Details: Dual-driver custom from Florida-based Clear Tune Monitors
Base Price: $400 from cleartunemonitors.com
Specs: Driver: Dual BA | Imp: 17.5Ω | Sens: 110 dB | Freq: 20-15.5k Hz | Cable: 4.6’ L-plug
Wear Style: Over-the-ear
Accessories (3.5/5) – Velvet storage/carrying case and cleaning tool
Build Quality (5/5) – The CT-200 utilizes a two-way, dual-bore setup with a Knowles CI-22955 and ED-23619 in each earpiece. The build is good – the exterior of the acrylic shells is clean, with a bit of bubbling on the inside but very clear faceplates. Numerous color options are available, with custom artwork and two-tone schemes for the shells and faceplates each commandin a $25 premium. The cable uses a Westone-size socket and a slightly raised connector
Isolation (4/5) – The isolation provided by the fitted acrylic shells is good – slightly below what deep-sealing Etymotic Research earphones are capable of but higher than that of the ergonomic monitors from Westone and EarSonics
Microphonics (5/5) – Pretty much nonexistent, as is the case with all of the custom monitors I’ve come across
Comfort (5/5) – Putting the customs in requires a bit of getting used to but the twisting motion eventually becomes second nature. As with all customs, the fit depends on the quality of the initial impressions and skill of the person making the monitors. If the earphones remain even a tiny bit uncomfortable after an initial break-in period, a re-fit is probably a good idea. CTM allows refits for an extremely generous 120 days. There is added cost with shipping the monitors back and, if necessary, getting new impressions but on the whole a perfect fit is well worth the trouble
Sound (9.3/10) – The CT-200 is billed as a low-cost option for professional musicians and discerning listeners alike. I have no issues with that claim – the sound signature is balanced enough for it to be used as a reference monitor but at the same time the presentation is fluid and natural, lacking the analytical edge that can interfere with musicality. The bass is mildly rolled off at the very bottom, otherwise coming across controlled and level. Overall bass quantity is close to what I would consider ‘neutral’. The mid-bass boost of the similarly-priced 1964EARS 1964-T is nowhere to be found, with the bass of the CT-200 coming out a cleaner and better-defined as a result. The CTM is a little less dynamic and not quite as capable of belting out the low notes as the 1964-T but the gain in resolution will be worth it for many listeners. Compared to the j-phonic K2 SP, the bass of the CT-200 is similar in quantity but with a greater sensation of impact, likely due to the larger contact area of the custom shell, while the speed and depth are a touch lower. The dynamic-driver VSonic GR07 is also around the same level in terms of bass quantity but has a bit more body, depth, and thickness at the expense of some detail and resolution.
The midrange transition is smooth and seamless, with zero bleed. The CT-200 causes the 1964-T to sound slightly congested in the midrange, as if there is too much overlap between the drivers. It is smoother and its mids are less forward than those of the 1964-T, though by no means recessed. Between the other balanced-sounding in-ears, the Audio-Technica CK10 has slightly less midrange presence and the j-phonic K2 SP has slightly more. The CT-200 is also transparent and not at all dry as the 1964-T tends to be. The clarity is excellent, note thickness is good, and the tone is very neutral – the K2 SP might sound a touch crisper but it is brighter and thinner-sounding. As a result, the j-phonics come across edgier and more analytical while the CT-200 is smoother and more organic.
Similarly to the midrange, the treble of the CT-200 is smooth and non-fatiguing, as it should be with a good monitor. It is clean and clear but those looking for an analytical edge will be disappointed. There is a touch more sparkle compared to the 1964-T but the tuning, on the whole, plays it safe – the VSonic GR07, for example, is noticeably less smooth and tends to accentuate sibilance far more than the CT-200 does. The ATH-CK10, too, sounds hotter with its treble peak and even the 1964-T is not quite as soft and smooth.
The soundstage of the CT-200 is rather spacious and the overall sound is big and airy. Whereas the 1964-T is intimate in presentation, the CT-200 is well-separated and at times makes the 1964-T sound downright congested. The headstage is wider than just about anything in my collection. The GR07, RE272 and CK10, while well-rounded in terms of sonic space, fall short of the width of the CT-200 and the decidedly less spacious K2 SP and 1964-T don’t stand a chance. It’s not the most 3-dimensional presentation and dynamics could be better but the CT-200 still performs admirably on all counts.
Lastly, since someone is certainly going to ask, I thought I would compare the CT-200 to the Unique Melody Miracle. The 3-way, 6-driver, $929 flagship from China-based Unique Melody is not tuned as a reference monitor but it is still my sole benchmark for what a top-tier custom is capable of. Keep in mind that the fairness of a comparison between two IEMs so different in purpose and price is dubious at best.
The sound signature of the Miracle is very slightly v-shaped, which means that the midrange of the CT-200 is more prominent in comparison and the bass and treble are more relaxed. The lows of the Miracle are much more powerful – deeper, thicker, weightier. Impact is more tactile and the bass has rumble to go with its punch. In the midrange the Miracle is again thicker, smoother, and more fluid. Clarity levels are similar but the Miracle is still the more resolving and refined earphone. It is also more dynamic, which has an effect not only on fidelity but also on imaging and positioning. The sonic space of the Miracle is easily more well-rounded and more 3-dimensional while the CT-200 has a slight upper hand in soundstage width and stereo separation.
Value (8.5/10) – Though the dual-BA setup used by the Clear Tune Monitors CT-200 is hardly revolutionary, the sound produced by this entry-level custom monitor is excellent. The CT-200 is no pricier than many high-end universals but offers the isolation, fit, and customization options of a full-shell custom monitor. The finish is good compared to the other entry-level customs in my possession and the sound is balanced and spacious. The CT-200 sounds soft and natural, with clarity and detail expected of a BA-based earphone in its price range and a presentation to match. I have been quite impressed with it, and anyone else looking for a balanced monitor in the price range should be as well.
Pros: Very balanced, neutral, and spacious sound; good build quality; excellent long-term comfort
Cons: Correct insertion takes some getting used to; less isolating than silicone-shelled customs