2010

Basic Guide to In-Ear-Canalphone
Rev. 2
Summary of all the important basic knowledge regarding the acquiring, usage, maintenance, and health related issue about In-Ear-Canal headphone.

Tai (a.k.a. ClieOS) InEarMatters.net 1/19/2010

[Disclaimer]
This guide might contain error that I (the author) don’t know of. This guide is only meant to provide general information for newbie who newly venture into the canalphones’ world. If you find any error in this guide, please kindly point it out. Also note that some information within this guide are copied or modified from Etymotic, Shure, Headwize, Headroom and Wikipedia website. I do not reference all of them in the article, but links to the original page have all been listed at the end. The credit goes to the original writer / companies for providing the information online freely. Thanks. You (the reader) are free to distribute this guide for non commercial purpose. If you have any suggestion / opinion, please email me: ofeysow@gmail.com. Also,
visit my website @ InEarMatters.net for IEM news and reviews.

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net. 8 Pg. 7 Pg. 10 Pg. 18 Pg. I have a budget now. which companies should I be looking at? References Pg. 11 Pg. 18 Pg.Contents What is an In-Ear-Canalphone? I thought IEM/canalphone is also called 'earbud'? Why noise isolation and not Active Noise Cancellation? Transducer Types Choosing the right eartips Eartips’ size Eartips: Factors for comfort How to use your IEM Cleaning and maintaining your IEM and eartips Static Electricity Discharge through IEM Does "burn in" or "break in" IEM necessary? Is headphone amp necessary for IEM? Microphonic and Bone Conduction Hissing and Sibilance IEM and Health In regard to IEMs' frequency response Is IEM worth the money? IEM's basic Pros and Cons OK. 12 Pg. 15 Pg. what class of IEM should I be looking of? How about Custom Molded IEM? So I am ready to get some serious IEM. 4 Pg. 15 Pg. 23 *If you read Chinese / 中文. 21 Pg. 5 Pg. thanks to a few good fellows @ erji. 17 Pg. 14 Pg. 6 Pg. 13 Pg. 19 Pg. 3 . you can find the translated works here. 20 Pg. 14 Pg. 16 Pg. 14 Pg.

specially tuned (and often custom molded) canalphones have been used on stage very early on by musicians and audio engineers alike. as canalphone manufacturer began to make high quality canalphone available for the general consumer (iPod generation). or In-Ear-Monitor (IEM). high sound quality and noise blocking ability. the earphone’s nozzle along with its tip (or sleeve) is inserted into the front part of the ear canal. For the purpose of this guide. Later. ear-canal headphone. is a type of Inter Aural headphone that is designed to be used where the user’s ear canal is sealed by the ‘phone. [Basic components of an IEM] IEM in picture: Westone UM2 4 . To create such as a seal. Many high end canalphones are custom molded for comfort and perfect seal. we will refer to all canalphones as IEM. canalphones used in such system are referred as IEM. These canalphones are part of the In-Ear-Monitor-System (IEMS). For the ease of naming. ear-canalphone. also known as canalphone. only canalphones on an IEMS should be called an IEM. Technically speaking. Sometime ‘IEM’ is also used only to refer to high quality canalphone. Is it a canalphone or an IEM? Due to its great portability. which can be either wired or wireless. The seal generally serves two functions: 1) blocks noise and 2) forms a sealed acoustic chamber to achieve a fuller sound. there is no hard definition on the word ‘IEM’ and it is easier for general consumer to use a simpler terminology. the word ‘IEM’ becomes popular thus replacing ‘canalphone’ as how we refer to all canalphones.What is an In-Ear-Canalphone? In-Ear-Canalphone. However.

4). 5 . they don't think there is any difference. Inter aural headphone. They can have headband or clip-on to increase comfort. [Picture of various types of IEM] On the other hand. [Picture of various types of earbuds] Earbuds are worn in the opening of the ear. IEM and earbud each refer to two different kinds of Inter Aural headphones.I thought IEM/canalphone is also called 'earbud'? No. It refers to headphone with transducer small enough to be placed / worn in the outer ear.. but they do not form an air-tight seal to the ear canal as they are not intended to go into the ear canal. The two major types of inter aural headphone are earbud and canalphone. The reason why so many websites mislabeled IEM as 'earbud' is simply because. canalphones / IEM are intended to be partially inserted into the ear canal to create an air-tight seal (reasons explained at Pg.. is sometime known as earphone. or in-the-ear headphone. often just outside of the opening of ear canal.

By combining the two. ANC is generally more effective at canceling very low freq. While all the Shure‘s IEMs in the test provide 29 dB ~ 37 dB of isolation. ANC headphones do not always provide better noise reduction in comparison to IEM. Hopefully we will see more attention being paid on this area. Here are some measurements taken from tests done at the Auditory Systems Lab at Virginia Tech University on isolation vs. Also. In contrast.Why noise isolation and not Active Noise Cancellation (ANC)? Despite their larger size. IEM provide better noise reduction without sacrificing SQ. noise while IEM is more effecting at isolating mid – treble freq. the result of ANC headphone are not as great as one might believe: Bose QC2: 20dB (77% of ambient noise) Sennheiser PXC-250: 11dB (58% of ambient noise) Sony MDR-NC20: 8 dB (40% of ambient noise) A more recent market trend is to combine ANC technology with IEM. However. noise canceling. 6 . we have yet to see any ANC-IEM capable of address their biggest weakness – sound quality. you can get the best of both worlds. The upside about this is. many ANC headphones’ sound quality (SQ) is often found to be ‘second class’ at best (in comparison to the price you pay for them).

The downside of BA transducer is its higher price tag. Also worth noting. [Picture of dynamic transducer] Dynamic (moving coil) transducer is often found on low to entry class IEM due to their easy availability and lower cost (relative to BA transducer). Of course. therefore you should avoid most of them as much as possible if sound quality is your priority.fi 5 EB) that utilize both dynamic and BA transducer together in order to have the best of both worlds. They commonly range from 8mm to 16mm in diameter. More air movement means stronger bass sensation as we tend to ‘feel’ more about low end bass than actually hearing it. Dynamic transducer is known for their ability to create a more powerful bass response since relatively more air is moved during sound reproduction. For more info about transducer. However. There are also hybrid-IEMs (ie. [Pictures of BA transducer] BA transducer has the benefit of being really small. review of such type of IEM often contains mixed opinion. The downside of using dynamic transducer on IEM is its larger side. one of the very first IEM manufacturers. please visit wikipedia. therefore you can easily find many IEM maker using two or three BA transducers in each side of their ‘phone. most noticeably Future Sonics. there are also IEM manufacturers specialize in producing high end dynamic transducer IEM. many big brand name manufacturers use dynamic transducer of relatively low sound quality in their IEM. By dedicating at least one of the BA transducer as a woofer. UE Super. The use of multiple BA transducers partially solves the bass problem as BA transducer moves a lot less air than dynamic transducer (and noticeably less low end bass). 7 . multi-ways IEM tend to perform better on bass than most single-way BA transducer IEM (but not always).Transducer types There are two major types of transducer being used on IEM: Dynamic and Balanced Armature (BA) transducers.

Universal soft plastic eartips such as Etymotic tri-flanges and bi-flanges allows user to insert the eartips to a suitable and often relatively deeper canal depth to create the seal (which sometime can be seen as too intrusive to the user). Custom mold are commonly found on high-end IEM (or ‘custom IEM’) where the transducers are part of the tips. please read the following PDF file provided by Shure. it ensures a perfect seal while 8 . 1 dot = small. For real measurement. However. foam tips are generally being considered to be most comfortable and provide a better seal. Shure black foam is one of most popular foam tips in the market as they are quite comfortable and designed to be user cleanable (see section: Cleaning and maintaining your IEM and eartips). 2 dots = medium.e. Most foam tips are not washable and require replacement after a few weeks of use (see section: Cleaning and maintaining your IEM and eartips. foam. custom IEM has become more and more popular on mid-end IEM market too (like those found on Livewire and Alien Ears). Pg. but less common). fuller and often more enjoyable sound than soft plastic tips. and custom mold with hard acrylic or soft silicone materials (there are also hybrid hard/soft mold. often silicone or PVC based). The tighter seal means foam tips tend to give a warmer. Size-dependent soft plastic eartips such as Shure soft flex sleeves have three sizes: small. The biggest advantage of custom mold is its fit. User selects the size of the eartips based on their comfort of the seal. Shure yellow foam) and size-dependent (Shure black foam). Beside custom mold. and large. They are now made with dots on the bottom of the sleeve. middle. Unlike soft plastic tips. custom molded tips can also be ordered to fit universal IEM (IEM that are designed to use soft plastic or foam tips). Foam tips also have two versions: Universal (i. Soft plastic eartips have two versions: Universal and size-dependent. 13). Since the mold is custom made to match each user. Recently. 3 dots = large.Choosing the right eartips [Eartips of various kinds] Three types of eartips that can be commonly found on IEM: soft plastic (also known as ‘flanges’ or ‘sleeves’. foam tips are often nozzle’s diameter specific and cannot be used on IEM with different nozzle diameter (unless modification has been made). Comply also manufacture different types of foam tips for different IEM. Foam tips made by Comply are often considered to be the most comfortable.

Note: Eartips often found to have effect on sound quality of the IEM. please visit the link to Head-fi.org 9 .providing the best comfort and SQ (which is why many musicians prefer custom mold). You should always try different options of eartips to find the most preferable.org. For visual reference of different type of eartips. For visual reference of different IEMs' size. please visit this thread on Head-fi.

user will notice that bass is weaker than normal or not presented. 10 . inserting a foreign object into the ear canal can feel very uncomfortable in the first few times. Using an eartip that is larger than needed often left the user with burning sensation or pain in the ear canal with in a very short period of use. In order to overcome this issue. choosing the right type of tips of the right size and a bit of patient is often needed. Using an eartip that is smaller than needed will result in either a weak seal or air/sound leakage.Eartips’ size [Picture shows UE's eartips of various sizes] Choosing the correct eartips’ size to use on IEM ensures a perfect seal. *One should note that despite the best fit. In such situation. and the IEM tips will fall out from the ear canal very easily. which in term translate to better comfort and improved sound quality.

Even though personal preference plays a big role as what constitute comfort. the smaller and lower profiles the earpiece. mainly regarding flanges using IEM (Foam tips generally don’t get affected as much by the factors below as they are often very soft and don’t feel as intrusive). silicone is softer thus more comfortable than PVC. allow user to fully insert them shallowly (roughly 8~9mm fully inserted). Factor One: Shallow vs. but OK isolation. noticeably those like EP-630 and CX300. soft plastic eartips can be made from silicone or PVC with various thicknesses.fi series all have very large and extrusive earpieces. Note that silicone tips don’t all have the same hardness/sponginess. variable thickness. thinner eartips will provide less isolation. Deep insertion means better seal thus more isolation. small earpiece = comfortable with great isolation. but less comfortable. Example 5: RE1 big bi-flanges . give both yourself and your IEM sometime before calling it quit – you might even fall in love w/ that you found to be uncomfortable at first. Here is how these factors affect comfort: Example 1: UE single flange – shallow insert. thick. Example 2: CX300 single flange – shallow insert. mid thickness. This is why UE are often considered to be uncomfortable as their Super. Example 3: ER6i tri-flanges – deep insert. therefore don’t rush to judgment.fi and Triple. the more comfortable it will be. Factor Three: Flanges’ Thickness The rule is. Example 4: SA6 bi-flanges . thin. the thinner the eartip the more comfortable it will be. The shallow insertion means less intrusion and isolation. 11 . However. hard/spongy. but great isolation. My advice to you is. Deep Insertion Most single flanges IEM. thick. small earpiece = very comfortable with good isolation Remember: It takes time to get used to certain kind of eartips. Factor Two: Flanges’ Material As the most commonly used eartips.deep insert. soft. soft. Generally speaking. now we will discuss how other factors will affect comfort.deep insert. large earpiece = not so comfortable. but less isolation. but more comfortable to the user.Eartips: Factors for comfort We have talk about the importance of a perfect seal in regard of SQ and the basic design of eartips. Factor Four: Earpiece's Design The earpiece that houses the transducer plays a role too. variable softness. soft w/ slightly spongy. Basically. it often will change w/ time. small earpiece = not so comfortable. Most multiple flanges IEM will require user to insert them deeply (>9mm fully inserted). small earpiece = comfortable.

pull up and back on your ear to straighten your ear canal. operating machinery. bicycling or jogging is not recommended. Using IEM while driving a motorized vehicle. Do not pull on the cord to remove it from the jack or the ear. Proper usage:        Set the volume control of the audio source to minimum. Using your right hand. holding the IEM in place until the foam expands to produce a seal. With the opposite hand. Do not use the IEM at excessively loud levels (see more at section: IEM and Health). Insert the 3.. Remove IEM slowly with a twisting motion to gradually break the seal. pull up and back on your right ear to straighten your ear canal.    Compress the foam eartip by rolling it between your fingers. Carefully insert the right IEM so that it seals deeply and comfortably in your ear. Foam Eartips Make sure the shiny side of the foam tips will be facing your eardrum when inserted. because you may not be alerted to potential danger. grasp the eartip of the right IEM With your left hand. Avoid bending the barrel of the cord.5mm IEM plug into the headphone jack. Set the volume control to a comfortable listening level. Carefully insert the foam tip into the ear canal. using the left IEM. 12 . moisten the soft plastic eartips before insertion.How to use your IEM For Insertion and Removal of Soft Plastic Eartips View Earphone Insertion Video on Etymotic’s website. Repeat procedure for the left ear.       For best results.

Soft plastic tips should be washed in warm soapy water when they become oily or dirty. some seems strong but crack easily. Be careful not to let any moisture enter the nozzle opening. introduced in spring 2007) can be washed by simply wiping off any debris from the outside of the tips with a warm. This will ensure the longevity of the cable and prevent from skin oil interacting with the cable. If moisture does enter the IEM it may not perform properly. Clean the tips and cable when needed (at least once a month). ALWAYS let the IEM and tips completely dry before placing the tips back on the IEM. which should allow the moisture to evaporate in 24 to 48 hours. If you exercise with your IEM. remember that there is no better ways to keep an IEM clean than cleaning your ear canal regularly (more on section: IEM and Health) For universal IEM: If at any time the eartips does not maintain a grip on the earphone nozzle. Shure black foam tips (known as ‘Shure olives’ among head-fi’er. well-ventilated area. and sometime. like any cable. For custom IEM. remove it from the IEM first. 13 . replaceable cable can actually make a difference in SQ. damp paper towel. If one or both side of the IEM stops working or has reduced volume. Make sure that the tips slides all the way on to the base of the IEM’s nozzle (past the nozzle bump if there is one). a user replaceable cable is better non-replaceable.some seems weak but actually strong. A damp paper towel with mild soap will suffice. especially areas of the cable that come in contact with your skin. The more care you put on your IEM. However. First of all. In the long run. If moisture does cause one or both IEM to function at reduced level. clean the IEM nozzle and replace the tips with a new set. will eventually harden up and crack. you should clean the cable and tips more frequently. To do this. Remember. Carefully clean the IEM housing and nozzle to remove any wax or oil residue. Un-washable foam tips should be discarded if they become dirty. change the IEM’s filter (see note 1) or clean the nozzle opening with the provided tool. dry out. or no longer compress and expand fully (see note 1). and twist and pull the tips from the nozzle. *Do not use alcohol-based cleaners or those that contain bleach. Do not pick at the tips as it may cause it to tear. To clean the tips. discard the tips. grasp the tips between your thumb and index finger.Cleaning and maintaining your IEM and eartips Maintaining a clean set of IEM will keep your eartips lasting longer and provide a better seal. different manufacturer use cable of different quality . the longer it will last. clean the shell of the IEM with tissue and make sure the nozzle isn’t blocked by earwax after every use. IEM's cable. leave the IEM out of their carrying case in a dry.

It is important to note that such static discharges are "acts of nature" and do not indicate that one's IEM are defective. It is often just a case of choose-to-believe. the general consensus is BA based IEM doesn’t benefit (as much) from the burn-in process while some dynamic IEM does show sign of improvement after a period of burn-in. A static charge often has a high enough voltage to leap from one's ear to the metal inside of the IEM. often used for dissolving earwax) for a short period of time (15 minutes or so) can partially clean the foam and extend its lifespan. The same principle applies to user removable filter and earwax clot on nozzle opening.that is from the writer's personal experience with multiple IEM. but not all. most IEM in the market do not need any amp to reach their full potential. Nor will the static discharge cause harm to the IEM. Though one's ears are touching the plastic parts of the IEM. e. though the discharge itself can startle. it is easy to build up a static charge on one's body. discharging the static electricity via the cable and into the device playing the audio signal. Static Electricity Discharge through IEM It is possible to experience a static electricity discharge though IEM. Less sensitive IEMs. Does "burn in" or "break in" IEM necessary / real? There is no definitive scientific answer on whether headphone burn-in exists or not. The amount of electrical current in such a static discharge is not harmful. so don’t bother asking for one. often require an amp to function at its best. Do a search in various forums regarding individual IEM for more information. Is headphone amp necessary for IEM? Some very few IEM do need an amp to shine.g. even when amping sometime does show sign of slight improvement on SQ. If you do believe in burn-in. In a cold climate with low humidity. CD player or MP3 player.Note 1: Experiment done by Head-fi’er has shown that by gently dipping the foam in pharmacy’s grade peroxide solution (also known as eardrop. such as Etymotic ER4S. However. The cable that carries the audio signal from the headphone jack to the IEM has metallic wire inside.. two days (roughly 50hrs) of random music playback with your normal listening volume is generally good enough for most IEM . there is metallic wire inside. 14 . A piece of advice: If you are really considering burn-in you IEM. This wire is also a path to ground through which the static charge can travel.

these kind of IEM produce very sharp sounding upper mid or treble that are often found to be very irritating and uncomfortable for long term listening. it is known as 'hissing'. Most IEM are very sensitive therefore it is easy for them to pick up electrical background noise that generally other headphone will ignore. IEM that have less than 50 ohms impedance and more than 98 dB on sensitivity most certainly doesn't require an amp to sound at its best. Microphonic can be ‘grounded’ by wearing the IEM in over-the-ear style or using a shirt-clip to stop the sound transmission.. There is no real fix on this issue. This kind of sound is most commonly noticed in female vocal presentation. Microphonic is the phenomenon where the IEM user can hear noise (caused by IEM’s cable brushes against clothing or another object) transmitted by the cable into the IEM. but sometime adding an inline resistor adapter (to increase the impedance and lowering the sensitivity) seems to work.The easy way of telling which IEM needs amping is contained in the spec. most users will get used to both and eventually forget about them. Both of these phenomenons are the side effect of sealing the ear canal and forming an acoustic chamber that enhance such noise. Some companies offer better cable that doesn't exhibit microphonic as much. The problem is. Bone conduction is the phenomenon where the IEM user can hear noise (caused by body motion such as eating and walking) transmitted within the body. IEM with highlighted 1kHz ~ 10kHz region in sound freq. some IEM will sound sibilant to many while completely fine to others. EQing is perhaps one of the most effective solutions. certain source (such as one type of HDD based iPod) is known to produce more electrical noise. 15 . Microphonic and Bone Conduction Two of the most common complaints from new IEM user are microphonic (or ‘cable noise’) and bone conduction (or ‘occlusion effect’). resp. Also. Sometime. The general guideline is. In the end. Hissing and Sibilance Sometime IEM user can hear a background electrical noise from their source when the volume is low. followed by modification on the IEM itself (mostly on filter and nozzle by adding damping material). Bone conduction can be limited by stop eating and walking softly (changing shoe). is also referred as being 'sibilance' or 'harsh'. Due to the fact that everybody has a difference hearing freq. There is no actual fix for this issue.

2) Second. For more info on hearing protection. regardless of what kind of headphone (or speaker) you used. We all love music. The lower volume used in IEM means IEM is actually much safer than using earbuds or headphones in a noisy environment. it does have negative impact on human health. Remember: hearing loss is irreversible. However. Accidentally pushing earwax into the inside of your canal may result in clotting or even infection (if the clot breaks your eardrum). but it doesn't mean we'll have to listen to it 24/7.IEM and Health IEM is often mistaken as a kind of health hazard which responsible for hearing loss and ear infection. First. In a case of ear infection. even in low sound pressure level. 16 . both physically and mentally. Therefore it is recommended that you occasionally remove your IEM during use to allow air circulation and canal well relaxation (and for your middle/inner-ear to catch a break from the constant sound wave bombardment). even in low volume. It is my advice. Visit a doctor immediately. you need to understand that listening music at loud volume over time can damage your hearing. It is a way for body to defend itself against foreign object and the increase of bacterial population due to the sealed moist environment. please listen to your music at the minimum volume you need. though might not based on any hard finding. that you should be caution when you decide to listen to your music for a long period of time. your body will respond to any object inserted into your ear canal by producing more ear wax. Cleaning your ear canal out of wax in regular interval is also recommended. *In short. and don’t listen to music continuously for too long. People who constantly expose themselves to low noise environment are much easier to develop serious illness. IEM is just as safe as any headphone on the same volume (scientific references 1. On extra note: human don't naturally expose to long period of noise. keep your ear canal and IEM clean. so please use common sense and take care of yourself. IEM is very safe when properly used. Do not think that IEM will cause damage to your hearing as it is closer to your eardrum. The fact is. The advantage of using an IEM is that you can turn your volume down since you do not need excess volume to overcome ambient noise. please ask your doctor on how to safely cleaning your earwax before attending to do it yourself. visit Etymotic. Recent study done by WHO has suggested that although low noise environment (as low as 45 ~ 55dB SPL) doesn't cause hearing loss. As long as the volume is low. do not use any kind of headphone.

especially once a person pass his/her twenty. although can't hear sound beyond 20KHz. If you are interesting in learning more about frequency response. but let’s assume the conclusion is real). Some of you might have read from elsewhere that human.In regard to IEMs' frequency response Wonder why so many people tell you that IEM are very reveling and full of detail. you'll have to go back to analog record (LP) or get SACD or DVD-A. as human tend to interpret sound b/w 5kHz to 16kHz as 'high' and most detail are actually on the lower region. giving that almost all CD. it doesn't tell us how good it will sound. resp. most adult can't actually (or at least have difficulty) hear sound above 16kHz. When it comes to picking up a pair of headphone. although freq. Why do headphone manufacturers highlight frequency response for over 20kHz or 30kHz when they know it has little or no direct impact on SQ? Because general consumer doesn’t know the fact and often believe 'more is better' without realizing it is often no more than a marketing trick. does tell us a bit about how headphone (including IEM) might sound. we can safely conclude that most music we listen these days doesn't come with any meaningful sound beyond 20KHz that can be reproduced by your headphone or IEM. However. your ears are much more trust worthy than your eyes. Don't worry about losing treble/detail over 16kHz. yet most IEM don't seem to go pass 16kHz when you look at their frequency response? Here is the reason: Although human hearing range are listed at 20 Hz to 20000 Hz. lossy and lossless music produced these days have a cap on 20KHz in recording / encoding. the best way is to read its review (or better yet. For a better understanding of which IEM is more detail. can still feel the present of ultrasound (and the harmonic distortion caused by ultrasound) and it does have a positive effect on SQ (*the involving studies are in controversy. an audition). here is an article that might provide you with more information. If you want to listen to a recording that does include sound beyond 20KHz. you'll still need equipments that capable of playing those sound back. but mind you. Note that. 17 .

when paying the same amount of money. ☺ IEM's basic Pros and Cons [+] Noise isolation = safer listening volume [+] Portability with great SQ [-] Maintenance Required [-] Narrow soundstage [-] Price/Performance ratio is lower than large size headphone. Once the decision is being made. However. It is often found that. don't rush in and post a thread asking for recommendation . One does not venture lightly into the land of IEM and hope to survive unharmed. portability.Is IEM worth the money? This is a question you need to answer for yourself. you need to figure out your budget limit. 18 . when. how do you going to use your 'phone will determine whether an IEM is best for you or not. why. bigger headphone provides better SQ than IEM of the same price. Do some research in the forum. where.more than often the question has been asked and those who have answered previously might not be in the mood to answer the same question twice (or the tenth times). IEM has certain advantage over headphone such as noise isolation and portability that should also be considered. You need to get your priority straight: Do you want the best in SQ. or a bit of both? What.

and often they are found to be very good for their price. you are looking at Entry Class IEM. many Low Budget and Entry Class IEM are often overpriced by their manufacturers (to appear as a higher class). you are looking at the Low Budget Class. but unfortunately it is rather difficult to find such a place. Beyond $300. you will find mostly dynamic IEM with better SQ and one-way BA transducer IEM. In this class. If you really have that much money to spend. you are looking for Middle Class IEM. so reading pass review often isn’t enough to determine the actual value of an IEM. therefore you should not use it as an absolute guide when buying an IEM. The simplest way to find you ideal IEM actually does require some works and it is ‘research.OK. You will also find budget custom IEM in this class. Many IEM in this class are two-ways or above. what class of IEM should I be looking of? It is very difficult to divide IEM of different SQ (and sometime. Be warned of two things: First. For $100 to $300. Here is my point of view: For US$50 or less. and sometime it is overvalued. a custom IEM in this class can easily costs over $1000. and ask those who has more experience for advice. Second. In such class. you will find dynamic and two-way BA transducers IEM worthy of being classified as audiophile's grade. harsh or no treble at all. offering SQ that can rival most big size headphones. and more research. In this class. prices are often determined by demand.’ Reminder: All of the above is just my point of view. It would be most perfect if you can audition your targeted IEM before paying for them. Low budget class contents dynamic IEMs that provide relatively small noise isolation (which often found to use single flanges tips) and SQ slightly better (or on par) of iBud. Sometime great IEM is undervalued. Such class of IEM generally is found to have very colored sound signature. 19 . the SQ is generally considered to be better than your average earbud and able to compete with sub-$100 headphone. their price) into different classes. therefore judging them by price only will not suffice. In all. one can define them as a pair of acceptably good earbud. research. you are looking at High End IEM. The best way of determine IEM's price/performance ratio is to read reviews. For $50 to $100. I have a budget now. bloated bass. IEM is one of the most active sections of the headphone market. but with isolation.

the product life cycle (how long you are expected to use the product) of custom is quite short. The reason is. therefore your ears will change in a couple of years thus render your custom useless as it isn't custom to your ear anymore. There are companies in the market that do provide reshelling service for custom IEM from another company. Generally speaking. the more likely you will need to a new mold sooner. but with a high price tag. budget custom like LiveWires or HearYourSelf. Note. The experience varies from person to person on different age group thus there is no definite answer to how long your custom will fit your ears. many IEM companies do not re-shell / remold old IEM.How about Custom Molded IEM? [UE11 Pro. but often the impression isn't as good as those from professional. A few things you might want to know before investing into Custom: 1) A good impression is essential for a good fit.com are among some of the best budget custom IEM makers out there. Check out the next chapter for more IEM makers. Trying to save cost and time by using DIY kit sometime will cost more time and money as you will need to redo the impression again and again to get a good fit. 2) Unlike universal IEM. DIY impression kit is very simple to use. 20 . thus you should ask the corresponding company about detail of remolding service before ordering. There are also exceptions that people are able to use their custom for more than 4 yrs. often estimated to be less than 4 yrs. custom molded IEM are very good in quality. your ears will keep growing / changing till you kick the dust. You should expect to get a new custom (or at least a remold of your old custom IEM) every few years in order to prolong its shell life. If you are not those who have an unlimited budget. the younger you are. providing quality products with the advantage of custom yet cost much less than products from big name companies like UE. costing over US$1000] Generally speaking. or even turning universal IEM into custom.

here are a few IEM manufacturers that you might want to pay more attention to (in alphabetical order): Universal IEM brand list:                                           AKG Apple Audio-Technica BeyerDynamics Bose Creative Cresyn (Korea) CrossRoads (Singapore) Denon Dunu (China) ECCI (China) Etymotic Fischer Audio (Russia) Future Sonics Head-Direct / HiFiMAN Hippo (Singapore) JAYS JVC Kenwood Klipsch Maximo MEElectronics Microsonic Music Monster NuForce Ortofon (Japan) OVC (China) Phiaton Phonak (Swiss) Radius (Japan) Roland Sennheiser Shure Sleek Audio Sony SoundMAGIC (China) SunRise (China) Ultimate Ears V-moda Vsonic (China) Westone Woodees 21 .So I am ready to get some serious IEM. which companies should I be looking at? If you believe you are ready to get into the serious (and often more expensive) part of the IEM games.

please don't hesitate to email me.Custom IEM brand list:                       Advanced Communication Solutions (UK) Alien Ears Compact Monitors (Germany) E. There will always be new and better IEM / manufacturers waiting for us to discover.S. so check out the online forums and my website (InEarMatters. EarSonics (France) EarSound Customs Fidelity Custom Earphones Fisher Hearing (with reshell service.R.A. ***The original LiveWires team is now separated into two companies. inc.net) regularly. U. Singapore) Sensaphonics Sleek Audio StarKey Ultimate Ears Unique Melody (with reshell service) Westone The above list is not exclusive. EarPeace Technologies (CA) is holding the original LiveWires brand name while In Ear Systems (TN) operates under new brand name "Fidelity Custom Earphones" but producing what seems to be the same dual driver IEM (plus new models). 22 . If you wish to see a company being added to the list.) FitEar (Japan) Future Sonics iNCREDIBLE eARS Insono (France) JH Audio LiveWires *** Microsonic Music Null Audio (Reshell only.

ER•4 Instructions For Use Headroom .Ear Canal Headphones Headwize .Shure earphones and headphone amp? Shure .How can I tell which sleeve size I am using? Wikipedia -headphones Wikipedia -Psychoacoustics 23 ."burning in" earphones or "breaking in" earphones Shure .A Quick Guide To Headphones Headwize .Isolation of Shure earphones and NRR rating Shure .References Etymotic .Judging Headphones For Accuracy Shure .Diminished sound in one ear Shure .Cleaning and maintaining Earphones and Sleeves Shure .Static Electricity Discharge through Headphones / Earphones? Shure .