Custom In Ear Monitors – Part 1

Custom In Ear Monitors can be very expensive but are also becoming more affordable as new companies enter the market.

There was a time when there was only 1 then 2 custom in ear monitor manufacturers.  The story is a famous rock and roll sound man invented them for the drummer.  The drummer couldn’t hear the band over the drums unless the monitors were turned up super loud.  I have personally been in a band practice in a small room and just to overcome the snare and kick and high hat was so loud our ears were ringing.

Many stages employ some type of barrier for the drums. Drums are so loud and in a small venue and without the use of sound barriers the overall volume of the other instruments will have to be very loud just to compensate for the drums.

Back to Custom In Ear Monitors.  The first custom in ear monitors were not that custom. They were a makeshift diy early tech solution to a big problem.  Once the drummer tried the customs he was hooked.  Shortly after this other big stars started buying them and a business was born.

The original custom in ear monitors were made mostly with components purchased from Westone the leader in the hearing aid industry. After Westone figured out they could make money selling custom in ear monitors they started a new division to do it themselves.

Before 2000 mostly big stars or people with big budgets had custom in ear monitors.  The reason was not just that they were expensive.  The problem was the solution for even having in ear monitors was a hugely expensive proposition.

Since the dawn of the digital age more stages have been converting to in ear monitor systems as the primary source versus the old floor monitors where every musician would have a huge speaker in front of them so they could hear the other instruments.

Personal floor monitors are replaced by a mixer with a headphone connection. You simply connect your in ear monitors or headphones and you control the entire mix you hear.  The personal IEM mixers today are very robust with many different options for getting the perfect mix in your ears.

The professional industries have been the driving force for in ear monitor solutions.

Once recreational users found the pleasure around 2000 things went boom. Now there are many different custom iem manufacturers around the world and the prices range from a couple hundred dollars to two thousand and more.

Generic IEM’s are the most widely used solution for professional and recreational users today.  Affordability, availability, and convenience dictate most people will never purchase a pair of custom in ear monitors

Custom In Ear Monitors require a set of impressions usually made by an audiologist however as more companies enter the market DIY ear impression kits are getting very popular.

Once the ear impression is made it must be shipped off to a manufacturing facility that can take 2-6 weeks or more to return the finished IEM’s.

Average people will not pay several hundred dollars for a custom product that can take up to 2 months to get.

There are some exciting relatively new opportunities in the world of custom in ear monitors manufacturing and that is reshelling.  Reshelling is the term used to describe taking a generic fit in ear monitor out of the factory shell and putting into a custom shell made specifically for someones ear.

For many reasons this practice is left to a small portion of custom IEM manufacturers.

1. Many companies are not willing to take the liability of using someone else product in their product.

2. Most companies are not interested in the small amount of money most are willing to pay for reshelling service.

3. Most companies make the real money on the IEM’s they sell. Not the actual shelling service.

4. Warranting a IEM that is 4 years old is impossible.  This uncertainty keeps most away.

The brave companies that do fit into this small niche are sprinkled across the world.

I will not give an exhaustive list of custom in ear monitor reshelling companies.  The prices range from 100-200 dollars.  Simple google searches bring great results.

In Ear Central provides an awesome reshelling service as low as 105 dollars if you supply your own impressions and have the right model.

This is the end of PART 1. PART 2 coming soon.

 

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Custom Westone 4R Reshell provided by In Ear Central Review Custom In Ear Monitors

In Ear Central is a great company that will take your in ear monitors and customize them to fit your ear.  They take Generic Fit Monitors and turn them in to Custom In Ear Monitors.

You can purchase a new set of Custom Westone 4R directly from their website.

You can also send them your own Westone 4R and they will reshell them for you.

They either purchase a new set of Westone 4R or use the ones you send them but they cut them open and remove the guts.

Once they do this they take a mold of your ear that you send them which they also provide a professional ear impression kit if you need one.

They use the mold of your ear to make a shell and then install the Westone 4R components into the custom shell for you.

In Ear Central made an awesome video showing the process. I have embeded this video showing the Westone 4R reshell being customized.

It is very easy to order custom in ear monitors from In Ear Central.  They have made an order form that allows you to choose all the details possible with your IEM’s including custom caps and color.

Visit www.inearcentral.com to see more.

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In Ear Custom IEM Manufacturing Process

Custom IEM Manufacturing Process.

This article is intended for current or potential customers of In Ear Custom.  In Ear Custom will take your current in ear monitors and customize them to fit your ear.  We provide a DIY impression kit that allows you to make your own ear impressions.  We also accept professional ear impressions from audiologists and do offer a discount in such cases.

DIY Ear Impressions:

Our impression kit is very similar to any DIY earplug kit.  We ship out the material to our customers and they are responsible for getting the best fit possible.  We provide instructions and enough material to make 3 full sets. The most important part of the impression is the tip.  A proper tip size will generally ensure proper isolation however a tip is not necessary for good isolation and sound.  Some may disagree but think about it. There is no generic IEM that fits very deep inside your ear canal.  Therefore it is not necessary to have a tip go deep inside the ear for great sound.  In addition, great isolation, comfort, and sound are achievable without a long tip.

Dirty Little Secret:

It is impossible to make perfect fitting ear shells 100% of the time. Many people assume because of our low prices that we somehow found an easier way to make custom IEM’s.  This is not true.  Though we are constantly trying to improve our manufacturing processes we still use the same methods that have been used to make hearing aid shells and custom IEM shells since inception of the products.

If you search the message boards and communities across the web you will find myriads of problems listed from all manufacturers of custom IEM’s.  Making custom IEM’s is not a science it is an art.  In every case the technician uses their best judgment to ensure that the mold is customized properly, however, some people will experience issues with fitting, isolation, and even sound problems.

The manufacturing process is done by hand in every case. There is not a machine in the world that can take the components and install them into custom shells. As a result, problems are bound to happen.

If you are planning on purchasing your own custom IEM’s or have already purchased a set of custom in ear monitors from In Ear Custom you should expect that everything will work and fit perfectly.  If there is a problem we do our best to make you happy. If we are unable to satisfy you as a customer we may give you a refund and even replace your monitors for you.

Below are 3 different impressions made with the DIY kit by In Ear Custom customers.

Stage 1:  Impression Trimming – 10 min.

Note: Time frames are realistic for doing 1 at a time. To save time one person can complete 4 – 6 in 2-3 days.

Your impressions are trimmed mostly along the side so they can fit in the cup for a reverse mold.  The resulting reverse mold is then used to make a solid replication of the impression.

Stage 2:  Solid replication of Ear Impression. 4 – 6 hours

Once the reverse mold of the original impression is cast it is then used to make a solid reproduction of the impression.  This is to allow for manipulation of the shape of the impression without jeopardizing the original rubber impression.

We take the solid replica of the original impression and sand and shape it to resemble the final shell.  The replica is then coated through our proprietary coating  process.  Once the coating is finished it is once again sanded down to the final shape and is used to cast another reverse mold this time for the final shell.

The 3 pictures below show the solid replicas after coating and shaping.

Stage 3:  Casting The Final Shell and Caps. 1-3 hours

The reverse mold from the solid replica of the original ear impression is used to cast the final shell.  This process is similar to all other manual forms of hearing aid and custom IEM production.

Once the final shell and caps are cast they are ready for components to be installed.

The 3 pictures below show the empty shells ready for components.

Stage 4:  Removing the drivers from factory shells. 1-3 hours

This stage is going to cover the removal of 3 different IEM’s.  A single dynamic driver the Shure SE215, a Dual driver the Shure SE425, and a triple driver the Ultimate Ears Triple Fi 10.

Note:  In every case In Ear Custom assumes responsibility for the drivers during reshelling. We will fix or replace any damaged components at our expense provided the damage was caused by us.

Removing the Shure SE 215 from the factory casing for reshell. 

The Shure SE 215 with one 9mm dynamic driver may seem like it would be the easiest install.  In some ways it is. Like the fact that you don’t need acoustic filters, there is no crossover to worry about.  These are plus factors but the negatives can easily outweigh the positives and take more time to complete than the more complicated counterparts.

The Shure SE215 is not meant to be dismantled. There is no way to pry it open or unseal it in anyway without damaging the housing.  The way they seal the connector in the monitors is with glue. In addition, the casing is glued together.  In most cases, the factory casing is simply destroyed getting the drivers out.  This also guarantees that soldering work will need to be done.

Since we do reshells of almost any drivers we are accustomed to soldering small electronics.  In most cases it is impossible to remove the SE215 from the shell and install it in a new shell without breaking the wires and without breaking the connection from the driver to the connector.

The pictures below show the Shure SE 215 with the open shell. You will notice the plastic stuck to the connector. This is because they glue the plastic in there so it is basically impossible to remove the plastic from the connector without having to re-solder the connections.

The picture below shows the SE215 prepared for installation into the custom shell.

Removing the Shure SE425 from the factory casing for reshell. 

The Shure SE425 is a little easier to dismantle than the SE215 but it requires more work on the back end and the components are very delicate. In addition, the acoustic filter is easily damaged by removal.

To guarantee the survival of the acoustic filter the SE425 shell is destroyed.  We have tried different methods to save the shells, however, we have found it is better to break the shell and remove the components in a fashion that does not risk the survival of the components.  In other words, trying to save the shell results in a much higher damage rate to the other needed components.

Even with the greatest care by the most skilled technician it is still possible to damage the components during the removal from the shell. Because the shell is glued together it must be broken, cut and snipped to remove the components. As a result, there is a small rate of damage. It just so happens that for this demonstration I accidentally damaged the SE425.  With the proper tools and a steady hand I can repair them rather easily but as shown in the pictures below small mistakes can be costly for production time.

Removing the Ultimate Ears Triple Fi 10 from the factory casing for reshell. 

The UETF10’s are my favorite monitors to customize.  Since UE is used to making custom IEM’s they designed the TF10’s based on a custom triple driver install.  They don’t use tubes in the installation but they do use 2 acoustic filters for the delivery of sound. This allows us to reuse them during installation and guarantees that there will be little to no difference in the sound signature.  Most say they sound better customized.

Customizing the Ultimate Ears Triple Fi 10 is pretty straight forward.  The removal from the shell can be a nightmare if you don’t know how to do it properly. As with the other IEM’s I have found it is best to cut the components out of the shell. Trying to keep the shell can damage the drivers very easily and cause hours of delay time in repairs.

The connections on the UETF10 are easily broken and soldering is required on almost every job. Once again it takes a skilled technician with good eyes, and a steady hand to solder such small components without damaging them.

The picture below shows the removal of the TF10 from it’s casing. You will notice that the connector is still trapped in the housing despite much cutting and prying.  It is a very delicate procedure to remove the components without breaking connections. As with most IEM’s they were not meant to be taken apart.  The shell is destroyed in the removal process.

Stage 5:  Installing Components into Final Shell 1-2 hours

Installing the components into the custom shells is no small task.  The shell once created needs to be drilled out through the canal to make room for the tubing.  This can prove to be a challenging task, especially when dealing with smaller canals.

The components must be carefully glued inside the shell to ensure they do not shake around inside.  The components can easily be damaged in this process so it is important to test throughout the entire process.

The sockets are tricky as well.  Making sure the socket is in the proper place and pointing in the proper direction is vital.  In many cases because this is done by hand there may be variations in the straightness of the socket.  Most of the time the socket is not meant to be used in a custom shell and therefore must be hand shaped for the proper fit.

At this point many hours have already been invested and as a result if there are minor variances in the quality of the shell or install they may be overlooked.  In other words, a socket that is not completely straight may not warrant recasting the shell.

Once the components are glued in any attempt at removal results in a much higher risk to damage the components.  This means that after the components are installed there are very few reasons we would start over. In many cases to save time we will use existing inventory to redo the shell and store the shell for removal at a later time.

Below are 3 pictures that show the Ultimate Ears Triple Fi 10, the Shure SE215, and the Shure SE425 installed into custom uncapped shells.

Stage 6:  Capping 30 – 60min

In stage 6 the caps are glued to the final shell which can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Stage 7: Final Shaping, Sanding, and Polishing of Custom IEM’s 3-5 hours.

Once the shell is capped we cut the tips of the tubes off for the canal pieces.  Then the custom IEM is sanded around the edges to remove the excess from the cap. It is then smoothed and the cap is sanded down to the proper profile as pictured below.

Once the entire shape is made using rough sanding it is then sanded by hand for 1 to 2 hours to prepare for polishing as pictured below.

After the hand sanding has brought this custom IEM to it’s final shape and is ready to be polished the polishing begins.  The polishing is a proprietary system developed by In Ear Custom that involves 4 steps and takes around 1 hour per set.  If there is one thing we can say about our custom IEM’s is that they sure are shiny!

As pictured below the final polishing will create a very nice shine and translucency.

I hope you enjoyed the article or found it useful in making your decision. Below are pictures of different IEM’s made by www.inearcustom.com.

Rob Reyna

rob@inearcustom.com

http://www.inearcustom.com

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Custom Shure SE 535 by In Ear Custom www.inearcustom.com

Custom Shure SE 535

The Shure SE535 are designed with the stage musician in mind and the primary customers should be drummers and bass players. These are triple driver IEM’s that give the listener a realistic representation of the medium being played and they can handle multiple non balanced, non mixed audio signals without causing distortion.

Customizing the 535 has been a learning experience. Most of the customers who get their Shure SE 535’s customized know exactly what they sound like and will notice right away if they sound different. As a result in the early days of my business I had plenty of SE535 reshells come back for a second time.

Early problems with the custom SE535 caused me to invest in the equipment necessary to test before and after results. The test is completely arbitrary meaning that it doesn’t tell you if a monitor is necessarily high quality or not but it does measure the output of a frequency sweep from 0hz to 30,000hz and with this I can compare the final performance to the original performance.

After investing in the equipment I proceeded to test one by one the components of the SE535. 1. Break the seal of the casing to allow air flow = no change 2. Split completely open factory casing but keep drivers in factory seat through tube = no change. 3. Remove SE535 canal filter = Bass diminished/Treble increased

I found through testing that there are 3 main components to keeping the same sound as the factory spec. 1. The tube length and size from the driver to the ear canal. 2. The acoustic filter. The acoustic damper for balanced armature drivers provides pressure for the woofer to create better bass but also filters out the piercing highs so they sound normal. 3. The seal. If the seal from the balanced armature driver to the ear canal is compromised in the least bit it will result in a degradation of bass.

I have devised a method of manufacturing the custom Shure SE 535 by utilizing only the important components from the factory shell. This allows me to ensure that the final sound output of the custom reshell matches the output of the factory shell.

The SE535 components are very delicate. If you are thinking about dismantling a pair of Shure SE535 here are some things to take into consideration.

1. The socket for the SE535 is barely soldered onto a flex board. This connection is very weak. It is not made to be twisted or turned in the slightest bit. This means that just opening the shell of the 535 almost 100% guarantees that you will be soldering the connector. The problem with trying to resolder the connector is that when the connection breaks it actually breaks the board. So to fix this you have to add wires and solder them from the connector directly to the board that is affixed to the drivers.

2. The component board is very delicate. You can easily crush either of the 2 crossover components.

Make sure you have your soldering iron ready and know how to solder very small joints before trying to open the shell.

How I open the shell and how I install the components of the SE535 into a custom shell are what I consider to be part of my secret recipe. I had to learn by trial and error and yes this included me paying for my mistakes out of pocket. But overtime I have created my own secret formulas from beginning to end to make sure that the custom SE535 that I manufacture sounds just as good if not better than the original factory model.

In Ear Custom is a company that I have built on a reputation of making customers happy. It is my primary aim to provide the highest quality service at the lowest price possible. The current price for a new pair of customized Shure SE 535’s is $619 and with this we will provide the new iems. If you want to get your existing pair of Shure SE 535 customized we can do this for only $119.

Visit our site at www.inearcustom.com for more purchasing information.

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Custom Ultimate Ears Triple Fi 10

Custom Ultimate Ears Triple Fi 10

Having customized many different in ear monitors myself starting with DIY methods and finally using the professional methods I use today I can write that as of 2013 my favorite IEM’s to customize are the Logitech Ultimate Ears Triple Fi 10’s. I will get into detail about the specific’s of why they are my favorite but first let’s talk about what makes the UFT10 great in the first place.

I personally group IEM’s into four categories. Consumer, Stage, Audiophile, and Studio.

1. Consumer models like the Shure SE215 or the UE350 are made with the average ipod listener in mind. If you spend less than 100 dollars on your IEM’s it is likely you are looking for a monitor with good high and mid range and a nice bass boosted sound like you would expect out of a great Bose home theater or high end car audio. Obviously there is the high range consumer IEM’s like the Bose IEM which can go as high as 500 dollars.

2. Stage monitors are designed with the stage performer in mind. The mid range Ultimate Ears which start around 800 for a good pair, but then the generic fit Shure SE425 SE535 and the Westone UMX models. A stage performer wants one thing from the monitors and that is a realistic flat response of all the instruments. When listening to a cd or music made for the radio you will find that all of the instruments and vocals have been EQ’d, mixed, and balanced to give you the perfect listening experience. Ever notice the difference between a studio recording and a live band? Even when you hear live recordings they have been engineered for hours and hours by highly skilled technicians to make it sound great. Now compare this to what a stage performer hears in their ears. Your average stage monitor will have raw signals for an acoustic guitar, bass guitar, drums, keyboards 1, keyboards 2, electric guitar, singer 1, singer 2, etc. Remember that all of these signals are raw unbalanced non-mixed signals. If you try to listen to this with a pair of consumer headphones it will sound like a big jumble. The last thing you want as a stage performer is extra bass. If you add extra bass to the bass, to the drums, the keys, the acoustic, before you know it your ears are burning. A good pair of triple drivers will generally keep your ears from burning because it provides enough drivers to play everything and the built in crossovers seperate the sound further so you hear a very detailed sound. The Shure SE425 and SE535 are great stage monitors.

3. Audiophile monitors must be at least 600 dollars. After having read over many reviews it is painfully obvious that a true audiophile has at least 1000 dollars tied up in their favorite model with few exceptions. Audiophiles will spend 2500 dollars on a pair of IEM’s and then tear them apart critically for every aspect of the sound. An audiophile is only interested in the listening experience that best fits their idea of what it should be. In other words, audiophiles do not prefer the same thing each of them have different tastes and desires when it comes to IEM’s.

4. Finally, studio monitors are made with the audio engineer in mind. Audio engineers are the people responsible for what you hear out of virtually every medium in life. If you are watching a tv show, movie, listening to the radio, even just the sound for your local church service there is an audio engineer controlling what you hear. Sometimes it sounds bad but most of the time we never notice the sound unless there is a problem. When mixing music for the radio, cd, or some other professional medium it is important that you listen to your mix on a reliable set of monitors. This is where the Ultimate Ears Triple Fi 10 comes in. The UETF10 is made with the audio engineer in mind. If you are mixing anything for professional media you can trust that what you hear in your UETF10’s is a realistic representation of what you would hear over a large cross of medium. If you are mixing for a professional medium and the monitors you use are too heavy on the bass side, you may mix it with less bass thinking that it will sound good but suddenly when it is heard on another source where the bass is not as pronounced you think that the bass has disappeared from the mix. So you see it is important that you can trust your monitors and the UETF10 can be trusted. In addition, the UETF10 also makes great listening for the ipod.

Why are Logitech Ultimate Ears Triple Fi 10 my favorite monitors to customize?

1. The UETF10 is easy to disassemble. A good pair of pliers will pull off the tip. A small screw driver will pry the side tabs up to seperate from the main body. I have to cut the socket area but once cut it peels off leaving a very nice clean UETF10 socket ready for customization. After the cut the monitors simply push out of the main body. Though the main body and tip are not destroyed the socket area is destroyed rendering the UE shell useless.

2. Making custom Ultimate Ears Triple Fi 10 is also easy because each IEM comes with two acoustic damper filters. One filter is green which is used for the tweeter. The other filter is red and it is used for the two woofers. Once they are removed I simply attach acoustic tubing to the drivers and insert the factory filters into the tubing.

3. Finally the customization of the Ultimate Ears Triple Fi 10 is my favorite because the socket that comes with them is very easy to install into the custom shell. The socket is small and sturdy which makes for a good long lasting install.

In Ear Custom is a company that was founded because of the need for custom in ear monitors at a price almost anyone can afford. Whether you own a pair of Ultimate Ears, Shure, Westone, or most other manufacturers we can customize them for you.

After purchasing through our website we will ship you impression material for 3 sets of impressions along with detailed instructions, diagrams, and illustrations which you will use to create your own impressions. You ship back the pair that fits the best along with your in ear monitors.

Once we receive your impressions it can be as much as 10 business days until we are complete.

Color choices are currently limited to Blue, Light Blue, Black, Red, and Clear.

Pictures:
Custom Black Shure SE 535
Custom Blue Ultimate Ears Triple Fi 10
Custom Shure E2c, SCL 215, E4
Custom Red Ultimate Ears Triple Fi 10

This article was written by
Rob Reyna
Owner http://www.inearcustom.com

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