Opening up the Artist box of course they physically look the same as the UM Merlin’s in terms of shape since it is after all my ear and I doubt my ear has changed that much in 2 years. The outward difference is in the personalization and the Merlin’s probably edge the Pro and the Artist in that aspect having got those in black and orange. The big difference, or perhaps the newest experience for me though is the Pro coming in silicone. Now there are huge fan bases of silicone customs over the harder acrylic version which the Artist is but I have to say on balance and after trying them both extensively the acrylic had the slight edge for me in terms of fit and interestingly in terms of comfort also in the long run.
The cables with both are Kevlar reinforced copper cables but both are not exactly the same in terms of flexibility. The silicone Pro cable is beautifully lithe and supple and can just about curve around anything. Love this cable to bits physically but sadly the acrylic version is much stiffer and going over the ear creates a rather elongated cable loop that doesn’t really sit on your ear properly. I am not entirely sure why there is such a marked difference in the cables. My guess is that the acrylic, being detachable, need more strengthening around the socket connectors and this was the resulting outcome. Mind you quite a lot of detachable customs have supple cables like the Pro silicone variant so this one is a bit of a let down initially. Also both cables are for wearing behind your head and not in front of you for reasons of clutter and ensuring you do not accidentally catch the cable whilst moving around.
Of course being detachable the awesome news is you can simply change the cable to one of your own or buy some groovy Twag v2/3 from Whiplash Audio depending on your needs if the stock cable doesn’t perform to your satisfaction.
The fit was just about perfect though in the ear for the acrylic Artist version with an almost 100% seal blocking most, if not all, ambient background noise. This is how you want your customs unless you are buying the Merlin which has a small bass port for the dynamic driver giving around 98% seal. That is an acceptable trade off for the bass performance on the Merlin but the Artist being a balanced armature construct and using AcuPass transducers from Sonion needs no bass port and as such it has the edge over the Merlin for the all important seal. The silicone Pro variant was also a great seal but not quite as complete for me as the acrylic Pro with a slightly higher level of background noise getting in. The fit also was excellent but again not quite as perfect as the smoother acrylic Artist.
On balance for fit and seal as well as overall long term comfort, the Artist is the superior variant for me personally. Despite what the silicone fans say, silicone for me on the long term didn’t quite have the same level of comfort as I had hoped for and has a fixed cable to boot. Of course, do not forget the design of the ear-piece is everything. Get the impression wrong and the resulting custom mold will have leakage and a poor response. If the manufacturer doesn’t cut the shell quite to your taste then send them back and have them re-shelled. Most will do this within 30 days as part of the warranty. Thankfully Minerva did an outstanding job on my shells with everything fitting just right (do not forget I used open ear impressions so I like mine tight).
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