How We Test Wired Headphones and IEMS

Despite their size, the OL are featherweight light.
Current version of the Medusa System: 1.0

The Medusa System, our testing methodology, combines objective testing with our expert reviewers’ subjective analyses to evaluate wired headphones and IEMs.

We use 9 scoring criteria with different weights to ensure a fair and insightful review of the wired headphones and IEMs. This enables us to calculate two distinct scores — a General Score and an Audiophile Score.

Two Overall Score

Our review process culminates in two definitive scores:

  • General Score: Calculated from categories that are important for general usage.
  • Audiophile Score: Calculated from categories that are important for an audiophile

Score Category

We are evaluating the gear based on 9 criteria:

  • Design
  • Build Quality
  • Comfort
  • Pairing
  • Value for money
  • Bass
  • Mids
  • Treble
  • Overall sound quality

Score Weightage

Since the need for general usage differs from audiophile usage, there are different weights across the score category.

For General Usage:

  • Design (10%)
  • Build Quality (10%)
  • Comfort (10%)
  • Pairing (10%)
  • Value for money (10%)
  • Bass (10%)
  • Mids (10%)
  • Treble (10%)
  • Overall sound quality (20%)

For Audiophile Usage:

  • Design (5%)
  • Build Quality (15%)
  • Comfort (5%)
  • Pairing (0%)
  • Value for money (5%)
  • Bass (10%)
  • Mids (10%)
  • Treble (10%)
  • Overall sound quality (40%)

Grading Scale

We are using a 5-point grading scale for each score criterion, where a score of 5 indicates outstanding performance, and 1 signifies very poor performance.

  • 5 – Outstanding
  • 4 – Good
  • 3 – Average
  • 2 – Substandard
  • 1 – Very Poor


The design of wired headphones and IEMs is vital, impacting the user’s initial impression and overall satisfaction. It combines aesthetic appeal with functional design, making the product a fashion statement and a listening device.

Grading Criteria:

  • Outstanding: Features a fresh, unique, and appealing design.
  • Good: Boasts an attractive and contemporary design.
  • Average: Offers a standard design with no standout features.
  • Substandard: Displays an outdated or unappealing design.
  • Very Poor: Characterized by an ugly or very unattractive design.

Build Quality

Build Quality is essential for wired headphones and IEMs, determining their durability and resilience to wear and tear. High-quality construction ensures longevity and a better user experience, reflecting the product’s reliability and value.

Grading Criteria:

  • Outstanding: Exhibits a premium feel with high durability and top-notch materials.
  • Good: Displays above-average quality, durable enough for everyday use.
  • Average: Has average quality; may show wear over time.
  • Substandard: Made with below-average quality materials, prone to damage.
  • Very Poor: Constructed with fragile, poor-quality materials, lacking durability.


Comfort influences how long they can be worn without discomfort. It affects the overall user experience, particularly for extended listening sessions.

Grading Criteria:

  • Outstanding: Can be worn comfortably for more than 4 hours.
  • Good: Comfortable for up to 3-4 hours.
  • Average: Comfortable for up to 2 hours.
  • Substandard: Comfortable for less than 1 hour.
  • Very Poor: Uncomfortable to wear even for short periods.


Pairing assesses how well the headphones or IEMs work with various audio sources and if they require external amplification. This reflects their versatility and ease of use.

Grading Criteria:

  • Outstanding: Minimal amplification requirements. Is sufficiently powered by a basic low power source with most sonic characteristics intact (low distortion, dynamics etc.). Note that peak performance may require better sources.
  • Good: Best with a small amount of external amplification (> ~4Vrms).
  • Average: Requires a non-trivial amount of external amplification for optimal sound.
  • Substandard: Needs specific external amplification sources (such as electrostatic or ribbon amplifiers).
  • Very Poor: N/A

Value for Money

Value for Money evaluates the overall worth of the headphones or IEMs in relation to their price. It’s a measure of how the features, quality, and performance justify the cost.

Grading Criteria:

  • Outstanding: Best value for its price tier; a must-buy.
  • Good: Above average value for its price tier; ideal for certain buyers.
  • Average: Average value for its price tier.
  • Substandard: Below average value for its price tier.
  • Very Poor: Not worth buying at all.


Bass quality is critical for the overall sound experience, assessing the depth, impact, and tightness of the bass produced by the headphones or IEMs.

Grading Criteria:

  • Outstanding: Deep, impactful, and tight bass.
  • Good: Good bass with some impact and tightness.
  • Average: Average bass, lacking some depth and tightness.
  • Substandard: Weak bass, lacking depth and tightness.
  • Very Poor: Very weak bass with no depth or tightness.


The midrange category evaluates the clarity and balance of midrange frequencies, which is vital for the overall fidelity of sound reproduction.

Grading Criteria:

  • Outstanding: Clear and well-balanced mids.
  • Good: Mostly clear mids, slightly off-balance.
  • Average: Average mids, some muddiness or imbalance.
  • Substandard: Muddy mids, significant imbalance.
  • Very Poor: Very muddy mids, extremely imbalanced.


Treble quality determines the clarity and harshness of high frequencies, impacting the crispness and comfort of the listening experience.

Grading Criteria:

  • Outstanding: Crisp, clear treble without being harsh.
  • Good: Mostly clear treble, slightly harsh at high volumes.
  • Average: Average treble, some harshness.
  • Substandard: Harsh treble, uncomfortable at high volumes.
  • Very Poor: Very harsh treble, consistently uncomfortable.

Overall Sound Quality

The overall sound quality encompasses all aspects of sound, including soundstage, imaging, technicalities, and detail, providing a holistic view of the audio performance.

Grading Criteria:

  • Outstanding: Exceptional in all sound aspects.
  • Good: Solid performance across most sound aspects.
  • Average: Adequate performance, but lacks in certain areas.
  • Substandard: Below average performance, noticeable deficiencies.
  • Very Poor: Inadequate performance in most sound aspects.

Suggestions and Feedbacks

If you spot any errors with our testing methodology or have any good feedback on how we can further improve the test, please feel free to contact us.

Other Testing Methodologies