Committing to CIEM is a fun, huge decision, even for the music pros.
HongKong Audio Channel LockWoodTao sits 3 Veteran HK musicians, Jason Kui, CMGroovy and Kuloming down to talk about their CIEM experience with FiR audio as well as the thought processes behind their CIEM designs, the finishes they chose and a few handy tips on differentiating your left and right IEM shells.
Cantonese speakers can find the full video at the end of the article, fret not if that's not you, we've prepared a handy highlight translation below!
About the Musicians
Kuloming is a Hong Kong Indie drummer and a host at the audio channel Lok Wood Tao. He drums for HK indie bands like Ignite the Hope, Rain in Time and Seasons for Change.
Jason Kui (JK)
One of Hong Kong's most celebrated Axemen. Kui is a session and touring guitarist who has worked with many well-known artists throughout Hong Kong and China. Acting as lead guitarist for Kahlil Fong, Sandy Lam, Nic Tse, Joey Yung and Eason Chan, with whom he recently finished a two-year world tour. He was also the main guitarist for the famous Chinese variety show “I am a Singer” in 2013.
CM Groovy (CM):
A session bass player and the music director for ViuTV, CMGroovy's work can be found in Sammi Cheng and Joey Yung's music.
Tell Us a Little More about your CIEM Designs
"I actually love green, so I struggled for so long, should I pick green or something else? But Eunice introduced me to one of FiR's Signature Colours, Matte Black. Black is my cup of tea too...
I realised I could put my logo on to it, so I was thinking of what colour to do it in, then I thought, why not gold. Black and Gold, that's a colour combination I really love.
"Actually my design isn't exceptionally complicated. There are two names here, one is my stage name. The other side has "The Rebel Alliance" on it. This is because I set up a songwriting crew this year, we're called the Rebel Alliance.
Honestly I just snagged the font somewhere off the net, the name "The Rebel Alliance" is inspired by Star Wars, so I wanted a Star Wars-esque font, silver, black.
I purposely made the shells on both sides different colours, blue on the right and grey-black on the left. When I used normal earphones in the past I always had to lift them up to see which was left and right. I thought that was such a pain.
Until someone told me "just make your CIEMs a different colour on each side", so now when I pick up these earphones I immediately know which is left and which is right.
FiR's matte black finish is pretty special, not a lot of custom manufacturers can do it like this. So I wanted matte black for sure. But I didn't want both sides to be the same shells, but there arent many choices of 4D printing. I saw there was green, so I picked green. It was only later when I found that I actually liked green.
For the facplate, when they announced the customisation options, there was one called Driftwood, there's some arcylic in the wood so it looks both woody and clear. I picked this for both sides. For the green side, I wanted to pick a darker wood like walnut or mahogany so there's a foresty theme to it.
For the other side, I used Dark Horse, it's something of a signature option for FiR but I wanted to play around with it a little so I changed the black in the centre to red, and they let me.
For the logo at the back, I wanted people to see that its a pair of M5s but I wanted to personalise it too. My good friend Sam spilt up the M and the 5 and inserted "in" in between, making "Min5" which kind of looks like "Ming" which is my name.
Which Models did you Pick?
I picked the M5, when I went to the shop to try the M-Series out I felt the most connected to the M5
I picked the M5 too, I feel like the M5 is the most all-rounded, very resolved, balanced in all aspects too.
Me too. Actually all of us picked the M5
What was your experience with Custom Earphones in the Past?
I've made a pair of customs maaaany years ago, but I felt like that one wasn't made exceptionally well, the refit wasn't right too.
I just went back to universal fit IEMs. I don't wear very expensive earphones.
You know how it gets, when you're out and about there's a risk of losing them, getting them stolen or even you stepping on them, that's a big loss, so I normally don't want to buy earphones that are too expensive.
But this time I had the chance to try these and after I did I realised, whoa, so it's like this, it sounds awesome. It's a far cry from my previous pair.
I was worried about this one at first, because I had a bad experience with CIEMs previously. This time the tech who took the ear mold was great and I think there's been some technological advances since then.
The first time I used it officially was for a recording with Tjoe, for the record he recently released, a few tunes, that was an almost 5 hour session.
I remember putting it on and feeling like it was weightless, past IEMs felt like something was pulling on your ears. But when you popped these in, it's like there's nothing.
I use a few brands but I think this one genuinely has good craftsmanship. The fit is good, I think the tech did a good job, and they have immediate 3D scanning.
It's different from in the past where you have to mail it there. You don't know how the temperature changes in between will affect the mold, shrink it or something. The stuff back then always seems a bit worse.
That's why customs have always been something I've aspired to but always been suspicious of.
Actually I was also scared, I had some negative experiences with molding. When I did it N years ago, I went to a clinic and sent the molds to America. When I made the second pair, it was a different era and they had a laser scanner. That one was awful, it was too wide, too deep, you could almost feel the nozzle against your eardrum so you couldn't wear it for as long.
When I had mine made this time I was also a scared, I did ask, how're we gonna go about this.
Turns out they're back to using the ear impression compound, this pair is perfect.
Yeah now they scan your molds, they don't send it over anymore, just the files. That's great. Its a new era.
How was your Show Experience with the FiR Customs?
I don't have many earphones, when I use one I'm pretty much stuck on it. I'll use them for everything and so I get used to them quickly.
The first time I used them for a show... and it's not like there's been many shows recently... but they're comfortable and clear. You know the metronome clicks.
I don't like to have it on too loud so I turned it down but underneath all the chaos I can still hear it ticking.
They're still there cueing you!
Yeah that's important
There was no way I could have turned the clicks down to this extent in the past. But right now it's almost like the clicking has a place to belong to. Reminding you of the beat gently in the background.
I've used this in rehearsals, normally these last from 5 to 6 hours, I wanted to say that it's really a very comfortable fit, like there's nothing.
In the past when I wear my iems for a long time I feel like I need to take them down and massage my ears a bit. But this is comfy, maybe because there's new technology behind CIEMs? But it fits well.
Also, everything is very clear and resolved, everything's more extravagant.
I feel like my playing got better hahaha.
Your playing's always good, I don't think you two are going to get any better.
Once I did a show for APA with Seasons for Change.
Because I'm not like the both of you running shows all the time
There's no more shows :(
I took all of my most precious IEMs out at once to give them a spin, but I still decided on the M5 in the end.