Prepping to get some in-ear monitors

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Hey all,

Anyone here go through the process of purchasing custom in-ear monitors? At NAMM I saw several big vendors (Ultimate Ears, CTM, and GorillaEars) selling them, and Ultimate Ears was actually taking molds of peoples ears who were purchasing that day. But I suppose the process would be to go to an audiologist and have them take the molds of your ears, then you send that to the manufacturer of choice for your in-ears and they're made from the molds.

I'm just wondering if anyone has done this before I start making phone calls. I was surprised that Ultimate Ears prices ranged from $400 to $1400, and CTM ranged between $250 to $1000, and just out of finances, I'd probably go with the CTM low-end. Does anyone remember how much an audiologist charges to take the molds in the first place? Or has anyone been able to do the whole thing at the audiologist office? I wonder if my health care plan (I'm with Kaiser here in California) will cover part of this?

Any info out there among us?
 

kekoa68

Member
I have two sets of the Ultimate ears and had my molds done at their facility in Irvine. JH audo is another company you may want to look in to. The owner is the same guy who started ultimate ears. Ear molds at an audiologist are around 50-75 dollars. The molds are very specific for in ear monitors. Go on the website for ultimate ears and they specify exactly what type of impression the audiologist needs to take. Kaiser may be tough unless you plan getting a set of hearing aids. You may be able to claim they're for hearing protection. But even then the impressions, I believe, are different. I've been meaning to hit up Kaiser as well about this. Hope this helps.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
I have two sets of the Ultimate ears and had my molds done at their facility in Irvine. JH audo is another company you may want to look in to. The owner is the same guy who started ultimate ears. Ear molds at an audiologist are around 50-75 dollars. The molds are very specific for in ear monitors. Go on the website for ultimate ears and they specify exactly what type of impression the audiologist needs to take. Kaiser may be tough unless you plan getting a set of hearing aids. You may be able to claim they're for hearing protection. But even then the impressions, I believe, are different. I've been meaning to hit up Kaiser as well about this. Hope this helps.
Thanks! I guess the 50-75 bucks isn't that bad to get the impressions done. I'll look into JH audio too. I suppose Kaiser might be a tough one to crack, but I thought I'd look into it.
 

evilg99

Platinum Member
Bo, if you're not wanting to spend too much, you might want to try buying a set of In-Ears and just using the off the shelf different sized tips that come with them.
I've gone through two sets of $225 M-Audio IE-30 (long discontinued) and I'm now onto Shure (about $400, forget the model right now)....and I have to say, the M-Audio's blew the Shures away.

Ultimate Ears made all the M-Audio buds (before Logitech bought them) , and the IE30's are roughly equivalent to the Ulitimate Ears Triple Fi 10 - if you can still find them.

I'm not sure if the TripleFi-10's are customizable ....and that will be key.
The Ultimate Ears stuff has changed names/brands 3 times in the past 5 years, it's confusing.

Sorry if you know all this and are only concerned with customized in-ears.

So, to summarize : if you're new to it...start with the off the shelf buds (make sure they can be custom fit) and then in the future ....maybe upgrade to custom but it may not be necessary.

I have converted no fewer than 5 musican friends over to the HIFi Side of IEM's.
All of them are still using them. Only one of the 5 has custom molds.

Neal
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Bo, if you're not wanting to spend too much, you might want to try buying a set of In-Ears and just using the off the shelf different sized tips that come with them.
I've gone through two sets of $225 M-Audio IE-30 (long discontinued) and I'm now onto Shure (about $400, forget the model right now)....and I have to say, the M-Audio's blew the Shures away.

Ultimate Ears made all the M-Audio buds (before Logitech bought them) , and the IE30's are roughly equivalent to the Ulitimate Ears Triple Fi 10 - if you can still find them.

I'm not sure if the TripleFi-10's are customizable ....and that will be key.
The Ultimate Ears stuff has changed names/brands 3 times in the past 5 years, it's confusing.

Sorry if you know all this and are only concerned with customized in-ears.

So, to summarize : if you're new to it...start with the off the shelf buds (make sure they can be custom fit) and then in the future ....maybe upgrade to custom but it may not be necessary.

I have converted no fewer than 5 musican friends over to the HIFi Side of IEM's.
All of them are still using them. Only one of the 5 has custom molds.

Neal
Thanks Neal, but right now on my job, I'm using the Shure SE315 monitors and I've been dealing with that "occlusion effect" - every time I walk around with them in, the vibrations from my feet boom in my head. I was told that the custom deep in-ear molds eliminate this effect. It's not so important that they sound super great, I just want to eliminate that "plugged up" feeling, and the vibrations to the inside of my head.

So my wife tells me (after seeing those vendors at the NAMM show), "Your birthday's coming up, maybe you should get a nice pair of in-ears since you complain about what you have to wear all the time". What a nice wife ;)
 

evilg99

Platinum Member
Ah yes, that plugged up sound of hearing the blood pumping in your head...it's kinda isolating, I know exactly what you mean. You get the same effect if you have ever walked into an anechoic chamber...

Then yes by all means, get custom molds done by an Audiologist; just make sure they are mold-able. The newer Ultimate Ears by Logitech are all customizable. Also make damn sure you have dual drivers minimum or better yet, triple drivers. Bass response. Big difference.

Honestly, I hate my Shure SE425. They sound awful. Harsh, no dynamics, no bottom end, everything sounds mushy. I hate that they cost so much to sound so bad. One of the plastic housings already broke after two months use (got a warranty replacement). They stay put pretty good though.
The M-Audio/Ultimate Ears experience was a much happier one. The buds sounded good, right away. My kick drum sounded good in my buds. That and a bit of overheads, bass, acoustic guitar and some vocals....heaven. The fit was not good. Always screwing them into my head.
Anyway, big big vote for Ultimate Ears + custom molds.

Neal
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Ah yes, that plugged up sound of hearing the blood pumping in your head...it's kinda isolating, I know exactly what you mean. You get the same effect if you have ever walked into an anechoic chamber...

Then yes by all means, get custom molds done by an Audiologist; just make sure they are mold-able. The newer Ultimate Ears by Logitech are all customizable. Also make damn sure you have dual drivers minimum or better yet, triple drivers. Bass response. Big difference.

Honestly, I hate my Shure SE425. They sound awful. Harsh, no dynamics, no bottom end, everything sounds mushy. I hate that they cost so much to sound so bad. One of the plastic housings already broke after two months use (got a warranty replacement). They stay put pretty good though.
The M-Audio/Ultimate Ears experience was a much happier one. The buds sounded good, right away. My kick drum sounded good in my buds. That and a bit of overheads, bass, acoustic guitar and some vocals....heaven. The fit was not good. Always screwing them into my head.
Anyway, big big vote for Ultimate Ears + custom molds.

Neal
I'm afraid of the prices on the dual- and triple-driver sets. I figured if the low-end Ultimates sound as good as the Shure SE315 I'll be happy. I'm not sure I wanted to spend close to a thousand dollars for this project.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
I'm afraid of the prices on the dual- and triple-driver sets. I figured if the low-end Ultimates sound as good as the Shure SE315 I'll be happy. I'm not sure I wanted to spend close to a thousand dollars for this project.
But you do. A nice dual driver will handle the low end well, and leave room for a vent. The chief complaint among in-ear users is that they feel "too closed off from the world". The vents allow you to hear a bit of ambient noise (at a 15dB reduction), which makes everything more comfortable. And if you want to get rid of the ambient noise, you can block off the vents (but you probably won't want to do this).

The JH audio stuff is not great. I rave about my UE 7-Pro's (w/Ambient option), and upon inspection, the comparable model from JH has cheaper components (most notably a meager-looking bass driver), and a friend gives them a lackluster review.

Before you start using IEMs, get your ears flushed by the same audiologist who'll do the impressions. I had two jellybean size gobs of wax come out of each canal (gross, I know!). Well worth it, and you'll only have to pay for one office visit. From then on, use a cue tip to clean your ears after showering regularly. Don't go in there with a cue tip before you've had your ears flushed, though, because you might pack existing wax further in!

Honestly, my UE-7 Pro's w/Ambient are hard to beat. I can (and have) mixed demos with them, they are balanced that nicely. I have a hard time imagining that a triple-driver set up could offer any improvement. And they are the best damn ear buds for just listening!
 

New Tricks

Platinum Member
I have no experience with IEM's but damn I would love to carry them to a gig in my pocket instead of hauling 80 pound wedges.
 

Davo-London

Gold Member
I have IEMs with full-blown ear moulds.

I have the basic set and the bass response is disappointing. I feel I will need to upgrade at some point. The cocoon effect is real and you become soooo dependent on the monitor mix that you no longer have any idea about the overall balance of sound, so it's difficult to know if you should be quieter or louder.

Davo
 

Aeolian

Platinum Member
Bo, no, you will still have the occlusion effect because your ear canals are full of silicone and capped at the end. Call Lisa Tannenbaum at Musicians Hearing Services. She travels back and forth between SF and SoCal doing all the varsity pros. She is the only audiologist on the West Coast certified by Sensaphonics to take molds for them. She almost entirely does musicians and understands the difference between a hearing aid mold, and what a musician needs from IEMs. There is an art to taking the impressions and making the inserts so that the sound is not adulterated any more than necessary and they don't leak while you are doing what you do playing music.

As a drummer, you probably want to invest in at least dual driver earpieces so that you get a good bottom end on the bass player and your kick drum. Good sealing is also critical for this.

I've had ER plugs made by both Westone and Sensaphonics and IEMs from Sensaphonics. From a musicians standpoint there was no comparison in the naturalness of the sound and comfort. I had to take the Westones out ever break, whereas I leave the Sensaphonics in all night and sometimes drive home with them still in. If I don't have to walk too far to my car that is. There's no avoiding that pounding sound when you walk. And stay away from the potato chips! ;-)
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Bo, no, you will still have the occlusion effect because your ear canals are full of silicone and capped at the end. Call Lisa Tannenbaum at Musicians Hearing Services. She travels back and forth between SF and SoCal doing all the varsity pros. She is the only audiologist on the West Coast certified by Sensaphonics to take molds for them. She almost entirely does musicians and understands the difference between a hearing aid mold, and what a musician needs from IEMs. There is an art to taking the impressions and making the inserts so that the sound is not adulterated any more than necessary and they don't leak while you are doing what you do playing music.

As a drummer, you probably want to invest in at least dual driver earpieces so that you get a good bottom end on the bass player and your kick drum. Good sealing is also critical for this.

I've had ER plugs made by both Westone and Sensaphonics and IEMs from Sensaphonics. From a musicians standpoint there was no comparison in the naturalness of the sound and comfort. I had to take the Westones out ever break, whereas I leave the Sensaphonics in all night and sometimes drive home with them still in. If I don't have to walk too far to my car that is. There's no avoiding that pounding sound when you walk. And stay away from the potato chips! ;-)
Well this bit of information is starting to bum me out.

So, are you saying that whatever you do, there's no way to lessen or eliminate the 'occlusion effect'? What would the point be in having these expensive custom IEM's compared to the Shure 315's I'm already having to wear? If the Shure's completely seal my ear from outside sound, then I'm not having to turn them up loud in use. Is this essentially what is happening with the custom fit IEMs?

Maybe I can just live with these stock Shure things when I need to hear a mix, but just get those nice Etymotic Research ER15's musicians plugs just to bring everything down to a comfortable level when I'm just playing then? That was my original idea 20 years ago because back then we had wedge monitors for everything. This custom in-ear business seems very expensive for what it is, don't you think?

I'll call this Ms. Tannenbaum and set up a fact-finding appointment, but like I said, spending over a $1000 is looking real unattractive.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
Well this bit of information is starting to bum me out.

So, are you saying that whatever you do, there's no way to lessen or eliminate the 'occlusion effect'? What would the point be in having these expensive custom IEM's compared to the Shure 315's I'm already having to wear? If the Shure's completely seal my ear from outside sound, then I'm not having to turn them up loud in use. Is this essentially what is happening with the custom fit IEMs?
That's why I recommended the vented model. The vents will allow you to hear some ambient noise (if you want, you can still plug them up so that you're completely isolated). You'll still want to take them out between sets, because it will be like wearing ear plugs with them in.

The point of the custom ear molds to improve the balance of sound and your personal comfort. Maybe they work well for you, but the tips on generic IEMs tend to move or slip which changes the sound. It's annoying, and it gets worse with sweating or moving about. Plus, you're completely cut off from the real world, so it's easy to overplay.

If you're not using IEMs regularly, though, it's tough to justify the expense. Also, the predicability of the sound system makes a big difference. If the board is digital and you can recall your monitor mix, then you can leave the monitor engineer alone once you've tweaked your settings over a few gigs.

Agreed on having a knowledgeable audiologist do the impressions. And get those ears flushed first!
 

HMNY

Silver Member
Bo,

I would throw in a vote for Westones with customized moulds. I had a pair as primary ipod earbuds, and loved them, until I dropped them out of an open pocket (ouch) and lost them.

I had the Westone UM2, which you can get from here:

http://www.earphonesolutions.com/um2dudrineaw.html

I them switched to the Shure SE425, which are nice, but I feel the Westones had a slightly better top end.

my $0.02 to add to the confusion!
 

Skitch

Pioneer Member
But you do. A nice dual driver will handle the low end well, and leave room for a vent. The chief complaint among in-ear users is that they feel "too closed off from the world". The vents allow you to hear a bit of ambient noise (at a 15dB reduction), which makes everything more comfortable. And if you want to get rid of the ambient noise, you can block off the vents (but you probably won't want to do this).

The JH audio stuff is not great. I rave about my UE 7-Pro's (w/Ambient option), and upon inspection, the comparable model from JH has cheaper components (most notably a meager-looking bass driver), and a friend gives them a lackluster review.

Before you start using IEMs, get your ears flushed by the same audiologist who'll do the impressions. I had two jellybean size gobs of wax come out of each canal (gross, I know!). Well worth it, and you'll only have to pay for one office visit. From then on, use a cue tip to clean your ears after showering regularly. Don't go in there with a cue tip before you've had your ears flushed, though, because you might pack existing wax further in!

Honestly, my UE-7 Pro's w/Ambient are hard to beat. I can (and have) mixed demos with them, they are balanced that nicely. I have a hard time imagining that a triple-driver set up could offer any improvement. And they are the best damn ear buds for just listening!
Okay, is there a link to where can I check out the UE 7-pros and buy them?

Mike
 

Otto

Platinum Member
From what I understand the "Booming" Sound comes from atmospheric sound pressure waves being unable to escape the ear canal.

Any truly isolating in ear monitor should cause this effect.

This is why i use vented in ear 'phones(cheap ones at that) with over the ear cup style hearing protection(like the ones used by your average heavy machine operator)

...I don't really care for the look...but the function is great.

Cost is around $20.00 total.
 

NerfLad

Silver Member
The JH audio stuff is not great. I rave about my UE 7-Pro's (w/Ambient option), and upon inspection, the comparable model from JH has cheaper components (most notably a meager-looking bass driver), and a friend gives them a lackluster review.
That may be true of the lower end models (with which I have no experience), but I would not write off the inventor of the in-ear monitor as having lackluster components or quality.

I have JH13's, arranged in a driver configuration they just came out with that supposedly improves phase correlation. Whether or not that's just marketing BS, they are the purest sounding listening environment I have ever heard. In my opinion they sound better and more transparent than the Genelec's (or any of the other great monitors, for that matter) in the studio I rehearse in with one of my projects. I mix, master and casually listen on them and couldn't possibly be happier. The fact that I can use them on stage is just icing on the cake, really. Now, for 1200 USD, that had better be true... but I just wanted to chip in on JH Audio since my experience has been quite positive.

Also my impressions were only $20. I went to a hearing aid doctor and just told him I wanted a full canal impression for musician's ear plugs, and he knew what to do.
 

bigiainw

Gold Member
Well this bit of information is starting to bum me out.

So, are you saying that whatever you do, there's no way to lessen or eliminate the 'occlusion effect'? What would the point be in having these expensive custom IEM's compared to the Shure 315's I'm already having to wear? If the Shure's completely seal my ear from outside sound, then I'm not having to turn them up loud in use. Is this essentially what is happening with the custom fit IEMs?

Maybe I can just live with these stock Shure things when I need to hear a mix, but just get those nice Etymotic Research ER15's musicians plugs just to bring everything down to a comfortable level when I'm just playing then? That was my original idea 20 years ago because back then we had wedge monitors for everything. This custom in-ear business seems very expensive for what it is, don't you think?

I'll call this Ms. Tannenbaum and set up a fact-finding appointment, but like I said, spending over a $1000 is looking real unattractive.
I do this too Bo- plugs for just playing (which I do less and less incidentally) and my in ears when I am doing backing vox. Thankfully I'm stuck behind the kit and don't take to my feet with the monitors in I use a wired Shure P6HW in any case so can't stray any more than a few feet) so the effect you describe is not an issue for me, but I'm sure that there will be a solution. It's just finding it that might require a bit of trial and error. As for the custom/ stock- expensive budget debate, I use the best IEMs I can afford, with no custom mould, just the OEM supplied tips, which are pretty budget as I'm just an occassional player with a family to feed. they let me hear what i need to hear- I don't get all the low end that i would want, but it's not as if i can't feel the bass drum, so its not a big issue.

I accept that I don't get the best sound quality, but on the upside, I have no hearing loss and can sing in tune while playing. In the end it's all about the compromise that you are willing to accept.
 

kekoa68

Member
Not much I can add to this thread other than I have UE5's, which I use for playing, and UE11's which I use for casual music listening. The UE5's are perfectly suited for live performance and sound quality is no issue at all. Having more drivers isn't necessarily a good thing for accurate stage monitoring as the extra drivers often serve as a bass boost. I'd be willing to guarantee that you would be very happy with customs as once there in you don't even know there there ( if they are made correctly ). . I can attest to the sound quality of UE and the support I got from them was top notch, though this was before logitech bought them. I've had the porcelin on mine break, due to dropping them, and I just dropped them off and they had them fixed in a few days, for free. Give them a call, they may do the molds for free. They did for me. They are expensive compared to others, but having them close by is a big advantage.
 
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