Review: Alclair reference monitor CIEM

Alclair Reference Monitor review:

I recently decided to enter the world of custom IEM's, and decided to go with Alclair because of Average Joes multi custom IEM review, and the price. I soon found out that they have excellent customer support and was impressed with the way they treat their customers, Amy Musselman was very helpful.

Photos by Felix Speller:

Gear used:
IPod classic 160gb > Alclair RM
IPod classic 160gb > diy silver LOD > JDS Labs C421 (AD8620) > Alclair RM

Features & Specs

Triple driver two way - 2 woofers, and 1 tweeter.
DC Resistance - 20 Ohms
Impedance @1KHz - 27 Ohms
Input Sensitivity @100mVolts - 105 db SPL
Noise Isolation -26db

Accessories and build quality:
I got a Pelican case as an extra, which is an option you can choose when purchasing, so the CIEM came protected in the case, with the cable and wax cleaner. Also included were some stickers, which I quite like. Normally they come in a hard clamshell case, with a wax cleaner. Good accessories, all the necessary.

Build quality, these are acrylic shell which is usually longer lasting than silicone shells, but to some can be more uncomfortable. The shells are well made, but some minor blemishes can be seen, you can see where they join the faceplate, and there looks to be a few specks of dust inside, this is really nitpicking though, and this is because I have clear shells, I think they are well made, and are hollow acrylic like most. I also got custom artwork, which is very well done and turned out just as I wanted.
These have recessed sockets, which usually put less strain on the cable. The cable is twisted, and very flexible, strain relief on the jack and y-split is very good, and the connectors are standard westone connectors, with a short section of memory wire.

Comfort, fit, isolation and Microphonics:
I am very pleased with my first customs, the left side was a perfect fit, the right a little loose, but I did do the old nail varnish trick, which did solve my problems, I also put a layer or two on the left, now they fit tightly and don't move or break the seal, I live in Europe and did not want to send them back and have to wait, only in a worst case scenario would I do that.

Comfort is to be expected of customs, no match for universals, no pressure against your ear canal, once they heat up to body temperature you don't notice them half the time, and are perfect for extended listening. I have no discomfort with them in, unlike some people come across. You can't quite sleep in these though, as they do stick out slightly, they are not quite flush.

Isolation also is no comparison to most universals, I thought my Shure SE535 isolated well, until I tried these. Using them on flights they are great, they really do block nearly everything out, I use them on my daily commute to college, and they are perfect, just be careful wearing them out and about, don't get run over (could happen easily)

Microphonics are pretty much non existent, as the cable goes over your ear which usually eliminates this problem.

Split in to the usual categories

Lows: well being reference monitors I was actually expecting less quantity, these have a very full bodied bass response, being very well controlled and extending right down to 20hz which is impressive. Although I was expecting less quantity, it does not mean these have a lot of bass, it just means they are slightly warmer than expected of a reference monitor. Clarity and tone is excellent, the bass is very realistic, punch when needed with great extension, I never feel I miss a beat, whilst never missing detail or clarity either, the bass is well in line with the mids and highs.

Mids: not warmed up by the lows, the mids are in perfect position between the lows and highs, never too prominent whilst presenting vocals and guitars effortlessly. I find I never miss the forward mids of the Shure SE535 as these are smooth but have the upper hand in realistic presentation, the Shure can sound a little congested and notes are a little too thick, whilst on the Alclair RM they are very detailed yet never thin or harsh, vocals have realistic body to them, not overly warm and smoothed over, yet never edgy or peaky. Perfect mid balance.

Highs: I have always been a fan of well presented highs, and I tell you that it is hard thing to get right, only a few IEM's/headphones I've had have got it right, but these again nail it in the highs. I love well extended highs, but they have to be realistic and not sharp and peaky, these have good extension, whilst the decay of cymbal crashes is perfect, yet the snap of a snare is crisp. I find the highs are never bright and in your face, they are just there in the mix to complete the sound, which is where you want them to be, the present everything clearly with excellent detail and separation, whilst resonating to create a realistic tone, they roll off gently towards the upper reaches of the highs, but you do not really notice this.

Instrument separation, soundstage and imaging

Instrument separation is excellent, these have a very good soundstage with great space between everything.

Soundstage is very 3D like, but as has be said about these, the middle of the stage isn't quite focussed right, width is very impressive along with the depth. A very realistic presentation.

Imaging is good, apart from centre stage as mentioned above. Instruments can be pinpointed easily.

Amping brings out a little extra detail, controls the lows a bit more and widens the soundstage, but they are driven fine from portable sources.

These reveal nuances in poorly recorded music, they work best with lossless tracks.

Customer service
Natural presentation
3D soundstage
Neutral balanced sound

Centre stage is not very well defined
Maybe a little too flat for some

Conclusion: for my first step into the world of customs, I am very happy. For the price you do get more than you get from a normal universal IEM in my opinion, I know some people don't get on with customs. I could not be happier with my purchase.

These are made as reference monitors, and they can do just that, reference quality but not overly bright, a slightly warm sound signature with excellent detail but what stands out the most is the natural presentation, it is hard to get IEM's to sound realistic, but these impress in that sense, as normally a reference monitor is more analytical and slightly cold sounding.

I recommend Alclair for their excellent customer service and price-quality ratio, a very reasonable price for a custom IEM with this good sound, neutral, natural, smooth, detailed with realistic 3D sound too, I now understand why people go for custom IEM's, unmatched comfort and isolation along with great sound.

Tracks Used:
Skrillex – First Of The Year (Equinox) (320kbps MP3)
Paramore – Franklin (320kbps MP3)
Diana Krall – The Girl In The Other Room (FLAC)
Deolinda – Passou Por Mim E Sorriu (live) (ALAC)
Suicide Silence – Unanswered (FLAC)
Massive Attack – Angel (ALAC)
Eat Static – Dzhopa Dream (ALAC)
The XX – Crystalised (FLAC)
Funeral For A Friend – Bend Your Arms To Look Like Wings (ALAC)
Mumford & Sons – Little Lion Man (FLAC)
The Scene Aesthetic – Humans (259kbps MP3)
A Hero A Fake – Swallowed By The Sea (254kbps MP3)
Vivaldi – The Four Seasons, Spring Allegro (ALAC)
Johnny Craig – Children Of Divorce (161kbps MP3)
Deadmau5 + Kaskade – I Remember (Caspa Remix) (320kbps MP3)
Black Uhuru – Utterance (ALAC)
We Are The In Crowd – Never Be What You Want (226kbps MP3)
Silverstein – Discovering The Waterfront (320kbps MP3)
Concept Of Thought – Our Thought (FLAC)
Nirvana – Something In The Way (Unplugged) (ALAC)