So far, up until now, I've never owned true customs IEM. I have owned three universal reshells (UE triplefi10 twice, and Klipsch Custom 3 once), but I'm on the fence that a true custom is born from a specific sound signature developed by the company/brand that is repeatable in every custom build regardless of the wearer's ear anatomy. Let's get started...
For weeks, I pondered on high end customs like the UM Miracles, Westone ES5, Atrio mg6pro, and the Heir 3.A and JH5 at the low end. I admit that I was very hesitant spending that much money on the high end customs and concluded that for me, it would be overkill to restrict their purpose to that of music listening via my laptop and DAP. I initially settled on the Heir 3.A, but then, I stumbled on a review by our own Project86 who originally wrote an excellent review on the Livewires Trips back in Sep' 2009. The results of the search tool on head-fi resulted that Livewires really aren't that popular and/or known, and based on the reviews from pre early 2011, I can understand why mainly due to the described poor, substandard service, and worse, products never being delivered - all inexcusable in my book.
However, I'm happy to say that Livewires is still around and did the necessary business changes, all for the better. It appears the service contrast from years past and now is like night and day. I placed my order at online and sent my ear impressions via priority on Dec 15, 2011 and Amy at Livewires received them on the 19th. She indicated my customs would take 2-3 weeks, which is of average turn around time.
Before I comment on the product, I would like to point out the stellar customer service from Livewires. Amy addressed and answered all my questions via email within the same day I sent my inquiries. I asked her the difference between the dual and trips and she responded with "the main difference between the two is that the duals have more of a bass, low-end sound, where the triples are a more accurate sound with a flat response. The duals are widely popular with drummers and bass players and the triples seem to be more popular with vocalists. It's really just a matter of personal preference". Her explanation was very sensible, straight forward with practicality, and since I love female vocals, I naturally chose the Trips.
I received my Trips on Jan 7, 2012 - well within the quoted time frame considering Xmas and New Years holiday was all factored in the frame. Excluding the $65 cost of professional ear impressions the total cost for the Trips rang in at $375+10 priority shipping. The $375 was represented in a near flawless reconstruction of my ear impression in acrylic, the Livewires unique swivel cable which allows the cable to be worn around the ear like most other custom IEMs or straight down (my preference), a hard case that I believe is an exact model used by Westone, and a cleaning tool. When comparing what you get from the other popular names, sure it was missing the Pelican case with engraving and maybe a tube of oto ease lubricant, but I'm glad to see that I didn't "pay" for it. Besides, I already have a Pelican case that I never use and have no need for ear lubricant. The fit was spot on even after wearing them for 3 hours straight. The all important seal was intact regardless of my mouth movement, which was the opposite experience with my past reshells. Also, it's important to note that Livewires keeps your ear impressions on hand to address any future casualties the Trips may endure.
How about the sound? Well, since I don't have other customs to compare it with, I've owned most of the popular top tier universal earphones and after a few minutes of initial listening, the sound to my ears and audible memory pointed to the Westone UM3X, but more refined. Like the UM3X, the Trips demonstrate a very detailed sound presence, but even more so. The sound of each instruments is distinct, yet occupy a very realistic space in respect to each other as both are considered stage monitors. The sound is non-fatiguing and no spectrum over powers or over laps each other in either direction. Amy at Livewires was spot describing the flat and accurate sound signature of the Trips. Even more pleasing is the reference from Project86's past Trips review with how the sound is on par with the Westone ES3X, which costs $500 more over the Trips. Sure you don't get the vinyl tips, silver cable, and Pelican engraved box, oto ease lubricant, more shell choices and artwork options from the ES3X, but I'm all about maximum value/performance ratio, and this is where the Trips really shine.
I highly recommend the Livewires Trips if you're searching for flat and accurate sound signature. It represents excellent service, high performance, and yes, product value in a sea of of triple customs that costs hundreds more than the Trips. In the end, you get a rare feat that happens concurrently with most custom IEM; that your ears and wallet will thank you.