IEM vs CIEM: Pros and Cons of Universal- and Custom-Fit

In-ear monitors allow you to take your home stereo with you wherever you are. It is amazing that we can fit even the best possible audio experience in our everyday-bag or pocket. However, some people complain about comfort issues from conventional earphones and consider a customized build to perfectly match individual ears. Your 83dB team takes a closer look at the pros and cons of a custom-fit IEM.

Pro CIEM: Custom In-Ear Monitors

Better Noise Protection

The custom-fit earphones were first invented in the 1990s and used by the band Led Zeppelin as a means to block out noise and protect the hearing. Indeed, having a perfect fit IEM is like wearing noise-guarding plugs that additionally allow you to monitor the sound. Ever since the demand is increasing by professional on-stage performers. In general, a customized IEM can decrease surrounding noise by up to 37 dB whereas a normal IEM only achieves around 20 dB.

Perfect-Fit from a Custom

Better Comfort

A custom-fit IEM is tailored to your ears and is thus the most comfortable way of wearing objects in your ears. How the customization works is that an audiologist takes your ear impression or ear mold from a soft silicone that becomes hard over time. This shape is the instruction of how to build the earphones that exactly match your individual shape. Through this method it is not necessary to use any additional ear tips. The custom-fit seals the ear canal perfectly and usually also has a considerably better noise isolation.

Optimized Sound Quality

From the ear impressions the manufacturer knows the shape of your ear canal. The human ear canal has two bends that also affects the sound based on reflections. The manufacturer can read this information and align the sound output perfectly to reduce any further reflections resulting in less distortion that is often audible through treble peaks.

Choose Your Look!

Going customized means that you can also choose your own design. Usually the manufacturer offers a big selection of different colors and sometimes even materials. Definitely any high quality IEM will become an integral part of your everyday. Thus it makes sense to match its looks to your style.

Pro UIEM: Universal In-Ear Monitor

No Waiting

Whereas a CIEM has to be ordered and needs the ear impressions sent in, the universal-fit can be picked off the shelf and enjoyed immediately. Wait can be torture, but usually it’s worth it and yields a greater satisfaction.

Risk of a Refit

When ordering a CIEM from Softears you have the option to get a pre-fit to see if the shape of the final CIEM is as good as possible. This way you can be sure in advance and forego the risk of a refit.

Resale Value

Sometimes we need to invest in new gear and being able to sell off unused gear can be of great help. The custom-fit will only match your ears and needs a rework at further expenses which brings the 2nd hand prices down.

Difficult to Share the Experience

Going for the real top-end, for example the Softears RS10 or Cerberus, you can be sure you are hitting the maximum of what is technically possible with sound reproduction. We know we still cannot stop grinning when using these unreal masterpieces and the enhancements from the CIEM crank it all the way to 11. Unfortunately this experience cannot be shared unless somebody has invested in the same pair.

Custom-Fit or Universal-Fit: Which is Better?

Going custom is not a guarantee that the experience will be better. But if the manufacturer has its roots in custom monitoring, it is safe to say that the custom-fit version will have at least the same or even better sound quality. Combined with a more secure fit and higher sound isolation, the CIEM version is generally regarded as the better option. Finally, an individual set of custom-fit earphones makes you look like the biggest rock star!

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