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Custom Mould & Verdict

Gordon Kelly

By Gordon Kelly



Our Score:


Custom moulded IEMs have a number of benefits. The most significant is the level of noise isolation they offer. Unique Melody quotes an environmental noise reduction of -25dB and we wouldn't doubt that. By cutting down environmental noise it creates a perfect soundstage for listening to music at safer volume levels, even in noisy environments. A knock-on bonus is custom moulded monitors work extremely well as earplugs.


The downside for Unique Melody though, is the choice of a hard shell. This route is common to most custom IEM makers, but they all exhibit the same flaw: the shape of ear canals change. This happens naturally with ageing (custom moulds will need to be changed every 5-6 years and Unique Melody offers a £175 re-shelling service), but it also happens with natural movement – such as when opening your mouth. With a hard shell there is no give so the seal is easily broken. It also means they are more tiring to wear over long periods.

Consequently the Aeros face a significant problem, namely the ACS T2. Coming in at a roughly similar RRP (£500), they are cast in medical grade silicon which makes them flexible – at once resulting in a more consistent seal and flush finish so they are far more comfortable to wear. This results in a better soundstage and the T2's dual drivers require little amplification meaning they actually sound far more powerful then the triple driver Aeros. ACS' choice of sound signature is more flexible responding well to virtually any kind of music and projecting greater emotion, even if they may not technically deliver the same level of detail.



The Unique Melody Aero presents quite a problem. In the plus column they are well made, designs are completely bespoke and, with the right kinds of music, they sound fantastic. Know what you're buying and it is hard to imagine many disappointed customers.

The negative column is more problematic. The hard shell is an inherent problem for any company that chooses it as it affects both seal and comfort. The emphasis on accuracy strips emotion from bass heavy tracks and fiddling with an equaliser isn't an ideal solution. Meanwhile you'll need an amp to get the best out of the Aeros on a mobile device.

Tally both columns and ACS' T2 remains the circa £500 custom IEM to beat.

Overall Score


Scores In Detail

  • Design & Features 7
  • Sound Quality 7
  • Value 7

Mark Booth

June 24, 2011, 4:30 pm

I have to say I completely agree for a music listening experience. The MP3 generation is used to having soft foam or silicon tips, so the thought of going to hard plastic with less noise isolation would feel like a step back to me, let alone the comfort issue.

I have always had comfort/fit issues with off the shelf UE/Shures, so decided on the ACS T1 and all I can say is wow! Fit is incredible and they warm to body temperature in seconds, leaving you with a very natural feel. And the bonus is you can listen at any volume (bleedingly loud if that floats your boat), even in a library, and no one has the faintest idea. Complete sound isolation :)


June 24, 2011, 8:04 pm

100% agree. Silicon moulds have huge advantage over hard shells. Once you've tried silicon it is virtually impossible to go back to hard shells.


June 27, 2011, 8:14 am

Hmm, I'm a little unsure about this article. For one, there's no comparison against the Shure SE535's, which aren't custom moulded but are in the same target price range (and also triple driver), and there's also grammatical errors and broken links in it as well. C'mon guys, you can do better than this...


June 28, 2011, 7:59 am

Dear Yan, that's a poor tone. Had you read the links to the ACS T2 review (http://www.trustedreviews.com/ACS-T2-Dual-Driver-Monitor_Headphones_review) you would have seen the T2 is directly compared to the SE535 and wins by a country mile. It is no longer the gold standard and therefore not the principle point for comparison, especially for a custom mould.

While no longer responsible for subbing I see no errors over 1,500 words and having written over 5,000 articles for TrustedReviews in more than 6 years I feel when commenting you can do better than this.


June 28, 2011, 8:01 am

As irony would have it, please ignore the closing bracket - picked up as part of the hyper link.


July 1, 2011, 7:38 am

Sorry for the tone, but that's just what I felt when reading this - poor.

Yes, I have read the ACS T2 review, though I had to hunt for it myself as the link in the article was broken at the time. It's been fixed now, but still, we shouldn't have to read every article published by TR so we can keep a track of A is better than B which is better than C which is better than D, just to compare A and D.

Besides, this misses the point - even if the 535's are not the gold standard in IEMs, they (alonside the GR10s) are still the best non-custom IEMs TR has reviewed. It seems negligent not to compare in any way a new pair of custom IEMs with what remains the best non-custom IEMs in the same target price range. Certainly many readers (including myself) would love to know how they compare, especially given the RRP on the 535's have dropped over £100 now.

Finally, there's still grammatical errors in the article, slight as they might be (you're, your) but added to the broken link and lack of detail, I just felt the article didn't tell me anything I wanted to know. Given the target audience of people most likely to consider buying a £500 pair of custom IEMs are also the same group most likely to consider (or already own) top of the line non-custom IEMs, some tips on how or why to choose one over the other would have been appreciated by many.

The only sentence that even mentions the benefits of customs say the UM's have a claimed noise isolation of 25dB, but then not mentioned is the fact that the 535's have a claimed noise isolation of 37dB (!) so where's the benefit? It all just seems confused and one-sided at best.


July 1, 2011, 7:45 am

The other thing that wasn't mentioned was even if the 535's no longer compare in terms of sound quality, how do they compare in terms of value? The 535's can be had for £290 now in a bricks-and-mortar store, nearly £200 less than the Aeros - and you can get silicon sleeves for them. Should they still even be considered?


August 27, 2013, 8:15 pm

With a hard shell there is no give so the seal is easily broken. It also means they are more tiring to wear over long periods.

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