Shootout of four earphones and a headphone

SoundMAGIC E11 55$ from Amazon’

HIFIMAN RE800 Silver 300$ from Amazon

Periodic Audio Be 300$ from Amazon

Massdrop X Empire Zeus Universal IEM 1K$

Drop: Passions lead here (formerly Massdrop)

HIFIMAN SUNDARA 350$ from Amazon

Source for serious listening: Chord Dave and Mscaler fed by Cocktail Audio X12 server and Monarchy Audio DP combo

Source for casual listening: Galaxy Note 4 and Dell Inspiron i7559-7512GRY 15.6 Inch UHD Touchscreen Laptop


Eva Cassidy Songbird

Elvis Presley Heart and Soul

Mozart Requiem Karl Bohm 1971

1. SoundMAGIC E11

I had bought this one for travel from Amazon April this year.

It sounds very well with both Galaxy Note 4 and Dell Laptop with neutral and smooth sounds.

With Dave and Mscaler, it sounds better with clean details, nice soundstage and good isolation.

Eva Cassidy’s voice sound clean with enough nuance.

Elvis Presley’s voice also sound natural with neutral tone.

It can play complex sound of Mozart Requiem with no congestion.

It is efficient enough to play loud with Galaxy Note 4.

This is the best value earphone(55$) for travel and home use.

2. HIFIMAN RE800 Silver

I had tried this one to get better sound than SoundMAGIC E11.

But I had hard time with brittle and hard treble before 100 hours of burn in.

After 100 hours of burn in, it sounds fast, transparent with vivid dynamics.

This one give clear window to music like electrostatic earphone.

But even after full burn in, it does not sound neutral with too much treble above 4kHz.

Eva Cassidy’s voice was attractive with extended and clean tone.

But it was a disaster with Elvis Presley’.

Elvis Presley’s voice sounds like Mezo soprano without his attractive mid tone.

It can play complex sound of Mozart Requiem with no congestion and beautiful violin tones but way upward balance.

It is efficient enough to play loud and slightly better tone with Galaxy Note 4.


This is the first magne planar headphone that I had tried.

It sounds musical and comfortable even with bright recordings.

But its balance is too bass heavy.

Eva Cassidy’s voice sounds comfortable but without her attractive overtone.

This one is for music lover but not audiophile.

It is not efficient enough to play loud with Galaxy Note 4.

4. Periodic Audio Be

I ordered this one on reading favorable review from

It did not disappoint me.

It sounds neutral as well as SoundMAGIC E11 but with more dynamics, details and nuances.

It is also slightly more efficient than SoundMAGIC E11.

Thus it could play loud volume with Galaxy Note 4.

Both Eva Cassidy’ and Elvis Presley sounds nice and attractive with Periodic Audio Be.

It also play very well Mozart Requiem with nice dynamics and resolution.

If my budget is limited to 300$, this one is best all around choice.

5. Massdrop X Empire Zeus Universal IEM

This used to be one of top earphones three years ago with 2,200$ retail price.

Massdrop reintroduce it after collaboration with Empire Ears, this is a new iteration of the Zeus XIV: an engineering marvel and the first 14-driver in-ear monitor ever made.

I bought this one out of curiosity.

It sounds very dynamic just out of box.

Other three earphones sounds like bookself speaker but this one sounds like full range floor speaker.

It also give lot of details and slightly wider and deeper soundstage than other earphones.

After 50 hours of burn in, some rough edges are gone.

It is more efficient than other earphones and Sundara.

Even with Galaxy Note 4, it could play loud around mid volume setting.

This one is a keeper even at 1k$ price.

If I want to get 10 or 20% better sound out of earphone than this, I may have to spend 2k$ or more.

Thus this one will be end IEM for me.

After this shoot out, I had gone back to my 2 channel system of Lansche 4.1 speaker driven by Line Magnetic 508 SET amplifier.

My main system plays much more dynamic with deeper bass slam with deeper and more transparent soundstage.

I wish to try Stax 009 electrostatic headphone in the future which could match transparent soundstage of my 2 channel system.

My summary recommendation is

If you want best value earphone, then go for SoundMAGIC E11.

If you want best value and neutral earphone under 300$, then go for Periodic Audio Be..

If you want reasonable priced musical headphone, then go for HIFIMAN SUNDARA

If you are audiophile interested in top earphone at best value, then go for Massdrop X Empire Zeus Universal IEM before it get sold out.

Drop: Passions lead here (formerly Massdrop)

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As I’ve oft repeated the high end earphones from HIFIMAN require about 300 💯💯💯 hours of burn in. You didn’t wait long enough if you stopped after 💯 . As I pointed out in the review of the RE-600S V2 earphones from HIFIMAN there was virtually NO CHANGE to the extremely blah sound after 200 hours. I can verify the sound of my RE-600S V2 earphones is a long way from hi end sound after about 130 hours of burn in. I realize you wished to get your evaluation published right away but it appears to be more of a rush to judgement.
After 100 hours of burn in, its treble edges are gone.

But even with this burn in, its balance is not neutral despire clean and detailed treble.

Thus I am in a position to evaluate Hifiman RE800s.
after 130 hours I can say definitely the HIFIMAN earphones still sound very unnatural, distorted, with an unsmooth frequency response, no bass. But they sound good on Kraftwerk because it’s all synthetic, even the voice. So, as far as I’m concerned you didn’t wait nearly long enough to judge them fairly. You are not in a position to judge them. You have to wait at least 300 hours. 😢
HIFIMAN RE800 Silver is not neutral but sounds like electrostatic one.

Thus if you are interested in such fast and transparent sound, you may give it a try.
I agree that my HIFIMAN RE-600S V2 sounds very fast - like electrostatic headphones. But, trust me on this, even with 130 hours on them they’re a long, long way from high end sound. But I’m patient, unlike some people. 😀 I will give them the full 300 hours before making any judgements or pronouncements. It’s a long way to Tipperary.
Gang, for a portable amp/DAC, try the Fiio BTR3.  Bluetooth connectivity only. With the right headphones it is amazing, especially for a tiny, $70 device:
There appears to be many inexpensive options to drive headphone well.

But Dave and Mscaler that I had got for my 2 channel system 4 weeks ago, also seems to be excellent for driving earphones and headphone.
Quick update on progress with burn in of HIFIMAN RE-600S V2 earphones. I finally switched over from using Zeppelin and Kraftwerk and Beastie Boys for burning them in after about hour 140. I now have about 16 hours logged on the System Burn-in Track 9 on the XLO Test CD. Hopefully this will cut my time to pure audio nirvana. George is getting fidgety. 😬
Finally! After more than 240 hours of burn in, including more than 5 straight days (how time flies!) using the burn in track of the XLO Test CD, the thin, tinny, distorted and bass shy sound disappeared. Well, almost all of it. There still isn’t much bass so I’m continuing to run the XLO track on repeat. Will make a final judgement in about 4 days. That should put me over 300 hours.
"...I’m continuing to run the XLO track on repeat."
I am glad to be of help.
Oh, didn’t I thank you? 😳
No need, I am really glad and am not fishing for praise.
While you are waiting, maybe it is a good idea to buy another CD player. Things break when used and your model is getting a bit old and used up.

I am talking about your CD player model.
Are you insane? I just got through burning it in for 240 + hours.
Be careful not to have it burn out. It happens.