Custom Art Ei.3 CIEM Review | Audiophile On

Custom Art EI.3 Review

Custom Art are a relatively new company when it comes to the production of custom in ear monitors.  They were started a few years back when headphone enthusiast Piotr Granicki , a long time fan of the portable audio hobby, fancied his hand at making his own set of earphones.  What has transpired since has been an unmitigated success with audiophiles around the world widely praising the Custom Arts previous CIEM's.  In past discussion with Piotr on the creation of the new Custom Art Ei.3, an entry level custom earphone that comes in priced under $300, you get the impression that he already knows they have a winner on their hands.  The Custom Art Ei.3 is a 3 way balanced armature custom earphone meaning that in each earphone housing (left & right) there are 3 separate balanced armature drivers.  You have a range of options when ordering your Custom Art monitors such as the selection of shell colours, faceplate colours and even your own choice of custom artwork.  Of course unlike conventional universal earphones the Custom Art Ei.3 are going to be moulded exactly to the shape of your own ears the main attraction in choosing to go down the CIEM (custom in ear monitor) route.  The Ei.3 is priced under $300 which is a very competitive point when it comes to universal earphones and earbuds so we are surprised that buyers will also be treated to the benifits of customs at this price point.


Custom Art Ei.3 | Ordering Process

The smoke CIEM housing on the Custom Art Ei.3 features red & blue marker to signal left and right.

The smoke CIEM housing on the Custom Art Ei.3 features red & blue marker to signal left and right.

The ordering process for the Custom Art Ei.3 is very much the same as ordering any other custom in ear monitor but for those of you experiencing this for the first time here is a quick breakdown of how ordering goes.

  1. Spend hours, days...even weeks researching the topic of what is the best custom in ear monitor earphone in order to finally choose the first one you read about.
  2. Send a message enquiring to availability and wait time for you new Custom Art earphones.
  3. Wait
  4. Receive conformation of availability and place an order.
  5. Take a trip to your local audiologist to have custom ear impressions taken and sent to Custom Art.
  6. Wait.
  7. Wait some more.
  8. Just a little longer
  9. Enjoy your shiny new Custom Art Ei.3 monitors.

Getting a set of custom monitors made is a somewhat tedious process and you can expect to be waiting a while as your earphones are crafted to your own specification.  Its inherent with any company in this field and Custom Art is no different but trust us it is going to be worth the hours of staring at your letterbox.  

With regards to my own set of Custom Art Ei.3 I left the design process completely up to Piotr, I told him to do what ever he wanted and only put the request that the Audiophile On logo make an appearance somewhere on the earphones.  Would Piotr be sending me the glitter infused set of pink custom earphones I had always dreamt of?  I had to just wait and find out. Thankfully Custom Art passed on the opportunity to get real crazy and instead sent me the best looking set of in ear monitors I have had to date.  I was given a smoke housing with deep purple faceplate, all transparrent and the Audiophile On heartbeat logo on the outside.  Some slight imperfections were noted on the faceplate under macro observation but you have to look extremely hard to find that.

Throughout the entire process from the selection right down to shipping and status updates Custom Art was on point and customer service was found to be excellent. 

Custom Art Ei.3 | Whats in a Box

Custom earphones, unlike conventional in ear headphones do not require anything in the way of accessories other that a cable that is usually detachable.  There is no need for assorted eartips. Theres no bi-flange or comply.  Its usually just your custom earphones in a box.  Well the one areas where Custom Art could again exceed themselves they did.  Anyone who has met me at meet ups in Dubai and KL or those who have ran into me at this years High End Expo in Munich has commented on my choice of carry cases.  Pelican Cases.  I use pelican cases in different sizes for pretty much all my high end gear and highly reccomended the pelican 1020 as the best earphone carry case.  Well guess what?  The included Custom Art Ei.3 carry case is the waterproof and damm near bombproof Pelican 1010.  If there is one way of keeping your Custom earphones safe this is it and its a great inclusion that I really cant praise highly enough.

Custom Art Ei.3 | Cable Talk

The cable on the Ei.3 is very much standard to what you find on the majority of custom in ear monitors.  It is the Westone style 2pin cable and is braided and of good quality for a packaged cable its not my preffered choice as an earphone cable but I understand (given the price) why its chosen.  The first thing I do on any custom earphone though is put on my own custom cables.  I do this for 2 reason.  

  1. I am an unashamed gear whore who likes pretty things.  
  2. I find they are more durable in the long run.  

I don't put any faith into a cable making my earphones sound better but I certainly have a thing for Labkable custom earphone cables for both practicality and build quality reasons.  I just should also mention that for all critical listening sections observed below the results were observed when using the stock Custom Art cable for posterities sake. 

Custom Art Ei.3 | Isolation 

Custom monitors are some of the best earphones for isolation you can buy and its no surprise that the Custom Art Ei.3 are excellent IEM's for blocking out unwanted external noise.  The Ei.3 would be perfect for use as a stage monitor or even for those looking to use them for commuting.  Other than noise cancelling headphones you won't find much better for isolation but if you want to take it down a further couple of decibels then you might want to look into some of the silicone custom earphones that the company also offer.  Either way I would have no issue using these on long haul flights and the like and they certainly isolate better than any of my universal earphones.

Custom Art Ei.3 | Sound Report

Testing the Custom Art Ei.3 CIEM with a little bit of jazz from the Whiplash soundtrack.

The sound portion of the review was carried out using our usual mix of high resolution tracks with some of our favourite source components such as:  the O2 DAC / AMP, Audioquest Dragonly V1.2 and the incredible Aurender Flow.  Testing was performed over the course of a month with a full range of musical genres and test sweeps.

These are seriously, seriously good CIEM's.  When it comes to the sound quality observed when conducting the Custom Art Ei.3 review I simply could not find fault when considering the earphones cost under $300.  Im not sure what I had expected when going into the review but it sure as hell wasn't this.  I thought maybe I would get something along the lines of an earphone capable of competing with universals in the $200-$300 range.  It said one the Custom Art facebook page the EI.3 were to be energetic and fun and that this custom IEM was designed to be used with bass and electronic music.  What I actually got was a wonderfully tuned, slightly warm, detailed fun sounding monitor.  One that was capable of handling almost any genre you threw at it.

Treble - The highs on the Custom Art Ei.3 are refined never offensive and well matched with the other competing frequencies.  Electronic music, especially the stuff i like to listen to can be interspersed with all manners of high notes that can really push the limits of listening fatigue. The Custom Art managed to push crisp levels of detail but i never felt like taking them out and taking a break instead I just wanted more and more.  Even though the earphones are designed to be used with electronic music I found them to be a remarkable earphone for jazz.  In my opinion Jazz is by far the most demanding of all the genres and one that will show up any flaws with glaring damnation but I just couldn't take issue against the Ei.3.  Cymbals, flutes and piano were tamed just before becoming too hot.  

Midrange - While not the standout point of the Custom Art Ei.3 the mids  are what I would describe as balanced and accurate.  There is not extra push given to them and they aren't as lush or intimate as one might find on say a universal earphone like the Dunu DN-2000 or a my current favourite earphone the Campfire Audio Lyra but the mids on the Ei.3 are what I would consider monitoring level accurate without any extra flavour added to them.  This works well in male vocals and some acoustic guitar pieces where too much warmth can result in an overly thick appearance of a performance, the Custom Art did very well.  Speed in the midrange was observed to be very responsive and the EI.3 performed admirably in Tchaikovsys 1812 Overture that has been the downfall of more expensive non custom earphones such as Flare Audio's R2Pro.  With the above in mind I would say the Custom Art monitors have good detail, speed and accuracy but are not to be considered a warm / lush earphone with regards to the midrange at least.

Lows - Lows are strong and responsive pumping out the deep notes with incredible levels of speed, detail and texture but, all out bass canons, they are not.  Theres none of that monstrous sub bass slam that you will find on a set of RHA T10i (universal earphone) or the Dynamic Driver Aurisonic AS2 (Custom Monitor).  Sub bass is notoriously hard to pull out of a balanced armature earphone due to the simple physics and the amount of air the technology is able to drive into your ear canal but ill tell you that Custom Art have done an incredible job of going as low as this on a 3 BA (balanced armature) earphone.  The control was and tightness meant that there was no real slippage of the lower frequency into the mids.  This feature thus allowed the bass to set the pace in EDM (Electronic Dance Music) and let the rest of the frequencies do there thing. 

Soundstage & Separation 

The soundstage on the Ei.3 is OK its not big but it also doesn't feel overly closed in.  Its one area that I can see the advantage of going to a higher priced monitor, perhaps something like my own UM Miracles. Separation is good with plenty of clearance between instruments its not a fully immersive presentation like on more expensive earphones though where you will be given that 3d imaging that will fully captivate you. Again this I think price has to be mentioned here because at sub $300 they are up there can be considered good to very good when it comes to soundstage, separation and imaging and only when you get to the real TOTL CIEM's do you find a significant improvement. 

Comparisons against other entry level CIEM

The Custom Art Ei.3 outperformed all my entry level monitors in one way or another.  I put them up against my Proguard P2+1, Minerva Mi.Artist Pro, M-FIdelity SA-12 and I found the overall signature of the Custom Art units to be more enjoyable by quite some margin over the Proguard and M-Fidelity units.  

Vs the Proguard P2+1 I preferred the overall clarity of the Ei.3 with it sounding more open and detailed than Proguards.  Bass rumble was deeper on the P2+1 but lost out in bass texture and detail.  Highs weren't even close the Custom Art were far better.

Vs the M-Fidelity which are in my opinion a massively overpriced, single driver, poor fitting pile of ... The Custom Art Ei.3 absolutely walk this comparison the two aren't even in the same league. Whats even worse is that M-Fidelity see fit to charge buyers double the price of the Ei.3 for a far inferior product.

Vs the Minerva Mi-Artist Pro - This is pretty close as the Minerva Mi-Artis are a great set of in ear monitors and one that I hold in extremely high regard.  Side by side I would be happy with either from a performance and fit standpoint but yet again the Custom Art Ei.3 dominates on price. 

A sea of custom in ear monitors (CIEM).  M-fidelity, Custom Art, Minerva & Proguard Earphones.


Custom Art Ei.3 Custom Monitor Review | Conclusion

I have nothing but love to give for the Custom Art Ei.3.  If you were to have gave me them without telling me where they cam from I would have easily priced them at around the $500-$600 mark.  I know the term worth more than you paid for them is thrown around rather loosely in the review game but it is also true that there are companies out there offering extreme levels of value to fans of portable audio and Custom Art are definitely one of them.  The sound is certainly befitting of higher priced custom earphones and the build and styling is on a par with such those at a higher price.  The fit was right first time, processing speed fast and communication excellent, all factors that should play a role in what company you purchase your custom monitors from.  Finally a word on tuning.  Its great that instead of tying to create a balanced flat and boring custom earphone for the purpose of monitoring Piotr and Custom Art have sought to create a budget custom monitor for fans of music as opposed to the artists.  The Ei.3 takes all the great features of having a CIEM and does so with a fun and energetic sound signature and crazy low price... what more is there to say?

You can find out more about the products Custom Art has to offer as well as contact details and ordering information on the Custom Art website.