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Minerva MI-3 Custom IEM, Review and thoughts.

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 


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
post #2 of 32
Thread Starter 

Ok had these a few days now so thought I'd post some further thoughts.


No replies to thread so assume there is no interest or my review was a bit on the poor side.


The more I listen to these Minerva customs the more I like them, compared to my Senn ie8 they offer far more detail in the mids and highs but with more subtle bass response.  The bass doenst lack it just doesnt take over like it does with the ie8.


I've listened to alo of iems over the last the few years and enjoyed most but these surpass them all.  The level of detail from these phones amazes me each time I listen to them.  Vocals sound lush, bass is deep but doesnt overpower or affect other aspects of music and the highs have terrific detail.  In the past I would have said that the Shure 530 gave me the best mids I had heard, the umx3 and ety er4 the best highs with the Atrio/Senns offering best bass.   With the Minerva triple drivers I feel to my ears that I get all the best qualites from all these phones plus a bit extra on top.


I realise that my thoughts may not be as in depth as other reviews on here or contain technical terms but this is the best way for me to describe the quality of these customs.


For buyers outside UK/EU these probably dont compete price wise with the likes of 1964's or Livewires but here in the Uk they are the best value for money custom available, I could've ordered from abroad but by the time you add taxes and possible fit problems these make perfect sense.

Edited by McCol - 4/17/11 at 2:45am
post #3 of 32
Thread Starter 


post #4 of 32

More comparisons to UM3X and Atrio please - especially in the bass department. I was taking these customs into consideration - I'm looking for something close to UM3X sound, but with this beautiful Atrio bass (subbass!).

post #5 of 32
Thread Starter 


The Minerva's are in some respects very similar to um3x, but with bigger soundstage and a little more detail in the highs and mids.  They have a deeper bass response to the um3x as well.  I would say that from memory they dont quite match the real depth of bass that the atrio's achieve.  I always felt with atrio's that you could almost feel the thud of the bass drum in your head not just hear it, the Minerva's dont quite match that but then I've yet to find another iem that does match that deep feeling of the atrio's bass.



post #6 of 32
Thread Starter 
Had these almost a week now so thought I'd post an update on how these customs are sounding.

Had a chance to listen to a few more albums in full, good mixture of genres from punk to acoustic. The Minerva's don't struggle with any genre, like other top end iems if the music is poorly encoded or badly produced then it will show up.

Listening to the The Smiths album The Queen is Dead was a joy, on the track I know it's over, there is a passage in the first minute or so with acoustic strumming and a fairly deep bass line, other iems I've used in the past either bloat the bass or hide the acoustic guitar in the background. The Minerva's don't, the bass is tight, deep and full of body, the guitar is there at the front alongside. The only other iem that has come close to this was the um3x but the Minerva adds a bit more depth and soundstage to the song.

Have had no problems with comfort or fit, the soft silicon glides in and out of my ears with ease and I can barely tell they are there after a few minutes of listening.
post #7 of 32

Thanks for the impressions. They really sound very interesting considering the price.Do Minerva offer artwork or only different colors?

post #8 of 32
Thread Starter 
They do different colours and laser etching, not sure about the artwork, check the link or email/ring Lee, he's very helpful.
post #9 of 32

I was on the verge of pulling the trigger on some Mi3s but for now I'm gonna make do with my Shure 215s.  Good to read your review, thanks for posting.


Can you tell me how well they isolate compared to your Etys?

post #10 of 32
Thread Starter 
They isolate better than any iem I've had before including the ety's.
post #11 of 32

Thanks for the impressions. Speaking of impressions, I just sent mine in to Minerva for the Mi-3.


@ PsiCore, I am corresponding with them to see if they can do what I am asking, otherwise I will just get them in clear.

post #12 of 32

I've read that clear silicone is prone is discolouring after a certain period of usage.


Im tempted to pull the trigger on these but Im worried about durability. Key problems with past IEM that I have own has always been the connector plug and losing one side of the phones then the other. If only they did these with detachable cables!

post #13 of 32

I've had clear silicone musician's earplugs and ACS T2 IEMS for several years and not experienced any discolouration issues.   I've been using the clear Minerva M1 monitors for over a year and they look the same as when they first arrived.     

The review above, and the performance/fit/comfort of the M1s has pushed me into ordering the M3 at the current bargain price.  Still a few days away from delivery  ... am wishing I'd clicked the '48hr' box now.

post #14 of 32
Thread Starter 
Spent quite a bit of time yesterday and this morning listening and comparing the Minerva's to my Ie8's.

The main difference for me with the bass response on both of these iems is that although the ie8 goes a bit deeper it does add an overall bass depth to the music(hope that makes sense!), whereas the Mi-3 present the bass in a more subtle manner, it goes deep but doesn't add the overall bassy feel the ie8 do.

An example of this I found was on the track Barbariasm begins at home by The Smiths from the Meat is Murder album. There is quite a lengthy bass solo towards the end of the song, with the Mi-3 the bass is deep and textured but doesn't overpower the cymbal and drum beat going on in the background, the ie8 bass sounds great as well, deep but not as textured or subtle as the Mi-3. The bass from the ie8 on this track does overpower the rest of the track, not in a way that spoils the track as I do love the sound from the ie8 but it isn't as detailed or subtle as the Mi-3.

One thing I will say about the Minerva's is that they don't add any colour to the music or seem to have a special sound signature, I still feel they sound similar in detail to the um3x but with a tad more depth and soundstage and to my ears the mids feel a bit more forward than the um3x(in a good way).
post #15 of 32

Nice review. Minerva seem like a great option for people in the UK. I don't think I can bring myself to be swayed even by the low price though, I'm too enamoured with dynamic's bass reproduction in the lower registers, so I guess I'm still looking at the UM Merlin. That being said, my mum's thinking about upgrading and seeing as these look like great value for money, I might start nudging her towards these or the 2's rather than some universals. They'd have to be pink though haha.

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