Price can sometimes be a relative friend or foe in the audiophile hobby. However, it is a rare thing indeed to see a universally friendly price when we speak about custom monitors.
Outside of Custom Art’s starter FIBAE models, FIBAE 1, 2, and 3, you will be hard-pressed to find a custom monitor as cheap as the $320 AV3 from Indonesia’s Avara Customs. They do get cheaper with the AV2 and AV1 right down to just over $100.
Why so cheap? Well, I did say the price of this hobby is relative. Indonesia’s average wage as of a 2015 census was just $280 per month. Further north, the minimum wage of the Philippines is approximately the same.
This is a region with a far lower average level of consumable income. In that context, your typical custom monitor price point of $1000 upwards is out of the reach of all but a wealthy minority. The AV3 is priced to primarily break out of that minority at a national level. However, the international market being what it is, means it will also appeal to an even wider more affluent global audience.
The AV3 is a triple armature custom monitor (1 x high, 1 x mid, 1 x low) and sits right in the middle of a range of “6+1” official custom options. To little surprise, they are AV1/1s through to AV6 but not including an AV5. Instead, you have an AV1s that Avara rate as their best single BA to date. Each number represents the number of balanced armature drivers inside each unit.
They do have one additional unit to make the “6+1”, the AV1LE. The AV1LE is a recent addition and pitched as the AV1 but without an acrylic fill and priced at just over $100. You will only find it as an option when you fire up their custom builder.
Bread & Butter
The entire pitch of the AV range is the value to performance ratio with their TOTL 6-driver AV6 just over a very respectable $600 but it is the AV3 that constitutes what we would call “the bread and butter” of the company sales.
This is their best seller with Avara describing it as their most musical and fun sounding IEM and a bit of an all-rounder. The music pitch for the AV3 is thoroughly modern or mainstream with rock, pop, trance and hip-hop among the genres mentioned on the product page. When I spoke to Alvon, the GM, at CanJam Singapore last March he did mention to me that, yes, it is musical but with an ‘Indonesian twist’ in the sound.
Avara operates a partial online ordering system which does include an almost obligatory custom builder software application on their website. By partial we mean you cannot actually complete the purchase of your design via an online payment system. The final output is a PDF of your design choices and price including date of order which you need to email into the company.
The builder will cover all their current lineup of CIEMs and will allow potential customers the ability to tweak their shell color, faceplate choice, and artwork design be it pre-made or supplied by you. Whilst you do not have the ability to rotate the design in detail like the excellent JH Audio tool you can individually control the design of each shell, (both left and right).
The Avara builder is also a bit more limited in choices than the likes of Custom Art and JH Audio. Much of that has to do with the price point of the Avara range as well as a 3D-printing process.
Generally, 3D printing is precise and accurate but the cost of the materials can sometimes limit the possibilities in terms of colors and finishes. Two 3D-printing companies, UE and 64 Audio, are known to have quite limited shell colors and so credit to Avara as they do have more than 3. In fact, they have a total of 9 base colors for the shell, though for 6 of them you will have to pay an additional fee.
The same philosophy extends into the faceplate designs with only 3 at no extra cost but no less than 38 choices split into premium, prestige and ultimate categories. Each category will cost a bit more and you will find your base $320 price start to go up in price that higher the face plate category you choose. You can check this price with an accumulator at the bottom right corner. The additional category fees are still very competitive however ranging from $15 to the top premium clock-face category costing just over $35 per shell.
Unfortunately, there are no add-ons in the builder if you do not count the ability to upload your own custom logo or print for the faceplate. That means everyone will get the same cable, packaging, and accessories unless you email them in specifying something bespoke and even then it may not be possible.
Given the price, something had to give I guess but I do wonder if there is room to partner with a cable provider in the future just to give something a little more to the accessory experience.
Accessories & Packaging
Despite the lack of unique packaging customization, the actual quality of packaging and accessories is reasonable at this price point. The box is a clean white design, fairly slimline and shaped to hold all the accessories that come as standard including a semi-hardened small zipper case, a leather IEM cable organizer with matching key-ring and a cleaning brush.
A few things might be worth looking at for the accessories kit of the AV3. I would have liked to have seen a few bags of silica or a reusable dehumidifier pillow, especially knowing the tropical climes in Indonesia if the budget allows. Also, the option to buy a hard case such as Pelican 1010 as an alternative to the soft zipper case would not go amiss. If this alternative case could be customized using the design tool so much the better.
Customer Service & Guides
Surprisingly there are no audiologist guides or support for customers on how to have their impressions done on the website. They do have a dealer page so you can actually go to one of their nationwide branches if you are living in Indonesia and have your ear impressions done but for those ordering from abroad, you will have to ask for guidance on this. I do hope they can change that or update the site as the more questions answered or guidelines provided always helps in managing the customers’ expectations.
Chances are you will get that as part of the final ordering check out but for those wondering Avara Customs do require a full ear impression in an open jaw position to the second bend of your ear canal. I would advise a bite block of some kind of a max of two fingers in width to keep your jaw open and steady during the process.
Suitable clay will be semi-viscous with mildly expanding properties such as Dreve Otoform. Make sure the clay you use is not stiff when cured or it can break during extraction from your ear and give it about 5-10 mins to cure on either side before extracting.
After that just stick the impressions in a small tough food container using a ziplock bag and one to 2 tissues loosely crumpled to prevent too many knocks during transit and pop it into your local courier to ship along with a print out of your order form to Avara.
I would expect the turnaround to be about 1-2 weeks from the moment the relevant branch receives it until you get it in your hands. The reported turnaround in the lab is just 3-4 days which is outstanding. This could be shorter or longer depending on their workload or time of year (vacations). There is no current guide online that states a min or max turnaround so worth asking when you email the order form to them.
Click on page 2 below for Build & Sound Impressions