- Dec 5, 2008
Click pictures throughout this review for larger image
When a custom IEM manufacturer recommended I use a hearing aid dryer to keep my custom IEM performing at its best, I wondered what they were thinking. No other manufacturer had recommended a hearing aid dryer to me, so is it just their model or what (it was one of the two silicone shelled custom IEMs)? After doing some research it did seem to make sense that to ensure longevity of custom IEMs a hearing aid dryer could prolong the life as they can do for hearing aids as both use balanced armature drivers. Although it seem more practical to protect hearing aids since they can cost several times as much as the most expensive custom IEMs.
People generally don’t discuss degradation in sound over time, however I definitely have experienced it with more than one IEM in my time, but they were all dynamic drivers universal IEMs. My guess was that it was due to moisture or a thin layer of bodily fluid (wax?) on the driver. And there was the instance where I sold my CK10 to someone in the UK and it was "lost" at the customs office for about 2 weeks, and when the recipient finally received it he said the treble sounded distorted. Could that have been from moisture during shipping as they worked fine when I sent them?
What can moisture do to custom IEMs? For balanced armature designs that have thin sound tubes moisture can get trapped in a sound tube and change the sound/block the sound. How does moisture get into a sound tube? Water wicks into small areas and then the surface tension will keep it in place. Combine that with little air flow inside the tube so evaporation can be very slow depending on the relative humidity. There are other alternatives such as desiccant packs, putting your IEM in rice, etc. Moisture can also lead to hardening and/or discoloration of cables as well as corrosion of pins on detachable cable models.
And lets looks at usage. If you sweat while using your IEM, are in general a sweaty person, or have lots of ear wax a dryer of some sort might prolong the life of your IEM. Now that I have finished my review of the SA-12 I take it to the gym with me and wear the cable under my shirt. It has a non-detachable silver cable, the kind that turns green over time with moisture, and the process has already started. I really don't want a bright green cable. I started using the SA-12 since my SM3 cables have started to harden after working out with them for a few weeks.
The question comes down to if you have spent a lot and want to protect your investment, is a hearing aid dryer something that is worth the money and will help prolong the life of your IEMs? So, let's take a look at one of the hearing aid dryers in the market:
There are many hearing aid dryers on the market ranging from about $35 up to $170. I opted to try the Serene Renew dryer & freshner model DB-100 since it is reasonably priced, offers UV sterilization, and doesn't require me to replace desiccant packs. The DB-100 is powered by the included 12V power supply and is very compact with a hearing aid battery tester, however that isn't useful in the world of IEMs. Serene also makes a hearing aid vacuum cleaner which might be a good idea for someone with lots of wax or that forgets to clean their sound tubes often.
Using the DB-100 is really pretty simple to use: plug it in, set the timer switch (low = 2 hours, normal = 4 hours, high = 6 hours) and then press the on/off button. For UV light, press the refresh button to activate the UV light if desired. A single custom IEM will fit with a cable and 2 pairs without cables.
I did feel the top during use and it was barely warmer than the surrounding temperature and there was only a small temperature increase when opened. The DB-100 will not greatly increase the temperature of your IEMs causing heat related damage.
Recommended for the person that:
- Works out with their IEM - use after each workout
- Performs on stage with their IEM - use after each performance
- Sweat a lot - use frequently
- Use their custom quite a few hours a day, every day - use weekly
- Live in a high humidity climate - use weekly or more often
- Have a lot of ear wax - use a few times per week
- Want to protect their investment - use at least weekly
Can the DB-100 stop my SM3 cables from continuing to harden? How about slowing down the greening effect of silver custom IEM cables? Time will tell, and I plan on using the DB-100 after every use of the DRM Earz 4X which has a silver cable.
I will start with the SA-12, which, as mentioned above, is my workout IEM. Pictures below from 8-28-11, although I don't recall any progression in the oxidization of the SA-12 cable since I started using the DB-100.
I will post more pictures after more time passes to see what differences there are, if any.