Model: Mi-Artist Pro
Base Price: £499.00
Country of Manufacture: United Kingdom
Minerva is a company with a long history, starting in the 1930s and making custom earpieces since 1952. In 2008, they decided to use their experience to make custom in-ear monitors and came out with the Mi-2 and Mi-3 custom in-ear monitors. I had an opportunity to review the Mi-3, which had a relatively unique sound signature. The performance was good, but bass capability wasn’t a focus.
Recently, Minerva revamped their product offerings with two lineups, the Performer series and the Artist series. The Performer series uses silicone for the shells and is tuned for stage use while the Artist series has a consumer-oriented tuning with an acrylic shell. Both have a single-driver regular and dual-driver Pro version.
HOW TO ORDER, OPTIONS, & WARRANTY
Minerva makes ordering easy by selecting options on the product page and clicking the Buy Now button and the website will take you through the process. Minerva has a page for their order process. With a focus on the UK market, the price includes ear impressions and shipping. If you are outside of the UK, you will need to get your own impressions and send the to Minerva.
While most CIEMs require the customer to pay for impressions, have them shipped to the manufacturer, and pay for shipping of the CIEM, Minerva includes all of these for UK based customers.
Options: There are 3 shell color options which can be mixed, laser etched pictures or text, and/or various colors of glitter in the acrylic shell.
Warranty & Returns
Since Minerva is providing the ear impressions in the cost of the product, there are costs associated with canceling an appointment, or getting impressions done but deciding not to go through with the purchase as described on their terms page. There is a 30 day refit period and one (1) year warranty.
The Mi-Artist Pro is an acrylic shelled customized in-ear monitor using the Sonion AcuPass dual balanced armature driver with a single sound tube and detachable cable. The cable is a twisted variety that is more robust than the typical twisted cable.
PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES
The Mi-Artist Pro comes with a padded Pelican case, instructions, ear lubricant, and a cleaning tool, which is typical for CIEMs. The Pelican case is on the nicer side of hard cases and is very protective and watertight, raising the score. 6/10
The detachable cable is a twisted gray cable that uses two pair of twisted wires that are again tightly twisted below the Y-split, which is the same method that is used for the Ultimate Ears cable. The ergonomics and quality of the cable is higher than a typical 3-wire twisted cable used by many CIEM manufacturers. 7/10
FIT & FINISH
The finish level of the Artist Pro externally is good with no external defects, forming a smooth and consistent surface. Internally, the clear acrylic reveals small imperfections and/or debris within the shell, which is not uncommon for clear shells within this price point. The Artist Pro fits like a glove as the shell is the tightest fitting acrylic shell I have, but there is no discomfort during use. It is more difficult to insert and remove than any other CIEM I have, but that is not necessarily a fault, and if I didn’t need to insert and remove them so much for sound comparisons, it wouldn’t be an issue. Lubrication helps with the insertion. 5/10
Isolation is typical for a hollow acrylic shelled custom in-ear monitor, isolating between 24 dB and 27 dB depending on the frequency range. 5/10
Disclaimer: My review is done in a comparative way using similarly priced IEMs and/or CIEMs for perspective and to determine performance. In this review I try to accurately portray the product under review, presenting strengths and weaknesses, the sound signature, characteristics, and technical performance as opposed to providing flowery dialog of performance without perspective. My ultimate goal is to enable you to make an informed decision about what product is right for you. Take the review as a critical look at the product and not a sales pitch or marketing fluff. I believe gear should be selected based on the sound signature you want and/or the specific use, not solely on technical performance or unsubstantiated hype. Here are some quick references for more information: My review technique, Thoughts on reading a review, Custom IEM information
The Mi-Artist Pro received 100+ hours of music playback as is customary before I do my serious listening. The following custom IEMs were used for comparison: EarSonics SM64, InEarZ IE-P250, Minerva Mi-Performer Pro, Perfect Seal Sportbud Silver, Perfect Seal Fusion 11, and Lime Ears LE-3. See page 2 for direct comparisons.
Bass: The bass of the Artist Pro is a little north of neutral and quite capable for a dual balanced armature design, but not overbearing. Sustainment of deep bass notes is good with the ability to recreate power and emotion, but it doesn’t recreate the full experience a dynamic driver or hybrid design can. Compared with other Sonion AcuPass driver CIEMs I have heard, the note sustainment is about on par while the control is a hair worse leading to less definition and texturing. Compared with a hybrid design and triple driver in the same price range, the bass of the Artist Pro doesn’t stand out.
Midrange: The forward presentation puts the midrange front and center even though it isn’t particularly forward compared with the bass and treble. Detail levels, while good, are not up to par with the other AcuPass driver CIEMs, but imaging is comparable, providing an immersive 3D experience. The biggest issue with the midrange is the focus within the soundstage, which is on the lower-end of the spectrum, especially at the price point. Think about a picture that is slightly out of focus. It may be OK if you don’t compare it, but when a sharply focused picture is next to it, the issue pops out. While the majority of the midrange is forward, the upper midrange pulls back a bit, reducing the overall brightness of the presentation.
Treble: The treble region has a nice balance between being bright and dark and has a smooth and non-fatiguing sound. While the treble quantity doesn’t change much with source, the upper midrange does do so which changes the overall brightness more than for a typical monitor which can result in a darker sound with lower-end sources. Details are present, but not in spades; however note decay is very natural giving proper body to treble notes. Extension is good for a Sonion AcuPass driver, extending to 16K Hz with test tones, and the overall treble quality is the highest for the AcuPass CIEMs I have tested. Overall, the quality of the treble is very good when paired with a good source and quite natural which will please those that dislike harsh treble.
Presentation: Spatially, the Artist Pro offers an enveloping, 3D sound that is on par in the width department to other AcuPass driver CIEMs, but there is slightly less depth to the presentation. Imaging and instrument separation are good, but not class leading in part due to the lower level of focus within the soundstage and the performance of note decay and release. Impact and dynamics of the Artist Pro are class leading for the AcuPass driver CIEMs which leads to a more exciting sound.
Volume performance: The Artist Pro does well at low to moderate volume levels, which is its sweet spot. Drop the volume to very low and the bass driver combined with the human loudness curves removes most of the bass, but overall the sound isn’t bad. At higher than moderate volume, the sound goes from relatively clean to distorted and bloated, even with the best amp. The Artist Pro is designed for normal listening volume levels, and the volume levels where it doesn’t perform well will lead to NIHL anyways, so keep it at a responsible volume level!
Sound Summary: The Artist Pro presents in a forward way with a slight boost to the bass. Detail levels are good but not great, but imaging and presentation space are, resulting in an enveloping sound. The Artist Pro treble is smooth and natural providing a top end that will please most. Source dependence will change the perception of how bright the sound is, but the Artist Pro isn’t a bright sounding CIEM. The Artist Pro has a tuning that is similar to a mainstream headphone and performs well with mainstream music.