My first custom in-ear monitor: a personal journey

Getting started 

At this point I’ll take you through the step-by-step process of getting your CIEMs made, from taking ear impressions, to receiving the finished product. 

Step 1: Choose your CIEM 

I’ll keep this section brief, but there’s a few things to know before choosing your perfect CIEM. For starters, not all universal IEMs are available as customs, and vice versa. That means if you’re already using a good IEM and want a custom version of the same thing, that’s not always possible – in fact, unless it’s a higher-end model, it’s unlikely the company even makes customs. Most customs are made for performing artists as tools of the trade, rather than for casual music listening.

Another important aspect to consider when choosing a CIEM is the fit type. Most traditional customs have nozzles that extend past the first bend in your ear canal, providing a fairly deep, snug fit. That’s because CIEMs were originally made for performing artists, so they have to fit in a way that won’t come loose under any circumstances, especially during a live performance. 

Some companies, like Campfire Audio in the US and FitEar in Japan, offer a shallower type of nozzle that provides a looser but potentially more comfortable fit. Campfire calls this audiophile fit, intended for people wanting to use their CIEMs at home, and thus not needing the more rigorous ‘artist’ fit. I selected Campfire’s new Supermoon CIEM with an audiophile fit for this reason.

Finally, take your time choosing a CIEM, because, as already mentioned above, the process itself can take a while, can be relatively expensive, and the chances of returning or reselling your CIEM if you’re not entirely satisfied are slim to none. 

Image courtesy Campfire Audio

Step 2: Find out what you need 

Once you’ve done your research and identified the model you want, the first thing you need to do is check the ear impressions requirements of your CIEM maker. Each company will have slightly different requirements to ensure their products are made to spec, and to minimise errors along the way. I’m going to use Campfire Audio’s requirement sheet as an example:

According to Campfire Audio specifications, the impressions must be:

  • Full shell impressions that clearly include the helix, crus of helix, tragus, and anti-tragus (with no large holes in the concha).
  • Made from high viscosity silicone (no powder/liquid impressions), or .stl file format if taken digitally.
  • Extended to the second bend of the canal.
  • Open-mouth impressions using a bite block.

While the above might read like gibberish if this is your first rodeo, it will make sense to the audiologist you’ll be visiting to have your ear impressions made. Some companies offer home kits to make your own ear impressions, but I strongly suggest you visit an audiologist with experience in creating ear impressions for in-ear monitors, not just hearing aids

Your CIEM company should have a list of authorised audiologists familiar with making ear impressions to their spec, but if there are none in your area you may need to do some homework to find the right person for the job. The good news is, it’s really not rocket science, and any good audiologist that understands the process should be able to help.

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ABOUT AUTHOR

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.

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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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