Two Custom In-Ear Monitors from EarWerkz
It's interesting how things work. Sometimes I seek out review gear that looks interesting to me. Sometimes Tyll assigns something and ships it my way. And sometimes a company will contact me to solicit a review directly. Tyll keeps us writers on a fairly long leash so we're generally free to accept or deny any such offers as we please. My philosophy? If the gear being offered looks intriguing, and I have the requisite knowledgeI won't review a turntable, for example, as I'm not qualified in that arenaI'll have them send it over.
That's step one; there's still no guarantee the thing will prove worthy of a write up. I'll mess with it for a bit and find out if I want to go further. If it isn't competitive in its field, or if for some reason I don't feel like I can make a worthwhile article out of it, I'll send it back with a polite "thank you" and that's the end of it. If, however, it passes initial scrutiny, I'll add it to my queue and eventually churn out a proper evaluation. I can't speak for Tyll or the other InnerFidelity writers, but I personally find about a 50-50 split between stuff I review and stuff I end up sending back. Sometimes I get a string of winners, other times several duds in a row. It all roughly evens out in the end.
Editor's Note: I think it's about 1 in 5 for me. :(
The topic of today's review comes from a company who contacted me directly. EarWerkz is the name, purveyors of custom in-ear monitors, with a fairly lengthy history. I'm told they've been in the hearing aid business for nearly three decades. About eight years ago they decided to take the plunge into custom IEMsfirst as a hobby, then as an OEM for several different brand names. After building experience they figured it was time to give it a go with their own productscompletely proprietary from design to sound signature, unrelated to any prior OEM models.
"I've invested quite a bit of time in your website," said EarWerkz head honcho Jack Vang. "I think you're quite fair. I was actually interested in seeing how our Legend R would stack up to the TOTL list and to see if it'd be worthy of your Wall-of-Fame."
Wow. Big request. A new (in a manner of speaking) and relatively unknown company submitting their top model to be compared with the best stuff out there from various industry veterans? That's a pretty bold move. If this was anything elsefull size headphone, amp, DAC, whateverthe risk would be lower. If I could tell right off the bat the product wasn't competitive, it would probably be sent back with no harm done. But with custom IEMs, there's a measure of finality involved. The review unit must be custom molded and the build time represents a major investment. Potentially more so than the actual parts themselves, depending on the model. Stakes are inherently high in this situation.
Thankfully, as you'll find out, the product doesn't suck. Far from it. Which is why you're reading this article right now instead of the next review in my queue. I started with the Legend R, flagship model in the line, but also wanted to hear a lower model to gauge what could be done on a more modest budget. So Jack sent over their entry level Supra 2 to cover that side of the equation. The result? Turns out both models have a lot to offer, as I'll discuss on the following pages.
Worth noting is that Earwerkz claims a rather high level of customer servicehigh enough to set themselves apart from much of the competition. Based out of Buford, Georgia, they claim 10-15 day turn around time from the day impressions are received. That's pretty rare among other CIEM brands, unless one pays extra to obtain "rush" service. Earwerkz does have a 5 day rush option available for an extra fee, but that 10-15 day promise is already quite fast. So far everything I've heard indicates they still hit that target. It will be interesting to see if they maintain that pace down the road when more exposure equates to larger demandI've seen more than one starry-eyed newcomer make that sort of commitment only to become victims of their own success. I absolutely wish Earwerkz the best in this area, but we'll see how it goes.