Top 5 earphones under $100
Top 5 earphones under $100
There are some incredible earphones around or under the $100 mark. The bar for what we expect from sub $100 iems has been set very high by the likes of Tin Audio, TFZ, KZ and others are showing good presence in this bracket as well. The sound and build quality of all these iem’s are exceptional with signature’s ranging from basshead to treblehead to incredible detail retrieval.
TFZ Queen LTD / TFZ No.3
These are the most bass forward pair of the bunch, there are two earphones listed because they both utilize the latest 3rd Generation Dynamic Driver from TFZ. The differences are limited to housing design and fit. The Queen LTD has a more open fit around the “tragus”, the small U shaped part of your ear that points backwards. The No.3 can fit a bit tight around this area for some but will still be comfortable for most as well as creating a better seal. The signature is V-shaped, with heavy emphasis on bass and elevated highs. They are one of the best earphones for bassheads at any price and have an overall rich, energetic sound with bright highs. The bass has punch and weight behind it while retaining detail and the highs are well extended at the top.
Cons: High frequencies can be “sibilant” or piercing when listening at higher volumes on certain sounds such as; symbols, claps, hi-hats.
Solutions: Foam ear tips will help take the edge off if you’re treble sensitive, 5mm tips will fit best but 4mm tips can also be forced on if your ear canals are on the smaller size.
The T4 presents a more “neutral” sound signature with very slight bumps in the sub-bass and added heft in the mids. Detailed and smooth would best describe these iem’s as you’ll get the micro-details across the spectrum. String instruments are airy and vocals are more forward in the mix, though they don’t overwhelm the bass and high-frequencies they manage to retain good instrument separation and layering. The accessories for earphones under $100 are typically non-existent but these come with a beautiful brown leather case and a pair of foam ear tips to go along with your standard tips. Similar tuning to Blon BL-03 minus the sub-bass forwardness, they still have good sub-bass and great tuning.
Cons: Can lack energy for some.
Solutions: While these aren’t too hard to power, rating at 32ohms, an external DAC such as one of these: Xduoo LINK and FiiO BTR3 will give you some added punch to help liven them up a bit especially if your source is your phone.
Nicehck NX7 / Nicehck NX7 Pro
The NX7 has a unique tri-hybrid design consisting of 7 drivers, with Dynamic Drivers for the lows, Balanced armatures for the mids, and a Piezoelectric ceramic driver for the highs. The highs are the real star of these earphones as they shine bright in the sound signature. They are overall V-shaped with the midrange being recessed in the mix. The bass is more boomy than detailed but maintains control and is very fast when listening to bass notes in quick succession; high notes also have excellent speed. Given the nature of the piezoelectric driver these are very revealing and will show the detail in the treble region, they could be used for gaming along with music. The PRO Version of these comes with an upgraded cable, swappable face plates and a case. The price difference is relatively marginal and if you’re considering these iem’s the Pro is a worthy upgrade with great value. They are rated at 55OHMs of impedance which is high for earphones and given the nature of the tri-hybrid design, an external DAC/AMP would bring the most out of the NX7.
Cons: Can be too bright for some, vocals are recessed.
Solutions: Best AMP for these: XDUOO TA-01B Out of all amplifiers, tube amps will bring the most warmth to your earphones/headphones. This amp could also be your long-time go-to for all audio products. The XDUOO TA-05 (no usb port) is also a great option while being more affordable.
Budget home DAC/AMP: The FX-Audio DAC-X6 will add warmth as well as clarity across the spectrum.
Portable: TempoTec Sonata iDSD will help the midrange and vocals, bringing some warmth and toning down the bright nature as well as any portable can.
The C16 is stuffed with 8 balanced armature drivers per side. They lean more towards a balanced and neutral sound signature where all frequencies will be present without one dominating the other. While they’re more neutral there is an energy and lively sound to them, balanced armature drivers typically don’t handle bass as well as dynamic drivers but these actually have some depth and the mid-bass is probably its strongest point. While the C16 won’t rumble as hard as most Dynamic Driver iem’s they are not lacking and the speed and detail you get from BA drivers can still satisfy those looking for solid bass. The soundstage is the best on this list and a reason why driver count can matter since you’re getting sound from so many sources and you’ll get an out of head experience with the large soundstage on some tracks, this also helps give them great separation of instruments and vocals. The mids are clean and present in the mix, vocals are good with female vocals shining more.
Cons: Cable is worst on the list, the highs can be rolled off at the top.
Solutions: Wide-bore ear tips such as the Spinfit CP145 will give you greater extension on the highs as well as a better feel to the bass. The Yinyoo 16 core silver plated cable is a great replacement but if you have an extra 0.75mm cable lying around it’ll likely be better than the stock C16 cable.
This entry is just over $100 but not by much and with the exceptional quality, looks, and most importantly the sound, they really deserve to be on this list and even the upcoming under $200 list.
They lean towards neutral with good presence in the mid-range and slight elevation in the low-frequency. The bass is stellar; full, deep, and punches when called for. The highs are slightly rolled off on the highest notes so you won’t get any sibilant or harsh ear piercing sounds even on high volume but you still get the full range and catch all the micro-details in the highs along with the other frequencies. We will have an extended review for these likely later this week which will go in-depth with both pros and cons, which on first impressions are minimal or to taste.
It’s gotten harder to draw a line between good audio and hifi audio, getting $100 earphones doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice in sound quality or build quality anymore and some would prefer the iem’s on this list over some $400+ pairs. Which of these would be best for you?
TFZ Queen LTD / No.3: Best bass pair here and one of the best bass earphones that exist.
Tin T4: If you want to hear every detail and prefer a more neutral sound with excellent coherency.
NX7: For faster music such as EDM, house, and trebleheads. The Piezo driver in amazing for high frequencies.
C16: Soundstage for any genre that will showcase best in orchestral music and if you want something more neutral but still lively.
Starfield: If you like a neutral sound signature with a bit of bass elevation done well, along with a lush mid-range, they're possibly the best overall on this list but will go into that more in the upcoming review.
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