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Article: Inexpensive IEM Roundup Part Two

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2 hours ago, davide256 said:

Always interesting. Any desire to do a review for a next step up series? So many IEM's with their hybrid approaches and the ones over $1k astound me

since small IEM's are easily lost/stolen. I've often wished their were a universal pressure "C clamp" band for IEM's since they can loosen so easily and when

they do SQ nose dives.


I'm definitely continuing the series. I have a handful of $75-$100 IEMS, $400-$500 IEMS, and ~$1k IEMS. Those three reviews are already in the works. As new interesting sub-$50 IEMS are released, I'll add additional "budget" reviews, too.

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1 hour ago, BlueSkyy said:

Although I wouldn’t consider buying one of these IEMs because I am hooked on custom fit via ear impressions like the Ultimate Ears UE18s that I adore or the UE Premiers that I have on order, I compliment you on your efforts here.


The question I have is can a universal fit with silicone ear tips, even the high dollar ones, match the performance, sound isolation or bass response, etc, of custom fit IEMs made from ear impressions?


That's a great question, but it's one I don't have an answer for. I've never purchased a custom IEM, and I'd be skeptical of any overarching statements about which sound better (in a quiet environment) unless it's coming from someone with the same exact model in UIEM and CIEM configurations. Moreover, you'd want that person to have tried a variety of high-quality tips on the UIEM.


What seems clear to me having read quite a bit about this debate is that CIEMs will always have better isolation, provided that the mold was done correctly and that the company produced the CIEM accurate to the mold. In terms of bass, I'd think that, unless one's ear anatomy is very abnormal, a good silicone tip (such as the Moondrop Spring, SednaEarfit XELASTEC, or Softears UC) is going to provide the very similar bass to a CIEM, since bass is a function of seal/pressure. But a silicone tip is never going block external sounds as well, since that's not just about seal, but also about the thickness and density of the material between your ear drum and the outside world. So, were I live musician, there's no question I'd select a CIEM.


For everyone else, I strongly suspect it depends on how important isolation is. That said, I think that UIEMs offer other benefits. The first is that (especially if the CIEMs mold/build isn't perfect) a hard surface against your inner ear is going to potentially cause more discomfort than soft silicone. The second is that different IEMs will sound better or worse depending on insertion depth, and UIEMs allow you to alter that more by switching tips. With CIEMs, you're stuck with the distance between your ear drum and the nozzle that the company thinks is best. One's comfort preferences and anatomy may change over time, too, which could be addressed with new tips on a UIEM, but would require a full remold/reshell on a CIEM.


Because I listen in a quiet environment and appreciate the sonic/comfort flexibility of tip swapping, I've always gone with the UIEM version of models that also offer a CIEM. However, if I were primarily using IEMs for music performance, or even in a moderately loud workplace, I'd definitely order a CIEM.

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4 hours ago, jcbenten said:

IMO, although I have never had a CIEM, an Eytmotic with triple-flanged silicon tips would match the sound isolation of CIEM.  For me, though, after 30 minutes of any silicon (vs foam) tip is my ears start itching after 30 minutes or so.  Therefore I tend to stick to foam.


Obviously, what you get, or should get, from CIEM is comfort.  Etymotics, and similar shapes, fit pretty well. And while I like the sound of the Kiwi Cadenza, the IEM is bulky and does not fit exceptionally well.  I have tried SpinFits and now using foams and they like to work loose.  CIEMs should negate any fit issues and maintain peak isolation for longer periods.

I think the shorter nozzle is the primary issue with the Cadenza. The SednaEarfit XELASTEC are worth trying for IEMs like that, because they’re a bit tacky. 

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