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
) 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.
(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.
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 [=
Last edited by Gofre; 14-04-2012 at 22:48.
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 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!
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.
I had a further look at the amp you mentioned in another thread and it does seem rather good too.
Here's a couple of pictures of them, alongside my portable rig;
Last edited by Gofre; 15-05-2012 at 12:35.