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.
Lear LCM Skyline
Jomo Audio Haka
As usual from Jomo Audio, you can expect a great build quality and top comfort. The Jomo Haka is easy to drive and pair with a whole series of sources and it delivers a really nice sound with a focus on musicality and naturalism. Jomo calls it a coherent and pure sound, and it’s exactly that. The Haka is affordable and it’s the perfect monitor to enjoy your music with. The Haka has an easy-to-like sound signature and it lets you dream away with your favorite tunes. For one driver, you’re getting a lot in return and it is a recommended monitor in its price class.
PEARS SH-2 [Added 22/04/2020]
Which is the best? The countless number of drivers with sophisticated crossovers, or simple acoustic designs? Is it the coherency, or an orchestra type of presentation with some 12 drivers? Both designs have their own advantages. But so far, after experiencing the two CIEMs in their lineup, P-EAR-S proved that you can do exceptional things with less. And that way, you can utilize the advantages of this design.
Indeed, the PEARS SH-2 is one of the most cohesive IEMs that I’ve ever heard. It also has excellent tonality, great texture, good resolution, and detail. So, this CIEM makes its way to our Best Custom IEM Recommendations list. This is the monitor for those who seek a warm and musical sound with a good body and tonality. Do I even need to mention the perfect build and fit, or accessories?
Lime Ears Model X
In my opinion, Lime Ears is one of the most overlooked brands in this field. They don’t launch many products every year like others, but when they get one out in the wild, it is a killer product. Aether was one like that two years back and Model X is one right now. It definitely is the monitor to beat in the sub 1000$ category and does also rival some higher tiers. For me, it has become my reference below 1500$ and one model I certainly don’t want to part with – ever!
It is refreshing to see so much quality audio at a still affordable price, even though 900€ still is a tough pill to swallow for many, this price bracket has weirdly become mid-fi now. Lime Ears proves the contrary can be the truth and provides a CIEM with an exceptional price-performance ratio! X has become one of my easy recommendations for everyone looking for a custom monitor in the sub 1000$ region or that does it all and that can adapt to your preferences.
Itsfit Lab Fusion [Added 21/05/2020]
The Itsfit Lab Fusion is a new fresh air on the market and they have gear with a competitive price. You get great craftsmanship and design, great fit, great build quality, and a great sound. It is simply excellent. I can understand if people would want big bass, more colorful mids, or simply a signature with more fun. However, the Fusion is one of the most well-balanced and cohesive hybrid monitors you can find. Except for the lower midrange, it simply does everything right and ticks all of the boxes for me in terms of sound. For a bit more body, you can pair it up with an aftermarket cable which I promise will result nicely.
Ultimate Ears Pro Reference Remastered
Nathan insists that this CIEM is included in the CIEM buyer’s guide as it is the number one monitor. If I were to rethink my custom lineup in terms of preference, I’d have a hard time not putting the UERR first. It’s its flat, unaccented voicing and wide image that really does it for the music I most often put through my DAPs. For the daily grind, and for longer, more varied listening, the UERR is intensely satisfying.
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
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.
The performance Warbler brought to the market is incredible. You may or not like its typical signature with more forward voices but its tonality, detail, speed, and precision are exemplary and Warbler certainly sets the bar very high for the competition, and who knows for their own multiple driver customs down the line if they do decide to go there. The Warbler Prelude is easy to pair and I basically liked it with every single amp or DAP I tried it with, you’ll just hear the characteristics of your source appear in the sound, but isn’t that exactly what we want? If you then realize they all doing it with one single BA driver, you can call it a small miracle.
Custom Art FIBAE 7
The FIBAE 7 delivers a very specific, unique signature with a good low end, smooth lower mids, more forward vocals, and a sparkling top end. The FIBAE 7 has really great dynamics, staging, and stereo image, and that combined with the right amount of body, naturalness, and detail retrieval make it a musical, yet special sounding, technically strong monitor.
At this time the FIBAE 3 is featured on our recommended buy list and it will probably be replaced by the FIBAE 4. Following our internal rules, each company can only have 2 models on the best gear list, but there absolutely is a spot reserved for the FIBAE 7. Recommended!
Lime Ears Aether R (10/12/2019)
It took a while for Lime Ears to update their flagship monitor but in the end, the improvement is there. The new Aether R was worth waiting for and it now is a more reference, higher-end monitor with a natural, neutral tuning and a smooth yet musical presentation. I do advise using a better high-end aftermarket cable with the Aether R as it will reveal what the new flagship monitor really is capable of. Price-quality-wise you get a lot in return looking at how the 1200€ Aether R performs. The Aether is is an almost perfect do-it-all monitor and it doesn’t break the bank. What’s not to like?
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.
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.
Unique Melody MEST [Added 07/07/2020]
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.
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.
The Westone ES80 is a perfectly tuned neutral monitor with great extension, richness, speed and separation. Its sound stage goes both wide and deep and there’s great layering. In fact, I love the tuning and performance so much that the Westone ES80 is going straight to my CIEM recommendation list. The neutral, yet excellent, ES80 has quickly become one of my favorite CIEMs, and it’s even pushing the UM Maestro V1 from the list. If you’re looking for a neutral monitor that has the best possible technicalities then this is it. I fully recommend this marvel to the pro users and the audiophiles that want precision, neutrality, richness, and extension. You’ll love it.
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.
Ultimate Ears LIVE
Ultimate Ears wanted to create the ultimate stage monitor for professional users and they have succeeded in doing exactly that. At the same time, the LIVE is more than just a pro monitor as it has a sound signature in which many audiophiles will be able to find themselves. If you’re an audiophile and fan of the full-bodied sound and impactful bass, a smoother tonality and soft delivery then the LIVE will impress. The LIVE is also the perfect solution for those who use their monitors both at home, on the go, and on stage: the LIVE simply can do it all. On top of all that the LIVE comes with an excellent new cable system with improved connectors that will last a very long time.
Jomo Audio Flamenco
The Flamenco is Jomo Audio’s newest flagship monitor. It is replacing the Samba (still great) as Jomo’s recommended flagship CIEM. What an awesome sounding monitor the Flamenco is. The competition nowadays is fierce and several companies have really great sounding monitors but to me, Jomo Audio with the Flamenco is clearly one of them. Joseph managed to create a truly high-end, TOTL custom IEM, and it performs exactly how you expect a flagship to do. It’s the best unit Jomo Audio has created so far and it has quickly become one of my favorite monitors. Yes, I still use and love the Samba, but this just tops it.
Empire Ears Legend X
Empire Ears went out to create something truly unique with their new line-ups. The hybrid X-line features a hand full of proprietary technologies. Dynamic drivers that were designed from scratch, purpose-specific tuned balanced armatures from renowned suppliers, a high-tech coating to ensure that these drivers work at their very best, and a super-charged advanced synX crossover network to fine-tune them to their optimum performance. The build quality of the Legend X is perfect, with top-quality fit and comfort. The sound convinces and the supplied accessories are the icing on the cake. A reigning package all-in-all.
It has been a while since the genesis of the original EarWerkz Legend, but evolution doesn’t work fast, today we have reached the Legend’s culmination. The Empire Ears Legend X is a highly enjoyable, dynamic and resolving monitor that is capable of surpassing its competition. The Legend X sounds incredible out of most sources, yet deserves to be used with the best and rewards the listener with even better sound as it scales up very well. Give the Legend some additional power and you will be granted an even higher-end listening experience.
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.
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.
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.
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)!
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
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.