In Ear Monitor Buyer’s Guide: Custom vs. Generic Fit

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My own triple-driver Westone 3’s (since replaced by the W30 model) are the most comfortable in ear monitors I own right now, and they isolate a lot more noise than most thanks to their foam-tip construction.

Compared to custom in-ears, any of these model can potentially save you time and money, or work as a welcome supplement for those times when the tight fit of custom in-ears feels irksome.

I hope my experiences here help you make the right decision when you go to buy your own IEMs. In short, I found that less-expensive generic foam-tipped IEMs worked better for me in many situations, and the savings enabled me to spend my money on better drivers with a fuller sound.

If you’ve used IEM’s in the past, let us know in the comments below whether you prefer custom fits or generic fit ones, and why.

Matthew Wang is a guitarist, songwriter, and jingle-writer from New York City. He is actively gigging, recording, posting guitar-related videos on his YouTube Channel, and studying music production at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU.

This story was updated shortly after publication to acknowledge the contributions made by both Etymotic and Marty Garcia in helping to develop IEMs.

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  • You missed the very first in ear and a golden standard for the past 20+ years, the ER-4 by Etymotic. Each channel is hand matched and it has the flattest response on the planet. The non custom tips in various sizes seal the ear and give 25dB of hearing protection. It is easily customizable and retails for $299.

  • Justin C.

    Thanks for the addition Carolynn. Etymotic make some great stuff, and we’ve already reached out to them for a future story on custom hearing protection options, as well as an even more geeky story that will take more detailed look at custom in-ear monitoring options specifically. We’re hoping to get some review samples from them for a series of side-by-side comparisons and tests.

  • I love the sound of the ER-4. I used them for DJ’ing when I still had my hearing. I own Earlove.net, a hearing protection company have been a hearing protection advocate since 2004 when I lost my hearing. Another place to reach out to for your custom hearing protection article would be RK Audiology in Austin. They fit musicians from across the country with custom hearing protection and have definite opinions about the different brands available, the materials they like, etc. I know they use ER filters in addition to others and would be a great unbiased source of information.

  • Justin C.

    Thanks Carolynn. We’ll check them out! We plan to continue in doing a whole series of stories in the future that dive deeper into custom hearing protection, custom IEMs, generic hearing protection, and generic IEMs respectively.

    We have a writer working on a story about hearing protection options right now. If you’d like to send her some samples from the Earlove line, just email me at justin [at] sonicscoop and I’ll be happy to put you in touch.

  • Julie Glick

    Happy to help anyone in making this decision- we have demo units of JH Audio, UE and Sensaphonics products so you can hear them before they are customized

    http://www.musicianshearingsolutions.com