2012 Holiday Headphone Gift Guide from ljokerl

... from ljokerl

Originally used by stage musicians and audio professionals, in-ear monitors have become a portable audio mainstay in recent years. The element that sets IEMs apart--a seal between the earphone and ear canal--also results in good noise isolation compared to other headphone types. Hundreds of IEMs costing anywhere from pocket change to thousands of dollars are available, but only a small percentage offer truly great value.

Brainwavz M1 ($49.50)
121115_Blog_2012GiftGuide_ljl_BrainwavzM1Silly name aside, Hong Kong-based Brainwavz offers serious performance when it comes to personal audio. The M1 model provides clean, natural sound, skipping the heavy bass of most cheap in-ears in favor of a mild midrange focus. The result: a $50 earphone with vocals and instruments that sound unusually smooth and convincing. Add a small, comfortable form factor and generous accessory kit and this budget buy simply screams value.

Manufacturers product page.
Official purchase page link.
Amazon purchase page.

Runners-up in <$50 IEM: Soundmagic E10, Philips SHE3580.

MEElectronics A161P ($99)
121115_Blog_2012GiftGuide_ljl_MEEMEElectronics has been puttering around the budget earphone segment for several years now but the A161P is the company's first Hi-Fi IEM. A tight, level bass response and crisp, upfront midrange provide audiophile-worthy sound, while the smartphone mic/remote, vast accessory pack, and excellent noise isolation underscore versatility. The only real disappointment is the thin cable, but those who use earphones with care will find plenty of bang for the buck here.

Read full InnerFidelity review here.
Amazon purchase link.
Manufacturer's product page.

Runners-up $50-$100: Shure SE215, Velodyne vPulse

HiFiMan RE-262 ($149)
121115_Blog_2012GiftGuide_ljl_RE262HiFiMan's growth has been fueled by the company's made-for-audiophiles mindset, and the RE-262 is a Hi-Fi earphone through and through. The dynamic drivers deliver natural bass weight, smooth and forward mids, and laid-back, non-fatiguing treble. The modular cable allows use with balanced sources and the fit and finish are as no-frills as they come. These earphones aren't designed for your average iPod user, but they sure can tickle an audiophile's fancy.

Read full InnerFidelity review here.
Amazon purchase link. Official purchase link.
Manufacturer's page here.

Runners-up: Logitech UE 900, VSonic GR07

Comply Foam Tips ($9.95-$21.95)
121115_Blog_2012GiftGuide_ljl_ComplyA good seal with the ear canal is crucial for maximizing sound quality and noise isolation with any IEM. Even the cheapest in-ears include several sizes of tips, and those can still leave room for improvement. Enter Comply, a supplier of aftermarket memory foam eartips. Comply eartips are soft and comfortable, isolate well, and have a negligible effect on sound when inserted correctly (see the video here). The company's website also takes the guesswork out of sizing and while Comply tips don't come cheap, they can be a great investment for IEM users seeking the ultimate in comfort and convenience.

Read full InnerFidelity review here.
Amazon purchase link.
Manufacturer's website.

ultrabike's picture

Excellent recommendations! Liked Nate's B&K multimeter recommendation and will be considering it. Really digging the Horns of the Hollidays and Amber Rubarth smiley.

mosshorn's picture

Great job, everyone. Especially on the RE262, which is now only $99 (this is an absolutely crazy steal). Even though I just bought some top-tier universals, I'll probably get another pair of RE-262's. They are just THAT nice. I'll also probably be picking up those albums, they seem really nice. 



In other news, I keep seeing that Leckerton combo keep popping up. Everyone, quit trying to hurt my innocent wallet! D:

ultrabike's picture

The Leckerton UHA-6S is an outstanding DAC/Amp with the right I/O and form factor.

dcpoor's picture

Oh man, getting a bird call. Thanks Tyll.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

(I crack myself up sometimes.)

clovernine's picture

Hi Tyll,

I read your website a lot, and I seen that you promised a review of the Beyerdynamic DT250 250ohm, I'm really waiting for this.... I need a new pair of can for my job (I'm a 22years old new mixing engeneer). Please when did you plan to post the review ?

I don't have a lot of money so I can't afford to make a mistake by choosing the "wrong headphones". Here my toughts :

- HD600 (pricey but the closest to my needs, I wan't them to be little bit more revvealing in the Highs)

- DT880 Pro (I like them a LOT but I would love a lil bit of tamed high, cause I will wear them for very long periods of time)

- DT250 250ohm (Heard it could be my match, like a HD600 but more reveling in the high frequencies)--> if you already tested them can you give me an insight ? Please.

That would be a great help to begin my career (I need your help because I really trust your reviews... still, I don't know why lol ;)


Guitarist9273's picture

It'll be difficult to get the RE-262 IEMs after this year since HiFiMan recently discontinued them.


ljokerl's picture

a darn shame. They are bringing out two new models so there's hope for a worthy replacement, albeit at a higher price point. Some things are just too good to last...

deckeda's picture

HDTracks has this release regularly for less -- $12 -- if you can do without the CD. It's the only place I know of selling a lossless downloadable copy, and not mentioned anywhere. (It's not a hi res copy however.)