Musing About IEMs--and what do you think?

By Frank Wells. Getting new IEM’s got me wondering… I recently had a set of custom in-ear-monitors and the experience got me wondering how many musicians and engineers are using custom fitted earphones. I thought I’d share a couple of comments here and conduct a decidedly unscientific informal IEM survey—anyone have experiences to share?
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By Frank Wells.

Getting new IEM’s got me wondering…

I recently had a set of custom in-ear-monitors and the experience got me wondering how many musicians and engineers are using custom fitted earphones. I thought I’d share a couple of comments here and conduct a decidedly unscientific informal IEM survey—anyone have experiences to share?

The new 2X-S earphones I got were made from molds taken back at summer NAMM time—I went through the audiologist fitting routine when I picked the earphones up. Fitted earphones make a big difference in the ability to keep the earpieces seated properly—I have some universals and I like the way they sound, but the fit, with the various plastic inserts, are susceptible to breaking the seal with movement. The foam inserts are better in my experience, but maybe I’m best suited by some fit in between the sizes, as the mediums don’t keep a good fit for me, but the large ones get uncomfortable quicker. Getting a good initial fit is a bit more fiddly with the foamies though you get better at it with practice. I don’t have experience with the hard plastic inserts, but the silicone that Sensaphonics uses are certainly comfortable and seal well (and they sound good).

Sensaphonics currently has an “economic stimulus” program running (through the end of the year)—trading in any other brand of custom earphones nets a $250 price reduction.

Getting the 2x-Ss is also letting me try another new device from Sensaphonics, the dB check. Inserting this Nano-sized device between source and earphones lets you know what levels you are actually listening at (they know the sensitivity of their products, so the readouts are based on measuring input voltage and converting that reading to an at-ear dB SPL reading). In-ears are often touted for hearing conservation, but if you are listening too loud, you can still damage your hearing, and finally there’s a practical way to know how loud you are really listening (and the readings you get can be averaged across a user defined time window, then the results are shown not only in dB, but are correlated to hearing protection standards, the readout showing safe listening time in minutes). Yeah, that sounds like a commercial, but I’m jazzed to know how loud I really listen (and to get confirmation that I’m pretty reasonable with my levels). We did a bit on dB Check in Pro Sound News in September.

I look forward to hearing your experiences and preferences.