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The confusion over CIEMs... Help?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

So, the short list is pretty simple:


1:  Heir Audio 4.A

2:  JH Audio 13 Pro

3:  Frogbeats C4


The problem is they all have pros and cons, not just the CIEMs themselves, but getting them, comparing them, choosing one.  I work offshore and am about to go away for a few months and have the option to rush a job and probably get them in time, or wait until I get back and take my Ultrasone Edition 8s with me (which are awesome but not brilliantly portable for a guy trying to survive just with hand luggage for 2 months).


Heir Audio

Pros:  They look great, the reviews are excellent, the company is meant to be good to deal with.


Cons:  Have not heard them and there are few comparisons around, sending and receiving goods to and from China, the rush job option costs almost half the cost of the CIEMs and I'll probably get stung for another 20% import duty after the fact.


JH Audio

Pros:  Excellently reviewed, good options and accessories, the company is meant to be reliable and good to deal with.


Cons:  There is no rush job option, I have not heard them, will probably get stung for 20% import duty and still have the hassle of sending stuff to and from the US.



Pros: made in the UK, the few reviews are good, the cost is much better for what is possibly a similar quality product, no import duty, they say they have a rush option which is relatively affordable.


Cons:  They are a small, rapidly growing company under pressure and paying for a rush job does not (in my mind) guarantee they'll arrive in time.  There are no reviews that seem to relate them to other products and so it's a bit of a crap shoot.  The brand is a little ugly and there are a number of reports about the company being swamped and not necessarily able to communicate that well right now.


So, it has to be CIEMs, it has to be great quality without swamping over heavy bass, it has to have great sound isolation and the company has to deliver, preferably fast.


Thoughts anyone?  I reckon a lot of other people are weighing up these things in their heads right now as well as the CIEM market develops.


P.s.  Source as follows:  ALAC files from iPod classic, Cypher Labs Algorythm Solo -dB, RX Mk II out to head/earphones.  Music very varied, from Solti's Wagner to Squarepusher, from Marconi Union to Miles Davis and everything in between.

Edited by bassgroove - 2/25/13 at 3:56am
post #2 of 13
Where are you currently (I'm on the mobile version of this site and it doesn't display Location info) and what sort of timeframe are you looking at? The fastest I've ever heard of customs being turned around, from ear impressions to delivery, is six days. International shipping can easily triple that, as well as the time needed to set an audiologist appointment if you can't get a walk-in.

You will also have to deal with the possibility of the fit being bad on arrival and needing a re-do. Every cIEM company I'm aware of will cover the cost of it, but it will also add time.
post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 

Well, I already have the impressions done.  Luckily the guidance for all three is the same.  I know Fedex ships to the UK in 2 days!  I know this because of the CLAS -dB I got a few weeks ago and I was very impressed by it, but UPS and others it can take about a week.


Yeah, I am aware a bad fit is possible...  :-(


That's just one of those crapshoots in life.  As I say, worst case I take away my ED8s, which is not that bad a worst case, is it...  Just means an extra 1.5kg in my luggage (headphones and carrying case).

post #4 of 13

Does UM do rush work. You have a local distributor trying to get a good rep. There's also spiral ear that get good reviews and I think part of the EU.

post #5 of 13

The Earsonic EM6 are amazing CIEMs with great built quality, superb sounding and made in France, they will deliver fast than most others. BTW the IEMs you listed has very different price range and please describe ur budget and 8A are much better sounding than 4A.

post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 

The budget is relatively immaterial.  However, common sense dictates that having not heard any of them I do not know the difference between a $2000 pair of customised 8.As and a £600 C4.


I believe isolation is about the same on all of them, so it comes down to build and sound quality compared to price.  I looked at Spiral Ears but there appeared to be no way to order on their website and I hear them compared to the LCD-2s which has quite a dark tone from what I understand.


The C4s do have a few VERY glowing reviews, but not related to anything and this seems to be the case with most CIEMs.  Those who like them really like them and the negative comments for most of those listed come down to dealing with various companies and having a bad experience or bad fit.


To be honest, considering any of them are a bit of a guess, I am swaying towards Frogbeats.  I think the logo is ugly, but at least you can have them without the logo.  It's a local company, their price is lower, the speed is theoretically faster and some of the reviews are detailed enough to make me think they are not just from people that don't know what quality sound is like.



post #7 of 13

Does "the budget is relatively immaterial" = "price is no object"?  ;)  Just kidding...were it me, and price does come into play (in addition to my low threshold for frustration & my admittedly sometimes high level of expectation), I'd just wait on the CIEM till there is more time to make an informed buying decision.  For the trip, no way I'd take my ED8 "on the road" like that..but that's just me.  I'd just look around for some high quality universal IEM's that can be obtained quickly; use them for the trip, and sell them (or keep them as backups for the future) when the CIEM are finally purchased & confirmed as a a "keeper."  Just my 2 cents.  Good luck.

post #8 of 13

I asked because you already built fantastic portable rig and if you add higher end CIEMs then you will really appericiate the soundquality. I will recommend these CIEMs(JH13Pro, Westone ES5, UM Miracle, EM6 and 8A) and if you choose any from these CIEMs then you willbe amaze by soundquality and it comes to only slightely soundsignature change like ES5, EM6 are slightly mids forward, JH13 Pro are more balanced with neutral soundsignature, 8A offers more highs yet balanced, UM Miracle also balancd sounding.

Edited by HFAUDIOPHILE - 2/25/13 at 2:17pm
post #9 of 13

ACS T1 could also be an option.


Silicon so will isolate more, and UK based. Can be had for around £550 if you shop around. 


I'm in sort-of the same boat as you, just looking for something around £600, it's tough in the UK, esp. as the £'s value just dropped...

post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 

I appreciate your input.


In the end I have gone with Frogbeats C4 for the previously mentioned reasons:


1- Local (UK) startup company and I reckon it's good to support new enterprises in this time of economic stagnancy.


2- Glowing reviews (although limited and is pretty much a dark horse) and they source their components from the same places as Heir and JH Audio from what I have read, so they may have a similar quality of sound, although probably a different sound profile.


3- Best chance of getting them quicker than from any other source with a lower chance of them getting lost temporarily or permanently in transit.


Another reason I went with them is they do end up working out several hundred pounds cheaper.  The base unit cost is about the same, but when you factor in courier costs, import duties and some of the optional extras it probably adds up to about £300 less.


Normally I am less concerned with cost, but to be honest, I am a little sceptical about IEMs.  At home I have quite a high end HiFI setup, I have a desktop headphone amp and DAC setup that rivals my HiFi downstairs and I already posted my current portable rig (Ultrasone Ed8 Limited with CLAS and RX) which is pretty awesome and that S-logic just separates everything out really nicely.  I am very sceptical that any IEM could even get close to a closed can let alone an open one, so this is possibly a first forray into IEMs and I am half expecting it to not work.


If I am blown away, or at least can see how they could sound) I may get some flagship CIEMs later in the year or I may get lucky and hit the paydirt with the Frogbeats.


Thanks for the input though.  I was using the forum for thinking aloud and it helped.

post #11 of 13

There are two main suppliers of balanced armature drivers for hearing aids and IEMs alike: Sonion and Knowles. Almost every BA IEM you see discussed on Head-Fi uses their drivers. A couple of the larger companies have drivers produced to their specification by Knowles or Sonion, but most use off-the-shelf parts. Sony and Final Audio are the only companies I'm aware of that make their own BA drivers.


The best IEMs can be on par with high-end headphones in terms of quality. However, they will sound different from high-end headphones, just as headphones will sound different from speakers. Give yourself some time to adjust to the sound, and I think you'll appreciate what you get.

post #12 of 13
Are you working somewhere relatively remote, like an oil rig or in an rural area, or a big city? I've never tried but can you ask the IEM manufacture to ship to wherever you will be, since everything is custom made and they can accommodate such requests.
post #13 of 13
Thread Starter 

I work offshore.  By offshore, I mean away from any shore, not on land.  Normally around 200NM+ (nautical miles) from land and go back to land perhaps one day a month for the vessel's regular crew change.  I don't think they can deliver to these kinds of locations.


Sometimes I am on land, but then it is often in places you don't want to go to, let alone having custom hifi equipment delivered to: Angola, Nigeria, etc.

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