Advice on custom IEM - Westone ES5 vs Unique Melody Miracle vs Earsonics EM4/EM6
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newzild

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Hello folks,
 
I'm looking to buy my first custom IEM and would appreciate advice from people who have tried at least one, and preferably more than one, of the following:
 
Westone ES5
Unique Melody Miracle
Earsonics EM4 (or EM6)
 
I currently own Sennheiser HD 25 II-1 headphones, which I like a lot. Previously I owned Future Sonics Atrio M5s (loved the bass; disliked everything else about them; hated the recessed mids and lack of clarity) and Etymotic Research ER6is (loved the isolation, sparkle and detail but lamented the lack of bass).
 
I found the flaws with the Atrios and ER6is to be irritating, and if I'm going to drop a grand on a custom IEM then I don't want any flaws/regrets.
 
My listening tastes are eclectic and tend to vary according to the phones and sources I am using - I tend(ed) to listen to bass-heavy tracks with the Sennies / Atrios, but I enjoyed string-based classical more with the Etys. I enjoy classic rock, hard rock, pop, classical, jazz, lounge and contemporary rock. I listen to music on my laptop at home and on a Sansa Fuze when out and about. I have a cheap amp (FiiO E5) which I prefer not to use because of the added bulk. I might buy an iPad when the next model is introduced (in 2013), especially if it supports FLAC.
 
I've read reviews for all three of my shortlisted IEMs, but none by reviewers who have tried two or three of them. My main source for the Earsonics is the rave review written by average_joe. I've read two rave reviews of the Unique Melodies which suggest that they are quite similar to the Earsonics in terms of audio quality. I've read quite a few professional reviews of the Westones, and all were very positive.
 
Some things I'm looking for:
 
1) Isolation is important to me, since I tend to use IEMs on public transport. I really enjoyed the ER6i's ability to isolate me from my surroundings. Reviews suggest that the Westones might be best in this department, since their shells expand in the ear. Apparently the Unique Melodies do not insert so far into the ear, and therefore do not isolate as well. I have no information on the Earsonics.
 
2) I don't want recessed mids or highs, although I do enjoy strong bass on occasion. Reviews suggest that all three phones have fairly neutral response, although the Westones and Unique Melodies may be a little light on bass.
 
3) I like a good soundstage. Reviews suggest that the Earsonics and Unique Melodies are excellent in this regard. I have no information on the Westone's soundstage.
 
4) Price is something of an issue. I live in Malaysia, and it appears that I can purchase the Westones and Unique Melodies through local merchants for roughly similar prices, but might have some hassles with the Earsonics because they would have to be shipped from France and I might get stung by Customs. Apparently the Unique Melodies are occasionally offered at discount prices in Malaysia, but I have no information on what those discount prices are.
 
5) Build issues. All three customs are apparently very well built, but the Chinese-made Unique Melodies appear to have the edge here in terms of general quality and bundled accessories. However, the cable on the Unique Melodies is apparently quite short between the split and the earpieces, and I have an enormous head. It's possible that I would find the short length to be irritating (as I did on an earlier set of phones).
 
I've eliminated some other custom IEMs from my shortlist for various reasons. Spiral Ears do not ship to Malaysia. Jerry Harvey Audio IEMs are very expensive and apparently inferior to my three shortlisted customs according to some direct comparisons I have read. The ACS T1 seems pretty good but also not as good as the shortlisted options in head-to-head comparisons. The Ultimate Ears Custom In-Ear Reference Monitors sound a bit too clinical for me.
 
I would appreciate any advice, guys.
 
Thanks in advance for your help.
 
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joeling

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I cannot answer your question but would like to ask one to you. Where to get custom ear fitting in Malaysia ?
 
Regards,
Joe Ling
 
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newzild

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If you go to the Westone website I think they have a list of recommended audiologists for ear impressions. They mention one audiologist in KL - I think it was in Petaling Jaya. I emailed him but I'm not sure whether he really knows what he's talking about. If you do a google search then there are some threads in a Malaysian hi-fi forum mentioning some audiologists.
 
 
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joeling

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Thanks a bunch. Unfortunately, I am in Sarawak...
 
 
Joe Ling
 
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newzild

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Sarawak you might be out of luck. Maybe Brunei?
 
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ZARIM

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The two Westone ES5, UM Miracle are amazing CIEMs and they offers good punchy bass with crisp clear mids, highs and ES5 sound more fun (little warm), UM mralce are neutral sounding IEMs.
 
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If you like earsonic sound signature, especially the sm3 (thick sound, overall smooth treble) and love hard hitting bass, then UM Miracle might not fit those (though you can audition it yourself if you live in KL to get an idea), other custom-iem to consider besides ES5 would be the ACS T1 (can try at Jaben, Subang) and the heir audio .8A
 
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miprasetya

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Almost similar location with you, I'm in Indonesia and I owned Em3 Pro, for classical, jazz,lounge music, the ambience and musicality is above my previous JH11 a lot, but for rock music I think is not a good choice because Earsonics's has very thick mid sounds and focussed on lower mid that causing guitar distortion sounds weird. Another factor is shipping cost near USD 100 from Jakarta to clippers, Franc. and I had to pay 30% for custom fee because I forgot to request them to lowering the invoice., Sorry for my English
 
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newzild

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Your English is great.
 
Thanks for the input so far, guys. I'm really still torn on which set to go for.
 
S
 
 
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zeitfliesst

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I'll try to give short answers to five of your questions(?)
 
1. Isolation on the ES5 is great, and although I've not yet tested it while on public transit, I believe it will block out a significant amount of noise. Slightly greater isolation than the um3x that I also own.
 
2. I think the ES5's have a generally warm sound signature, and I feel that the mid-bass and mids (esp. guitars) are its strong points. I feel that the highs aren't as great as the UE11's, and it could sound blanketed depending on your preference and experience. This is my subjective opinion though.
 
3. Soundstage is well above average (among IEM's), but not as wide as the UE11's. The UE11's had a very open concert-like soundstage and it was as if you were standing in the crowd, whereas the ES5's give a more indoor hall-like resemblance and it feels as if you were playing with the band. 
 
4. Not much advice I can give you on this, but I did hear that my dealer had to pay $80 in tax/brokerage fees/duties.
 
5. The build quality of the ES5 is great, although air bubbles were visible. I'm not one to complain on minor details such as this, but if you're a picky customer, UM might better satisfy your needs.
 
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newzild

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Hi Zeitfliesst,
 
Thanks a lot for your thoughts.
 
There doesn't seem to be an awful lot separating these IEMs in terms of quality, and it seems as though it's pot-luck which one I would like the most. I'll probably end up buying the cheapest one. I live in Malaysia, and the cheapest quote I've received so far for the ES5s is around US $1150 equivalent through the Singapore agent, which is too much. The Earsonics are cheaper, but are more likely to result in problems with import duties, since they have to be shipped from France. The Miracles might be my cheapest option, as there is a local agent. However, they are still a bit pricey at around US $1050 equivalent. I might wait for one of their occasional specials. Apparently they had one last year around Christmas time.
 
A note for anyone considering the same IEMs as me: I've had a PM from one person who's used the ES5 and the Miracles, and he prefers the Miracles because they have more sparkle in the highs. I'm not adverse to bright phones myself, so that's something for me to keep in mind.
 
Thanks for the input so far, guys. Keep it coming.
 
Regards,
S
 
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ZARIM

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You can try Heir Audio custom IEMs like 3.A, 4.A and they are pretty good sounding and built quality is top notch. The bass or highs you hear about different CIEMs in reviews are reffer to very highquality than quantity only. So if some reviewers says some CIEMs has more sparkle in highs or bass is deeper and punchier, it also mean to very high quality and more enjoyable than many universal IEMs. I will recommend to try ES5(are more enjoyable for daily commute and still acurate with deep punchy bass) or UM Miracle(are refer to very high quality neutral reference monitor with little emphesis on highs and lows with wide soundstage) and both are mazing for there soundquality.
 
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newzild

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Update:
 
Well after all that I ended up buying a universal - the Vsonic GR01. I'm pretty happy with it. Obviously it's not as awesome as a custom, but for USD $175 I can't complain.
 
Thanks for the input everyone.
 
S
 
 
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