In-ear monitors were once exclusive for professionals. The over the ear cable and flat side design was only available in high-end custom IEMs or those produced by companies like Shure and Westone. The cheapest IEM that had this form factor was the Shure SE 215.
However, this is no longer the case in today’s market. With the rapid growth and popularity of Chi-Fi in the audiophile industry, IEMs no longer need to be expensive to be considered good. For as low as 50 USD, you can get an IEM that is durable and can be used in a multitude of tasks from casual to professional use.
Of course, these IEMs are not meant to dethrone and replace expensive IEMs. These headphones are meant to be an introduction to the world of IEMs or an alternative to professionals who cannot afford industry-standard IEM. If you are a professional musician, we recommend checking out our upcoming article that is better geared towards your needs.
And for casual listeners who are just looking for a great sounding pair, we highly recommend the Blon BL03. This IEM punches way above its price point thanks to its excellent tuning. But, there are more IEMs here, such as multi-driver IEMs. Keep on scrolling to learn more about them.
Please note: At the time of publishing, all recommended products were selling for $50 or less but prices fluctuate.
Best IEMs (In-Ear Monitors) Under $50
Blon BL03 – Best Overall
1 DD (Carbon Coated Dynamic Driver)
Detachable (2 Pin 0.78 mm)
The Blon BL03 is hands down the best IEM that you can get for under 50 USD in terms of sound quality. Like most of the IEMs on this list, Blon isn’t exactly an established name in the audiophile community. Apart from the Blon BL20 planar magnetic headphones and the ridiculous acronym of their name (Belief, Letmusicburn, Oppoty, Nevergiveup), they don’t have any other notable achievements.
That is why the Blon BL03 caught the whole community off guard. It is a headphone that came out of nowhere and defied the expectations. It is even said to be able to compete with USD 200 IEMs such as the Moondrop Kanas Pro/KXXS.
The build quality alone is already a step in the right direction. Unlike other budget IEMs, the Blon BL03 is utilizing a metal construction for the shells. The driver used has a carbon-coated driver that is well-tuned.
Like most of the IEMs in the budget category, the Blon BL03 has a slightly V-shaped sound signature. Both the low end and the high frequencies are well extended on this IEM. Mids are still detailed but take a backseat on the Blon BL03.
What is interesting with the Blon BL03 is the high detail retrieval, especially considering the price. Imaging is very accurate and is better than its competitors in this price range. The well-implemented tuning and excellent detail retrieval alone easily make the Blon BL03 punch above its price point.
Of course, IEMs like the Kanas Pro that is more expensive than the Blon BL03 is technically superior in every way. But the fact that the Blon BL03 can even keep up and is not outright outclassed is truly remarkable.
Despite the great sound quality, the Blon BL03 is not perfect. Some users are having issues with the fit of the Blon BL03 due to the short nozzles. The poor fit results in poor sound isolation and bass response for some users. Third-party tips such as comply foam tips or Spinfit silicon tips are highly encouraged.
The cable is also not great even when compared to other similarly priced offerings. The cable is detachable, so you can always replace it with a better cable. Just remember to buy the correct 2 pin configuration.
Overall, the Blon BL03 defied all expectations for a budget IEM. If you could get pas the fit issues and poor cable, the Blon BL03 is one of the best sounding budget IEM and is the perfect gateway into the world of high fidelity audio.
The Blon BL03 shares a similar tuning to more expensive IEMs. It is one of the best sounding IEMs in its price range.
The fit of the Blon BL03 is not the best. The cable is also noticeably worse than its competitors.
QKZ VK4 – Best Value
Dual Driver (2 DD)
Detachable (2 Pin 0.75mm)
The QKZ VK4 is by far the most affordable IEM on this list. QKZ is a brand that is associated with quantity but not necessarily on quality. This brand first became notorious for offering IEMs as cheap as 2 USD.
Of course, these IEMs were not anything special since they didn’t have anything that could make them punch above their price point. However, the QKZ VK4 is an entirely different beast. It sports a dual dynamic driver design (which is an odd choice and can only be seen on more expensive models).
It also has a detachable cable, which was another feature that was only seen on 20 USD IEMs. You get all of those features for less than 20 USD. But this time around, the QKZ actually sounds good and is, therefore, an amazing value.
The QKZ VK4 has a striking resemblance to the color scheme of the KZ ZST Pro. It was rumored that QKZ is one of the OEMs of KZ, which could explain this coincidence. Fans of the KZ ZST look will be quite happy with the VK4 since KZ has strayed away from that color scheme.
The sound signature is leaning towards a V-shaped sound signature. The bass is energetic but has enough separation from the midrange. The midrange is fairly detailed and is one of the best in its price range. The highs are well controlled and are not sibilant. However, they are thin sounding, which makes the IEM have a relaxed sound.
Overall, if you want to have a feel for IEMs before purchasing more expensive models, then the QKZ VK4 is the best option in the budget category. It is one of the cheapest IEMs that does not compromise sound quality in order to lower the price.
The QKZ VK4 is hands down the best IEM in its price range. It has the sound and the features of IEMs that are significantly more expensive.
If we had to nitpick, the only con would be the QKZ VK4’s slightly thinner sound. Some listeners may enjoy this while others will not.
KZ ZSN Pro
Hybrid Dual Driver (1 DD + 1 BA)
Detachable (2 Pin 0.75 mm)
Knowledge Zenith (KZ) is arguably one of the first brands in the budget Chi-Fi category. They first started rolling products in 2017 with the KZ ZS3 and KZ ZST Pro. Despite the criticisms in the tuning of the drivers, these became an instant hit.
KZ addressed the issue in the sound tuning by releasing the ZST Pro’s successor, the KZ ZSN, and KZ ZSN Pro. The KZ ZSN was the first model to be released. Since the KZ ZSN Pro is the updated version, we will be concentrating on that model.
The KZ ZSN Pro shared the same Custom IEM form factor that was found in the KZ ZST Pro. However, the 2 pin connector has been updated to the new version, which helps in the stability. However, keep in mind that the cables are different and not compatible with the old KZ cables.
The shape is a fairly safe shape and should be comfortable for most users. The nozzle is surprisingly made out of metal, which makes changing ear tips a lot safer compared to budget IEMs with a plastic nozzle.
In terms of sound signature, the KZ ZSN Pro is leaning towards a more V-shaped sound signature. What this means is that the bass and highs are slightly boosted. This makes the sound instantly lively and engaging.
The KZ ZSN Pro does not particularly stand out among its competitors in the same way that the KZ ZST Pro did back in 2017. However, the ZSN Pro’s sound signature is safe and should appeal to most listeners. The decent clarity and detail retrieval that it proves is arguably good enough for professionals on a budget.
Overall, the KZ ZSN Pro is a great budget IEM for anyone curious about this form factor. The removable cable also means that it should last you longer compared to stock earphones found on smartphones. But for more demanding listeners, you should level your expectations on this unit since it cannot compete with higher-end models.
The KZ ZSN Pro has a safe sound signature that will appeal to most listeners.
The KZ ZSN Pro does not excel in any specific category. If you prefer a specific kind of sound signature, there are better options.
Co Donguri Shizuku/Brass
By now, it is a recurring theme that the brands of the IEMs on this list come from brands that you have never heard of. However, unlike the other IEMs on this list, the Co Donguri Shizuku/Brass hails from Japan, and the build quality and design perfectly reflect this. Despite being an older model and despite not incorporating a removable cable, the Co Donguri Shizuku/Brass is still one of the best IEMs under 50 USD.
The Co Donguri Shizuku and Brass have an eye-catching design that immediately stands out from the crowd. It does not have a flat design and slightly sticks out of the ear, but the shape of the nozzle keeps things comfortable. The cable can either be worn over the ear like the rest of the IEMs on this list, or it can also be worn cable down.
The cable is non-detachable, which may raise some concerns for users who have broken cables before. Rest assured, the cable here is high-quality and is durable enough for daily commutes. Having a fixed cable is sometimes nice because purchasing upgrade cables in this price range do not seem very practical.
In terms of the sound signature, the Co Donguri brass and Shizuku have a balanced sound that is leaning towards the brighter side. Bass is kept tight and confined in its own space. Mids are detailed and have good clarity. Highs have a good amount of extension, air, and clarity without being too sibilant.
The sound signature of the Shizuku is correct and inoffensive. Like the KZ ZSN Pro, it is a safe sound signature that should appeal to most listeners. However, unlike lower priced IEMs like the KZN Pro, the Shizuku and Brass have noticeably more detail and gives an overall more satisfying experience.
It should be noted that the Brass model has a slightly alternate tuning to the Shizuku. Bass is tighter, and highs are more pronounced. But overall, they share the same DNA with the build quality and form factor.
The Co Donguri Shizuku and Brass are hidden gems that still compete with today’s Chi-Fi offerings. While this may not be your first choice due to the availability and cable concerns, this is still a solid choice for anyone looking for a sub 50 USD killer sounding IEM.
The Shizuku and Brass have a great build quality and sound quality that manages to beat many of the Chi-Fi offerings in the budget category.
The Shizuku and Brass have a non-detachable cable, which takes away from the added flexibility.
TRN BA5 – Best Multi-Driver
5 Driver (5 BA)
Detachable (2 Pin QDC Style)
Multi driver IEMs were previously only exclusively available in higher-end models. We see two to three driver Chinese IEMs, but there usually isn’t anything too crazy. But now, Chinese manufacturers have started implementing multi-driver IEMs and are available for less than 50 USD. One of these IEMs is the five driver TRN BA5.
For the build quality, the TRN BA5 has a metal construction, which by now is starting to become a recurring theme in the sub 50 USD category. The TRN BA5 adopts a shape that is similar to CIEMs. There are grooves on the inside of the IEM that match the grooves found inside the ear. This is similar to the design of the higher-end QDC Neptune, which is proven to be a comfortable fit for most users.
As the name implies, the TRN BA5 has five balanced armature drivers that each handle different frequencies. One driver handles the bass, another handles the mids, while the other 3 handles the highs.
Of course, having more drivers does not guarantee a better sound compared to its competitors. However, we are happy to report that the TRN BA5 has an excellent tuning that perfectly utilizes its drivers.
The TRN BA5 has a U shaped sound signature and is leaning towards the brighter side. Bass is well controlled and is not too forward. Fans of bass may find this lacking for electronic and other bassy genres, but the amount of detail that is produced more than makes up for it. The mids are not too recessed and still maintains clarity and detail.
Imaging and soundstage are excellent in the TRN BA5. A wider soundstage is usually the side effect of having multiple drivers, and it is apparent in the TRN BA5.
Of course, since most of its drivers are dedicated to the high frequencies, the highs are its best quality. The highs are well extended but roll off right before heating the peaky frequencies. This means that they are not as well extended as other higher-end five driver IEMs, but at least they will sound more comfortable for longer periods of time.
Highs are airy and pick up a lot of detail in songs. This attribute helps make it a perfect pair for budget monitoring.
Overall the excellent tuning helps make the TRN BA5 the current best sounding TRN IEM. The sound is, of course, not perfect and is not as good as higher-end models from other well-established companies such as Empire Ears and 64 Audio. But if you are on a tight budget, these will serve you just fine.
The TRN BA5 is one of the most detailed sounding IEMs for under 50 USD. Its detailed highs help make it a versatile pair and can be used for professional applications.
The TRN BA5 does not have the best bass response. Fans of bass-heavy music may want to look elsewhere.
Hybrid 6 Driver (1 DD + 5 BA)
Detachable (2 Pin 0.78 mm)
Another multi-driver IEM from is the Clear Concept Audio CCA C12. This one has even more drivers than the TRN BA5. The CCA C12 has six drivers per side, giving 12 drivers in total, hence its name.
In terms of the build quality, the CCA C12 has a more typical KZ style build quality. The faceplate and nozzles are made of metal, but the overall shell is still constructed of plastic. It still feels fairly sturdy but noticeably not as good as the other full metal built IEMs.
This time around, the CCA C12 has a hybrid configuration. It utilizes a dynamic driver for the bass response while utilizing the other five drivers for mid and high reproduction. It has a similar tuning to the TRN BA5, so we will primarily be comparing it against that model.
Compared to the similar-sounding TRN BA5, the bass is better extended and much stronger in the CCA C12. It is, however, boomier and not as accurate as the TRN BA5. Mids are also more recessed than the TRN BA5. Highs can keep up with the BA5 but are not as airy or as detailed.
The soundstage is also noticeably narrower compared to the TRN BA5. Overall, despite having similar characteristics, the CCA C12 comes out as a more relaxed and less detailed version of the TRN BA5. This is despite having more drivers.
Overall, if you don’t mind the lack of finer details, the CCA C12 is a great performer and may even be a better fit for casual listeners who enjoy a fun sound. However, for those who want more detail in their songs, try getting the TRN BA5 instead.
The CCA C12 is one of the best sounding multi-driver IEMs in its price range. Its inclusion of a dynamic driver makes bass notes more forward in the mix.
When directly compared to other multi-driver IEMs in its price range, it falls short when it comes to detail retrieval.
Hybrid Dual Driver (1 DD + 1 BA)
The Guideray GR-i is another flashy addition on this list that would surely satisfy those who are looking for an aesthetically pleasing IEM. The Guideray GR-i is also another IEM that has a dual driver configuration. This time it is a hybrid configuration comprising of 1 dynamic driver for the lows and 1 balanced armature driver for the mids and highs.
Unlike most of the other IEMs at the upper spectrum of this price range, the GR-i is not made of metal. However, this is okay since the plastic material used for the shells have a premium feeling and likely won’t crack under normal circumstances. The material used also allows the Guideray GR-i’s beautiful design to be seen.
In terms of the sound signature, the GR-i can be described as a mature sounding IEM. It is fairly neutral and does not exhibit any peaks in the high-end. The entire frequency spectrum is also detailed and does not feel lacking in any way.
The big selling factor of the Guideray GR-i is its beautiful midrange reproduction. Vocals, in particular, are full-bodied. The Guideray GR-i perfectly emphasized tracks with female vocals.
If you are looking for a neutral sounding IEM that has an emphasis on the midrange, then this is the IEM for you. The combination of the looks and sounds make the Guideray GR-i one of the best choices in the sub 50 USD category.
The Guideray GR-i has beautiful mids that punch above its price point. This is an IEM that can compete with more expensive models.
Some users may find the highs to be lacking. The Guideray GR-i avoids the peaky treble frequencies by rolling off a bit earlier, which may sacrifice detail in the high-end.
Stephen is a musician, cinematographer, and headphone enthusiast who is passionate about reviewing audio equipment. He has been playing guitar for at least a decade, which introduced him to professional recording equipment such as headphones and in-ear monitors. With the help of reviews and online content, he was able to learn the ins and outs of the hobby. His goal is to give back to the community by providing quality content to help others enjoy the beautiful (and expensive) world of audio.
Favorite Headphones: Sennheiser HD660s