In ear monitors, also called musicians monitors, are canalphones used to listen to music (or with respect to musicians, to hear custom mixes of vocals/instrumentation during live music performances or while recording music in a studio). They are custom fitted to the users' ears to provide superior comfort and bass response, as well as unsurpassed passive noise reduction (up to -25dB). They are also exceedingly expensive (an equivalent 3-way design from Westone or Ultimate Ears would probably run $1,000+), putting them out of the reach of the average music enthusiast. These aren't earbubs-turned-psuedo IEMs, this is the real deal. This article will show you how to make your own custom fitted in ear monitors for about 1/4 the cost of a professionally made equivalent.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Obviously lots of variables here. I'll list the things I used, and then along the way explain why I used what I used and what some suitable alternatives might be.

-Soldering iron
-A helping hands
-Utility knife
-Wire cutters

From Mouser:
-Balanced armature drivers (Knowles Acoustic: (2) CI-22955-000, (2) DTEC-30008-000, (2) WBFK-30019-000)
-(2) 1 uF capacitors (Mouser part#: 581-SA305E105MAR)
-(2) 7.32 ohm resistors (Mouser part#: 270-7.32-RC)
-AMP female connectors (Mouse part#: 571-665059)
-AMP male connectors (Mouse part#: 571-665079)

From Earplugstore:

-Earmold impression kit

From Microsonic:
-Acoustic tubing
-Acoustic dampers (green ones and yellow ones; also available at Mouser)

From a quality art store:
-A mold making material (for making molds of the impressions; I used SmoothOn Reoflex)
-A body making material (for making the body of the IEM; I used SmoothOn Crtystal Clear; please see my safety comments regarding this product on page 4)

-Some copper stranded wire, whatever you have laying around

-And you'll have to either make a connecting wire, cannibalize one from some other headphones, or buy one like this. I originally made my own, but I couldn't find the same kind of small gauge, soft-jacketed wire, so I eventually broke down and bought a Westone cable that I ended up modifying. If you have a lead on the kind of wire use in headphones, but all means share it. If you use a wire that's too stiff, in addition to it being awkward you'll also get unpleasant microphonics.

A note on impressions: Please read this before attempting to make your own impressions. There is a potential risk of serious injury, including permanent deafness. If you're unwilling to take this risk you have the option of having impressions professionally made by an audiologist. Also, while Earplug Superstore sells a kit, complete with the impression material, syringe, bite block, and ear dams, it is also possible to by these materials from Microsonic (since you'll need to buy some supplies from them anyway). The syringe isn't necessary, though it is helpful. Biteblock isn't necessary, and alternatives could be used. You must use an ear dam, though you could easily make them yourself using some foam and string. Don't try to make impressions with anything other than materials specifically made for doing so.

A note on crossovers: If you'd like to read more about high-, low-, and band-pass filters, this is a pretty good introduction. I've also found a handy RC crossover calculator. The resistor and capacitor values you choose will depend of the impedance of your drivers and your desired roll off. For more complicated circuits, including how to (properly) wire a 3 way crossover (unlike what I did), check out this. But note that you cannot use inductors with balanced armature drivers (BA drivers have inductive coils in them, if you use inductive crossovers you'll get inductive coupling).

UPDATE - took me a while to find them, but the IEM connectors are called TF10. A quick search will yield lots of results.
<p>How would the GK-31732-000 which is Knowles 3 way which looks like it contains a CI and a TWFK with a crossover network all in one. It is only $44 at Mouser's </p>
Those new (ish?) Knowles multidriver packages are nice, and cheaper than buying the drivers and making a crossover. I used the GQ-30783-000 2 ways in a Shure SE shell re-fit that sound fantastic. I have the GK-31732-000 on my bench waiting for a home.
<p>i want to made iem 6 driver</p><p>HODVTEC-31618-000 1 driver </p><p>TWFK-30017-000 2 driver </p><p>do u recommend me ?</p><p>how can i choose about resistor and capacitor ?</p><p>how to use http://sim.okawa-denshi.jp/en/CRtool.php this one</p>
<p>Very nice!</p>
<p>Hi man, great job, wanted to ask, can you get without the dampeners if you use 721-GQ-30783-000? can you substitube acoustic tubing with something else? or is it just simply tubing? Can I get your contacts I wanna ask more questions :)</p>
<p>I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS! Can I get some contact info? </p>
I have some custom made single driver units. They got ripped from the cord. Ant idea how to re wire them to the 3.5 mm jack? The cord from the 3.5 mm plug only has 3 wires. I have two earpieces with two wires from each. <br><br>Thanks.<br>Dan.
Hey Dan,<br><br>The two earpieces share a common &quot;ground,&quot; hence the plug only having 3 wires. Soldering Litz wire isn't all that easy though. I assume the cable is hardwired at the earpieces? I.E. it's not replaceable?<br><br>Mark
What if i wanted to create something with 8 or 12 drivers?
Yes Mark, the wires at the earpieces are permanent. If i was to try to fix them, do i split the ground? Is the right channel typically red? Thanks very much for your help.<br>Dan.
<p>Yes, and yes. You split the ground at the Y in the cable; right is typically red. You can also find found files for isolating right and left channels if you want to confirm.</p>
Hey marozie, so are you saying I can not use the dtec and just the cl and twfk?
I'm not saying you can't, just that you'd be better off without.
<p>Hey, really interesting and nice work! Could you please provide the part number of the TWFK driver? Thanks!</p>
<p>just do search TWFK on mouser. currently only one type is available there (TWFK-30017-000)</p>
<p>EXCELLENT TUTORIAL HERE!!! I am making one, have done my shell and I am now SERIOUSLY NEED YOUR good advice :) :) :) :) :<br>1. if i were to go for A SINGLE DRIVER approach, can you recommend me a Knowles BA driver that is suitable for music listening (not for live music)<br>2. if i were to go for DUAL DRIVER, what is your best recommendations?<br><br>Oh, I listen to MP3 music a lot: mostly guitar and saxophone Jazzy stuff. Mind giving me the Mouser or DigiKey link and part numbers of the BA drivers? THANK YOU SO MUCH, sir :)</p>
<p>Hi, I've been inspired...just ordered my set of BA drivers from Mouser (CI, Dtec and WBFK) as per your recommendation. I'm getting all my components and material together and have a few questions...</p><p>Do you have any tips to help with the soldering...i've seen on other sites that it can easily damage the BS's?</p><p>When placing the BA's in the mold, can i glue (hot glue) the BA's together, is there a specific arrangement and can it create any interference if they are to close together? </p><p>Once I've placed all the components inside the mold can I fill the entire thing with clear casting Acrylic? I specifically did not order the TWFK as it is vented and filling the mold will surely compromise it? </p>
<p>well, this is more appropriate, I think. It actually shows you which tools you need and how to properly solder the drivers chrome-http://www.knowles.com/eng/content/download/2783/32742/version/6/file/TB-04.pdf</p>
<p>This might be useful, it addresses recommendations when soldering the drivers http://www.knowles.com/eng/content/download/2814/32897/version/5/file/AN-13-Issue01.pdf</p>
<p>Are these parts: https://www.digikey.nl/classic/Ordering/AddPart.aspx?lang=en, the ones you are referring to? Well, the CI is the same, but would the TWFK do the job? thanks</p>
<p>What if you were to try this with single full-range dynamic drivers? I mean from my understanding, you'd just need to port the enclosures to allow for air to move behind the drivers. Also, detachable cables would come in handy as well.</p>
Definitely doable; most earphones (non-IEM) use dynamic drivers, probably because they're cheaper. The sound characteristics would be different, with dynamic drivers producing &quot;warmer&quot; sound that's less accurate, especially at the high end. For me, part of the luxury of IEMs with BAs is the exquisite detail they provide, but ymmv. If you look at my other IEM instructable you can see how to make hollow shells which would provide as much air movement as you would need, but would also be amenable to porting. Here's some info comparing the two: https://splurgebook.wordpress.com/2011/02/21/everything-you-need-to-know-about-iems/<br>https://brianli.com/in-ear-monitors-balanced-armature-drivers-vs-dynamic-drivers/
<p>Dynamics also tend to lend themselves more to the lows than BA drivers do, hence another CIEM idea using a full-range dynamic driver for the lows, mids, and highs, and then a more powerful woofer for sub-bass, basically, full-range dynamic CIEMs with subwoofers for more low-end rumble.</p><p>Of course that would require two separate chambers, one with an opening into the ear for the full-range driver, and one closed-off chamber for the subwoofer, both being ported to allow for air to flow freely behind both drivers, in addition to a crossover that has been tuned/calibrated/whatever-the-hell to allow for the lows, mids, and highs to shine through equally, while the sub-bass shines through slightly more, but doesn't interfere with the bass, midrange, and treble, although of course EQ calibration on the input source would also help out there.</p>
<p>hey,marozie, i want ask you, how to make the faceplate, and how to stick the faceplate with the body? </p>
Hi Victor,<br><br>Pour some of your plastic resin onto some wax paper so that there's a thin layer bigger than the outline of your shell, and cure it. Once hardened and you're ready to seal the shells, put some resin around the rim of the shell, place the face plate on, and cure the resin. Once hardened, trim the excess face plate material to match the contour of the shell using a rotary tool.<br><br>Mark
<p>Can you please make a video on how to make these.</p>
<p>Is there any chance of this being turned into a video tutorial?</p>
<p>Excelent project Marozie, Congrats!</p><p>Please, mycuriosity: If the project contemplated more balanced arms and crossovers, as well as the example the JH Audio JH16 custom in-ear monitor (use 8 balanced armatures in a triple crossover configuration - 4 low / mid 2/2 high) <br>What are the settings for all components? </p>
<p>So I always wanted some custom IEM, but as you really neatly added the product nr for mouser stuff for the electronics, could you link me to the dampers and tubing for mouser ? Im from germany, so not all stores do send to germany.</p><p>Much appreciated!</p>
<p>is there any reason not to use silicone as plug material?</p>
Hey,<br><br>I actually made earplugs out of silicone from my molds, turns out they didn't work as well as I'd hoped. It take a lot of contorting to get the soft material deep into the canal, and this would surely destroy the structure of any electronics embedded within.So, yeah, the earpiece needs to be fairly rigid.<br><br>Mark
What was the total cost? This was a great instructable by the way.
I have a pair of westones um 2, the drivers are in good condition, but concering to the noise in the Shell when I put them in my ears, I think the parts have lost connection to the shell. Is there a possibility to use the drivers from my UM2 for this project, and is there a possibility to add another driver from Knowles to the system to get a 3-driver-system? Does anyone have some information about positioning the drivers in the shell concerning wave length and frequency response?
Where did you get the drivers
do i reall need 1 uF capacitors and 7.32 ohm resistors? <br>i really do not know how to connect them together..
Just a thought on this- I have made my impressions from Radians material. My mold is out of casting resin and I plan to make the ear buds out of the rubber molding material most people use to make the casting molds. I then will connect my Sony earbuds into these. Wouldn't the rubber material work for this project instead of using the toxic hard plastic? Or would it cause the components to malfunction? It might also be easier to cut the material and remove the components if needed.
Congratulations on being a finalist in the DIY Audio Contest!! Good luck to you!
Is there any other place(s) that sells acoustic tubing? Micro sonic had 1 foot priced at $0.50, but shipping was $7.75... -_-
While I always appreciate a good ible (and this is a great one), for the cost in parts you can get a set of ears from the guy who invented in ears AND started Ultimate Ears for about the same price. Granted, they're only dual drivers but they are great sounding and only $400. <br>http://www.jhaudio.com/product/jh5-pro-custom-ear-monitor <br>But you don't get to make them yourself. Which is half the fun. <br> <br>As a point of reference, I'm a professional monitor engineer at House of Blues.
Check <a href="http://www.alclair.com/products/monitors/alclair-duals/" rel="nofollow">this</a> out. I'm not familiar with this company, but their dual driver IEMs start at $250. That's the cheapest I've ever seen. But making them yourself is half the fun!
He didn't invent in ears. Marty Garcia did.
I was a little off on Marty Garcia inventing in ears, &quot;in 1978, inventor Steve Ambrose designed and built the first in-ear monitoring system&quot; <br> <br>Nevertheless he created the &quot;First Commercially Available In-Ear Monitoring System Future Sonics Ear Monitors&quot; in 1985. <br> <br>http://tecfoundation.com/hof/10techofdetails.html <br>Either way, Marty Garcia created a custom fit in ear in 1982, Jerry Harvey in 1995. <br>
Exactly! Somehow cost takes a backseat when you're trying to make something cool for yourself. I did overstate the cost of the drivers a bit: WBFK - $47, DTEC - $47, CI - $27; So, not $50 a piece, but I concede it's still expensive. <br> <br>Also, those JH's are bottom of the line, that's where they start. Which isn't to say they don't sound good, but if you were to make yourself ears with a dual driver like DTEC or TWFK I bet it would sound just as good, and you could probably do it for about $150 if you were careful about the budget.
awesome ible! so the material is a hard resin in the end? for some reason I always imagined these being soft/flexible.
Amanda - Looks like some of the companies (specifically, Ultimate Ears) are offering a two part shell where the body is made from rigid acrylic, but the tip is made from an acrylic material that softens as it warms up. Dreve, which is a German company that makes acrylics for this use, calls it Thermosoft.
cool, thanks for the tip!
Yep, hard plastic. There are some that are soft (check out the Sensaphonic 2X-S: http://www.sensaphonics.com/?p=328), but I've never seen them. I'm curious if it's a rigid inner shell with a silicone coating? I've thought about making a solid version (like mine) using a rubber instead of a plastic, but I'm a little concerned that the electronics might be able to shift around a bit.
yeah I like the idea a flexible outer coating, I guess you could still use the same mold you have now, just cast all the components in hard plastic before putting them in the mold.

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