1x DD, 1x BA
8hz - 19khz
Today what I have for you is something different. It’s an IEM but one that only I can wear and use. It’s called Custom In-Ear Monitor and it comes from one of the new players in the market, a US Company called Anthem Five.
We already reviewed CIEMs here on Ear Fidelity, but that was from Pawel and Bruno, who are experts in this regard. E2 on the other hand is personally my very first CIEM, so I can describe what a massive difference is to own something made specifically for me.
Packaging & Build quality
In terms of packaging here we are getting only the most important high-quality essentials. The IEM’s, a beautiful, round metal case, a cable, and cleaning tool. All of this is packed into a very nice-looking minimalistic white square box with a huge black Anthem Five logo on top. Shells themselves are built very well, they have a 2 pin socket flushed into the shell. Also, E2’s have a special feature called Pressure Mitigation Valve which helps to prevent listener’s fatigue after long listening sessions.
In terms of the cable, fortunately, we have standard non-proprietary 2 pins 0.78mm. RCX connector is a design that is very common in the CIEM realm so third-party cable for such CIEM can be problematic at times. With E2 you have access to the biggest third-party cable market that is available. The cable itself is not very pretty but what’s more important for me is that it’s not annoying. If I would ever have to choose between pretty, annoying to use cable and average looking but comfortable, functional one I will always choose the latter. It’s thin, has 2 weaves covered in the black sleeve which is also covered in plastic transparent tubing. Very light, does not get dragged by your skin or clothes, overall I like it and the only thing that would point out about it is its slider. Never seen such a design, where you have a small rubber patch with grooves where you put wires. It’s ok, but unfortunately when you’ll pull your cable too hard then one of the wires just pops out and you have to press it back in.
Comfort & Isolation
This section is the reason why you would like to consider buying CIEMs in the first place. You are not bothered about the shell being too big, tips falling out of your ear canal, foam that’ll deteriorate, or lose silicons which you can drop in the grass while walking outdoors. The tip rolling aspect is completely skipped, you don’t have to be bothered about looking for perfect tips for you. It’s already perfect because it’s designed based on your ear molds so it’s exactly the shape of your ear. Pretty much the same with isolation. These CIEMs have massive isolation from your surroundings. It means that you can easily use them while being on a train or on a plane.
However, they are very suitable for ear protection. Places such as music events, concerts, and parties. I’ve been using these to monitor my microphone during few weddings so I could check if my levels aren’t peaking and also prevent hearing loss because of very loud music that was playing there.
A big part of getting custom IEMs is the design. Some companies offer nearly unlimited customization, so you can go wild with the design.
Anthem Five doesn’t offer that many options, but you still can customize the IEMs to your liking. You can choose between 9 different colors for the shells and 11 for the faceplates. Last but not least, you can choose between a gold or silver logo, or go for full minimalism and get no logo at all.
What’s worth mentioning is that even though this is very affordable when it comes to custom IEMs, the build quality is really good. No air bubbles, no imperfections, just a clean and well-built pair of in-ear monitors.
Anthem Five should add some further customization for the customer, but as for now, the choice is quite limited. Having the $199 price tag in mind though, it’s really cool that they let you tune the look of your CIEMs to match your desires.
So far I’ve been praising E2’s for having all the greatest aspects of your own personalized IEM, but as every IEM on planet Earth, it is made specifically to generate sound… So the question is, can such a cheap CIEM sound any good? Spoiler alert: yes… yes it can. And I’m going to tell you all about it, just in a moment. For all those who can’t wait to read about it, I only have to mention it. These IEMs… are on the warmer side… Much warmer side.
Let’s start with the bass. The section that I pay most attention to and I have to say… There’s a lot of stuff you have to pay attention to in the low-frequency part. These IEMs are warm, very warm in fact because boost starts to drop somewhere around 200 Hz. If your previous pairs were rather neutral, V-Shaped, or Bright Neutral… you gonna hear a significantly different experience from your previous pair. Bass is pretty much everywhere, always being pushed to the very front row. You listen to tracks with percussion, you’re gonna hear that rhythmic punches very distinctively. Video games? Try shooting some sniper rifles. The recoil experience is almost life-like. Listening to experimental music or film scores? Your skull is gonna get a pretty significant massage.
Definitely won’t say that this bass is bloaty. It’s just because of its amount and presence some tracks feel like they are mixed to be as bassy as possible and other parts are just small additions to it. There’s a lot of texture and shape to it, it’s definitely enjoyable in hip hop tracks and every other track where you expect that huge slam, like X-Gon Give It To Ya for example. In other cases especially in competitive gaming, it can be too powerful, so sometimes you won’t be able to focus on other aspects such as the enemy walking behind you, trying to score a knife kill.
The midrange. If I’d like to put it on E2’s priority list then it would be right in the middle, no pun intended. Because of the huge bass boost, that boost falls off and reaches the lowest point right after mid-frequencies, somewhere around 900 Hz. Thanks to that extension it sounds like the bass is definitely on the very first stage, but mids aren’t that far away back from them. There’s definitely body to it and at times where the bass is getting a break, mids are taking the primary role, being very controlled and moderately detailed in this regard. It’s definitely better on male vocals where that warm tone does underline all these slight nuances in the vocalist’s voice, not exposing flaws but rather mixing them smoothly into accompanying instruments that play in the background at the moment.
Now onto the treble. If high-frequencies are your favorite and you prioritize them over everything, this is not an IEM for you. The lower treble part is the lowest in the whole frequency response. If that’s not a strong enough argument, well then I also have to mention that roll-off starts around 6 kHz, and before that, we only get 2 slight peaks. For the treble section, that’s it. The middle treble is one of the most pronounced, the upper treble on the other hand is practically non-existent. If the bass is in a front row of a car and mids right behind it on a passenger side, then I’d say high-frequencies are tied in a trunk of a space wagon. There’s not much detail to it and also not a lot of presence, but there is also a very good thing about it.
If you are very afraid about hearing damage and have to listen to IEMs on very low volume afraid of getting hurt from sibilants… With E2’s that’s impossible. You can easily crank your volume to proper levels without being scared of peaky treble because all you’ll get in exchange is bass and mids. Maybe you are a fan of very warm headphones like AudioQuest Nighthawk? I’m more than sure that this is a pair of CIEMs just for you.
Imaging and soundstage are a bit limited. It is not surprising honestly. You’re getting one of the greatest isolations possible so you’re able to be able to run away into your private world. That comes with a cost of soundstage size which isn’t the largest but definitely, you won’t have problems with pinpointing specific instruments. If you’d like to get a much more airy experience, I think you will have to find it somewhere else, these are not the ones. They have a different purpose in this regard.
Anthem Five E2 isn’t very hard to drive but also it’s not that sensitive either. In terms of volume on my ZX300, I have to bump it to around 80 with them, while typical IEM is hovering more around 50-60. Thanks to that E2 also does not pick much noise which was a nice thing while monitoring my microphone out of the camera’s headphones out. Feel free to check them out even on noisy sources.
CIEM’s compared to universal IEMs can be pretty expensive. That’s why a lot of people don’t want to pull the trigger because we have to agree they are quite an investment. Anthem Five E2 on the other hand is very affordable. They are providing a good warm sound as well as all the greatest benefits of owning Custom In-Ear Monitors and all of that for just $199. It is a great first step into CIEM World, that’s why I highly recommend getting these.
To all of you that still hesitate.
Gear used during this review for the sake of comparison and as an accompanying equipment:
- Headphones – Oriolus Finschi, Tripowin TC-01, Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 LE, Hidizs MS2, Etymotic ER4XR
- Sources– SMSL M100 MK II, JDS Labs Atom, Sony ZX300, Poco X3