Another IEMs question

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by two fingers, Jun 4, 2017.

  1. Universal

    16 vote(s)
  2. Molded

    20 vote(s)
  3. I don't use them but if you leave me out I will choke myself with a carrot.

    5 vote(s)
  1. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Inactive

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    So, I have a very specific question.

    For those of you who use (what I would call) "high end" IEM buds, and have used both molded and universal.....

    Was there a tremendous difference? Was one much better than the other?

    I am specifically comparing the 64 Audio A8 vs U8. I can actually see advantages to both kinds....but primarily universal fit. (Price is not a factor for this discussion.)

    1) Resale - I can see resale being a possibility if I wind up not needing or liking them with universal fit.

    2) Flexibility - I can try different materials of tips until I find exactly what I like.

    3) Cleanliness- After a few shows, just chunk those flexible tips and put on new ones.

    4) Better seal - If the ear bud tip is expanding to fit your ear canal every time, it must be sealing up nice and isolating well.

    I guess what I am trying to say is I need to be talked into molded buds before buying them.

    Again, price is not a factor.
  2. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    have only used universals myself, but if price isn't a factor it's pretty clear that custom molds win by a wide margin.

    #1. ick, replaced tips or not
    #2. none of them would be as good as the proper mold
    #3. i dunno, it seems like the customs are more closed-off in the first place for gunk to get where it doesn't belong
    #4. not even close
    two fingers likes this.
  3. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Inactive

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
  4. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    @two fingers , I had the same questions as you last week, and wound up going with universal for a few reasons. I also have to question @walterw 's #. 4. not even close. I believe that's undoubtedly his experience, but not everyone's. My band all has custom iems, and I'm pretty sure they all got them in the same place. Everyone is thrilled with theirs except the lead singer. He said he much preferred the universals, and wishes he never got the customs made. I've heard a few others say the same - which is part of why I stopped even considering customs.

    Another thing that occurred to me is that some people can't stand earplugs. They're really uncomfortable with them, and/or they just can't ever get a proper fit and seal. I sleep every night with earplugs and I've been wearing them every time I'm around music for the past 10 years. I have no issues with them whatsoever, and I'm quite comfortable wearing them. With my current IEMs I bought the highly recommended isolation buds (forgot the name, but everybody knows them) and they work fine - they don't slip out of my ears, and I get more isolation than with even the best ear plugs I used to use before going IEM. I just found out also that the bud company goes even one step further with isolation in their professional (P) series. Now I'm super stoked :). Ordering some today, to go along with the IEMs my guys ordered for me yesterday :) :) :).

    And yes, I went universal as part of my negotiations with the band also (last week's IEM thread). They went for it with no problem so the decision was actually a no brainer for me. Drop $700 of my own money on customs, or have the band buy me the universals. I got the Westone UM 30s. I can let yas know how they are in a couple of weeks.
  5. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Inactive

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA

    You talking about Comply foam tips?
    Comply™ Foam Tips - Replacement Earphone Tips
  6. alack


    Nov 20, 2000
    I'm using the Shure 215s and love them. I'm told I would hear the difference in performance when using more expensive multi-driver customs. But I'm playing in low to moderate stage volume situations through an X-Air 16 and find that the monitor mix I'm getting is far better than anything I ever got with wedges or side fills. I use a wired system running and XLR from one of the X-air's Aux sends to a small Mackie mixer. I was running a separate feed from my bass into another channel in Mackie. But recently I've dialed in my mix from the X-air to the point of where the separate feed for the bass is unnecessary. At this point I can't imagine spending the additional $ for "better" IEMs. A pair with passive ambient mics built in would be nice on sub dates where I'm only getting vocals and bass in my monitor mix. But for now I'm good and would highly recommend them to anyone looking for an IEM solution on a budget.
    DirtDog and two fingers like this.
  7. delta7fred


    Jul 3, 2007

    We went to IEMs a while ago, we went for a starter pack (transmitter and 3 receivers with cheap earphones) because we were not sure how we would get on with them.

    Guitarist uses the stock silicone buds that came with the earphones, they stay in fine and he gets a good seal.
    I use triple flange buds and get a perfect seal. The stock ones didn't work for me at all.
    Drummer has tried everything and cannot get them to seal or stay in.

    We can tell when he's having trouble because his singing goes off, right off! He is a candidate for customs but as he didn't want to spend money on IEMs in the first place I cannot see that happening. (We are trying to get him to use headphones but he says he will look stupid.)
    two fingers likes this.
  8. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Inactive

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    I'm thinking of doing the mixer thing at church where I don't move around much. I learned that trick from all the young Nashville drummers I have played with. They run a monitor mix in one channel and click track in the other.
  9. I have not used custom fit, but have used universals for about 5 years now. I use the Shure 435 dual drivers. I like them a lot and they are very clear. I started using them with the comply foam tips. It took a little to get used to because the outward pressure of the foam on your ear will make your ear a little sore over a 3-4 hour gig. I worked through it because I thought I was getting a better fit and it was giving me a better sound. One day I swapped them for the thin rubber tips instead of foam tips. For me (could be ear canal geometry...) I actually got better low end with the thin rubber instead of the foam. It was a total win because for me the rubber ones are more comfortable.

    My drummer uses westone tripple drivers which I did an A/B comparison to my dual drivers. I couldn't tell a difference.

    I am now considering a new pair, as 5+ years of gigs has to have taken its toll on the drivers right?
    two fingers and bucephylus like this.
  10. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Inactive

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    What kind of rubber tips? Got a link?
  11. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member

    Aug 18, 2002
    Central Ohio
    Couple FWIW thoughts on tips:

    I've been using the UM30's for the past 18 months. I bought the phones used on eBay; which meant that they came with an incomplete set of the tips. Westone provides about ten different tips, roughly 5+/- each of the foam and silicone seals at different sizes, IIRC.

    It seemed like the foam tips would be more comfortable; and I struggled with those for about 10 months trying to get one of them to work. Never did. I then bought some of these in blue: Decibullz - Custom Molded Earphone Adapters (200-PNK, Pink): Electronics

    ...only to discover that the audio tube sizes are not universal, and they didn't fit the Westone tubes. I was working with making an adapter sleeve when I started messing with the silicone tips. As it turned out, those worked way better for me; except that my phones did not come with the correct size for my canals. I bought about 5 sets of the correct size silicone tips and have had no issues since then. Very comfortable. Perfect seal. Easy to put in and out. No complaints.

    So called "Universal Fit" isn't really universal. You still have to get the correct tip for your canal. Since that is unpredictable, be prepared to try a lot of them before figuring out which is best.

    To one of the other posted discussion points re: inserting tips into your canals being "yuk;" there are these things called Q-tips. You can get them at Target. It's a good idea to use them every now and then.
    Versatek6, tkonbass and two fingers like this.
  12. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member

    Aug 18, 2002
    Central Ohio
    Westone will supply about 5 or so different sized silicone rubber tips with the phones. They also sell all the sizes separately on their site. Just like @bhoff5150, I also had MUCH better results with the silicone rubber tips.
    Versatek6 likes this.
  13. cheapimitation


    Mar 23, 2007
    I've had customs, and found I get a better seal with Etymotic universals: just use cheap ones, $65 or so, and they have a fantastic seal (for my ears, with the large size silicone tri-flange tips:
    Etymotic Research | mk5 Isolator Earphones
  14. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    two fingers likes this.
  15. s0c9

    s0c9 Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2014
    1964 Audio artist, Fractal Audio Beta Tester $0.02
    IF universals "work" for you.. meaning you don't lose the seal when you open your mouth, sing or move your head.. you'll save $$. But you said that isn't a factor.
    Having used both 1964 Qi's (quads) and now A8's, and being a 1964 artist band [I'm slightly biased] but..
    Having SMALL ear canals, universals do NOT work for me. Custom fit provide a much better seal, which in turn allows you to monitor at lower volumes.
    The A8's come with the ADEL/APEX modules, which sort of act like ambient ports. I can hear external noise much clearer with them than the sealed-back Qi's.
    This allows me to hear some stage volume and I can carry on conversations quite happily - between sets - with them still in.
    Turning up the volume a small amount will block that ambient noise.
    I've run the gamut of universals before an audiologist told me I needed customs.
    The A8's give me plenty of definition on bass - with 4 drivers, then 2 mids and 2 highs.
    I LOVE mine.. not just for live.. but they work great for listening too.
    Manticore and two fingers like this.
  16. Manticore


    Feb 27, 2016
    SoCal and PNW
    I too have small ear canals. Like you, I had fitment issues with universals. I greatly prefer my customs. They fit better and are far more comfortable, they seal better, and the driver complement was tailored to my hearing, so they sound better.
    Low84 and s0c9 like this.
  17. tkonbass

    tkonbass I'm just one of the out-of-focus guys.

    Mar 11, 2012
    St. Paul, MN
    I won't vote either way but instead just offer my experiences with IEM's. I started with Shure SE215's but could not adjust to the over-isolation required to get solid bass in my ears. Our drummer uses Westone AM Pro 30's. He recommended them so I picked up a set and after one gig using them was hooked. I really enjoy having the ambient stage sound available naturally in the earphones plus the overall clarity and bass response is fantastic.

    Our drummer has custom tips for his AM's but I decided to try out the different tips that came with the set before investing in my own customs. With the Shures I ended up having to use Comply P100's in order to get decent bass response because none of the included tips worked for me. Apparently I have big ear holes. I was ready to use the Comply tips with the Westone's also but tried the silicone tips that came with the set and found the largest size fit great and provided exceptional clear and solid bass so I bought a full pack of those. I also find the silicones more comfortable, and easier to install and keep clean than the foams.

    I obviously have no experience wearing customs so I can't offer a valid comparison. I'll say that at this time I'm so satisfied with my Westones and their silicone tips that I put ordering customs way on the back burner of things to do/buy.
    Versatek6 and bucephylus like this.
  18. Bullitt5135


    Nov 16, 2010
    SE Michigan
    I replaced my MEE Audio M6 universals with custom P450 from InEarz (quad-drivers). Everything about the customs is better... fit, seal, and most importantly, sound quality. With the universals, I tried every type of tip I could find, including Comply Foam Tips. I have goofy-shaped ear canals, and I couldn't find a good seal with anything. The InEarz customs fit perfectly, keep a good seal at all times, and sound great. I've never had any problem keeping them clean or having them get gunked up.

    Personally, I have $475 plus the cost of molds into my InEars, and I can't imagine needing 8 drivers. I'm sure they sound freakin' great, but for me it's overkill. If you have $1400 to spend on the A8's, I'd say go for it. I don't think you'd be disappointed with quads, either.
  19. roller

    roller Supporting Member

    Mar 30, 2014
    A constant improper fit from a variety standard, off-the-shelf monitors was what led me to go the custom route. My standards constantly fell out and/or just never provided a tight seal.

    I finally told myself, "Enough is enough," did my research and went all-in on a set of customs (Future Sonics MG6Pros).

    The fit of my Future Sonics is simply tremendous... and adds to their excellent sound. It was easy to align myself with a local hearing aid facility and get fitted. They treated me really well and let me walk out with my molds which I then mailed to Future Sonics.

    One thing I'd add to this conversation is if you go with customs, ask your supplier if you should have the molds made with your mouth open or closed as it makes a difference. Regardless, most places that do molds will be able to accommodate you either way.
  20. Meyatch

    Meyatch Supporting Member

    Nov 25, 2007
    I recently switched to custom molds after a couple years of using Shure SE-215s

    1) Resale - I really doubt anyone would buy used custom molds, I have no idea why anyone would buy used universals either.

    2) Flexibility - no need for flexibility when the customs are just right. That's the whole point of getting custom. If for some reason they don't come out right, you should be able to get them redone

    3) Cleanliness- My customs are hard plastic, I have noticed no sign of dirtiness in the ~6 months I've been using them.

    4) Better seal - To get as good of a seal from universals as customs, they would have to be so big and have so much extra foam that they would be painful to wear. Again, that's the whole point of going custom.

    To answer your unnumbered question, I honestly wasn't completely blown away by the sound upgrade. I got In-Earz 4 drivers. They sound great, they sound better, but I didn't have any specific problems using the universals either. I don't need/want a ton of bass frequencies in my ear.