Custom IEM Recommendations - Headfonia Headphone Reviews

 

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 Turbo

I know I know, there are many CIEMs in our list already. But after hearing its performance for this little price, I had to ask Lieven to put this one to the recommended list. I repeat, this is the cheapest Custom IEM as far as I know and for a base price of 220$, you get a very good customer service, great natural sound with excellent bass response with perfect sound stage for the money. I’m not sure you can ask more in today’s market at this level. Tatco has made a perfect job nailing this one. If you don’t like darker and thicker sounding IEMs than this is not your cup of tea; but if you like smooth, organic, natural and easy to listen to IEMs with a strong bass, then this is your budget CIEM without a doubt. I’m looking forward to work together with LEAR for future reviews and especially the exciting BAMDAS 5 model, which will amazingly have 5 dynamic drivers in it.

$220 from LEAR

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/review-lear-lcm-turbo/

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 a one driver, you’re getting a lot in return and it is a recommended monitor in its price class.

$380 from Jomo Audio

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/review-jomo-haka/

CustomArt FIBAE 3

So far I have liked every single monitor Piotr has created and it’s no different this time. The FIBAE 3 is a step up from the two-driver version in all possible ways. The FIBAE 3 delivers a very impressive, top quality sound and the extension, naturalness and spaciousness it shows from only three balanced armatures is impressive. Looking at our recommended CIEM list, I just have to replace the twin-driver with this new version, as it to me is remarkably better when it comes to technicalities and naturalness. FIBAE 2 is still excellent but the FIBAE 3 just is even better

$650 from CustomArt

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/review-customart-fibae-3

Cosmic Ears CE6

Cosmic Ears is to blame for my CIEM addiction. Cosmic is the Fiio of the CIEM world and I mean that in best possible way as the UK build/Swedish designed CIEM company, delivers THE best value for money on the market. The 6-driver CE6 (what’s in a name) is a very good all-rounder and it’s strength is in the fact that it does everything really good and with the same ease. It doesn’t really excel in voices or treble or bass, but the complete picture simply is one of the best. The way CE manages to make bass, mids and treble sound as one coherent “part” is one of the best in the market. If you’re in to bass there also is a B-version available that will rock your world.

$775 from Cosmic Ears

Review: http://www.headfonia.com/6-driver-shootout-cosmic-ears-vs-1964ears/

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 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.

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/review-lime-ears-model-x-onion/

€890 from Lime Ears

Ultimate Ears Pro Reference Remastered

Nathan insists that this CIEM is included in the CIEM buyer’s guide as it is 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.

$999 from Ultimate Ears

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/review-ultimate-ears-pro-reference-remastered-default-capital/

Jomo 6R

This 6-driver from Singapore is part of Jomo Audio’s Pro series. It has a very balanced and tight sound but it stays musical at all times. Precision and clarity are key words with the 6R but don’t expect big body or big bass. This is a reference tuned monitor and int wants to show the detail in your music. It might take alittle bit of getting used to in the beginning but once your mind has adapted you’ll love it’s precise sound signature.

$1000 from Jomo Audio

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/review-jomo-audio-jomo5-jomo6r/

PEARS SH-3

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 a 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 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

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/review-pears-sh-3/

Warbler Prelude

The performance Warbler brought to the market is incredible. You may or not like its typical signature with more forward voices but it’s 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.

$1099 from Warbler Audio

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/review-warbler-prelude-a-miracle

CustomArt Harmony 8.2

The Harmony 8.2 is the successor of their excellent H8P. The new eight driver ciem – I fully recommend going for silicone – is wonderfully constructed and sounds detailed, clean and clear. It has a little more body compared tot he original with softer treble and overall this “update” scores better. The 8.2 is the perfect marriage between an analytic monitor and a musical sounding one. A TOTL monitor that can’t be missing from this list.

€1100 from The CustomArt

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/review-custom-art-harmony-8-2-sound-done-right/

Lime Ears Aether

The Aether was the first CIEM in my collection that had a switch to turn on/off sub bass. It won our best CIEM award back in 2015 but it today still is a CIEM to take into account when shortlisting monitors. Aether is nice, Aether seduces, Aether rocks, Aether does it all. Aether is the kind of monitor that makes all types of music sound good, it’s engaging, has great imaging and sounds musical. The bass switch basically gives you two different sounding sets of monitors and that’s a great added feature. The overall sound signature is on the warmer side of neutral with a slight focus on bass and key characteristics are detail, depth and layering. For a 5 driver, it is sublime.

€1150 from Lime Ears

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/review-lime-ears-aether-the-special-one

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 the 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 favourite 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 behaviour. It certainly sets the bar high for its competition to take the crown as CIEM of the year. Exciting times ahead.

$1999 from 64Audio

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/review-64-audio-a12t/

Noble Audio Kaiser Encore

I can honestly say, the Encore is a masterfully crafted in ear monitor with outstanding clarity and detail, superior control and coherence and the most natural iem I know. An earphone that undoubtedly deserves to be positioned at the top of the line. The Kaiser Encore is a clear step up from the original Kaiser 10 and deserves to be called its evolution, as it has gained many new abilities while still retaining what made the K10 so special. These little gems are comparable to some very expensive high end floor standing speakers and share similarities with even the finest and most prestigious PAs I know.

$2099 from Noble audio

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/review-noble-audio-kaiser-encore-k10s-successor/

Vision Ears VE6 XC

The Cologne based German company knows how to build great monitors. Their build quality and eye for precision are exemplary, their sound to die for. Nathan is a big fan of their six driver with the X control: The separation of musical elements along an X, Y, and Z linear path, is wide. If the VE6 wasn’t plugged into your ears, you might imagine the sound coming from a large headphone. The biggest, and most lasting impression is one of dynamic contrast. Not dynamic as in constant change, but dynamic in terms of the lively rendering of both lows and highs, and the degree to which each offsets the other. The two dance back and forth on the edge of a knife. Attack and decay on both ends are fast and powerful. Balance between them is perfect, and so, too, is the distribution of weight.

€1930 from Vision Ears

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/vision-ears-ve6-xcontrol/

Westone ES80

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.

$1899 from Westone

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/review-westone-es80/

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.

$2200 from Jomo Audio

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/review-jomo-audio-flamenco-list-material/

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 in to eachother. The VE8 strongest point are it’s 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

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/review-vision-ears-ve8-perfection

Unique Melody Mason V3

What an exceptional custom monitor the Unique Melody Mason V3 is. My hopes were very high as I love the Maestro V1 and even gave the ME1 the 2017 award, but it’s safe to say the Mason V3 exceeded them all.

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 customs out there.

$2699 from Unique Melody

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/review-unique-melody-mason-v3/

JH Audio Layla

Layla transports a very enjoyable listening experience, that has convinced me on the long run. She might not be the most technical monitor in this field, but after all she is not made to be that. Layla, just like all monitors I have heard from Jerry Harvey, is aiming for an organic and unique sound. She is full bodied like great red wine and features bone touching bass, immersive details and a wonderful realistic stage with superb stereo imaging. Layla is extremely well built, comes with the most awesome carrying and protection case ever and on top sounds perfect with everything I throw at her. In my books she ticks off a lot of boxes and has certainly made it into my list of favourite monitors.

$2725 from JH Audio

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/review-jh-audio-layla/

64 Audio A18t

The A18t is to me 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

Review: https://www.headfonia.com/review-64-audio-a18t-18-ba-orchestra/

Only the most popular products are listed here. If you feel it to be too limited, feel free to browse the reviews on the Headphones Category:

 

 

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23 Comments

  • Reply June 16, 2017

    Joy

    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

      Lieven

      Nathan should know this best, I think.

  • Reply December 12, 2017

    Vincenzo

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

  • Reply March 16, 2018

    Mattia

    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

      Mattia

      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

        Lieven

        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

    Chien

    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,
    Chien

    • Reply March 20, 2018

      Lieven

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

    • Reply March 20, 2018

      Linus

      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

    Lieven

    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

      Chien

      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

        Lieven

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

        • Reply March 20, 2018

          Chien

          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 http://www.custom-inearmonitors.co.uk so I can get full support regarding impressions, fit, warranty and customs.

          • Reply March 20, 2018

            Chien

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

      • Reply March 21, 2018

        Linus

        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

          Chien

          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

            Linus

            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

    XiaXueYi

    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

      Lieven

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

      • Reply May 2, 2018

        XiaXueYi

        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 😀

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