Dec 12, 2015 at 10:25 PM
- Oct 6, 2013
- Reaction score
- Oct 6, 2013
Manufacture website: http://www.inearz.com, where http://www.inearz.com/remolding1/ - remolding for up to 8 drivers ($125 w/30-day re-fitment warranty).
Discovering CIEMs could be a life changing experience, both for your ears and your wallet. No matter how many eartips you go through to find a perfect fitment/seal with your universal IEMs, nothing will match a precision of a custom mold crafted from your in-ear impression taken by audiologist. Some companies that make their own custom tuned CIEMs, also offer re-shelling of your existing CIEMs or turning IEMs into CIEMs. For the obvious reasons, CIEMs are not easy to sell if you want to upgrade, but you can transfer the ownership if they are re-shelled. Also with IEMs, if you have an expensive multi-driver model and not happy with a fitment, or you want to personalize it through customization, or if you want a removable cable, or if you cracked the shell and no longer covered by warranty - re-shelling can breath a new life into your universal in-ears.
But there is also another side to this re-shelling coin. Unless if the job is done by the original manufacturer of CIEMs, there is a possibility that re-shelled version will not sound the same as the original one. It's not enough to just transplant the drivers and the crossover, but you also need to consider the physical shape, the number of bores, filters, the placement of drivers, etc. As a matter of fact, I would only recommend re-shelling multi-BA IEMs, not hybrids or dynamic drivers. Also, it's not easy to compare the change before and after unless you can rely on going by memory. Since I was able to get my hands on a pair of defective UM Pro 50 where all the inner guts were intact and only the shell was cracked, I saw it as a golden opportunity to re-shell and to compare these to my working pair of UM Pro 50. Considering how pleased I was with Inearz P650 CIEM (now renamed to Euphoria), and knowing they offer re-shelling service for a very reasonable price, I decided this will be a perfect opportunity for A/B comparison. As a disclaimer, re-shelling was complimentary for the purpose of this review, and I Thank Inearz for this offer in exchange for my honest opinion.
Unboxing and accessories.
Unlike their own multi-driver CIEMs and probably to keep the cost down, the re-shelled product comes with a minimum set of essential accessories, including a compact clam shell, a cleaning tool, and Inearz sticker. But have no worry, they offer replacement cables and Pelican case as a separate accessory you can buy on their website. In theory, since you are replacing an existing pair of headphones, you should have a cable already. And with that in mind, I was also pleased they kept the original cable connector since Westone uses mmcx in their current W-/UM- models.
Westone bean shaped IEMs have one of the best universal fitments I have encounter, along with Noble Savant. But at the same time, my in-ear canal anatomy makes UM Pro 50 (and W60) to be the most sensitive to eartip selection. Going CIEM eliminates eartip variation due to a custom shape and a fitment where you no longer have to worry about eartips.
When it comes to CIEMs, a picture is worth a thousand words and would be the best way to describe them. For my design I asked Inearz to make a clear shell in order to be able to see all the drivers inside, and solid black faceplate with a default company name to make it look clean once in my ears. Since I already provided my in-ear impression when P650 was built and their fitment was perfect, I expected this acrylic re-shelled model to fit the same - and it did. It went in like a butter and a comfortable seal was maintained even when I opened my mouth. Shells looked beautiful in baby-blue transparent color, finish was smooth, and I didn't notice any imperfections (maybe one or two tiny air bubbles). Faceplate attachment was seamless, and I also like how the print on top of the shell facing in was blue on the left and red on the right for an easy ID of the sides.
With an advantage of the clear shell, I was able to examine everything inside with ease. Though the original Westone UM Pro 50 is clear but cloudy, I was still able to confirm a nearly identical arrangement and placement of the drivers and crossover. I also noticed Left/Right/Ground wires were color coded. Another observation, Inearz stayed true to Westone original design where 5xBA drivers output goes into a single bore of a narrow nozzle. Identical to that arrangement, I found a single bore opening with an original filter at the base of it. I can see that an extra effort was made to replicate the exact inner design of UM Pro 50.
Inearz UMP50 vs Westone UM Pro 50.
Sound impression and comparison to Westone UM Pro 50.
The best way to describe a sound of the newly re-shelled UM Pro 50 version is through A/B comparison with the original Westone version. For this test, I had both headphones equipped with Whiplash TWag v3 pure silver cables and used a few of my summit-fi DAPs, such as PAW Gold and L5 Pro, for sound analysis.
I found them to have the same soundstage width/height, though Westone has a touch more depth while Inearz staging was closer and more intimate. Sound is equally dynamic, with the same level of layering and separation. Westone has a little better transparency, but overall retrieval of details is nearly identical.
Low end has the same sub-bass extension with the same level of rumble, and in both cases bass is well controlled and doesn't spill into lower mids. The difference here is that Westone has more mid-bass slam, while Inearz mid-bass is more balanced. Inearz mid-bass is still elevated with the same quality, but quantity is more polite and balanced better with sub-bass. Mids are nearly identical from full body lower mids (not too thick) to clear detailed smooth upper mids. Also, I found the same treble extension, smooth, not as crisp or airy, but with a good definition.
The intent of this review was not to encourage someone to take $650 5xBA driver UIEM and invest another $125 to turn it into CIEM with a slightly different sound characteristics. I have read a lot of discussions about re-shelling and going CIEM route where some people are worried about sound change and don't know what to expect. This question is not easy to answer because you need to have the original IEM/CIEM next to the re-shelled version to make a better comparison rather than guessing by memory. That is exactly what I tried to accomplish in my review. To be honest, from the get-go I expected this CIEM to look good and to have a great fitment, but wasn't sure how it will sound in comparison to the original UM Pro 50. Make no mistake, there is a noticeable difference in mid-bass quantity which some might find as an improvement while others won't. But other than that, you can be rest assured that in this case re-shelled version sounds close to the original. I don't know if this going to remain true with every IEM and CIEM, and for sure I wouldn't recommend re-shelling any in-ear headphones with dynamic drivers unless you are OK with a sound change (dynamic drivers push air, and change of enclosure will alter sound). But one thing I can confirm, Inearz did a great job with a build of this CIEM, and they did their best to keep the sound as close as possible to the original. This re-shell definitely gets my thumbs up!