Top In-Ear Monitors (IEMs) of 2020

Below is a list of some of our favorite IEMs of the crazy year of 2020.

Please note, these are only the IEMs that came out in 2020, and ones we've tried. There may be more out there that we didn't get a chance to hear ourselves.

Direct links to our reviews are embedded in the name of each IEM.

Top IEMs under $150

This new colorway for the BLON is all cosmetic, but despite the criticisms from us, this is still a very good IEM for the price point. It may not be the flagship killer, but it has solid tuning that works well with most genres, and a quality shell design that feels much more than its cost. Recommend getting new cables for it though!

The Tin T2 Plus takes the classic and popular T2 name, but that's about it. This one reduces the driver count to a single dynamic driver, adds a nice bass boost, and a new and more comfortable shell design that looks premium. In addition, Tin upgraded their cable with a more stylish look and less problematic connector, and makes this a very easy recommendation for a budget warm-reference tuning.

Tripowin CT-01 - $50

We haven't reviewed this set yet, but it's quickly becoming a favorite of Antdroid's for a budget choice. It has a mirrored-finish design and a fun V-shape signature that has good resolution and imaging for this price point. Surprise pick here.

Thieaudio Legacy 3 Universal / CIEM - $119/$179

This one isn't as clear cut as the rest. The Legacy 3 lacks in some technical performances, but has good tuning, if you get one that is tuned well. That said, you will have a tough time finding a CIEM for under $200 and one that has decent tuning. This gets a recommendation for pushing the price boundaries a bit.

The Galaxy Buds Pro is just around the corner, so this is probably a tougher recommendation. That said, that means there will be a price drop soon. This 2nd generation Galaxy Bud adds a second driver and improves the bass resolution quite a bit. It may not be tuned as nicely as the original Galaxy Buds, but it still follows the Harman Target quite well and so it has a very friendly sound to a majority of listeners.

Top IEMs under $500

The Legacy 4 is the newest from Thieaudio and is tuned very well, with a reference signature with a sub-bass boost. This one packs a new dynamic driver that improves bass resolution and Knowles BA that seems to help with resolution as well. This is an easy recommendation at this price point.

Apple's latest true-wireless in-ears takes the winning combination of their previous sets and adds active noise cancelation to the mix, while still retaining a fun and pleasing sound signature. While not the best in overall sound and technical performance, this one does a lot right and works right out of the box for Apple users.

The Legacy 5 brings a mature and warm sound signature to Thieaudio's lineup. It represents a jump up in technical capabilities from other chi-fi IEMs priced lower, but doesn't necessarily stand out when compared to much higher-priced gear. That said, this fits a niche in a price point that lacks performance for the price and the Legacy 5 is a soothing and relaxed choice for many.

When this dropped at the beginning of the year, it was a shaker in the community. It had a solid reference tuning, an actual decent implementation of a hybrid (dynamic driver + balanced armatures) setup, and a price point that not only set the bar for this range, but could set the bar for much more. The Blessing 2 continues to be a recommendation for those who want a reference/bright tuning and don't want to spend more. The larger shell size is the only area of caution here.

Please also note, the Moondrop Dusk is now available and takes the Blessing 2 with a new balanced tuning courtesy of Crinacle. We haven't had an opportunity to listen to this yet, which is why it's not on this list!

And while the Blessing 2 was hitting the ground running, the lesser-hyped DK3001 Pro was released at the same time. Technically, this was released at the very end of 2019, but since it was so close, I just put it on this list. This has a warm and enjoyable tuning that does not do a lot wrong. It's just a pleasant hybrid that works well with many genres.

Other Notable Mention: Etymotic Bluetooth Lineup

Top IEMs under $1000

Dunu SA6 - $550

Dunu put a wonderful package together at $550 which includes the beautiful and unique stabilized wood design of the SA6, a leather case, and Dunu's signature quick-connector cable, along with a series of SpinFit tips and other goodies. The SA6 also has a sound signature that will work with most music, and its shells are comfortable as all can be. It's a winning combination if you ask me.

Thieaudio Clairvoyance - $700 (Antdroid's Review linked)

The Clairvoyance was tuned with care and it shows. This is one of the best all-arounders of the year and comes with flagship quality at a price tag that is a fraction of others in its quality class. The Clairvoyance works well with all music, and outside the extremely large shell design, has little flaws.

Thieaudio Monarch - $730 (Fc-Construct's Review linked)

The Monarch is the slightly more pricey sibling to the Clairvoyance and focuses on a more neutral tuning, but with a fun and monstrous sub-bass shelf that really kicks in on tracks that demand it. This one features just slightly better resolution and clarity, but does have a more brighter forward upper mid-range. Pick your poison. They're both excellent.

Top IEMs above $1000

The Andromeda has been a well-known and extremely popular IEM since it came out many years ago. It's almost always on recommendation lists for those who want a flagship-level IEM and this year's model improves upon the old sound (which I must say, I wasn't a huge fan of). Not only does it sound more balanced, more technical, and more suited as an all-arounder, but it also improves the shell design to be more comfortable to wear, while still retaining its striking and signature looks.

Unique Melody MEST Universal CIEM - $1300/$1700

Unique Melody threw the kitchen sink at this IEM and somehow it worked! This quadbrid has everything you can think of -- a Dynamic Driver, several balanced armatures, a pair of Sonion Electrostatic Tweeters, and the mysterious and questionable magic sauce (??): a bone conduction driver. Many companies have tried combinations of these drivers (sans Bone Conduction) and have had very mixed and usually poor showings, but UM somehow found a recipe that works well. This IEM brings a laid-back tuning with plenty of excitement, and imaging and bass texture quality that works fabulously. The CIEM version only helps clean up the treble and smooths it out, while removing the variable that is tip-rolling, which seemed to be very picky in the Universal version.

64 Audio Nio - $1700

Another mixed-driver combination that worked out well this year was the Nio from 64 Audio. This new take on the N8 custom IEM comes in only a universal version with a flashy abalone shell design, along with a new MX pressure filter to go with the standard M15 and M20 set. While, the MX gives this a more reference sound, the M15 gives the Nio the fun lively bass boost that makes this one special. All of this coming from a self-proclaimed basslet. 

Empire Ears Odin - $3400

And finally, right before the year ended, I was given the opportunity to try out the Empire Ears Odin. This new flagship-level IEM (apparently Wraith still costs more....) sets the bar for every IEM on the market. Yes, my review isn't complete or even written yet, but prepare for a level of shilling beyond shilling. It has reference tuning that is not overly bright, edgy, or whatevers. Instead, it has a buttery smooth and effortless presentation, with a punchy bass section and resolution for days. Add the standout imaging and soundstage, and you really couldn't ask for more in an IEM. This is how you do an EST-based tribrid....

...okay minor complaints: price tag, slightly forward upper mid-range, and occasional driver flex.

Let's hope 2021 brings in more great IEMs as this year seemed to be the year the multi-driver hybrids/tribrids and quadbrids finally figured it out. 

What will the new year bring?!


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  2. Nice reference list and will be useful to include a list of IEMs w/in the price tier that was compared with. Hope you can do a similar list for headphones and DAPs too. Thks!

    1. I wanted to do something similar for Headphones for 2020, but then I realized I didn't listen to that many or think many headphones in 2020 were that good. 2019 had a lot of good ones though


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