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Are (High-end) Custom IEMs Overrated? - Page 2  

post #16 of 467
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by project86 View Post
I believe some good points have been raised, and I'll continue them.


2) Comfort is very subjective. Our ear canals are all very different. My right has a bit more curve than my left, which (according to my audiologist) explains why some IEMs feel better in one or the other ear, but never both at the same time. As a result, I can't listen for hours at a time like some of you can. The OP doesn't seem to have this problem so customs offer no benefit to him.
I've got the exact same ear differences, ie my right ear has more curve, but I still get great fit and isolation with my UM3X's, but I can feel the difference, and of course my ES3X's have that 'perfect' custom fit, but not necesarily (in my case) that translates as more comfortable.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Blutarsky View Post
I have the same issues, my ear canals are very difficult to fit for universal IEMs. I tried everything, different manufacturers, different tips, mismatched tips.. finally, I went the custom tips for IEM route. Ultimately decided to try full custom IEMs a couple years ago. I broke down and bought a pair of Westone ES2. I think it was a great purchase simply due to the money I saved leaving the IEM of the week club, and how much more durable they are regarding breakage of flimsy cables or housings. My enjoyment simply went through the roof.

For me the choice was obvious, less so for others. I thought about upgrading to another manufacturer (UE) once or twice but knew the custom version of the Westone 3 was coming and waited for it to arrive. I'm glad I did its fantastic - Is it vastly superior to the universal UM3X? I can say (for me) unequivocally, it is.
Perhaps the fact that your ear canals are very difficult to fit for universal IEMs you find the ES3X's vastly superior to the UM3X's.

Like I said, in my case comfort is equal if not slightly more so on the UM3X's, and SQ (again, in my case) on the ES3X's is most certainly NOT vastly superior, better yes, but not massively so, but still worth the upgrade.

One thing, though, I forgot to mention is the fact that very few Universals have detachable cables, whereas most customs do, and that is another plus, but I remain convinced that for a large proportion of people seeking excellent SQ, fit and isolation, high-end Universal IEM's are, on the whole, a better deal.
post #17 of 467
I was on a thread where somebody took me to task for suggesting that the Triple Fi 10 Pro was the "equivalent" - among universals - of the UE 10 Pro. I wasn't suggesting that they were the same IEM, since one is custom and the other is not. I was, however, saying that people pay a premium for the custom fit - in this case, $500.

You'd thought I'd run over somebody's dog.

Here was my reply:

Quote:
Originally Posted by tstarn06 View Post
I don't believe anyone would use the word equivalent comparing the Triples to the UE10. Just my hunch.
I didn't say the Triple Fi 10 was "equivalent" to the UE10. I said the $400 Triple Fi's were the "universal" equivalent to the UE10, which is UE's classic $900 custom IEM. There's no question that a custom-fit IEM, build from a mold, taken from an audiologist, is superior to a universal IEM, using off-the-shelf tips that have to be roughly matched to the ear of the consumer. But if you're looking for the best match for the UE10, short of going "custom," the Triple Fi 10 is it.

You know who might agree? Ultimate Ears. On their website. UE created four series of IEMs: MetroFi, Super-Fi, Triple-Fi and Custom. The first three series are universal; the last is custom. Of the Triple Fi, this is what UE says: "The closest sonic experience to custom personal monitors." Within the Triple Fi series, there are only two lines: Triple Fi 10 Pro and Triple Fi 10 Vi, the only difference between them being that the latter has an in-line microphone button and control button.

Cross-reference the description of the Triple Fi 10 with the UE 10 (sans the obvious difference that one is custom-fit while the other is universal) and see what you get:

UE 10:
Housed within the custom shell are 3 individual speakers and an integrated passive crossover circuit board that directs the low-end frequencies to a dedicated speaker for bass, the mid-range frequencies to a speaker for the vocals and the high frequencies to a speaker dedicated for treble.

Triple Fi 10
The sonic equivalent of sitting in the world's best recording studio. How much clearer can we get?
- Three drivers: Low, mid and high frequencies are directed to their designated speaker to give you a sonically rich experience.
Shape of things.
- Audio filters: Shaping the sound for the closest experience to custom personal monitors available.


I'm not making this stuff up. Why do you think the number schemes match between the Custom series and the second and third series of the universals? Is it a coincidence that the UE4 Pro is a single-driver design like the SuperFi 4? Is it a coincidence that the UE 5 Pro matches the SuperFi Pro? Look at what UE says about the SuperFi Pro on its website: "The SuperFi 5pro has the same sonic signature as our custom personal monitors." Is any of this starting to gel yet?

Call me crazy but when UE says it's UE7 Pro "is based on a 2-way crossover design with a single high driver and dual low drivers," maybe that's an enhanced version of the Ultimate Ears 700, the top model in the SuperFi series, which uses "a custom-tuned dual-armature layout that separates the broad frequency response – 10 Hz to 16.5 kHz – into two high-fidelity channels per ear." Should it be a coincidence, then, that the next step up, among the universals, is the (dare I say it?) "equivalent" step up within the custom series? And what is that next step? What's the next number after two? Can you say "three?" Or as UE puts it, in describing the specifications of the UE 10 Pro: "3 proprietary precision balanced armatures with an integrated passive crossover circuit board." In basic English, the UE 10 Pro has a three-way design: a woofer, a midrange and a tweeter. What does the Triple Fi 10 have? "Three drivers: Low, mid and high frequencies are directed to their designated speaker to give you a sonically rich experience."

I never said the $400 Triple Fi 10 was as good as the UE 10 Pro. What I said was that it was the "equivalent" among the universals. That said, what is the major difference between the two? It's the customization. One uses a custom-fit molding, designed from specs taken from an audiologist. The other uses off-the-shelf tips. If you look at the price differences between the other match-ups, there's a $370 difference between the UE 4 Pro and the SuperFi 4. There's a $350 difference between the UE 5 Pro and the SuperFi 5 Pro. There is a more than $600 difference between UE 7 Pro and the UE 700, but that's the weakest of the match-ups. The price difference between the UE 10 Pro and the SuperFi 10 Pro is $500 - which is greater than the difference between the lower match-ups but less than the difference between the UE 5 Pro and the SuperFi 5 Pro.

If you look at the pattern, inexact as it may be, what do you suppose makes up this difference in price between the models in the Custom Series and their corresponding matches among the SuperFi and TripleFi lines? Isn't it obvious? You're paying for a custom earpiece. It's a relatively expensive difference but, for the world of hi-fi, a relatively small one. The actual drivers are essentially "equivalent." Maybe that's why, when UE introduces the Triple Fi 10, it doesn't say, "This is only half as good as our $900 UE 10." It matches the product copy for the UE 10 Pro - "the most accurate personal monitor available. The sound is studio reference quality" - with the following language: "The sonic equivalent of sitting in the world's best recording studio. How much clearer can we get?"

If you want the equivalent of a UE 10 Pro, while remaining in the price range of the universals, Triple Fi 10 Pro is the right model. I didn't exaggerate my point.
post #18 of 467
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bilavideo View Post
the UE4 Pro is a single-driver design
Dual-driver.
post #19 of 467
I stand corrected:

From the UE Website Utimate Ears Custom UE 4 Pro Features - Custom Store - Ultimate Ears Earphones Headphones Personal Monitors

"Inside each custom earpiece you’ll find our proprietary dual-armature speaker system. In addition, an integrated passive crossover circuit directs the low-end frequencies to a dedicated speaker for bass and mids, and the high frequencies to a speaker dedicated for treble. The result is reference-quality, evenly balanced frequency response."
post #20 of 467
Isnt that obvious? It's dual BA. Not single-driver..

EDIT: It even utilizes dual-bore design. If it's single driver, no point using that design.
post #21 of 467
Quote:
Originally Posted by roy_jones View Post
I'm curious about what would represent a significant development or change in technology for you, if not a six-driver IEM?
For me, the JH13 is almost the definition of such a change or potential improvement. Maybe the integration of armature and dynamic drivers would represent the type of quantum leap you're suggesting?
Keep in mind that I am not an electrical or acoustic engineer and my wishes may be unrealistic or stupid, but here it goes.
My definition of improvement is not really how many drivers can you fit in a pinhead.
The question is: is there an improvement in technology thus hopefully in sound, enough to justify purchasing a new product?
Here are some of ideas for new technology:
1-being able to adjust the volume individually for each driver: customizing sound to your preference and ear canal shape without the use of an equalizer.
2-being able to equalize frequencies within the IEM itself, perhaps with the use of a mini-USB port and software.
3-increase in soundstage, perhaps but using dual drivers for each frequency and causing a slight delay in one of them, similar to the adjustments you can make to a surround system when adjusting it to your living room.
Your suggestion of integrating dynamic and armature drivers has already been tried, I believe by UE, although the results were not spectacular. But they may be into something.
In my mind, the term customs is very loosely used since it only applies to the shape of your ear canal. To be truly customizable, the added capacity to adjust the sound to the listener's preferences and ear canal acoustics would be truly representative of a real custom made IEM.
post #22 of 467
Just to answer the main question here, no, I don't think that custom IEMs are overrated in any way. My sleek customs are more comfortable than any phone I have ever worn, circumaural, supraaural, or in ear. That amount of comfort alone is worth more to me than the phones cost. On top of that, the sleeks sound wonderful.

Also, to chime into the whole driver/design debate: There isn't much room to really tweak the design of a balanced armature into a proprietary and identifiably better driver. There are better and worse drivers, but as you go up the line, a lot of what you are paying for is the crossovers. To design and build a good crossover that small is no small task. So, the $400 universal with three drivers could have lower quality drivers and a less precise crossover than the $1000 custom with the same number of drivers.
post #23 of 467
Well, actually, the main reason why universals are much cheaper is that they can be produced in a large quantity.
post #24 of 467
Quote:
Originally Posted by gilency View Post
Keep in mind that I am not an electrical or acoustic engineer and my wishes may be unrealistic or stupid, but here it goes.
My definition of improvement is not really how many drivers can you fit in a pinhead.
The question is: is there an improvement in technology thus hopefully in sound, enough to justify purchasing a new product?
Here are some of ideas for new technology:
1-being able to adjust the volume individually for each driver: customizing sound to your preference and ear canal shape without the use of an equalizer.
2-being able to equalize frequencies within the IEM itself, perhaps with the use of a mini-USB port and software.
3-increase in soundstage, perhaps but using dual drivers for each frequency and causing a slight delay in one of them, similar to the adjustments you can make to a surround system when adjusting it to your living room.
Your suggestion of integrating dynamic and armature drivers has already been tried, I believe by UE, although the results were not spectacular. But they may be into something.
In my mind, the term customs is very loosely used since it only applies to the shape of your ear canal. To be truly customizable, the added capacity to adjust the sound to the listener's preferences and ear canal acoustics would be truly representative of a real custom made IEM.
I like the third idea that you listed. I share the same belief that a change in technology that could add to the perception of sound stage would be the most obvious improvement that could really take IEM's to a new level.

I lack the technical knowledge to do much useful speculation, but something along your suggestion or even the inclusion of a microprocessor that could in some way modulate the drivers to the same effect would be exciting.

I'd be curious to learn more about JH's reasoning behind his driver implementation in the 13. I believe I read in the big thread that the armatures he's using are 'faster' than those typically used in other IEM's, but other than that, I don't know the supposed improvements that the additional drivers are said to offer.

I'd be interested to learn what differences there are in the technology of a custom vs. the universal counterpart, other than the physical earpiece itself. Does the ES3X have different cross-overs than the UM3X? That type of question....
post #25 of 467
Absolutely not. They are amazing, i just think they're overpriced. I'm sure they can make profit for a lower price. Like the Ue11, priced at $1150, i'm sure they can sell more, and make more if they price it at say $700. this is my opinion though....
post #26 of 467
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MaoDi View Post
Absolutely not. They are amazing, i just think they're overpriced. I'm sure they can make profit for a lower price. Like the Ue11, priced at $1150, i'm sure they can sell more, and make more if they price it at say $700. this is my opinion though....
Well, in my question "Are custom IEM's overrated?" the more expensive the customs the more likely they'd be overrated, to me at least. So, I think there's a bit of a contradiction in your post.
post #27 of 467
Who gets to decide what overrated means? The people who have customs or the people who don't? Who gets to decide what too expensive means? The people who find spending $1000 + on one pair of iems or more to be no problem or the people for whom it's a struggle? All I'm saying that those terms are loaded, and the only true answers will lie with each individual's personal beliefs and circumstances.

For me, customs are not overrated. They give me what I like. I've had crappy, decent, and excellent universals, and have heard many others. None have recreated the sound quality I get from my UE11s. Do some come close? Probably, but close doesn't equal the that's it take I get when listening to my custom iems. Even loving them as I do, the mid bass bugs me just a little on certain tracks, and when I heard the universal JH13s at CanJam, I knew that I'd be getting the perfect set of iems for me in comfort, design, and sound quality. There's nothing overrated about that in my opinion.

Others may think I'm crazy. That's fine. They are probably right, but as my lifestyle allows this personal kind of craziness without detriment to myself or others, I'm hoping a-live-and-let-live tolerance might be extended, especially when it comes to posting here on this forum. I would never dream of deciding what overrated means for anyone, unless someone's talking out his bum, having zero experience with what he's insisting (not the same as asking) is overrated. I would never dare suggest when the laws of diminishing returns kick in for any member, since that's highly personal, but I do find it interesting that there is a tendency for people to want to apply their own personal limits to others and then start judging from that place. One size does not fit all. That's all I'm saying. Happy listening.
post #28 of 467
Quote:
Originally Posted by music_4321 View Post
Well, in my question "Are custom IEM's overrated?" the more expensive the customs the more likely they'd be overrated, to me at least. So, I think there's a bit of a contradiction in your post.

It's not contradicting at all. Some Customs cost more cause they perform better, i'm perfectly fine with that. I just think that all customs are "Overprice" and needs to be lowered.
post #29 of 467
...
There WILL be demands for high/highest-end of customs money can buy despite what
people with tighter budget would think, unless more competition comes it will be near
unthinkable for them to lower prices (unless for financial difficulties forcing them to
sell more at lower prices).

As for cost, to a certain degree the price does determine the hierarchy within ONE company
, price differences unless drastic could hardly be meaningful otherwise in determining "superiority",
whatever that might mean to you. For example UE11Pro's price is $1150, ES3X $850,
does those $300 more means that UE11Pro's sound is "superior" in some way to ES3X's
sound? Maybe, but in flavor only, or the subtle sound signature UE11Pro that one might
enjoy more than one carried by ES3X (which is definitely subtler).
post #30 of 467
Quote:
Originally Posted by decay View Post
...
There WILL be demands for high/highest-end of customs money can buy despite what
people with tighter budget would think, unless more competition comes it will be near
unthinkable for them to lower prices (unless for financial difficulties forcing them to
sell more at lower prices).

As for cost, to a certain degree the price does determine the hierarchy within ONE company
, price differences unless drastic could hardly be meaningful otherwise in determining "superiority",
whatever that might mean to you. For example UE11Pro's price is $1150, ES3X $850,
does those $300 more means that UE11Pro's sound is "superior" in some way to ES3X's
sound? Maybe, but in flavor only, or the subtle sound signature UE11Pro that one might
enjoy more than one carried by ES3X (which is definitely subtler).

I agree with what you're thinking. I just think that they could've sold them at a lower price to begin with, the $250 difference between the Ue10 and the Ue11 doesn't justify their performance at all. The only difference said between them is the Ue10 more neutral, while the UE11 gives a better low end, with a tad of high end Bump. Why does the company charge 250 more for a different sound signature? yes there's two more armatures, but the JH-13 has 6 drivers and is cheaper than the 4 driver Ue11. Price really doesn't justify performance. or really material in ways for customs.

I honestly don't think Customs are overrated at all, they provide the best fit you can get, offers the high-quality sound from your pair, and all they're performance really isn't disappointing. Just i don't understand the massive price jump from universal to Custom. The Westone ES1 cost the same as a pair of Westone 3's. the 3's have Three times the drivers, plus a crossover network board, has the same amount of material for exterior, and probably even more wires. The point i don't get is that, they need to take away 4 drivers from the 3's, remove the crossover too so that they could make the custom molding? cause that really doesn't sound right to me...
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