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Head-Fi.org › 2016 Holiday Buying Guide › Head Fi Buying Guide In Ear Headphones 3

Head-Fi Buying Guide (In-Ear Headphones) 3

In-Ear Headphones Also featuring...
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Type:   Closed, universal-fit in-ear monitor

 

Price:   $200 USD

 

URL:   http://www.fitear.jp

Written by Brian Murphy (AxelCloris)

 

FitEar is a name likely unfamiliar to many in the Head-Fi community, but those who recognize the moniker know it carries an air of exclusivity. FitEar is a Japanese manufacturer of high-end in-ear monitors, and while it’s abnormally arduous to get a pair of their custom designs outside of Japan (read: virtually impossible unless you have one of the rare, licensed retailers nearby) there are a few universal fit models that can be tracked down by the determined music lover. The FitEar fitear is one of the more elusive gems.

The construction is solid, and when I say that I almost mean it literally. FitEar is the only brand I know that completely fills the shell with acrylic when building an IEM. The result is a rigid housing, one that can handily deal with the bumps and bangs of everyday life. Getting a seal can be a bit finicky at times, but once it’s set the shape is very comfortable in the ear. The fitear is hands down one of the best built IEMs I’ve ever handled.

The attention to build quality doesn’t stop there. FitEar uses a proprietary connector that is thicker and more robust than the common 2-pin IEM cable. To my eyes it more closely resembles the connector found on Sennheiser’s 600 series headphones. It’s evident that the connector was selected because it’s solid and will hold up to the stresses of daily wear better than most IEM cables.

Buying a FitEar is an investment for many buyers, and it’s reassuring to see so much attention go into the construction and materials, ensuring the products will last.

Sonically, the FitEar fitear is an IEM that would appeal to many. It has a speedy low end with a mild mid-bass hump that doesn’t go overboard, a neutral midrange and a smooth, almost relaxed top end. Many of the Japanese and Korean recordings I own are mastered with forward upper mids and highs to emphasize the vocalist. Those tracks are often a perfect match for the fitear.

It may have a sound signature that caters to many listeners in the Southeast Asian markets, but it’s a shame that the fitear is so difficult to find outside of Japan. It isn’t exclusively limited to Asian pop tunes; the voicing works with music from around the globe: a capella, blues, EDM, metal, punk and ska... the list goes on. The two main reasons it’s so challenging to get one are because they’re made to order - just like FitEar’s custom IEMs - and the distribution network is miniscule.

Therefore if you have the chance to demo a FitEar fitear, do yourself a favor and give them a listen; you might not find another opportunity.

 

 

Type:   Custom-fit in-ear monitor

 

Price:   $1,999 USD

 

URL:   http://www.ultimateears.com

Written by Jude Mansilla

 

A custom-fit IEM is custom-molded to your ears, so it will fit only one person in the world perfectly--you. One would think, then, that a custom-fit IEM is already as custom as it gets. Not anymore. Ultimate Ears released what might reasonably be called a custom custom-fit IEM--one in which the physical fit isn't the only thing customized to fit you, but also the sonic fit. It's called the Ultimate Ears Personal Reference Monitor, and, as its name suggests, you tune it to your own personal sonic preferences.

 

To accommodate this level of customization, a higher level of personal service is required. Once an order for the Personal Reference Monitor is placed, the customer is assigned a personal service specialist to guide him through the fitting, design, and custom-tuning of the Personal Reference Monitor. The custom-tuning of the Personal Reference Monitor involves a sit-down session with a device called the Ultimate Ears Personal Reference Tuning Box. To start, there will be four locations in the U.S. equipped with the Personal Reference Tuning box, in Irvine (California), Los Angeles, Nashville, and New York City. If you don't happen to be lucky enough to be an easy trip away from one of these locations, Ultimate Ears is currently working on making the tuning experience more accessible, in more places.

 

Simply put, my right ear is better than my left one. My right ear has greater acuity through some of the mids and treble than my left. It has been this way for years. Using the Personal Reference Tuning Box, I tuned my Personal Reference Monitor to help compensate for my left ear's deficiency (versus my right). I also tuned the tonal balance to be neutral'ish, but with just a touch more bass than neutral, more emphasis on the mids for greater midrange presence and bloom, and just a hair's breadth above neutral in the treble region. The resulting monitors--my Personal Reference Monitor--is now my favorite of all my custom in-ear monitors, imaging better (perhaps because of the left-right compensation), and suiting my preferences more closely than any other custom in-ear I currently have.

 

I strongly recommend the Ultimate Ears Personal Reference Monitor for anyone who's wanted to try compensating for differences between one's ears, and/or for anyone simply interested in reaching a higher level of customizability in custom in-ear monitors.

 

(For more details about the product and the process, click here.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Type:   Universal-fit in-ear monitor

 

Price:   $199.99 USD

 

URL:   http://www.kef.com

Written by Jude Mansilla

 

With their first two headphones--one in-ear (this one) and one over-ear (the M500)--KEF has come out batting .1000, both headphones being wonderful. Perhaps given all they've accomplished in loudspeaker design I shouldn't be so surprised.

 

This KEF M200 is an unusually designed IEM, consisting of two dynamic drivers per side, one directly behind the other. The one in the back is a 10mm low-frequency driver, the one in the front a 5.5mm mid/high driver. The low-frequency driver's output is ported through a cast aluminum chamber at the center of which is mounted the mid/high driver, so that the low-frequency driver's output is effectively being ported forward around that mid/high driver, with the output of the two combined at the nozzle.

 

The sound of the KEF M200 is outstanding, with emphasized, but very well controlled, bass. The low-frequency driver's integration into the mid/high driver's output is, to my ears, seamless--had I not known ahead of time that the M200 was a dual-driver design, I wouldn't have guessed. While KEF M200 is not quite at the performance level of Shure's SE846, the KEF M200's midband breathes very freely, reminding me (in that specific regard) of the flagship Shure IEM--as with the Shure, the KEF's lower mids are clean, untouched by the M200's bass bump. Also, the M200's treble is extended and smooth. Sonically, thanks in part to the solidity of its bass--and its free-breathing mids--I think the KEF M200 sounds big.

 

In terms of its industrial design, the KEF M200 is gorgeous, with the same chunky, sharp-edged matte aluminum look and feel of the KEF M500. The M200 is a cable-down design, with ear hooks that go over yours ears for fit and stability. Unfortunately, the M200 is also chunky in a way that's not good: to accommodate the unique configuration of its drivers, the KEF M200 uses very thick nozzles, so some with smaller ear canals may have difficulty getting a good fit. (My ear canals are of average size, and the M200 fits my ears very comfortably.)

 

As with its M500 over-ear headphone, KEF has a very well executed IEM with the KEF M200.

Type:   Closed, universal-fit in-ear monitor

 

Price:   $99.99 USD

 

URL:   http://usa.1more.com

Written by Warren Chi (warrenpchi)

 

Veteran Head-Fiers will recall a time in personal audio, not too long ago, when good in- ear monitors (IEMs) were few and far between. We often learned the hard way, at some expense and disappointment, that new and unfamiliar brands were things to be looked at askance, rather than eagerly embraced. 


Consequently, and for years on end, we instinctively flocked to the safety of assured performance offered by industry giants like Etymotic, Shure, Ultimate Ears, Westone and others. And though doing so meant limiting our choices, it was all we could do to safeguard our ears and wallets from far worse. 


About a half-decade ago, as we approached today’s golden age of personal audio, we began to witness a wholesale sea change in the sound quality of in-ear monitors. Custom IEMs led the charge with notable advancements in multi-driver and crossover technology. Kilobuck universal IEMs burst onto the scene, serving those who sought to avoid the complication of custom molds or difficult resale propositions. 


Then, in an amazing trickle-down of premium performance into less-atmospheric price points, we were soon introduced to a steady stream of both agreeable and accessible universal in-ears. Those of us who experienced this evolution will undoubtedly remember notable models from the likes of Dunu, Fischer, HiFiMAN, RHA, VSonic and many others. 


Suddenly, good (or at least good enough) IEMs were now the norm, and no longer the exception. And for a time, all seemed right with the world, as we settled into a price versus performance ratio that everybody seemed comfortable with. All we need now is something novel, something disruptive, to jumpstart the next evolution... something like a triple driver (single dynamic + dual balanced armature) in-ear, voiced by a Grammy award-winning sound engineer, that is available for only $99. 


Enter 1MORE’s E1001 Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones. Voiced by Luca Bignardi - a sound engineer who has worked on albums for Andrea Bocelli, Red House Blues Band, Laura Pausini and others - the E1001 sports a single dynamic voice-coil driver supported by dual balanced-armature drivers. 
Associated Equipment: 


● Apple iPhone 6S+
● Astell&KernAK380
● Cavalli Audio Liquid Spark (prototype)  
● Kimber Kable Axios interconnects 


While the E1001 is not a basshead’s IEM, it is clear that Mr. Bignardi voiced it to be warmer and weightier than neutral - enough so that I could get my groove on with all of my late-Eighties’ slow jams. Reminiscing with The Jets’s Make It Real, the E1001’s low- end boost flooded me with memories of anxious junior high dances from ages past, where I gently but awkwardly held she-who-shall-not-be-named. The additional bass presence also added a richness to my appreciation of acapella - a visceral richness that resonates deep within my loins - as I indulge in one of my guilty pleasures, the Pitch Perfect soundtrack. And speaking of acapella, Avi Kaplan’s basso profundo prowess is downright intense in Pentatonix’s Daft Punk Medley


The E1001’s mid-range might not be as forward as that of the neutral sounding in-ears which many of us are accustomed to. Nevertheless, it is very capable of resolving details and separation, particularly with vocals. With the aforementioned Daft Punk Medley by Pentatonix, as well as Imogen Heap’s Hide and Seek, the E1001 is easily capable of presenting each voice within the chorus, as well as the harmony of the chorus itself. 


In an era where many manufacturers accentuate upper mids to present the illusion of increased detail, the E1001 shows remarkable restraint in not doing so. As a result, I am rewarded with the powerful clarity of Bruce Hornsby's Baldwin grand in The Way It Is, with none of the annoyingly excessive brightness that often plagues poor renderings of Baldwin grand pianos. The E1001’s upper mids also do well with percussive elements, delivering full-bodied snares, hats and cymbals in The B-52’s Follow Your Bliss, without a hint of sibilance in accompaniment. 


And while the 1MTDIEH doesn’t dazzle us with the kind of sparkle and airiness that traditional audiophiles prefer, it does offer up a delicate and feathery presentation in the highs that dovetails nicely with the overall signature. “Papageno’s Magic Bells” from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra; Bernard Haitink, Conductor) still ring true with a sublime effervescence in their upper harmonics. 


After spending weeks pairing the E1001 with an Astell&Kern AK380, I began to use it with my iPhone 6S+ to test its microphone and remote. The difference in sound quality was staggering, with the main issue being that the audio from an iPhone 6S+ sucks. 


And that's when it hits me, this $99 IEM is resolving enough that it can easily pick out deficiencies in my source gear! That, perhaps more than anything else, serves as a testament to how far IEMs have come... and how much the 1MORE E1001 embodies that evolution. 


Of course, nothing is perfect in this world. In the 1MTDIEH’s case, imperfection manifests as a rather large nozzle that measures over 6 mm in diameter without any tips fitted. Once the smallest included silicone tip is fitted and compressed over that nozzle, the minimum diameter grows to 8.5 mm. For most of us, that shouldn’t be a problem. But when you consider that ear canal diameters can be as small as 4.4 mm for adult men and 4.1 mm for adult women, some of you may experience difficulty in getting a good seal. 

 

That said, the 1MORE E1001 Triple Driver In-Ear Headphone is an excellent initial foray into premium IEMs. Available in both Titanium/Silver and Black/Gold finishes - for only $99 - it appeals to the vanity and austerity within all of us. But more importantly, it just plain sounds good. 

Type:   Closed, universal-fit in-ear monitor

 

Price:   $60 USD

 

URL:   http://www.shozy-hk.com

Written by Amos Barnett (Currawong)

 

Some time ago I received a package in the mail inside of which was a small bag with a pair of IEMs and a note to burn them in for 100 hours with orchestral music. The IEMs turned out to have come from Charles at Shozy (and Cozoy), the maker of the Alien DAP.  

 

Very small with wood and metal housings and a very rubbery cable, they are simple and well-made.
 
Knowing nothing more about them, I had a listen and was very pleasantly surprised at the good sound, and general lack of any unpleasantness in the sound. After burn-in, as instructed by the manufacturer of the dynamic driver inside, which distinctly changes the amount of bass, the sound is more on the warm side of things, but with a sweet treble and good mids that make them an excellent all-rounder, and worth pairing with a good DAP.
 
The in-built cable uses high-quality wire according to Charles from Shozy, their only negative being the rubbery outer sheath which makes it tangle easily and transmits a bit of noise.
 
Overall, this has put them way above any pair of $50 IEMs I've tried (excepting the Meze 11 Neo) and made them good enough to slip them into a pocket for daily carry duty. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Type:   Universal-fit in-ear monitor

 

Price:   Around $300 and $470 USD, respectively

 

URL:   http://www.shure.com

Written by Jude Mansilla

 

Many a veteran Head-Fi'er has cut his teeth on high-end in-ear monitors with Shure. Among the first to push multi-armature IEMs into the mainstream, Shure's latest generation SE in-ear monitors are outstanding.

 

As far as performance for the price, the sweet spot of the line is, to me, the Shure SE425. For around $300, the SE425 serves up a decidedly audiophile-friendly signature, with its specialty being the sweet and detailed midrange that Shure has become known for. Bass extension and impact is good, and on the more neutral side. Treble is good, but some (including me) might find it could use just a touch more sparkle.

 

If you're willing to open up your wallet more than 50% wider, and if you're looking for one of the very best universal-fit in-ears for detailed listening that never loses its smooth, then spring for the Shure SE535. It is everything the SE425 is, but better. If it your budget allows for the SE535, and if the Shure sound is what you're after, then definitely go for the SE535, as it is the ultimate expression of Shure's in-ear sound.

 

Both the SE425 and SE535 are very comfortable, and their cable plugs swivel 360 degrees to helps prevent cable twisting.

 

 


 

"The 425's are a really good iem - well designed and built (these will last for years), superbly comfortable and really smooth and detailed. The mids are the strongest point - but the entire sound to me is balanced and relaxed."

- Brooko

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Type:   Volume-limited, closed, universal-fit in-ear monitor (for children 4+ years old)e

 

Price:   $$49.00 USD (or $79.00 with Apple three-button remote)

 

URL:   http://www.etymotic.com

Written by Jude Mansilla

 

As a Head-Fi'er, and as a father of a young son, I want to do all I can to help him take care of his precious, pristine hearing. As my boy sees his dad constantly donning headphones of all types--and as a little music fanatic himself--he's taken interest in having headphones of his own. I got him the ETYKids by Etymotic, which are universal-fit in-ear monitors for children over four years old.

 

The ETYKids work by controlling the earphone's sensitivity, making it unnecessary to worry about restricting the volume level of the player, or counting on your young child to know when loud's too loud.

 

I've listened to the ETYKids, and the volume-limiting works very well--and it sounds like an Etymotic IEM, which is a very good thing.

Type:   Universal-fit in-ear monitor

 

Price:   $149.99 USD

 

URL:   http://www.fostexinternational.com

Written by Jude Mansilla

 

At first blush, the Fostex TE-05 looks a lot like... well... a lot of in-ear headphones I've seen. Close inspection does reveal very nice machined cylindrical aluminum housings with a high level of fit and finish--it certainly looks and feels premium. With all the other cool stuff Fostex had at their exhibit at 2013 CanJam @ RMAF, though, I would've probably missed the the TE-05 if Fostex's Hiroaki Kawahata hadn't put it in front of me and asked me to try it. And when the music started, it became immediately obvious the TE-05 is indeed a very special IEM.

 

Without a doubt, the Fostex TE-05 is going to end up being one of my neutral reference headphones, being extremely even-handed to my ears, from one end of the spectrum to the other. In addition to its neutral tonality, the TE-05 also has excellent detail retrieval, so that the view of the music isn't just uncolored, it's also deep dive into it. The TE-05 is fantastic.

 

I've found with this headphone that it's important (and easy) to get a very good seal. If you don't, it will sound lean, and even strident. Trust me, you'll know when the seal's good, as that's when very good sonic things immediately happen.

 

The Fostex TE-05 uses detachable high-quality oxygen-free copper cables, which is very nice, as I always find it a crying shame to have to either discard or send in for repairs a headphone just because its cable malfunctions or breaks. I believe the TE-05 uses one dynamic driver per ear (the details of which I do not currently have). It comes in an elegant semi-hard-side leather carrying case with a magnetic closure flap.

 

Whereas I cannot share my Ultimate Ears In-Ear Reference Monitor with others (because it's custom), it's nice to have another ultra-portable neutral reference that I canlet others hear. Because of this--and because it's also just a joy to listen to--the TE-05 has already become an important part of my audio Dopp kit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Type:   Closed, on-ear headphone

 

Price:   $59 USD

 

URL:   http://www.mezeheadphones.com

Written by Amos Barnett (Currawong)

 

When Anthony Meze revealed the 99 Classic full-sized headphones, he surprised everyone with their unique design and good sound. Not content to stop there, he turned his attention to IEMs, the result of which is the 11 series and the latest metal "Neo" version. Like the 99s, he sought both a classy design and good sound, and from my initial impressions has managed to pull of both. Out of the box they are elegant, from the aluminium earpieces, splitter and plug, to the translucent cable through which you can see the braided shield of the high-quality cable.

I've usually been disappointed by inexpensive IEMs, but after listening to the $50 Shozy Zeros, my expectations were high. Thankfully I wasn't disappointed -- on the contrary, I was very surprised by the quality of what I was hearing from their single dynamic driver. Out of the box with the stock tips they are fairly even-sounding, with a bit of upper-mid and treble brightness on some tracks. A pleasant mid-range brings instruments forward and the bass has lovely impact and impressive precision, which dynamic driver IEMs are known for. While they aren't as good at giving a sense of soundstage, the overall sound from the titanium-coated drivers is quite cohesive, and has a good degree of precision and instrument separation in exchange. 

With my favourite SpinFit tips, the upper mids and treble are tamed slightly and the bass jumps up considerably, yet without losing that lovely precision it has, nor overwhelming the mids, which stay quite forward. Another favourite lately has been the JVC Spiral Dot tips which use, as the name suggests, a spiral of indents to reduce turbulence from internal reflections. These brought a sparkle back to the treble (and a bit of sibilance on some tracks) and a bit of needed soundstage to the sound, pushing the mids back a bit while keeping the wonderful bass intact. 

Overall when listening with the 11 Neos I didn't feel like I was listening with sub-$100 IEMs at all, but a pair that was quite a bit more expensive. At one point I was using a $1000+ rig with a Mojo and Soundaware DAP to listen and the combination didn't sound out of place at all. Fantastic stuff from Meze once again.

 

Type:   Universal-fit in-ear monitor

 

Price:   $199.99 USD

 

URL:   http://www.klipsch.com

Written by Jude Mansilla

 

When I list the following attributes--in-ear monitor, advanced ceramic housing, oval eartips--diehard Head-Fi'ers might assume I'm talking about the $1000 Sennheiser IE 800. But then I add “under $200,” and it's obvious I'm heading somewhere else--Indiana perhaps?

 

I'm talking about Indianapolis-based Klipsch, and the Image X7i. Why this little ceramic-bodied wonder isn't one of the most talked about affordable universal-fit IEMs on Head-Fi is an absolute mystery to me. And shopping around shows it readily available for less than the $199.99 price I've listed.

 

The Image X7i joins its Klipsch stablemate Image X10 as being one of the most comfortable universal-fit in-ear monitors I've ever worn--there's something about the ultra-pliable silicone, and the narrow oval cross section of the eartips that makes them almost disappear from mind once inserted. The Klipsch Image X7i's ceramic body feels sturdy, and its contoured shape sits perfectly, comfortably in my ear. As comfortable as it is, though, I'd still have to give a slight edge in comfort to the X10, which is a bit smaller and even less intrusive.

 

More impressive than even the Image X7i's comfort is its sound. This is an audiophile piece all the way, and is neutral enough sounding for me to consider this one of my universal-fit neutral references. While it isn't possessing of the outright speed and resolution of my best (and far more expensive) in-ear monitors, the Klipsch Image X7i resolves above its price, and--most uncommonly in this price range and form factor--presents with enough extension at both ends, and with flat, detailed mids, to sound less like a consumer market headphone, and more like a pro channel monitoring headphone. The only thing that consistently reminds me that the Image X7i is indeed a consumer market piece is the microphone and three-button remote that make it a joy to use with my iPhone, iPods and iPads.

 

The Klipsch X7i is my favorite from Klipsch, and one of my favorite sub-$200 headphones, period.

 

Type:   Closed, on-ear headphone

 

Price:   Around $100 USD

 

URL:   http://www.thinksound.com

Written by Jude Mansilla

 

"Big sound. Small footprint." That's thinksound's motto, their mission statement being "to create incredible sounding headphones with the smallest eco-footprint possible." At a time when so many of us are becoming increasingly conscious about how we impact the environment, how could I not include something from thinksound in this guide? This was made even easier by the fact their flagship product, the ms01, sounds quite good for its street price of around $100.

 

The eco-friendly vibe is strong with this one, with extensive use of natural-color cardboard, and very minimal use of plastic. The carrying case is also a simple unbleached cotton drawstring pouch. Each earpiece consists of a beautiful brown wood housing with gunmetal-colored aluminum baffles. At first glance, the aluminum baffles look like something hammered to shape. The cables are tangle-resistant and PVC-free. Aesthetically, the ms01 is a very simple, elegant design. I'm not sure why, but every time I look at the ms01, I think of little craft art shops in Bridgetown, Barbados, and that makes me smile.

 

The "ms" in "ms01" stands for "monitor series," and I can see where they're coming from with that label, especially for how it sounds relative to most other in-ears in its price range, which tend to be either bass-heavy or bass-and-treble-heavy. The ms01 takes a rather even-keeled approach to its tonal balance, with impactful, fast bass, good clarity through the midrange, and what sounds to me like a dash of treble emphasis, but thankfully not in the sibilance range. The ms01 also images nicely.

 

On sound alone, it's a worthy competitor at its price. Throw its eco-cool spirit into the mix, and it becomes more of a standout in an increasingly crowded space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Type:   Universal-fit in-ear monitor

 

Price:   AF78 around $120, or around $189 with microphone, AF56 around $60, or around $90 with microphone

 

URL:   http://www.audiofly.com

Written by Jude Mansilla

 

I first met the Audiofly team at an event called CES Unveiled last January, and a quick listen to a couple of pieces in their line had me interested in hearing more. I eventually picked up the AF56 and AF78, and am glad I did.

 

The Audiofly AF78 (around $200) is Audiofly's flagship, and is a hybrid design, with a 9mm dynamic driver and balanced armature driver in each earpiece. The AF78's sound signature is warm and smooth, with bigger-than-neutral bass, velvety mids, and soft, smooth treble. The AF78 is no resolution monster, but yet I find it eminently easy to listen to for long sessions--almost every time I use it, it's for at least a couple of hours. I'm not sure what, if any, crossover network is melding the sound of the two drivers, but the two driver types in the AF78 seem to work well together.

 

The nozzles on the AF78 are a bit large, though, so those with small ear canals might want to look elsewhere. The unusual shape of the AF78 can also make it a bit fidgety at first, in terms of getting the fit right; but once you figure it out (which doesn't take long), you'll be inserting them as fast as your other IEMs.

The AF78 version I have is the one with the one-button remote/mic, and the sound quality of my outgoing voice in phone calls through the AF78 is very clear. When I ask those on the other side of the call how I sound with it, most are surprised to find I'm on a headset.

 

As much as I enjoy the AF78, it's the AF78's understudy--the Audiofly AF56--that I enjoy the most in the Audiofly line. I find the AF56's presentation more coherent, more detailed, than its big sib. With a big 13mm dynamic driver in each earpiece, the bass from the AF56 can actually be felt, not just heard--literally, there's a physical sensation from the AF56's bass that you can feel in your ears; and while this might suggest that bass on the AF56 is muddy, it's not. Strong, yes. Muddy, no. The mids of the AF56 also have more presence and detail, to my ears, than the AF78 does--and the same goes for the treble. Its soundstage is also impressive and full.

 

Whereas the AF78 might not be one of the first to come to mind if someone was asking me for $200 IEM recommendations, the AF56 would certainly come to mind quickly for $100, especially for those who prefer a bassier presentation.

 

Also, I find the AF56 an easier fit for my ears, as its nozzle has a smaller diameter than the AF78. The AF78 is available in marqee black (black), and the AF56 is available in vino (deep red), vintage white, and blue tweed.

Type:   Custom-molded adapter for universal-fit in-ear monitors

 

Price:   $129 in vinyl, $149 in silicone

 

URL:   http://www.westonemusicproducts.com

Written by Jude Mansilla

 

Making your first move into the custom in-ear monitor market can be daunting, especially if you have a universal-fit IEM you already love, and/or if you're turned off by the crushing blow to resale value that going the full custom route entails. Of course, another common concern with the higher-end fully custom IEMs is price--the best ones start at just under a grand a pair.

 

If the above describes how you're feeling, then consider picking up a pair of custom molded adapters for your favorite in-ear monitor. I ordered the Westone UM56 to go with one of my favorite universal-fit in-ear monitors, the Westone 4R. Admittedly, I was curious to know if perhaps such a product could actually improve the performance of my 4R.

 

What I found was that it didn't make my 4R sound like a Westone ES50--no big surprise there. But, starting at only $129 (not including the cost of the custom impressions or the in-ear monitors) to forever do away with deteriorating eartips that aren't as comfortable as bespoke eartips, to have a more consistent fit time after time (which, in its own way, is a performance improvement), and to have the ease of insertion that customs provide (no more rolling foamies between your fingers), it's soooo worth it.

 

My Westone 4R has gone custom, and it ain't goin' back.

 

(If you have a non-Westone IEM you want to order these for, make sure to contact Westone to confirm compatibility.)

 


 

"Without a single doubt in my mind, I found UM56 to provide a noticeable improvement in fitment and sound quality when using my Westone IEMs."

- twister6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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