Sleek Customs: A Review
May 26, 2009 at 4:02 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 24


Headphoneus Supremus
Oct 16, 2008
[size=small]Ordering, Contact with Sleek, Customer Service.[/size]

I ordered my customs near the middle of April, I think maybe the 12 or 13. I had my molds done about four days later and they were at Sleek HQ in FL by Monday, April 20. All of my contact with Sleek was very responsive. Bill was the technician who created my phones and he never took more than a few hours to respond to emails. Sleek was very helpful in helping me to determine the tuning of my phones, and I ended up going with bass+ treble=, in order to sort of match what I hear with my RS-1s, my favorite pair of phones. As far as colors, I settled on blue and green translucent (pics below). This is one area in which Sleek could improve the customs service. I would really like them to have a sort of palette of all colors that they can use to make your phones that is readily available on the website. They sent me a picture, but it didn't seem to represent everything they could do and it was difficult to imagine how the phones would actually look. Perhaps they could simply take photos of customs before they leave Sleek and post the different colors online.
After Sleek had all of my info, the phones shipped in four business days, which is damn impressive to me. I got them on May 1, but that was mostly due to the mail system at my university being unreasonable. Either way, 11 days of turnaround from molds to phones is impressive.
Sleek has also been very responsive and willing to fix any problems I have with the phones as far as fit and the such goes. They should be responsive, but it is worth mentioning anyway.

[size=small]Arrival, Build Quality, Fit, etc.[/size]

My phones were very nicely packaged in a small cardboard box with packing peanuts and the such to protect the case of the phones. There was no literature on the phones whatsoever. The only papers in the box were receipts and order info and a packing list. While this is not an issue, I was expecting some sort of booklet or instructions on the cleaning of the phones or treatment. Either way, the phones themselves were safelly packaged in the beautiful black Pelican case with the sleek logo on the case. The phones fit very snugly in the case, though the case is a bit large to carry around for daily use. I would like some sort of bag or pouch in addition, but that is just me being picky and I would overall much rather have the case than a bag or pouch.


The build quality of the earphones themselves seems top notch. The surface of the acrylic is perfectly smooth with no bubbles they are very solid. Mine came with the "SA" Sleek logo, but you can get any sort of custom art that you want or you can just get them blank. I think that custom art is an additional charge. I know that this has been said in many a review, and that the issue is being addressed, but the one area where the build quality could improve is the cable. I have gathered that new cables are close to production and they will be included in Sleek products relatively soon. The cable that came on mine, though, is hardly better quality than a stock ibud cable. On top of its flimsy feel, there are silver plastic inserts that make the cable look unprofessional IMO and pop off very easily. One thing that the cable design has nailed is the actual connectors that go into the earphones. They are rock solid. They click into place securely and rotate easily for adjustment to the over ear or hanging position.



The fit can be a large issue in some cases with customs, and I know that it probably has more to do with the molds than anything, but my Sleeks fit perfectly. The right ear is perfectly snug against my entire ear canal. It exerts enough pressure everywhere to just make a tight seal. For comparisons, the pressure it exerts on my earcanal is far less than normal soft earplugs and it isolates the same or just a bit worse than soft plugs.It is super comfortable. After the acrylic warms up to body temperature, I forget that it is there. The left side had one issue which I have since fixed. The seal was just a bit too loose, which I corrected with 4-5 thin coats of clear nail polish over an afternoon. It now fits and isolates just like the right.


Great, as it should be. Probably 30+ dB. Sleek says 25, but it seems much closer to my soft earplugs (40dB) than 15 dB.




Now that you are halfway into my marathon review, you are probably wondering what the earphones actually sound like. In short, great. I listen to mostly rock, and that is mostly what I am using to evaluate these phones. I have had them for a while and I have had adequate time to get to know them, so the tracks that I reference through the review are simply good songs to illustrate what bad or good qualities I have noticed since I got the phones.


As I said, my phones are tuned to bass +, treb =. The equal treble is a very good amount. They are non fatiguing with enough sparkle to make me happy. They sparkle less with cymbals than my Grados, which is not surprising, but they still have enough sparkle to give a good sense of detail, but the realism is lacking. A cymbal crash in real life almost has an impact. maybe attack is a good word to describe this. The phones don't lack speed overall, but the attack suffers when compared to the Grados because of the highs. The sleeks seem to capture all of the sound of the cymbals but miss a lot of the impact. Cymbal crashes don't have the same viciousness that they do with the RS-1s when listening to The White Stripes or something similar. (I know, not the best recording quality but all of their albums illustrate my point adequately) The attack on anything with guitar is also little duller and slower than with the Grados because the Sleeks lack the highs a bit, but it guitar still sounds very much alive and great overall when compared to my 701s or 595s, for example. One track that I noticed this on is "Aeon" by Antony and the Johnsons.


The mids overall are really great and very warm and full on the sleeks. Guitar lives in the midrange, and I love pretty much anything with guitar so this is a must for me. The sleeks have a warm midrange that settles right in the middle between sterile like the 701s and smothering like I find the hd650s. Detail is fantastic and the Sleeks do vocals in general very well. I don't listen to enough stuff with female vocalists to make any distinction here, but vocals sound extremely realistic and are very nuanced. Overall a pleasure to listen to. I am not sure why, but lyrics are very clear with the sleeks. There are many songs where I have always wondered about the lyrics that are clear as day with the sleeks. The Dodos album "Visiter" was the big example of this for me. I have listened to the album countless times with my grados, 701s, 595s, ibuds, etc, but i never understood the lyrics as well as with the Sleeks. Once again, I have no idea why this is, but I just wanted to throw it in in the midrange discussion because of the vocals.


The bass is surprisingly good. In terms of loudness, it is on par with my RS-1s, but it is very audible and comes across really nicely in songs. The main reason for this, IMO, is the acrylic shell of which the phones are made. Because it is hard (unlike soft tips from most IEMs) it transfers bass vibrations from the drivers to the ear canal. This gives a very nice sense of overall bass impact. This impact and tactile sensation of bass makes bass palpable and audible even during extremely busy rock songs such as elliott smiths "LA" and "Can't Make A Sound". In both of these songs, the bass is not overly powerful, but you can feel and hear it above the sea of guitars, drums vocals and the such through the feeling. It provides a really nice anchor to a lot of rock songs that is missing in a lot of phones that cannot provide much impact or sensation of bass. The same goes for bass drums. Nice impact, etc. In addition to being palpable, the bass is very detailed. Different drums and notes can easily be picked out. I really enjoyed the sleeks with the drums on "Two Planets" by Bat for Lashes. I can feel and hear the character of the drums each time they are struck and the impact is great.

[size=small]Instrument Separation[/size]

Instrument separation is spectacular. Each instrument, vocal, track is easy to separate out with any good recording. I guess this is due to the speed of the balanced armature drivers. The biggest way I noticed this separation was in the separation of background noise/music/patterns and actual instruments on many songs. Animal Collective's "Unsolved Mysteries" has an entire soundscape that mimics the melody that I had never really heard before. I knew it was there, but I was never able to separate it out from the rest of the song like I could the first time that I heard it with the Sleeks, which make it into a real background that is easily audible without taking over the song.


I am terrible at evaluating soundstaging. I listen almost exclusively to studio recorded music, and mostly rock, so I don't even really care about soundstage. It just isn't a quality that I bother worrying about, so I won't go into depth other than saying that it is much better than I expected with in ear phones. I am sorry, but that is really all I can say without making things up or saying something which I am not sure of at all.


The sleeks are great top to bottom, and I would recommend them without hesitation to absolutely everyone willing to spend $300+ on headphones. They are worth every penny and sound just fantastic. I will add more to this if I remember anything that I forgot. Please point it out if I forgot to include something obvious.
May 26, 2009 at 4:43 PM Post #2 of 24
Nice review, especially on the build part. Mind specifying what rig you used for this evaluation?
May 26, 2009 at 5:03 PM Post #3 of 24
Thanks. I don't have / use a portable amp. The main setup is just macbook headphone out to phones or ipod to phones. I have used the phones a bit with my CK2III, and they do sound slightly better, but the overall review is based on the rig that I use it with the most, the ipod/laptop with lossless files.
May 26, 2009 at 9:53 PM Post #4 of 24
nice and lengthy review!! thanks for the input!!
what other iem do you have
how do you compare this pair to them?
May 27, 2009 at 7:59 AM Post #8 of 24
@ zeckwsr

I have experience with the Shure SE110, and the se310, and I have heard the westone um2. I can't really make many good comparisons, because I had my last pair of IEMs stolen back in october, and I just sort of gave up IEMs for full size phones because I always found IEMs pretty uncomfortable. I decided to buy the sleeks for an 8 week trip that I am on currently.

What I do know is that the sleeks are more comfortable than any other pair of IEMs I have tried, period. This is because there is relatively no pressure on the ear required to make a seal. With all universals, the tip must press against the ear canal to form the seal.

The other thing that I can say is that I enjoy the sleeks and I am more impressed than I have been with any other pair. One concrete comparison: The bass in the sleeks is much quieter volumewise than that in IE8, but I enjoy it much, much more because it is so tangible comparatively.

Sorry for the relative dearth of real opinions. If I hear any IEMs in the future, I will update this with direct comparisons.
May 27, 2009 at 9:03 PM Post #10 of 24
Sorry about that. No. I didn't mean to include the 530 in that sentence. It was changed. I just meant the IE8, which did have a lot of bass IMO. Post changed.
May 28, 2009 at 8:27 AM Post #11 of 24
i have owned the se530, um2, phonak, atrio and a host of others that cost more than the sleek. the sleek owns every single pair. better staging, better mids, bass and treble. better does not necessarily mean more as any dynamic has so much bloody bass, but the sleek serve up each better than any of my other phones. my only complaint is the cable's bling and propensity for possible crystalisation of the cable casing.

there is no way to describe how much better the custom is compared to the universal. comfort is the biggest change, but after - stage especially is simply not comparable as the housing fits the outer ear too and i can feel if not 'hear' the rumblings and echoes made by the passage of sound which gives them a much more 'out of the ear' experience. i don't mean that things are wider or especially spacious, but so perfectly placed and as for bass and low mids, i get a much better sense of the feel of instruments in comparison to ANY universal.

anyway, here is my review.
May 28, 2009 at 2:41 PM Post #12 of 24
Great review! I was in a debate over getting these or the fidelitys (livewires), but im definately getting these! they look great! my only concern is the cable! i hate the black cable, i wish they had an option for a clear transparent cable like ultimate ears. But i guess you could change the cable! is their a transparent cable available for it? also i thought these were $300? i was looking at the site last night and couldnt see a price! I just looked now and it says $350? how can they increase the price by $50extra! i wouldnt mind if it included custom art, which i doubt, plus i live in the uk, so going to get a hefty customs and VAT charge!!
May 28, 2009 at 6:26 PM Post #14 of 24
I think that the price went up sometime in april. i believe that the $300 was their sort of "introductory" price as they just really came into the market in January.

Also, I don't know what the new cable will look like, but it probably won't be clear. I would email sleek and ask them about it. There was a post a few weeks back in the sleek forum that said they were finalizing the new cable design, so they probably know by now.
May 28, 2009 at 6:28 PM Post #15 of 24

Originally Posted by shigzeo /img/forum/go_quote.gif
i was lucky actually. when i bought them, i lived in canada but did not get hit with customs, handling or tariffs for some reason. usually i can expect an extra 30-40% tagged on, but I got really lucky. good luck.

Hmm... I thought Nafta got rid of tariffs between the US and Canada (and Mexico).

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