Whether it’s speakers or headphones, audiophiles love DIY. Jerry-rigging high-fidelity sound out of gaffer tape and styrofoam is incredibly satisfying amongst a sizable portion of the audiophile community. So why bother with buying custom in-ear monitors (costing $$$$) from companies like Ultimate Ears, Westone, or JH Audio, when you can make your own? The Japanese wised up.
Okay, in actuality, the majority of these DIY hobbyists in Japan are actually still ardent fans of the commercial CIEM industry. Nowhere else in the world can you witness so many headphone users with not two, not three, not four pairs of custom IEMs, but dozens of pairs. These guys keep veritable museums of CIEMs in their abodes, so it’s entirely likely that they’ve learned a thing or two about acoustics specific to in-ears, and what goes into great sound.
On top of all this, the DIY CIEM community in Japan is astoundingly vibrant and dynamic; many of them keep in near-constant contact with one another via Twitter to keep each other abreast of the latest developments (the chatter amongst these fellas on Twitter is also partly how CYMBACAVUM gets its intelligence so quickly *knocks on wood*), and at big headphone shows such as the Fujiya-AVIC Headphone Festival, have held friendly public competitions for whose designs are most enjoyed by the public.
By taking the lead and organizing massive group buys for drivers and passive components, he emerged as a figurehead in the DIY CIEM movement. Even though he’d been under the weather for the last few months, he returned to action just a few weeks ago on 12/9, with not only beautiful reshells, but also his own original creations.
It’s clear that these guys are serious and packing, as anyone can see in this picture from Vorbiser:
And then there’s sisyphus, who had the temerity to take apart a Knowles ED driver, all in the name of discovery:
Their home-run workshops are more decked out than you might think!
Most important, however, is the fact that there seems to be a true sense of community here. These guys really do communicate with each other constantly, sharing ideas and cheering each other on. Passionate audio bloggers like 84 and nTaQ have been been cheering the fellows on as well, joining in the camaraderie.
This is just a sample of the blogs that these DIYers maintain:
The Japanese aren’t the only trailblazers in the CIEM world.
While the majority of custom in-ear monitor manufacturers have deep ties to the hearing aid industry, CustomArt in Poland began as a hobbyist project and is now successfully crafting high-tech silicone monitors deep in the belly of Warsaw. Elsewhere, Muzo2 is taking things in a different direction and using CAD to design universal shells with 3D printing techniques.
Surely, there are even more endeavors that aren’t being highlighted.
If you’ve been feeling burnt out or disillusioned by the less savory bits of audio as a hobby, there’s nothing more heartwarming than to see individuals around the world pursuing a passion. The IEM landscape is changing, and it’s clear that this fledging community of DIYers will be a major catalyst for change.
With that, from those of us here that contribute to CYMBACAVUM, we’d like to wish everyone very happy holidays, and hope that a story like this may invigorate you in this hobby for the upcoming year!