Custom IEM Recommendations - Headfonia Reviews

Best Custom IEMs

These are the best Custom IEM ‘s on the market, the very best CIEM. The list is sorted based on price, starting from the lowest to the most expensive. This is an ever-evolving list. There are so many good-sounding CIEMs out there that we can’t list them all, but here are our favorites for now.

Shozy ELSA [Added 03/04/2022]

I pretty much liked the new Shozy Elsa and it especially impressed me with its coherency and consistent tonality. In today’s market, you have full of hybrids and tribrids everywhere, whilst Shozy came up with a conventional C/IEM which may sound boring at first. But they certainly nailed the tuning with those 5 BA drivers, and Elsa sounds just like how a serious audiophile monitor should do.

I don’t know if this performance has something to do with the unit being a custom variant, but I’m sure the universal one sounds very capable too.

$749 from Shozy HK


Craft Ears Craft Six

Craft Ears Craft Six [Added 06/07/2021]

Just like with their Craft Four, Craft Ears has managed to deliver an overall very well-performing monitor. You get a good mix between musicality and technical performance, which is something almost everyone likes. The Craft Six keywords for me are clarity, precision, note extension, and balance (coherence).

With the Craft Six, you simply get a high-quality sound with a musical delivery. The Craft Six is getting the very most out of its drivers with a technically strong performance and a smooth musical tuning as a result. Great sound, a good price, and an overall excellent performer. That’s what the Craft Six is offering, and it easily deserves a spot in our Buying Guide

€965 from Craft Ears


Shozy Pola 39

Shozy & AAW Pola 39 (Added 18/12/2019)

Hybrids with Electrostatic drivers are hot right now but not everyone gets it right. Shozy and AAW however did, and how!

Pola 39 gives you a fresh, very clean, and energetic sound without ever becoming harsh or analytical. Shozy’s Pola 39 is the ideal marriage between technicalities and musicality and I fully recommend it to everyone who appreciates technicalities but still wants to enjoy their tunes to the fullest.

$1,050USD from Shozy$1,050USD from Shozy


Do note that the universal original POLA still holds a spot on our recommended universal IEM list



Are you searching for a sound that is exactly like your studio monitors in a custom in-ear? Look no further, this is one of your answers in this industry. You can add a little more color into the mix with a nice copper cable as well. This is not a monitor for those who seek a luscious sound with big bass and vivid mids. You have to have the experience and ear training to appreciate what this monitor marvelously puts on the table. In my audiophile journey, the IEMs that caused me a “wow” are no more than the fingers of one hand. Well, this one has already managed to be on my very special list of very special IEMs, and that should tell something.

$1090 from P-EAR-S


JH Audio JH13V2 PRO

JH Audio JH13V2 PRO

Everyone likes, dislikes, and prefers different things when listening to music, but for me – in the context of pure enjoyment – this is one of the best, if not THE best custom monitors in my 30+ collection. As a result, it comes as no surprise that this monitor goes straight to Headfonia’s best (custom) IEM list and it, without doubt, is a recommended buy if you’re in the market for a top-quality monitor that will make you fall in love with all of your music again.

$1299 from JH Audio


Ultimate Ears 18+PRO

The new UE 18+PRO comes with the new True Tone drivers, the Linum SuperBax cable, and a new IPX connector. On top of that, it also sounds heavenly and it has the best hard case ever. If you take into account the fact that it only has six drivers, then there’s no other choice than to put the UE18+PRO on our recommended CIEM list. Yes, it’s that good and special, even for $1499.

$1499 from Ultimate Ears



Unique Melody MEST MKII [Added 12/10/2021]

What a great monitor Unique Melody has built with the MEST. If you like a musical sound with good speed, clarity, precision, and detail, you will love the Unique Melody MEST.

MEST delivers great bass, lovely mid-range timbre, and energetic treble and it mixes that up with a wide and deep sound stage. The bone conduction driver gives the MEST something extra which we haven’t experienced before and I am sure many other brands will follow UM’s example. For me, the MEST, in custom form, is an almost perfect all-around monitor which punches way above its price point. We don’t give scores here on HFN but if I would this monitor would get an easy 9 out of 10.

$1,799 from Unique Melody


64 Audio A12t

64Audio A12T

Audio has made quite an impact on my listening experiences. The A12t has won me over with a few short sessions and has made it quick on my shortlist of top monitors. With its thunderous bass, smooth and emotional mids, and superb TIA extension the A12t convinces me on all fronts. Together with the high resolution, big sound stage, and great transparency the A12t puts a wide smile on my face when listening to my favorite albums. I fully recommend the A12t to anyone who’s looking for a powerful and smooth monitor that excels on technicalities and can be hooked up to virtually any source with its linear impedance behavior. It certainly sets the bar high for its competition to take the crown as CIEM of the year. Exciting times ahead.

$1999 from 64Audio


Softears Cerberus (23/09/2021)

The custom Cerberus has a more definitive and extending treble. Even more than that, the bass has better impact and the mid-range is more consistent. The CIEM version is truly a complete warm-sounding flagship with an excellent and very special sound that you can’t find often.

For the sound quality alone, Softears Cerberus is a fantastic flagship IEM in terms of tuning. Once you listen to the Cerberus and witness that refinement from a top-tier source, it’s not easy to go back to other IEMs. I put aside a lot of my IEMs to listen to the Cerberus. It’s far from being a bang for buck product, but to the people who know what they’re looking for, and have good ears, it will prove itself every single time.

$2099 from Softears



Vision Ears VE8

The VE8 is Vision Ears latest development and it only just has been released. I without doubt can say this is one of the very best 8-driver monitors in my collection. The VE8 delivers a very balanced sound where bass, mids, and treble have the same body and perfectly flows into each other. The VE8 strongest point is its clarity, precision, and extension. Could this be the very best treble I’ve ever heard from a CIEM? While the VE8 is expensive it really is very good. If you don’t have the money budget for one I advise you not to listen to it, cause you’ll be hooked even after listening to half a song already.

€2330 from Vision Ears


AAW Canary

Advanced AcousticWerkes Canary

The Canary does make a lot of things right, maybe it doesn’t lead the hoard in any particular segment, but it presents an excellent tuning balance and for me is one of the top CIEMs in my collection. Canary doesn’t seem to step a foot wrong but rather plays it safe. It doesn’t risk anything to go beyond its abilities, which makes it a nice enjoyable ride.

From $2,199 (universal)/ $2,499 (custom)


qdc Anole VX

qdc Anole VX

qdc has created a flagship monitor that definitely plays in the big leagues and rivals some of the global players. The Anole VX to me stands head-to-head with some of the industry’s finest IEMs and deserves every spotlight it can get. qdc shows us, that in spite of the recent trend of multi-driver, multi-tech hybrid flagship monitors, an all BA design can still be very competitive.

The switch system of the Anole VX makes it a very versatile monitor. I can see many people being taken care of with it. People that enjoy a good neutral-ish sound, others that want more bass, vocal lovers, and treble heads. They all can find what they are looking for in qdc’s Anole VX. My personal favorite is the standard setting, as I just love the balanced sound with superb body and soul.

For a long time, qdc has been a hidden gem to the Western world, but now they have entered our scene, and they are here to stay.

From $2436 (universal) to $2647 (custom)


64 Audio A18t

The A18t is to be the most resolving and balanced sounding monitor out there, with the absolute best treble ever paired with the most impressive sound stage of all. Bass that goes deep and is dynamically liquid and realistic. Thick and life-like mids on top of that. Within 30 seconds you can change the signature of it from powerful bass to the richest treble by going from the M20 to the M15 module. These and many more reasons made the A18 Tzar go directly to my short-list for Custom In-Ear Monitor of the year (2017)!

$2999 from 64 Audio


Unique Melody Mason V3+

Unique Melody Mason V3+

What an exceptional monitor the Unique Melody Mason V3+ is. I was expecting a lot as I already love the Maestro V1 and the V3, but the Mason V3+ is the best so far.

The Mason V3+ plays well with all the sources I used it with and it certainly is one of the very best CIEMs on the market at this point. A top quality monitor with these high-end qualities doesn’t come cheap, but what you get in return is one of the very best IEMs out there

$3,199 USD from Unique Melody


Vision Ears Elysium

The Vision Ears Elysium is a great hybrid monitor and an absolute joy to listen to. No, “great” doesn’t really do it enough justice, it’s more than that. It’s an exceptionally good monitor with all the qualities and the top-level performance to be named a candidate for the Best CIEM of the year award. Competition for this award is tough however and there are a few other really good contenders who are also competing for the award. It’ll be a close call for sure. For those who like nit-picking, the hybrid Elysium with its limited amount of drivers is not 100% perfect, but it at the same time doesn’t really matter as the overall performance is impressive, the sound quality is very high and the enjoyment factor goes through the roof. In short: the Elysium is yet another great creation by Marcel, Amin, and Oliver, one that for sure wins several awards worldwide. The Elysium doesn’t come cheap but you in return get an excellent sounding, musical, and very enjoyable monitor, with a great set of accessories. An end-game monitor for sure.

$3199 / €2900 from Vision Ears


Unique Melody Multiverse Mentor

Unique Melody The Multiverse Mentor [Added 29/08/2023]

The Unique Melody Multiverse Mentor is one of the very best custom high-end monitors in my collection. The overall technical excellence is jaw dropping, and especially the sound stage, positioning, resolution, layering and extension are exemplary.

While the Multiverse Mentor will sound good with anything, I do recommend to match is with a clear, fast, energetic and highly precise source. Only then will you get the full potential of this extraordinary IEM. At the same time I don’t recommend to use bass heavy sources as the bass presentation might become a bit overpowering. Especially if you’re not a fan of an always heavier bass tuning. The Multiverse Mentor is expensive, but you in return get a complete package, excellent build quality and one of the best monitors ever designed. If you’re looking for a very high-end and top-performing monitor, the MM has to be the first one on your list. If your budget doesn’t reach all the way to the MM, I recommend looking at the far more reachable MEST series as they offer very good quality for money.

$4,999 USD from Unique Melody




  • Reply June 16, 2017


    I know that Headfonia has written a review on the MH335 before, and I’m a little bit curious about fitear. What do you think about fitear? Is there any iem(s) in their lineup (JP exclusive or not) that are worth buying? Does the MH334 / 335 still have the best mids in the iem category?

    Yay I’m 1st 🙂

    • Reply June 20, 2017


      Nathan should know this best, I think.

  • Reply December 12, 2017


    What about the Spiral Ears Ultimate? I’m thinking to buy a pair as my reference CIEM. Thanks

  • Reply March 16, 2018


    Hi 🙂
    Im looking for a ciem where money is no object but its the best possible for djing. I would say the sound needs to be as neutral as possible. I wuld really appreciate your time 🙂

    Il Prete

    • Reply March 16, 2018


      Also at the risk of sounding like a fool because i should know this… DJ headphones always have bass emphasized. But if your djing should they not have a neutral sound so you can equalise different frequencies better? The only thought i have regarding this is that club speakers have more bass so that needs to be reflected in the monitors id be using?

      • Reply March 18, 2018


        For DJ’ing you don’t need a neutral repsonse. You do when you’re into mixing, creating and mastering music.

  • Reply March 19, 2018


    Hi Lieven,

    I read every review you posted on CIEMS on this list. However, I still can’t decide what should I choose. I have never tried CIEMS before and cannot find universal demo models of this so I am going to blind buy.

    What would you recommend? I plan to use it with SP1000SS in balanced mode with variety of genres, such as: jazz, vocal jazz, classic rock, rock, metal, djent, animesongs, pop, blues, instrumentals. I don’t listen to orchestra or classical music. I am not very experienced in describing sound which I want to achieve but I tried some headphones:

    HD800S + Hugo2 – soundstage too big, little more bass, mids to distant, need more emotions.

    Z1R + Hugo2 – too bassy, mids a little distant, too thin treble treble, too laidback.

    I want from CIEMS to perform at it’s best within my music genres. What I like: good instrument texture and seperation, clarity, moderate controlled bass with texture (quality over quantity), not thin or veiled detailed highs, mids for female vocals and upper mids for guitar crunch or energy, little intimacy and detailed mids (not backed in the mix).

    I havein mind Layla, Ve8 but I don’t know..

    I am looking forward for your response,

    • Reply March 20, 2018


      Actually, do also check out the Lime Ears Aether. It might be exactly what you want with the Bass switch!

    • Reply March 20, 2018


      Hi Chien,
      if budget is of no concern you might want to check out Layla. It’s a full sounding and detailed monitor that delivers excellent emotions and might suit your preference well.
      If you however want to save some money, you could also try the Lime Ears Model X, it’s also very emotional, well layered and detailed. It reproduces music very effortlessly and serves a great price to performance ratio. Plus it also has a bass switch 😉

  • Reply March 20, 2018


    That’s a really tough one. Maybe Linus can give you some pointers for the JH monitors. On my end it seems like you might enjoy the Jomo Audio Flamenco and Samba or the Vision Ears VE8. Not too much treble. A little warm, excellent bass and a good level of musicality. I wouldn’t go to the A18t or Mason V3 as these are more technical.

    • Reply March 20, 2018


      Hi guys,

      First of all, WOW thanks for your fast reply, I really appreciate that:).
      Second, thankfully the budget is not limited, I want the best sound quality and build quality (no cutting corners). I may try Layla, I read from review of Model X and Aether that they are not well built. What do you think of Roxanne? I heard that it’s the most popular CIEM from JH audio (co-flagship?).

      I would like to stick with 64Audio, JH audio, Vision Ears because I have easier access to buy them. I am shifting towards Jerry’s CIEMS because they have been in industry for a long time and that carbon fiber case is awesome^^. In addition, I like that they don’t introduce new flagship/successor every year so it’s really assuring that Layla is still one of the best out there.

      Linus, I will list some of my some of my favourite artists (maybe it will help you): Pink Floyd, Dire Straits, Eagles, Norah Jones, Sting, Periphery, Plini, Linkin Park, Garnidelia, Daoko, Amber Rubarth, John Mayer, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Aimer, Chet Baker.

      • Reply March 20, 2018


        Jomo Flamenco!! (great selection, I like those myself)

        • Reply March 20, 2018


          I would like to try Flamenco but in EU it’s hard to get them + warranty is outside of EU. I plan to buy from them so I can get full support regarding impressions, fit, warranty and customs.

          • Reply March 20, 2018


            Actually, I forgot to mention that I play electric guitar also so I may want to use it for monitoring.

      • Reply March 21, 2018


        while you’re there just go through all their monitors, maybe they will also have the N8t by 64 Audio, as far as I’ve heard it is supposed to be really good.
        The A18t definitely will also sound awesome with these artists (it always sounds awesome), but if it’s emotions you’re after and you can live with a darker signature give Layla a go. However, keep in mind that JH universals are humungous and fit might not be the easiest to get, don’t judge it by that… The last time I’ve heard Roxanne was two years ago, I she also has the typical full JH sound.
        I’m sure you can go there and audition the lineup, take your time and listen to all the candidates. The shop-staff can definitely also assist you in finding the perfect monitor.

        • Reply March 28, 2018


          Hi there,
          Thanks for your valuable help. Eventually, I tested some of the IEMS:
          Layla, Roxanne, Aether and Model X, Andromeda, Vega. I chose Andromeda, with SP1000SS it sounds glorious. I also tested Utopia, Ether, Elear and HD800 but didn’t like it. The fit of Andromeda is perfect for my ears so no need for customs. It looks like jewellery.

          • Reply March 28, 2018


            Hi Chien,
            glad you found your perfect IEM, even without going the custom route. Andromeda is a nice pair indeed. I also had it for a while, but sold it after I got more into custom monitors.
            Gladly the AKs are completely hiss free, otherwise Andromeda would’ve been a risky choice.
            Anyway, really glad you found what you were after!

  • Reply May 2, 2018


    Aww man why is the UE18+ not on this list. IMO it’s one of the CIEMs that really has it all at a competitive price.

    • Reply May 2, 2018


      I have it here. Once the review is done I will add it to the list ????

      • Reply May 2, 2018


        Looking forward to another one of your quality reviews! I’m sure many people will be expecting a comparison/shootout between this and the other favourites. If possible a comparison against the longstanding favourite, the Campfire Andromeda please 😀

  • Reply July 1, 2018

    Thomas Alessandro

    Any chance you guys can do a write up about where to get the best music from now. Whether it be streaming Tidal/Spotify ?? and downloaded to file. It would also be great to know what players can do what and the limitations. As a quintessential newbie its pretty daunting trying to figure out all this stuff thanks.

    • Reply July 1, 2018

      dale thorn

      If you’re doing streaming and the site allows you to download the tracks in high resolution, then that’s all you need. You’ll probably have a limited selection of music players that have full-featured access to the streaming site you choose. My personal belief is that 96/24 or 192/24 resolution tracks are as good as anyone would need for stereo, but there are many people downloading huge DSD files, which I think can also do surround as well as stereo.

  • Reply October 10, 2018


    I currently have a pair of Andromeda’s which I enjoy incredibly for my wide genre of music.

    I listen to jazz, blues, rock (hard & soft), metal, singer song writers (and some small EDM).

    Some of my favorite artists are:
    – Dire Straits
    – Missy Higgins
    – Muse
    – Pink Floyd
    – Jorja Smith
    – Ed Sheeran
    – Mumford & Sons
    – Volbeat

    I really love how my Andromeda sound in general. However comfort wise I haven’t found the ‘click’ yet.
    If I could have supreme comfort with my andromeda’s, I would probably never require a different in ear anymore as they have fulfilled my every need in terms of sound signature, soundstage, detailing, etc…

    I was wondering if you had any recommendation for a custom IEM that sounds exactly like the Andromeda but has that supreme comfort for extended listening periods. As a software developer I will be having them in for longer periods (3-5 hours in a row for example).

    Thanks in advance

  • Reply December 27, 2018

    Melvin Sng

    You have done a fab review – the best I have read so far. I have the 64 Audio 12t and love it. I was tempted by your review to give theVE8 a try but having tried it in a store, I didn’t think it was anywhere close to the 12t. If I was look for another pair with the same tuning and soundstage, which on your list would you recommend I experience?


  • Reply June 17, 2019


    Are any of these better than the Spiral Ear 5-Way Ultimate? Wondering if anyone can compare any of these to them. Which one here is the best CIEM?

  • Reply August 21, 2019

    Shaiju uppungal

    Hyla ce 5/fearless audio s8f/dunu dk 3001 pro
    IMR accoustic R1/zenith/moondrop A8/western w80/
    Which of these is the best ?

  • Reply October 4, 2019

    Saurabh Ashtamkar

    Surprising that no Spiral ear is mentioned…SE5ULT has been top of multiple shootouts for almost 5 years…a rare feat other brands have even achieved

  • Reply October 17, 2019

    Felipe Torres

    Hey Mate!
    I hope you’re having a great day.
    My name is Felipe, I’ve been reading a lot about CIEMs. Headfonia has been so helpful!

    I’m looking for a new pair of in ears to perform on stage. After all my research and, considering my budget, I am trying to choose between a A6t by 64audio and the UE18+pro 3rd gen.
    It is a big investment for me because the money comes from my pocket. I’m at a turning point in my career and I know that the right in ear can help me.
    I’m a singer and guitarist. I like to be able to hear the whole band as well.
    The UE18+pro seems to be a big gun despite only having 6 drivers. Apparently it competes with iems that have 12 drivers. Lots of depths, quality mids and great detail.
    The A6t seems to be similar and it also has 6 drivers but I don’t know if it’s in the same league as the UE18. Although they seem to be innovating and bringing excellent products through like the A12ts.
    Your opinion would really really help me. I don’t wanna invest this much in the 2nd best.
    Thanks so much!

  • Reply July 20, 2020

    Shaan Patel

    Hello, I’m looking for my first ciems and I was wondering if you could give me some advice. I have been looking at the customart fibae line but I wanted to get your opinion nonetheless. I don’t want anything too crazy since these are my first set of ciems but I don’t want to cheap out either. My main use case would be for listening to music, all types I guess, and wanting some emphasis on the mid to low range. Another use would be for mixing/mastering . Thanks!

  • Reply September 14, 2020

    Kevin Smith

    Anyone familiar with Anthem 5?

  • Reply April 3, 2022



    Above, you say no more CA on HFN. Can you clarify and explain?


    • Reply April 6, 2022


      Long and old story and I won’t go into detail. Let’s just say they expect their reviewers to write glowing reviews 😉

  • Reply January 24, 2023

    Steve Richardson

    Hopefully this article is still checked/updated.

    I’m eying the Lear Skyline as my first CIEM on a budget. However, the subbass seams very rolled off which could be a dealbreaker for me. Although I can’t find the FR curve for the LEAR Turbo, it seems that it is much more bass/subbass focused.

    Would the Turbo be the smart move if I’m looking for a subbass boosted CIEM? How much worse is it than the Skyline for all other aspects.

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