It doesn’t suck!
PROS: portable IEM vacuum for deep cleaning of sound tubes and mesh covers, lots of included accessories, solid build, quiet operation.
CONS: a rubber feet or a pad would be nice to keep the vac from sliding during operation.
The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion.
Manufacturer website: FIR Audio.
I already forgot the last time I wrote a review that didn’t include Sound Analysis, Pair Up, or Comparison sections because it has been awhile since I tested gear other that DAPs, headphones, or cables. It’s nice to take a break, but don’t worry, this write up is still going to be related to audio gear, even if indirectly.
There are many things that stand between your ears and the music, everything from the source playing the music, cables connecting the source to your headphones, and the headphones itself. If we take under consideration IEMs (universal or custom in-ear monitors), there is something else that gets in the way, something we often forget about – the earwax. Surprisingly, hardly anybody (including myself) brings up earwax topic, at least not when reviewing a new pair of IEMs. But weeks, or months, or a year later, depending on your earwax accumulation, this could become a problem because earwax doesn’t just clog your earcanal, it also clogs the bores of sound tubes in the nozzle of IEMs.
While people think this could only affect CIEMs (custom IEMs which you insert deep into your ear canal), universal IEMs fall victim to earwax as well because it can accumulate on the mesh cover of the nozzle. The only difference, with universal IEMs a blocked mesh cover is more visible, while earwax packed inside of the sound tubes is not. You can easily guess what happens when you block the sound tubes connected to highs, mids, and low drivers – the sound will change, it will not be the same as the day you put them in your ears fresh out of the box. And often the change is not very noticeable because it accumulates gradually over time.
I don’t want to trigger a panic alarm, the sky is not falling, but perhaps my write up will raise the awareness of something we don’t stop to think about after investing a lot of money into C/IEMs. That “something” is a vacuum cleaner intended to work with IEMs, to clean up the earwax and anything else which accumulates during the everyday use and abuse of your IEMs. While audiophiles, especially those dealing with flagship IEMs, will baby their pricey possessions, stage musicians will probably put it through more abuse. That’s why a newcomer, FIR Audio, released a consumer grade Jr Headphone VAC (JVAC) and a more professional grade Headphone VAC (VAC). My review will cover both models.
Unboxing and Accessories.
Since I’m new to a concept of headphone vacs, I didn’t know what to expect and wanted to get quickly to what’s inside the box, rather than stop and analyze the packaging. After I took everything out, I went back to the packaging to note that JVAC came in a simple small sturdy cardboard box which is OK for home storage, while VAC was packed inside of a heavy duty large hard case with foam partitioning inside.
For a musician on the road, it will be more critical to protect the VAC inside of a heavy-duty case, which also adds to the cost of a more powerful and bigger VAC when compared to a more portable compact JVAC.
The included accessories are nearly identical between two models, with an exception of VAC having a detachable hose vs JVAC having it permanently attached. Both units run off 12V DC, and you need to use a provided 12V power adapter which has interchangeable international plugs. You will also find 3x sponge-like filters, one already inside the syringe and 2 spare ones. Regardless of JVAC or VAC hose, the syringe is detachable, with a secure twist-lock mechanism, and the sponge filter will require to be checked periodically since it will get clogged with earwax when cleaning IEMs. Once the tip of the filter gets dirty, you cut off the end of it and continue using the rest. When only a short piece is remaining, you replace it with a new filter, until it’s time to order additional ones (FIR Audio sells them for $2 per pair).
The included accessory storage tube contains all the necessary tools and attachments in one place so you don’t loose it. For example, to maintain and to clean the syringe, you have 2 needle pins with a plastic tab to hold them safely when pocking through the syringe tip for cleaning. Another filter replacement tool has a long thin metal tube which is used to push the filter through when you need to remove/replace it. Syringe brush will come in handy to clean inside of the syringe. Last, but not least, there are 3 syringe needle tips with a threaded plastic base to attach securely to the syringe. One needle tip is stainless steel and designed for smaller bore straight sound tubes made of acrylic or metal. The other needle tip is flexible and plastic, designed for curved sound tubes so you can get further in without damaging them. In both cases, you can use included needle pins to clean the tips.
The last, 3rd needle tip, is a larger bore plastic attachment, designed to clean mesh cover nozzle tips. With mesh covers, using either one of the above needle tips is not a good idea since you can push through and damage the mesh covering the nozzle, plus it will take longer to get the job done with a small needle opening. Furthermore, as I was looking at that large bore plastic attachment, I realized that it can be used for cleaning optical ports in my DAPs. Many DAPs have Optical Out digital port which is shared with 3.5mm headphone output. Either if you are using this port or leaving it open when 2.5mm HO is in use, there will be dust accumulating inside and covering the laser output. This large bore attachment goes perfectly into 3.5mm HO port, as well as 2.5mm HO port, to clean up any specks of dust collected inside.
Also, included was a very detailed Manual with step-by-step instructions on operation and maintenance.