CypherLabs C6IEM: A Home Run

Disclaimer: CypherLabs sent me the very first C6IEM sample free for review. I will be sending it to Nathan in Japan later this week for a second review and then it will come back to me. This is a WORLD PREMIERE.

box HFN Lieven round kader

The First IEM

It wasn’t news to us when word got out that CypherLabs (CL) was launching an inear monitor. Lots of people were surprised as they never expected a reputed DAC & AMP company to come up with something completely new but that wasn’t the case for us. We were approached months ago already as CypherLabs asked us to give our opinion when it was just a prototype only.

Ever since the ALO Audio & CypherLabs cooperation stopped, CL has been making their own portable amps, like the Duet and Picollo, and even their own cables. Looking at it like that, the launch of a new pair of in-ear monitors shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Who knows what they will come up with next…

C6IEM

The Cypherlabs C6IEM is a triple driver universal fit earphone that uses balanced armatures. BA’s are as popular as ever and it was logic to see CypherLabs going this route. You get one driver for the low, one for the mids and one for the highs: pretty much the only possible combo for a 3-way configuration. All was developed and made in the US of A.

As you can see in the pictures, the C6IEM is a universal fit earphone. Unlike in example the German Inear, these aren’t really based on the shape of your ear. They don’t follow any contours inside your ear and people with small ears like me will have the monitor sticking out quite a bit. The 3D- printed C6IEM is fairly big for us little eared people, certainly for only 3 drivers on each side and it kind of makes you look like an ass when you have small ears like me. With the smallest tips, I admit, they fit quite well. Yet I wish they would have been a bit smaller as I’m sure I’m not the only one with small ears. You can get a good idea of their size looking at the pictures. The monitor’s look is ultra cool chrome on carbon fiber. They’re pretty and I’m convinced most of you will agree to that. I like the CL house style and they designed this one just right again.

Each C6IEM comes with a bunch of accessories like a carrying case, a soft carrying pouch, a cleaning tool, a cable management system, a 3.5 to 6.3mm adapter and lots of tips: 3 pairs each (S/M/L) of silicone, soft foam and dense foam. I’m not a fan of foam tips and I found the smallest silicone ones to fit me perfectly.

The 10gr monitor has an Impedance of 36.2ohm@1kHz and the cable used is a standard over the ear cable with memory wire. It uses the stock two pin connectors and the connectors on the monitor are recessed. That means you can use a lot of after market cables if you would want to. Impressions in this review however are based on the stock cable, as the monitor sounded just fine with it.

Is it all about the bass?

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Cypherlabs’s products. The Duet was my product of the year 2014 and I’m an avid user of the Theorem 720 at home and the full CL stack when on the go. “Desktop quality sound”, that’s how I would describe CypherLabs’s sound in general.

I’m a big fan of balanced armatures as well and I think Cypherlabs has gotten the tuning just right from the first time. A lot of people, based on the bass statement in the C6IEM advertisement, feared it would be a bass heads earphone but that really isn’t the case. It is, sorry for giving it away already, superb.

The C6IEM has very good balance and stereo imaging. It is dynamic sounding, fast and remains musical. Tuning is very linear and maybe there is just a slight focus on bass but certainly not a lot. In general it even is more forward sounding but not too much. I call it “the typical American reference tuning”: linear, very clear, a lot of detail, good instrument separation and a slightly more forward sound signature. Don’t mistake slightly forward for bright because it is absolutely not bright. The C6IEM’s sound stage is good. It’s wider than some of the 5 of 6 drivers I have listened to and what positively surprised me most is its depth. At the same time, sound is fairly inside your head but it isn’t the usual inside your head centered sound either. It’s somewhere in between centered and outside of your head. Tuning simply is very good.

Bass has good body and presence but it doesn’t overpower anything. It’s tight and fast and when needed it will be there. Depending on your source or amp, bass might get a little more focus but in general it is very in line with the mids and treble. Bass goes fairly deep and is reasonably layered. Actually, for a 3-driver, it is more than reasonably layered in my opinion. Bass detail is pretty good and for a reference tuning has just the right amount of body and presence. I don’t really get why Cypherlabs is using advertising terms like “It’s all about the bass” while the C6IEM clearly is not. It’s a lot better than that: bass has good quality and good body when called upon but it isn’t all about the bass. So bass heads, this one isn’t for you.

It continues on the next page!

CypherLabs C6IEM: A Home Run
4.8 (96%) 5 votes

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Lieven is living in Europe and he’s the leader of the gang. Coming from a musical family he’s always been interested in good sound. Unlike his family members the only musical instruments he plays are amps and DACs. He loves playing with old tubes and discovering new products while staying faithful to the good old Sennheiser HD650.

24 Comments

  • Reply January 20, 2015

    George Lai

    Here’s a thought. Cypher Labs should have an arrangement with a CIEM maker for those who like the C6IEM sound but would prefer a customs. The savings from not putting the BAs into a universal shell would go towards making the custom shell.

    • Reply January 20, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      Good idea, but in practise not as easy. it’s not easy to get the same sound in a different shell

      • Reply January 20, 2015

        George Lai

        True but it will give an option as well as give Cypher Labs a USP.

  • Reply January 21, 2015

    Darryn Harly Septalingga

    how C6IEM sounds compared to earsonics SM64?

  • Reply January 21, 2015

    Atmaka

    This review came just in time, thanks!

    “All was developed and made in the US of A”

    Somehow the product page on the official website only said “Designed in Oregon, USA” I wonder if they really made it in USA. However, I had a very brief audition with C6iem today. Interesting, but it only has 20 hours break in period so I guess it hasn’t show it’s full potential yet. How do you compare this to Inear StageDiver 2 or 3?

    • Reply January 21, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      That’s a very good link you made with the SD2 and S3. I find the C6IEM to be a mix of both.

      The SD2 has great detail and clarity but misses musicality and a little bass. the SD3 had a bit too much bass and body.

      The C6IEM is like the perfect mix of both. Good catch!

      • Reply January 21, 2015

        Atmaka

        Cool. Thanks a lot for your response. It is priced right in the middle of SD2 and SD3.

      • Reply January 28, 2015

        Atmaka

        Just had a chance to try C6IEM again yesterday, comparing with InEar SD2 and FitEar ToGo! 334, listening to Isn’t She Lovely by Livingston Taylor and Spanish Harlem by Rebecca Pidgeon.

        It turns out to be a bit too dark for me 🙁 Too bad because I really like the build quality, design (I’m a sucker for carbon fiber), and how it fits into my ear (on par with SD2), really comfortable, much more comfortable than 334.

  • Reply January 21, 2015

    Eu Jin

    Really Interested in getting it through massdrop now. How does it sound compared to the HD25-1 II and NAD VISO HP50? If Mike likes it over the Roxannes that should be a good indicator. How does it sound with the Calyx M? God so many unanswered questions. Nathan could you please release the review ASAP so we can get with massdrop =D

    • Reply January 22, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      My C6IEM is in the mail too him, might take a week or 2, so massdrop will be over.
      I don’t think you can compare iems to full sized headphones and certainly not the HP50.

    • Reply January 22, 2015

      ohm image

      Eu Jin: I’ll have it in a week or so. The Calyx M wasn’t mine. It was loaned by Sean Chan. If/when we meet again, I’ll try it out.

  • Reply January 22, 2015

    George Lai

    Did anyone buy at full retail before the Massdrop offer? They can’t be happy campers.

    • Reply January 22, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      I see and understand your point, I wouldn’t be happy either. Then again, it’s only 20 units

    • Reply January 22, 2015

      ohm image

      Still, that is sort of a dick move.

  • Reply January 29, 2015

    Nickjan Glas

    very interesting, especially the part of getting good sound iem without all the hazzle of custom made. I am curious also to nathan’s review, as he was very enthusiastic about the grado gr10. which seem to have some similar characterics based on how I read the reviews.

    • Reply March 24, 2016

      ohm image

      Very different sound. GR10 is clearer with a somewhat compressed upper midrange. This is thicker, poundier, and a lot less sparkly.

  • Reply February 23, 2015

    Dlirium

    Pretty clear that the review here left a few important details about the CL’s out. Anyone considering purchasing them should read the comments here: http://www.head-fi.org/t/747007/cypher-labs-c6iem before committing.

    • Reply February 24, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      You’re just not reading it correctly. Bass depends on your preference, tips used and your ear shape/fit. I personally wouldn’t call the bass exaggerated and everyone else I talked to doesn’t find that either. Another problem SOME people on Headfi have is about the treble. The review says the treble could be better, that’s no secret with these but again, that’s personal preference. The price/quality ratio for this one isn’t the best, but that was also covered in the review. So what’s your point again?

      I don’t get it when people don’t read everything but then complain when it doesn’t sound the way they had hoped it to sound. To me the C6 really is a home run, it’s that simple and it’s only logic it isn’t a home run for people with different tastes. That’s how it works in audio. With 19 posts in only one thread and not even one month of posting on Headfi, you, no offence, don’t seem to be the most experienced listener. Then again, post count doesn’t say everything and some “new” people really make sense and have valid points. I however doubt this is the case here.

      • Reply February 24, 2015

        dalethorn

        I get that a lot too – I have no problem reviewing an item with flaws, or as Gordon Gekko said in the Wall Street film “I don’t mind getting a dog but I’d just like to get one with fewer fleas”. Seems to me if the fleas or flaws are pointed out, then users who might want it anyway can choose more carefully.

  • Reply February 25, 2015

    alan tan

    got mine quite a while ago, and most of us here who got it suggests silver cable, so do you owners here think the same? I’m using 1 copper cable from plussound audio and seems good enough, I think the C6iem sounds not satisfying with the original cable, and the response from CL is “custom cable is coming”, well, yet another anticipation

  • Reply August 20, 2015

    Rico Cheng

    Try the C6iem with Samsung Note 4, its so good…

  • Reply November 24, 2015

    Deskolim Cheong

    How to compare with sm64 v2?

    • Reply March 24, 2016

      ohm image

      Completely different sound: SM64 V2 is sparklier up top, with a less full midrange.

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