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Custom IEMs

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    I've been thinking about getting myself some custom in-ear monitors (IEMs). I'm aware of the benefits that they can bring and would really like a pair but they are so expensive - starting off at around £450! I'm really looking for some people's experiences with their own so I can know a bit more about them.
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    (Original post by stumcd)
    I've been thinking about getting myself some custom in-ear monitors (IEMs). I'm aware of the benefits that they can bring and would really like a pair but they are so expensive - starting off at around £450! I'm really looking for some people's experiences with their own so I can know a bit more about them.
    I was fit for my first pair this week (See the spoiler for a very fetching photo of me with what appears to be an earful of blue tack with a tampon string coming out of it :ahee:) and I'll be getting them in the first week of May so I'll be able to provide more extensive opinions on the process then. But yes, by and large they are a very expensive purchase and given that you can't audition them it can feel like a stab in the dark in terms of whether or not you'll think they're worth the money. From what I've read, don't buy them if you have doubts over whether or not you'll enjoy them enough to validate the purchase, because that's always going to be sat at the back of your mind. And if you do get round to buying them, make sure you have two other things, a source with enough amping power to drive them really well (Custom IEMs typically use balanced armature drivers, which can take a bit more grunt to get the same kind of impact that a dynamic driver would get straight out of an iPod), and good quality files, because good IEMs will really pick up on the shortcomings of compressed tracks.

    If you want to dip your toes in the proverbial waters of customs, I'd wholeheartedly recommend looking into the Minerva Mi-1, which come in at £175 (before adding on extras) including impressions, which as I'm sure you're aware is a steal for custom IEMs. I've just ordered their £400 flagship triple driver model and so far the experience has been great, customer service in particular has been truly excellent. They're also UK based (One of only two companies that are from what I can tell), meaning a very short turnaround time (They aim to get the entire process done from start to finish in ten days) and are much more accessible for customer service. Most importantly they supposedly sound very good, although don't expect something monumentally groundbreaking considering their "bargain" status among IEMs.

    At very least fill out the contact form and you'll get through to Lee, their CS representative, who has been really helpful in my discussions with him and is very knowledgeable on the subject. He'll be able to (and happy to) address any qualms or queries you have about customs.

    If you haven't made a decision by May 5th, drop me a PM (Or quote me in this thread), I'll have mine by then so I'll be able to go into more detail [=
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    Cheers mate, will look into the Mi-1's - much more appealing price for a first-time purchase!

    Will also try to remember to PM you after May 5th - really want to know what the £400-IEM experience is like as I'd love to have a pair!

    That impression paste looks like it would be so uncomfortable to have in your ear.
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    (Original post by stumcd)
    Cheers mate, will look into the Mi-1's - much more appealing price for a first-time purchase!

    Will also try to remember to PM you after May 5th - really want to know what the £400-IEM experience is like as I'd love to have a pair!

    That impression paste looks like it would be so uncomfortable to have in your ear.
    No worries (:

    The Mi-1 were what I intended to buy before getting my parents to contribute to the Mi-3s as a birthday present. There's a pretty good review of the Mi-1 on Head Fi here (on the subject of which that's a great site to sign up to if you're interested in high end audio anyway).

    The impression taking was odd, but not uncomfortable. The worst part was getting the foam barriers pushed right down your ear canal to defend the ear drum, it triggered a nasty coughing reflex. The audiologist did one ear at a time though, and I didn't get it the second time round, which was strange. So weird, but certainly not an unpleasant experience!
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    (Original post by Gofre)
    No worries (:

    The Mi-1 were what I intended to buy before getting my parents to contribute to the Mi-3s as a birthday present. There's a pretty good review of the Mi-1 on Head Fi here (on the subject of which that's a great site to sign up to if you're interested in high end audio anyway).

    The impression taking was odd, but not uncomfortable. The worst part was getting the foam barriers pushed right down your ear canal to defend the ear drum, it triggered a nasty coughing reflex. The audiologist did one ear at a time though, and I didn't get it the second time round, which was strange. So weird, but certainly not an unpleasant experience!
    Yeah, my main issue with IEMs is the price - I'll have to pay for them myself. Locked my parents into helping me fund a new MacBook (for my eighteenth in July) a few months ago so I ain't getting no more money from them!
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    (Original post by stumcd)
    Yeah, my main issue with IEMs is the price - I'll have to pay for them myself. Locked my parents into helping me fund a new MacBook (for my eighteenth in July) a few months ago so I ain't getting no more money from them!
    In that case the Mi-1s look to be an ideal starting point [=
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    (Original post by Gofre)
    In that case the Mi-1s look to be an ideal starting point [=
    Could I ask, how long is the warranty on the pair you have ordered? And if a wire breaks outside warranty will the company repair them (for a fee)?

    thanks

    HC
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    (Original post by H.C. Chinaski)
    Could I ask, how long is the warranty on the pair you have ordered? And if a wire breaks outside warranty will the company repair them (for a fee)?

    thanks

    HC
    It's a one year warranty, and yes recabling outside of warranty is an option (as is reshelling should you ever need it). I assume they would charge for it after the warranty expires, I couldn't say for sure though.
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    (Original post by Gofre)
    It's a one year warranty, and yes recabling outside of warranty is an option (as is reshelling should you ever need it). I assume they would charge for it after the warranty expires, I couldn't say for sure though.
    ok, thanks for the info .. I cannot stretch to the more costly pair, but am now considering the entry level pair. I would be interested in your feedback on performance after burn in and a little usage.

    Many thanks

    HC
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    (Original post by H.C. Chinaski)
    ok, thanks for the info .. I cannot stretch to the more costly pair, but am now considering the entry level pair. I would be interested in your feedback on performance after burn in and a little usage.

    Many thanks

    HC
    Yeah I'll probably post something about them somewhere once I've had time to let them burn in, I usually give headphones 50+ hours before forming a firm impression, so it will be mid-May time. I'll quote you (And the OP) in when I post. There's also this review you can check out, if you didn't see it before.
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    (Original post by stumcd)
    Will also try to remember to PM you after May 5th

    (Original post by H.C. Chinaski)
    I would be interested in your feedback on performance after burn in and a little usage.
    I had my first chance to use them today, to make sure they were properly fitted and all the drivers were playing nicely. From the ten minute listen I was given before being them boxed up and put away until my birthday, the sound quality was absolutely stellar straight out the box.

    I've talked my mum through the idea of burning them in so between that and the fact I'll have my amp by the next time I use them, I should be able to get an accurate idea of what they're really capable of next time I get to use them. I'll post again when I have them [=
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    (Original post by Gofre)
    I had my first chance to use them today, to make sure they were properly fitted and all the drivers were playing nicely. From the ten minute listen I was given before being them boxed up and put away until my birthday, the sound quality was absolutely stellar straight out the box.

    I've talked my mum through the idea of burning them in so between that and the fact I'll have my amp by the next time I use them, I should be able to get an accurate idea of what they're really capable of next time I get to use them. I'll post again when I have them [=
    Thanks for the info.

    I had a further look at the amp you mentioned in another thread and it does seem rather good too.

    Good music through a quality system is hard to beat .. enjoy!
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    (Original post by H.C. Chinaski)
    Thanks for the info.

    I had a further look at the amp you mentioned in another thread and it does seem rather good too.

    Good music through a quality system is hard to beat .. enjoy!
    Yeah the amp got dispatched today, looking forward to getting that. Hopefully it won't take too long to make its way across The Pond :holmes:
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    Just thought I'd give you guys a quick update on the customs. Upon extended listening to my customs after receiving them last week I noticed that the level of clarity I was anticipating was sorely lacking, they sounded very muddy and veiled. I had considered that it might simply be my ears "acclimatising" to the new experience of highly neutral custom IEMs, since my primary listening pair before have all been very bright in sound signature, but nevertheless I wanted to make sure there wasn't an issue so I contacted Minerva who recommended sending them in for tests. Customer service has once again been excellent, I dispatched them via special delivery yesterday afternoon, and by 10:30 this morning I had received two emails, one letting me know they'd arrived and another fifteen minutes later letting me know the fault has already been diagnosed and is scheduled to be fixed and posted to me by Friday. With this in mind I'll obviously have to reserve judgement on the sound signature until they get returned to me.

    What I can comment on is the fit, finish and overall "custom IEM" experience. I bought my Mi-3s in the barebones configuration (Well, as barebones as a £400 set of customs can be!), so I didn't get any of the accessories or add-ons, just the headphones in transparent silicone. They arrived in a simple plastic box like the kind you'd store business cards in, which contained the headphones themselves in a leather/pleather carrying pouch, an earwax remover (One of the lovely side effects of shoving tubes all the way down your eardrum), instruction manuals and shirt clip. The first thing I noticed about the headphones was how big they were. Not that this is a bad thing, I just didn't know what to expect, I remember questioning if they'd even fit in my ears! Build quality overall was very nice, the shells were free of blemishes and bubbles which can be an issue with the manufacturing of customs, and the cable seemed durable enough with decent cable memory (I opted for the design where the cables are looped back over the ear to prevent cable noise). The 3.5mm jack looked sturdy enough, oddly being gold plated despite this also being a paid option when ordering the headphones. All in all, build quality was great. My one gripe was that the transparent housing of the drivers wasn't completely clear, but this was me basing my preconceptions on acrylic shells where this is actually achievable.

    Putting customs in for the first time is a very odd experience. It involves inserting the "nozzle" into your eardrum then twisting back and forth until it slots into the grooves of your ears. Initially I thought "this isn't going in" until a second later it obviously found its home, because it sounded like somebody had put a suction cup over my ear as the headphones made the seal =P once I'd got them both in I could see my previous worries about size were misplaced, they didn't protrude from my ears at all. I'd go so far as to say you could quite happily sleep on your side with them, because your outer ear sticks out further than they do. They were also extremely comfortable to wear, almost as if they weren't in at all. This is one key advantage of custom IEMs, you're guaranteed a perfect fit every time. Getting the headphones out was a very comical affair, the right hand side came out with relatively little fuss, but I couldn't figure out a way of getting the left hand one out initially so spend the next ten minutes just wearing it until I mustered the strength to try again :ahee: I've now found out the way of removing them that suits me best (The right ear I grab the top "lobe" of the earpiece and twist back and foth like when I'm putting them in, for the left ear I hold them by the bottom and pull straight up) and they pop out fine.

    TLDR:As far as overall experience goes, I'm very happy. With any luck the sound quality will match up to my anticipations once the issues are resolved, in which case I will have no trouble wholeheartedly recommending them stumcd!

    I had a further look at the amp you mentioned in another thread and it does seem rather good too.
    The amp's phenomenal by the way, the E17 offers great improvements as a USB DAC/amp, but comparing the amp section to the C421 the disparity in sound signature was actually quite alarming, I wasn't expecting such a marked improvement.

    Here's a couple of pictures of them, alongside my portable rig;

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    The customs sounds good - shame they came with a fault though! Currently saving up to get my own, more confident now having your experience. Cheers man!
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    (Original post by stumcd)
    The customs sounds good - shame they came with a fault though! Currently saving up to get my own, more confident now having your experience. Cheers man!
    Yeah the fault was a pain, although it did serve to reinforce my decision to buy from a UK company- if I'd have gone with another manufacturer I'd have had to spend months without them waiting for them to be fixed, since my Mi-3s are only going to Wales they're only going to have been gone a week or so (And I've got yet another new set of headphones to keep me happy in the meantime =P).
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    (Original post by stumcd)
    The customs sounds good - shame they came with a fault though! Currently saving up to get my own, more confident now having your experience. Cheers man!

    (Original post by H.C. Chinaski)
    ok, thanks for the info .. I cannot stretch to the more costly pair, but am now considering the entry level pair. I would be interested in your feedback on performance after burn in and a little usage.

    Many thanks

    HC
    I've had the headphones back for a couple of weeks now after getting them repaired so I thought I'd put in one last post about the sound quality. The tldr version: Phenomenal, worth every penny. If you're still considering getting them, I really urge you to! I'd go into the details about the sound signature but I'd end up rattling on for ages, feel free to PM me if you want more information.

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