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June 2024 - Need a good transparent sounding IEM - budget $60 max

markanini

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I bought the IEMs listed based on the recommendations and tests in the forum.
The LAN and the Zero:Red impressed me the most, but all of them are really good, even the cheap Zeros.
I use the LAN the most because it is very comfortable and small and I like it equally with and without EQ. They are made entirely of metal and the cable is also high quality. For me, the Zero:Red is the best with EQ and very detailed, the LAN is more relaxed.
Read a little between the lines in the tests and experiences and you will find the right one. 2 pairs would also fit into your budget, e.g. the LAN and one the cheap Zero. All of them are on offer on Amazon from time to time.
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/moondrop-lan-review.45096/
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...ruthear-x-crinacle-zero-red-iem-review.44865/
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...ds/truthear-x-crinacle-zero-iem-review.37380/
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/7hz-x-crinacle-zero-2-iem-review.50534/
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/7hz-salnotes-zero-iem-review.50226/
+1 on Lan and Red, two very good IEMs. So good that everything else I've tried has kind of disappointed me.
 

Roland68

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+1 on Lan and Red, two very good IEMs. So good that everything else I've tried has kind of disappointed me.
I can confirm that. I used to have IEMs for up to €/$500 and I listened to some for up to 2000. I'm glad that you can get equally good or better ones for so little money these days.
 

InfiniteJester

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I can't understand that from my experience with many headphones between 150 and 4000 €/$. The thing about the bass alone is nonsense.
For me, it has nothing to do with IEMs, even less than with headphones.
Maybe that was just a content article, or it's because it's almost 10 years old, or both.

My favorite IEM, the MP145, is a planar and the experience is very different from any DD or hybrid I own.

There is certainly different about planars, at least a very low prices. For example, the HE400se is much better than any other headphone at the same price.

Of course, it may be a thing of personal preference, or just purely incidental, but my experience with planars has been extremely positive.
 
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OK1

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I can't understand that from my experience with many headphones between 150 and 4000 €/$. The thing about the bass alone is nonsense.
For me, it has nothing to do with IEMs, even less than with headphones.
Maybe that was just a content article, or it's because it's almost 10 years old, or both.
Thanks for pointing out how old this opinion was (2016), that's about 8 years ago, and even if it was true at the time, current headphones/IEMs very likely have moved on, in terms of their manufacturing quality and material science.

I had not noticed how old the piece was, until you pointed it out.
 

Stereodude

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ARTTI T10 (just under US$60 on AliExpress sale). A planar (14.2mm) driver. Nice fitment, light, and comfortable to wear for long listening sessions. Planar speed of attack. Planar detail resolution. Good imaging. Well tuned. Probably one of the best planar IEM's and exceptional at its price point.

Watch Akros review on this IEM.
Are there independent measurements of them anywhere to compare to other IEMs?
 
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OK1

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I just received the CCA CRA IEM, through the post. I have not done any EQ yet.

My previous experience with headphones is limited to an AKG K702, a birthday gift received in 2014, and a variety of earbuds from Sony - the best which was the Sony MDR-EX15AP. This was still a bit bass light, when compared to the next IEM I moved to.

This was the JVC HA-FX7M which was very bassy, but when EQ'd via impulse response generated by AutoEQ.app - was significantly improved. I had a challenge with isolation using the eartips that came with the JVC - annoyingly having to correct the fit in one ear every few minutes., definitely more balanced and much clearer end to end frequency wise, than the Sony.

Product :

Let's just say I am overwhelmed and almost in tears with joy. I cannot imagine what I'm hearing is real. I'm using the default eartip which was attached to the CCA CRA. These are the medium tips, of the three eartip pairs delivered with the product. Minimal packaging, but I'm ok with that. Best the money was invested in the headphones rather than packaging. Love the cable. Looks adequate to me. the connectors to the earphones fitted perfectly, and also snugly into the Apple dongle, which is what I'm listening through.

Loudness :

These CRA's needed me to reduce the digital volume, by about 6 to 8 dB, compared to the JVC's. Yet I think they are still louder than the JVC's with this attenuation. I'll try and find time to compare the quoted or measured sensitivity and impedance of the JVC and CRA, to appreciate the difference. Definitely the Apple dongle (US model), drives these headphones effortlessly, so my Sabaj A20h, for these headphones, are surplus to requirements.

When I 1st connected the CRA's and played a track via Spotify, cos of a quirk with Apple phones, which need a headphone connected, to be registered in Windows as a playback device, the changeover from one headphone to another, disconnected the audio from my DAW (typically I route WIndows audio virtually through to my DAW - and then to whatever playback devices I'm listening to), I had the Windows audio routed directly to the Apple dongles output - full blast - had to immediately take out the headphones, and I mean immediately, from my ears. To put things in context, when properly setup - level wise, through my DAW, I'm hitting a maximum of about -49 dBFS peak, on commercial music from Spotify (listening to Koffee the Jamaican Grammy award reggae artist) and if you dare to listen on these headphones, without attenuation, via the Apple dongle, in simple English - you will go deaf within a minute or two. At almost 50dB attenuation, the CRA's are more than loud enough for comfortable listening to commercial music, on Spotify. I think for long term listening, I'll still listen about 2 to 3 dB quieter.

Isolation :

They do not seem to isolate anywhere near the JVC's where I had to use the largest eartips. But I use the word seem to. Why? I can no longer hear the fan blowing on my laptop - typically this fan works 100% of the time, non stop. So I think the change is the isolation is occuring not in the outermost part of the ear, but cos these CRA's fit deeper into the ear canal, the isolation is happening somewhere closer to the eardrum, in a narrower part of the ear canal, even though the eartips are smaller than what I needed on the JVC's. Let's just say, these are proper IEM's, not pretenders like the JVC. Whatever can completely silence the fans of my laptop, must be pretty good isolation. Yet I do not feel a certain uncomfortable ear block that the JVC needed, to have its bass pronounced at the right level.

Comfort and Fit :

It's obviously still early days, only had them for less than 40 minutes at the time I'm typing this paragraph. Asi I listen to the laptop on my desk, usually I'd take off my earphones to go to the bathroom, for a leak, and put them on when I get back to the laptop/desk. With these, I do not want to take them off. I'd rather unplug the earphones and walk about the house with them, cos I do not want to be bothered with refitting them with the cable over my ears. Better to disconnect the headphones and move with them, then connect them back to the Apple dongle. I do not expect to adjust them, more than maybe once every hour, just to make sure they are properly fitted. I do not think once properly fitted, they will become loose, my 1st impressions. Very positive fit, but must add, these are my 1st and currently the only proper IEMs I have ever worn.

I have no issues with the weight, and no pain in the ear canal due to the fit. No current need to think of changing ear tips or purchasing an after market set. (happy with the fit). relieved about this cos I hear fit of IEMs is spoken about, a lot., both for comfort as well as its impact on the sonics. I could easily wear these all day. No issues.

Audio Quality/Sonics

I have no measuring tools, so these opinions are subjective. And can only be comparative. Now I'll sound like one of those audiophile reviewers, using descriptive terms that cannot be measured. Let me use words.

Intimate. I feel connected to the music, right there in the music. Bass is NOT excessive, not what I would expect of what has been described as the V-Shape of many KZ headphones. The JVC's without EQ, were much heavier in the bass. I do not feel any immediate wish to tame the bass. Vocals are very clear, words very easy to hear. Compared to the JVC's the high frequencies are almost subdued, I can definitely hear more details. Stereo spread, nothing to comment on - just sounds perfect to me, i.e. soundstage, I'm using crossfeed, so that narrows the extreme stereo spread one gets without crossfeed.

Solid. I can hear everything, and hear the separation between elements, loud parts, and quieter parts, panning.

Effortless. My ear is NOT straining to hear anything.

Smooth. I was fully expecting to hear a lot of harsh high end frequencies - nothing. Actually think I'd love a bit more high end, just a bit more. Could be age related, but what I have heard so far sounds smooth.

I have not tested the microphone yet, nor tested teh headphones with my smartphone.

Without EQ, pretty satisfied with these. So far. Definitely prefer something nice and light as these, instead of some over the ear affair with a headband. Ordered via Ali-Express, from CRA's store on Ali-Express. arrived 6 days later from China. Now that is exceptional service. Truly outstanding. I fully expect them to be reliable, as I will only be using them at the laptop/desk, If I needed one for moving around, I'd order a 2nd pair for that purpose, rather than risk the possibility of my only pair being damaged by rough handling.

If this is today's entry level, and sounds so comfortable, and easy to listen to, without EQ, I wonder what better would sound like. The only reason I'd wish to buy one or more IEM's is simply as a way of learning where the current state of the art is, within my budget. the CCM CRA's were about $13 all in- cost, taxes and shipping.

As you can deduce, I am obviously quite impressed. Sounds like the kind of product I would definitely recommend for anyone on a budget. Could not ask for any better, for the price. I think it portrays the quality of whatever is fed to it. I'll add further impressions, when I EQ it.
 
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OK1

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Just been through the AutoEQ process. With AutoEQ.app, the web based app, the CCA CRA has five (or six) different measured responses from crinacle, Kr0mka, SuperReview, and others, so it's a bit hard to decide which one of these responses to use as the origin against which a correction will be derived. Some require quite a bit of bass reduction, in the correction, which causes the corrected audio to sound thin. I created corrections for the Crinacle, Kr0mka and SuperReview measurements. Further to also applying different gain adjustments to achieve as much of a level playing field, in loudness, the Kr0mka based correction seemed the most balanced to me. The correction based on Crinacle's measurements is also a really good result. Hard to choose between the Kr0mka and Crinacle based corrections - cos I like both of them. The Crinacle based correction, lifts the high end and mids that bit more. Hard to tell which is the most accurate correction.

Unlike my JVC's where correction made a huge difference, with the CCA CRA, AutoEQ is not a night and day difference from the uncorrected result. EQ just takes what was already a decent result, and sharpens it up that bit more, especially making the vocals more front and center, less recessed.

The information in the center is especially improved by EQ. Decided the the Crinacle measurement based correction has the most pin sharp result in the center of the soundstage. Vocals are now so clear. Fatigue - was not apparent in the uncorrected audio, and in the corrected audio, this is the same. Loudness would be the only thing to cause fatigue. At a comfortable listening level, there is no fatigue, none whatsoever. Guess over time, I'll swap between the Kr0mka based correction, which is somewhat more relaxed, but not as focussed as the Crinacle based correction, but it does not emphasize the vocals as much, giving more room for the instruments to be heard. - overall think this is the most balanced correction.

I'm hearing artefacts on Youtube, on interviews, that I would not notice before, and this is on huge multi million subscriber channels ! This does seem to be able to sort out the men from the boys. So easy to hear the noise gating on interviews.
 
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OK1

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Current shortlist of what to buy to complement the CCA CRA, includes :

TRN Conch
Artti T10
Simgot EW200
Salnotes 7hz Zero
(Salnotes) 7hz Zero 2
Kefine Delci
Truthear Zero - Red
Truthear Gate
Tin T3 Plus
Tin T2 Plus
Moondrop LAN
Moondrop Chu II
Moondrop Aria (refurbished)
KZ PR1,PR2, or PR3 (manufacturing consistency is a bit of an issue here, due to alleged changes in the design over time, so prior reviews/measurements/user opinions, and what one receives from current orders, may differ) - This risk does apply to pretty much any product, but is particularly highlighted for he KZ PR series, from my brief investigation.
KZ ZVX

Two things have changed since I started this thread.

1. I now have the CCA CRA, and I am pretty satisfied with it without EQ, and with EQ using AutoEQ, it takes listening to an even higher quality, in my non measured subjective estimation.

2. My apprehension with ordering products from China, has been reduced. I have had a good experience with the CCA CRA order, via AliExpress - received a brand new item, no issues, which was delivered in pretty stunning time. Normal delivery in country - typically I expect 3 to 5 working days, cos I rarely pay for expedited delivery. The CCA CRA arrived 6 days after order, all the way from China, now that is mind blowingly phenomenal.

So now, I'll take my time, really take my time to take a decision of what else to buy.

Long term, as money becomes available, with the excellent performance of the CCA CRA's, this has given me confidence to be more adventurous. Final list of headphones, that I'm hoping to have over the next year or so would be :

1. CCA CRA IEM (owned)
2. Another dynamic IEM
3. A planar magnetic IEM
4. AKG K702 (owned)
5. A planar magnetic Over Ears, most likely one of the HIfiMans. (This is optional and only if I'm flush with cash).
 
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Basic Channel

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My favorite IEM, the MP145, is a planar and the experience is very different from any DD or hybrid I own.

There is certainly different about planars, at least a very low prices. For example, the HE400se is much better than any other headphone at the same price.

Of course, it may be a thing of personal preference, or just purely incidental, but my experience with planars has been extremely positive.

I agree the HE400se are great, but I also agree that article seems to be full of nonsense. I have other planars that sound quite different to the HE400se so I'd be dubious that the sound of either is mostly down to the driver type.

I think what the article says about bass is the other way around. Maybe there is another reason why planar tweeters are far more common than planar subwoofers, or perhaps its completely irrelevant to the discussion of headphones and IEM.
 

Basic Channel

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Current shortlist of what to buy to complement the CCA CRA, includes :


Salnotes 7hz Zero


2. My apprehension with ordering products from China, has been reduced. I have had a good experience with the CCA CRA order, via AliExpress - received a brand new item, no issues, which was delivered in pretty stunning time. Normal delivery in country - typically I expect 3 to 5 working days, cos I rarely pay for expedited delivery. The CCA CRA arrived 6 days after order, all the way from China, now that is mind blowingly phenomenal.

So now, I'll take my time, really take my time to take a decision of what else to buy.

Long term, as money becomes available, with the excellent performance of the CCA CRA's, this has given me confidence to be more adventurous. Final list of headphones, that I'm hoping to have over the next year or so would be :

1. CCA CRA IEM (owned)
2. Another dynamic IEM
3. A planar magnetic IEM
4. AKG K702 (owned)
5. A planar magnetic Over Ears, most likely one of the HIfiMans. (This is optional and only if I'm flush with cash).

I am also a happy Aliexpress user. I've recently got the 7hz Salnotes Zero for 10 EUR as part of their pick 3 products and get free shipping thing. So i got a wee music box and some ear tips with them.

The Hifiman HE400se are regularly available for around 100 eur, when they are on sale on Amazon the returns drop in price too. I got a return for 86 eur.

So I suppose if you wait and pick the right opportunities to buy, you could get all you want for 150 quid or so, depending on what planar IEMs you want.
 

markanini

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Current shortlist of what to buy to complement the CCA CRA, includes :

Artti T10
Simgot EW200
Salnotes 7hz Zero
(Salnotes) 7hz Zero 2
Kefine Delci
Truthear Zero - Red
Tin T3 Plus
Tin T2 Plus
Moondrop LAN
Moondrop Chu II
Moondrop Aria (refurbished)
KZ PR1,PR2, or PR3 (manufacturing consistency is a bit of an issue here, due to alleged changes in the design over time, so prior reviews/measurements/user opinions, and what one receives from current orders, may differ) - This risk does apply to pretty much any product, but is particularly highlighted for he KZ PR series, from my brief investigation.
KZ ZVX

Two things have changed since I started this thread.

1. I now have the CCA CRA, and I am pretty satisfied with it without EQ, and with EQ using AutoEQ, it takes listening to an even higher quality, in my non measured subjective estimation.

2. My apprehension with ordering products from China, has been reduced. I have had a good experience with the CCA CRA order, via AliExpress - received a brand new item, no issues, which was delivered in pretty stunning time. Normal delivery in country - typically I expect 3 to 5 working days, cos I rarely pay for expedited delivery. The CCA CRA arrived 6 days after order, all the way from China, now that is mind blowingly phenomenal.

So now, I'll take my time, really take my time to take a decision of what else to buy.

Long term, as money becomes available, with the excellent performance of the CCA CRA's, this has given me confidence to be more adventurous. Final list of headphones, that I'm hoping to have over the next year or so would be :

1. CCA CRA IEM (owned)
2. Another dynamic IEM
3. A planar magnetic IEM
4. AKG K702 (owned)
5. A planar magnetic Over Ears, most likely one of the HIfiMans. (This is optional and only if I'm flush with cash).
I can vouch for Truthear Red. Truthear Gate is not in your list but is also a good generalist you can plug in to any 3.5mm jacks without worries. Truthear Red is better paired with a CX dongle for maintaining the intended frequency response. CX dongles are available on Aliexpress, any brand will do, the important thing is that the internals match the quality of DAC-amps costing 5-10 times more.
 
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staticV3

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CX dongles are available on Aliexpress, any brand will do, the important thing is that the internals match the quality of DAC-amps costing 5-10 times more.
The CX31993 can't even match the $9 Apple dongle for IEM use:
2155.png mblu HiFi.png
(50mV at 16.5Ω)
 

Basic Channel

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OK1

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I can vouch for Truthear Red. Truthear Gate is not in your list but is also a good generalist you can plug in to any 3.5mm jacks without worries. Truthear Red is better paired with a CX dongle for maintaining the intended frequency response. CX dongles are available on Aliexpress, any brand will do, the important thing is that the internals match the quality of DAC-amps costing 5-10 times more.
Never heard of the Truthear Gate - will look this up.
 
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OK1

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The CX31993 can't even match the $9 Apple dongle for IEM use:
View attachment 374758 View attachment 374759
(50mV at 16.5Ω)
It took me a while to appreciated the Apple dongle, but at this time it's the only one I have, and even though I have no reliable tools to measure, I can rely on what others have measured.

1. Zero background noise.
2. Truly plug and play (up to 48K on Windows)
3. Only wish it would NOT disable the audio device in Windows, whenever the headphone is unplugged. Right now every time I have to disconnect my CCA CRA headphones, and reconnect, I have to reset the audio device connections in my DAW, and the default device for Windows playback. I prefer to disconnect the headphones and keep them on my ears, and reconnect when I come back to the laptop.
4. I'm using the US version - A2049. Completely happy with it.
5. Drives the CCA CRA to levels that are assured to cause deafness within a few seconds, if not attenuated. My current peak when listening is -50 dBFS, on the outputs of the Apple Dongle yeah - signals normally peaking at -0.1 dBFS on the virtual Windows device feeding my DAW, need 50 decibels of attenuation when fed through the Apple dongle to CCA CRA earphones, for normal listening levels, I listen at a healthy level, for hours on end. So this dongle has far more than enough power to drive low impedance IEMs, like the CCA CRA.

For the price, everyone should own an Apple dongle, as a baseline for what decent audio DAC conversion sound like. It's a no brainer. Sure it does need some app to work optimally, on Android smartphones, but I rarely listen to music on my smartphone, so for me - this is not a showstopper.

And you can order direct from Apple in Europe or US, with shipping included in the cost, no need to order from China, to get the lowest price, as is the case with many Chinese brand dongles.

Value for money - best dongle in the world.
 

markanini

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The CX31993 can't even match the $9 Apple dongle for IEM use:
View attachment 374758 View attachment 374759
(50mV at 16.5Ω)
I would not be as eager to crown a winner myself based on that alone. The difference in noise floor would be imperceivable at sane listening levels, assuming a sensitive IEM. For real world use it means more that EU versions of Apple dongle have less available gain range on Android, require jumping through hoops to unlock it every time you use it. At best Apple dongle still cant beat CX dongle in terms of power, so one can keep using CX dongle for some headphones without needing to buy more devices:
1718199063312.png
 
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OK1

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I can vouch for Truthear Red. Truthear Gate is not in your list but is also a good generalist you can plug in to any 3.5mm jacks without worries. Truthear Red is better paired with a CX dongle for maintaining the intended frequency response. CX dongles are available on Aliexpress, any brand will do, the important thing is that the internals match the quality of DAC-amps costing 5-10 times more.
Just checked out the Truthear Gate - seems to be new/recently released product, low cost, entry level. And another decent "starter" IEM. Bonus- it comes with a leatherette pouch.

Challenge is now I have the CCA CRA, not sure of the benefit of getting another "starter" IEM. Sure these things are now thankfully inexpensive. Last thing I want is a pile of inexpensive - good quality IEM's lying around, doing nothing, just because I want to feed my gear lust. Must resist the temptation. Hate to waste money.

From what I can deduce so far, the CCA CRA sounds as good as the source. Feed it some modern saturated audio, it shows you exactly what is there. Feed it a high end jazz, or well mixed song - from one of the top artists, e.g Natalie Cole, Beyonce, and you hear a better result.

I had thought of getting one each of the popular DAC chips - e.g CX-31993, or the ALC5686, and the CS43131 and maybe the ESS90382M, in either dongle or desktop form factor, but I'm not a lab, or a collector, already have too many audio interfaces which I do not use daily, so as I do not need or value MQA, bought a Tempotec Sonata BHD which was on sale on AliExpress - awaiting delivery. This has dual CS43131, and superb measured specs - more than good enough for desktop use - several times more power than the Apple dongle. I'm estimating I'd have to attenuate by about 60dB in the digital domain, to match these with the CCA CRA, for normal long term listening. Which introduces its own issues. Ideally I would like to have the audio coming out of the dongle at its ideal operating range - not hitting the limits like 0dBFS, but somewhere between -5dBFS and -20dBFS. One more dongle DAC to join the Apple dongle is enough. No more dongle DAC purchases, after the Tempotec Sonata BHD arrives.

With low impedance, high sensitivity headphones, causing one to resort to huge attenuation like -50dB or -60dB, wondering if I'll not be ruining the quality of the audio. From my review of the linearity tests on most DACs on ASR, I think most DACs should still be ok, and produce clean flat frequency at up to -60dB. Nevertheless, thinking that I'd prefer to attenuate in the analog domain, to avoid any potential frequency accuracy anomalies in the DAC at very quiet output levels, from needing to attenuate far too much in the digital domain, when I have these low impedance high sensitivity IEMS.

Solution would be - to attenuate no more than 15dB in the digital domain, i.e max peaks coming out of the dongle would be about -15dBFS, feed the output of the dongle DAC, to my Sabaj A20h headphone amplifier, which is then responsible for any further attenuation/loudness management, in the analog domain. Of course I may be overthinking this, as digital attenuation down to -60 or -70dBFS may still be perfectly OK and do the audio output from a dongle DAC, no audible harm. With many dongle DAC's reaching SINADs of -109dB or better, that still leaves approx 39dB dynamic range, (109 minus 90). which is more than enough for most modern pop music.
 
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OK1

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I can vouch for Truthear Red. Truthear Gate is not in your list but is also a good generalist you can plug in to any 3.5mm jacks without worries. Truthear Red is better paired with a CX dongle for maintaining the intended frequency response. CX dongles are available on Aliexpress, any brand will do, the important thing is that the internals match the quality of DAC-amps costing 5-10 times more.
I added the Truthear Gate to the list. Thanks. Will definitely research it, but may not buy cos I do not want to have too many things lying around, doing nothing.
 
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