the reviews please just ask.

      Reply
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