The once explosive popularity of audiophile in-ear headphones featuring armature drivers, which swept across the world over a decade ago, is gradually waning. However, amidst the rising prevalence of hybrid models that leverage the strengths of different types of drivers, manufacturers persist in producing purely armature-based headphones for enthusiasts of this technology.
This article highlights seven of the most intriguing models within the price range of $250 to $3,000.
7. Kiwi Ears Orchestra Lite
Each headphone features eight drivers, with two dedicated to reproducing high frequencies, four custom-made drivers for mid frequencies, and two large drivers from Knowles handling the bass. The emitters work together seamlessly thanks to a passive three-band separation filter. The headphone housings are transparent and crafted from synthetic resin, with outer panels available in green or blue, depending on the chosen version. These headphones come with a detachable cable featuring a 0.78 mm connector and a 3.5 mm mini-jack. With a sensitivity of 112 dB and a nominal impedance of 16 Ohms, these headphones offer impressive performance. Additionally, the package includes a leather carrying and storage case along with a set of silicone ear pads in various sizes.
Verdict: A lightweight version of popular headphones at a good price
6. SeeAudio Bravery RB Edition
This unique model features headphones with different colors for the left and right sides. The acoustic design incorporates four high-quality reinforcement drivers that are driven by a three-band separation filter. The headphone cases are crafted using 3D printing with synthetic resin, and the included cable boasts cores made of silver-plated copper along with a universal connector featuring interchangeable mini-jacks including balanced 2.5 mm and 4.4 mm, as well as unbalanced 3.5 mm. Additionally, the model comes equipped with high-quality Azla SednaEarfit XELASTEC silicone ear pads. With a sensitivity of 110 dB and a nominal impedance of 18 Ohms, these headphones offer impressive performance.
Pros: nice design, low price, universal connector with replaceable plugs
Cons – color scheme is not for everyone
Verdict: High-quality sound and attractive design
5. Softears Studio4
This model is primarily designed for use in recording studios and as stage monitors, although it also appeals to audiophiles. Each earphone features four armature drivers arranged in a three-way configuration, delivering exceptional linearity in the amplitude-frequency response. The anatomically shaped housings are crafted from hypoallergenic synthetic resin using advanced three-dimensional printing techniques. The included cable features 0.78 mm connectors for headphone connection and a 3.5 mm mini-jack for signal source connectivity, with wires made of highly purified oxygen-free copper. With a sensitivity of 123 dB and a nominal impedance of 12 Ohms, this model offers outstanding performance. The kit includes three different sizes of ear pads, a durable carrying case, a brush, and a cleaning flannel for added convenience.
Pros – professional sound tuning, high sensitivity, strict design
Cons – only black color
Verdict: Studio sound in a portable format
4. DUNU SA6 MKII
The second generation of popular in-ear monitors features six armature drivers from Sonion and Knowles in each earpiece, organized in a three-way configuration. A precision coupling filter and three independent waveguides ensure synchronized operation for optimal sound performance. The cases are crafted using three-dimensional printing with transparent synthetic resin, complemented by outer panels made of natural wood. An additional pressure at low frequencies can be achieved using a special two-position switch, which can be toggled to the ON position. The included Hulk Pro Mini cable boasts pure copper cores and a universal connector with interchangeable 3.5 mm and 4.4 mm mini-jacks for versatile connectivity options. With a sensitivity of 114 dB and an impedance of 24 Ohms, these monitors deliver exceptional audio quality.
Pros – high-quality emitters, natural wood in the housing design
Cons – transparent cases?
Verdict: New generation of a time-tested model
3. OpenAudio Alkaid
The new OpenAudio model features high-quality reinforcement drivers sourced from Sonion and Knowles, with eight drivers installed in each earpiece. The anatomically shaped cases are crafted using 3D printing technology from synthetic resin, with each pair boasting its own unique design. The model comes equipped with a removable cable featuring conductors made of high-purity monocrystalline copper. When ordering, users have the option to choose from three mini-jack options: 2.5 mm, 3.5 mm, or 4.4 mm. Additionally, the package includes a storage and carrying case crafted from genuine leather, along with several pairs of ear pads of different types for personalized comfort.
Pros – excellent emitters, beautiful housings with a unique design
Verdict: High-quality armature headphones with high-quality drivers
2. Elysian Acoustic Labs DIVA 2023
The enhanced version of the classic model features a redesigned separation filter, a new steel nozzle, and updated internal wiring. Equipped with six carefully selected reinforcement drivers, these headphones offer adjustable bass response via a specialized three-position rotary switch. Coordinated operation of all drivers is ensured by a four-way crossover system. The internal wiring consists of copper and silver Litz wire, while the synthetic resin body undergoes meticulous hand finishing. The detachable cable from Liquid Links boasts a Pentaconn mini-jack and high-purity monocrystalline copper cores. With a sensitivity of 100 dB and an impedance of 4 Ohms, this model delivers an immersive listening experience.
Pros – high resolution throughout the entire range, adjustable bass, luxurious appearance
Cons – produced in limited editions
Verdict: One of the best armature headphones just got better
1. Ultimate Ears UE Premier
Flagship in-ear headphones Ultimate Ears are available only in a custom version in accordance with the impression of the customer’s ear canal. They have a five-way design, with 21 reinforcement drivers installed in each earphone. The lower bass is voiced by an assembly of 4 drivers, and two more quad drivers are designed for midbass. Mid and high frequencies are reproduced by two similar assemblies of 4 emitters each, and the proprietary True Tone Plus driver was specially designed to reproduce higher harmonics. The body is made of transparent acrylic, its shape exactly matches the impression provided by the buyer when ordering. This results in a passive isolation level of -26 dB. To connect a detachable cable to the headphones, an IPX connector is used,
Pros – complex and thoughtful design, highest resolution