Custom in-ear monitors reviews list

Custom In-Ear Monitors (CIEMs), as the name implies, are customized earphones that provide improved sound quality, noise isolation, and comfort. They can be seen on TV in the ears of musicians, hosts, commentators, and more, and in our readers ears! The below interactive list covers reviews of many makes and models with features, ratings, performance, and sound signature. Filter it, sort it, and click on the product that is most appealing. We will be happy to answer questions to help you make the right selection for your needs.

Additional information can be found below the table, including a comments section.

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Also known as ear monitors for musicians, in-ear monitor system, and molded in ear monitors to name a few, as the name implies, CIEMs are custom fitted to each individual’s ear size and tuned with each ear in mind. Due to the improved fit and precise tuning, the level of sound quality typically achieved is higher than that of a non-customized earphone.  Add that most CIEMs use higher quality drivers, and the sound quality becomes much more impressive.

Isolation is also improved, typically adding a few dB to isolation numbers compared with universal fit in-ears, even with foam ear tips.  Cables are typically worn over-the-ear and most CIEMs offer a detachable cable system, which is difficult to see on stage when clear or hidden in hair. Due to their custom fit, they are extremely comfortable for long-term use when a proper fit is achieved.  See the Custom In-Ear Fit Guide for more information.


This interactive list displays CIEMs based on features, ratings, performance, and sound signature, not review date. In the world of audio, new doesn’t necessarily mean better! Filter the results to find the best results for your situation.  Reviews on THL include comparisons, often on subsequent pages of the review, to help you understand the sound and how it compares.  We recommend buying based on sound signature (how the CIEM sounds), not the highest score in the price range. For more info as to why, please read The Best Headphone.


All of the information can be overwhelming.  If you have questions, please ask, but we do ask that you at least read some of the reviews/articles.  We are here to help!


  1. Want to buy my first CIEM. It’s mostly music on iPhone during day and some computer audio card at evening.
    Mostly listening jazz, funk and electronic music.
    Budged ~1000.
    Trying to decide between UE Reference and JH 13 V2.

    Generally JH looks better, but I would like to have mike and iOS jack, which is not available on JH13 V2 but at the same time available on V1. BUT, JH13 V1 has 6 drivers as UER, it has not bass tune as V2, and it has old 2 pin connector. MIC feature is not a stopper. But I really would like to have it.

    So, my question is, – these 8 drivers and 4-pin connectors, are they really give sensitive advantage for V2 over V1? And will V2 or even V1 significantly better than UER?

  2. Thanks for taking the time to enlighten us on these ciems. I’m a recording studio owner and producer who also plays out . I’m in the market for a reference grade ciem for mixing on the road as well as checking my own mixes while in the studio. I want the ciems not to lie to me about the mixing decisions I’m making but I also want to be able to enjoy listening to my music collection without being turned off by sterile sounding critical monitors. Three UERR seems a great choice but maybe there are more forgiving choices like the hidetion or spiral ears . I’m going to take advantage of the 30% off sale and order either a ref remastered or the prm if they will honor the discount on the prm. This is taking up weeks of my life educating myself .. thanks for your help .

  3. Hi Joe, I was considering making the jump for a Ciem from my er4xr, looking for something balanced with strong mids and treble extension. I am considering the UE Pro 5 and Jomo5v2. Do you have any other recommendations in the 1000sgd-ish price range

  4. So many options, a little lost where to start. Maybe you could offer some advice. First time CIEM buyer. Looking for a versatile CIEM with good isolation as I intend to use them while traveling, doing yard work, and various other things around the house. Definitely a bass head. I appreciate well balanced and clear sound. Not looking for bass over everything, but I love bass! Ideally something with a maximum price of $500, but less would be better for my first pair. If there are not a lot of viable options in that price range, I’d consider spending more. Thanks.

  5. Hey Joe,

    I’m thinking about completely changing the way I listen to music. I currently use an HD600 paired with the Schiit Magni 2 and Modi 2 at home after having upgraded from the ATH M50x half a year ago. I realized I enjoyed the detail and clarity of the HD600 over the M50x, but I also missed the experience of a more fleshed out bass. I want to get into iems now to replace my current setup and I’m not sure whether I should buy a ciem or a uiem. The sound signature I prefer most is a mix between the HD600 and the M50x, and I think the LCD X nails it.

    After conducting some research online, I feel like I’m leading myself in circles. I don’t know whether a high end uiem or a ciem would sound better for the price, and there are so many iems out there that I don’t know how to choose one. I highly prioritize comfort and sound quality, so I’d appreciate any advice on what I should consider buying based on my preferences. With the gear I currently have I think a high end iem would still be able to surprise me with how much better it can sound. What do you think?

    • Hi David, thanks for the question. I used to listen to a HD600 and think it offers excellent value, but with so many other great CIEM options, use those. First, (C)IEMs sound different than headphones in general, as the head-space is presented quite differently, but higher-end CIEMs do get closer to the same experience.

      In my experience, CIEMs have always sounded better than UIEMs. CIEMs should always be comfortable, but IEMs comfort is determined by the shell size, ear tips, and other factors. Something to consider is, if you don’t like a UIEM, you can always resell (or return) it, but the same can’t be said for a CIEM, although the manufacturer may allow you to exchange it for a different model.

      My recommendation: get a UIEM to start, see how you like it, and if it is all good, you may or may not decide to upgrade to a CIEM. If you don’t like the particular IEM, or decide to stick with headphones, you have that option as well. There are many options from a sound quality standpoint, and I would start by reading the reviews here to see what you think hits the sound signature spot.


  6. Hi Joe,

    Fistly, I’d like to thank you for the review of SA-43. I received them from Alf in December and I’m still amazed by them 🙂
    However, I’d like to ask for a piece of advice. I’m looking for a CIEM with a slightly mid-oriented tonal balance with recessed both highs and lows. As I understood, this type type of tonal balance is quite unpopular, so I don’t know where to start. What would you recommend to pay attention?
    Thank you in advance!

    With Regards,


    • Hi Andrey, seems like you are looking for a lower driver count CIEM, possibly even a single driver, to give you the midrange without the bass / treble. The Custom Art Music One is the closest I can think of to what you described, but please let me know your thoughts on the SA-43 from a tonal balance perspective, and any IEM examples you may have for the sound signature you are looking for, and I may be able to provide some additional recommendations.


      • Joe, I realize SA-43 as extremely neutral IEM with a bit warmth when both switches are off. I don’t use switches at all. Even though, I’d like to have another pair of CIEM where both highs and lows are not as present comparing to SA-43 with both switches turned off. What are your recommendations? Probably, that’s because I used to be a big fan of ER-4S and Sleek Audio CT6, but I don’t use them anymore.

        • The best answer may be to get a ER-4S reshelled into a custom. The CIEMs I have heard strive to have as much extension on both ends as possible, but single drivers, and the closes I have heard is to what you are looking for is the Music One (my review, ljokerl’s review). If you want a focus on the midrange, Westone and EarSonics have a sound signature that fits, but there is plenty of bass with both. Also, some CIEM companies will custom tune based on hearing preferences, but I am not sure how good the end result will be.


  7. Hi Joe,

    Thanks to you (and the others) for your great work here – I’ve found it really useful. I’m thinking of getting my first pair of CIEMs, and I’d be grateful for some advice.

    I’ve narrowed it down to the Hidition NT 6 and the Westone ES60. I think of myself as prefering a neutral sound signature, and I’ve read that both of these CIEMs are relatively neutral.

    I see there’s not much love for Westone CIEMs on this site, but the ES60 has gotten a couple good reviews (including one by Steve Guttenberg). I compared the Westone W60s to a number of other universal fit options (JH 13 v2, Noble Savant, etc.) and liked it the best, so I thought the ES60 might be a good bet. However, from the reviews here the Hidition sounds outstanding: in your view, is the Hidition definitively better (as a neutral, detailed earphone), or is the ES60 worth a look?

    Thanks in advance!


    • Hi David,

      Thanks for your question. I would say the Hidition is more neutral to my ear (like the JH13 is also more neutral to my ear), and it accentuates the details more than the ES60. But, since you prefer the W60s over the JH13, etc., that leads me to believe the sound signature is your preference. Given that, the ES60 would be a good choice, and Westone products are not bad by any stretch of the imagination. The THL reviewers I have talked with about Westone products agree that the soundstage space isn’t as large as that of competitors that have similar (but with slight differences) sound signatures such as EarSonics.

      Here are some alternatives:
      – EarSonics EM32
      – Spiral Ear SE 5-way Ultimate
      – Fit Ear PS5
      – AAW AH-Morph W500

      The above are all very, very good in their own rights, and if you want to venture down a different path for potentially a higher reward, you may want to pursue one of those. Otherwise, I am sure the ES60 would make you very happy, and if you live in the US, shipping will be cheaper as 3 of 4 products above are made outside the US (but the order process isn’t really any different).

      Let me know if you have any other questions.



  8. Hello Joe,

    Thank you so much for this list, really helps since it is hard to demo CIEMs. My question is what do you think is the best CIEM that has the imaging quality which provides the spatial awareness for FPS gaming. I currently use the Beyer T1 as my full-size gaming headphone and the K10 as my portable gaming CIEM. It seems to me nothing beats T1 when it comes to imaging in FPS games. K10 sounds decent but simply doesn’t provide me with the same level of directional awareness as T1 does. I need something that not only requires a large sound stage but also pinpoint accuracy when it comes to imaging.

    Benson Wang

    • Hi Benson, thanks for the question and sorry for the delay. The T1 has a very large soundstage, and in my experience, no CIEM can come close to the same size, but in general, CIEMs have better “pinpoint accuracy.” In addition to my list, I have a chart where I have ranked presentation size, and here are some of the top performers:

      Model SS Width SS Depth SS Focus
      Beyerdynamic Tesla T1 100 70 85
      Spiral Ear 5-way Ultimate 85 89 99
      AAW W500 AHMorph 88 87 85
      Lear LCM BD4.2 92 90 95
      Hidition Viento R 88 85 100
      EarSonics EM32 87 84 90
      Starkey SA-43 90 89 85

      Hopefully that helps with your decision.


      • Thanks Joe!

        I have been deciding between Lear BD4.2 and ES5U recently, this chart makes the decision even harder since both of them seem to perform very similarly when it comes to soundstage. I know I can’t really go wrong with either but the fact that is true makes the struggle even worse :P.

        Benson Wang

        • Hi Benson,

          Yes, it is a tough decision. It seems the Lear would fit your soundstage size needs a bit better, but the SE5U is quite amazing. If you haven’t already, you may want to read jelt’s comparison, as he hears them a bit differently than I do, but close. Let us know if you have any other questions and whatever one you get will be exceptional!


  9. Hi Joe,

    Thank you so much for the list and reviews. I’m new to CIEMs so I hope you could make a recommendation (flagship CIEM)for me.

    I had some IEMs like SE846, k3003, fitear to go 334 with the device Ak120II. My favorite genres are pop(mostly vocal), classical music(violin, piano, symphony), electronic music and a little rock.

    I’m interested in AWW W500, SE 5U. I would like to enjoy a different experience of my se846 and togo 334, so do you think se5u or w500is the right one for me and will it have a excellent performance on the ak120ii? Or is there any other good choice recommended?
    Budget below $1800.


    • Hi GavinG,

      The AWW W500 is an excellent choice for vocals and electronic and still a very, very good choice for the other genres you mentioned. This comparison is a good for pointing out the differences, which is pretty close to how I hear it, but exactly (the SE5U has more resolution/detail recreating more nuances when the DAC recreates it, and is slightly more tonally accurate). On the flip side, the W500 can be adjusted to increase/decrease the sound signature.

      It is a personal choice, but either will be driven well from the AK120II.


  10. Hi Joe

    How do you compare the Shure SE846 with Sensaphonics “full shell” custom sleeves with other custom in-ear from this list?

    I’m a guitar player and looking for new IEMs for stage use. I’m considering the SE846 (with custom sleeves) or the M-Fidelity SA-43.


    • Hi Harry, unfortunately, I have never made a direct comparison between the two, but in my experience with custom sleeves, they marginally improve the sound and isolation of the IEM. Based on characteristics, the SE846 will present instrument details more front and center while the SA-43 will provide a smoother, more coherent sound, and provide better isolation. Hope that helps.


  11. Hi Joe,

    Have you heard the KSE1500’s? If so, what are your thoughts on them compared to the SE-5 Way Ultimates?


  12. Hey Joe,

    I am looking into getting a new pair on CIEM’s. I have had 1964’s V3s and I felt like the bass response was lacking. I am looking into going with either Alclairs (RSM) or Perfect-seal (Fusion 11’s or PS4’s). You rated the Fusion 11’s very high, but Michael from Perfect-Seal said he feels like the PS4s might be the same sound quality with maybe a little more punch. And as far as the Alclairs, the RSM seems like a very good ear and they seem like a great, well-established company, but the price would be about $150 more. Do you have any thoughts that may help as I am trying to make a better decision than I made with the V3’s? Thanks!

    • Hi Rolin, sorry for the delayed response. I would agree the PS4 may have a bit more punch (dynamics), but the Fusion11 has an organic, musical, spaciousness that is reminiscent of more expensive monitors while the PS4 sounds more traditional based off a PS4 Mike sent me for evaluation. The PS4 isn’t lacking in bass, nor is the RSM (and I haven’t heard the new, improved version personally, but the older version was very good), but the Fusion11 bass is different, more authoritative, powerful, and capable except in speed and detail.

      What sound signature/sound qualities are you specifically looking for, and/or what other IEMs/headphones have you preferred?



  13. Hi Joe,

    It’s me James again. The SE-5 Way Ultimate are still the IEM’s I’m looking to buy. I’m just curious to know if there will be any high end IEM’s releasing soon or later this year. I don’t want to buy them yet in case there is something new coming out that might be better. Thanks for the advice. Have a nice weekend!

    Best regards,


    • Hi James,

      The CIEM world is constantly moving, but just because something new is coming out doesn’t mean it will be better. If you want the sound signature of the SE5U, there are few alternatives with similar, but still different sound signatures, and of those, there is nothing I know of that will challenge. Hope that helps.



      • Thanks for the reply Joe. That really helped a lot and knowing that the SE-5 has supremacy over other IEM’s with similar signatures is good to know.



  14. Hey Joe!
    What a great comprehensive list! I’m looking to pull the trigger on my first pair of ciems and am looking at the Lear LCM-BD4.2s.
    Are they ‘that’ good?!
    Are they a more ‘musical’, less neutral experience than the UERR?
    I have around £1000($1400) to spend and want them purely for musical pleasure not as a studio monitor.

  15. Hi Joe,

    Thanks for the list and review. I am looking into buying the SE 5-Way Ultimate. What AMP & DAC would you recommend? Also willing to spend on a cable if needed.

    • Hi James,

      Anything with excellent spacial qualities. The DX100 is exceptional, but no longer available, and the DX80 may be a worthy replacement, but I haven’t yet heard it. The Astell and Kern AK’s are also good overall from a portability standpoint. From my computer I typically use the ADL X1, but there is a slight bit of hiss, although I get used to it rather quickly. If you want a powerful desktop unit with no hiss the Oppo HA-1 is an exceptional choice.



      • Hi Joe,

        Thanks for the response. I will definitely look into the DX100 or the A&K’s for the portable DAP. Also, with regards to the SE 5-Way Ultimate, I’m currently using the HD 650 with Crack/Speedball. I was hoping to get a top of the line IEM that resembles the sound signature of that Headphone/AMP combination but of course want it sounding better. The HD 650 w/ Crack/Speedball gives me good sound stage, clarity, a linear/natural sound. Do the SE 5-Way Ultimate fit into that category and do they sound more amazing? 🙂

        Best regards,


        • Hi James,

          Let me start by saying the SE5U sounds different as headphones and IEMs just sound different. Headphones are more spacious due to the physics, but IEMs bring out more detail and have better imaging, but the SE5U does get better and closer to headphones with better sources. That is not saying the SE5U way outperforms the HD650, but it depends on perspective, preferences, and use case. While I haven’t heard the Crack/Speedball, the SE5U is similar to the HD650 in many sound reproduction characteristics, so it should be good upgrade.

          The DX100 is no longer available, just the DX80 which I will be able to try soon. As far as overkill, I don’t believe there is any source that is overkill for the SE5U since it keeps getting better with better as the sources improve. Let me know if you have any other questions.


          • Hi Joe,

            Sorry for the very late reply. I read your reply and I’ve been meaning to say thank you but I totally forgot. I appreciate your feedback on them. I understand they will be different from headphones. The main thing is that I wanted the best portable in-ears so I think I probably found the right one. It will be a while before I save enough but I’m sure they will be worth the wait. Thanks again! Have a great week.

            Best regards,


            • Hi James,

              No problem. The SE5U is deserving of the top spot on my chart!

              I do now have the DX80 and am very impressed by it as it is closer to the DX100 than the DX90, which is a good thing! It also sounds more detailed than the ADL X1 as USB DAC, but it has a more forward presentation (at least out of the box).



      • One more thing. Is the A&K AK380 overkill for the SE-5 Ultimate? Also, take your time responding. No need for answers right away. 🙂

  16. I have an ak120 ii with the shure se846 and now i want to get some custom iem’s. With the ak120 and a 1500 dollar budget what would you say would be my best bet. I like alternative rock and electronic music mostly. Thanks so much for the guide

    • Hi Rick, sorry for the delayed response. Coming from the se846 I would recommend EarSonics or Advanced AcousticWerkes, which will have a familiar sound signature but better coherence and overall sound. The EM32 is quite good, and I would imagine the EM6 is as well based on the S-EM6. The AAW AHMorph W500 is also an excellent choice, and the variable bass is will allow tuning the sound to your liking similarly to the Shure.


  17. Hi Joe,

    Thanks a lot for the great effort you put into this list. It’s really helpful for me to get an orientation about what CIEMs may be most appropriate for my use.

    I have two questions: have you tried the noble audio Kaiser 10? I read pretty positive feedback about it. If yes, where would they fit into your list?

    I am an audiophile who is listening to a broad range of music: mainly rock (70s 80s), but as well classic and electro. For that reason I would love a full and powerful, but nonetheless clean sound. Could you recommend me some in ears from your list?


    • Hi Dan, thanks for reading!

      I have not tried the K10, but jelt has, and his review can be found here. As mentioned in previous comments, at the top-end, it if more about sound signature than sound quality, which it seems like you understand. I trust jelt’s rating as we agree with the sound, but our ratings may be slightly different due to different weight on various characteristics.

      It does seem like the K10 would be a good choice, as would the SE5U, LCM BD4.2, and AHMorph W500 but it depends on what characteristics you value most, and how you like your presentation. All of those fit the “full and powerful” with different variations on that flavor. For example, the SE5U is quite transparent, so it will change depending on how the track is mastered while the BD4.2 will give ample space, but isn’t the best when it comes to intimate space, and the W500 gets the intimate space down, but isn’t going to convey the size and space of the BD4.2. I will let jelt expand on the K10. Others such as the EM32 are great if you want a more mid-centric sound.

      Let me know your preferences and if you have any additional questions.



      • Hi Joe,

        Thank you very much. I did a lot of testing these days in various hifi stores and was simply overwhelmed by the fitear 335, with the tube upgrade to SR. They were unbelievable. I missed a bit the base when I listened to the Lear 4.2 and unfortunately the Kaiser 10 gave me a sharp and painful sound with high vocals (I suffer from chronically tinnitus). Now the huge task I have to deal with is finding the right portable audio source. It would be very helpful if you had suggestions on that. I understand that this is a very complex task, and different IEM sound differently with each player. But in that hifi store the players for testing were te AK 380 which are way off the chart in terms of pricing (my opinion). Can you give me a suggestion for some players I may want to take into consideration? I read a lot of positive feedback about the Hifiman 901s and 802. How about alternatives, that sound amazing? The budget is up to 1500 USD.

        Thank you so much!
        Best regards,

        • Hi Dan,

          Sorry for the delayed response. Based on history with iBasso products and from what others have told me, the DX80 may be a great sounding DAP that punches above it’s cost. Other than that, the lower cost AKs may fit the bill. As far as Hifiman, I like the options they offer, but they tend to be warmer and in my opinion are an ideal match for the 335 type sound signature. Also, the UI isn’t as intuitive as the iBasso or AK units I have used.



  18. Could someone with experience with the future Sonics mg 6 pro in ears comment on the quality and their impressions vs. the above mentioned list of other custom IEs out there? I’m a violinist so I enjoy a nuanced acoustic quality to sound (but don’t need any bleed, sealed off is better for loud environments). Thank you!

    • Hi M, I have heard a Future Sonic mg9 pro demo unit twice and talked with 3 different owners to form an opinion. They sound thick, rich, and bass-centric, giving up clarity of balanced armature CIEMs above. I could compare them closest in sound signature with the Aurisonics AS-1b above. It all depends on what you are used to and what you are looking for. Being that you are a violinist, a good neutral balanced armature CIEM will allow you to hear more of the nuances with better accuracy. If you don’t mind exotic, the Rooth LS-6 and Hidition NT-6 are exceptional choices for detail retrieval and the EarSonics EM32 is another great choice.

      Let me know more specifics and I may be able to offer additional info to help you choose.



  19. Hi Joe! I appreciate you trying to help everyone and wonder if you can help me.

    I sing in a loud, 10 piece wedding band (rock, pop, R&B, disco, sometimes with tracks) and we are usually stuffed in a corner or in front of a wall. It’s always very loud and I stand in front of the horn section.

    We have 3 lead singers and we do a lot of high harmonies. It seems we are always fighting with the stage volume. The other two singers (one male, one female) have bright voices and mine is more mid-tone. I sometimes have the sound guy take down my mids and lows so I can blend better.

    The other female singer and I need to buy custom IEMs and we are looking to spend $300-$500. (The male singer already has some Future Sonics.) I’ve been looking at 1964 V2 and V3, JH5, AlienEars CFR3 (but read some bad reviews), Alclairs, and countless others and I don’t know what to look for so I need help. I don’t know if we want forward mids, bright highs, neutral, balanced, warm, V shaped sound or what. I don’t know if frequency response or impendance matters. We just want to be able to hear our three vocals better. I almost went with the 1964s but heard that they have loud bass, and I don’t know if that is good or bad for us.

    thanks for any insight!

    • Hi Leigh,

      True, there are many options out there and it is difficult to decide what is best. For female singers a clear, neutral CIEM typically makes for the best option, and high bass output shouldn’t be a focus. While the JH5, Alclair Reference, and 1964 V3 all sound different, they would all be good choices. The Perfect Seal PS4 is also a good choice and I find Perfect Seal offers quite good value.

      Hopefully, this will help you pick one of the 4:
      JH5: JH Audio is a well-known company that works with rock stars and has the brand power in the market.
      V3: Warmer and smoother with a good, musical performance.
      Reference: Is a bit clearer and more neutral than the V3, and Marc the owner of Alclair is an awesome guy that wants to make sure his customers are happy.
      PS4: Excellent value with a relatively balanced sound and overall performance that is a bit higher than the rest.

      Please let me know if you have any other questions.


      P.S. What does the Future Sonics owner think of them?

  20. Could you further respond to my question about ADUT?
    Could you please link me to a negative review you posted on a CIEM? just for curiosity

    • No experience with ADUT. As far as negative review, I typically won’t review a product that is really bad and take the approach of recommending the good. But, with that said there are some reviews where I was not overly impressed, at least with the performance vs. price such as the Aurisonics AS-1b and Heir Audio 8.A. But, depending on a person’s needs, either of those could be a fit as the sound signature is very important, and IMO more so than performance.



  21. Hi Joe. I just found out there is an Israeli (where i live) company making CIEMs called ADUT. their price is rather cheap 175$.
    Any chance u’ve had any experience with them?

    I’m currently planning on buying perfect seal fusion 11 because they rate highest in you isolation chart with respect to the skyrocketing budget of the ones above 7 (still high though)

  22. Hi Joe,

    I’m looking to buy my first pair of CIEM’s but am operating on a relatively tight budget (500-800), having just splurged on an AK120. I currently use a pair of Shure SE425’s which I love to death, and will probably want to get a significant sound upgrade (which I’m not sure I can with this budget). Do you have any recommendations in this price range that suit rock music/electronic (Daft Punk / the XX ) kind of sound? Or am I too wistful on finding value in this category and should look to spend abit more on getting an upgrade on sound?

    Once again, thanks for this incredibly detailed list! Kept me up all night!


    • Hi Bryant, seems like you would want to stay with a similar sound to the 425, which means a forward midrange. Given that, the closest match is the Dream Earz AUD-5X and the ProGuard P2+1, Minerva Mi-Performer Pro, and Lime Ears LE3SW have similarities. The AUD-5X is more focused on bringing out the details while the other three have a bit more relaxed sound in their own ways. None are as mid-forward as the 425, and the only CIEM I know of that fits that bill is the EarSonics EM3 Pro.

      If you provide the characteristics that you like from the 425, I may be able to make some other recommendations and discuss pro’s/cons.



      • Hey joe! Thanks for the quick and really detailed reply! I really like the sound separation on my 425’s, but am also hoping to get a CIEM that has a real bright sound especially for the mids, I was looking at the alclair reference, but I also do want to get something that’s a significant upgrade to my 425’s instead of just a slight improvement

        • Hi Bryant, the Alclair Reference doesn’t have the “bright” mids, which I call mid-forward. Shure products are pretty much the most mid-forward products I have heard and while I haven’t heard anything but the top of the line from them, the EarWerkz (now Empire Ears) line is very mid-forward with oodles of detail, so that is going to be a good bet. I would talk with Jack about his lineup, and feel free to ask any additional questions here.



  23. Hello

    Thanks for being so helpful and for this informative article!

    I am a pop music singer songwriter.

    I performing with bands or various sizes depending on the show, a mix of live musicians and samples/tracks.

    I have a fairly soft voice (lyric soprano).

    I would like my custom IEM to not come out/protrude out of the ear as well and lay flat on my ears.

    Can you recommend me the best professional custom IEM for pop singers songwriters as myself?

    Do you know what IEM Beyonce, Adele, Rihanna and Sam Smith uses?

    I am looking for something professional for my long term career.

    Thanks alot for your help.

    I truly appreciate it!

    • Hi AA, glad you found this helpful.

      Let me start by answering the question about what musicians use, and more specifically, top musicians. Jerry Harvey, sound engineer for Van Halen, Kiss, Mötley Crüe and more, started Ultimate Ears for the purpose of making custom IEMs for musicians. While he is credited with being the first, I have read others made CIEMs previously, but not for musicians from my understanding. Being the first company marketing high-end CIEMs to musicians along with his status, UE enjoyed great success. Competitors sprung up, many from the hearing aid market, but UE still enjoyed a healthy lead. Jerry sold UE to Logitech and later started Jerry Harvey Audio.

      JH Audio used Jerry’s clout to bring in top musicians along with a better top of the line product than UEs (JH13 vs. UE18). But, being the best at marketing doesn’t mean they are the best at tuning great sounding CIEMs. I am not saying they are bad, and in fact they are quite good, but priced at a premium for the performance in my listening experience. And, they know how to please musicians.

      I could recommend the JH13 and JH5, depending on your price range, but others such as the Alclair RSM and Hidition Viento-R are excellent alternatives if you are looking for more value. UE has a huge network, so if you travel worldwide, they can take care of you where ever you go and the UE 7 Pro would make a good choice. ACS is also another option, but their monitors are a bit warmer and smoother. The Spiral Ear SE5 Ultimate is the most tonally accurate monitor I have heard, combined with amazing capability, but if it would fit in your ears, chances are it wouldn’t sit flush.

      If you want to provide more details about what is important to you in a monitor I can help narrow it down further.



          • Hi Joe

            No problem!

            Firstly thanks alot for all these information. You have been incredibly helpful! Thank you.

            Amongst all the models you mentioned, would you be able to narrow down which ones are best for pop singer songwriter who performs with full band or live musicians with tracks? I guess my top concerns are to help a singer give his/her best live performance so the music needs to sound very energetic, very clear, very detailed of all instruments and tracks, esp for the lead vocals – I would want to hear a very accurate, very clear and very detailed sound of my lead vocals.

            My music is a fusion of pop and world music so I have live musicians as well as tracks, including world music instruments in my live band, which range between a 3 to 8 piece band with tracks so the IEM need to be very accurate, detailed while giving me the energy I need to connected to my music on stage for performance.

            I would like the IEM to not stick out of my ear as well.

            Other than this, would you by any chance know what professional pop singers are using by any chance eg. Beyonce, Rihanna, Sting, Maxwell?

            Once again thank you so much for your help and I apologize for having so many questions!

            Thanks Joe!

  24. Hi, I’m new to CIEM’s. I am about to make a purchase in the near future and ran across the Westone ES60. I’m wondering why I didn’t see it anywhere on your list.

    • Hi JT, welcome to the wonderful world of CIEMs! The Westone ES60 is one of the newer of the Westone CIEMs but shares characteristics of the ES50, which used to be the ES5 meaning it has a warmer sound. I have not heard the ES60, but from my understanding, it has a bit more top-end air than the ES50.

      I can’t review every CIEM, and in my listening (as well as others I trust), it wasn’t a top technical performer for the price. That isn’t to say it is bad, or won’t be enjoyable, and if you like Westone sound, the ES60 is a natural progression up the ladder.

      What qualities are you looking for in a CIEM and what is your budget?



      • Thanks for responding AJ. I have never had the CIEM experience. I am diving in head first, so any CIEM is probably going to have far better sound quality than anything I’ve experienced. I am an avid listener of mostly hip-hop, alternative rock, and jazz. I don’t really have a budget ceiling, but want the money to be well spent (that’s how I found your posts….thanks again by the way). I found the Westone ES60 doing similar research. I’m going to use the CIEM’s mostly with a samsung cell phone. Do you think I’m going to need a portable amplifier to pair with the CEIM’s (let’s say if I chose the Hidition NT6 + whiplash).

        • From my experience, using phones as a source leaves a lot of performance on the table, especially for high-end CIEMs. When you first get a new CIEM, the jump may make the phone sound OK, but if you use a DAC/amp such as the ADL X1 that works with phones, the sound quality will improve. But, with that said, in my experience there are still gains to be made with a high-end player; you wouldn’t put cheap tires on a Ferrari!

          Do you think the Hidition sound fits your preference? What are your sound preferences? When it comes to the high-end CIEMs, they all perform at very high levels that work with all genres, so genre matching doesn’t matter like it does with lower cost IEMs. Some brief sound descriptions follow:
          Hidition products will bring out the details in your music
          The ES60 has a warmer, more relaxed sound
          The LCM BD4.2 has a balance to it (although you can make it a bass monster) with a large spatial presentation
          The AHMorph W500 is similar to the LCM BD4.2, but with a more mid-forward presentation
          The EarSonics EM32 has a lushness with a mid-centric touch that is great for emphasizing vocals and the midrange
          The Spiral Ear SE5U is a chameleon in that it is transparent to the source and the music track, having the ability to adjust the sound signature based on the recording.

          I recommend reading several reviews and see what you think best fits your preferences and then let me know if you have questions.



  25. heya joe!
    I’m in for my first foray into CIEMs and I wanted to poke you for your opinion on what I ought to get ^^
    My budget: ~$1000

    My favorite genres: indie rock and indie electronic- especially when I really like the vocalist’s voice or there is a good guitar melody

    My IEM experience: Monster turbines -> future sonic atrio mg5 -> heir audio
    Basically I’ve been going through a lot of bass tuned UIEMs even though I’m not sure that my music tastes really match with that. If I were following my pattern I would go for the 1964 V8 or V6 Stage but I think I ought to try something matching more to my music taste (which I presume would go better with something more mid-focused). I have noticed, though, that I am kind of annoyed when the texture of the bass isn’t there when comparing other headphones to my heir’s. Another stipulation is that I don’t want anything analytical-I just want to have something that’s fun to listen to.

    The CIEMs I was thinking about getting were the EarSonics EM6 or maybe the Harmony 8 Pro since you recommended it so highly.

    Feel free to correct me on anything if you think I’ve made any wrong assumptions 🙂

    • Hi nicketh, welcome to the world of CIEMs!

      First, since the first two IEMs you listed are dynamics vs. a multi-BA, it is understandable that there will be a significant difference in bass detail levels, but that isn’t to say the 4.a is the be-all-end-all in that department, but merely showing the difference in presentations of driver types at various price points. More expensive CIEMs with dynamic bass drivers manage to excel in level of detail.

      The EM6 is a good, fun option that will highlight vocals and guitar melody.
      The EM32 is another option that has a bit better clarity. As far as the bass goes, here is an excerpt from my not yet published EM32 review:
      “Bass: The EarSonics EM32 bass is capable of communicating emotion through deep bass note sustainment while still providing a high level of quality. Bass quantity from deep bass through upper bass relatively linear, with a slight increase in quantity as the frequency drops. While the quality is good, it isn’t quite to the level of CIEMs with multiple drivers in the bass region, or the latest crop of hybrids. However, it doesn’t perform poorly as it takes performance a step up and offers the best bass quality in the EarSonics lineup. Bass recreation will satisfy bass fans, especially those without 8+ driver CIEMs for comparison. While not overly warm, there is a warmth and richness to the presentation in EarSonics tradition while not disturbing the rest of the spectrum. At no time did I wish there was more bass, nor did I think it was overdone, and the sustainment capability is superior to competitors such as the Hidition Viento-R, Custom Art Harmony 8 Pro, and Rhines Custom Monitors Stage 3, but the first two are more detailed. Overall, the EM32 bass is excellent and the best EarSonics has offered.”

      The Harmony 8 Pro doesn’t fit the “fun” and non-analytical, but the non-pro version may work. Another option is the AAW AHMorph W500, which is similar to the Lear LCM BD4.2, but with a mid-forward presentation, a bit less of an analytical presentation, and a bit less brightness. It is fun and very capable while emphasizing the midrange, plus you can adjust the level of bass to your preference.

      Let me know if you have any other questions.



      • The AAW AHMorph W500 looks great but their authorized seller in North America ( seems to not have them in their lineup any more 🙁 do you know if I can order in the US from null-audio or any other resellers?

  26. Hello Joe. I have a medical issue that makes me extremely sensitive to screeching noises (like when a train breaks). I’ve been recommended to buy custom made earphones.
    I am not an audiophile but i do like good music and want good bass. need headphones with resistance to smartphone/laptop and most of all I NEED THE BEST NOISE ISOLATION SO I DON’T HEAR HIGH PITCHED NOISES. i have 0 knowledge on this world and nobody to ask and am desperate for an objective opinion from someone who isn’t selling me goods. Could you recommend me a company to contact (I’ve been recommended to contact perfect seal but I’ve seen they aren’t ranked well on your list).
    *I live in Israel but i don’t mind ordering from abroad. I don’t have much money but this is very important to me so i’m willing to spend (i don’t know what is considered normal budget here)

    • Hi Orian, thanks for your question and sorry to hear about your situation. Silicone isolates better than acrylic, if just by a bit, and longer canals (musician’s fit) isolate better than regular fit, but are more difficult to insert and remove.

      Considering the high-pitched noise issue, it seems you would prefer a warmer sound signature. If cost was no object, the Spiral Ear 5-way Ultimate (not yet on the chart, but it would be at the top) would be an excellent choice. The EarSonics EM6 (the custom version, not the S-EM6 listed above) would also make a good choice, and the acrylic shell can be filled to increase isolation, but it is also priced high. The Custom Art Harmony 8 is also another silicone option, but also carries a high price tag.

      Considering cost, the Perfect Seal Fusion 11 is an exceptional options. While it isn’t on the chart yet, it scores around an 81.6 overall, so you can use that for comparison. Whatever you decide to get, make sure you let the manufacturer know and request a musician’s fit. Ear impressions will also be paramount to make sure you get a proper fit. Reading the CIEM fit guide and DIY Self Impression article for a better understanding of how to get good ear impressions.

      Don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any additional questions and please keep us updated on your decision.



      • tyvm. i’m probably gonna get the perfect seal 11. 500$ is very high budget for me (there will probably be some shipping extra and stuff).
        I assume the people who buy 1.5k headphones are expert musicians. I probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a good 200$ headphones and 1.5k$ ones. XD

        • It depends on the ports used, as they are interchangeable and will change the amount of bass. They range from better than a standard acrylic shell (7) worst case to very good (9). Mine shells are quite large, so there is a lot of silicone to block outside sound.

  27. Iver Erling Årva on

    Where are all the ACS models? Encore, Evolve and Evoke Studio and Live! Surely, these very able CIEM performers deserve to be in the list?

    • The ACS T1 Live! model is in the list; however I have not yet heard the others, therefore they aren’t in the list. I like the Live! and it is excellent for musicians (which is why it is recommended in the Musican’s Buyer’s Guide), but there are plenty of options out there. Have you heard all of the ACS lineup, and in customized form?

      • I now have the ACS Encore Live! Customs, which are the current top model from ACS Custom and lists for $1160 I think. I have only had Shure IEMs before, and that was the E5c and the SE846 models. Great IEMs, especially the SE846, and they blew me away when I first got them. I then got the ACS Encores as part of a personal stage monitoring system, and WOW! They are so good! Although I got them for on stage use, I keep using them when listening to music in bed at home. They give such a deep, rich, open and pleasent sound picture that listening to them is something I look forward to every time. They have 5 elements in each plug.

        ACS Custom is, as far as I know, UK’s top manufacturer of CIEMs and their products are used by e.g. BBC Radio, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Depeche Mode, JessieJ and Level42 to mention a few.

  28. Hi,

    First of all I would like to say what an excellent web site you have! And your reviews are excellent.

    Secondly I was wondering if you could help me; I have been trying to work out the characteristics of my Sony mdr ex700 headphones which are still going strong after over 5 years.
    I appreciate that nothing lasts for ever, so I have been looking around for potential replacements. I went to the CANJAM2015 show in London and tried many, many headphones but only two really stood out for me and that was the JHA Roxanne’s and Fostex TH900. Both are a lot of money, so I though before taking the plunge I would continue to look around.

    I saw the review of the Linear LCM BD4.2 and thought these would be a good (expensive) replacement for the Sony’s, what do you think?

    I should have mentioned, my DAP is a COWON Plenue 1 which I absolutely love!



    • Hi Gideon,

      Thanks for reading the reviews! If you like the Roxanne, the LCM BD4.2 is going to have the same “wow” factor but with a more spacious overall sound. While it isn’t yet in the chart, the Spiral Ear SE5 Ultimate is a top performer and scores higher than the BD4.2, it just depends on what you want. The BD4.2 is more spacious, but the SE5U is more accurate and detailed. The BD4.2 is closer to the sound of the Sony while the SE5U is closer to the Roxanne sound. Let me know if you have additional questions.



      • Hi Joe,

        Thanks for your reply. I am hoping there will be another CANJAM in London because after reading all the reviews on this site, I think I know what to “look” for in a headphone now(ish!).
        I do like detail but also warm bass and I really do not like fuzziness. My “indoor” hifi is a Marantz gold signature Cd and Amplifier which gives me the exact sound I like.
        So I need to find a CIEM that sits between the BD4.2 and Roxanne!
        My Cowon Plenue 1 does sound very “analoguey” not to dissimilar to my old Yamaha tape deck, so a slightly brighter headphone may work better than my current sony’s.
        Perhaps I should plan another holiday in the USA and time it right for a headphone show!!

        Thanks again for taking the time and trouble to reply to me.



        • Hi again!

          Well I have taken the plunge and ordered universal Heir audio 10A in the black friday’s sale. The reviews said they have a U shaped sound, so I am hoping they have the sound I like!

          Have you had much experience with Heir audio IEM’s?



  29. Hi Joe,

    Have you heard both the Alclair Reference and RSM? If so can you do a comparison of them. Is the RSM just an essentially improved Reference or another beast entirely?



    • Hi Edmond,

      Yes, I have heard both a while ago. The RSM is an improved Reference, with a more refined sound and better capability, besting the Reference in every way!



  30. Hi Joe, after auditioning the JH13 I was hooked and made the purchase. Thanks for you help in that matter. Now Massdrop is offering the Harmony 8 Pro for a very reasonable price. Would you be able to compare this with the JH13/16? I heard many good things about its treble and soundstage, but this one I won’t be able to audition. I also found the 16 to be too bassy. Thanks again.

    • I don’t have the JH13, just auditioned it, and turned my old JH16 into the UM24, which has much less bass than the JH16. The H8P does not have a lot of bass weight, but capability is exceptional. If you want “neutral” bass, the H8P would be a good choice. Joker has both the JH13 and H8P, so he is the ideal person to ask.



  31. Hi average_joe, I follow this site religiously and always look forward to new reviews. A lot of my IEMs are bought based on this site. Now I’m ready to get my first CIEM, hope you can make a recommendation for me.

    I’m looking for one with
    1) detailed, clear treble (not rolled-off)
    2) upfront, prominent vocals (no recessed mids)
    3) deep bass extension with just enough quantity (some punch and rumble but not too much)
    4) wide soundstage, average separation is fine

    Using the FiiO X5ii, no amp. Listen to rock, pop, acoustic, vocals, jazz.
    Looking at JH13/16, 1964 Ears V6S/V8, Noble K10, Earwerkz Legend R, UM Merlin, CTM 500.
    Budget below $1500.

    Thanks in advance, and keep up the reviews. It’s always pleasant reading.

    • HI Ezekiel_77, thanks for being a loyal reader!

      You have listed some great heavy-hitters, although I don’t have the majority of those.

      Here are my thoughts:
      JH13: it has been a while since I heard it, but I think it may fit, although the midrange isn’t too upfront front from my recollection.
      JH16: bass isn’t neutral
      V6/V8: joker would be able to answer much better than I.
      K10: from reading jelt’s review, the treble may be OK, maybe not. They sound good…
      Legend-R: it is forward, but the upper midrange is more prominent than the treble resulting in less of bright feel.
      Merlin: I think the Miracle or UM24 (remolded JH13 or 16) would be your choice, not Merlin.
      CTM500: again, joker would be the one to advise on that CIEM, or jelt for the CT-6E.

      My additions:
      Hidition Viento-R: This fits 1, 3, and 4 to a tee, but I am not sure it will be your flavor for #2 (but then I am not sure the JH13 will be either)
      Custom Art Harmon 8 Pro: Similar to the Viento-R, but a bit brighter, with less warmth, and more detail.

      Let me know your favorite headphones, or at least a sound you would like to replicate, which should help.



      • Thanks for the reply. All I have are UIEMs. I’m in a transition phase, sold most of my old earphones for various reasons (DN-1000 too mid-recessed, HA-FXT-90 vocals too “metallic”, ATH-IM03 a bit too flat-sounding), so I am left with:
        1) ATH-CKR10: Excellent bass amount and punch, great mids but not enough treble sparkle
        2) GR07: Great all-rounder, has treble sparkle but details not as good as the CKR10
        3) Havi B3P1: Good neutrality and details, lacks a bit of bass.

        So the perfect earphones for now would be… CKR10 with treble sparkle I guess?
        I will be getting the FLC8 next week (Joker’s influence again) hopefully that can keep me satisfied for awhile.
        So I’m going to look out for the JH13, Legend-R, Miracle, Viento-R and H8P. Will contact Jelt and Joker for more help.
        I live in Malaysia, the brands that I can audition are JH, 1964, CTM and Vision Ears (over here they are promoting VE5 and 6 heavily).

        Thanks again!

  32. Hello Joe, I am a first time CIEM buyer still in the process of deciding which IEM to pick and need some guidance. Can you give me a recommendation? Im leaning heavily towards Lear LCM-5 or Hier 5.a. Hidition would definitely be a possibility but its price is a bit of turn off compared to others

    • As I read more and more about Hidition it seems like it is one of the best actually for the type of sound I’m going for also I truly appreciate your reviews here on the website this is quite a huge subject that requires a lot of background knowledge and experience in the field of sound with a lot of $$$$$ that I’m not willing to spend on products that don’t suit my needs which of-course makes it difficult to decide on a worthy investment without proper knowledge as I am a newbie to CIEMs.

      • Hi George, thanks for reading. Yes, Hidition products are excellent overall and at the top of the “bright/analytical” sound signature in my experience. We do understand that spending $1K+ on a CIEM is a big investment, especially since they don’t have the same return policy as products bought from amazon, or in fact any return policy typically. Buying to the sound signature and listening needs is so important!

        I recommend taking your time deciding what is best for you from a price and product standpoint, and feel free to ask as many questions as you want until you are comfortable with your decision.



  33. Hi average joe
    Could review aaw a2h and also make a compsrission chart for under 300$ ciem.?
    It woul pretty helpful for those (like me) who wants to enter customs for the first time..

  34. G’day,

    Loving your in-depth reviews, although I noticed there isn’t a review on the Noble K10’s. Is there a reason for this? Unless I’m blind and can’t see it.


    • Hi Nick, thanks for reading. Unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to review everything. I would be happy to put the K10 up against the rest, but at this point I am not in the position to spend for one of the Wizard’s beautiful creations. I have talked with some K10 owners I trust and have a good understanding of where it may fall.



  35. This is an unbelievable thorough review list of all the great IEM options out there. This must have taken you awhile to create but I for one thank you for your effort. The filters on the chart make it very easy to use.

  36. Any review of the new ACS Encore Studio Custom or ACS Encore Live Custom pending? ACS appear to have improved upon their previous T1 Live offering.

    • I am working on reviews for the EarSonics Velvet & EM32, Spiral Ear SE5 Ultimate, and Legend-R among some others, but not the new ACS products. Once my backlog is cleared I will see I can get ahold of a set. What are you looking for specifically from a sound and product perspective?

      Cheers, Joe

  37. Hi Joe,

    No updates on the review of the alclair RSM? Been looking forward to it for a while, hahhs, been considering them abit..


    • Hi Xing, I have not heard the updated RSM and don’t have it on my list for upcoming reviews (and am quite booked with my review queue). When I did hear it, it was very good for the price, but the treble was a bit on the sharper side, which I believe was improved for the current version.



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