Hit me with your best shot… of high quality Bass!!!
PROS: smooth detailed sound signature, BASS quality and quantity, excellent build quality and comfortable fitment.
CONS: custom design is not for everybody (universal version?), treble extension/airiness.
Manufacturer website: CustomArt.
This product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.
Often when I approach a company with a request for review or the other way around when I’m being approached by a company, I do my homework to learn more about their product and their reputation. When MassDrop reached out to me with a request to review their upcoming featured product, I was intrigued and excited about the opportunity. After being told it’s an exclusive CIEM from the Custom Art, I sharpened my pencil and got right to work! My “homework” led me to a single name that got a lot of praises from everybody – Piotr, the man behind Custom Art. As I started my communication with him in prep for this CIEM, I quickly realized how passionate and knowledgeable he is about multi-driver design, and why so many people, including such a popular e-commerce site as MassDrop, put their trust in him.
Still in his mid 20th, within short period of time Piotr evolved from Head-fi visitor and reviewer to someone who took his passion for Custom IEM into his own hands to start a company and to go against established “dinosaurs” in this segment of audio gear market. It was definitely a bold move considering his operation is from Eastern Europe (Poland), though with an advantage of being vertically integrated where everything is being done efficiently in one location once he receives your impression, even to the point of requesting to send impression pictures prior to the actual shipment. Piotr wants to be sure you don’t waste your time in case if impressions don’t meet his expectations. Custom in-ear monitors (CIEM) require a special attention in order to make them sound and look great, not just a clever configuration and tuning of the drivers but also skills to take a custom impression of your ears, made by a local audiologist, and to turn it into a shell mold designed specifically for your inner ear footprint. It’s very impressive to be able to accomplish all these steps from sound design to shell manufacturing, and to be able to have many dedicated fans and loyal customers who speak volumes about his products.
Unboxing and accessories.
Due to expedited schedule in lieu of MassDrop release deadline, I received my Ei.xx review sample lighting fast, but typically you should expect to wait about 4 weeks which is normal with other CIEM manufacturers as well. Obviously, CIEMs could be customized per your design requirements (shell color, material transparency, faceplate and artwork, cables, etc.), but you should still expect with every order a common packaging with a genuine Pelican 1010 compact case to protect your headphones during shipment and also during everyday transportation. Inside of the case you will find Ei.xx CIEMs with an attached cable, a cleaning tool, and a personalized warranty card with a hand written date of when CIEM was manufactured and a printed acknowledgement that you have 12-month warranty. As a matter of fact, you also get 30-day fitment warranty in case if something needs to be adjusted. Even custom impressions are not bulletproof, depending on a technique and a material used by your audiologist or the process during manufacturing of the earpiece mold. Remember, Piotr and his team will have to trim the mold to a desired shape, allowing some marginal room so it will feel comfortable in your ears.
Due to a cable being removable, I always consider it as one of the accessories, especially since you have an option to stay with a default one or to select another one when placing an order. Or you can upgrade it later with aftermarket cables since majority of CIEMs use two common connectors: 2-pin header or mmxc connector.
Though a stock cable included with Ei.xx is a generic OFC type, I actually found it to be of a good quality. To match the color scheme of my blue translucent CIEM, the cable I received had silver looking wiring with a clear shielding, soft and easy to manage for storage, and hardly any microphonics. The right angle 3.5mm connector, y-cable capsule, and chin slider all had a matching soft plasticy material with a cloudy white semi-translucent finish. 2-pin standard connector was used, and a portion of the cable next to the connector had a memory wire.
On a subject of replacement cables, one of the offered options with Ei.xx order is Linum BaX. Since I already have one, I decided to run a test to compare it against the stock cable, and also to throw in the mix my TWag v3 cable. In my testing of Ei.xx with Stock vs Linum BaX, I’m hearing a definitive level of refinement, especially in retrieval of details. It even felt like a faint layer of veil was lifted off. With my Whiplash TWag v3 pure silver cable, I hear more changes, making sound a little more forward (especially with vocals), brighter and more balanced in comparison to a stock cable which has a warmer and more v-shaped sig. For my personal taste and using a selection of low output impedance DAPs as a source, pure silver cable didn’t compliment sound signature of Ei.xx to its full smooth potential. With BaX the change was not as drastic but more of a refinement, especially with detail retrieval and some improvement in low end quality. It’s all a matter of personal taste, and I would suggest to get used to a sound with a stock cable first before you move on to an upgrade.
With different cables (Stock, Linum BaX, Whiplash TWag v3).
From what I learned, Piotr originally started with silicone as his exclusive CIEM material, but later with Ei.3 and this new Ei.xx model he decided to use a more common acrylic material which is easier to deal with during mass production. I’m not gonna lie to you, my vast experience with in-ear headphones is based on universal fit models, and Ei.xx is only my 3rd CIEM. But regardless of this limited experience, I can still see a great quality of workmanship. A baby-blue translucent shell finish of the Ei.xx I received was quite revealing since you can see everything inside out, and I didn’t find any noticeable blemishes or bubbles worth mentioning. I only had one comment about the area of the connector socket that looked kind of partitioned, but if I would have a darker or a solid color shell and a non-transparent faceplate – this wouldn’t be even visible.
I was actually pleased to be able to see every single driver, every single wire, sound tubes and filters, and all other details inside of the shell. With 6 drivers, partitioned into 2 super lows, 2 lows, 1 tweeter, and 1 super tweeter – you can see how 4 bass drivers are grouped together going to one sound tube path up to a nozzle bore with a green filter, and 2 tweeters grouped together and going to another sound tube path up to a 2nd nozzle bore with a white filter. Cleverly, Piotr used Red wires inside of the Right earpiece, as well as the red label with serial number on outside of that shell on the right side and blue label on the left shell. Obviously, Left and Right earpieces are not symmetrical and you won’t be able to jam a wrong one in your ear by mistake, but I still find it helpful to be able to distinguish the sides prior to placing them in my ear.
It’s always fascinating to examine CIEMs in our hand, but the next step is very crucial – the fitment. No matter how great is the tuning of a sound, if the shell doesn’t feel comfortable inside of your ear, you are not going to enjoy it or get a proper seal to appreciate full frequency content. I was a bit nervous putting Ei.xx first time in my ears, but to my pleasant surprise the fitment was like a glove perfect! With a typical clockwise movement they went into my ears smoothly and formed a good seal which stayed intact even when I open my mouth. Sound isolation was also very good.