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
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.
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
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
Assuming the build quality of the JH13 Pro is identical to the JH16 pro
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.
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
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 -
Soundstage 11/10 - No Joke, the soundstage of these IEMs are off the charts for an IEM.
Edited by ArrigoShred - 8/23/11 at 2:11am