Page 2: ljokerl’s custom in-ear monitor recommendations
While there are dozens of excellent universal-fit earphones out there, in many ways custom in-ear monitors are still the holy grail of portable audio. There is a lot more variety among CIEMs than may appear at first, with designs ranging from straightforward single drivers to complex networks with multiple crossovers. Below are some of the best custom IEMs I’ve heard.
Custom Art Music One (est. $260) – This single-driver release from Poland-based Custom Art is an excellent value, combining the superb noise isolation of silicone shells with a single balanced armature driver delivering an organic, coherent sound. The Music One sounds smooth and natural, and the lightweight, low-profile silicone shells put its fit and comfort among the very best out there. The Music One also offers more customization options compared to other silicone CIEMs and comes with an excellent cable, all for a price one might pay for a similarly-performing universal earphone. Read full review
Alclair Reference ($399) – Starting at $399, the Alclair Reference is a USA-made monitor that combines a versatile sound signature with the usual isolation, fit, and customization options. The sound signature of the Reference makes it a great crowd pleaser – the triple-BA setup produces a slightly warm, spacious, and energetic sound with good clarity and detail. Though the treble can be a bit hot at times, it is an excellent compromise between accuracy and musicality and a potential upgrade to some very popular universal monitors, such as the VSonic GR07. Read full review
$500 TO $1000
1964EARS 1964 V6-Stage ($699) – These flagship earphones from Portland-based 1964EARS are very well-made and the sound hits the sweet spot, falling just warm of neutral with a bit of added bass, mids that are clear but not thin, and crisp, if slightly hot, treble. It is unforgiving when it comes to poorly mastered tracks and can accentuate sibilance, but overall the V6-Stage is an extremely competent earphone that should work for professional applications as well as consumer audio. The V6-Stage is not dissimilar to the Alclair Reference above, but boasts more refinement and better technical ability all around. Read full review
Unique Melody Miracle ($950) – The Miracle was one of my first custom monitors, and remains one of my favorites with its balanced and laid-back sound. It is coherent, spacious, and smooth, offering excellent end-to-end extension and a realistic, slightly distanced soundstage. It’s a versatile sound suited for a variety of listeners, and one that is as impressive today as it was years ago. The Miracle improves on the V6-Stage with smoother treble and a slightly more spacious presentation. Read full review
JH Audio JH 13 Pro ($1099) – A staple of the audiophile scene since its release in 2009, the JH13 Pro delivers clarity and resolution unlike anything else I’ve heard. Its sound is effortless, nuanced, and refined across the entire frequency range, complete with fantastic instrument separation and imaging. There is a bit of bass boost providing a richer, fuller sound but the JH13 is still extremely transparent, endowed with an uncanny ability to simply fade away, leaving only the music. Read full review
Hidition NT 6 (est. $1200) – The NT 6 model from Korea-based Hidition is one of the best earphones I’ve had the pleasure of trying, combining incredible clarity and resolution with tight, level bass and extended, energetic treble. Top to bottom, the NT 6 does not lack presence at any frequency and is the ideal earphone for a leaner sound with a neutral-to-bright tone. Hiditon’s excellent build quality, deep-sealing shells, and plethora of customization options, including some very unique faceplates, are just icing on the cake. Read full review
That rounds out some of my top picks among custom IEMs in every price range. For some universal monitor recommendations, check out the Earphone Buyer’s Guide. For more of my reviews of custom and universal-fit monitors, see the IEM comparison table.
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