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Capture of the IKKO OH5 with stock cables

My Ultimate Guide to Affordable In-Ear Monitors in 2023 (Including IKKO Asgard OH5)

four in-ear monitors
My Ultimate Guide to Affordable IEMs


Hello, this time I wander a little off-topic. Besides my passion for photography, I also love to listen to music. As an audio enthusiast with a background in acoustics and experience in room acoustics projects, I understand the importance of high-quality in-ear monitors (IEMs). In this guide, “My Ultimate Guide to Affordable In-Ear Monitors,” I will share my personal experiences and provide an in-depth review of the IKKO Asgard OH5 in-ear monitor, as well as other well-known and established in-ear monitors on the market. My goal is to help you form your own opinion and make an informed decision when purchasing in-ear monitors.

I purchased all mentioned components myself and with my own money. Everything I report here is my own honest opinion and based on my own listening experiences. I have no personal or business relationship with any company or person mentioned. This post is neither paid nor sponsored. Therefore, I can safely say that “My Ultimate Guide to Affordable In-Ear Monitors” is my own unbiased personal opinion. ☺

If you like, you can share your IEM experience and thoughts with me on my Instagram-post.

Are Affordable, Great-Sounding In-Ear Monitors (IEMs) a Reality in Today’s Market?

Absolutely. The market for in-ear monitors is constantly evolving, with new and innovative products being released regularly. Even budget-friendly in-ear monitors are receiving positive reviews and being highly discussed in forums. Thanks to advancements in technology, it’s now possible to find high-quality in-ear monitors at an affordable price, unlike a few years ago.

In the price range of up to 250€, you can find many very interesting products. If you are reading this and happen to live in China, you don’t have to spend that much money to enjoy these IEMs. In-ear monitors produced in China are often cheaper when purchased directly in the country.

I have to say that this will not be a classic test of the IKKO Asgard OH5, but rather a comparison with well-known and established in-ear monitors. During this review, I will compare the new IKKO OH5 directly with the AudioSense DT600, 7Hz Timeless and the IKKO Obsidian OH10. I am aware that the other mentioned IEMs are in a different price range, but I hope I can help you decide if it’s worth it for you to spend the extra money, or if one of the other in-ear monitors would match your personal listening preferences or environment.

In any case, I don’t think you’ll regret buying any of the mentioned IEMs and if you already own one of the above-mentioned, I am pretty sure you are already enjoying them. But first, let’s start the journey and let me explain why I recently became interested in IEMs again.

Why I Am Currently in the Market for “New” In-Ear Monitors?

Due to my current long commute by coach to work and back, I had the idea of creating a more enjoyable daily travel experience with better sound quality of music. As a first step and due to the lack of a headphone jack on my current Android phone, I thought about buying Bluetooth (BT) headphones and was researching the current state of the art of BT and True Wireless Earphones.

I was initially very excited when I was reading that a lossless BT standard (aptX Lossless) was on the way. However, to date (beginning of 2023) no device has been unveiled (other than the Kickstarter project for the NuraTrue Pro). Thus, I bought a pair from Xiaomi (FlipBuds Pro) because of the aptX Adaptive Codec support. The idea was also that I wouldn’t have to fiddle around with a mobile DAC / AMP and cables, but I have to say I’m not very convinced by either the sound or the active noise cancellation of the FlipBuds Pro (The ANC I have to double-check with the newest FW 2.12.00). At least I can use the FlipBuds in the gym without destroying the cables.

FiiO KA3

Based on this experience I finally started to look into some new in-ear monitors in early 2022. The mentioned lack of a headphone jack on my current phone also prompted me to find a suitable mobile DAC/AMP. After a short research phase, I purchased the FIIO KA3. Mainly because with their small package I can get both, a 3.5mm and 4.4mm headphone jack. In addition, I was looking for a small mobile DAC / AMP combo with a detachable USB-C cable. Both checkboxes the FIIO KA3 fulfils. Before diving into the IEMs themselves, I will take you on a short excursion of my preferred listening style, which is important for you to evaluate my upcoming judgements.

My Listening Style:

Most of the time I am listening to more heavy and intensive music, such as Insomnium, Illdisposed, Dawn of Solace, Dark Tranquillity or Lorna Shore. I grew up with a lot of grunge music (Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, …) and I mostly don’t listen to electronic arrangements. Besides my listening to power metal or melodic death metal genres, I can also appreciate well-recorded rock and enjoy the spaciousness of classical music and the implementation of folk instruments in all kinds of music styles.

I am often hunting for the heaviest metal/music I can stand. In my case, this is currently Lorna Shore, which I most of the time can only listen to one song at a time, before switching to something else. Another hunting field is spaciousness in music or positioning of instruments/vocals, which often compete with each other. Most of the music I am listening to has male vocals (clean and harsh) or female harsh vocals. Within the comparison “project” of this “Ultimate Guide to Affordable In-Ear Monitors”, I tried to include some clean female vocals as well. In addition, I also included some more electronic music and some EDM. Hip-hop I excluded from my expanded listening test. You can find my current headphone stress test list here (@ Apple music).

Listening with In-Ear Monitors in a Quiet Environment vs. Listening on Public Transport

As I mentioned in the beginning, I currently spend a lot of time in public transit to reach my work. By analysing the sound signature of the different IEMs, I realised how much influence passive isolation has on the joy of listening to music in public transport and noisy spaces.

Based on that finding, I am most of the time using the AudioSense DT600 in the coach, because of the best passive noise cancelling of all these four earlier mentioned in-ear monitors. I took some rough mobile measurements to compare the coach I am sitting in, to the Nanjing Metro and to a bullet train between Nanjing and Hangzhou and one between Shanghai and Nanjing. All these scenarios show a clear elevation of the low frequencies in the FFT analysis. Which explains why I often prefer headphones with more emphasised lower mids and low frequencies in public transport, or why I sometimes equalise the IEM for public transport in this frequency range.

I recently checked the passive isolation of the DT600, Timeless and OH10 on a bullet train at different speed levels by using the IEMs at moderate sound levels. The AudoSense DT600 isolation is very impressive. Up to 250km/h, the surrounding train noise level was totally shifted to the background. When reaching approximately 300km/h you will notice the train more often, but there is only a small difference between entering a tunnel or if the train is in the open. Here the IKKO OH10 clearly reaches its limits of passively isolating. Every tunnel I could notice at 300km/h, but up to 250km/h, the OH10 plays very nicely and still sounds great and wide. The 7Hz reaches its threshold in the range of approximately 200km/h. At that time, I didn’t have the IKKO Asgard OH5 with me but I’d place it, based on my former experiences, somewhere between the OH10 and Timeless.

In addition, I gave the Xiaomi FlipBuds Pro another spin. Surprisingly, the ANC performed very well in the bullet train with the latest FW 2.12.00. Only if the train was reaching 300km/h I could clearly notice more noise from the train. Important to mention is that for me the sound signature changes with these higher sound pressure levels surrounding the FlipBud. The FlipBud Pro started to play much less low frequencies the faster the train was getting. In my opinion, this is related to the higher energy which is been used for the ANC to cancel the low frequencies that hit your ear.

Another “Offbeat” Thought on Low Frequencies and Emphasising Bass

My personal observation is that boosting low frequencies is a bit like adding salt to a dish. A little salt can enhance the flavour, too much salt destroys the flavour. At the same time, it is easy to get used to the amount of salt in this recipe and next time the adapted taste calls for more. On the other hand, it is always possible to intentionally use less salt to enjoy the flavour of the ingredients and other spices. Of course, without salt, the dish will probably not taste good at all.

In my experience, the same analogy applies to boosting the low frequencies too much in my headphones. First, you are overwhelmed by the impact of the super low sound. However, later the low frequencies are too dominant and the rest of the huge frequency range might be lost.

Test Conditions for My In-Ear Monitors Comparison Tests

Let’s come back to the main topic: “My Ultimate Guide to Affordable In-Ear Monitors” and of course in what conditions I performed the listening AB or ABCD tests.

As my desktop DAC + headphone amp combo I am using the SMSL M500 MKIII or the Topping E70 + Topping L70 combo. In addition, I bundled the FIIO KA3 with my laptop to listen to this chain as well. Both DACs for this comparison (SMSL, Topping & FIIO) I am using with Apple Music / Lossless.
All comparison tests I did in a quiet environment without EQ, to be able to determine the IEM signature and hear as many details as possible.

affordable in-ear monitors and their pros and cons
My Ultimate Guide to Affordable IEMs: Audiosense DT600

AudioSense DT600 (6BAs, 2x low, 2x mid, and 2x high Frequencies, per In-Ear Monitor)

The first in-ear monitor I bought this year, after buying an “Ultimate Ears 10” a couple of years ago, was the AudioSense DT600, an IEM with 6 balanced armatures (BA). I was reading a lot of good reviews about the “older” AudioSense T800. Through these, I stumbled over the DT600. I liked the idea of a 3D printed shell, even though initially the sparkly colour scheme didn’t convince me. In addition, I was reading a lot about the great technicalities of the DT600 in combination with not sounding clinical.

After spending more than half a year with the AudioSense DT600, I have to say, I do not regret the purchase. The only thing I changed recently was the stock cable. I switched to the Kinera ACE, mainly because of the colour scheme which I think matches well with the design of the DT600. I am using the cable most of the time with the 4.4mm ending, mainly for convenience to be able to use the 4.4mm connection for all my in-ear monitors. The stock cable the DT600 comes with is good and does not show any tangling. Thus, there is no reason to switch them. I personally prefer the MMCX connection over the 2-pin connection. From my point of view, the MMCX connection gives me the possibility to rotate the IEM within the MMCX connector which can improve the overall fit of in-ear monitors.

AudioSense DT600 with Kinera cables
AudioSense DT600 with Kinera cables

I am using the AudioSense DT600 every day for my commute and always without the 80 Ohm adapter. All tests were done without the mentioned adapter. I am not using the DT600 on a daily basis because the AudioSense DT600 has the best acoustic performance or sound stage, etc. of all my IEMs, but because of the earlier mentioned great capability of isolation. Due to the build of a full BA unit, only a tiny hole under the MMCX connector is visible. Together with the fully 3D-printed resin surrounding the BAs, noise cannot easily bypass to my ears. I only realised this huge advantage of the DT600 after purchasing my other in-ear monitors lately.

In a quiet environment, I still like the AudioSense DT600. However, the DT600 can be outperformed in some tracks by other IEMs. So how does the AudioSense DT600 sound?

Impression of the AudioSense DT600

The tonality of the DT600 is smooth, natural, versatile, yet haunting and holographic, and very convincing. The DT600 is capable of playing a ton of “macro” details. A powerful, deep bass coming from a BA is also very astonishing and this full BA IEM can also “slam hard”. The stage in most of the tracks sounds less open, compared to the other in-ear monitors. The DT600 sounds more intimate and you are most of the time close to the musicians. Therefore, the distances between the existing layers are also closer to each other, compared to some of the other IEMs. But by listening carefully you can still distinguish the different layers with the AudioSense DT600.

AudioSense DT600 with Case
AudioSense DT600 in case

Giving you an example:

For the DT600’s overall more limited ability to produce a large sound stage, it sounds very spacious on “A Wonderful Life” by Mushroomhead. The presentation of the female vocals is very nice. You can hear a very good bass drum with a great impact and it fills the whole stage. The voices of female and male vocals are playing well together. The DT600 creates a small stage in a large room. The loudness drops are very intense to hear with the AudioSense. All instruments are well-defined, even when playing close to each other. Overall, an amazingly intimate sound presentation.

Note: After a while, the BAs along with the good isolation, tire my hearing or brain. For me, this happens after about 1.5h to 2h listening with them.

As I mentioned the sound is good and works also with my style of music. Thus, why I did not stop here?

Why My Journey Did Not Stop Here, or How to Look For Your Own Acoustic Sweet Spot

As I spend more time listening to the DT600, I was curious to learn what else was out there for an acoustic enthusiast. At the same time, I asked myself where my threshold is between spending too much money for the last few percent of improvement and what is worth spending more money on to get a lot of acoustic performance (aka finding my “acoustic bargain” or my “acoustic sweet spot”).

After reading more about different types of IEMs and watching several videos about “state of the art” headphones, I put some in-ear monitors on my shopping list for double eleven in 2022. In addition, I was building my own IEM opinions. For example, in a lot of forums, you can read that the high-end headphone scales with the amp. My opinion is that your taste in music can change based on the used gear as well. During this comparison review, I started to listen to a lot of new music and new genres. More of my Heavy Test Songs for Headphones and IEMs you can find here on Apple Music. If you’d like to check songs where I did A-B tests with these IEMs, you can find the details here.

Coming back to my shopping list for the double eleven, I didn’t want to spend too much money on a single IEM. Therefore, several in-ear monitors from the list below were excluded quickly. Other IEMs were very long on my list or even until the double eleven sale started, e.q. Moondrop Blessing 2, Moondrop Blessing 2 dusk & Moondrop Variations. But in the end, I was not sure, if the “blessings” would be too technical or too close to “Harman target curve” for me. Maybe I will be able to try one or the other from this list in the future. The DUNU SA6 Ultra I tried to get (not on the list), but customer service from DUNU China told me that they are only available outside of Mainland China ☹ So my money was safe ☺

KZ Zax
Fiio FH7s
Fiio FH 9
AudioSense T800
Shure 846pro
Fiio FA9
TRI I3 pro
Shure 846pro gen 2
Yanyin Canon
Yanyin Moonlight
thieaudio elixir
Moondrop Blessing 2
Moondrop S8
Moondrop Blessing 2 dusk
Letshuoer s12pro
Mangrid XENNS UP
Raptgo Hook-X
7Hz Timeless
Mangird Tea
Moondrop Variations
IKKO Asgard OH5

In the end, I bought the following IEMs on double eleven: the 7Hz Timeless, the IKKO Obsidian OH10 and the brand new IKKO Asgard OH5. The decision to buy the Timeless and OH10 was made after reading many good reviews online. I was also curious about the hype of the 7Hz Timeless. The IKKO Obsidian OH10 also has very good reviews online and with the double eleven deal price, I just went for it.

As mentioned earlier, I also decided to go with the brand-new in-ear monitor from IKKO. The IKKO Asgard OH5 was announced just before the double eleven sale in 2022. At that time, there was only a single, very positive video review by MajorHiFi online. So I wasn’t sure if I should take the risk and make this purchase, because even with the double eleven sale price, this IEM is definitely not cheap. Especially if you’re not quite sure what you’re getting. In the end, I took the risk and bought the IKKO Asgard OH5 for ~2500 RMB (~360€) from the IKKO store on Taobao. That makes the IKKO Asgard OH5 my most expensive in-ear monitor, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it stays that way. “Spoiler”: I have high hopes ☺

In my opinion, there are already quite a lot of reviews for the 7Hz Timeless and IKKO Obsidian published, besides the OH5 of course. Therefore, I will try to give a short summary of each in-ear monitor and draw some comparisons to the others by listening to different songs and genres.

I do not own any equipment to measure the frequency response or similar parameters of the IEMs. Therefore, I will have to rely on my own listening experience. I look forward to some technical reviews of the IKKO OH5 with hopefully many measurement curves, as I find it useful to calibrate my own listening experiences and preferences with the measurement results. Hopefully I can use this information to make better judgments of available units in the market. For the same reason, it was also important to me to hear the 7Hz Timeless by myself.

Now coming back to the main topic in-ear monitors: First my short summary of the 7Hz Timeless.

7Hz Timeless: Single 14.2mm Planar Driver. MMCX Connectors

Let’s start straightforwardly: The 7Hz Timeless is fun to listen to. It offers a tremendous range of low frequencies and yes, talking about treble, they can be on the “shouty” site. Without EQ, I prefer them for shorter listening sessions or some specific tracks. The soundstage of the Timeless is very wide compared to the other IEMs I have in this class. It has a wide and deep soundstage that is impressively spacious for an in-ear monitor. If I am looking for this wide soundstage or if I am in the mood for a heavy cymbal experience combined with low bass response, I will go for the 7Hz. The Timeless passive isolation isn’t outstanding, but it serves its purpose in not-too-noisy environments, as mentioned above. The shell has three bigger venting holes facing the listener’s head.

The 7Hz Timeless in-ear monitor with stock cables
The 7Hz Timeless with stock cables

Overall, the 7Hz Timeless has a lively and energetic tuning, with a fast and thick bass response. If I would listen more or I’d mainly listen to EDM, the 7Hz is an easy way to choose or recommend. With my listening style, the 7Hz will just be another piece of the acoustic puzzle and not the solution for all my tracks.

The Stock Cable of the 7Hz Timeless:

I ordered the 7Hz Timeless with the 4.4mm connection and the stock cables are okay. They are not the prettiest, but they also do not tangle. Therefore, I am not going to replace them. If needed, I could use one of my other MMCX cables.

7Hz Timeless with Case
7Hz Timeless with case

Giving you an example:

One of the best listening experiences outside of EDM with the 7Hz was “The Dark Unbroken” by “Dark Tranquillity”. In the beginning, the whole space fills with the sound very evenly. The Timeless creates a lot of sound layers. When the harsh male vocals start, the vocals co-exist together with the instruments. Crash cymbals are very clearly distinguishable. The clear vocals bring a huge room with its reverberations into focus, it really sounds like a cathedral. The sound is very different to DT600, but both are very engaging. The 7Hz shows more layers than DT600 and a very good separation of instruments in the huge room. The sound is reaching you from everywhere with the 7Hz Timeless.

IKKO Obsidian OH10: 1BA (Knowles 33518) + 1 Dynamic Driver (DD, 10mm Titanium-coated Polymer Composite Diaphragm)

The IEM IKKO Obsidian OH10 is a hybrid concept, which means that two commonly used driver technologies are used in combination. In addition to a Balanced Armature dual driver (Knowles 33518), a 10mm dynamic driver is used. Sound-wise, the IKKO OH10 follows the popular V-signature. This means that both highs and lows are boosted. This results in a compelling and extremely involving, enthusiastic soundstage with punchy bass and clear highs. The mids can be sometimes a little bit recessed. Therefore, for a few tracks, the OH10 seems to sound thin to me, in others I did not notice it at all.

Capture of the IKKO OH10 in-ear monitor

The IKKO OH10 sounds very spacious, by listening to guitars with some reverb, e.q. beginning of Dawn of Solace – White Noise.

Note on the stock cable:

The first thing I did after a quick listening session was, I ordered new cables. The thin black 2pin connector stock cables tend to tangle the moment you touch them (I have a theory that they already start to tangle if you look at them ☺). In combination with the copper housing of the IEM that is more on the heavy side, you will soon find the first knot in the stock cable. I replaced them with the Kinera Leyding, because of the great colour match. Since then, I have had no issues with tangling or knots anymore.

Giving you an example:

One of my preferred songs I listen to on the OH10 in my comparison test:
In the songs “The Beginning” & “Fly like an Eagle” from “In This Moment”, the toms sound brighter compared to the IKKO OH5. However, at the same time the OH10 shows amazing sub-bass and plays very detailed. With all my in-ear monitors, I felt the track was close to the “edge” and close to clipping (probably meant to be by the mixing engineer). The feeling of being surrounded by the instruments is very impressive with the OH10. The IKKO OH10 makes your head move along 🙂

IKKO OH10 with Case and Kinera cables
IKKO OH10 with case and Kinera cables

OH10 compared to OH5:

On the tracks “The Beginning” & “Fly like an Eagle” by “In This Moment”, the OH10 sounds more intense compared to the OH5. Overall, the OH5 shows more detail and plays technically on a higher level, but somehow the OH10 hit the sweet spot for me here. The OH10 provides an intense listening experience and still gives enough detail to enjoy the song. Without an AB comparison, I would be happy with either of these IEMs by IKKO.

Passive isolation and final thoughts on the OH10:

The IKKO Obsidian OH10 has two venting holes. The overall passive isolation is average, but I’d say better than the 7Hz. Within a noisy environment, you have to increase the sound volume to cover the noise.

Besides all the technical aspects, the look of the OH10 is very nice. I love the black copper shell with its unique shape. It looks like wearing an acoustic jewel in your ear. I would even say the OH10 looks more expensive than the OH5, especially with upgraded cables.

Overall, the IKKO Obsidian OH10 is a great hybrid in-ear with absolutely solid bass quality and very pleasant highs with otherwise skilfully balanced tonality. You will get a great imaging experience with this in-ear monitor, some vocals might sound a little bit recessed.

While writing this, I have the OH10 in my ears and listen through my heavy test for IEMs. The OH10 often makes your head or knee move along. For 90% of the songs I love the sound and without AB comparison I am not missing anything. You can find some of my listening ABCD comparisons online where I am sharing my personal experiences with different songs. Very often all four or at least three of the four IEMs are playing very close to each other.

Now finally coming to the IKKO Asgard OH5:

IKKO Asgard OH5: 12mm Dynamic Driver (It is Advertised With the First Lithium-Magnesium Diaphragm In-Ear Monitor)

My sound impression:

IKKO Asgard OH5: One of the first thoughts I had when I heard this in-ear monitor was that the image of having an orchestra in your ear is well chosen by IKKO marketing. 🙂 You can really get the impression of hearing a whole orchestra in a concert hall when listening to a large-scale recording. You still have the limitations of an IEM (at least in my experience) that the overall stage or room has its limitations in dimensions, but you can definitely feel the space.

Sunny picture of the IKKO Asgard OH5 in-ear monitor
The IKKO OH5 with stock cables

If you’re listening to singer-songwriters or slower, spacious songs, the OH5 will take you to each corner of the recording. Staging is well-defined for an in-ear monitor, without an emphasis on the treble. The OH5 is an IEM for those who prefer a generally warmer tuning with a pronounced bass/low-frequency emphasis. But I wouldn’t say the bass is overdone. The highs are rather restrained but have a pleasant presence. As an all-rounder, the OH5 plays very detailed with nice dynamics but is relaxed at the same time. Perfect for long listening sessions with constant head or foot movement. I bet with a little EQ you can tune any song to a level of engagement that suits you.

In my opinion, the OH5 offers great instrument and vocal positioning. If you are looking for an in-ear monitor that focuses mainly on detail, there may be better options. Overall, the IKKO Asgard OH5 is fun to listen to. It provides me with enough detail, stage and positioning for long listening sessions without me getting tired. Among these IEMs, the OH5 is the overall best sounding and the most detailed, but it will not be my first choice for all songs every time.

Regarding isolation, I’d rate it between the Timeless and the OH10. The OH5 has also two venting holes, the same as the OH10. In an earlier train AB test, I was switching back to the DT600 because of the much better passive isolation of the AudioSense.

IKKO Asgard OH5 with Case
IKKO Asgard OH5 with case

The stock cables are not outstandingly beautiful, but excellent quality and do not tangle. They look expensive, but I generally prefer a different style. To me, they look like they were made for home use. I won’t be replacing them and it’s great that the included cable allows you to change the connection from 3.5mm single-ended to 2.5mm and 4.4mm balanced.

Giving you an example:

Listening to “The Czar” by “Mastodon” you will appreciate the amazing capability of playing a ton of details within a well-sized sound stage and with a lot of different layers. More and more guitar layers are appearing with a very nice detailed drum support. With other IEMs the organ, in the beginning, might sound a little bit harsh, but not with the OH5. On the downside, the lower frequency range is a little bit too present in this song.

IKKO Asgard OH5 in-ear monitor Packaging and Accessories
IKKO Asgard OH5 packaging and accessories

Another example:

In “The Water Rising” by “Oceans of Slumber” the OH5 builds a great spacious sound with an amazing drum in the beginning and over the full song. It creates immediately a lot of well-defined layers within a clear audible large room. The sound signature is a little bit laid-back but good for long listening sessions. On this track, the 7hz Timeless might give you an overall higher level of excitement but can be a little bit tiring in the long run. The IKKO Asgard OH5 performs very well in this track and makes your head move along. In all situations, the main focus stays on the female vocals. The DT600 and OH10 are lacking behind in this song strongly compared to OH5 or the 7Hz.

Note: If you have the OH5 on hand and like Paradise Lost, give it a try. I think this in-ear monitor signature fits very well with their songs. The same is valid for the huge staging of Septicflesh (Dantes Inferno), it sounds great with the OH5.

You can find more ABCD song comparisions here.

Final Thoughts on the Journey of “My Ultimate Guide to Affordable In-Ear Monitors”

Which of these in-ear monitors should I take, if I can only buy one IEM?

It depends ☺

If I have to consider that I have to commute on noisy transit or I’d need the passive isolation, I would go with the AudioSense DT600 without a doubt. It is my daily companion and always sounds good enough or great.

Without commuting and for long listening sessions, I would opt for the IKKO Asgard OH5. The OH5 plays a lot of songs very well and I enjoy the sound signature a lot. On the other hand, you can almost buy two of the other in-ear monitors for the price of the OH5. Maybe I would go with the DT600 and the Timeless instead. They both play very well, but different enough to argue for both. It’s very hard to make that decision. In the end, I would probably still go with the OH5 because it is a very hassle-free choice if you can relate to the warm character. Let me know what you think of different IEM characters on thin Instagram-post.

Coming back to my other hobby photography for a moment, the IKKO Asgard OH5 could probably be compared to a very good 24-105 F4 or a solid 24-70 F2.8. An excellent companion that you can rely on for the majority of occasions. More about my passion for photography you can find here.

What I learned from this exercise is that, for me, none of the above-mentioned in-ear monitors meets all of my personal acoustic needs, but I am getting very good and exciting sounding IEMs at the price-rage of approximately 250€. On the other hand, I have learned that outside of my quiet test space, the effects of ambient noise will always alter the listening experience. So I’ll end my journey through “My Ultimate Guide to Affordable In-Ear Monitors” here (for now) because when I’m at home, I’ll simply opt for my personal “end-game” open-back headphone. Maybe I will report on this soon … let’s see.

If I need to listen to music without disturbing anyone at home, I have several very good options with these in-ear monitors on hand and additionally I own a closed-back “mid-fi” headphone (Shure SH1540). For those “do not disturb” situations, I’ll probably choose the IKKO Asgard OH5 most of the time and the OH5 will definitely travel with me so I can listen to good-sounding music in any hotel or not too noisy environments.

As already mentioned above, I plan to put some more ABCD listening comparisons on this homepage in the near future. UPDATE: The new post with more ABCD comparisions you can find here.

In conclusion, the market for in-ear monitors (IEMs) is constantly evolving and offers a wide range of options for consumers. While the IKKO Asgard OH5 may be more expensive compared to other options mentioned in this guide, its unique sound signature and performance make it a worthwhile investment for serious audio enthusiasts. Its laid-back yet detailed sound profile makes it stand out among the here compared hedphones. Whether you’re an audio enthusiast or just looking for a high-quality pair of earphones, there are now many affordable options available. The AudioSense DT600, 7Hz Timeless and the IKKO Obsidian OH10 are all great options to consider when searching for a new pair of IEMs. Remember to take into account your personal listening preferences and budget when making your decision.

I hope this guide has been helpful in your search for an affordable, great-sounding pair of in-ear monitors. If you have any questions or would like to share your own experiences, please feel free to reach out to me on Instagram or in the comments on this Instagram-post.

For now, I’m happy with the IEMs I own and won’t look into others for a few (hopefully) years to see what the market has to offer then.

Update 04.02.2023: Recently, I bought a much cheaper Earbud from Moondrop, The Droplet. You can find my latest review of the Moondrop Droplet here. I will try to make some comparisons to the above mentioned IEMs soon.

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Frederic Konkel

My name is Frederic B. Konkel and to capture landscapes and cityscapes is a big passion of mine. I'm currently back in Berlin, Germany. I love to explore new places and I'm using my cameras to document these moments. On F.B.K. Photography I showcase a few impressions of my captured moments from around the world.