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Bona fide high-end, affordable in-ear headphones from Beyerdynamic

Beyerdynamic's DX 160 iE and DX 120 iE, two contenders for best sounding in-ear headphones for around $100.

Beyerdynamic DX 160 iE

The DX 160 iE ($119) and DX 120 iE ($99) are the first in-ear headphones I've reviewed from Beyerdynamic, and they're both up there with the best I've heard in their price range. These two Beyerdynamics sound similar, but there's a bit more life and detail with the DX 160 iE's sound, so I spent more time listening with that one.

Both models come with seven different sizes of silicone tips, one pair of Comply tips, and carry cases; but neither one has a mic or phone controls. The cables are a little unusual, the headphones have two-part, flat cables -- the "Y" top part terminates in a 3.5-mm plug -- and there's an extension cable. The "Y" cable is just 14 inches long, the extension adds another 35 inches. The DX 160 iE and DX 120 iE feature black, all-metal ear pieces with 10mm drivers, and impedance is rated at 47 ohms. Comfort and sound isolation were average for this type of design. The headphones are engineered in Germany and made in China.

First impression of the DX 160 iE's sound was that there's a lot of bass, but it's not thick or muddy. Definition is excellent, and this headphone's sound clicked with rock, jazz, electronica, and classical music. Midrange detailing is excellent, but treble clarity is somewhat lacking. The DX 120 iE is a tad more laid-back than the DX 160 iE. That's a plus if you listen to a lot of less-than-stellar MP3s and streaming sources

When I compared the DX 160 iE with my current favorite $100 in-ear, the Hifiman RE-400 the tonal balance differences were hard to miss. The RE-400 presents a more immediate sound, it's brighter, but still nicely balanced. The RE-400 plays a little louder than the DX 160 iE at the same volume setting on my iPod Classic. Between these two I'll call it a tie, but if you like bass the DX 160 iE is the one to get. Mind you, it's not overdone or murky, there's just lots of it. If you prefer a more accurate tonal balance, check out the RE-400. As for you bass fanatics, the DX 160 iE will blow you away.