Audio Random IEM / Headphone Rants

Discussion in 'Consumer Electronics' started by esanthosh, Feb 15, 2011.

  1. OP

    esanthosh Well-Known Member


    I agree. Back then, M2 was for $50 what RE0 had done for $100 a while back. But, now we have a few budget options around $40-60 with competition intensifying by the day.

    But, there is also a difference which must be highlighted when it comes to M2 and C-12. Brainwavz Pro Alpha, M1 and M2 were just re-brands of the Visang IEMs which were already selling in China. SA's IEM is made in China, but was independently conceptualized and designed in India. This requires lot more effort.

    I think I am going to stick to 'random thoughts' kind of impressions from now on. It is becoming increasingly hard to find those continuous, uninterrupted hours that I need for a proper review. With too many things clashing for attention, I find it hard to sit down and do comparisons.

    I therefore am officially announcing my immediate retirement from reviewing. Would need to send back C-12 at the earliest!
  2. kenpachiroks

    kenpachiroks Active Member

  3. abhi_jollyguy

    abhi_jollyguy Active Member

    :( It can't be happen.
  4. itsvel06

    itsvel06 Active Member

    I agree. MH1c shines with a good amp! Infact it needed the same gain level from the amp as my Grado SR325. I know grados are quite efficient but the MH1c for a single 5.8mm dynamic driver, is quite demanding!
    #1985 itsvel06, Jan 8, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2014
  5. itsvel06

    itsvel06 Active Member

    C'mon man who are you kidding?! Maybe you ll retire from writing about universal iems only to comeback blazing with reviews about customs :p
    I think nothing newer than ex1000 has quite 'wowed' you or made you fall in love with it so much that you genuinely feel like writing to the world about how awesome it is! So once you get something which will shame or atleast improve over your favourites, I think you ll feel the urge to write again!
    esanthosh likes this.
  6. OP

    esanthosh Well-Known Member


    That is one of the reasons, but a minor one. But the major reason is that these days, I need to keep my ears available and open for the vast portion of the day. So, IEMs are a strict no-no. By the time I get time, it is invariably late or I am terribly tired. Reviewing is a tedious process. Sometimes writing a single line in a review may take 30 minutes of back and forth comparisons, sometimes only 3 minutes. With my IEMs (say for Steel Series Flux which I haven't written much about or Delta, which I am yet to try after the 100 hour burn-in), I can just go through a normal music listening session whenever I am free and come up with a few lines. But, it feels a bit stressful with loaners and samples as I feel obligated and set myself deadlines (even though neither you nor PristineNote put any time limits or even hinted at one). That is why I am retiring from reviewing. I will post some thoughts from time to time, but only when I feel totally free to do so.

    As for better IEMs urging me to write, I never wrote a review for PFE or EX1000 - just a few mentions here and there. So, there is no guarantee that I will come all guns blazing if an IEM impresses me. I may just quietly retire with a mere mention of change at the top of my ranking ;)
  7. santhoshr

    santhoshr Active Member

    @esanthosh you are putting too much pressure on yourself that makes writing very difficult, let go of your high standards, in fact you don't even have to do comparison writing. Just what you think 'now' in fact you can change all the opinions later, you are not one of those Russian scientists, who never change their once stated facts!
    thrift and esanthosh like this.
  8. santhoshr

    santhoshr Active Member

    My confession!
    Received my Etymotic ER4P, after planning to buy this for almost 2 years...
    My initial impression, if I have to update my IEM list, I will put this in the top spot. Never heard more coherent headphone. First time I'm happy headphone listener as I always longed for the sound that comes from the speaker (even the cheap ones I had cheap Mercury speaker, then Creative sound blaster, then M-audio AV40...then 5.1 Z906) Imaging is superior, it has deep layering, the vocals, lead instrument, backing instruments are well layered, speaker like projection. PFE232 put the sound behind. Never a fan of SE535LTD imaging. A161P not coherent enough to reach the level of ER4P. The reason could be matched drivers of ER4P. Surprisingly I never missed the bass, may be I read too many bad reviews on bass on ER4P, or A161P/SE535 trained me well. And I also learned to appreciate triple flanges (only) with ER4P, since they have slim stem like nozzle, it is easier to 'shove' it deep! ;-) Timbre is excellent. Vocal projection is the best I heard. Instrument separation is quite good. Sound stage is small but with deep layering and projected stereo imaging in front, you don't want sound stage! Most used cliche but got to use it 'I'm hearing the songs new for the first time'.
    On the side note, I think first time users, might not be able to appreciate them. They are excellent even with very old recordings like some poorly recorded/available Illayaraja songs, I purchased 'thalatudhe vaanam' from iTunes hoping it might be better since I'm not able to get hq songs from friends, they sound crappy as well, but for such revealing 'as they say' earphones they sound so good, even 128kbps songs are fantastic with these earphones. Read many reviews that put ER4P to be very dry (and boring), I found they are extremely 'natural' makes them effortlessly enjoyable, takes you to the mood of the song with its beautiful sounding instrument timbre, vocals and imaging.
  9. santhoshr

    santhoshr Active Member

    Update: planning to return the ER4P! pulling ear and inserting is terribly painful! When you do it as many times in a day!
    Some more side notes; earphones are good for low volume listeners than those who crank the volume. Active listening is important, passive listening is distractive and gets irritating. The sound comes from very clean background with no noise due to unparalleled(shoving) isolation.
  10. OP

    esanthosh Well-Known Member


    Where did you buy them from? They accept returns? I thought in India, it's just 'buy and live with it'.

    @sardar17 also returned his XBA-1 and XBAH1, but my local Sony store does not accept returns.
  11. sardar17

    sardar17 Active Member

    they will accept it but won't give u money,,,u need to buy something else.
    that too after a lot of persuasion
  12. Akshay Gupta

    Akshay Gupta New Member

    WOWWW, didn't know about this website, just came across while searching for jh audio india randomly as i was getting bored. been a regular on head-fi since a long time. nice to know indians also interested in high end iems.

    anyone using jh audio iems? placed my order for roxanne during black friday. waiting for them to reach me. been using shire se 535 with fiio e17.

    was wondering if anyone can help me decide which dap to get for roxanne or is it better to get a dac which a cheaper mp3 player?

    waiting for reviews on the ak240, x5, zx1 , should be out shortly on youtube, head fi, !!!
    thank u !
    #1993 Akshay Gupta, Jan 10, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2014
    itsvel06 likes this.
  13. OP

    esanthosh Well-Known Member

    A few had/have JH audio IEMs. @Ritvik had JH13 (Pro?).

    Depends on what your expectations are. Sony ZX1 has the best UI, ease of use and battery life. But it seems to be power deficient when it comes to headphones. If you'd only be using IEM / CIEM with it, it should do fine. There is the upcoming iBasso DX90, FiiO X5 in the 'affordable' range, Calyx M and of course, AK240 to come.

    Regarding DAP vs Transport -> DAC-Amp route, that is what I prefer as I could change either of them at will. That said, I have not owned a high-end DAP, so my views are opinions without being backed by experience.
  14. sardar17

    sardar17 Active Member

    ak 240 has astronomical price of 2400$ and it is going to be a failure.
    ppl may be stupid but not that stupid,no
  15. OP

    esanthosh Well-Known Member

    I only hope you are not underestimating the gullibility and stupidity of audiophiles :p

    I feel that the audiophile hobby is getting costlier again, like the days when you had to pay $400 for quality IEMs. In the face of that $2400 price tag, $1000 DAP becomes 'affordable' and $500 becomes 'budget range'. With Final audio, AKG K3003, 1+2 and FitEar taking universal IEM cost to over $1000 range, manufacturers are now encouraged to price their ToTLs at ridiculous prices without blinking. We need something disruptive like RE0 did at $99 price point.

    We do not need more of this -$120k-digital-analogue-converter-18913/
    sardar17 and thrift like this.
  16. sardar17

    sardar17 Active Member

    i have seen even on head fi,,,ppl are laughing their asses of this price.
    its gonna be difficult for ak240 to justify the price after x5,x7,calyx m,zx1.
    1200$ is fine but 2400$!!
    thats just gonna be a disaster for iriver
  17. abhi_jollyguy

    abhi_jollyguy Active Member

    I have shipped the T-Peos Popular, Tank and newly launched Spider model to the joker, so review may come in a month. :)
    sardar17 and esanthosh like this.
  18. OP

    esanthosh Well-Known Member

    Those who say that won't buy. But there will always be those who buy, not to mention a few well placed review samples.

    No! Justification right now is not the intended 'effect' I'd think. AK240 may still sell, but not as popular or wide-spread as AK1x1. My worry is the after effect. After this, AK180 at $1800 would feel 'better value for money'. Slowly, the price for the top end DAPs will shift from 'around $1000' to $2000+ range and others will follow suit. With companies from Speaker world beginning to focus on portable audio, things can get ugly in a hurry.

    You would still have the Clip Zips of the world at $40. But you also have Cowon players and a bunch of others around 15-20K, X5 and others a little higher. What if this gets stretched like $50, $400, $800 are your upgrade options with nothing much in between? It will be better if AK240 fails.
    sardar17 likes this.
  19. OP

    esanthosh Well-Known Member

    Noble 4C: Diary of my first Custom IEM

    Before this all began...

    I have always been afraid of getting a Custom IEM because of the following reasons
    • They take a very long time and have an involved process. You need to take ear impressions, send them to the company, wait for anywhere between 4-6 weeks and pray that the damn thing fits you correctly. If you do not get a good fit and seal, you send it back again and wait. The cycle could quickly depress you to the point that you vow to stay off CIEMs forever. This tragedy seems to have struck a few poor souls, but on the bright side, it seems to work out fine for a lot of people.
    • If I was in the US, I would not have worried as much. In India, CIEMs are not widespread. Hence, audiologists who know how to properly take ear mold impressions for CIEMs are almost missing in entirety. Most are knowledgeable about taking ear mold impressions for hearing aids. But, taking impressions for CIEMs is a slightly different process, thus there is a higher probability of ending up with a bad set of impressions, resulting in re-fits, delays and additional costs.
    • There are a lot of hidden costs that are not apparent when choosing a CIEM. What you see displayed on the CIEM manufacturer sites is the base price. Once you customize shell colors, canal colors, face plates and choose custom artwork, you may end up with a much higher cost (unless you stick to the default options). Since this cost differs based on what you choose, there is no single universal cost that applies to all. Some companies include shipping in their displayed cost (like Noble), some do not (like Custom Art). Add to this, the cost of impressions, the cost of sending those impressions to another country, not to mention customs (duty) on custom (IEM) and the total cost could quickly escalate far beyond what you initially had in mind. On top of this, should you need re-fit(s), there is an additional cost (with some like Noble, you need to bear the cost of shipping to and fro) and an additional waiting period involved. So, when you plan to save for your first CIEM, take everything into account, not just the base price. Hopefully, my experience would provide a rough guideline of what to expect, though it would not be mirrored in your case.
    • Resale value of CIEM is very, very low. You can leave no stone unturned in designing your CIEM. But, when you sell it, the buyer has to pay $200-250 to re-shell it and pay for his own chosen set of options since only the driver gets re-used from your CIEM. There's no way you can sell it without losing plenty of money.
    • Reviews for CIEMs are much less in number compared to universals. It is easy to understand why. It is not possible to share CIEMs, send them for review. It is hard to compare one CIEM with another unless someone owns both of them. One option is to obtain universal demos from companies to do the comparison. But, due to unpredictable variations between universal demos and customs (some companies have universal demos that sound closer to the final custom like UE, but they usually do not sound the same), it's hard to decide based on universal demo comparisons alone.
    And then....

    I initially ordered the universal Noble 4 on Black Friday after reading Joker's review of Noble 4S. I was impressed by how close it was in performance to JH13FP, ljokerl's top ranked IEM, without costing as much. Reading the impressions, I felt like it could be an upgrade to all my neutral/balanced sets. I have long wanted to sell some of them, but never owned any IEM that would force me to do it. Noble 4 seemed like a strong contender which would suit this purpose. I initially wanted to order a 4C or a 4S, but thought I'd save some money and go for the universal version, Noble 4 (N4 for short).

    After placing the order, I thought deeply about this and decided to contact Noble Audio (Brannan Mason, Co-owner). I got the order upgraded from N4 universal to 4C custom by topping up through a second payment. Some of the reasons why I chose to do what I did was
    • Noble Audio do not re-shell their universals. So, even if I liked N4 to the point of wanting to own 4C/4S, I had to sell N4 and separately place an order for 4C/4S. I wasn't sure how many here in India would be interested in a costlier universal like N4. If I had to sell it in Head-fi, it would require more time and effort (international shipping) not to mention the cuts due to Paypal charges.
    • If I like N4, I would always be wondering what 4C/4S could have improved on it both in terms of sound and in terms of fit and seal (seems like my thinking was right. Some have to do lot of tip rolling with N4/N6 to find that perfect fit and seal).
    • The best use of money is not in 'spending', but in gathering experiences. I have heard a whole lot of universals. It was time I experienced something fresh and different. Thinking about it, there will never be a perfect time to take the risk and go for a CIEM. There will always be money shortages, mood swings, some other important commitment etc., At some point, I had to take on the risk and experience the whole process. Why not now?
    • Between 4C and 4S, the choice was easy as 4S was costlier by $300 (even with the Black Friday discount, the base price of 4C was $559.20 and 4S was $799.20. For the Wizard design, Indian costs at that time were ~ ₹52K and 68K respectively). Secondly, silicone is a little hard to work with (4S offered only uncolored silicone shell), whereas acrylic allows you to play with everything under the sun (as you see in the Wizard design below). I did ask Brannan if there were any sound signature differences, but he mentioned that except for the material used (and the differences that occur thereof in terms of isolation, comfort and so on), they would sound the same. This firmed up my choice towards 4C.
    06.12.2013: Close encounters of the Ear kind

    I found out that there were a couple of hearing aid centers in Coimbatore - Hearing Aid Center and Amplifon (Formerly Beltone, whose business was bought by Amplifon in India). A couple of years back, I had visited HAC to inquire about getting ear impressions. I was given a strange look when I said that I needed ear impressions which go 'a little past the second bend'. They started explaining that the ear drum is located very close to the second bend and they have not taken impressions that deep for anybody so far. This is likely to be the case with most audiologists in hearing aid centers. You need to convince them otherwise.

    I ended up choosing Amplifon because psygeist had mentioned that Beltone took good ear mold impressions that resulted in a perfect fit (in the first attempt) with his UM Miracle.

    I went to Amplifon one lazy evening (on 5th) just to talk to the Doctor. I carried printouts of the following
    1. Noble Audio's Ear Impression instructions
    2. JH Audio's Audiologist Tip Sheet
    3. Things to consider before getting your custom IEM impressions done.
    4. Average Joe's comments from Kozee thread along with the photo of his self-impressions
    I purposefully did not disclose the cost of CIEMs. But, I did tell him how important it is to take impressions the same way as outlined in the sheets that I carried. It proved hard to convince him that taking so much effort for a 'cosmetic' purpose was worth his time when he could be 'saving lives'.

    Of course, even after this, he went on to take impressions his usual way the next day. He asked me to keep the mouth slightly open when the impression material was injected and asked me to close the mouth soon afterwards. While pushing the cotton dam inside, he scratched a bit in the right ear. That pain went on to sustain for a few more days after this. He did take the impressions slightly past the second bend. But, this set of impressions had to be discarded.

    He took out the impressions and I was ... disgusted. I never knew I had so much wax beyond the reach of my Johnson's buds. Sigh! :shy:. There was a good side effect to this though. I had been worried for sometime if my hearing was alright due to infrequent bouts of ringing in my ears. I assumed it was tinnitus and I was gradually going deaf. Suddenly, I was able to hear more clearly. The irritating ringing had stopped (may be it wasn't tinnitus at all). I did write the SE535LTD-J review after this. So, @itsvel06 cannot dispute my opinions :p

    A few things to remember here
    • While you would come across posts in Head-fi stating that the 'Green' silicone (Blue being the next best) is the best material for taking ear mold impressions, it was not available here. The audiologist said that the pink material, which is the least desired usually, is the only one available. The reason they prefer the A+B based silicone material is the smoothness of the resulting ear mold impression. Impressions made using the pink material (as shown below) could be a little grainy. The good news is the final CIEM is not affected by the choice of injection material (though you may want to clarify this with the manufacturer).
    • Though it is generally said that acrylic CIEMs require open mouth impressions and silicone CIEMs require closed mouth impressions, it would be futile to assume so. Custom Art, for example, recommends open mouth impressions similar to how I describe below, whereas Minerva requires closed mouth impressions. Unless it's a silicone based CIEM (in which case you are better off clarifying this with the manufacturer), open mouth impressions should be done.
    • One of the important components for taking open mouth impressions is the bite block. But, I am told that in India, no one uses a bite block (understandable as hearing aid impressions do not require open mouth impressions). So we need to improvise.
    • I cannot stress this enough. You must politely try to convince the audiologist how exactly you want the impressions done. I know it can be hard, depending on the audiologist and his experience, to make an audiologist listen to a lowly one time visitor (not even a patient). But if you want to save further trips and a lot of money, it's better to put some effort and time into this.
    They only charged me the consultation fee of ₹300 since they did not know how else to charge me. Depending on the city, the charges may vary.

    Later that night, I took photos of my fugly impressions and sent them to Noble Audio. Brannan gave a detailed reply pointing out locations where ear mold impressions were not good enough and what needs to be done to rectify them. He also gave me some guidelines to follow when taking impressions.

    09.12.2013: Ear mold Impressions

    I fixed another appointment and took a printout of Brannan's E-mail. This time, I did things correctly.
    • The audiologist quickly understood what he needed to do. He had flattened the outer ear impression. That part was not required for hearing aids, but it is essential information for CIEMs since drivers would be placed there.
    • James444 mentioned that he used tissues as bite block (Turns out he used an unopened pack of tissues, now I look like an idiot! :bag:). So, I took a bunch of tissues. From Brannan's mail, an open mouth impression is best taken with the mouth open to the extent of index finger and middle finger placed vertically. If you use tissues like me, make sure the height of the roll matches the height of Index and middle finger placed like a 'finger gun' when rolled and pressed well (because the combination of saliva and biting force would reduce the height by a slight bit once it is in the mouth). You can use any (combination of) object(s) that match this height, which you won't mind keeping inside your mouth for 10 mins or more. For e.g., A 35ml Shampoo bottle might work, but I am more allergic to plastic.
    • One problem that is likely to surface when keeping the mouth open is drooling. It is so common and nothing to be ashamed of. In my case, the tissue 'bite block' absorbed the drool. But I won't recommend this to everyone. One issue with having a mix of paper and drool in your mouth for 5+ minutes? You may have little pieces of it stuck to the tongue after the impression was removed :rolleyes:
    • It is a bit painful when the cotton dam gets pushed beyond the first bend, especially when it gets past the second bend. But, try your best not to move (unless you wish to damage ear drums).
    • It is best to keep still when the impression material is getting cured. As a precaution, my audiologist asked me to 'bite' the 'block' even before the cotton dam was pushed. After the injection of the impression material, it takes 4-7 minutes to cure fully (depends on the material). So, it is best to sit in a comfortable position before giving the go ahead signal to the audiologist. Because once you sit, you are supposed to sit still like a statue. I do not know if moving your arm or leg will affect the final outcome, but better to be safe than sorry.
    • The 'still' posture must be a close approximation of how you use your IEMs in general. Do not tilt the head up or down (unless that is your normal listening posture). A slightly different head orientation could break the seal on loosely fitted CIEMs. I normally walk a lot when listening to music and usually sit in a slightly reclined position with legs stretched, but with head still upright (when I am working on the PC/laptop). I tried to strike a balance between the two.
    • My audiologist took one set of impressions, was not satisfied with it and discarded it. The second set of impressions came out well (that's the fugly thing you see in the photo below).
    • Since my right ear already had some pain from last time, the pain worsened after this.
    • Since the ears were so clean and free of wax, the audiologist asked me to safeguard from water entering the ears over the next 3-4 days. If it does, what will happen? Well! You don't have to go through it, because water entered my right ear a couple of days after this (during bath). That resulted in a severe pain that gradually subsided only four days later. What if plenty of water had entered? Since there was no wax to protect, the thin membrane of the ear drum might have torn or damaged. It is possible, but may not happen (as in my case. May be I am already deaf in one ear, just don't know it yet :blackeye:). Again, better to be safe than sorry!
    • Usually, the HACs keep crush proof round cases (like the ones you see in the photos below) in which they pack and send patient's ear impressions. You can get them if you like. Some may charge extra for it, but I wasn't charged for mine. May be that's because I diverted the attention of my audiologist by explaining more about custom IEMs (except of course the cost part).
    • The full session may last anywhere between 20 and 30 minutes, depending on the audiologist. In this case, as there were two sets of impressions, it lasted close to 45-50 mins (I think).

    14.12.2013: Shipping

    Do not worry! Silicone won't lose shape that quickly (I accidentally dropped mine on the table from say, half a foot) and would last sometime (a little more than a month? I forget), so there should not be any major issues unless your packing is pretty careless.

    While the actual weight of impressions would be very less (even with the weight of the case, protection material and the outer box added), it is important to remember that courier companies use Volumetric weight for International shipping. While chances are minimal that you will need a larger box for sending a set of ear impressions, just make sure that you find a box that falls under the 500 gms volumetric weight (Use DHL's Calculator). I used the cases from Beltone, stuck a printout of my name and address underneath each of them and used bubble wrap individually to protect them. After that, I stuffed them in the box, used some old newspaper bits and bubble wrap to fill the gaps and thermocol to protect the sides of the box to finish the packing. I then packed some bits of thermocol to the top and bottom and wrapped the whole thing in an additional layer of bubble wrap. A brown tape was used to wrap around the entire thing. Address labels were placed atop the brown tape and a cellophane tape was run around the box to keep the address labels in place. This may feel a bit paranoid for some, but this parcel only had a couple of additional layers compared to my packing for domestic shipping :p. The purpose is to provide adequate cushioning against any catching and throwing practice our parcels may endure.

    I wasted a whole day (11th) searching for a cost effective, non-Indian post solution. Indian Post was kept as the last resort, since there was always a chance for delay, damages and lost packages when it comes to EMS.

    DHL was too costly at ₹3600. Aramex wasn't sure whether they could send ear mold impressions. Fortunately, I found that DTDC has a tie-up with DHL. While DTDC can ship documents to International locations, non-documents (like this one) to select International locations are sent out via DHL. The first advantage is that once the local hub of DTDC hands it over to DHL, the entire thing is handled by DHL, meaning you can avail full fledged tracking. The second advantage is the lower cost. For the same package which would cost ₹3600 directly through DHL, DTDC quotes ~ ₹1600 ( a bit more, a bit less depending on the destination).

    Usually, they ask for an 'invoice' or an official letter from a hospital in case this has anything to do with medical reasons. Declaration letters (stating that these are samples and have no commercial value) are passé though (I tried that, but it was rejected). I found it incredibly stupid to do this when there's no obvious need to do so (and logically, who would send ₹100 worth of items spending a couple of thousands?). You would need to keep a Government issued ID proof and an 'invoice' (any Word template should do) ready when you want to send them. It's best to keep the invoice value under $5 and use 'sample' in the item description. In addition, I also attached (a printout of) the photographs of the contents (ear impressions and the Beltone case) along with it, so that the customs official do not have to worry about what's inside. Your experience may vary depending on the courier and it's personnel.

    My ear impressions reached Nancy Lee at Chengdu on 18th afternoon.

    The tough waiting period: Buyer's Remorse

    Since there was a dearth of information about Noble 4 / 4C / 4S, I feared if I had chosen the wrong CIEM. I was more worried about the bass region. I simply didn't want something that resembled RE272 or SE535. The rest of the spectrum seemed OK to me. After my exchange with Joker and some assuring impressions about the universal Noble 4, I became more and more confident about my choice.

    14.01.2014: So near, yet so far

    I got a mail confirming that my 4C has been built. Just when I was waiting for tracking number, this happened. Now the wait had become even more unbearable.

    22.01.2014: A Surprise!

    As outlined in the linked post, I was mentally prepared to wait till end January in the best case and Mid March in the worst case for my 4C. In the afternoon, I was really surprised to receive a mail from Nancy that my Noble 4C is ready. They recovered my ear mold impressions only on 16th afternoon, meaning they built my 4C within 5-6 days. Every raid affected customer got a rush order style build without the burden of an additional $300! It was quite unbelievable. Kudos to Noble Audio!

    In-Ear version of Pygmalion

    These fugly things

    SYPQYYo.jpg IO1iigd.jpg the right, skillful hands can turn into.....

    44mrdWD.jpg xtXTB5q.jpg

    I have a feeling that these Photos do not do enough justice to the IEM. Will confirm once I get them.
    In case you are wondering, my notes to Noble were quite simple - Nothing shiny, Nothing too dark, Stay away from Pink, but design something under-stated and calmer to look at. It's a unique design (at the time of writing), with translucent shell and face plate with a silver Mystic Swirl design, a Wizard first. Give them a free hand and they'll exceed your expectations :).

    The face plates are a bit mismatched in shape. Will know if that affects the fit once I get them.

    23.01.2014: That sinking feeling

    The day began well, with a mail carrying my UPS tracking number. I was ecstatic. If traveling to Chengdu and back was cheaper than a Lakh of rupees and 60 hours traveling time, I'd have gone there and collected it myself. But I had to brace myself for a wait till Monday at the very least.

    We are normally conditioned to expect Chinese cos to declare articles at lower values to escape the dreaded Indian customs. But I wanted to know the exact declaration amount so that I could be ready for it. I wasn't anywhere near prepared to hear $485.40 as the declared value. Turns out Noble Audio usually declares full (or near full) value for all the CIEMs from China as required by Chinese law and this is a lenient customer friendly declaration from their point of view. That was out of the blue and I wasn't prepared mentally or monetarily for this.

    01.02.2014: End of Frustration

    Noble 4C is the first IEM in a long, long time to genuinely excite me. I would know answers to several questions first hand like "Do they fit me right?", "How different or better are customs compared to universals?", "Could this be the one IEM to rule them all?" etc., etc., Since it was almost in my hands, only to be taken away by Chinese authorities, the pain of waiting is much more aggravated this time around.

    I spent a better part of the week refreshing the UPS page every half an hour with no fruitful results to speak of. Due to the Chinese New Year rush, they spent five days with Chinese and Hongkong Customs. It was in the loving embrace of Mumbai customs for another day. I was charged about 30% of declared value and the total amount I needed to pay, including UPS clearance charge and applicable taxes, came to ~ ₹9200.

    Once it left Mumbai, tracking updates stopped. Since UPS did not have an office at Coimbatore, they hand it over to their agent, DelEx, at Chennai. DelEx then transports it via Surface the next day morning to Coimbatore and it reaches here that night. Just when I thought I would finally have them delivered, I was informed that DelEx do not have service in my locality and hence they would route it through Professional Couriers. Of course, Professional was to deliver it only on Monday, which spoiled my weekend plans. My 4C has been so near, yet so far that it frustrated me no end.

    Fortunately, since mine was a COD due to the duty, DelEx delivered it at 5 PM.

    Day 1 - 23.01.2014

    06:40 : A good start to the day. Will get my tracking number today, which means it will be delivered by Monday or Tuesday.

    18:00 : The madness of refreshing the tracking page every alternate hour begins.

    22:15 : Exception? On Error Resume Next! Quick!

    23:00 : Scheduled delivery is end of the day on 30th? Sigh!

    Day 2 - 24.01.2014

    09:40 : Let's recount last night's tale - Interception at HK, goes back to Chengdu, awaiting release / clearance from Chinese authorities and bang! Another Exception.

    18:40 : Finally, cleared after 9 hours+ with the Chinese authorities. Guess this delay is on account of CNY rush. Hope it moves forward from this point on.

    Day 3 - 25.01.2014

    06:40 : Change is the only constant, unless it is my package, in which case being stuck in China/HK and displaying "Exception" all the time is.

    Day 5 - 27.01.2014

    14:00 : You can neither hurry art nor my 4C package. It was cleared by HK customs yesterday at 16:30 IST and it's still in the loving embrace of China/HK.

    Day 6 - 28.01.2014

    07:40 : My 4C is on Noble's Facebook :D. Why isn't it "30th End of day" already? :bored:

    17:30 : Finally the parcel has left after a 100 hour complementary burn-in by Chinese and HK authorities. Phew!

    23:45 : Mumbai

    Day 7 - 29.01.2014

    18:40 : Refreshing the tracking page every 20 minutes was futile. I am so used to DHL clearing stuff within 10 minutes. No status updates since last night. I wonder why it is taking so long. Hope Mumbai customs do not break or take anything :(

    Day 8 - 30.01.2014

    06:30 : Delivery rescheduled to 31st by End of day now

    09:45 : Departed Mumbai by 9 AM. The silver lining is UPS customer care at the Toll free number always picks the phone on the first ring. The total amount I need to pay inclusive of UPS clearance fee (₹250 + taxes) would be ~ ₹9200.

    Day 9 - 31.01.2014

    10:30 : UPS does not have an office in Coimbatore. So, they hand it over to their agent, DelEx at Chennai. The actual delivery happens on the T+2nd day of the Chennai office receiving the package. They handed it over to their agent only last night. Delex will send it today morning and the package will reach Coimbatore by tonight. Expected delivery is tomorrow afternoon.

    16:00 : Turns out my location is not serviceable by DelEx. They will hand it over to Professional Courier who will deliver it to me by Monday. How many days do I have to wait for this thing? This is so damn frustrating :(

    Day 10 - 01.02.2014

    11:40 : I called UPS franchisee as he asked. Since it was a COD due to the duty, he was willing to deliver. Finally, something good was about to happen.

    17:00 : Delivered!


    This started out as a documentation of my experience. During the course of its development, I sent the link to a few experienced head-fi members. Their valuable inputs and feedback have been incorporated into this 'guide'. Thanks to all of them for taking time and adding value to this post.

    Debugging and Beta Testing: Underground Grammar Nazis of TE whose curious questions from the perspective of a CIEM hopefuls forced me to add content I would have otherwise overlooked. They also saved this post from becoming a mess of words.


    Further thoughts and initial impressions can be found from this post onwards.
    #2000 esanthosh, Jan 10, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2014
    ruiner21, Spacescreamer, Sei and 4 others like this.

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