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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.

ABOUT CUSTOM IN-EAR MONITORS

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.

HOW TO USE THE LIST

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.

NOT SURE WHAT TO GET?

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!

117 Responses

  1. 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.

    Thanks
    Benson Wang

  2. 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.

    Cheers,
    Joe

  3. 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.

    Thanks!

  4. 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.

    Cheers,
    Joe

  5. 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.

    Thanks

  6. Hi Joe,

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

    James

  7. Hi Luke, unfortunately I have not paired any aftermarket cables with the a3h pro. Hopefully others that have can share their experience. Cheers, Joe

  8. 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?

    Cheers,

    Joe

  9. 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!

  10. Hi Joe,

    Is there any recommendation of aftermarket upgrade cables that goes well with the aaw a3h pro?

  11. 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.

    Best,

    James

  12. 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.

    Cheers,

    Joe

  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,

    James

  14. 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).

    Cheers,

    Joe

  15. 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,

    James

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

    Cheers,
    Joe

  18. 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. 🙂

  19. 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,

    James

  20. 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.

    Cheers,

    Joe

  21. 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.

    Cheers,
    Joe

  22. 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.

    Cheers,

    Joe

  23. 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.

  24. 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

  25. 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,
    Dan

  26. 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.

    Cheers,

    Joe

  27. 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?

    Thanks!

  28. 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.

    Cheers,

    Joe

  29. 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.

    Cheers,
    Joe

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

  30. 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!

  31. 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!

  32. Ah, I was thinking the To Go version. Fit Ear makes some nice products; did you audition them first? Can you share the name of the store? Cheers, Joe

  33. Hi Joe

    It is a custom in ear. I purchased them from Malaysia. I have not received it yet as it will take several months.

    Hope that helps!

  34. Hi AA, have you received them yet, and if so, what do you think? Out of curiosity where did you purchase them from and why did you decide to go with a universal vs. custom?

    Cheers,

    Joe

  35. 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.

    Cheers,

    Joe

  36. 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

  37. 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.

    Cheers,

    Joe

  38. Hi AA, thanks for the questions. Of those listed I would recommend the JH13 if you are in the US and they make their monitors flush. Rhianna is a JH Audio customer and here is their published client list. Let me know if you have any other questions.

    Cheers,

    Joe

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