Alclair Reference Master Custom In-Ear Monitor Review

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COMPARISONS

Minerva Mi-3:  These two are relatively close in frequency response, but the presentations are different as the Mi-3 projects the soundstage giving you a ‘further in the audience’ feel vs. the more up-front Reference.  The Mi-3 is smoother and has a thicker note through the midrange and treble in comparison with the Reference, which leads to the Reference having a clearer presentation.  While soundstage width is about the same for these two but the Reference has more depth, better instrument outline and separation, however the Mi-3 has better across the head coherence leading to slightly better imaging.  The Reference is more detailed and has more speed, but does not sound thin in comparison and actually has more warmth in the bottom end.

Alclair Reference Custom In-Ear Monitors & Minerva Mi-3

The Reference has a bit more warmth in the mid-bass region, and as the bass gets deeper, the quantity advantage of the Reference improves due to roll off of the Mi-3, which is much more amp dependent in the bass region.  In the sub-bass region the Reference has more rumble and up through the mid-bass the Reference also has more texture and detail.  The midrange presentation is fairly similar, except where you are in relation to the singer/stage.  The thicker Mi-3 has a very natural tonality and in comparison, the Reference sounds a bit on the brighter side of natural (not neutral) with more upper midrange.  Detail, clarity, and quality of the midrange is a bit better with the Reference, but given the differences, these two are close.  Treble continues where the upper mids left off, with the Reference having more treble, but the treble sound more natural and detailed, although the Mi-3 has smoother treble that is easier on the ears with poorly mastered tracks.

These two are close, but the choice will come down to a thicker, more projected performance that is engaging and totally non-fatiguing vs. a bit brighter and clearer presentation with a more traditional presentation.  The Reference beats the Mi-3 in clarity, punch, speed, and detail while the Mi-3 is smoother with better in-head coherence.  It is also important to note that the Mi-3 is a more difficult load to drive and will need an amp or powerful player to sound its best.  Both do things well, and in my listening tests, each was preferred over the other depending on the track and source.

 

Dream Earz aud-5X: There is an immediately noticeable difference in the amount of low end oomph between these two as well as the more mid-forward presentation of the 5X.  The 5X has a slightly smoother presentation, however it also is more detailed and transparent.  Clarity goes to the Reference as the midrange of the 5X is thick in comparison.  Soundstage space is close between these two, however the 5X has more depth with better imaging while the Reference offers a bit better instrument separation.  Speed is similar between the two, however the Reference does sound a bit faster due to the thicker midrange presentation of the 5X.

Alclair Reference Custom In-Ear Monitors & Audio Earz aud-5X

With 3 drivers for the bass, the 5X has more enhancement and capability, which can be thunderous in comparison.  While the Reference doesn’t lack bass and extends all the way down, the 5X makes the Reference sound bass light.  Warmth between the two is similar as is overall bass detail and texturing.  The midrange of these two diverges quite a bit as the 5X is thicker and more forward while still having a bit better depth, giving a much different feel.  Clarity in the midrange is more apparent with the Reference, but the 5X recreates more instrument detail.  The upper midrange of the 5X is more prominent, but the Reference has more treble emphasis with a bit more smoothness.  The Reference has nice extension and the 5X extends just a bit further.

With a punchier, brighter, more bass heavy, and mid-forward presentation, the 5X has a very exciting sound.  In contrast, the Reference has a more balanced, flat presentation that closer to a reference sound. Technically the 5X outperforms the Reference, but the 5X midrange thickness can be a turn off at times, especially in direct comparison.

 

Fabs Fabulous Earphones: The Reference offers a more spacious and laid back presentation compared with the mid-forward Fabs, which have a bit more air.  Clarity levels are slightly better with the Fabs due to the up-front midrange as instrument detail levels are similar, but the soundstage space is better defined by the Fabs with more depth to the presentation, even though it is not as wide.  While instrument detail is similar, the Reference presents slightly more spatial queues within the soundstage despite better instrument separation by the Fabs.  Speed and transparency are about the same while the Reference has a slight lead in dynamics.

Both have a flat bass response but the Reference has a good deal more rumble and a more depth, which is likely due, at least in part, to the half shell of the Fabs not utilizing bone conduction.  Other than the rumble, both are similar with excellent texturing and nice detail.  Warmth is close, but the Reference does have a warmer tilt to the sound signature.  The midrange presentation is fairly different, but the quality is very similar and both have their strengths, such as imaging with the Fabs or resolution with the Reference.  In the treble region, the Fabs has a bit more forward treble presentation and have a more treble focus, and while both sound fairly natural, the Reference has a more natural decay in the treble region along with an overall better quality.

While these two have similar strengths and trade slight wins in many categories, the Reference overall is a little superior technically.  The Fabs have a more forward and brighter performance as well as a half-shell design that is ultra convenient while the Reference offers better extension, more sub-bass, and higher quality treble.  If you listen primarily to acoustic music, either is a good choice, however if you love to concentrate on vocals, the Fabs mid-focus and musical presentation give it the nod.  Classical music is done quite well with the Fabs due to the soundstage presentation, however the Reference is more versatile in the genres it does well with.

 

Thousand Sound TS842: These two bring out the worst in each other when compared directly, emphasizing the mid-recessed sound and quicker, sharper notes of the TS842 while the Reference has what seems to be a strong upper-midrange emphasis.   Of course, both sound very good when not making this comparison.  The presentation of the Reference is more 3D with better imaging leading to better transparency and a better sense of space.  While the Reference offers better clarity, the TS842 has more detail and presents those details in an easier to hear way.  Instrument separation and black space is presented similarly.  There isn’t a big difference in speed, but the Reference does have a slight advantage in bass speed while the TS842 has a slight advantage in mid/treble speed.

Alclair Reference Custom In-Ear Monitors & Thousand Sound TS842

Both are neutral in the bass region, however the TS842 has much more sub-bass capability even though the texturing and control aren’t too far from a BA presentation.  With more mid-bass presence the Reference has a warmer and richer presentation.  The largest divergence between these two is in the midrange as the Reference has a nice balance that is not too laid back and not too forward while the TS842 midrange is laid back to the point of being recessed, which can lead to a somewhat hollow sound to the midrange in comparison.  Detail levels are about the same in the midrange and the shorter note of the TS842 makes it easier to hear the details even though the Reference images better and has better clarity.  Treble of the TS842 is sharper and there is a bit more quantity than that of the Reference.  While the TS842 has nice detail in the treble, the Reference treble is a strong point with excellent decay, giving a smoother yet detailed and realistic presentation.

Recreating the presentation in different ways, these two have different strengths and will appease different people.  The TS842 is good for those that like a TF10 sound signature, want plenty of sub-bass rumble, and/or want to easily hear all the instrument details.  The Reference is superior for acoustic music due to the better imaging and instrument placement as well as more natural decay and a bit warmer and thicker presentation.

 

M-Fidelity SA-12: While the Reference is on the warmer side compared with several CIEMs but the SA-12 gives a slight bit warmer overall presentation, which the Starkey gets quite right.  The mids of the SA-12 are just a bit more forward yet integrated very well into the rest of the spectrum, which when combined with the imaging makes the SA-12 sound a bit more cohesive and transparent.  However, the Reference does offer better clarity by a bit as well as a more focused presentation with better instrument separation and instrument definition.  The discrepancy between loud and quite parts of the music is greater with the Reference since the SA-12 doesn’t have the dynamic range of the Reference, which is really only noticeable in direct comparison and not usually something that is an issue.  In regards to soundstage presentation, the Reference is larger overall with better depth and height, but the differences aren’t huge.  Due to the note thickness, the Reference does sound a bit faster with fast tracks and is more revealing of poorly recorded tracks as the SA-12 smoothes over the issues, giving little hint of their presence.

Alclair Reference Custom In-Ear Monitors & M-Fidelity SA-12

One would think that the bass from a 2-way incorporating a TWFK would fall far behind a 3-way design with a dedicated, much larger woofer, but for some reason the SA-12 holds its ground with most music.  Sure, it doesn’t rumble like the Reference, nor does it have the depth, or even the impact, but the ability to output nearly as much bass, even with bass heavy tracks is impressive.  The Reference does offer a bit better bass control when there is a lot of bass and while both offer warmth, the slightly thicker note of the SA-12 along with the lower quantity of treble make the presentation warmer.  Having a more mid-forward presentation, the SA-12 offers good imaging and decent depth; vocal details are present quite well as the SA-12 brings all details to the forefront while the Reference has better layering and presentation depth.  The treble of the SA-12, while not missing, is not nearly as bright as the Reference.  Both have decent extension and sound good, but the note decay of the Reference is superior to the SA-12, giving it a more natural note presentation.

With a canal only shell and warm, forgiving sound that is non-fatiguing the SA-12 is perfect for on the go and causal listening while the Reference offers a brighter sound that works better for hearing what is going on in a song. Personally, I use the SA-12 as my workout IEM (mainly due to the canal only design) while the Reference would get more use at home for critical listening.  Both are very good in their own respective ways for the price and both deserve consideration depending on what you are looking for.

 

Wan Xuan (Beat Audio) i9pro: With quite a bit more bass and space than the brighter, more balanced Reference, the i9pro with FST technology is geared for fun compared with the studio worthy Reference.  The i9pro spaciousness is due to the FST technology, which does come with some cons in addition to the pros.  The comparison of the sound stages is not typical since the shapes are different, with the i9pro having more of a rectangular stage size while the Reference has a more typical oval.  The Reference has close to the same depth right in front of you, but the i9pro has better depth further to the left and right, creating a different and most of the time larger sense of space.

Alclair Reference Custom In-Ear Monitors & Wan Xuan i9proDetail levels are close with the Reference edging out the i9pro, however the clarity of the Reference is a good deal better mainly due to the note presentation, which has a faster attack.  Notes are smoother with the i9pro, but there is a difference in presentation style between the balanced armature and dynamic drivers, being a slower yet more textured presentation with the dynamic driver while the BA is more etched and precise but not lacking in proper decay time.

The additional bass weight of the i9pro produces a fuller and warmer sound with quite a bit more ability to rumble in the sub-bass department compared with the Reference.  But, the Reference is more accurate and controlled in the bass region, giving a cleaner reproduction. The midrange has more similarities than differences, but the i9pro does have a bit more forward presentation with a little less detail due to the more liquid note.  The treble presentation of the Treble note decay is fairly similar, however the Reference is brighter with better extension and air resulting in a more natural and believable tonal quality and overall recreation.

With a balanced and very neutral presentation that has excellent attack and decay characteristics approaching that of the dynamic driver i9pro, the Reference is a great option for those that want a balanced sound.  For those preferring a very spacious and bass oriented presentation that is fun and enjoyable, the i9pro will deliver.  The i9pro does have a vent that lowers isolation compared with the Reference, so take that into consideration, however those coming from a dynamic driver universal IEM should experience better isolation with the i9pro.  These two are for different purposes, while they are both technically very close in performance, the sound preferences you want should be the determining factor.

 

Logitech Ultimate Ears In-Ear Reference Monitor (IERM): The IERM was designed to be the ultimate reference monitor (or at least the Ultimate Ears reference monitor!), so this comparison is warranted considering the namesake of the Reference and both use 3 BA drivers in a 3-way configuration.  The IERM is brighter with a rougher, more analytical sound and better clarity as well as being much more revealing of poor quality tracks; i.e. much less forgiving.  This leads to a much more enjoyable presentation with low quality tracks, even though there are hints of the poor quality.  The Reference has a bit more note thickness in general although the IERM can sustain notes as well as the Reference.  While both offer great imaging and depth, but the Reference has a bit better focus within the soundstage except in the very center.  Both have similar proportions to the soundstage but the IERM can present a larger space when the track calls for it.  The IERM has a good deal more resolution and instrument detail across the spectrum.

Alclair Reference Custom In-Ear Monitors & Logitech Ultimate Ears In-Ear Reference MonitorsBass is close between these two with the IERM having a slight advantage in the deep bass rumble even though the Reference has better deep bass extension, however the Reference has more warmth from more mid-bass.  The midrange of the Reference has a little more thickness and richness while the IERM has a slight bit more forward presentation in the midrange while the upper midrange of the IERM is more pronounced and pulled even more forward, increasing the clarity and detail retrieval.  With large differences in the treble region, the IERM is much brighter than the Reference and also much more analytical and unforgiving vs. the more liquid and natural sounding Reference.  The treble of the IERM can be unpleasant to my ears depending on the track while the Reference is very musical.

After comparing these two, the IERM, it is apparent that the IERM is a recording engineers tool, pointing out all the issues with a track while the Reference is excellent for the audiophile that wants neutrality.  If you want an analytical and judging CIEM, the IERM is it, but for half the price the Reference can be used for similar purposes, however with limitations for that purpose.

 

EarSonics SM3: When I first bought the SM3 it was $435 direct from France, so the price I paid isn’t vastly different from the Reference, although they can be purchased for less now.  This comparison is for a sanity check for the quality of the Reference as both are 3 driver, 3-way designs.  The SM3 s warmer, thicker, and richer with more bass enhancement and a darker presentation, giving up clarity and sounding a bit on the thick and sloppy side in comparison.  There is better focus with the Reference due to better instrument separation and clarity.  Detail levels of the Reference are higher for individual instruments and are better defined within the soundstage, however the SM3 does resolve the space between instruments better, giving a better recreation of ambiance.  The SM3 is more mid-forward and has a smaller overall space than the Reference, however the depth of the presentation between the two is close.

Alclair Reference Custom In-Ear Monitors & EarSonics SM3These two are very different as the SM3 is rich, thick, warm, and can sound overly thick in comparison with the Reference, which offers better clarity, instrument detail, and clarity, sounding more natural overall.  Technically the Reference is superior by a decent margin showing off the price difference and custom fit.

Volume performance: The Reference has decent low volume performance, but at very low volumes the bas driver doesn’t really kick resulting in a flatter presentation.  At moderate and above volume the Reference offers the full power and glory of the presentation, not having any issues at the loudest level I want to listen at for even a short period of time.

 

Sound Summary: The Reference offers a very balanced sound with a hint of warmth and natural sounding note decay presented in a coherent way across the frequency spectrum.  Bass is flat and extended with a good weight to it.  The neutral midrange is well integrated with the bass and treble, and isn’t laid back nor forward overall while there is a slight, well integrated upper midrange bump that helps create class leading clarity.  With a natural decay, the treble is well done and gives instruments the decay they should have, resulting in a realistic presentation.

Dynamics and speed are very good as the Reference can keep pace with any music, but the transparency is a bit below the average due to the center of the soundstage having less definition and coherence.  Space is presented with good proportions and better than average size.  While not overly forgiving, the Reference does smooth over some of the issues with poorly mastered tracks.  Overall, the Reference offers a combination of a great balance and capability for the price.

 

SOURCE MATCHING

Portable Sources, DAPs

Alclair Reference Custom In-Ear Monitors & Sansa Clip

Clip+:  When paired with the Clip+ the overall sound is very good, not giving up much to better sources.  There is a bit less soundstage width and depth compared with the iPhone 4S but more detail/resolution.  The bass has more weight and extends a little further while the overall sound is more dynamic than the iPhone 4S.  The combination is musical and great for on the go.  7/10

iPhone 4S: The strength of the 4S is the soundstage, which is spacious and deep with good imaging, however the overall sound is not quite as dynamic and punchy compared with the Clip+.  Using a iPhone with the Reference won’t bring ou the full potential, but it is not bad considering the convenience of something you are already carrying around with you. 6/10

iPad 2: The iPad 2 presentation is the same as the iPhone 4S, but the soundstage space is a cleaner with a slight bit more depth to the presentation.  Overall the rest of the presentation is very similar, warranting the same score.  6/10

RoCoo Power: The RoCoo Power is not a great match for the Reference as the bass is lacking and the deep bass is non-existent while the overall presentation is bright and sounds tonally off, making the pleasing warmish and musical sound turn analytical and harsh. 1/10

801 (GAME card): The ability to resolve more detail is realized with the 801, but the differences are not quite as large as with many other higher end CIEMs.  Bass is deeper and more impactful and there is better imaging along with more depth to the presentation with a cleaner and clearer soundstage, but the differences aren’t overly large.  The presentation hugely different from the iPhone 4S, and not that large of a step up. 8/10.

Portable Sources, DAPs with Amps

iPhone 4S with i.Fuzen HP-1: The i.Fuzen pulls the midrange back a bit and expands the soundstage while tightening up the bass on bass heavy tracks compared with the HPO.  This give the i.Fuzen a spatial advantage that, depending on the track, can change the sound from music playing to music being presented to you.  The tonality changes a bit between the HPO and i.Fuzen, having less upper midrange emphasis resulting in a more natural and less fatiguing sound, not that the Reference is fatiguing.  Overall, the improvements, while at times subtle, can be significant with well recorded tracks, especially acoustic music.  7/10

iPhone 4S via Silver Dragon LOD -> Surprisingly small difference between the 4S and the 801 when using an amp.

Arrow 12HE: Not as clean sounding as the other amps, the 12HE adds a bit to the warmth, but not much.  With a wider presentation than the other amps except the Stepdance, the 12HE gives a nice sense of space to many recordings, although the depth and imaging aren’t the best.  The weakest areas of the 12HE with the Reference are the deep bass and treble, with a roll off in the lower registers and a harshness in the treble that isn’t there with the other amps. 5/10

Pico Slim: The Pico Slim offers nice transparency and doesn’t brighten the presentation all that much, as the amp can tend to do, but it accentuates the detail in the treble, adding layers that are hard to hear with the other amps.  While the soundstage isn’t all that expansive, the coherence and imaging are very good, making the PS very listenable with the Reference.  7/10

Stepdance: With the most expansive presentation with the Reference, the Stepdance sounds very good overall, however I was surprised the bass wasn’t more pronounced.  Overall, the sound is smooth yet detailed and portrays a sense of effortlessness.  7.5/10

uHA-120: With a neutral sound

Neco V2: Great low end punch and dynamics, only second to the Cruise in those aspects, the V2 shows it can perform with more expensive amps.  Overall the soundstage size is in line with the majority of the amps, giving the V2 an overall lead vs most other amps.  8/10

Cruise: The best deep bass, best dynamics, and cleanest sound of the amps give the combination with the Reference very enjoyable, however there is a slight amount of hiss which does detract from the sound a bit.  0.5 was subtracted from the score due to hiss.  8.5/10

EHP-O2: Starting with the low-end, the O2 outperforms the similarly priced V2 and adds a more spacious presentation as well.  The midrange regions are quite similar between the two, but the treble is a slight bit cleaner on the V2.  Not quite as punchy and dynamic as the V2, but not bad. 8.5/10

Desktop Sources

HUD-MX1 (OPA1611): The MX1 sounds OK, but not as lively as with many other sources including the iPhone to an amp or the Clip+, but especially something such as the D1.  There is a low volume imbalance that further takes away from the sound. 4/10

D1: Everything sounds more accurate, precise, and lively but with a great smoothness and refinement with the D1, however there isn’t much improvement in detail over the MX1.  Control is much better, however along with great bass punch and improved weight.  This is the best the Reference has sounded, however the improvements aren’t necessarily worth the cost increase.  10/10

Source Summary: The Reference is not too difficult to drive and lower end sources realize nearly all the detail and space available, but improving the amp section does result in a tighter, better controlled sound.  Adding an amp to your existing source such as an iPhone or Fuze will result in as good of an experience, if not better than upgrading to an expensive DAC.

 

SUMMARY

The Alclair Reference provides a balanced yet musical presentation that offers an impressively flat presentation with class leading clarity at a relatively affordable price of $399.  Bass rumble is good for a balanced armature driver with extension down to 20 Hz, providing good texturing and control.  The midrange is neither forward nor laid back with good spatial recreation; however the cohesion of the presentation is a bit below standard due to less definition in the center of the soundstage.  Note thickness sounds very natural with very good attack and decay, especially in the treble region, standing out amongst its peers for the natural presentation.

The Reference can be used as just that, a reference as it has the flattest, most neutral sound that I have heard in the price range.  It is, however, not quite as bright as the other ‘reference’ CIEMs, which do cost double+ and are and revealing of poor masters.  Audio enthusiasts and audiophiles that are looking for a balanced, neutral sound with good capabilities that won’t break the bank should take a look at the Reference as Alclair has done an excellent job of combining musicality with reference sound, making the Reference very versatile and enjoyable.

Pros

–       Class leading clarity

–       Excellent note decay that is consistent throughout the frequency spectrum resulting in a rich yet detailed presentation that is very natural sounding, especially in the treble

Cons

–       The center of the soundstage presentation isn’t as well defined as the rest of the spectrum, resulting in a less than perfect across the head cohesion of the soundstage that is typical for IEMs.  This is not a large issue and I needed to specifically listen for it.

 

Read Joker’s review of the Alclair Reference here.

Page 1: Overview, specifications, and sound description

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About Author

Having a life-long love of high-quality audio and gadgets, average_joe got back in touch with his audiophile side after a hiatus caused by life. His focus became headphones and related gear as the size and price fit his life better than home audio. He believes the entire audio chain is important, and likes to continue to think past the headphone and on into the head, as he believes understanding the details of how we hear will lead to a better audio experience.

22 Comments

  1. Hi Joe,

    Was waiting for the review for the DUNU 2000 but not going to be my bag, Joker suggested i decide on my sound signature and then cost.

    I have narrowed my choices to Minerva Mi-Performer Pro, Custom Art pro330 v2 or Alclair Reference which are all in my budget including impressions and shipping.

    I am after a natural accurate and balanced sound which favours no particular genre, what would you recommend?

    John

    • Hi Alex, thanks for the question. The spatial qualities of the Reference are far superior to the ER4S, and the overall sound is warmer and cleaner. Imaging is better, and bass has note sustainment capability the ER4S just can’t recreate. Let me know if you have any other questions.

      Joe

  2. Thanks for a great review! Would you have any knowledge of how these stack up against the Ultimate Ears 4 Pro CIEMs? They are the same price and seem to be another great option.

    I’d appreciate any insight.

    -Jeff

    • Thanks for the question Jeff. I have only heard the UE 4 Pro in universal demo format and haven’t compared it directly with the Reference, and I don’t want to speculate as to overall performance, but I believe the UE is a bit more bass oriented while the Reference has better space and imaging. UE is a very reputable company, but Alclair has proven themselves and if you talk with Marc, he may be able to upgrade your product later, saving you some $$$. I hope this helps, and let me know if you have any other questions.

      average_joe

  3. Hi Joe,

    Thank you for the response. I ended up talking to Marc a few weeks back and actually ordered a pair of the Alclair Reference. I was going to push for the 1964 V3 but they actually recently increased the price and I did not want to deal with shipping to Poland with the Custom Arts.

    Outside of some minor fit issues I am having with the right ear the sound is incredible. Coming from the GR07 BE it doesn’t have as much bass, I think i’d clock it in at 3-6 Db less, but it does go very low. Because the bass of the GR07 did leak into the mids some it does make that portion of the bass seem small on the References.

    Because I am having to send them back to Marc for a refit I decided to go ahead and upgrade to the RSM. Seeing how pleased I was with the Reference I think I will be extremely pleased with the performance. Thanks again for the feedback, I’ll chime back in with my impressions here in a few weeks when I have them.

    Mike

    • Hi Mike,

      That sounds like a great plan and I am sure you will enjoy the additional jump in sound quality. The RSM reaches deeper than the Reference, so deep bass seems fuller, and Marc might be able to give a slight boost to the bass if you ask, although I am not sure how that will change things. Marc is a great guy and very accomodating. Let us know how the RSM performs when you get it back.

      Cheers,
      Joe

      • Yes, a big factor in me sticking to Alclair. Marc, in my experiences with ANY company, is bar none the best guy I’ve had the pleasure of doing business with. I was a store manager for a few years so I understand customer service and he is just leagues above the rest. Last night we hopped in on a facetime to take a look at the fit of my References to see if new impressions would be needed or if It was something he could look more closely at on my next pair. He comes across as extremely humble and laid back and was eager to do anything he could to make these IEMs perfect.

        • Great to hear he is offering that service. I have never experienced anything but excellence from him! That is great that he uses technology (facetime) to make sure you are doing what is necessary the first time.

          Looking forward to your RSM feedback.

  4. Hi Joe,

    Have you had a chance to listen to the Alclair RSM Quad? If so how do you think they compare to the reference? From what I’ve gathered from Marc and the webpage it seems like a similar uncolored, reference sound signature just with more focus in the mids and slightly fuller bass. I’d love to hear your impressions if you have listened to them.

    Thanks,
    Mike

    • Hi Mike,

      Yes, I have heard a previous revision of the RSM. It is a step up from the Reference in every way while retaining the same basic sound signature. Not too long ago I was asked about what cable someone should pair with the Reference. I suggested upgrading to the RSM instead and the person was extremely happy with the result.

      While the RSM didn’t outperform the Dream Earz AUD-8X, it did compare well. The biggest issue I had with the RSM was the treble, which is what Marc was working on improving. I hope that helps, and let me know if you have any other questions.

      Cheers,

      Joe

  5. Hi Mike,

    Thanks for reading and for the question. It seems like you want plenty of bass, and while I haven’t heard the HE-400, I believe it is bass heavy and on the dark side. While the Reference is a very good CIEM, I don’t think it will have enough bass for you and a good amp would be necessary to really get the bass going. The bass isn’t at the level of the S4 or GR07 BE. The V3 reviewed by joker (https://theheadphonelist.com/headphone_review/1964ears-1964-v3/) does seem like a better fit for your taste.

    Of the CIEMs I have reviewed that seem to be in your price range, the Dunu DC4 seems to be the closest fit, however it may be discontinued. I have sent an email to Dunu to find out.

    Here are some other options:
    Alclair XB Duals (http://alclair.com/product/dualsxb/) – I heard a demo unit and thought they were good for a dual, but had a ton of bass, maybe too much for you. Plus, without a proper A/B, I can’t really be sure.
    Cosmic Ears HY3 (http://www.cosmicears.com/shop/hy3/) – I don’t know much about this offering, but a hybrid should have good deep bass.
    InEarz IE-P450 (http://www.inearz.com/products/) – I have the P250, not the P450, which is pretty good for the price, but the bass isn’t dynamic driver quality. I say the P450 due to the price and if the bass is better than the P250, it could be what you are looking for. The P250 treble is good, but might be a bit more than you are looking for compared with the HE-400.
    I would have suggested the Wan Xuan i9pro, but I believe it has been discontinued, and cost more than the others listed.

    From what has been reviewed on this site, the V3 would be the best fit. Please let me know if you have any additional questions and I am looking forward to hearing what you get and your thoughts once you receive it.

    Cheers,

    Joe

  6. Hi Joe,

    Thank you for spending the time to write these reviews. If you can though I have a few questions about three particular CIEMs. I am not a musician and listen to almost every genre outside of rap, one day it can be Incubus, then Tool, then Gojira, then Third Eye Blind, I’m all over the place. I wouldn’t call myself a bass head but I like deep, controlled with some impact. Sound stage and clarity is something I miss from my HE-400 headphones, though they are too large to take outside the home (which I dont have a lot of time to sit and listen to them anymore).

    I currently have a pair of GR07 BEs, Klipsch S4i, and HiFiman HE-400 Headphones. It seems that I have “picky” shaped ears and have a hard time finding a fit. Thus the reason I am leaning towards CIEMs (headphones would be great if they werent bulky). My HiFiman HE-400 are almost the perfect sound signature to me except for the treble issues (I do not know if I would describe it as too bright or sparkly, it just has an annoying “hot” sound to it that ruins some cymbals for me) and it lacks bass impact and speed, though I love how deep the base is and for the quantity it does have it is of a high quality. The clarity and sound stage are to my standards.

    The GR07 BEs sound mid recessed to me. The bass is good, though I would like for it to extend further down and not go so much into the mids. Sibilance is an issue at the high end on some of my tracks. I want more sound stage from them also.

    The S4i’s bass is not controlled enough and comes off as bloated.

    Knowing these things I have narrowed myself down to the Customart Music Twos (supposed to have more bass impact than the 1s), Alclair Reference, and 1964 V3. I cannot find any extensive reviews on the Music Twos to see how the bass has improved. The clarity and sound stage on the Alclair References sounds wonderful, but is the bass enough for me? Thank you again for your time! I hope this was all explained clearly.

    Mike

    • Hey Joe.

      Thanks for all the great info! I am looking at the RSM Quad from Alclair. It seems the last update was more than a year ago. Any update on the treble issue you discuss above with the early RSMs? I am looking at my first pair of CIEMs coming from years with the ER4S/P. I like the detail, clarity, resolution of the Etomotics but would like more space and a bit more bass and 3 demensional presentation. I use the iBasso DX90. At the >$700 range what would you recommend? The Custom Art Mudic One/Two, the afore mentioned RSM Quad, something else? I like a realistic sound one reason I like the Etys especially when mixing/mastering/recording. Thanks!!!

      • Hi Scott, thanks for the question. I haven’t heard the latest RSM Quad, but believe it would fit the bill as it retained the sound sig of the Reference for the most part but kicked up the quality.
        Other options include:
        – The Rooth LS6 is close to ER4 territory, being neutral, and analytical yet with liquidity, while performing at a much higher level.
        – The Music One has a warmer sound signature and is closer to the Alclair monitors than the ER4 from my experience.
        – The Thousand Sound TS842 is OK and relatively neutral, but not recommended. I am mentioning it because when combined with the Whiplash TWau Reference Gold CIEM, the performance is incredible. While the price of both is high, the sound is comparable to competition in the price range.
        – If you can up your budget, the Hidition Viento-R is excellent.

          • I don’t have any experience with 1964 products unfortunately. From joker’s review, they seem to be similar to the Reference, but how he described them to me they seemed like they would be brighter. I don’t want to speculate, so you may want to ask him.

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