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Inearz IE-P650 6xBA driver CIEM

  1. twister6
    Color me C-IEMpressed!!!
    Written by twister6
    Published Sep 2, 2015
    Pros - excellent build, natural isolation, great sound quality with a smooth detailed signature
    Cons - longer waiting time to receive it, not the best investment since it's "custom"

    Before I start my review, I would like to Thank Inearz/Fisher Hearing for providing me with a review sample of their IE-P650 CIEM in exchange for my honest opinion.
    Manufacturer website: http://www.inearz.com/

    It’s hard to believe, but after so many Universal IEMs I have tested and reviewed, I’m finally ready to make a leap into the exotic world of Custom IEMs.  Just recently I did get my feet wet trying Custom eartip sleeves (UM56 for Westone/Shure), but that experience was nothing in comparison to a full custom shell mold tailored to fit your outer ear (concha) and inner ear (ear canal entry).  It did involve the same process of obtaining in-ear impression from my local audiologist, but only the ear canal part of the mold was used for a custom eartip, leaving the final product fitment experience to be desired since the eartip wasn’t permanently aligned with a shell.
    CIEM design process starts with a visit to audiologist who injects a special silicone-putty mix in your ears (preceded by a small foam stopper-plug) to make an impression of your outer/inner ear anatomy in order for a headphone manufacturer to create a custom mold and to build a set of shells unique to your ear shape, which can only be worn by you.  Most of the CIEM manufacturers also offer you an option to customize and to personalize the design in terms of different color, finish, transparency, faceplate material, and artwork.  It’s definitely an interesting experience to be involved in, followed by an anticipation of waiting for the manufacturer to build their masterpiece based on your personal input.  It’s also one of the reasons why so many professional musicians use CIEMs, where in addition to an excellent sound isolation and a secure fitment while performing on stage, you also get a chance to express your inner artist personality through monitors you are wearing.
    There are a lot of skills and knowledge required to create a perfect CIEM.  InEarz emerged from Fisher Hearing (truly a family business: http://fisherhearing.com/about.htm) where they were able to translate decades of their accumulated experience of building custom hearing aid earpieces into Custom In-Ear Monitors intended for performing artists, seasoned audiophiles, and common audio enthusiast.  In audiophile world InEarz is actually well known for their re-shelling work, taking universal or other CIEMs and rebuilding them into new custom units.  But unfortunately there are not as many impressions available about their Professional series of multi-driver CIEMs, ranging from a single BA driver P150 and all the way up to 8 BA driver P850 model.  In this review, I will do my own “impression” of one of InEarz flagship P650 CIEM models from their Professional series, and will let you decide if the result fits your ears!
    As you can imagine, CIEMs are not for those craving an instant gratification of overnight order.  It’s a long process that takes weeks due to a custom nature of building these headphones.  After awhile of waiting, you almost forget about it until it shows up at your door steps, like a X-mas present.  When my pair of P650 arrived, it was inside of a sturdy watertight pelican style case personalized with my name plaque.  Inside the case, the area was partitioned into sections for earpieces, cable, and accessories, such as included cleaning tool for earwax removal.  These sections were surrounded by a soft foam insert, thus no worries about earpieces rolling and banging around during transportation - important, since BA drivers are prone to damage if dropped.
    For those who think the case is too big, just imagine how cumbersome it will be to stuff large custom earpieces and a roll of cable, especially if you use a custom thicker wiring cable, inside of any regular small headphone zipper case.  Other than that, for CIEM design I don’t see a need for any other accessories beside the included case, cleaning tool, and attached cable.
    Unboxing & Accessories.
    inearz_iep650-01_zpsdquzcwpc.jpg    inearz_iep650-02_zpsyfwrcoe0.jpg
    From a sound I’m hearing and in comparison to my other replacement cables with different wire material, I assume that included cable is a typical OFC twisted wire cable with a warmer and slightly less detailed signature.  The cable itself looks very plain, definitely not as fancy as some of the aftermarket ones, but it had a very nice sturdy build.  Starting with a right angle connector, it has 3.5mm gold plated plug and molded plastic housing with a nice grip and an excellent strain relief.  Wire is flexible and has a nice rubbery jacket.  Y-splitter has no-frills plastic mold with a decent strain relief on all 3 sides.  Also installed is a clear piece of a sliding tube serving as a chin slider to keep wires together above the split.  Going to a standard 2-pin connector, you have a memory wire piece for easy fitment behind your ears – the only way to wear these CIEMs.
    Stock cable.
    inearz_iep650-04_zpsbyjfaqcb.jpg   inearz_iep650-05_zpsetyj2xwe.jpg
    inearz_iep650-06_zpshnypoglq.jpg   inearz_iep650-07_zpsef4zxdvo.jpg
    Since this was my first pair of CIEMs, I had to spend a little bit of time trying to figure out how to put these earpieces in my ears.  Instead of going straight in, I did a little counter-clockwise cork-screw rotation movement while holding the memory wire, and then clockwise to take them out.  In this case memory wire helps a lot to handle CIEMs.  But having CIEMs in my ears didn't make them disappear, and I still felt them throughout entire time of use.  There was no pressure or pain or discomfort, but I did feel their presence.
    Due to a custom mold shell in my ears, noise isolation was excellent (-26dB) with a perfect seal and zero sound leakage.  And as a result of a good sound isolation, tight 2-pin connection with a recessed socket in the shell, and a rubbery jacket - stock cable had nearly zero microphonics.  The fitment of 2-pin connector with a recessed socket was a bit tight and required some force to separate them, but it felt very secure and looked clean.
    inearz_iep650-09_zpsdmumku3l.jpg   inearz_iep650-10_zpspzikjdtx.jpg
    In comparison to a stock cable, when using Pure Silver cable I noticed bass becoming a little tighter, mids a touch brighter and slightly more detailed, and treble having a little better extension.  The difference wasn't as drastic, but had a small level of refinement.  When switched to Linum BaX cable, the difference became more apparent.  It was no longer just a refinement enhancement, but rather a noticeable level of improvement in detail retrieval, especially in upper mids/treble.  At the same time, BaX cable is thin and invisible and lacks a memory wire which makes it a bit challenging to remove earpieces because you have to grab them by the shell.  Since my Linum cable had 2-pin connector not intended for recessed sockets, I used my wife’s nail file to trim the sides of the connector to fit it in (which also requires pliers for a secure grip to take them out) – a little bit of work, but well justified when you hear a sound improvement.  Besides, once you settle on a cable, there is no need to disconnect it for awhile.
    The shape of the shells is obviously driven by impressions of your ears.  I found it quite amusing to examine the mold, to compare left and right sides, and to discover how asymmetric our inner canal shape could be.  It also helped me understand why I can’t use any double- or triple-flange eartips in lieu of my narrow ear canal.
    Even though L/R earpieces differ in shape, with flexibility to customize their appearance I selected Left earpiece to be in translucent deep blue color and Right earpiece to be in translucent cherry red color (right = red for an easy id).  The faceplate was carbon fiber with "Inearz" brand name.  On the side of the earpiece facing my ear, Inearz printed the model number and my name initials - a nice personal touch, just like a name plaque on the case.  I found these acrylic hard shell earpiece to be very smooth and without a single bubble or any sign of imperfection - excellent workmanship.  Also, the beauty of translucent color allowed me to see inside of earpieces to examine configuration of BA drivers, wiring, and crossover elements.
    Design details.
    inearz_iep650-13_zpsenzslzfp.jpg   inearz_iep650-14_zps7vc034zv.jpg
    inearz_iep650-15_zpsabtxacpp.jpg   inearz_iep650-18_zpsbtsehvb2.jpg
    Inearz P650 model number signifies configuration of 6x BA drivers, partitioned in three groups of pairs with two for lows, two for mids, and two for highs.  In this newly updated model variation (650SL), Inearz now using silver litz wires inside of the shell to solder BA drivers going to crossover and socket connection.  Also, upon closer examination I found that each pair of BA drivers has its own sound channel going up a nozzle to a separate bore opening.  As a result, lows/mids/highs don't get mixed in prior to coming out of the nozzle like it is with majority of universal IEMs.  Here, nozzle has a triple bore design with 3 separate streams of audio signal delivered to your ear canal for the purest separation of corresponding frequency bands.  From my understanding, it's a common practice with many CIEMs, but still was a new experience for me.
    inearz_iep650-16_zpsaw8txuod.jpg   inearz_iep650-17_zpsqwo6qyyb.jpg
    Sound Impression.
    Though I'm aware BA drivers typically don't benefit much from burn in, I still put these CIEMs through 100hr of burn in before starting my sound analysis.  Right away I discovered they pair up better with brighter neutral sources, like N6/QA360/X5ii, and sounded smoother and not as detailed with warmer sources, like AK120ii/X3ii/Note 4.  Also, they were not as forgiving when it comes to poor recorded songs or lower bit rate files.
    Overall, P650 has a smooth balanced signature with a high level of detail retrieval.  A sound is very organic and spacious, with above average soundstage expansion not just in width and depth, but also in height.  As a result of such 3D imaging, the position of instruments and vocals in space was relatively accurate, and vocals actually take a center stage with everything else surrounding them.  At the same time, due to a smooth signature, separation and layering effect between vocals and instruments was just OK, missing some airiness and feeling just a bit congested in some complicated music passages.  This was actually expected since we are not dealing with a bright analytical sound where layering and separation is usually superior.  Also, even so I find sound to be balanced, I'm still hearing Mids as a centerpiece of presentation with bass providing a nice low end support (with warmth/body) and treble balancing it out with a clear definition.
    In more details (using Linum BaX cable), low end has a nicely balanced sub-bass texture (not too deep) and a punchy mid-bass with a fast attack.  Bass has a tonality typical of dynamic drivers, though faster speed is a giveaway of BA performance.  The bass itself is not super tight or exaggerated, but it's articulate and well controlled.  It has a good separation from lower mids without any bleed.
    Lower mids have a nice smooth body and a moderate doze of warmth adding to the fullness of a sound.  Upper mids are smooth and detailed without analytical harshness or exaggerated brightness.  It's quite remarkable to hear such level of detail retrieval while dealing with a smooth organic sound.  Vocal delivery, both male and female, was very natural and smooth.
    Treble is clear, smooth, and detailed, but not as extended or crisp.  It does lack a bit of airiness, but still has a good definition and plenty of clarity.  Also, absolutely zero sibilance which translates into non-fatigue and smooth sound, perfect for extended listening pleasure as long as you can tolerate CIEMs fitment.
    After spending a considerable amount of time listening to P650, I had no doubt they will be a great match to compare to W60 and a few of my other IEMs.  This sound comparison was done using N6 as a source and Linum BaX cable w/P650.
    P650 vs W60 (w/silver cable):  W60 sub-bass goes deeper with a slightly higher elevated quantity and mid-bass having a little more impact.  Mids and treble are very close, though P650 lower mids are a little leaner and P650 upper mids are a touch smoother with a more "analog" feeling.  Soundstage has a very similar width and depth.  P650 sound is a little faster, and by a nature of custom design have a better isolation.  P650 is also a little more sensitive in comparison.  Using W60 w/UM56 tips – in this combo mids become a little more upfront and a touch brighter, but dealing with UM56 tips is PITA in comparison to P650 CIEM solid shell.
    P650 vs UMPro50 (w/silver cable): Pro50 has a more articulate tighter bass with more mid-bass impact and a better separation from mids.  Lower mids are a bit thinner, with a little less body, upper mids are a little more detailed but at the same time not as smooth.  Treble has a better extension and a little more airiness and sparkle.  Pro50 soundstage is a little narrower and has noticeably less depth.  Due to a faster attack of Pro50 sound, speed is on par, but P650 is smoother and more analog in comparison.  Also, P650 isolation is obviously better, and just like in other comparison - P650 is a little more sensitive.
    P650 vs DITA (w/silver-gold cable): DITA has more sub-bass, slower mid-bass, thinner lower mids and brighter more detailed upper mids with a better retrieval of details, treble is more extended, crispier, and airy.  DITA's soundstage has less width but depth is on par.  In comparison, P650 is warmer, smoother, and has more body, while DITA is thinner, brighter, and more analytical.  This comparison applies only to my modified DITA since Ag/Au cable changed its original sound sig.
    In lieu of this being my first pair of CIEMs, I didn’t know what to expect, but quickly realized it’s just another in-ear monitor with multi-driver config inside of a custom shell design.  What I found didn’t just meet my expectations, but actually exceeded it.  Custom shell design plays a significant role in fitment and comfort of wearing these CIEMs which results in a very natural sound isolation.  I wasn’t as much surprised Inearz nailed it because Fisher Hearing has many years of experience in building custom hearing aid solutions.  Also, I wasn’t as much surprised with a high level of workmanship since Inearz is well known as one of the premium re-shelling companies.  But what impressed me the most was a sound tuning on a maturity level of a company that can go head-to-head with some other heavyweights in the business.  P650 hit a sweet spot with my preferred sound signature of warm, smooth, spacious sound and excellent retrieval of details.  Also, considering budget price of these 6-driver in-ear monitors, they offer an excellent value for a multi-driver CIEM that could cost you hundreds more from other manufacturers.  Though this is my first CIEM, it’s definitely not going to be my last, and I’m already waiting to receive a few more units from other manufacturers.  But what I originally expected as an entry level CIEM actually turned out to be a pair of monitors that just set a high bar for comparison in my future upcoming reviews.  Color me C-IEMpressed!!!
      Niyologist, madbass10, eldss and 3 others like this.
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    2. richsound
      Excellent review. Like reading your reviews and posts especially this one explaining CIEM...
      richsound, Sep 10, 2015
    3. earfonia
      Very nice review as always! The red and blue design with black carbon fiber face plate looks cool!
      earfonia, Sep 14, 2015
    4. mikek200
      Another outstanding review,Twister.
      Question,as I am a bit new to IEM's,do feel that the Inear CIEM,is a marked step-up ,compared to your Best, Universal IEM,and worth the wait,price,and other factors,such as comfort?
      mikek200, Sep 14, 2015