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Custom Art Music One

Custom Art Music One Review

Custom Art Music One
 Reviewed October 2013

Details: Single BA model from Poland-based Custom Art, owned and operated by a long-time Head-Fi member piotrus-g
Base Price:  €154 (approx. $170) from thecustomart.com
Specs: Driver: BA | Imp: 41Ω | Sens: 109 dB | Freq: 10-20k Hz | Cable: 4.2’ L-plug
Wear Style: Over-the-ear

Accessories (5/5) – Cleaning tool, Otterbox 1000 crushproof storage/carrying case, and compact clamshell carrying case
Build Quality (5/5) – The Music One is a full-shell silicone custom monitor with excellent shell quality. A fixed cable is standard, but detachable cabling is available as an option. The fixed cable lacks external strain relief but the silicone of the shells does the same job better. The cord itself is among my all-time favorites – very soft and slightly rubberized, it is resistant to both microphonics and tangling. There are also far more customization options available for the Music One than my other silicone customs, and Custom Art even offers themed visual designs dubbed “State of Art” at an extra cost. My unit has blue shells, clear tips, and color-coded nozzles, and came with a matching blue carrying case
Isolation (5/5) – Excellent, falling just behind my Spiral Ear 3-way Reference, which has a musician’s fit with longer canals
Microphonics (5/5) – None – the soft, rubbery cable is completely silent
Comfort (5/5) – The flexible, low-profile silicone shells of the Music One can be hard to grip and take slightly longer to insert and remove compared to more rigid acrylic customs, but are extremely comfortable and maintain seal better with changes to ear canal shape, such as while chewing or talking. Built around a single balanced armature driver, the Music One has the lowest profile of all my custom monitors and its soft cables are made more unobtrusive by the lack of a strain relief and memory wire. All in all, it is the most comfortable of all my earphones, custom-fit or otherwise

Sound (9.2/10) – From the first listen it was clear that the Custom Art Music One, which utilizes a vented balanced armature driver, is one of the best earphones in its class. It pursues a very coherent, natural sound that impresses with its weight and smoothness. The low end extends well and offers up good impact. It is tighter than the boomier, more mid-bassy 1964EARS 1964-V3 but, as with the other silicone customs I’ve reviewed thus far, there is a certain difficult-to-describe characteristic to the bass that makes the earphones seem more impactful while taking away slightly from the detail and texture, which I attribute to the silicone. This allows the Music One to maintain good bass control while providing ample presence – more than with the dynamic-driver HiFiMan RE-400 and the Ultimate Ears 600, for example – but also means it can’t quite keep up with the low-end resolution of, for example, the pricier EarSonics SM64.

The mids of the Music One are smooth and clear, with good note thickness and again a very natural presentation. The midrange is definitely one of the strengths of the earphone but doesn’t present as overly forward, likely due to the impactful bass. The HiFiMan RE-400 and Ultimate Ears 600 both seem a touch more mid-centric than the Music One, for example. Clarity is excellent as well, falling just a hair behind higher-priced sets such as the EarSonics SM64 and 1964EARS V3.

The treble of the Custom Art is a little less prominent but still remains in good balance with the overall sound, reminding me of the way recent HiFiMan releases have been tuned. It is not the most crisp-sounding, but tends to be natural and smooth. The same is true of the presentation – the Music One has a spacious sound, especially compared to the majority of other single-BA earphones. It also impresses with good soundstage depth and the ability to portray intimacy properly when necessary, further making it a great all-rounder.

Select Comparisons

MEElectronics A161P ($100) 

The A161P is a single-armature earphone based on a Knowles ED transducer and tuned for a crisp and punchy sound. The A161P and Custom Art Music One are not exceedingly different in terms of balance, and on some tracks sound rather similar overall. With in-depth listening, however, it becomes clear that the Music One is a significantly more refined earphone.

While the A161P has good bass punch for a single-armature set, the Music One is more impactful and has a thicker, weightier note presentation. Its tone is warmer overall and it makes the A161P sound thin in comparison. The A161P tends to be brighter and, next to the rather smooth Music One, sounds somewhat harsh and grainy. The A161P is also more forward while the Music One offers a wider presentation with better depth and imaging.

VSonic GR07 ($179) 

One of the many reasons the dynamic-driver VSonic GR07 has maintained its popularity over the past few years is that it can go toe to toe with many higher-priced sets. Pitted against the Custom Art Music One, it loses out in midrange and treble quality but partly makes up for it with great bass. The main differences lie in the midrange, where the Music One offers better presence and clarity. The GR07, in comparison, sounds slightly mid-recessed. This, in turn, accentuates the bass of the VSonics, which appears a little more impactful but also quicker compared to the Music One. The Custom Art unit offers smoother treble while the more energetic GR07 is susceptible to sibilance. The presentation of the GR07 tends to have good width and little else, while the Music One is more well-rounded and offers depth and imaging to match.

Etymotic Research ER4S ($249) 

Long-time industry leader and innovator Etymotic Research first released the ER4 in 1991, and its ER4S tuning remains one of my all-time favorite universal-fit earphones. The Custom Art Music One and ER4S each have advantages over the other and it’s difficult to pick a clear winner here. The Music One definitely sounds fuller and warmer overall, thanks in part to its weightier low end. Despite the bass, however, it appears a bit more mid-centric overall. Its treble is less prominent and more forgiving, and its midrange – thicker and more attention-grabbing. The leaner ER4S can at times sound a touch clearer and has a small advantage in overall balance, while the Music One oftentimes sounds more natural thanks to its thicker, fuller sound.

ClearTuneMonitors CT-200 ($350) 

The ClearTuneMonitors CT-200 is a dual-driver acrylic custom priced higher than the Custom Art Music One. It is a neutral-sounding earphone that rolls off gently at either end of the frequency spectrum. Compared to the CT-200, the Music One has an advantage in bass depth and impact. Its low end is more extended and powerful, and grants the earphone a warmer overall tone. The CT-200 is brighter overall, presenting more forward upper mids in comparison. It also sounds a touch clearer and its treble is more crisp, appearing a little more detailed as a result. In terms of presentation, the CT-200 is more spacious and open-sounding while the Music One tends to be slightly more intimate. Nonetheless, the Music One again sounds very natural in this comparison – arguably more so than the CT-200 thanks to its warmer, thicker sound.

Alclair Reference ($399) 

The triple-driver, acrylic-shelled Alclair Reference is an accurate-sounding earphone that offers good presence across the entire frequency spectrum. It has similar bass depth and impact to the Custom Art Music One but tends to be a little tighter and more detailed. As with the VSonic GR07, its midrange is more recessed compared to the Music One, which has rather prominent mids. The Reference is still clearer, however, and seems more resolving as well. In general, the Alclair monitor sounds better up to the upper midrange, where it starts to display some stridency. Its treble is more prominent overall and tends to be peakier and more sibilant. The Music One, on the other hand, is smooth and far more forgiving, and sounds more natural overall in the treble region. Finally, the Reference is overall more spacious and images a little better than the Music One.

Value (10/10) – The Custom Art Music One is an excellent value, combining the noise isolation of custom-fit silicone shells with a single balanced armature driver delivering an organic, coherent sound. The ultra-light low-profile silicone shells of the Music One put its fit and comfort above not only universal monitors, but other customs as well. Lastly, in addition to great attention to detail spanning everything from the cable to the accessory pack, the Music One offers more customization options compared to other silicone CIEMs, making it an even tougher earphone to fault on any front.

Pros: Great isolation & comfort; fantastic cable; great audio performance
Cons: Low-profile shells can be tough to remove from ears

For another perspective, see average_joe’s review of the Music One

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ABOUT AUTHOR

ljokerl

ljokerl

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

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126 Responses

  1. The Music One is not the most logical step forward if you’re into Etymotic sound. It’s warmer, more mid-centric, not as clear, and lighter on treble, all of which can be cons if you like the way the ER6i is tuned.

    Personally, I’d consider one of the ER4 models and maybe custom tips for it, it’s (obviously) a lot more Etymotic-like in sound, and the isolation is as good as any custom I have.

  2. Might be good to paint a picture of my intended use:
    – these will be my first CIEMS. I want to listen to music mostly during long commutes and airtravel, without any background noise.
    – I will mostly be playing 256kbps AAC files from my iPhone 6s without any extra amplification (blasphemy, i know, i know…).
    – I listen to everything from pop to rock and metal-/posthardcore, to folk, jazz and classical music.
    – My experience with sound has been playing in bands for years, recording in studio’s and assisting with the mixing and mastering process afterwards. I have the BeyerDynamic’s for at home, and want these CIEMS for simply enjoying music on the road.

    Would the Music One be a good choice? Or should i defintely bump up? Any tips?

  3. Hi ljokerl,

    Thanks for the great reviews on this site! Very valuable.

    I have used Etymotic Research ER6i’s for the past couple of years and am now looking for a step up in quality, comfort and *defintely* isolation. I liked the amount of bass on the ER6i’s (a bit beefed up from the standard ER6) but will say that i found the isolation so-so for my ears. I also own a BeyerDynamic DT770 Pro which i really like. My budget is <€300, so i'm wondering if maybe the M1's would be up my alley? Or maybe you have another tip for me? Appreciate the time, thanks alot!

  4. Ah ok, thank you for your time!
    Yea, I really loved my PFE’s except for their bass extension.
    So guessing here, if I really wanted an upgrade I’d have to spend like $1000 on a top tier (C)IEM?

    Well, in the meantime I couldn’t resist my inner DIY’er, so I decided to build a Music Two clone (easy build).
    Seeing as I could do that for about half the asking price of the Music Two’s I just couldn’t justify to go out and spend big bucks on a premade one.
    If I just could find what BA driver the PFE 122 uses then I’d make an IEM with that and add a “subwoofer”

  5. Ok thank you!
    I must admit that the DIY’er in me took over, and when I saw that I ie could build a Music Two for roughly half the asking price I just couldn’t resist – so I went out and bought materials for building a Music Two clone.
    And I am trying to figure out which BA driver my so beloved PFE 122’s used (do you know?) and if I can find it I will build a beafed up 122 – so most likely going to add a “subwoofer” to it and call it a day.

  6. I still haven’t tried the Music Twos so I really couldn’t tell you. None of the custom IEMs I have in that price range have very good bass extension (which is not to say that there aren’t any out there).

    The PFE is a top-tier IEMs when it comes to clarity, detail, etc – it’s easier to find something with better bass than to get an upgrade in those areas. And it’s nearly impossible to do both at the same time.

    Anyway, if upping the bass (especially the deep bass) to a more natural amount is a priority, I’ll stand by my recommendation to get something universal with a dynamic driver (and foam tips if you must).

  7. I’ve just found that unless in a very quiet environment it can be hard to hear the low end from the PFE 122’s.
    What I’d also like to have better than the PFE’s would be clarity, neutrality, detail and soundstage.

    I think my main problem with using silicone is not from the depth but rather the fact that single flanged siliconetips can move a bit back and forwars thus changing pressure – and that I can for some reason not tolerate.
    I use custom in ear hearing protection when hunting – both silicone shell and hard shell – these I can use for an entire day without problems.
    So I think that I would like to go for CIEM’s or at least an IEM with foam tips.

    I was thinking that I could get any CIEM with detachable cable and then just buy a CIEM cable with inline mic and button like this: http://www.jhaudio.com/product/smart-phone-mic-cable

    I would perhaps be able to stetch my budget to a CustomArt Music Two instead. Or another CIEM/IEM in the 350USD range. Does this open up to better alternatives or how much should I spent instead? I would like to step up in quality from my PFE’s not stay the same.

  8. Bass extension is not one of this earphone’s strengths, so if that’s you primary complaint with the PFE 122 I’d probably skip the Music One and go for something with a bit more proficiency at the low end, even if that means a touch less accuracy overall.

    A few earphones that have a pretty neutral sound with good bass punch and depth are, for instance, the VSonic GR07 Classic (or Bass Edition), DUNU Titan 1, and Philips Fidelio S2. All three should sound more natural at the low end than the PFEs, all three have pretty well-balanced sound (albeit in different ways – see their individual reviews), and all three have a pretty shallow fit in the ear, which may help with your fit issues. The S2 is the only one that comes with a mic/remote, though, so that’s pretty limiting.

  9. And forgot to say, that I loves the microphone and button combo of the PFE’s so that would be a big plus for me if possible in any way to get.

  10. Hi there.
    I’ve just lost my PFE 122’s, so now I am on the lookout on what to get. I use my IEMs when out and around and my Denon AH-D2000 when I am sitting at home.
    I liked the sound of my PFE 122’s but always felt that they lacked extension in the low end! Not necessarily more bass, but just more extension. Like I have in my AH-D2000’s, their fault is their mids which are more recessed.
    I like the sound to be quite neutral, and I am a sucker for treble clarity, really don’t like muffled or too laid back sound. Love hearing details in the music – so that is a must.
    I have used foam tips for my PFE 122’s as I usually get a headache from silicone due to the way they seal. And I uses the grey filters.

    Now, what should I get? I have roughly 250eur/USD to spend. Impressions I can get made free of charge, so that is not a problem for CIEMs.
    I have looked at the custom arts here, but I don’t know if that is the correct way for me.
    Thanks for any help!

  11. Hi Joker, always liked your reviews, and especially your lists. I’m still on the UE900s whilst i pulled the trigger on the Music One. Looking forward to it

  12. Coming from the UE900 I’d ideally want something with a bit more end-to-end extension. Problem is, most of the customs I’ve tried that deliver that and still sound balanced are a lot more expensive, so if you’re on a budget the Music One is likely the be the best I can recommend regardless.

  13. Hello,
    Sadly my UE900 broke, now I want to go custom but I’m on a budget. Will the Music One be a significant downgrade?
    Greetings

  14. In both aspects they’re quite close to each other. Clarity is a little better with the BA200 but the highs are slightly smoother on the Music One. A little more laid-back, too, but it’s probably a worthwhile tradeoff for the smoothness (unless you generally prefer brighter treble, which neither really provides).

  15. I think right now, my favorite sound signature would be the BA 200. I read below that the BA 200 has better lower extension than the custom ones but how are the highs In comparison? Clarity? Thanks. I am definitely considering getting the custom ones. Your help is always appreciated.

  16. Unfortunately I don’t have much experience with the Westone UM-series IEMs below the UM PRO 30 so I can’t provide a direct comparison, but the Music One definitely does not have boomy bass and treble reach is respectable for this price range, though not the best. The overall sound of these is just slightly on the mid-centric side of neutral.

  17. I am trying to understand the sound signature of the Custom One as it seems to be mid-centric based by your review. Would the sound signature be similar to the Westone Um2/Pro 20 minus the boomy bass and rolled-off highs? Thank you for your input.

  18. when you will review Flare r2 pro
    I bet Flare r2 pro sound more natural and accurate than any of these ciem called TOTAL
    and believe me I’m not joking ,I heard most of the ciem but Flare r2 pro is a dif. than any of them , don’t let the price fool you .

    Thanks for the review

  19. The Custom One has a lot less deep bass (and bass in general) than something like a Wooduo 2. It’s a reference earphone with no bass enhancement, and even in that context its bass is among its few (relative) weaknesses. If you’re buying the Custom One you have to be sure that you’re okay with a flat/balanced sound and just hearing whatever bass is present on the track. For enhanced bass to compete with a Wooduo 2 or IE60 I’d look elsewhere.

  20. Hi, joker
    Great review!
    I asking myself to buy custom One, I want something that do a good job with rock.
    I have a FAD heaven vi,wooduo 2, sennheiser ie60.
    Has the custom One Deep bass and a good dinamyc against my earphone?

  21. All of those can be considered an upgrade from the W10s, but heading in two different directions. The Custom Art and W20 give you an even more neutral, accurate, “reference” sound that seems to be more of what you want (focus on clarity and detail). Between these two I would pick the Custom Art, but as with all customs I suggest you only buy it if you’re certain that this type of sound is what you want – can’t exactly return or re-sell a custom monitor with any sort of ease.

    The DN-2000 (I still think it’s better than the DN-2000J), Fidue A83, and other IEMs of that type give you a more colored (less neutral), more exciting sound with some bass emphasis and brighter treble. It’s more of a change from the W10 but only you know if you might prefer it to the more neutral/accurate option of the Music One / W20.

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