Editor’s Note: Please give a warm welcome our newest writer, who will be giving us his “Yeoisms” from time to time. He’s fanatical about custom in-ear monitors, and hopes to shepherd more people to the custom realm. Check out his bio, and his articles! His first couple of works take everyone back to basics, and consider the fundamental principles behind going custom for in-ears.
Custom In-Ear Monitors (CIEMs) can be considered to be the top end of a portable setup chain; by using your own ear impressions (requires a visit to an audiologist), custom in-ear monitors go a step beyond universal in-ear monitors (UIEMs), providing you with superior isolation from the outside sounds, better long-term comfort, and far more flexibility in acoustic design.
Now, CIEMs are accompanied by many pros and cons, but they really all depend on how you want to perceive them. I will elaborate more on what I feel are the pros and cons, but they’re all subject to my personal lifestyle, so please don’t treat the list as an absolute thing.
- Isolation. This is a must when you live in a urban city and especially if you travel a lot via buses or trains. Also, good for when you’re clubbing and for stopping your parents from nagging. Heh.
- Custom. Yup, so it’ll be unique to you. No one else can try it without using tips/force-fitting and even if they do, they won’t be able to hear 100% of what you’re hearing.
- Sound. A CIEM is tuned specifically for your ears only. I have done comparisons between the end product and the universal demo. The sound of the demo is to me about 75% of what you’ll get out of the end product.
- Removable cables. Yes, some UIEMs have detachable cables, but almost all CIEMs in the market are compatible with detachable cables. The only problem is that there are many pin types like MMCX, 2-pin, and FitEar pins — hence, not all cables will be compatible with your IEM. To remedy this, you can either buy a new cable or re-terminate an existing cable to use the pins you need.
- Price. There are a few CIEMs out there that are available at a really budget, cut-rate price, but when you want the cream of the crop, be prepared to eat grass for a while. It’s pricey, as aside from shipping fees, you also have to note currency conversion between your country and the company’s country. If you reside in the same country as them, then good for you, but don’t forget what you’re paying for is the extensive time and labor required to make your CIEM — workmanship that really has no real shortcut, even with newer 3D printing processes.
- Resale value. If you intend to sell off your CIEM, your resale value will usually be no more than 50% of the price you bought it for, since you need to factor in the average cost to reshell the CIEM for the new user. 50% is actually an optimistic estimate — if you can get it between 35-40% of your purchase price, then it’s already a pretty good deal. Some brands like Noble Audio and Custom Art, however, do have an ownership transfer policy, which does help with resale value — still for a price though.
- Cable pins breaking in the IEM. Yes, it is a rare occurrence, but can definitely happen. You will have to spend quite a bit to get that pin removed before you can continue using your IEM.
Despite the cons, personally, I feel that CIEMs are the right way to invest your money if you intend to go full out on your portable setup. I hope that you will find this sort explanation on custom in-ear monitors useful.
Also see the related article, ‘Universal to Custom Reshell — Things to Know Beforehand‘
I’m an audiophile based in Singapore with a special interest in custom in-ear monitors and their related products. I think I’m one of the youngest here, but that won’t stop me from helping others to the best of my abilities.