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My first custom in-ear monitor: a personal journey

As a longtime ‘audiophile’ but relatively recent convert to portable audio, I was always aware that custom in-ear monitors (CIEMs) were a thing. But for various reasons, mainly cost, logistics, and a general fear of the unknown, I never seriously considered getting my own. Until now.

Many of you might be in the same boat. You’ve heard of CIEMs, even seen some at shops or tradeshows, or tried on one of your buddy’s (only to find it didn’t quite fit, of course). But for some or other reason, probably very similar to mine, you haven’t been inclined to buy one. 

Trust me when I tell you, if I can do it successfully, living where I do, then anyone can do the same, and probably far quicker, easier and more cost-effectively too.

Image courtesy Campfire Audio

A brief history

Before we begin, let’s cover off what CIEMs are, how they differ from normal in-ear earphones, and why you’d want to get one in the first place. 

As portable audio hobbyists, the first person we tend to think of when it comes to CIEMs is Jerry Harvey. As a sound engineer for a number of rock bands back in the 1990s, Harvey made what is generally considered to be the first CIEM for Alex van Halen in 1995. In fact, more than 10 years earlier, another sound engineer called Marty Garcia made a custom mould that kept musician Todd Rundgren’s earphones in place during a live performance. 

But it was Harvey’s CIEMs that changed the world of live performance forever, and gave rise to what it today one of the world’s fastest growing markets for audio products.

Image courtesy Wikipedia



Picture of Guy Lerner

Guy Lerner

An avid photographer and writer 'in real life', Guy's passion for music and technology created the perfect storm for his love of portable audio. When he's not playing with the latest and greatest head-fi gear, he prefers to spend time away from the hobby with his two (almost) grown kids and wife in the breathtaking city of Cape Town, and traveling around his native South Africa.


2 Responses

  1. Hi. I’m from head-fi and looking for nice CIEM as well to match with SP3000. Looking for warm, fun to listen one.

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