In-ear monitors are widely used in different fields. Some use them for listening pleasure while others use them for their professional work. And with the abundance of great options in the market, IEMs are great alternatives to full-sized headphones.
There are two types of IEMs: Universal IEMs and Custom IEMs. If you are thinking about purchasing your first pair, then you are probably wondering what the differences are, as well as which type is right for you.
Both IEM types are great sounding options that can both be used in music listening and professional applications. However, the main differences are the comfort, form factor, and price.
In this article, we will be discussing the differences in more detail. And once we have gone through all of the differences, you will hopefully have a better idea of which IEM type better fits your needs.
CIEM vs UIEM What are the differences?
UNIVERSAL IN-EAR MONITOR
Universal in-ear monitors represent the majority of IEMs in the market. They are readily available and are designed to fit the majority of ear types. And while they have their own sets of downsides, they are still highly recommended for all use cases.
In terms of variety, you have plenty of options with universal IEMs. There are plenty of affordable entry-level options as well as high-end options.
The sound quality that you get from these is also top-notch. They are in no way inferior to custom IEMs. They also use the same Balanced Armature or Dynamic Drivers that are also used with CIEMs.
Universal IEMs are also very durable. Some IEMs, such as the Campfire Audio Andromeda is made of aluminum while others are made of acrylic or other materials.
The only issue with the Universal In-Ear monitors is their fit. Some IEMs may be too small or too big for your ears. You can change the ear tips for a better fit. But if the shells are too large for your ears then the IEMs will still no be comfortable.
Additionally, the isolation of most universal IEMs will be inferior to CIEMs. This is because the shell of UIEMs will most likely not fill the entirety of your ear. This should not be an issue for regular use but maybe for live musicians.
But overall, universal IEMs should be good enough for most users. You can learn more about UIEMs by checking our IEM Reviews.
CUSTOM IN-EAR MONITOR
The other type of IEM that has been gaining tons of traction over the past few years is the Custom In-ear monitors. They are very similar to universal IEMs, but the key difference is that they are custom-fitted to the shape of your ears.
This alleviates a lot of the fit issues that are found on universal IEMs. You no longer have to fiddle around ear tips. You simply have to insert your CIEMs and you are good to go.
Also, since they do not need any ear tips you will be able to save a lot. The cost of purchasing higher-end ear tips such as the Azla Xelastec and Final E Type can easily add up.
People are hesitant about getting a CIEM for several reasons. One of them is the cost of getting the molds and the shells. Both are quite costly. Another reason is the time of waiting for them to be made since it is not a ready-to-ship item.
But the biggest benefit of going with CIEms is their sound isolation. Since perfectly fit your ears, you will be able to get the best seal possible. This means that your CIEMs will be able to block the majority of the ambient noise present.
This is incredibly useful for stage musicians or anyone who is working in a noisy environment. The excellent seal will not only protect your ears but will also help you focus on the sounds that you need to hear.
Lastly, the aesthetics of CIEMs are customizable. This will depend on the CIEM manufacturer. But generally, you can change the color of the shells or add some art to the faceplates. CIEMs will help you better express yourself.
A common misconception with the CIEMs is that they have superior sound quality to UIEMs. That is partially true since you will be getting better bass due to the better seal. But if you were to compare the same IEM in universal and custom fit, the overall performance would roughly be the same.
Again, the slight edge will always go to CIEMs, However, this does not always mean that CIEMs will always have the edge in sound quality.
Of course, CIEMs have their own sets of downsides. The main downside is the coast. Most CIEMs, including the entry-level and midrange CIEMs, will be significantly more expensive than their universal IEM counterparts. This is largely due to the more complex process of manufacturing CIEMs.
The next downside is the manufacturing time. Most CIEMs can take at least a month to make. This also means that if you have any fit issues or if you break your CIEMs, you will have to wait for another month to have those issues sorted out.
Another issue is the resale value of CIEMs. Since they are custom molded to your ears, most users will most likely not be interested in purchasing your CIEMs.
Of course, users can reshell CIEMs via a third-party service. However, that will be more costly than purchasing a second-hand universal IEM.
CIEM vs UIEM – Which One to Get?
Since both IEM types are great options, which one should you get? The answer to that will depend on your use case and budget.
If you are someone that does not usually encounter any fit issues with universal IEMs, then there are no problems with going for universal IEMs. There are plenty of great-sounding UIEMs that have already proven to be great performers by the audiophile community.
However, if you find that most UIEMs do not get well with your ears or if you are a professional musician, then CIEMs are the way to go. Not only will they provide a better fit but they will also provide an overall better listening experience. And if you have the budget and the patience for CIEMs, we highly recommend going with the CIEM route.
Aubrey has been a longtime fan of music. She plays arcade music games such as Pump It Up and Dance Dance Revolution. She also loves different genres such as KPOP. Ever since she discovered IEMs and Headphones, her love and appreciation for music have been taken to the next level. And as a writer, she wishes to share her audiophile journey with you.
Favorite IEM: Moondrop SSP, KBear Believe, Noble Katana