I have been a pretty tireless advocate of getting musicians on in-ear systems for monitoring for a really long time. And I run up against the same three objections all the time.
1) Isolation. This is actually a FEATURE of custom in-ears but some people don’t like it
2) Hate the feeling of something in their ear. Not a lot I can do with that one
3) Cost. Which is one I totally get. Custom in-ears are pricey. And add a trip to an audiologist to have molds made and it increases both the cost and the hassle factor.
I was a fan of really good universal fit in ears because the address two of those three issues, They do not isolate as much as customs and the cost is literally pennies on the dollar compared to custom fit models. But the choices have not been good lately. Future Sonics used to make a great set of universals called Atrios but they are no longer available. JH makes a universal fit version of the Roxanne series but the are still $1299. And the universal stuff from Ultimate Ears and Westone… I have just not been super impressed. (Although I have and like the customs I have from both companies.)
So I was intrigued by an email I got touting a Kickstarter campaign for some new Universal fit stuff out of the UK made by a company called Flare Audio. Small. All-metal. And–this is big–removable and replaceable cables and drivers.
I had them send me a set and I like em. Way more low end than I expected out of a universal fit that is so tiny and solid his. The highs can be a little sibilant but for those of us with compromised high-end hearing from years of gigs, it is nice to be able to hear the high-hat again.
There are some really interesting design features. I was initially taken aback to see no strain relief. This was on purpose as Flare says that it is crucial that the entry point of the cable be tiny to ensure quality sound. They have opted for chamfers inside the body to hold the cable and claim that in their test, when abused the cable will eventually break but not at the body. I’ve been pretty hard on ’em and no damage so far.
But that brings up the really cool thing here. You will be able to get a replacement kit with a new cable and driver set for about $35. And there will be various options including a braided cable (great for stage use) different angled ends and even one with a mic and remote for using with your phone. This can really be a “one-set” deal that you can adapt for stage or everyday use.
At $120 (If you do it via the KickStarter campaign that has just 12 days to go…) they are roughly 1/10th the cost of customs. Nothing will ever replace a good set of pro, custom-fit in-ears. but if you want to try it out without dropping $1200+, the Flare R2 is a great way to go about it.