Custom in-ear monitors (or CIEMs) have seen a rise in popularity over the last few years, but it’s still a niche market. Most people are happy with their standard earphones. For professional musicians and audiophiles, however, CIEMs offer some serious advantages, but with those advantages come a bit of a higher cost.
Custom IEMs are worth the high cost if you are serious about your audio-listening experience. These are specifically manufactured to fit your ears and offer supreme sound quality, the perfect fit, durability, and maximum comfort.
To better understand why custom IEMs are worth the high cost, how they offer the best comfort, sound quality and durability, read on and explore the world of custom IEMs.
Why Are Custom IEMs Worth the High Cost?
The benefits of custom in-ear monitors (IEMs) are pretty well known: They’re lightweight, offer better sound isolation and fit more securely than traditional earbuds.
But the most compelling reason to buy a pair has to be the sound quality. For the earphones to sound their best, they have to be perfectly sealed in your ear canal, which is impossible with universal fit earphones as everyone’s ears are different.
Custom IEMs are worth the high cost because they are made specifically for you. Since they aren’t mass-produced, the manufacturing and processing costs are higher, but the final product is also intended to be superior.
They are called custom because they are made from a mold of your ears instead of being mass-produced. By design, custom in-ear monitors should fit much better than any universal fit earphones which allows them to offer good sound quality.
In addition, custom IEM manufacturers tend to be small companies, adding to the price.
Custom IEMs require several steps that other earphones don’t. First, they’re designed around ear impressions.
The manufacturing process usually involves hand-carving wax molds out of these impressions, which are then used to create the final product.
Just have a look at this extremely interesting video about how custom IEMs are made:
Besides the labor involved in manufacturing custom IEMs, here are other reasons why they are worth the high cost:
Custom IEMs Offer Impeccable Fit
The primary benefit of custom IEMs over universal models is that they have a snug fit. A universal IEM is designed to fit anyone who inserts it into their ear. It will likely not fit perfectly and may require some fiddling around to get the proper seal — or maybe no seal — but it should come close enough for most people’s needs. A custom IEM, on the other hand, is designed specifically for your ears.
This means it will fit like a glove and achieve an almost perfect seal every time you insert it.
This is particularly important for musicians and audio professionals who use their IEMs on stage or in the studio.
Unlike the foam or silicone tips that come stock on most earbuds, custom IEMs are molded to the exact shape of your ear canal and block out 26dB of ambient noise.
You can choose an IEM model with multiple balanced armature drivers or even one with a dynamic driver. Still, the real reason to go custom is for a precision fit that will keep your earphones securely in place during even the most intense workouts.
Custom in-ear monitors are also portable and discreet, so you can take them anywhere without calling attention to yourself —perfect for those who want the freedom to listen to music at their own volume without bothering others.
Custom IEMs Use High-Quality, Durable Material
One of the main reasons custom in-ear monitors (IEMs) are so expensive is because they are made using premium materials. Most companies use a blend of acrylic and silicone to achieve a durable yet comfortable material.
They also include some form of sound dampening agent, such as a wax or resin that helps block ambient noise.
Unlike traditional earphones that can easily break down after a year or two (significantly after dropping them), custom IEMs are engineered to withstand the daily wear and tear of being an audiophile. Because of the nature of this material and the process by which it’s created, each set is unique. This is also why custom IEMs need to be professionally fitted.
The ear impressions used to make them must be as accurate as possible to ensure proper fit, comfort, and response from your custom IEMs. This durability is largely why some musicians and audio professionals invest in custom IEMs.
Custom IEMs Are Extremely Comfortable
Most people will find custom in-ear monitors to be highly comfortable. They fit so well into your ear that you can barely feel them, and they don’t exert any pressure on your ears as over-ear headphones do.
They’re also great for sleeping in, and if you’re a side sleeper, you won’t have to worry about the headphone falling off your ear.
However, the deep insertion of the IEMs may be uncomfortable for some individuals with smaller ear canals.
Custom IEMs Have Supreme Sound Quality
While no two pairs of ears are the same, manufacturers of custom IEMs can effectively eliminate one of the biggest problems with traditional earbuds: ambient noise.
Because they fit snugly in your ear canal, custom IEMs block out external sounds like ringing phones, passing traffic, and crying babies that can otherwise interfere with your music listening experience.
If you’re an audiophile who appreciates the subtleties of different music genres and needs to hear every detail in your favorite songs, only custom IEMs will do.
How Much Do Custom IEMs Cost?
Custom IEMs cost as low as $500 and as high as $2,000 or more. They tend to have a wide range of features and price points. The most expensive models have extra features like wireless connectivity or noise cancellation technology built into the earbuds.
Typically, the main difference between low-cost and high-cost custom IEMs is the number of drivers they contain.
Drivers are small speakers built into headphones that focus on producing specific frequencies — like bass or treble. The more drivers a headphone has, the more detailed its sound will be.
High-end custom IEMs usually have six or eight drivers per earpiece, while cheaper models may have only one or two.
How Long Do Custom IEMs Last?
Custom IEMs last for 3 to 5 years when given the proper care. They do need regular maintenance to remain comfortable and sound their best. This involves cleaning them regularly and occasionally replacing the wax guards which keep ear wax out of the sound bore of your CIEMs.
Here are other ways of ensuring your CIEMs last longer:
Store Your IEMs Them Properly
When you’re not using your custom IEMs, it’s good to store them somewhere safe, so they don’t get damaged.
Your custom in-ear monitors come with a carrying case that you should use when keeping them or taking them out and about. Do not store your IEMs in high temperatures or humidity for extended periods.
Read more: This Is the Proper Way To Store IEMs
Don’t Wind the Cable Too Tightly
If you wrap the cord around an object too tightly, it will eventually become dislodged from the shell, and the cord will pull out of the socket. It’s best to let the cable drape loosely when not in use.
Winding the cable might also twist the wires inside, which can affect the quality or reduce the lifetime of the IEMs.
Clean Your IEMs Properly
To clean your IEMs and keep them tip-top shape, use a lightly-damped soft cloth with water (or a non-abrasive cleaner) to wipe off the earpiece and cable connection.
Do not use anything sharp or abrasive on the earpiece since this can damage the shell or faceplate.
Getting custom-made IEMs is generally a rewarding experience. They are comfortable, sound great, and they can also match your lifestyle, especially if you commute by bicycle or walk a lot.
Most importantly, these earphones can last you years if you take care of them and they will keep you happy with their sound quality, comfort, and customized fit during that entire time.
While they’re much more expensive than your average ear tips and headphones, they’re definitely worth the price to get something that can keep up with your endeavors in life.