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Multi Custom Flagship IEM Review 23/8/11 UERM Added

Poll Results: Which Custom IEM should I review next? I'll purchase them in the order of popularity :)

This is a multiple choice poll
  • 16% of voters (38)
    Ultimate Ears Referene Monitor
  • 13% of voters (32)
    1964 Ears Quads
  • 29% of voters (69)
    UM Mircale
  • 14% of voters (35)
    UM Merlin
  • 2% of voters (7)
    UE 11Pro
  • 6% of voters (16)
    Westone ES3X
  • 19% of voters (46)
    JH16Pro + JH3A
236 Total Votes  
post #1 of 114
Thread Starter 


This review will cover the flagship IEMS of UE, JH Audio and Westone. Overtime more IEMs from different brands will be covered such as UM and 1964 Ears.
Please note that currently I only have 3 fully custom IEMS
The Westone ES5, UE18Pro and the JH16Pro. 
Whilst I have the JH13Pro but as a demo unit which I bought from Jaben Audio :P

There will be a few sections of this review, in order to save the precious time of readers and those that want a quick review and impression I will provide a short review and summary of each IEM, whilst providing a longer and more thorough review as well for those that want to compare these products in more detail.

For the Short Reviews I will be strictly using the IEMs with my iPod Classic headphone out.
Whilst for my Longer reviews I will be using different cables, specific tracks as well as different rigs.

I will be looking at different aspects of these products which are;

Customer Service of the Company
Build Quality
Sound - Broken down into : Highs, Mids, Bass and Soundstage

All of these aspects will be rated on a scale of 1-10.

Now without further ado the short review shall begin.

Ultimate Ears UE18Pro

The UE18 Pro is currently the most expensive Ultimate Ear's Custom IEM, priced at 1350USD.

Living in Hong Kong, I ordered the UE18Pros through Thinking Group since they take care of shipping and everything for you.

I ordered the UE18Pros on July 24th and received them on August 14th, the turnover rate was pretty fast considering it is international shipping. 

The build quality of the UE18Pros are excellent, when I first opened the package and inspected the IEMs, I could only see 3 air bubbles in total, this is significantly better than Westone where I found quite a large amount of air bubbles within my ES5s.
The sockets for the IEM are secure and tight, changing cables was quite a challenge too.

The comfort of any IEM really depends on how good your ear impressions were, I personally went to Widex in Hong Kong to get my ear impressions and after sending them to UE the results are great. The 18Pros have perfect fit and I haven't found a moment where they felt uncomfortable in my ears.

The Isolation of these IEMs are excellent, whilst they don't completely drown out all the sound outside they surely dampen them quite well. Currently theres renovation going on next door to my appartement which causes unbearable noise, however with the UE18Pros they become as faint as something like the noise of an air con :)

The Sound of the UE18Pros is probably what you're all interested in.
It boasts 6 drivers per ear. 2 for Bass, 2 for Mids, 2 For Highs. Meant to provide a neutral tone, however in my experience I haven't found this to be the case, the bass is slightly more stronger than the Mids and the highs.
The Highs of the UE18Pro are excellent, crisp and clear, the sound of cymbals for most rock tracks sound excellent on the 18Pros, the Mids however are somewhat lacking, the vocals aren't that vibrant and sound somewhat flat.
The bass of the UE18Pros may be excellent, depending on your preferences. The bass isn't warm and enveloping, instead its slightly cold and full of impact. However because of the impact of bass there soundstage of the UE18Pros are quite excellent, since the synchronization between the impact of the bass and the sharpness of the treble makes the UE18Pro have a great soundstage.


Finally the value of the UE18Pros,
Are they really worth 1350USD?
Personally I think not. I find them to be slightly flat and lacking and they're not really to my tastes. I would say that if you manage to find a deal for them for anything under 1200 USD then it becomes worth the price :)

My rating of the UE18Pros


Customer Service of the Company 9/10 - Very fast turnover rate for normal service at a international level 

Build Quality 9.5/10 - As I've said before there are very few air bubbles within the 18Pros and the sockets are tight
Comfort 9/10 - Depends on your Ear Impressions, but they fit my ears excellently. 
Isolation 9.5/10 
Sound ; 34-35.5/40

Highs - 9.5/10 - Sharp, Crisp, Clear 
Mids 7.5/10 - Somewhat flat and lacking 
Bass 8-9.5/10 - Depends on your taste, if you like Bass with Impact its 9.5, if you dont it's really an 8.
Soundstage 9/10 - Great soundstage.

Value 7/10 - Like I said before, I don't think its worth 1350USD 

Total 78-79.5 / 90


I recommend these IEMS for anyone that enjoys rock and metal music as well as a bit of rap. 
If you're a big fan of Vocal Music then you might find these IEMS to be a bit flat in sound.
More so, if you're someone that adores the UE Triple Fi's then you will fall in love with the UE18Pros.



JH Audio JH16 Pro

The JH16 Pro is currently the Flagship IEM of JH Audio. Priced at 1149USD. It boasts a total of 8 Drivers per ear, with 4 Bass, 2 Mids and 2 High drivers per ear.

I ordered the JH Audio 16Pro through Jaben Audio. It took a total of 5 Weeks before it arrived, slightly longer than the UE18Pros, however I assure you that it is DEFINITELY worth the wait.


Now the build quality of the 16Pros is definitely the biggest disappointment of these IEMs. Whilst there aren't any air bubbles within my JH16Pros at all, the sockets of the Earpieces are definitely not ideal. I found that the cable does not get fully inserted into the sockets of the 16Pros and I find that to be quite worrying.

The JH16 pros are also comfortable to my ears, since they came from the same audiologist in Hong Kong. I find them slightly more comfortable than the UE18 pros.

The Isolation of the Jh16Pros are practically the same as the UE18Pros, both are excellent.

The Sound of the JH16Pros is more dynamic and fun, compared to the UE18Pro. Since it isn't a neutral sounding IEM, with 4 Bass drivers it's really meant for bass heads or performing musicians that want a bass boost to hear their bandmates more clearly. 
With that purpose behind these IEMs I believe that these IEMs are a masterpiece :)

The Highs are crisp and clear, on par with the highs of the UE18Pros, the mids however are superior to the UE18Pro, to my ears at least.
The Mids don't sound as flat as the 18Pros, they're more lively and energetic. It sounds rich, full and lush. 
The Bass is really the highlight of the 16Pros, with quad bass drivers you would think that the impact of the Bass would be overwhelming, that is not the case. Whilst they are definitely more powerful than the UE18Pro, they are also clear and slightly warmer. In short the bass of the JH16Pros are excellent and for anyone that loves Bass, they will love the JH16s :)
Soundstage wise, the JH16 Pros have the best soundstage out of all the IEM's I've ever heard. They are far more expansive than the UE18 Pros as well as the ES5 :)


The Value of the JH16 Pro is quite good, the only gribe is that the build quality isn't ideal. However given the relatively small pelican case that accompanies the JH16 Pro I would say the Jh16 Pro is a good deal.

Rating of the JH 16 Pro


Customer Service 8.5/10 
Build Quality 8/10 
Comfort 9.5/10
Isolation 9.5/10
Sound 38/40
Highs 9.5/10

Mids 9/10
Bass 10/10
Soundstage 10/10
Value 8/10


Total 81.5/90


I recommend these IEMs for anyone that loves A LOT of Bass and listens to rock and metal, and also someone that loves live albums. I found the JH16s to be excellent for Live Albums, for example John Mayer's "Where the light is"
I would say if you're a fan of the Sennheisers IE8 and the UE Triple Fi's you would love the JH16 Pros :)



JH Audio JH13Pro

First off a warning about this short review of the JH13 Pro.
I don't own a JH13Pro thats been built for my ears. I simply own a demo unit of the JH13Pro.
Therefore Comfort, Isolation and Build quality will be removed from this review. 
Though it should be relatively similar if not the same to the JH16 Pros.

The JH13 Pros are Custom IEMS by JH Audio, with 6 Drivers per ear. Same configurations as the UE18Pros.

The Sound however is quite different compared to the UE18Pros.
Whilst the UE18 Pros have a tinge of Bass emphasis, the JH13Pros are more neutral compared to the UE18 Pro.

The Highs are also clear and crisp, with details that rival the UE18Pro and the JH16Pro, the Mids are practically the same as the JH16 Pro.
Honestly speaking the JH13 Pro sounds exactly the same as the JH16Pro with the difference in the Bass.
The Bass of the JH13Pro has significantly less impact than the JH16Pro whilst still retaining the warmth and general tone of the JH16 Pro's bass. 
The Soundstage is better than the JH16Pro, at least to my ears, since the lowered impact of Bass allows a more clear fade away of sound, which shows a slightly wider soundstage compared to the JH16 Pros.

All in All the sound of the JH13 Pro is pretty darn similar to the JH16Pro, except without the bumped up bass, and boasting a slightly wider soundstage. 

The Value of the JH13Pro is great, since it's priced at 1099, with the same accessories as the JH16Pro, the difference is price is quite good since some may prefer a neutral tone over a bass enhanced tone.

Ratings of the JH13 Pro

Customer Service 8.5/10 

Build Quality 8/10 
Comfort 9.5/10
Isolation 9.5/10   

Assuming the build quality of the JH13 Pro is identical to the JH16 pro


Sound 37/40
Highs 9.5/10

Mids 9/10
Bass 8.5/10
Soundstage 10/10
Value 9/10

Total 81.5/90


I recommend these IEMS for anyone that listens to a wide genre of music and prefers a neutral tone in general. The demo unit of the JH13 Pro has sounded great with all the genres that I listen to. Which ranges from Baroque, Romantic, Vocal, R&B, Rap, Rock, Jazz, Blues, Blues Rock, Heavy Rock, Metal, Soul and Guitar Instrumentals.



Westone ES5


Please note that there may be a fair amount of Bias for my review of the Westone ES5 since these are my first custom IEMs and also happen to be my favorite IEMs.


Now the Westone ES5s took the longest to arrive out of all my Customs. A Whopping total of 9 Weeks! But like I've said with all custom IEMs in this multi iem review, the wait is definitely worth it! 

First off the customer service of Westone is excellent, midway during my order, around 4 weeks in, I decided to change options with my IEM to a different color, a simple email sent towards Westone's customer service was enough, excellent customer service there.

The build quality of my ES5s are fantastic, whilst there are quite a large amount of air bubbles, the sockets of the earpieces are excellent, far superior than the JH16Pro. Finally the transition between the Acrylic shell and the vinyl canal tips are seamless.
Because of the Vinyl canal tips of these IEMs which loosen up when exposed to body warmth I've found the Westone ES5s to be the most comfortable IEM I've ever worn.
The Isolation of the ES5s are practically the same as the UE18 and the JH16.


The Sound of the ES5s is quite different compared to the other two though.
With only 5 drivers in each ear, some may thing that it would be "Inferior" to the UE18 and JH16, that is definitely not the case. 
With 1 MASSIVE Bass driver, 2 Mids and 2 Highs the ES5 brings unexpected richness in tone.
The Highs of the Westone ES5 are crisp and clear, however there isn't as much detail as the JH16Pro or the JH13Pro.
The Mids however are superior compared to the UE18, JH13 and JH16. Extremely Lively and powerful as well as dynamic, vocal music really shines through these IEMs. Providing the feeling of being in a live situation.
The Bass of the ES5s are somewhat surprising. Some would believe that due to having one Bass driver, the ES5s would have relatively "weak" bass. This is not the cause, since due to the massive size of the ES5's Bass drivers, the bass is very very warm and enveloping, I would even go as far as saying it provides atmospheric bass. The Impact of the Bass is also surprisingly powerful. Though not as dynamic as the JH16Pros its slightly more powerful than the UE18.
Soundstage wise, the ES5's soundstage isn't as wide as the JH16 or 13, but is more or less the same when compared to the UE18 Pro.

The Value of the ES5 is one of its biggest advantages. Priced at 950USD this IEM is definitely worth it, especially considering the sleek black Pelican case, the dehumidifyer, Oto Ease as well as IEM Cleaner. 

Ratings of the Westone ES5



Customer Service 9.5/10 
Build Quality 9.5/10
Comfort 10/10 - Vinyl Tips are amazing 
Isolation 9.5/10
Sound 38/40
Highs 9.5/10

Mids 10/10
Bass 9.5/10
Soundstage 9/10
Value 10/10


Total 86.5/90


I Find the ES5s to be somewhat similar to the JH13Pros, both being neutral tone IEMs. However whilst the JH13Pros are suitable for all types of music. I find the ES5s to truly shine with vocal music, guitar pieces and orchestral music. Though the ES5s are still suitable for most types of music.




Ultimate Ears Reference Monitors - UERM


First things first, These IEMs arrived much quicker than I expected, probably due to the fact that they didnt need to get a new set of ear impressions from me as they've already had my ear impressions on file when I purchased the UE18Pro
I ordered these with the "Turbo Service" from Thinking Group, by paying an additional 100USD it ensures that the production of the IEM will be within 24hours of the orders being received by Ultimate Ears. That type of speedy customer service is definitely excellent.

Like the UE18Pro the UERM also boasts great build quality, I've only spotted 6 air bubbles and the rest looks perfect and great to me.

Comfort, well its practically the same as the JH16 and UE18, both full acrylic IEMs.

Isolation of this IEM is somewhat surprising, I've found it to have better isolation than the UE18Pros, most likely due to the fact that these IEMs are for studio use, which leads to the need for a more quiet environment.

The Sound of the UERMs are simply amazing. Whilst not exactly my type (I strongly prefer "fun" and more lively IEMs in comparison to stone cold analytical IEMs) I still cannot turn my back on these wonderful IEMs. 
It's a extremely neutral sounding IEM, its flat yet due to its extreme clarity, some tracks may come off to be lively and even to a certain extent, Warm. 
I personally think that this IEM is similar to the UE18Pro with flattened mids and a much larger soundstage and great imaging. Being a reference monitor these IEMs are BRUTAL when it comes to a poorly recorded track. If you don't have some CD quality tracks then the UERM only highlights the bad quality of the file.

The Value of the UERM is definitely worth it, priced at 999USD, I personally prefer these over the UE18Pro, mainly due to the fact that I have a wide range of genres which the UERM is more suitable for due it its versatile characteristics.



Customer Service 10/10 

Build Quality 9.5/10
Comfort 9/10 - 
Isolation 10/10
Sound 38/40
Highs 9/10

Mids 9/10
Bass 9/10
Soundstage 11/10 - No Joke, the soundstage of these IEMs are off the charts for an IEM.
Value 10/10


Total 86.5/90

Edited by ArrigoShred - 8/23/11 at 2:11am
post #2 of 114
Thread Starter 

Long Reviews Start here :)

Westone ES5 

For this following review I will quickly cover the process of obtaining the Westone ES5s and my impressions of Westone's Customer Service.

First off the Westone ES5s are my first pair of Custom IEMs. I purchased these around April of 2011. The beauty of this IEM is that it is really a customized Custom IEM. The reason being because the left ear piece is tuned different than the other ES5s due to the fact that I have slight hearing loss in my right ear, I sent a portfolio of my hearing condition which was assessed by my audiologist to Westone, and they gladly tuned the left ear piece of my ES5s to a lower volume so that when I listen to them the levels would be balanced. 

That definitely shows that Westone has excellent customer service. 

First off out of the box the ES5s look pretty darn good. Set carefully in a loop around the de-humidfyer with Oto-ease and the IEM Cleaner at the side and a sweet cloth to clean your IEM With, also a fancy little tag with your name and the serial number on. 
Since its been quite awhile since my ES5s were "New' I can't really provide a Out of the Box impression of the sound. Though from memory it was basically like a UM3x with more details and bass.

The comfort of the ES5s are great. Initially with all new IEMs they will feel uncomfortable for about a day or two, but afterwards it should fit perfectly if it was done right and that your impressions were good. For my case it was comfortably in my ears after 1 day.

Anyways onto present impressions.

I will be using 2 tracks.

"Sometimes I Cry" by Eric Benet
"Bultaco Saturno" by Paul Gilbert

I will first go over through the ES5s with the stock cable, straight through out of my iPod Classic.

First off I need to comment on the Mids of these babies. They're rich, thick, smooth and absolutely lovely. They sound great for vocals, for example listening to Eric Benet's Sometimes I Cry the falsetto is smooth rich and thick, with a great amount of detail, furthermore the combination of bass and Mids are lovely, within the same track you can "hear/feel" the vibrations of his vocal chords during the more dynamic moments of the song. Furthermore these mids also shine very well with guitars, for Paul Gilberts "Bultaco Saturno" during the guitar solo which has a lot of high speed shredding you can clearly hear the accenting of his guitar pick each time it strikes a note. 
The Details of the ES5 are also truly stunning, for both tracks the cymbals sound smooth whilst being crisp. They by no means sound tinny and flat. Overall when listening to music with the ES5s they don't ever sound "Flat" or "Dull" they always have a energetic feel and a slight "Wow" Factor to them.


Soundstage wise the ES5s aren't the best IEM I've heard, but it has a pretty expansive soundstage, when theres a short drum pattern you can clearly hear the sound slowly fade out into the background in a very smooth and delicate manner. Furthermore the imaging of the ES5s are fantastic, with eyes closed you can truly picture the instruments and sound coming from different angles. 

Furthermore the Bass of these babies are fantastic, due to the large size of the Bass driver the frequency range is pretty wide and it creates what I would call "atmospheric" bass. When listening to Paul Gilbert you can generally "feel" the vibration of the strings he strums, this effect is even more clear whenever its an acoustic guitar. 
The details of the ES5 are also stunning, when listening to Paul Gilbert you can hear whether or not a note on the guitar is played by a downward plucking motion or a upwards plucking motion. I personally cannot find such a level of detail on any other IEM or Headphone, including the highly analytical Audio Technica W5000 and the JH16Pro.

Overall the ES5s with the Stock cable straight out of an iPod Classic sounds fantastic, its truly a great sounding IEM.

Now with a 2 piece rig.
I will be using the iPod Classic with the Alo line out into 4 portable amplifiers, the RSA Shadow, the RSA Predator, Stepdance 2 and finally the Alo Rx Mk2

First off the RSA Shadow
With this amplifier the Westone ES5 maintains all of its previous features with the added "Benefit" of its tone becoming warmer and more smooth overall. 
The RSA Shadow however does not improve the soundstage of the ES5 at all. The RSA Shadow does increase the detail of the ES5s by a slight amount, making it a analytical/fun IEM Hybrid.

The RSA Predator makes the Westone ES5s shine brightly.
It does everything the RSA Shadow does, but does more and does it better.
First off the warmth of the ES5 increases greatly with the RSA Predator, it gives it a "Wow" factor and makes it really dynamic and enjoyable to listen to. Similar to the Westone 3s. 
Furthermore the Soundstage is enhanced with the Predator, with the increased details and the expanded soundstage the sound of cymbals and snare drums sound absolutely gorgeous through the ES5s.
However some may find the RSA Predator to lead to the ES5s being overly warm which may be a disadvantage of this IEM. 

The Stepdance 2.
It makes the ES5 slightly warmer but more or less retains the tonal aspects of the ES5. The biggest difference being the expanded soundstage. With the Stepdance 2 the soundstage of the ES5s is increased significantly. Unlike the RSA Predator however there isn't much of a "Wow" factor. In comparison with the RSA Shadow and Predator the Stepdance 2 serves in between them. 
Overall the Stepdance 2 is a good amp if you want to increase the soundstage of the ES5s whilst keeping the tonal signature of the ES5s.

Rx Mk2.
This turns the ES5s into a pair of stone cold killers.
Incredibly analytical. The Rx Mk2 Basically change the tone of the ES5s into something that sounds like the Westone Um3x with amped up bass and better details. The soundstage of the ES5 is incredible when paired up with the Rx Mk2. In essence the Rx Mk2 does not affect the bass or mids but amps up the highs and the soundstage.
The Rx Mk2 would be suitable to anyone that wants to have a analytical IEM.

Now for three piece rigs. This simply means the addition of the Cypher Labs Algorhythm Solo

The effects of the CLAS is practically the same across all these 4 Portable Amplifiers. 
The Details are increased, the tone is kept the same, the soundstage is slightly bumped up. I've found that the main benefit of having this three piece rig to be due to the file type of music you're listening to.
For this test I had a Mp3 Version at 320kbps and a WAV Version of the same track.
When listening to the Mp3 Version the three piece rig and the two piece rig sounds nearly identical, only a slight increase in details and soundstage.
But with WAV Versions the three piece rig sounds significantly better, the overall tone becomes more refined and controlled and generally a more enjoyable experience.

Now I'll go into the area of aftermarket cables.
Some may disregard this section and say that it's all a placebo effect. However at the very least the cables are the factors that cause these placebo effects so I personally think cables are worth investing in :P

I'll be comparing 3 cables.

ALO Copper
ALO Silver
Crystal Piccolino


First off the ALO Copper Cable increase the bass by a significant amount. Providing a powerful "Wow" Factor even with using it simply straight out of the iPod Classic.
In a sense the ALO Copper makes the ES5s sound like the RSA Shadow is being used. The tone is also slightly warmer with the ALO Copper.

The ALO Silver is quite different compared to the Copper. First off there is no "wow" factor nor increased bass. The details are increased and the mids become more crisp at the expense of losing some of its smoothness. Overall the ALO Silver makes the ES5s slightly more analytical, which may be a bad thing depending on your tastes.

Finally the Crystal Piccolino the most expensive Aftermarket cable I've ever bought.
This cable works in between the ALO Copper and Silver, having the good sides of both products.
The Warmth of the ES5s is increased slightly, not as much as the ALO Copper, the bass is also slightly increased in impact.
The Details are increased by quite an incredible rate, to an extent where it sounds like the ES5s are amped. 
Furthermore the mids are increased in sharpness and are more crisp but they don't lose the smoothness and texture that was lost with the ALO Silvers.

Now I don't think I need to rate the Westone ES5s again as I've already done that in my short reviews. 
I'll simply give my recommendations for the ES5s.

If you are someone that doesn't have a strong preference over a "Fun" IEM or "Analytical" IEM the ES5s will be good for you, due to the fact that with a change of amps and gear you can change the type of IEM that the Westone ES5s are. 
The ES5s will also benefit people that have a large range of music. The ES5s works well with many different genres, though they shine when you're listening to songs with a lot of vocals or guitars in them. 
I've listened to a few Jazz piano tracks and I've found the ES5s to also sound excellent.
Now if you're someone that wants strong bass with a lot of impact then the ES5s definitely aren't for you. The bass of the ES5 is more warm and surrounding than powerful and direct. 

Overall the Westone ES5s are a great pair of IEMS and are definitely worth the price of 950USD 


My recommended rig for the ES5s is

Three Piece Rig


iPod Classic -> CLAS -> Stepdance 2

Two piece Rig 

iPod Classic -> RSA Predator.



Ultimate Ears UE18Pro

The Ultimate Ears UE18Pro are the most expensive IEMs that UE offers. At 1350USD it boasts a total of 6 drivers per ear. 2 Mids 2 Bass 2 Highs. 

First off I need to say that out of JH Audio, Westone and UE I've found that Ultimate Ears has the best build quality for their custom IEMs. 
Out of the Box the IEMs look polished and very well made. The cable sockets are tight and precise, there aren't any air bubbles that can be seen.

I've only received the UE 18Pros 2 weeks ago so the out of the box impressions are still fresh in my mind.

Out of the Box the UE18Pros sound "tighter" in tone compared to the ES5s.
I would say that the UE18Pros are more closer to the side of a analytical IEM than a fun one. That being said the details of the UE18Pros are incredible. The highs are crisp and clear similar to the UE Triple Fis. Though the Mids of the UE18Pros are somewhat lacking, the bass makes up for it, the bass of the 18Pros are incredible, they are slightly warm and enveloping though not at the level of the Westone ES5, the impact of the bass is also fairly powerful although its not as strong as the JH16 Pro.
All in all the bass of the UE18Pros really lie in between the JH16 Pro and the ES5s.

Despite the fact that the UE18Pros are considered "Neutral" I find that there is a slight emphasis on the bass end of the IEM.
Generally I've found the UE18Pros to be more enjoyable when listening to Rock Music, R&B and Rap. Whilst they sound pretty bad when you're listening to music with a lot of vocals.
For example with Eric Benet's Sometimes I Cry the flatness of the Mids on the UE18Pro makes the track sound lifeless and pretty boring to my ears. 
The Soundstage of the UE18Pro is slightly smaller than the ES5s when un-amped though this changes quite dramatically when amped. However the most astounding factor of the UE18Pro is the Imaging, when listening to orchestra music, despite the fact that the mids make the sound somewhat lacking the imaging of the UE18 Pros are amazing. You can clearly picture where the sounds are coming from.

Now for the UE18Pro amped.

Likewise with the ES5 the same 4 amps with be used.

Personally I find that the UE18Pro benefits the most when used with RSA Amps due to the warm tone and slightly boosted mids to compensate for the flatness of the UE18Pro.

First off with the RSA Shadow, the effects are similar with the ES5. Increased warmth and slightly increased mids. This amp really does improve the UE18Pros since the warmth of the amp makes the sound of the UE18pro slightly more lifelike and enjoyable, however by no means does this mean that it is a "Fun" IEM.

The RSA Predator, is my favorite amp to use the UE18Pros with.
The mid boost and bass boost from the Predator makes the UE18Pro a warmer IEM, which tips it back towards the fun side rather than being a analytical IEM. 
Combined with the good soundstage and imaging of the UE18Pros this setup is simply sick and stunning. 
However the mids is still somewhat lacking for music with a lot of emphasis on vocals.

The Stepdance 2 doesn't really do much Justice for the UE18Pros, with only improved soundstage whilst keeping the same tonality, the UE18Pros is still an IEM that only sounds good for Rap, Rock and R&B and overall lacks versatility.

The Alo Rx Mk2 is something that can only be paired with the UE18Pros if you are a person with a craving for analytical IEMs.
It is simply cold. Its Mr. Freeze Cold. Highly Detailed, Sharp accurate bass. Recessed Mids. Excellent Imaging and Wide Soundstage, these are really for those that want to have a clear surround sound effect.


A Three piece rig is really makes the UE18Pro look like a polished gem. 
With the CLAS and RSA Predator the UE18Pros become a godly set of gear.
Great Bass, Mids, Highs, Details, Soundstage and Imaging. 

Listening to Paul Gilbert tracks with a rig like this is like sitting right infront of him as he shreds away. 


Finally onto aftermarket cables for the UE18Pro.

Definitely the ALO Copper is overkill for the UE18Pro's Bass.
It simply becomes too Raw too powerful and too unrefined for my tastes, but if you're an absolute basshead then you'll love it.
Or if you're someone that loves a chunk of bass from time to time and you're looking at the JH16 but having second thoughts about the bass. Get the UE18Pros and ALO Copper, use that setup when you want some Bass, change cables when you dont.

The ALO Silver makes it too cold, Similar to the ALO Rx Mk 2.
There isn't really that much to say about such a setup. if you want an analytical setup go for this cable. 
Though you're better off saving money by buying the UERM.

The Crystal Piccolino does absolutely nothing for the UE18Pro in my opinion. By not changing much it really doesn't do anything to improves the UE18Pro for me.
The Soundstage gets wider for sure but the added warmth and added details somewhat neutralize each other, so in the end its just a bigger soundstage.

Overall I would say the UE18Pro is more analytical than the ES5s. Its more suited for those that listen to Rock, R&B and Rap. 
Its good for those that want a slightly heavy impact of bass and sharp accurate details and overall flatness and cold. Don't buy these if you listen to a lot of Vocal Music.

On a side note. I generally don't think the UE18Pros are worth the cost and you shouldn't buy it unless you find a good deal. Really 1100-1200USD Max if possible.

My recommended setup for the UE18Pros is

A Three piece rig 

iPod Classic -> CLAS -> RSA Predator

Two piece Rig 

iPod Classic -> RSA Predator.



JH Audio JH16 Pro

Let it be known that these were originally the custom IEM's that I was going to purchase first. Reason being the first IEM that I used for over 1 year was the UE Triple Fi 10V pro, back in 08. A friend of mine, Timothy Wong (Hes a head-fi member under the name of Timothy.wong) introduced me to JH Audio later on and I was opting to buy the 16Pros. However I fell in love with Westone during my Universal IEM Trip, I settled on the Westone Um3x for over 2 years before I got my ES5s.

That being said when I first received my JH16Pros a month ago I was incredibly excited due to the fact it would be my first custom IEM that's meant for stage performances.


First off a little info about the JH16Pros.
They boast the incredible amount of 8 drivers per ear. 4 Bass, 2 Mids 2 Highs. Definitely the selling point of this IEM was its thunderous bass, which was somewhat unnerving to me, as some of you from the Westone ES5 may know that I'm not a basshead.

Anyway when I first picked up my JH16Pros in Jaben Audio there was quite a bittersweet sensation, first off I was delighted that they arrived after a wait of around 6 weeks but was slightly bummed out by the simplicity of the package, a pelican case with a cool logo and my name, inside a cheap fabric pouch which houses the JH16 Pros. It was quite lackluster in comparison to the ES5s which had a special interior to a pelican case with a cleaning cloth, a cheap name tag, Oto Ease, IEM cleaner and the Dehumidfyer pack. And also fell short to Ultimate Ears which had a nice box and testimonials and such.

Anyways enough of the less important stuff. My initial try of the JH16Pros were somewhat cautious as I was afraid of the famed thunderous bass, one would expect to have their ears blown off by the bass of Quad Bass drivers, however it wasn't the case. Whilst having a incredible amount of bass in terms of impact and power, it wasn't painful or anything, it was just rich, dynamic and powerful. What I picked up instantly from these IEMs was the soundstage. The soundstage of the JH16pros are significantly larger than the UE18 as well as the ES5s.
The mids and highs were more or less in between the UE18 and ES5, not great and not Okay, but in the fine line between. 
My initial impressions of the JH16Pro were pretty good. 


Now sitting at home with the JH16Pros the sound changes quite differently.
I would like to say that the JH16Pro is similar to the ES5 in the aspect that it can really be either an analytical IEM or a "Fun" IEM depending on your rig.
Naturally I would say that the JH16Pro is a fun iem due to its Bass and the WOW Factor that's caused by it.
However the details of the JH16Pro can't be missed and it really shows the potential for the JH16Pro to become a Analytical IEM.
Definitely I would say that the Jh16Pro shines when listening to live Albums. I've enjoyed John Mayer's "Where the Light Is" a lot whilst listening to them with the JH16Pros.

Now for some slightly indepth analysis of the tone of the JH16Pros :)

I'm still going to be using Eric Benet's Sometimes I Cry and Paul Gilbert's Bultaco Saturno.

Let us start with the soundstage, which is really the best feature of the JH16Pros (to me :P since I'm not a huge fan of thunderous bass)

The soundstage is simply stunning, listening to Eric Benet is incredibly enjoyable, it gives the feeling that your inside some fancy restaurant eating some fine food whilst at the stage theres Eric Benet singing with all his heart and soul, accompanied by virtuoso drummers. The sound fades away with elegance and grace. Truly fantastic.
Whilst at the same time with all this elegance and grace of the fading of sound a refined sense of excitement and thunderous roar comes blasting back when the bass drum is represented by the JH16 Pros numerous bass drivers.
The Mids of the JH16Pro are rich and fairly smooth, it isn't butter smooth like the ES5s but still cream like. Whilst they do not have the raw drive and power which allows one to "hear" the vibrations of guitar strings they are still powerful enough to hear the vibrations of vibrato for singers.
Finally the Details and treble of the JH16 are surprising, I expected them to be slightly muddy, overshadowed by the thunderous bass, but it wasn't, perfectly distilled and separated, yet still being in sync with the mids and bass. The Details and Treble of the JH16pro are excellent.

Now lets get into the JH16Pro with amplifiers. I personally find these IEMs to be my favorite one to experiment on with different rigs, due to its fun characteristic caused by the bass, and analytical characteristic caused by its soundstage and details.

First off with the RSA Shadow - This IEM becomes more fun and enjoyable, the tone overall is warmer, but not overly warm. Its generally a pleasant experience that suits Orchestra Music quite well. There isn't much to be said about the RSA Shadow since it doesn't have much tonal characteristics that it adds towards the JH16s.

The RSA Predator however is quite a big change for the JH16Pros. The warmth it adds to the JH16Pros improves the bass by a fair amount, it doesn't provide the "Atmospheric bass" of the ES5s but creates a pseudo version of that effect, with its added warmth the JH16Pro's bass is slightly more enveloping whilst maintaining the impact and power of 4 bass drivers per ear.
Truly a great experience. Though with the RSA Predator the JH16Pro truly becomes a "Fun" IEM and somewhat loses its properties as a Analytical/Fun hybrid.

The Stepdance 2 keeps the goodies of the Jh16Pro and further expands the soundstage. There isn't really much I can say about this but it pretty much just keeps the status of Analytical/Fun Hybrid of the JH16 only with a bigger and more badass soundstage.

The Alo Rx Mk2 is like the opposite of the Predator, it turns the 16Pro from being a hybrid into a stone cold analyzer. There is no warmth at all, Just cold and crystal clear details. Soundstage is increased by a slight amount and the imaging is increased by quite a fair amount.

With the addition of the Cypher Labs Algorhythm solo these effects are all enhanced slightly, nothing breathtaking or incredibly exciting.

Now onto aftermarket cables.

ALO Copper - To me this is too much for the JH16Pros. The ALO Copper has always provided thunderous bass to any IEM that I've paired it with. When used with the JH16Pros I thought my head was going to explode from the bass. I definitely do not recommend these, unless you're someone that finds the mighty sony XBs to be lacking in bass ;)

The Alo Silver - I personally think that this cable has a similar effect to the Alo Rx Mk 2, though at a much smaller scale. Not much to be said about this but its somewhat lackluster.


Crystal Piccolino - I recommend this cable for the JH16Pros. It somewhat provides the good and the bad of the two ALO Cables. Increased Warmth, details, soundstage and smoothens out the mids slightly. That being said I understand that the price for the Crystal Piccolino is crazy, I recommend these only if you can find them under the price of 6000Hkd - Roughly 750USD.

Finally my recommendations about the JH16Pro.

IF you are a bass head buy them.
If you like big soundstages - A la HD800 buy them.
If you like IEMs with a studio refined feel - buy them.
If you perform live and you want IEMs - Buy them.
If you like metal, rock, rap R&B - buy them.

If you're someone with quite a few portable amps with different sound signatures - buy them.
If you're someone that is indecisive about Analytical IEMS or Fun IEMs - buy them.

If you want a lively sound - don't buy them.
If you're of fan of Westone's Mids - Dont buy them

My recommended rig for the JH16 Pros.

Fun IEM - RSA Amps 

Analytical IEM - Alo Rx Mk2.

Hybrid type IEM - Stepdance 2.



Ultimate Ears Reference Monitors


Okay! Now that i've had these for over 2 weeks now I think I can give a more detailed impression on these.

First off its a reference monitor, its cold and very good for analyzing music.
If I were to compare it to any Universal IEM that I've heard it would definitely be the Westone Um3x. with the difference being the UERM is on a whole new level of clarity.


Now when I first got the UERMs it wasn't all the exciting for me, I wasn't exactly hyped up about this IEM as I am someone that prefers a richer and lusher tone when it comes to sound, rather than the cold clarity from analytical IEMs.

Anyways when I first listened to them it was somewhat surprising, whilst it you definitely say that it isn't an IEM with a "Wow" Factor thats usually associated with bass and mids, the details of this IEM are somewhat jaw dropping. Out of all the Custom IEMs I have (Westone ES5, UE18, JH16) I've found the UERMs to be hands down the most detailed IEM out of them.


Since its a neutral IEM there isn't really much to be said about its Highs Mids and Bass. Its all very controlled and level, flat overall but never once have I found it "Lifeless" it certainly isn't as "fun" and "Dynamic" as the ES5s or JH16s but the UERM are still perfectly enjoyable. 
I personally think that the main selling point of the UERM is the soundstage, it simply kicks out any other IEM I've ever used, be it Universal or Custom. The soundstage of the UERM comes close to Full Sized cans and its somewhat comparable to the Sennheisers HD800s. 
If your someone that wants huge expansive soundstage I definitely would recommend the UERMs.


In my honest opinion I think the UERM should be driven straight out of your media player. There shouldn't be any EQ-ing or amplifiers or even aftermarket cables, as it changes the tonality of the IEM slightly, which to me, breaks the whole detailed sound of the UERM.

Out of experience RSA Amps are dreadful for the UERM, the trademark warm tone of RSA Amps turn the UERM into a somewhat awkward sounding IEM. Whilst the ALO Rx Mk2 makes the highs unbearable as it is quite painful to listen to :/
The only Portable Amplifier that I found suitable, or atleast usable, is the Stepdance 2. With that said nothing really changes significantly, so If you're someone that wants the UERM as your main IEM and you won't be using other IEMs I wouldn't bother buying anything for it.

Likewise Aftermarket Cables have a similar effect. The ALO Copper just destroys the sound signature of the UERM, and the ALo Silver as well as Crystal Piccolino doesn't really do it much justice at all.

Overall my thoughts for this IEM are

- Its suitable for a largeee variety of music. 
Out of all the genres I listen to the UERM sounds great with all of them
- Highly Analytical, great details

Like I said before the UERM has the best details I've ever heard within a IEM, be it universal or custom

- Huge Soundstage
its just great

I would recommend the UERM to anyone thats a detail freak.
Someone that values a large soundstage over most.
Someone that listens to a large variety of music and desires neutrality throughout.
Someone that doesn't want to invest into Amplifiers and Cables.

I would say the UERM doesn't fit anyone that loves dynamic sounding IEMs

Someone that wants flexibility with the sound signature

Someone that wants their music to sound like a live environment.


Edited by ArrigoShred - 9/14/11 at 1:04pm
post #3 of 114
Thread Starter 

This post area is really for comparisons between the Flagship Custom IEMs :)

Please PM me Questions about these IEMs and I'll answer you back on ur PM as well as posting the question and answer here if you permit it!



Quick info about my usage of these wonderful IEMs


The one I use the most is the ES5s since its the IEM that I find is the most versatile, and also the IEM that sounds the liveliest. 
Some people may prefer an IEM or headphone to have a studio vibe, a studio like tranquility in tone and distillation of sound, if you're someone like that you definitely would prefer the UE18 and most likely the UERM. I'm someone who likes my music raw, dynamic, powerful and lively, therefore I tend to use my Westone ES5s far more than the JH16Pros or the UE18s.

Also depending on the range of music you have, you may prefer different IEMs.
Like I've said in my review I listen to a fair amount of Vocal music, eg Eric Benet. I've always found the UE18Pros lacking for vocal music no matter what rigs I've used. It just seems flat and dull in comparison to the Westone ES5s. 
That being said I the UE18Pros are geared towards Rock music, Powerful bass, high end details with soft and flat mids. Perfect for rock songs. 
The JH16Pro is somewhat like an expansive UE18, with more powerful bass and thicker mids, the JH16 suits a wider variety of music compared to the UE18. Though both are still excellent IEMs


If you're someone that listens to a fair amount of Piano Music? 
I'd go for the ES5s, I find the soft canal tips of the ES5s to provide the best isolation and comfort out of these three IEMs, and believe me with a quiet environment the beauty and grace of piano music can truly be brought out by these IEMs.
An example was when I went to watch a movie, - Rise of the Planet of the Apes - I had no interest in the movie but I went with a few friends, I ended up listening to some contemporary Piano tracks inside the theater, with the ES5s the isolation was excellent and gave me a very enjoyable experience when you add the fact that the cinema was dark (minus the screen haha)

If you're someone that listens to Dream Theater or John Petrucci then go for the JH16Pros. The Bass guitar is really brought out and shines well. For John Petrucci's "Lost Without You" I've found the Bass Guitar to be like water smooth, slowly sliding into my ears with rocky groove. Excellent IEM for Rock Band instrumentals!




Comparison of the Westone ES5 and the UERM

After listening to the UERM and ES5s back to back I don't think you can really compare these two IEMs.

Whilst the ES5 is somewhat of a Hybrid type by which I mean it stays within the fine line between being Analytical and Fun, which can be changed depending on what amplifiers and cables you may use. The UERM is strictly a analytical IEM, in that sense they sound significantly different.

First off the Bass of the ES5 is warmer and more dynamic than the UERM. 
The UERM has tight and accurate bass, It doesn't give that "atmospheric" bass that the ES5s provide.

The Mids of the ES5 are known to be smooth and sometimes "Swirls around your head" as some others have said. 
The UERM is quite different in this aspect as it is very very controlled. Overall the tone of the UERM is completely flat, yet its still enjoyable.

The Highs of the ES5 are better than all preceded Westone IEM's but they fall short to the crystal clear highs of the UERM.
This is to be expected since the UERM is meant for studio use and mixing.

The biggest difference really between the ES5s and UERM is the soundstage. 
The UERM's soundstage is significantly bigger than the ES5 and it is somewhat of an advantage.

If I were to compare the UERM to a Westone Product it would really be a flat and even colder UM3x with much clearer details and soundstage.
Whilst the ES5s somewhat incorporate the fun factor of the Westone 3s while encompassing the clarity of the Um3x.

Overall these are both wonderful IEMs.
The choice is really up to you, the UERM (In my experience) isn't capable of being a fun and dynamic IEM. Whilst the ES5 can be fun or analytical, but not towards the extreme degree of either. I would say that the UERM is more versatile than the ES5s in terms of suitability for different genres.


Edited by ArrigoShred - 8/23/11 at 2:31am
post #4 of 114
Thread Starter 

Reserved for Future Reviews

post #5 of 114

Great review(s). I'm looking forward to reading the rest of them when they are completed in full. beerchug.gif

post #6 of 114

Awesome thread my friend! I'm definitely looking forward to all future updates!


post #7 of 114

Oh and I voted for the Miracle to be your next review. As someone who has just ordered one... it would be nice to see how someone in a position such as yourself, thinks it compares to some of the other offerings.

post #8 of 114

Subscribed  L3000.gif



post #9 of 114

Subscribed and voted for the UERM!

Reading big comparisons like these makes me want to go for another set of customs... despite the fact that I decided my ES5s were the final stop in portables.

post #10 of 114
Thread Starter 

Thanks guys!

Btw if some of you have Portable Amps or other rigs where you want to me try Custom IEMs with just post it here and I'll try to see if I can do a quick audition at my local audio store :)

post #11 of 114

Great work, Arrigoshred. Patiently awaits your view of the UERM. The good thing is we already have the UE18 so we won't have to do another ear impression for the UERM - or do we?

post #12 of 114

A very nice review thread. I can't wait for you to have the JH13s reshelled and compare it again with the other top-tier customs. I'm looking to get another pair of customs but I still can't decide on what. The ES5 is right on top of the list with JH3A. I will probably base my purchase on this guide if ever. Thanks.

post #13 of 114

Thanks for your review.  A few short comments:


JH16 Pros:  if for some reason the JH-sockets on your shells do not align perfectly with the connectors--you said the plugs don't go all the way in--have them serviced under warranty.  That's not the way it should be and once done, revise the scoring for that aspect appropriately


Reshelled JH13 Pros:  No reshelled customs should be used for any kind of objective comparative review.  IMHO and after conversations with Jerry Harvey reshelling may allow people to "save" a few hundred bucks but often at a risk of getting a sub optimized product, because of incorrect phase tuning by companies who do this.  Unfortunately, customers have no way of knowing the difference without a basis of comparison for an original pair custom-built and tuned for their ears.  I have no doubt many of them sound impressive enough--afterall there would not be a market for them if it wasn't the case--what I'm saying, however, is there is a considerable risk involved and a considerable chance what you get isn't quite the real thing.  If you want customs, my opinion is to bite the bullet and order one directly from the company who makes them, be it JHA, Westone or whatever.  Also, a demo pair with a universal tip does not give you the same level of performance as the real thing.  It's a demo, an approximation.  Even though the drivers and the crossover is the same, it is very, very hard to position the universal tip exactly in the optimal distance from your eardrums as the custom-shelled equivalent would enable you to do so on a consistent basis.  It is one of the reasons why no universal IEM can offer the same level of performance as a properly fitted pair of customs can.


ES5s:  I've never owned one of these, but the soft tip is a great idea, especially for vocalists who sing wearing them.  I would imaging it would be also more comfortable to wear them in general, although once your soft inner tissue of the ear canal has molded itself around the tip of the hard shell, it should be very comfortable to wear after an adjustment period, again, assuming proper fit.

post #14 of 114


post #15 of 114

Hi warp 08. I am trying to figure a way for me to listen to IEMs through the Esoteric and Leben. First off I think I need much longer cables than the standard ones. Second, I tried but it seems that the Leben is a bit too much for the sensitive ES5, but is fine with the UE18 Pro. I have to be quite close to my hi fi rack if I do that though. Have you tried IEMs on your P03/D03./G0X combo?

Originally Posted by warp08 View Post

Thanks for your review.  A few short comments:


JH16 Pros:  if for some reason the JH-sockets on your shells do not align perfectly with the connectors--you said the plugs don't go all the way in--have them serviced under warranty.  That's not the way it should be and once done, revise the scoring for that aspect appropriately


Reshelled JH13 Pros:  No reshelled customs should be used for any kind of objective comparative review.  IMHO and after conversations with Jerry Harvey reshelling may allow people to "save" a few hundred bucks but often at a risk of getting a sub optimized product, because of incorrect phase tuning by companies who do this.  Unfortunately, customers have no way of knowing the difference without a basis of comparison for an original pair custom-built and tuned for their ears.  I have no doubt many of them sound impressive enough--afterall there would not be a market for them if it wasn't the case--what I'm saying, however, is there is a considerable risk involved and a considerable chance what you get isn't quite the real thing.  If you want customs, my opinion is to bite the bullet and order one directly from the company who makes them, be it JHA, Westone or whatever.  Also, a demo pair with a universal tip does not give you the same level of performance as the real thing.  It's a demo, an approximation.  Even though the drivers and the crossover is the same, it is very, very hard to position the universal tip exactly in the optimal distance from your eardrums as the custom-shelled equivalent would enable you to do so on a consistent basis.  It is one of the reasons why no universal IEM can offer the same level of performance as a properly fitted pair of customs can.


ES5s:  I've never owned one of these, but the soft tip is a great idea, especially for vocalists who sing wearing them.  I would imaging it would be also more comfortable to wear them in general, although once your soft inner tissue of the ear canal has molded itself around the tip of the hard shell, it should be very comfortable to wear after an adjustment period, again, assuming proper fit.


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