A while back I started a thread on the high cost of buying custom iem's in the UK. In the thread a company called Minerva was suggested to me who were selling customs for approx half the price of ACS who are the other custom iem maker in the UK.
After reading the following threads - http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/537855/anyone-heard-of-minerva-customs and http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/544139/review-minerva-mi-1-custom-iem I decided to speak to Lee at Minerva and ask a few questions on their products. Lee is a top bloke and answered all my questions either over the phone or by email. I decided to order the Minerva MI-3 which is a triple driver iem using soft medical grade silicon. Price was £350, this included my ear impressions which were done local to me. I also paid extra for a hard peli case which has my name on. Total time from impression to me taking delivery was 10 days.
I'm going to attempt a review although it will be nowhere near as in depth as others on here and will not have some of the terminology used by others.
First a brief history of my previous iem experiences. Started around 8 years ago with Shure E2c and have since made my way through various different iems including - Etymotic er6i, er4p and hf5(stiill have these), Sleek audio SA6, Monster turbine coppers, Ortofon eq-7, Shure 530, UE triple fi 10, Atrio M5, Sennheiser ie8 with ACS custom tips(still own), Westone um3x, Phonak PFE's. There have been a few others but cant remember them now.
Out of all them my top 3 would be - Senn IE8, Westone um3x and the Ety er4p.
The Minerva's are my first pair of customs and I bought them for 2 reasons, first being that I've always been curious about customs and the other being that a few of the iems I've owned I have had fit issues with my right ear, sometimes having to push earpiece back into place as I found some would constantly start to slip out no matter what tips I used.
Now onto the Minervas, I've used my iphone 4 for listening the last 24 hours since I got them but will add another post later when I've listened to them through the Sony x1060. I tend to use the same 5 or 6 songs when first comparing/trying out new earphones before moving onto whole albums. Any comparsions will be directly to the ie8 as I still own these but will make reference to um3x as I had been using them for 5 months until 2 weeks ago when I sold them to a fellow member here.
Some pics, not brilliant as they are from my phone
They came with a cleaning tool, some eargel, shirt/tie clip and a small leather style pouch.
They are very well made, cable is very secure and has some memory cable starting just before the main earpiece, also has a slider on the cable.
Fit as you would expect from customs is perfect, once they are in and listening to music you almost forget they are in your ears.
Microphonics are almost non existant, isolation is excellent even more than I was expecting.
Now onto the sound - the tracks used are all apple lossless throughmy iphone but will use some mp3 files through my Sony x1060 in a leter post.
Tracks used are: David Bowie - Starman, The Fall - Blindness, The Smiths - Well I Wonder, British Sea Power - Lately, The Wedding Present - Kennedy and finally Belle and Sebastian - Belle and Sebastian.
David Bowie - Starman. After the first few bars of guitar there is a drum intro then the bass kicks in on the song, now I've never really had an iem that has struggled with this track but the Mi-3 adds more to it, there is a real depth and soundstage to the music, it doesnt feel as closed in as most iems, vocals are lush, bass is tight and doesnt lack but doesnt overpower.
The Fall - Blindness. Chose this track as it has a stonking guitar riff and the Mi-3 doesnt disappoint. Anybody who has heard this song will know what I mean about the beat to this song, its got a real groove and the Mi-3 keeps pace and sparkles all the way through, again vocals are something special.
The Smiths - Well I Wonder. On the previous tracks I had noticed great separation on the instruments as well as depth but on this track they separate the intrusments like I've never heard before, Morrissey's wailing vocal at the end really comes through strong, more so than any other iem I've heard before.
British Sea Power - Lately. A real powerhouse of a song, 12 minutes of class by this band from their first album. Starts off fairly slow| and builds to a crescendo of fast wailing guitars, heavy drums and thumping bass, the Mi-3's handle it no problem, the treble really shines through with each guitar track and overlay being perfectly represented.
The Wedding Present - Kennedy. Another track which finishes off with 2 minutes of fast frantic guitars and constant drum rolls. The Mi-3 again sound excellent, bass presence is strong even through the frantic guitars.
Belle and Sebastian - Belle and sebastian. This track has a really heavy bass riff that other iems I've owned have struggled, the lead vocal can also be sibilant/grating with other iems but the Mi-3 handles them no problem, reproduces the bass without affecting the rest of the track, vocals are again top notch with none of the grating that I've experienced with most other phones.
When I ordered the Minerva's I was expecting an IEM that would surpass my Senns but probably be about the same level as the UM3x but with better fit. Having listened to them for a few hours now, I would say that to me(Disclaimer!!) they are a slight step above the um3x. They have a similar neutral feel to the music but the vocals/mids are maybe just a bit more refined/forward than anything I've heard before but to no sacrifice to either the treble or bass. The separation and depth to these iems is astounding, matches my IE8 and possibly surpasses them on depth of soundstage.
These are just inital impressions after first few hours of use, will reserve a couple of posts for further thoughts over next few days.
So far though I would recommend the Minerva's to anybody looking for a custom iem in the uk/eu. As well as a cracking price and product, the customer serveice from Lee has also been excellent.
Here is a link to their IEM page - http://www.minerva-hearingprotection.co.uk/in-ear-monitors.html
Edited by McCol - 4/18/11 at 5:28pm