Which custom IEM producers to test
Jul 28, 2022 at 4:55 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 8

slimburger

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In 2006 I heard about UE Pro CIEMs and lusted after them ever since. Now I am finally ready to pull the trigger for a number of reasons, but am overwhelmed by the choice out there and would appreciate some guidance from those who know better as to:
  1. whether a CIEM is even the best solution
  2. which producers and models could be good to focus on for listening tests before purchasing anything

Background
I am not an audiophile or a musician, just an enthusiastic listener who loves finding equipment that can express the soundstage differently, or can unveil parts of a track that could not be heard on other equipment. I think my preference is for a neutral, almost clinical sound, with a little warmth to round off the highs so they are not too tiring.

Headphone history
  • Sennheiser HD 25-1 (since 2003). Amazing reference. Good isolation and tight, precise lows. Clean midrange but after a long period of listening in a quiet home environment it can get tiring in the high-end and the bass can feel perhaps a touch too clinical - but on the move/in noisier environments this is totally fine, and that's what they are for. Also for prolonged wear (>5 hours) they put too much squeezing pressure on my ears. I rediscovered these this week and listened a lot, but the comfort issue came back quickly so these are for max 2-3 hour listening at a time for me.
  • UE super.fi 5 pro (2006-2009). Enjoyed these a lot, sound-wise. Comfort-wise, I couldn't get a good seal from the silicon tips so bought foam, but they always seemed to loosen after a while unless I really squeezed them tight, pushed them in deep, and held them in place until the foam fully expanded. I don't remember the sound profile exactly but know that I enjoyed the lows and highs, and they were not tiring to listen to from a sound perspective. My ears would get hot wearing them though. So until maybe 2009 I used those, and then lost them unfortunately.
  • 2010-2019 Bose QC15/25/35 for flying, and Sennheiser PX200 for on the go. Both very comfortable, Bose get a bit hot, Sennheiser v comfortable but sound leakage/open design is not ideal, had to put the volume very high all the time.
  • 2019-2022 AirPods Pro. Main IEM and my favourite so far. Love the ANC, the convenience, very comfortable, better on flights for me than the Bose. Sound profile was great actually, though nowhere near as revealing or open as the HD 25-1 or super.fi 5 pro. Problem is, after a huge amount of use I developed a reaction/allergy to them early in 2022 - whenever I would use them for more than half an hour my ears would become super itchy and inflamed.
  • 2022 Sony WF-1000XM4. These sound good, but I find the low-end too heavy and almost muddy. ANC is very good. But the fit is absolutely not for me - they are top-heavy and stick out of my ears almost diagonally into the air, like radio antennae 🤣 and the weird angle pulls them out of my ears with their own weight after a while. So I only used them a handful of times.
Thanks in advance!
 
Jul 28, 2022 at 5:31 AM Post #2 of 8

slimburger

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Forgot to say... at the moment in my mind I think custom-fit with impressions will be the best option for me, and my budget is around USD 1000 but flexible if warranted. Been reading a lot and also not convinced that more drivers is necessarily better for my use, but happy to hear from those with more experience and understanding than me.
 
Jul 28, 2022 at 7:40 AM Post #3 of 8

561547

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Switzerland, neutral. I'm shocked.

I won't be of much help because I'm in a similar boat as you. I've been out of the game for a long time and I'm just starting to look into transducers. Neutral preferred, but I'm keeping an open mind. I plan to just demo and test as I hope to be in a place with a bountiful sample size of IEMs in the near future. Stars would have to align for me to commit. I also want to build a sample size to baseline instead of jumping into a transducer.

With that said, I recommend you read this:

https://blog.64audio.com/ciem-vs-uiem/

Maybe check up on this CIEM as it may fit the neutral sig:

https://www.64audio.com/collections/custom-iems/products/a6t

There's a 64Audio thread on this site that's easy to find.

I remembered this was considered neutral, but not very popular on this site. But if you can physically visit, it may help in your search.

https://www.p-ear-s.ch/configurator/configure/4512/

Also, there's a connection that replaces the 2-pin. It's called IPX/T2. I recommend that connection because it allows Linum cables which are mainly uncolored. Most of the cables on this site are colored, warm gooey with a haze. It's sort of like USB cables, just warm. I have the best neutral cable and the best value cable in the Linum Superbax, everything else in between is just Marketing and Assembling since the metals used in the Mid-Fi purgatory cables are all basically from the same Supply Chain. They just assemble and market, but end product basically all the same. Warm and colored. Linum small exception as they put a effort into coloration. All these other cables, I rather just splice a USB cable and make that into a earphone cable. Probably same warm result.

You can see a hypothetical SuperBax example:

https://linum.dk/discover/news-and-articles/sound-coloration-hypothetical-example/

influence_of_cable_on_sound_coloration_hypothetical_example_640x159.jpg


My desktop neutral cable is close to the Purist Sound. SuperBax is great for any case. Extremely easy to use and doesn't tangle much. I'm hoping to build a simple grab and go portable one day around the SuperBax as I went overboard on my desktop system. I want to get back to portable basics and the SuperBax with it's uncolored sound is a great foundation.

Fortunately, the two CIEM links above offer T2/IPX.

64Audio offers a sale a few times a year. You will have to find the PEARS thread as I'm just learning to navigate this site again.

Here's the Linum shop:

https://linum.dk/shop/buy-now/

You may be able to bundle a Linum with your CIEM order for a better price.

The reason I mention cables is that cables can ruin the Neutral CIEM experience.

Sorry I could not be of more help. I'm just trying to wade through the jungle myself.

Hmm, I just double-checked PEARS and IPX not showing. You will have to check with PEARS.

They are listed as a vendor:

https://linum.dk/discover/connectors/


Just remembered a Custom PP8:

https://majorhifi.com/inear-announces-new-prophile-8-custom-iem/
 
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Jul 28, 2022 at 8:46 AM Post #4 of 8

helljudgement

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I think my preference is for a neutral, almost clinical sound, with a little warmth to round off the highs so they are not too tiring.
You've just described PEARS SH3. This is one of my favorite iems due to their neutrality and overall pleasant tuning. I've been using them for years and never found them to be fatiguing and generally works well with all genre. Plus they are a swiss brand so what better way to support your local brand.
 
Jul 28, 2022 at 11:03 AM Post #5 of 8

slimburger

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With that said, I recommend you read this:

https://blog.64audio.com/ciem-vs-uiem/

Maybe check up on this CIEM as it may fit the neutral sig:

https://www.64audio.com/collections/custom-iems/products/a6t

There's a 64Audio thread on this site that's easy to find.

I remembered this was considered neutral, but not very popular on this site. But if you can physically visit, it may help in your search.

https://www.p-ear-s.ch/configurator/configure/4512/
Thank you for your detailed thoughts, I appreciate it!

The 64 Audio A6t, UE 7 Pro, and JH11 were the main contenders for me, but I'm overwhelmed with the possibilities hence this thread - so far I had missed PEARS but will check them out.

Also I really appreciate the background on cable and connectors. UE had impressed me with their use of IPX/SuperBax across the board because visually it seems to be a resilient, lightweight, compact, and performant package. Good to know it keeps the signal pure too.

You've just described PEARS SH3. This is one of my favorite iems due to their neutrality and overall pleasant tuning. I've been using them for years and never found them to be fatiguing and generally works well with all genre. Plus they are a swiss brand so what better way to support your local brand.
Thanks for the vote for SH3, I am going to try to listen to them in the next few days. The SH2 also seems to be very well-regarded.

Switzerland, neutral. I'm shocked.
Was asking for that one :laughing:
 
Jul 28, 2022 at 9:37 PM Post #6 of 8

Neweymatt

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Thank you for your detailed thoughts, I appreciate it!

The 64 Audio A6t, UE 7 Pro, and JH11 were the main contenders for me, but I'm overwhelmed with the possibilities hence this thread - so far I had missed PEARS but will check them out.

Also I really appreciate the background on cable and connectors. UE had impressed me with their use of IPX/SuperBax across the board because visually it seems to be a resilient, lightweight, compact, and performant package. Good to know it keeps the signal pure too.


Thanks for the vote for SH3, I am going to try to listen to them in the next few days. The SH2 also seems to be very well-regarded.


Was asking for that one :laughing:
+1 on the recommendation of 64Audio.

I bought the U6t (universal version of the A6t) last year after reading so much about 64Audio and finally having a chance to demo it and a few others further up in their range. I wanted to get a better feel for how it would work in my regular listening, I got a good deal on it during one of their sales, and I've been very happy ever since.

There are a few things about 64Audio's tech that make their IEMs work very well for a broad range of uses. First is the APEX modules, these allow you to customise how much isolation you get, increase or decrease the bass response, and the venting provides pressure relief for your ear canals. Another is the LID impedance matching, which lets you use the IEM with pretty much anything and it still sounds great. I use the simple Apple dongle with my U6t all the time now, it's great.

The thing that clinched it for me was when I took a long-haul flight, I used the M20 APEX module for 20db of isolation, plugged the U6t into the in-seat system and watched 3 movies back to back with zero comfort issues and surprisingly good sound quality. That's when I decided I would get a custom, and it was just a matter of time before I was able to pull the trigger.

The most important thing in this is to find an Audiologist who will get the impressions right. I went to one recommended by the local 64Audio dealer, and when I sent them in, 64Audio came back and told me I had to get the right one done again. The Audiologist did this for no charge. The delay was somewhat annoying, but the end result is simply amazing.

A12t-Sydney.jpg


Not sure if I'll get another custom or not, but it definitely enters the equation for anything else I'm thinking I might get in the future.
 
Aug 1, 2022 at 11:24 AM Post #8 of 8

slimburger

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+1 on the recommendation of 64Audio.
Definitely going to try the 64Audio range. Curious to see how the APEX modules change things.

Do note that the SH2 is not neutral but otherwise have fun. I doubt you'll be disappointed with SH3 but let us know what you think.
Noted! I'm very curious about these ones. Will post feedback here.

Given that Ultimate Ears was the first CIEM I had even seen, I was excited to jump on the UE train. But the current generation of their IEMs seem to get less than stellar reviews compared to the likes of 64Audio and friends.

Does anyone have experience with Vision Ears VE 3.2 or VE 4.2? Will try those too.
 

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