Blessing 2 vs. Dusk
Moondrop's Blessing 2:Dusk, tuned in cooperation with Crinacle, are an improved version of the "standard" Blessing 2 with a bit more bass and a more exciting tuning. The Dusk are IMO the better choice for most people.
Fiio FH5 vs. Fiio FD5
Two Fiio IEM already face off in the first round. While the FD5 offer exciting soundstage and slightly better technicalities, the FH5 are better tuned and all-in-all the better IEM.
Mangird Tea vs. Xenns Mangird Tea MkII
The first round also starts with a Tea party. The second iteration of the already great Mangird Tea improve in a few key areas: The MkII offer slightly better bass (quality) and better treble.
Tanchjim Hana 2021 vs. GS Audio GD3A
One of the clearer duels in the first round. The Hana 2021 are just better in almost every way. At least to some extend, this should also be expected, with Hana 2021 costing more than double the price of the GD3A.
ThieAudio Monarch MkII vs. Xenns Up
Tough draw for the Xenns Up. While a solid bass-focussed IEM, there's just no way they can beat the Monarch MkII, better in almost every aspect. The Xenns Up are a bit too bass-focussed for me and even slightly worse than cheaper tribrids like the Oracle or Variations.
ThieAudio Excalibur vs. ThieAudio Oracle
The ThieAudio mid-fi tribrid duel is a rather close one and mostly comes down to taste and preference. The Excalibur is a bit more bass than its brother, while the Oracle is more universal and matches with almost every genre. Additionally, the Oracle offers slightly better detail and resolution, giving it the edge over its sibling.
Dunu SA6 vs. Unique Melody 3DT
This matchup is also a duel of different driver configurations: 6 balanced armatures vs. 3 dynamic drivers. Both are great in their own way, and the chances are high, the 3DT would have advanced to the next round against a slightly less tough opponent. The SA6 are smooth with great focus on mid range and vocals and just enjoyable.
Softears Volume vs. ThieAudio Legacy 4
With both IEMs at roughly the same price point, a surprisingly clear victory for the Softears Volume. The Volume's tuning reminds me of a slightly improved Blessing 2, although with inferior technicalities.
Tin P1 vs. KZ DQ6
One of the first major upsets in the tournament. The $29 KZ DQ6 tops and eliminates the $169 Tin P1. Better tuning, better fit, cheaper price all speak for the DQ6. Only the technicalities could be improved, but the difference isn't enough to prevent the upset.
SeeAudio Yume:Midnight vs. Tripowin x HBB Olina
Maybe another surprising upset? Both are pretty well tuned with slight advantages for the Olina, which it only expands on with better technicalities. The Olina are becoming not only the IEM to beat under $100 but also under $200.
Moondrop S8 vs. 7Hz Timeless
Unlucky, almost unfair draw for the 7Hz Timeless. Great planar IEMs with good, if sometimes too bassy tuning, with high resolution and detail retrieval. Still, there's no way they could ever beat the Moondrop S8, one of the best IEMs in my collection, with a tuning that fits my preferences like a glove.
Sennheiser IE300 vs. Fearless Tequila
Two IEMs that I honestly don't like that much and consider both too expensive ($299 and $399. Since I have to choose one, I'll go with the IE300 with their more fun and bass-focussed sound, better fit, cheaper price and better availability outside China.
Shuoer EJ07M vs. Dunu EST112
It's another tribrid face-off. The EST112 are good, if at times a bit boring. The EJ07M on the other hand, almost appear as if they were tuned just for me. Only their details could use a litte improvement.
SeeAudio Bravery vs. Tripowin x HBB Mele
Another upset! The Bravery just don't work for me. The fit is painful after some time, the tuning craves for a dynamic driver and it can't really display the usual strengths of an all-BA IEM like the relaxed "atmosphere" and the great detail retrieval. The Mele on the other hand overperform their price. While lacking in technicalities (as most in that price range due), it's a fun and enjoyable tuning, perfect for short train rides.
Audiosense DT600 vs. Final A4000
A4000: soundstage, treble
DT600: fit, bass and mids
I mostly keep the A4000 around because of their unparalleled soundstage - for IEMs. Great for VR sessions with the Oculus Quest 2.
Moondrop Variations vs. Moondrop Kato
The second Moondrop duel in the first round. While the Kato might have beaten other IEMs in the first round like the A4000, Bravery, Tequila or others, the Variations is a level too high. Another tribrid that advances to the next round.