U18t build quality I never write build quality segments in my reviews because it’s almost always fine and I’m not buying jewelry. But this iem deserves to be shamed and flogged in public for it’s build quality especially considering the price. This is a 3,000$ iem. I don’t care about bling stuff at all. But this iem is at best built like a 200$ iem. Even the casing of the iem is just kind of crude and ugly with huge logos which is really tacky IMO. The inlay on the outside looks cheap. And the casing itself is nothing compared to campfire iem’s. It all feels very cheap in comparison. The cable is the worst I have ever seen on an iem. Im not sure which is better between this and my $10 Sony iem’s I use for white noise. Seriously. It’s coated in very cheap plastic that has a distinctive Fisher-Price quality to it. If this was Changstar I’d probably make a photoshop ad-buster with the Fisher-Price logo on the cable Y splitter or on the iem itself. But not going to spend the time. The $10 Brainwavz B400 cable feels significantly better. They sell this cable for $150 on their website which is $50 more than the Campfire Audio Smokey Litz - the best iem cable on the market and likely ever. It also has memory wire around the ear which is annoying and out of date with current trends. Once again this is a $3,000 iem. The upside of the memory wire and 2 pin connector is that the cable is stiff and doesn’t swivel so it actually helps keep them on which is necessary given the problems getting a proper seal as I explain below. It also has a nozzle which is too long causing tips to slide down too far so the nozzle is flush with the opening of he tip. This could work but it means the end of the tip is filled with the nozzle and so it can’t compress to get a good seal. I had a hard time finding tips that worked even halfway decently. I settled on Azla Sedna Earfit (not light or short). This gives a decent seal with deep insertion. EDIT: the following information in red is inaccurate I don’t know how I was misinformed. My apologies. These iem’s do not have a flat impedance curve. U18t Output Impedance Probably the coolest thing about the u18t is a “technology” that gives it a flat impedance curve so it’s FR doesn’t change between different sources nor does it require a certain source to sound as it was tuned to sound (like the Campfire Audio iem’s). The problem is that they didn’t frickin tune it right to take advantage of this! It’s got a dark downward sloping FR similar to the andromeda 2020. I use the same EQ settings on my Loki for both. This is kind of a travesty fir a $3k iem that’s supposed to be a reference and has this flat impedance curve. They should hire @zeed from Gaudio as their chief engineer and make a truly flat FR. Screw that though @zeed is doing great with Gaudio. Wouldn’t want to compromise that. I personally can’t wait to hear the next iteration of the Nair. EDIT: the following sound evaluation was done with zero output impedance source which may not be ideal for these iem’s. I will be following up with impressions using higher output impedance. The comparisons below done with EQ are valid as I probably got them more neutral than 2ohms output impedance would and I was therefore evaluating technicalities since both iem’s being compared had been EQed to similar FR. U18t Sound (no EQ and zero output impedance source) Since the u18t was designed specifically not to be affected by output impedance I’m going to write a brief description of their sound with no EQ. The u18t is really nothing special. I don’t understand why this iem hasn’t been shat into the ground by reviewers. So I’ll be the first. DO NOT BUY THIS IEM. It’s not absolute garbage but I think it’s worth about $50 because I prefer the EDC3 and B400 to the u18t and it’s 18 stupid fucking drivers. I just went from u18t to B400 and I’m sticking with the B400 (with spinfit CP500 tips) and don’t want to go back. The u18t has a bassy FR that slopes downward from there. There’s a serious lack of treble and midrange presence. Vocals are recessed and a bit dull but not god awful considering. Treble is dull snd is lifeless bordering on non existent. I can see someone without a clue thinking this is a nice warm presentation or something. It’s not. BA iem’s can’t be bassy because bass quality isn’t good enough. Not even in the Ara. Bass is boomy and completely devoid of detail or definition. They are decently resolving and there’s nothing horribly off about their tonality. They do a good job of not having BA timbre in the rest of the spectrum but then so does the EDC3 which is more neutral and clear sounding without EQ. Soundstage is nothing to write home about. It’s good but again the B400 has better soundstage. These are just decent very warm and shelved iem’s that are way over hyped and way way too expensive in every aspect of the iem from build to looks to ergonomics to sound. The u18t comes with 2 different tuning plugs. The darker one is substantially better and makes the above description less extreme but still accurate. Comparisons These are done with EQ on everything. I used the Loki to EQ everything to as close to flat as possible. This allows comparing their technical abilities rather than simple differences in tuning/FR. However some differences are still apparent because the Loki isn’t super precise it can only correct broad problems not small problem spots or peaks. U18t vs Andromeda 2020 (EQ) Not as resolving or ethereal as andromeda Duller sounding more congested Andromeda has far more clarity and resolution. Equal BA timbre in bass, more BA timbre in treble. Treble has typical plastic-y timbre the same thing that plagued the Nair (3 BA drivers not 18) Way worse ergonomics and fit than andromeda Oh God treble timbre is really awful coming from the andromeda’s awesome treble quality. Does nothing better than andromeda despite the 18 BA drivers U18t vs. Ara (EQ) Ara has more clarity and resolution by quite a bit Slightly better bass but still has some BA timbre Better separation Better tonality esp in vocals Much better treble but not up to andromeda quality andromeda vs Ara (EQ) Andromeda has better treble quality in timbre, extension and sense of air and realism- cymbals are cleaner and you can hear the texture of the metal better Ara treble is kind of etched sounding or cut short like it peaks a tiny bit and then drops in FR. Rougher in tonality than Andromeda 2020. They are sort of a draw technically and it will come down to which shortcomings you can better live with. The inferior treble of the Ara or the inferior bass of the andromeda. I much prefer the midrange of the andromeda 2020 (both EQed) it is much more transparent (in the way I described it above- opposite of opaque). It has a beautiful ethereal quality and sense of air and spaciousness in the midrange that is unparalleled by any iem I’ve heard except the og Solaris . The Ara’s midrange by comparison sounds much more dull and a bit recessed. The Ara succeeds in having less BA timbre than other iem’s. It has a smoothed over timbre compared to the andromeda. It reminds me of noise reduction in photography. It comes at the expense of resolution. The andromeda sounds faster snd hashes out more subtle details than the Ara due to the smoothing effect. Both ultimately have great clarity but the andromeda wins. The Ara seems to have a small bump in the upper midrange that is too small to fix with the Loki. The vocal range needs boosting with zero output impedance but this causes its peak/bump to get worse. The vocals in The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” are a bit piercing and harsh. If I lower the upper midrange on the Loki they become a bit recessed. So the vocal range isn’t as flat as I would like and with the andromeda it’s easy to EQ it flat because the FR is very even despite being shelved in the upper frequencies. The Ara sounds off to me while the andromeda sounds more natural. So the bass. One of the big selling points of the Ara. Yes it’s better than the andromeda’s bass but it is still BA bass. Still kind of soft and rubbery and lacking punch and definition. And also not great extension in my bass test tracks. TL;DR Ara has more dynamic like tonality at the expense of resolution. Has better bass than andromeda but inferior midrange and treble. I can see how the Ara would appeal to some but for an all BA iem I find the andromeda better in every way except slightly behind the Ara in bass quality. But that’s what my og Solaris is for. Og Solaris vs everything else (EQ) This has become my favorite iem. It has almost equal transparency and clean treble to the andromeda Better tonality in the midrange to bass than any other iem listed here. I guess I just said the andromeda had the best midrange. They may be equal but different. Og Solaris has more realistic tonality due to the dynamic driver while the andromeda has that transparent ethereal quality to the midrange. In the end I think the og Solaris is more natural and realistic but I like both. Much more spacious with better instrument separation than all the others. Soundstage is huge and immersive. I think they come very close to full size headphones in their staging. Very impressive They have a “right-ness” to the sound. Coming from every other iem to the og Solaris I always think ahhhh that’s how it’s supposed to sound. Very coherent and even fr response (with Loki EQ). Better in this regard than all others. UPDATE I decided that if I was hearing the u18t wrong it was likely due to the tips not fitting correctly because of output impedance and the super long nozzle, allowing the tips to slide down to far, and not only making the nozzle opening flush with the end of the tip but also filling the end of the tip so it couldn’t compress to seal into the ear canal meaning I could only use one eartip with them, the rest just didn’t fit. You can see in this picture where I’ve flipped the tip inside out so you can see how it fits on the nozzle, the nozzle is protruding way out of the blue area which is where the nozzle is supposed to reside. So I came up with the idea to make a spacer on the nozzle by cutting off the tube part of another tip (one that was too small for me so I didn’t waste tips) and sliding this down the nozzle. Then the actual eartip I wanted to use would hit this spacer and wouldn’t slide down as far. The spacer didn’t wind up being long enough, the nozzle was still longer than properly designed iem’s. But it was the best I could do. I also realized that spinfit tips were also long tips (I used Azla Sedna Earfit tips before because they are some of the longest tips). So I used Spinfit CP145 tips. I also used an “ear buddy” 2ohm output impedance adapter for all iem’s tested this round and turned the EQ off. I’m not sure this is still a fair test because CA iem’s loose resolution and dynamics with the ieMatch adapters. And I don’t know about the u18t it might be better suited for this adapter. Also I’ve modded the U18t to have a better nozzle design. All 4 of these iem’s are very neutral with the impedance adapter. They all had about the same FR. The U18t has a gorgeous upper midrange full of detail. But it’s treble suffers from some BA timbre and it has terrible BA bass that is boosted from neutral and quite bloated. U18t Vs og Solaris with nozzle mod and 2ohm output impedance About equally resolving. The U18t might have the slight upper hand in resolution in the upper midrange but the og Solaris beats it everywhere else Og Solaris has better tonality. U18t has terrible bass. It’s still very boosted and bloated even with my tip mod snd 2ohm output impedance adapter Og Solaris bass is tight snd controlled with the same output impedance adapter Og Solaris is more spacious sounding. Soundstage is similar enough with the lead going to the og Solaris I enjoyed listening to the og Solaris quite a bit more U18t Vs Andromeda 2020 with nozzle mod and 2ohm output impedance Andromeda is slightly more resolving especially in the lower midrange where the U18t starts to get bloated I did however hear more detail from the U18t on tracks with less lower midrange information so I believe the U18t may be more resolving in the upper midrange. Andromeda 2020 has much much better controlled bass Andromeda has much better treble tonality and FR. More neutral and extended. Beats the U18t by a wide margin Similar FR except for bass quantity - U18t has way moar Soundstage is similar U18t Vs Ara with nozzle mod and 2ohm output impedance The Ara really shone with the impedance adapter. Equaled the U18t in upper midrange resolution and bests it at everything else except treble where they are about even, having different weaknesses which I’ve already explained in the previous comparison. Once again, the Ara has a unique smoothing effect in the tonality of other BA iem’s. Like noise reduction in photography. It maintains clarity but generally looses resolution. However it really improved with the adapter. I think the Ara needs high output impedance to shine. No impedance adapter but with EQ AND U18t modded nozzle. Surprisingly in this setup the U18t has good BA bass. Controlled, neutral and tight. I’m going to keep this brief and subjective because I’m sick of this iem and all the controversy after putting so much energy into evaluating it before. U18t Vs Ara with nozzle mod and EQ U18t is more resolving through the midrange Ara wins in every other way U18t Vs og Solaris with nozzle mod and EQ Og Solaris is better in every way U18t Vs Andromeda 2020 with nozzle mod and EQ Pretty similar but the win goes to the andromeda 2020. More resolving and much better treble Conclusion There’s absolutely no reason to spend the extra money on the weird U18t. No matter what your rig or setup, CA offers superior sounding iem’s that have a similar signature so should appeal to the same audience but the CA iem’s are designed and built better, don’t have design quirks that need mods to fix, are more attractive by far, are more comfortable, come with an infinitely better cable that is cheaper to replace, are more versatile with different upstream gear and don’t come with magical color changing moisture absorbing beads. I do not recommend the U18t to anyone. See my comparisons and choose the CA iem that seems to best fit your needs. Ara if you detest BA timbre but want the speed and clarity and even, resonance free sound they offer. Andromeda 2020 if you like an ethereal stat like sound and prioritize treble quality over other things Og Solaris if you want something that combines the two above for a very well rounded iem or if your priorities are for best bass response while having a fairly neutral, even, resonance free sound. Here’s a picture of what happens every time you pick up the U18t even if you coil it carefully. The Fisher-Price plastic cable really sticks to itself.