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Anyone heard of Minerva customs?

post #1 of 42
Thread Starter 

Just doing some research and there looks to be a new IEM company in the UK with really good prices on silicon customs.

 

Anyone ever heard of them (or ideally tried them?) - Minerva.

http://www.minerva-hearingprotection.co.uk/

 

From what I can tell it looks like they are hearing aid/hearing protection manufacturers who have provided the UK's national health service for years, and have recently moved into custom IEMs. According to their site they are one of the largest specialist ear mould makers in Europe so their credentials on that side seem pretty good.

 

It looks like they have discounted their custom monitors recently, I assume to get into the market (and also because they can due to their economies of scale?). Their dual drivers are 1/2 the price of ACS which is a significant amount of money.

 

All this is nice, but the big question is, has anyone every heard of them??? Anyone know if they sound any good?

post #2 of 42

so who's gonna be the guinea pig?  ;-)

post #3 of 42
post #4 of 42
Thread Starter 

Thanks David, had missed that single driver review.

 

I've spent the last hour searching for anything on the dual and triple driver options and they seem to be completely unknown on the internet (how outrageous).

 

I've emailed them to ask if they have any spec sheets or can let us know what drivers etc they are using... failing that it's definitely Guinea Pig time for someone :-)

post #5 of 42

Has anyone hasd any dealings with Minerva or can give a better idea on how the £150 Customs are performing? One review doesn't thrill me.

 

Noticed that their single driver set uses a BA driver.

 

I'm interested to say the least.

post #6 of 42
Thread Starter 

Hi Guys,

 

I got a very speed response from the team at Minerva today with quite an encouraging response to my question on specs/drivers etc. It's a very encouraging to get a response with some detail so quickly (not to mention the reply came from someone with MSc after their name!?!?!)

 

I'm very tempted... although there is something about buying an unknown brand that makes me very nervous. Then again they are exceptional value for money for a full silicone option!

 

 

Anyway, I thought I'd share:

______________________________________

 

 

Thanks for your enquiry.

 

Sorry about the lack of reviews online, it is something we are working on at the minute but this can take a while. I've attached a pdf with some feedback we've had from previous customers.

 

The drivers we use are balanced armature transducers that are manufactured by a company called Sonion, one of the two sources of this type of speaker and standard among the IEM industry. You can find spec sheets for the transducers here. However anyone can pick a few transducers, put them in a custom earpiece and get an “okish” sound; most of our development of the Mi-2 and Mi-3 in the last 2 years has been focused on getting the crossover circuitry for the transducers right, refining the placement of the transducers and smoothing the frequency response with the use of sound dampers. The finished products give very detailed and neutral sounds, with powerful, capabale bass, very detailed high end and smooth mids. This is along with the comfort and noise reduction that comes from a well fitted custom earpiece.

 

I noticed you have a .nz e-mail address; if you live outside the UK you will need to arrange to have your own impressions taken, although I can help you find a suitable audiologist for this.

 

I hope this helps, if you need any more information or have any more questions please let me know

 

 

____________________________________________

 

Attached to the reply was also this lit of references they have from existing customers (the file was names 'references for website' so I guess they just haven't uploaded them yet).

 

 

 

 

Testimonials
 
"Hi Lee how's it going? I got my monitors today, and I had to email you to tell you how awesome
they are!
 
Takes a bit of getting used to, and a little bit of fiddling, but once they've warmed up and you've got
the hang of putting them in and taking them out it's great.
 
The isolation is fantastic too. Playing the laptop/mp3 at half the volume of what I used to is still
more than loud enough!
 
Can't thank you enough for helping me out and answering my questions, looking forward to trying
these out at a gig. No doubt I'll be back for a pair of MI-3's in a couple of years."
 
Chris Murphy - Mi-2
 
“I can’t tell you how happy I was during and after the gig. The sound was so good. It was a such a joy
to be able to hear everyone and myself at a comfortable level and with the transparent finish I have
on mine they are very discreet.”
 
“Overall for £190 I feel they are a steal! If they were stolen, lost or broken I would definitely order
another pair.”
 
Rob, (Mi-1 Customer)
 
“We recently had a bike trip to Spain and found the earplugs fantastic. When in the bike for so many
hours, every day for a week, having comfortable equipment is a must. The earplugs were so
comfortable I sometimes forgot I was wearing them!”
 
Mark Davies, Innovation Manager, Department for Economy & Transport (BikePlugs Customer)
 
“Received my in-ears this morning, they work brilliantly. Just want to say thanks for the great service
and quick turnaround on my order! 5 star service!”
 
Jack Howson (Mi-1 Customer)
 
“Having ridden motorcycles now for 19 years I have tried all the earplugs on the market. From foam
ones to do it yourself silicone ones that form to the shape of your ear. After only five minutes I was
kicking myself that I had not ordered this product years ago. They perform faultlessly at high speed
and you hardly know they are in your ears. I have done sixty miles with them today and they have
already become an indispensable part of my kit. An excellent product with excellent customer service.
 
Mark Jones ( BikePlugs Pro Customer)
 
“The silicone material doesn't cause soreness, even after long periods. I fly frequently, usually long
distance and I like to be able to listen to good music without the constant, loud drone of the cabin
aircon. Now, for the first time, I can fly for hours in pain-free peace and no sore ears afterwards - for
this alone, your sleeves are worth every penny!”
 
Stephen Evans (ER 4 Earphone Sleeves Customer)
 
I've used the plugs about 8 times so far on different jobs, from Stage managing the Calenig gig for
Cardiff city council to concerts with the BBC national orchestra of Wales. The plugs do the Job
extremely well, I can continue to have conversations with artists and players, but find that all the
LOUD noise disappears. The in-ears were awesome, and I kept them in for the duration of the gigs (2
1/2 -3 hours), with no problems at all.
 
Adrian Evans (WorkPlugs and In-Ear Monitors Customer)
 
I found that once you had got used to the plugs being in your ears, they felt very comfortable and
you tended not to notice them being there. The second and probably most important plus point was
that I really felt that my ears were being protected from the harmful frequencies as my entire ear
was filled by the plug. I did talk about them to some of my musician friends and will definitely
recommend them to people who are suffering with tinnitus so will do that when I can.
 
Thanks for all your help with getting them sorted. I felt very valued as a customer and the service
both yourself & everyone at your office provided was excellent.
 
Adam Hammond (MusicPlugs Customer)
post #7 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by landofshane View Post

Hi Guys,

 

I got a very speed response from the team at Minerva today with quite an encouraging response to my question on specs/drivers etc. It's a very encouraging to get a response with some detail so quickly (not to mention the reply came from someone with MSc after their name!?!?!)

 

I'm very tempted... although there is something about buying an unknown brand that makes me very nervous. Then again they are exceptional value for money for a full silicone option!

 

Anyway, I thought I'd share:

 

<snip>


Some excellent stuff, definitely fills me with a little bit more hope.

 

I guess what interests me the most right now is the sound signature of the Mi-1 and the viability of using a mobile phone with these, how easy or hard they are

to drive.

 

Seems like the kevlar-reinforced cable option has disappeared from their website and I'm guessing that if I don't know what Neutrik connectors are, I shouldn't think about adding them to the amount of money I need to be saving.

 

EDIT: I wonder about detachable cables too. I think I might shoot them an email, despite my... lack of knowledge.. in the IEM/sound area.

post #8 of 42
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ElcomeSoft View Post

Some excellent stuff, definitely fills me with a little bit more hope.

 

I guess what interests me the most right now is the sound signature of the Mi-1 and the viability of using a mobile phone with these, how easy or hard they are

to drive.

 

Seems like the kevlar-reinforced cable option has disappeared from their website and I'm guessing that if I don't know what Neutrik connectors are, I shouldn't think about adding them to the amount of money I need to be saving.

 

EDIT: I wonder about detachable cables too. I think I might shoot them an email, despite my... lack of knowledge.. in the IEM/sound area.


 

 

The guy I’ve been dealing with Lee is away on leave today so you probably won’t hear back on questions until tomorrow.

 

Just this morning I asked about the ability to drive these of a portable player (being an international traveller, I don’t want the extra bulk of an Amp if I can help it). I’ll let you know what they come back with.

 

Personally I’d always upgrade the connectors, but I’m a geek like that. It probably isn’t necessary ;-)

 

As for detachable cables, I’d be surprised if they do these. Most Silicone customs have fixed cables as trying to put detachable cables on the the soft material is a known pain point (whereas it’s easier with a hard acrylic shell).

 

I asked about the sound signature of the M2i and M3i as I’m looking for a very neutral sound (think ER4s) and I’m concerned the 3’s may be a bit bass heavy for me. Lee has offered to talk with a customer he knows that has done exactly this upgrade to get some honest views for me (a far more professional response than many places would give you, most would just recommend the most expensive) – so if their product is as good as the customer service so far then they will be very impressive indeed!

 

 

The only thing holding me back is none of the feedback I can find is from Audiophiles, it’s all musicians or people needing the hearing protection. At the risk of sounding picky, the sound signature isn’t going to be as important to those two groups as it is to someone like me who want them primarily for great sound.

post #9 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by landofshane View Post

The guy I’ve been dealing with Lee is away on leave today so you probably won’t hear back on questions until tomorrow.

 

Just this morning I asked about the ability to drive these of a portable player (being an international traveller, I don’t want the extra bulk of an Amp if I can help it). I’ll let you know what they come back with.

 

Personally I’d always upgrade the connectors, but I’m a geek like that. It probably isn’t necessary ;-)

 

As for detachable cables, I’d be surprised if they do these. Most Silicone customs have fixed cables as trying to put detachable cables on the the soft material is a known pain point (whereas it’s easier with a hard acrylic shell).

 

I asked about the sound signature of the M2i and M3i as I’m looking for a very neutral sound (think ER4s) and I’m concerned the 3’s may be a bit bass heavy for me. Lee has offered to talk with a customer he knows that has done exactly this upgrade to get some honest views for me (a far more professional response than many places would give you, most would just recommend the most expensive) – so if their product is as good as the customer service so far then they will be very impressive indeed!

 

The only thing holding me back is none of the feedback I can find is from Audiophiles, it’s all musicians or people needing the hearing protection. At the risk of sounding picky, the sound signature isn’t going to be as important to those two groups as it is to someone like me who want them primarily for great sound.


That being the case, I don't have much to ask really. You're already covering most of the points I'm looking at. Having only had my ears around generic Sony's, Monster Turbines, Brainwavz ProAlpha's and Head-Direct RE-ZERO's, I'm not really an audiophile but I'm thinking custom's would give me the ideal mix of comfort, isolation and good SQ.

 

As far as an amp goes, if they can be enhanced/driven by a Fiio E5 then I wouldn't mind too much.

 

To me having had my ears fatigued by the Monster Turbines from the bass and being melted by the mid's/high's of the RE-ZERO's but a little unhappy on the bass side, I'll probably be going absolutely mental if the Mi-1's have a similar signature to the RE-ZERO's but provide more emphasis?/power? on the bass area.

 

I don't have the cash just yet so I can afford to research and wait. I'm interested in whether they are forced to do a cable-down IEM or they can do the over-ear thing which would be preferable.

 

I have found the following reviews via Google. Just adding them for other Head-Fi users to get a feel for things. I agree with you that most of the reviews are by musicians who are not looking for the same thing as we are. The last review seems to give us a little glimpse into what we're looking for.

 

http://www.worshipcentral.org/forum/topic/affordable-custom-in-ear-monitors

http://www.soundonsound.com/forum/showflat.php?Cat=&Number=885040&page=0&view=collapsed&sb=5&o=&fpart=1

http://www.petrucciforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=70942

post #10 of 42
Thread Starter 

Good find with those links!

 

The biggest issue I have is that without any reviews by audiophilles the 'sound type' is a mystery. Almost every thread in here shows just how different the sound from equivalent priced IEM's can be (not better or worse, but definitely different).

 

All this has left me wondering how on earth a new entrant into this space is meant to get up and going?

 

The answer to your 'over the ear' cable question may be in one of those links you found... they did the M1i with a full shell (rather than just the canal version) so they could run the cable over the ear.

post #11 of 42

Lee got in touch in with me today and I am quite impressed with his response.

 

Re: Sound signature of the Mi-1: "it has a very deep bass extension, good detail in both the highs and mids with an overall very smooth sound. The area were the Mi-1 lacks, when compared with the higher end Mi-2 & Mi-3, is in bass impact and high end imaging; the higher end models have additional subwoofers and the load is spread across drivers which are optimised for specific frequency ranges, whereas on the Mi-1 you have a single, still very capable, transducer handling everything."

 

Cable down or over ear options are available. No differences in price between the two.

 

He tells me that there is no need for an amp with any model when using an iPhone 3GS so it seems like they are quite easily driven. Ideal for us portable users.

 

Kevlar cable upgrade option was removed as it is now a standard feature. They have also added additional protection for the cable at certain joints to help prolong the cable life. They seem to understand that the cable is often the weakpoint of IEM's.

 

I'm quite impressed. Despite being only able to 'maybe' afford their single driver unit, I'm sorely tempted. I'm in love with the sound of the RE-ZERO but the difficulty i'm having with the fit, seal and discomfort over time. Isolation is good but a little under my desired level. If the sound signature is similar but a bit more on the bass side, then I'd count the pennies and pounce on the Mi-1 as soon as I could but the lack of knowing what the sound signature is like is holding me back.

post #12 of 42
Thread Starter 
TL;DR:
** Spoke to Minerva today - they came across very very well.
** Their product has been 2 years in the making, with a focus on quality.
** They are achieving high quality for such a low price through the economies of scale achieved through their traditional hearing aid business.
** I was most impressed with their company ethos. It's clear they are a company focused on delivering hearing to millions, and their expansion into ear plugs and IEMs is an extension of this.

________________________________________


I had a phone call from Lee tonight and had a really good chat... to say I was impressed would be an understatement!

I gave him a bit of the spanish inquisition (not intentionally, but I was at work so was in my work routine of interviewing prospective business partners). He was clearly very knowledgeable and passionate.

Starting from the top, he confirmed a bunch of product questions, although ElcomeSoft has answered most of them already!

I also asked about sound signature. He had made the effort to call a customer who had upgraded from an ER4 to the M2i's. The description he got sounds like it's exactly what I was after. A very flat response with great bass definition without being overwhelming. Specifically, the ER4 customer had had problems with the triple flanges and comfort, so had then tried custom tips. These had delivered the comfort, but left the sound source feeling a bit to far removed from the ear to give the right sound stage, in contrast he loves the M2i.

This was a particularly encouraging bit of feedback, after all only an audiophile would ever to to those lengths and give such specific feedback... so it sounds like we have our first confirmed report of an audiophile who is happy with the result.

Detachable cables are being looked into but not available yet. They are their ideal goal however the issues of working with Silicone are known to make this a very tricky item. To overcome this (as Elcomesoft just mentioned) they use the kevlar cables as standard and also add their own custom sheaths to these to add added strength (although clearly they don't recommend pulling them out of your ears by the cable!). Both over the ear cables and standard drop cables are available on all models.

So that was the niceties out of the way, so we moved onto my standard 'business questioning'...

Having discussed the sound signature, we got onto the subject of the lack of online reviews. He mentioned the electricpig review (http://www.electricpig.co.uk/2010/06/23/minerva-mi-1-custom-headphones-that-dont-break-the-bank/) and was quite forthcoming with the fact that just after this review they made changes to the filters across the whole range. They had been struggling with a 'lump' in the frequency response at 1.2kHz, which matches with the reviews statement of " treble was slightly over-pronounced at times". They have added filters to the M1i and I believe altered the M2i and M3i filters in some way which has smoothed out this lump giving a flatter frequency response. All sounds very encouraging!

Lee was quick to respond to my questions about a price/quality relationship. These custom monitors have been in progress for 2 years (August 2 years ago they first started exploring this area) and they have aimed for top quality sound. The reason they can offer these at such an amazing price (1/2 the price of their main UK competitor ACS) is economies of scale rather than any corner cutting in sound quality. I asked a number of questions on product turnover, staffing numbers and output to test this economies of scale answer; I won't post the details here as some detail may be commercially sensitive, but everything backed up the pure economies of scale answer perfectly. Likewise a quick look around http://www.minervalabs.co.uk/ also supports this and gives a lot of added confidence (8 million ear moulds!)!

Finally, that left me with the commercial puzzle, even if they can make them for cheaper, why not sell them at a higher price closer to competitors and make more profit. I never asked the direct question, as by that stage I already had my answer...

Minerva are a 'hearing' focused company, not a music company. Their product range covers hearing aids, hearing protection and custom IEM's. Based on what I heard today, it seems clear that the company has a certain level of social conscience, so by making the move to provide affordable quality solutions for singers, musicians, motorsports etc they can both grow their product portfolio as well as make the world that little bit better by protecting some ears from potential hearing damage.


I was impressed with the call to say the least! If I had been tempted up until now, but this call has made me a lot more than just 'tempted'.

Given the products are 1/2 the price of their main european competitor (dual driver silicone for £250, or $400 USD), this looks like a very very interesting product indeed! For anyone based in Europe this looks like a company worth considering (rather than doing the international ordering thing from the US).

If nothing else, the last point of their company ethos has given me real confidence that this is a quality product that they have decided to price as affordable, rather than a cheap competitor to the known brands.
post #13 of 42
Thread Starter 
post #14 of 42

 i wonder how they would compare with 1964 ears, who seems to both rival the minerva prices, and have garnered quite a following on head-fi.

post #15 of 42

Sent off another email last night to Lee. Hopefully grab a few more answers and see what's what.

 

Price still makes me waver in putting down, everything else seems fine. How long do you typically get out of custom earphones?

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