One of the coolest phenomenons in audio right now is the big improvements moving forward in the budget sector. $100 headphones can and do compete with $400 headphones, and $25 headphones sometimes compete with $200 headphones. It’s a great time to be an audiophile, even if your budget isn’t as large as you’d like it to be. In this series we’ll see how much you get from stepping up from a budget under $25 to a budget under $50. In order to have some comparison with the under $25 segment of the market, I’ll be including the top 2 IEMs from the $25 IEM Shootout, once they are determined.
In this $50 IEM shootout series I’ll post a new set of impressions every Friday until I’ve done them all. Then I’ll select my top 3 from the list. After I’ve selected my top 3, I’ll do a post ranking the remaining units and giving them our trademark visual ratings. Finally, a post will compare the top 3 IEMs under $50 that I have in my possession. If any manufacturers want to send additional under $50 units that they think might rank before I’ve done my ranking posts, I’ll add them in. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to get the Final Audio e2000 into this contest, too, as I’ve heard good things.
Here are our contestants:
- Lypertek Mevi ($29.90, Penon Audio)
- TFZ Series 2 ($45.00, Penon Audio)
- BGVP SGZ-DN1 ($29.00, Penon Audio)
- Dawnwood GT-36 Halo ($49.90, Penon Audio)
- xDuoo EP1 ($29.90, Penon Audio)
- Tin Audio T2 ($49.90, Penon Audio)
- RHA S500i ($33.99, amazon.com)
- Magaosi BK50 ($45.50, Penon Audio)
- Alpha & Delta D3 ($35, amazon.com)
- TRN V80 ($43.99, amazon.com)
- BQEYZ KB100 ($49.90, Penon Audio)
- Linsoul BLD ($39.99 – $45.99, amazon.com)
- Soundmagic E11 ($39.99 on amazon.com no mic)
- Final E2000 ($41.99 no mic [$51.99 w/ mic] on amazon.com)
- $25 IEM Shootout #1
- $25 IEM Shootout #2
The BQEYZ KB100 was supplied by Penon Audio for the purpose of this shootout. I have received no compensation. The views expressed are my own.
Unboxing, Build, Ergonomics
There’s not much to say about the unboxing experience. It’s a very small plain black box that tells you which option you’ve selected with regards to colour, with regards to mic or non-mic, and some technical specifications on the back.
Inside the box we have the IEMs displayed prominently—I picked blue for contrast to other IEMs in the collection. I think they look pretty nice. Alongside the IEMs there are three sets of generic silicone eartips (S/M/L standard affair) and the detachable 2-pin cable. The cable is probably the best cable set-up is the best in this $50 shootout. The cable uses standard size 0.78mm pins so is easily upgraded to aftermarket cables—I don’t see why people would do this on this IEM as the sound is clear on this cable and doesn’t require much power to drive. The cable insertion is slightly recessed, which protects the pins from breakage to some degree, if the insertion were more snug the protection would be even better. The cable construction
The cable is probably the best cable set-up in this $50 shootout. The cable uses standard size 0.78mm pins so is easily upgraded to aftermarket cables—though I don’t see why people would do this regularly on this IEM as the sound is clear on this cable and it doesn’t require much power to drive. The cable insertion is slightly recessed, which protects the pins from breakage to some degree. If the insertion were more snug the protection would be even better, as is there is some wobble in the socket. The cable construction is a standard double-twist with a chin slider and cable wrap included. The earguides are the most ergonomic type of inexpensive earguides, using pre-formed heatshrink to grip the top of your ear—high end brands should take note as where they don’t have a partnership with an aftermarket cable manufacturer they could usually take tips from BQEYZ here.
I really dig the aesthetic and ergonomics of the BQEYZ KB100. The polished aluminum ring looks great and the earphone fits well in my ear. The part right behind the sound nozzle isn’t too big for my ears, which is something that I have seen in some slightly higher priced KZ models. In ear, these are comfortable and light.
There is no case included with the BQEYZ KB100, which is a shame, but par for the course under $50. Cases can be had on aliexpress and ebay for $1, so it’s not too much of a bother.
As usual, I did my listening on the HiBy R3. I didn’t do any significant burn-in, but I have played these for about 10 hours. When I do the final rankings, I’ll have burned in everything.
I recently discussed the Geek Wold GK3, which seems to have 3 drivers (all dynamic) with no crossovers (just-a-bunch-of-drivers), the KB100 has three drivers, but the tuning appears to go beyond driver selection. The KB100 has two dynamic drivers and one balanced armature driver. They occupy different ranges of the audio spectrum and provide a coherent, balanced sound with no phase artefacts or mess in the presentation. The presentation is clean and pure.
On Tori Amos – Hey Jupiter her voice is sweet, breathy, and just absolutely delicious. The piano is delicate when called for and powerful when necessary. It’s just a very balanced effort.
Why? – Strawberries exhibits excellent percussion snap and good impact on drums. The deep synth bass doesn’t reach it’s full extension and power, but most of it is there and the performance is very good in this price bracket. The mids are frickin’ excellent. Yoni Wolf’s voice is executed perfectly with sweetness and that little touch of nasal tone that is natural to his voice not accentuated or overdone.
The overall sound signature is foreward on these as the stage depth is not huge. Stage width is good on Macy Gray – I Try (24-192, binaural). While the stage isn’t very deep it does a good job of having separation around instruments and clear imaging. I’m quite impressed. Every vocal I’ve played on these so far has been perfectly executed.
On Daft Punk – Fragments of Time I’m getting delightfull midbass grooves, clean clear vocals—these just nail vocal placement and tone—and balanced treble on the cymbals. The cymbals don’t sound thin, a common occurrence on cheap balanced armatures, and the stage is well-delineated with no blending of instruments and frequencies in this composition.
Given how clean and clear these have been, I’m giving them a challenge now. Animals As Leaders – Ka$cade is a busy, fast, and layered track. These handle it well, really well. Separation of instruments is maintained and the whole frequency spectrum represented in the song is well-represented in the playback. A+ at this price.
These are going to be players for top in the $50 shootout. They are seriously impressive on sound and build at this price bracket.