Alien Ears

I have not been paid for or received compensation of any kind for this review; it is unsolicited and completely of my own volition as a performing artist.

Product reviews of items you “can not live without” should not take this long to post. But life is busy, and the desire to do justice to a truly exceptional product demands more than just a passing comment. While the months since June faded the details and timelines, passion for my Alien Ears in-ear-monitors (IEMs) has not.

I’ve always wanted a pair of custom molded IEMs – going on the first time they appeared in the 90’s on TV. The thought of having complete stage-noise isolation, all the while enjoying a perfect headphone mix, is just about the greatest listening and therefore performing experience a musician could enjoy. But high costs made custom IEMs an elitist’s luxury, and a working-musician’s fantasy.

I first bought generic-fit IEMs in 2001 – a decent pair of Shures. I even experimented with MAudios through the years. But in all cases, generic-fits are a pain to shove into the ear canal, uncomfortable, and have a nasty habit of popping out in the most inopportune times. Let’s face it, losing monitoring at any point while performing is an inopportune time.

What’s a guy to do?

Enter Alien Ears out of Clearwater, FL.

First off, let me say I’ve researched every company that produces custom IEMs. And when I say “researched,” I mean I’ve looked at their materials and parts, sought out customer reviews and compared experiences, and contacted management on an individual basis; the only thing I haven’t done is a complete listening experience, only because custom IEMs require just that: a custom fit to your ear to work properly.

Suffice it to say, I went with Alien Ears.

Here’s why:

1.) Their customer service is #1. I got to talk to Andre Belloise, GM, right off the bat. He took my numerous (and probably obnoxious) emails and phone calls during the months leading up to my purchase, even when I had to delay my order. No money in hand, he still treated me as if I’d bought 10 sets. His wife, Yolanda, was equally patient; their techs were knowledgable and sought to help out even when the boss was away.

2.) Their product is excellent. In fact they use the same exact plastics and drivers as companies that charge 3-4 times as much. I love what Andre says: “When people ask us how we can charge so little, we ask how other companies can charge so much.” But with a smaller staff, smaller overhead, and “volunteer” endorsements, they don’t pass frivolous expenditures on to their customers – just great IEMs.

3.) Their turnaround time and followthrough care is fabulous. I had some delays in production as I decided against having an audiologist create my molds, thus using their free impressions kit and instructions. It took me 3 times to get it right (as they insist each impression passes strict quality-control testing). They knew I needed my IEMs for an upcoming tour, and I had them in the mail within a week (as opposed to their normal 4-week turnaround). Pretty outstanding.

I went with their FR-C3 Full Range Triples for $395.00 with detachable cables (for easy replacement); each pair of Alien Ears comes with a zippered pouch and cleaning tool. (I even had them put my “ch:” logo on the inside). For those with smaller budgets, or less demanding audio needs, they offer single and dual driver models starting at just $189.00; their hi-end would be the quads ($650.00). But the triples seemed my best option, both budget wise and for what I was looking for in sound definition. That’s a driver for the hi’s, one for the mid’s, and one for the low’s – namely because I’m a guitarist and a vocalist. Drummers and bassists should opt for the dual low’s and single hi’s if going with the triples.

And the sound is awesome.

The first time slipping them takes a little finagling. They actually “twist” into your ear. But once you get it down, it’s a motion easily memorized. And for good reason: they never “accidentally” come out. Because they’re a negative of your own ear, they’re as comfortable as anything you’ll ever wear. I couldn’t wait to try them out when they arrived, so I decided to watch a movie on my MacBook Pro in bed. Twisted them in, plugged into the 1/8″ mini-plug jack, and turned up the volume.

Wow.

Incredible tone, frequency response, and clarity. The seal formed against your head actually increases the bass response, which is pretty astounding considering how small the drivers are. Within minutes I had completely forgotten they were in!

On stage they perform the same way. I’m guessing I experience a -30db cut of stage volume, and providing I have a good sound engineer or access to an Aviom personal mixer, it feels like I’m sitting in the studio. And I have yet to unseat them while performing; with the amount I sweat, that’s pretty impressive.

They’re not only my preferred stage monitors – utterly replacing all floor wedges (and reducing stage noise of my FOH engineers) – but they’re my listening headphones of choice, going with me on every flight, and every trip into the office.

So when you’re ready, leave the overpriced, over marketed “big names” to their high-overhead operations, and give Andre a call (727-346-6483 – andre@alienears.com). Tell him I sent you. ch:

UPDATE – 4:15pm EST: Thanks to my friend Dave Bode for asking me what I don’t like about them. My only real negative is that, when singing, if I open my mouth too wide, the seal will break; the extreme shape of my ear will actually budge the IEM slightly. Granted, it’s only temporary, and not that noticeable. The instructions even guide you through an “open mouth” function while the impressions are forming; this certainly helps, but I don’t think any IEM takes care of the singing-budge completely; no material except flesh can move like that.

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  • I am SO getting a pair because of your review.

    • Thanks, bro. But you also think I’m hot, so not really sure if you’re assessment is being skewed.

      Either way, Alien Ears thanks you, and so do I.

  • Kinda gross and very cool!

    • My repulsion to ear wax is so intense that a product has to be incredible for me even to take a picture of what goes in my ear!

  • As a FOH Engineer, I have to say that the on stage noise reduction that in-ear monitors provide aid FOH sound. When audio from a wedge bleeds into your FOH mix it completely takes away from the sound, tones, and freq. that the engineer is try to provide. So I strongly suggest that if you are a musician in vest in quality in-ears such as, the above product! And your FOH Engineer will be very grateful!

    • Though I don’t mix nearly as much as you do anymore, I completely agree. Do it up people!

  • Hey, CH, when you have these in, what do you actually hear? Do you hear all the instruments -or- just your guitar?

    • What’s fed to them is all dependent on the source. Think of these just like normal headphones. The delivery of content is the same, only the physical characteristics of the listening device are different.

  • Billy Jepma

    Dude those sound so awesome! I really want a pair now, especially since I listen to music so much. Just a little pricey for me as of right now though. But soon, for sure. 🙂

    • You’ll be amazed at how much they block out your little brother & sister. 😉

  • bRetT

    Hey CH:

    Great review! Why AE and not UE? It seems to be an industry standard. What are you using for your transmitter? I’ve used Sennheiser system with M-Audio IEM with average results. Keeps popping out 😉

    • Thanks Bret!

      I’ve traditionally used Shure receivers with NO issues. But they’re costly.

      Right now I’m going hardwired, believe it or not. Until I have the cash for some new Shures, I’ll stay hardwired.

  • Sick pic!

  • Lee

    I love my in ears too! I went with a Welsh company (sticking close to home) called Minerva, mainly because of their awesome customer service, but also because they use silicone rather than a hard plastic, which gives just enough to accommodate the movement in your ear caused by singing. I love them!!!

    • OK…so when I said “I researched all companies” I should have said US. Because I would have went with Minerva (on your recommendation, actually) if it wasn’t for some customs, import tax, and conversion issues. They look AMAZING, and silicone? Dang.

  • Greg

    I just ordered my first set of custom IEM’s from Alien Ears. I’m a singing drummer, but I ordered the single driver version (budget concerns). Hopefully, they’ll have enough definition. For the past year, I’ve been using $20.00 Skull Candy ear buds. They actually sound great for the 2 to 3 minutes right after you shove them in your ears….then they loose the seal and the bass goes away. I figure if they can sound good, the AE single drivers ought to be ok (I hope!)

    • Greg: you will definitely see an improvement for 2 reasons: 1) AE’s single driver is superior to SK’s single driver, 2) the constant seal the mold provides will ensure better low isolation, clarity and low end support. Certainly, you’ll want to graduate to a split driver set up at some point, but you’ll enjoy the upgrade. Let me know when they arrive and you’ve had a chance to review them.

  • Greg

    Hey Christopher,
    You were right – I’ve been using my single driver AE monitors for a few months now and I’m very pleased with the upgrade especially now that I’ve started playing keys, guitar, and sax instead of drums and I tend to run around the stage/audience alot. These things are great! They stay in very well. I am now getting ready to upgrade them to multiple drivers as you mentioned. With your full range drivers, how well do the drums come through? That’s what I find the hardest to hear in my mix with the singles.

    • Greg,

      Stoked to hear this; glad you’re enjoying them and that they’re *a good fit* for you. (Sorry. I had to). lol

      Nothing “gets lost” in the triples for me, but I could see how the singles Wouk do that. I went with a low-mid-high (“full range”) because I’m primarily a singer and guitarist, and really need those mids. Andre, the owner, is a drummer, and if you can afford a triple, would recommend a “low-low-high.” If your budget only allows for two drivers, go low-high.

      It’s worth noting that I played drums for two hours last night for a practice and use my full-rangers for that with zero issues. Plenty of low end.

      Hope that helps. Let me know how they work out for you.

  • Ethan M

    Hey Chris,
    I had my molds received by Alien Ears 3.5 weeks ago and I haven’t heard word one from them. I’ve tried corresponding through email and left a voice message as well. You mentioned great customer service, but ever since I’ve placed my order I feel like I’m being given the cold shoulder. Any suggestions?

    • Hmmm. Not sure bro. I’ll write them personally as that’s not consistant with my experience, and now my reputation is involved too. I had one delay during my time with them, but that was due to a trade show they were on in Germany.

      I’ll let you know what I find out.

    • Ethan M

      Thank you for your quick response. I did want to mention that they haven’t had any BAD experiences with them, just no contact at all. I thought it was very weird is all.

  • Richard Griffin

    Christopher, I am going to have to disagree with you on great customer service from Alien Ears. I ordered a set of Quads from AE in March. I did have to re-mold my ears a second time which understandably added to the turn around time. However it has been over 5 weeks now since my molds were “in-house and acceptable”. Upon speaking with John at AE he informed me that they had stopped offering rush service and were extremely backed up. I patiently waited the 4 weeks he said it would take to complete the order. After those 4 weeks had passed I attempted to call AE, I left a number of messages with no call back. I finally received an e-mail informing me they would be shipping my Quads out by the weekend of 5/18/2012. I requested to pay overnight shipping so I could use them on Saturday the 19th. He then replied saying there was no way to guarantee I would have them. I received a pay-pal invoice 3 days later from Yolanda for overnight shipping. I paid it. I spoke with John again on 5/22/2012 and he promised me my monitors would be shipped the morning of the 23rd and I would receive an e-mail with a tracking number. Well here I am at the end of another day with no response from AE. I tried to call 6 times today and nobody ever answers the telephone. I shutter to think of what service after the sale is like with AE. Maybe it is who you know….. I am hoping to get a refund and purchase my in-ears from Ultimate Ears. They are more expensive from Ultimate Ears but I guess there is a price that you pay for low prices.

    • Richard Griffin

      About 45 minutes after posting my comment I received an e-mail saying my ears have been shipped.

    • Richard Griffin

      And the saga continues. The e-mail was actually to inform me a label had been printed. The product was not actually sent out until noon yesterday. Adding insult to injury the package was not shipped overnight it was shipped with a 2 day delivery guarantee. I tracked the package and it will be spending the night in Fayetteville which is 2 hours from here. I was charged for overnight shipping. I have another show today that I will be playing without my in-ears. AE said they would refund my overnight shipping charges and said verbatim “oh well. sorry”. I honestly feel like this company’s customer service is on par with Wal-Mart.

  • I’ve been doing alot of research on IEM’s and I have to tell you with just the small efforts in finding an IEM manufacturer with affordable prices and a great report, I’m…..I’m going going with Alienears. I’m saying this now prior ever experiencing professional IEM or “real” sound quality listening devices. I’m in the industry of AV and an avid listener of music and a DJ. I have the need for that “BAM” you want from your “In Ears”. Those $5 ear buds or In Ears sound….well…ok…but can you imagine a 5 driver custom mold IEM? I’m drooling. Well, the price says it all. You can easily spend $895 for the same that Alienears is offering for $535. But that’s not all. Ear mold package that is sent for free for the SQ5…You can do you own ear impression….Hello? Anyways….I’m going to visit their new lab in Orlando and start my order. I hope to meet Andre and let him know I’m impressed. If you would like to know my experience please email me at BruceMarcho@gmail.com and I will let you know.

    • I placed my order and met Andre at the Orlando office. Great staff and very knowledgeable. I originally ordered the SQ5 but Andre suggested I step down to the SQ4 on account of the type of music I listen to. Without the option of comparing the two models, I took his advice. After waiting 6 weeks, I received my IEM’s and tried them out. The fit was perfect, sound quality was a little questionable at first. Having experience with sound understand that you’re not going to get the best sound quality from streaming music from your phone. After doing an extensive test from a quality CD recording, I was blown away. Listening to Pandora’s quality when you upgrade does improve and wasn’t all as bad as I thought.
      Its been a few months later. At first my ears became a little sore from wear but that subsided and virtually non existent today. My ear cartilage was not used to it at first I guess. What I like is the fit, sound and how well it isolates from ambient noise. The dis likes are my clear cord now has developed a green tarnish. It can not be cleaned as of now but awaiting word back from Alien Ears to see if they have a solution.
      My wish list is to have a cord that has a mic for communication via smart phone. Gel ear molds with removable cord option. Add a mic to that and I’ll upgrade.
      Future interest, I’m going to upgrade to the 12 driver but waiting for the gel molds to become available. The upgrade cost is pay the difference +$50. Visit: http://www.alienears.com

      • Thanks for the report, Bruce. Appreciate your objective feedback, and love hearing these great experiences.

        I’d love to meet Andre and his wife sometime. What were your impressions of their new grounds?

  • I went with Alien Ears too, after reading your review, among a few others. I opted for the triple driver (low mid high). However, I haven’t had quite the positive experience with their customer service. They received my molds on April 24th, and I have still not received my IEMs. I called on the day that marked 5 weeks (they told me 2 1/2 to 5 wks), and was told that they “should be out sometime this week.” (I don’t like the word, “should.”) Yesterday marked 6 weeks, so I called again and received an email saying “your IEMs should leave our facility tomorrow.”

    So, I’m still in the waiting game, and haven’t been told why it’s taking extra time. I understand sometimes things don’t make deadlines. I was just hoping for any kind of reason or explaination.

    I’m hoping that after I get the IEMs, this extended wait time will 1) be the only negative part of the whole experience and 2) have been totally worth it.

    • Elgin,

      Yikes. I’ve been eyeing Ultimate Ears for a few months and just came across Alien Ears. The price point is excellent but the stories of back up are a little disappointing. Let me know when you finally get them what you think!

      Dan

  • Ch@dittude

    Hey all,
    My customer service experience with Alien Ears was very positive. Purchased a set of CP3’s for both my wife and me back in Feb ’11. We used the provided impression kits, sent them off to AE and received our custom IEMs about six (6) weeks later.

    After a month of use, I noticed my IEMs were a little loose (could hear stage noise when singing) so, I contacted Yolanda, she sent an RMA, I sent my IEMs back AE with a new set of impressions and recieved a new pair of IEMs about five (5) weeks later….much better fit!

    I think those that experienced long delays and little to no correspondence from AE were caught in the middle of AE moving to a new location as they needed to expand their production capacity/facility to keep up with the demand (it was about mid ’11 when AE really began to become a popular alternative to UE due to the same product being available for less than half the price). And, in the year since I purchased my IEMs from AE, AE has expanded their line-up to include 4, 5, & 6 driver IEMs making them an even greater bang-for-the-buck…you can imagine the overwhelming response from the IEM market.

    At any rate, I love my AE CP3’s and recommend them to everyone I jam with. When the time is right I’m going to take advantage of AE’s “Upgrade Anytime” option to take my listening enjoyment to a whole new level.

    ~Chad

    • Great Chad. Thanks for the positive news an good explanation. I agree! Enjoy!

  • Just to update – I did finally receive my IEM’s from Alien Ears in June. They sound great. The complaint I had out of the box was, one of them had a chip out of the end, very small, but big enough to feel. I emailed them and sent a picture, to which they responded right away, and said they would fix it for no additional charge. After using them, I’ve fallen in love with them so much that I don’t want to go a Sunday without them. I’m still trying to plan out when to send them back to be worked on – ha! Andre said as long as they get them in during the 1 year mark, they’ll fix it for free.

    The other complaint I have is that my cord is turning green! I wish I would have opted for flesh or black, instead of clear.

    Christopher, are you still using yours? This far out, how are they holding up?

    • Elgin: thanks for the update. So appreciate you keeping us posted. Glad you got yours and have had a good experience.

      I just got back from a conference in Europe last weekend; as always, my Alien Ears traveled with me. Lead 15 hours of worship, and zero issues. My drummer in Geneva also had his, and the never leave his backpack (except to play with).

      The only issue I have is user-error: if I don’t place them back in their case properly, the metal prongs on the chord tips will sometimes bend.

      They must gave used a different cable for mine; I have yet to see them “go green,” and this after constant weekly use. But I’ve heard others mention that. I guess it wouldn’t matter much to me since the cable disappears down my shirt.

      ch:

  • Jim Larson

    I’ve had my IEMS from Alien Ears for just about a year now and absolutely love them. I had a set of Ultimate ears and sent them to AE for their remold service. They fit great a sound exceptional. I would go with these guy’s every time. Great service and products. I’ve told my bandmates about them and they are going to probably place an order.

    • Jim: Thanks so much for the feedback. I love to hear it, and I’m sure Andre and his team do too. I share your enthusiasm; used mine for 3 services on Sunday this weekend, zero issues. Spread the word!

  • Greg

    My triple driver full range Alien Ears Broke after only 4 months of touring. Alien Ears has terrible service and turnaround times. And if there is an issue they blame it on you. I paid for the rush order and it still took a long time. You get what you pay for I guess. Cheap monitors. Cheap quality and cheap service.

    • Greg,

      So sorry for your experience, man. That definitely sucks. I appreciate you sharing, even if it is negative.

      Mine are still going strong after daily use and 200,000 miles. Either you got a lemon, or their new manufacturing process has changed the quality (which would be depressing). Or you’re just overly hard on your gear.

      Too bad on the customer service. Again, not my experience, but things change.

      Hopefully you have better luck with your next investment from your next provider.

      ch:

  • Gavin

    Hi Christopher, I read your review and decided to order the G8. I got a question for you, do you know if the cables pins are the same as other companies such as JH Audio, Westone, etc? I want to upgrade the cable on the monitors when I get them.

    • @Gavin: that’s a really good question, and I don’t know the answer. I’d call Andre or Yolanda and just ask directly. Let me know how you make out.

  • Gavin

    Hi Christopher, I finally received my G8’s today from Alien Ears and they sound nice. Also, I answered my own previous question. The first thing I did was put a Westone cable on them and they fit perfectly. Therefore, all Earsonics, Westone and JH Audio cables will work on Alien Ears.

    • Dude, awesome. Thanks for the tip! So appreciate you following through.

  • Jon

    I’m a singing drummer, and I have been looking at Alien Ears for years. I have a Shure PSM900 that came with their e-425 non-custom molds. I was wondering if anyone has purchased a set of the new G16s from AE? I have looke every place I can think of for a review, but the previously mentioned customer service issues have earned them a bad reputation on the in ear monitoring boards, so no luck there. Every one that I’ve talked to that has their product has been very happy with it. Once they eventually receive them with a proper fit. But I would really like a review of the G16s.

    • @Jon: I have one friend that got the G16s and loved them. I’ll see if I can’t get him to post a review here. I think your assessment is probably accurate: the product is great, but with it’s shallow price tag comes some prolonged customer waiting.

    • Jon

      Thank you. I would appreciate that.

  • Al Bosworth

    I have wanted a pair of IEMs for a while. After researching I decided on the Alien ears g8s. They seemed like the right fit for my budget since similar products cost twice as much. I was a little nervous because of some of the scathing reviews on their customer service. I didn’t need them right away so I was willing to wait the 4-6 weeks to get them adding in the shipping time for international shipping to Canada. I ordered them on July 26th. I Got the impression kit 5 days later and sent them back that day. It took 5 days to reach them. Got an email that they were on the way back and that took another 5 days. I received them on August 23rd. Total time was 28 days and 15 of that was transit time. They fit great and hey sound incredible. Good kick on the bass side but very clear on the high end.

    • @Al: Thanks so much for this great review! Wow! It would seem that they’ve really gotten the timeline issues smoothed out, and makes me think they do indeed listen to their customers. Very cool. I appreciate you leaving this kind of feedback here, especially for others to read. Happy listening!