EDIT (2nd June 2011): At the time I started this thread two years ago most customs were $850+. These days one can get customs that are a lot cheaper. How good are they? I've no idea. Most reports of the JH5, for instance, say they are very good. But, you still face a low re-sale value if you decide to sell your customs, the prospect of needing re-fits, a visit to an audiologist (or two as in my case), extra shipping costs, and living outside the US can make things a lot more expensive not just because of much higher shipping costs but often added (high) import duty & taxes.
Also, two years ago most top-tier universals only came with fixed cables. Nowadays there are plenty of excellent sounding universals - and not all top-tiers - that come with detachable cables: UM2, UM3X, EX1000, IE8, TF10, SE535, SE425 (even the $100 SE215!), etc. Only a few weeks ago I purchased the best universal IEM I've ever heard, the Sony MDR-EX1000, and it is the only universal to be 100% equal SQ-wise to my $850 custom Westone ES3X.
So, my comments below made 2 years ago still stand.
Am I the only one on Head-fi who finds statements about customs' fit, isolation & SQ to be somewhat exaggerated? While I agree isolation is probably best achieved with customs, I'm not so sure about the fit (read comfort) and SQ.
Many years ago I had the Sony EX71s and found them extraordinarily comfortable, only a little less so than my current Sony EX90s and my previous UE Super.fi 5 v2, W3s & SE530s. My other current universal IEMs, the UM3Xs, have that little extra edge comfort-wise over all the rest. My ES3Xs are VERY comfortable - unfortunately I had to have 3 re-fits (4 sets!) - but I wouldn't go as far as saying they are much more comfortable than the Universal IEMs I've had. In fact, my UM3Xs are probably just as comfortable as my $850 (+ $50 ear impressions + shipping) ES3Xs.
Time and time again I've read on so many threads here that customs provide unparalleled fit and isolation, 'WAY' better than Universal IEMs. I might agree on the isolation front, but to say 'WAY better' is DEFINITELY an exaggeration, I think.
Seems to me these days everyone is getting on the customs bandwagon, specially with lower priced custom IEM's, and no wonder, I think, after so many things I see written in these very forums. I own the ES3Xs and find them FANTASTIC in comfort, isolation & SQ. And,to ME, they were worth the admittedly very high price because for the SQ they provide, though they certainly do NOT provide twice+ the SQ of my $350 UM3Xs - NOT by a very, very long shot, maybe 10-15% at most
I honestly think that for most people the UM3X (or a similar type of IEM) is a better investment than expensive (or even inexpensive - read $300-$400) customs. One obvious advantage is you can sell your second-hand Universal IEMs, specially the more sought-after types, whereas a set of customs has no re-sale value.
Also, these days companies like Unique Melody are offering to turn Universal IEMs into customs for a very reasonable price, even adding extra drivers - already some people have reported great results, but I still have my doubts about these in comparison to top-tier Universal IEMs
You mustn't forget that for customs you have to get (and often pay extra for) ear impressions, send them in, and then have a fairly good chance of needing a re-fit, or two, or more (possibly adding to the overall cost), and even maybe a second set of ear impressions (like me) and perhaps a few years down the line needing to have your customs done all over again, or simply 'wanting' to upgrade to the latest new toy around.
I've spent 7 months in head-fi and in the last few months the amount of custom IEM's talk / threads has increased dramatically. I honestly think that for A LOT of head-fiers, and specially for new (and easily 'wowed' younger) inexperienced members the UM3X, ATH-CK100, W3, IE8, UE triple.fi 10, SE530 and others are an excellent choice and much better value than customs in the end - hey, these Universals are already $250 - $400!!
Edited by music_4321 - 6/2/11 at 8:47am