Originally Posted by tomscy2000
Well, I would think that anything he doesn't rain praise on counts as a 'negative' review. For example, he doesn't seem to like the JH16 as much as other CIEMs. It's hard to blast a CIEM that he gets for free.
What I was trying to say earlier, in a way, is that he's writing about a lot of top-line IEMs, and presumably they should all be good -- assuming the designs are fundamentally sound and the manufacture meets expectations. There are evidently some that are better than others, but I find it perfectly plausible that none are bad or even mediocre. But to the extent there is no perfect transducer and each cIEM has individual characteristics, the strengths and weaknesses of a given model could fail to complement those attributes the listener is most interested in -- so it's bad for the listener's purposes, but not necessarily an objectively bad product.
The extent to which anything a_j deems not-good usually leads to reworking until it fits him and sounds to his taste -- offhandedly I can recall this occurring with his Spiral Ear and both Hidition IEMs, and as far as I can tell he's been reasonably open about this process when it occurs. But this is one advantage custom manufacture can have over universal IEMs and headphones, where the ideal is to be designed in some optimal way and then manufactured with the utmost consistency. The disadvantage of customs, of course, being that potential for misfires, and that the process requires the customer to invest extra effort in getting a good result.
To that end, a review of the cIEM is also a review of the company, but it's also natural for manufacturers to go out of their way to keep a client happy when they know that client is going to be publishing his experiences; the reader's perspective has to remain somewhere between trusting and skeptical, even with the most honest reviewer, regardless of how the reviewer gets the product.
Custom IEMs are not usually intended to be tuned in bespoke ways (aside from Ultimate Ears' Personal Reference Monitor), but their performance is not necessarily fixed in place early in their production runs either. This is where the early adopters have an advantage that later purchasers do not, but it is still predicated on the early adopter(s) being sufficiently demanding of the manufacturer, and of the manufacturer being appropriately receptive to requests. (It can go to extremes as well, such as where Unique Melody was building all kinds of things to request until they decided to formalize their product line -- during the early times, many people besides average_joe ended up with cIEMs that were more, wellllll, unique than usual.)