Hot and Cold – Lime Ears Model X Universal IEMs Review
Lime Ears is a very stylish company from Poland, well versed in creating IEMs as well as CIEMs (customs), and known for having some sleek designs and friendly employees. Since Model X has a rather high price tag, of about 900 USD, Model X has to stand its ground quite well against other flagships, like Fibae Black from TheCustomArt, Campfire Atlas, and even something like Beyerdynamic Xelento, all of which are other interesting flagships Model X will be compared to.
Lime Ears has a more unique name and approach to the marketing when it comes to creating and selling IEMs and CIEMs, and although this is not unique, I’m here to remind you that if you have any fit issues, Lime Ears offers up to three refits for their CIEMS! This is quite excellent, as your CIEMs may not fit if you have large amounts of weight gain or weight loss. Furthermore, even if the impressions weren’t perfect the first time, in the price of the IEMs, you get 3 refits, which is quite excellent. Another thing you need to know about Model X and Lime Ears IEMs in general is that they come with the whole range of tips and accessories, and that Lime Ears likes to provide a full service with their IEMs, making it really easy to recommend working with them and purchasing their products.
It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with Lime Ears, I am not receiving any incentive for this review or to sweeten things out. This review is not sponsored nor has been paid for by Lime Ears or anyone else. I’d like to thank Lime Ears for providing the sample for this review. This review reflects my personal experience with Lime Ears Model X. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in Lime Ears Model X find their next music companion.
First things first, let’s get the packaging out of the way:
While I just reviewed Fibae Black from TheCustomArt, and it had almost no package, Model X from Lime Ears surely sports a package you will not forget.
Starting with the case, they went with a fully customized cardboard case, inside which you can find the magic. The new original package comes with some Polish sweets so good, that I could recommend purchasing Model X just so you could get a taste of the amazing delicacies Lime Ears includes with their IEMs. Joking aside, they are really good, not the kinda sweets you usually get from the supermarket.
Furthermore, Model X comes, not only with tips, but the best of the best, Spinfit tips. I am amazed by the fact that the guys at Lime Ears, who wasn’t so known before, have decided to go with the sme of the best tips in terms of comfort.
You can also find foam tips and hybrid tips in the package, but the next thing is even more impressive, Model X actually comes with a carrying case, that’s a solid cylinder made of metal. I’m not even underestimating things here, the case they come with weights almost half a kilo, this is the case that will protect your IEMs even against a nuclear explosion, well, if you’ve been watching the beloved Chernobyl series.
The cable is single ended, but it is one of those typical custom IEM cables that is thin, yet of a very high quality.
Overall, Model X from Lime Ears really took me by surprise, I am not used to seeing something this fancy, and they totally deliver just right for their price bracket.
Starting with the build quality, you will notice that the universal version of Model X is actually designed in such a way that is slightly different from the custom version, because the bore, or the tube that holds the tip, is made of metal, and has 3 tubes inside. We’re not talking about just a custom made universal, it looks like Lime Ears decided to make a unique universal IEM.
The outer shell is made of acrylic, like most custom IEMs that are universal, but you will notice a beautiful overall design with Lime Ears’s logo and the carbon texture on the outer shell. The IEMs are marked left and right, and so are the cables, as they rely on the 2-Pin connector. In my future review of the Dunu Hulk Cable, you will notice that Model X pairs flawlessly with other cables that are based on the 2-Pin connector.
The overall aesthetics of Model X are simply outstanding, truly worthy of a flagship IEM priced at 900 USD, they are simply sleek, beautiful, and the vibrant Lime Ears Logos complete the picture, although you can customise the faceplates, or at least that is an option for the custom version.
Now, the comfort is okay, but you need to keep in mind that both the IEMs and the bores are on the slightly large side, and the overall IEM sits a bit out of your ears while you’re wearing them. Another thing to keep in mind is that the cable has a rigid ear guide, so it will sit in place after you adjust it, but not everyone has the same luck with solid ear guides as they do with flexible ones.
There are 4 BA drivers inside Model X, but the main reason they are a bit on the large side is that Lime Ears wanted to have a proper acoustic room inside the IEM, so you will be able to enjoy a more natural sound. On the note of the tech used inside Model X, Lime Ears has implemented something called “VariBore” and something called “Passive acoustic resonator”. Both of those technologies are aimed at giving the bores a specific size, length, and volume to control the resonances inside the IEM better, and to provide a sound that is both natural, and which doesn’t have unwanted reflections coming from the bore.
There is a bit of void, but you don’t get bad void, and you get no driver flex with Model X. They are somewhat easy to drive, although they do pick some hiss from hissy sources. Most hiss is not audible when playing music anyways, so that shouldn’t be an issue, they are not as hissy as Campfire Atlas for example.
Lime Ears Model X provides a huge amount of passive noise isolation, so you don’t have to worry about owning the universal version, they will isolate so well, you will be able to use them on stage, if you’ll decide to perform, and if you’ll want a universal IEM rather than a Custom One.
Overall, Lime Ears have designed an outstanding IEM that looks and feels good, proper for this price range.
The title may give it away, but those IEMs literally sound hot and cold. There is a little switch on the outer surface of each IEM, and that one is used to either engage or disengage a bass boost that’s quite serious, of about 8dB, from 800 Hz and below.
This means that there are two very different tunings you can hear Model X in, either the hot or the cold tuning, thing which I also mention in my short Youtube review of Model X.
The cold tuning is bright, with the treble quantity being larger than the bass quantity, but with such a clarity and detail that you’ll immediately be amazed by the sheer amount of resolution Model X has. The midrange is slightly dipped in this configuration, so you get a very moderately U shaped signature, where the dip in the midrange is a bit similar to IE800’s dip in the midrange. The treble is pretty peppy and forward, with excellent details until about 9kHz. The bass is extremely fast, but neutral, with the bass boost turned off you’re surely going to either enjoy it immensely because it is neutral, or you’re going to reach for the bass boost switch so you get a more lush should with more substance and impact.
The thing is, even with the bass boost turned off, the depth of the bass is quite excellent, and it is a fast and impactful bass, but the amount of treble and upper midrange is higher than the amount of bass, so much, that in this neutral configuration, you are probably going to be switching the Bass Boost on, unless you were looking for a very neutral sound.
The midrange is quite sweet and musical, but at the same time it has a pretty large amount of recession, which feels somewhat similar to IE800. Funnily enough, what I appreciated back then about Ie800, is also true about Model X, they have a very juicy and textured presentation of guitars, but they aren’t grainy nor fatiguing, having a very natural overall tonality for their midrange.
The treble, in this cold configuration, is pretty bright, open and sparkly. If you enjoy a really open treble, this should be for you, but please keep in mind, we’re talking about amounts of treble similar to HD800, it isn’t a joke, it is a pretty peppy and forward kind of treble, that all of you, treble lovers will surely enjoy. There is no grain, no harshness, and there is a ton of detail and clarity, so you surely won’t be disappointed by its presentation.
The hot tuning is probably what most will be using, because now the bass has a boost of about 6-7dB until about 700 Hz. This means that you get a pretty significant bass boost, sub-bass boost, and even some lower midrange and upper bass boost. In this state, the soundstage becomes deeper, the entire sound is much more V-Shaped, there is a lot more impact to the sound, and male voices, and low timbre instruments gain a much better body and authority.
Starting with the bass, now the bass is elevated compared to the midrange. The speed of the bass feels slower now, and you can actually call it “a more natural bass” overall, but you need to keep in mind that this is a very full and impactful bass, it really fills out the entire room. The bass is enhanced up until the upper bass and lower midrange, at about 700 Hz, so you can totally feel the rumble and the depth.
The midrange also has more authority, and you can hear that male voices are deeper, fuller and more convincing of a real life performance. This doesn’t work quite as well for female voices, which I tend to like a bit better with the bass boost turned off, at least for certain J-Rock and J-Pop bands, but except for their lack of presence, they are still very sweet and clear even in this configuration. Guitar presentation tends to be sweeter, more emotional and also to have more body and presence, so this configuration really compliments most music if you’re not very addicted to a very neutral presentation.
The treble is much better balanced by the bass now, and the overall signature is more reminiscent of the Campfire Atlas overall tuning, this time the treble serves much better to sprinkle the entire sound and to not only give the sound sparkle, but also a good balance. I think that right now, Model X is at its best, having a really amazing overall detail, but also expression for their treble
Overall, they are pretty dynamic, especially with the bass boost engaged, and they are of a pretty high quality, especially when it comes to the overall resolution, clarity and precision, making Model X easy to recommend. If you’re a fan of having two very different tunings, those surely will be a love for you.
There is no one in this world who’d want anything more than Customs for portability. You simply don’t have to care anymore about anything, someone wants to tell you something, nah, you simply don’t hear them. You pass near a construction site, you don’t hear anything. You literally can be out and about without a care in the world, being fully isolated from the outside noise.
Now, when it comes to the universal version of Model X, they are quite outstanding as well, you get a pretty solid IEM, that isolates quite a lot from the outside noise, which is fairly easy to drive, and which has just a bit of hiss, so you can use it with almost any source you have, maybe except for those that have a really high output impedance.
Since there is no data on Lime Ears’s site about the impedance and the SPL of Model X, I can’t really tell you either what exactly the impedance and the SPL is, but they get loud fairly similar with iBasso IT-04, which is a 16 OHM / 110 dB IEM, and they pick up hiss in a similar amount to iBasso IT-04.
When you take Lime Ears Model X on-the-go, you probably will be using the little pouch they provided rather than the large metallic case to carry them, and as much as I love that huge, heavy case, I don’t think it is the most practical of carrying solutions for IEMs, especially since it doesn’t really fit in a pocket and would be too heavy to be practical anyways.
Overall, Model X from Lime Ears makes an excellent portable IEM that you can take with you anywhere, and which is impressive in every possible way when it comes to their ability to block out noise, although if you really want the best isolation possible, you should consider the custom version of this beauty.
As stated at the beginning of this review, to stay in a similar price range, I have chosen Campfire Atlas, Beyerdynamic Xelento, and Fibae Black to compare Model X. Fibae Black may stand out a bit because it is less expensive, but the main reason I’m including it in the comparison list is because both IEMs are from Poland and I like how they compare to each other, even though they are from slightly different price ranges.
Lime Ears Model X vs Campfire Atlas – Starting with the build quality and comfort, I think that both are made really well, the biggest difference here being that the cable Atlas comes with is of a better quality, and that Atlas is made of metal rather than of acrylic like Model X. In terms of comfort, for me Atlas had driver flex at first, but it seems that after using them for a while, the driver flex disappeared, but I should also mention that I used Atlas both in full blown summer and in Winter. Now, Model X is the void kind of IEM, you need to insert and take them out slowly, but so is Atlas for the most part, you just want to be careful with IEMs and not force them in your ears. In terms of sound, Atlas is and Model X are quite similar in signature when Model X has the bass switch turned on, both have a very convincing bass and impact, although Atlas has a slightly better edge in terms of bass quantity, impact delivery, rumble and depth. In terms of midrange, both have a similar presentation, although here Model X is a bit sweeter, where Atlas has a slightly more specific dip in the midrange. Model X has the entire midrange recessed, so a wider dip. The treble is more peppy and forward on Model X, Atlas being slightly more smooth. This being said, Atlas extends a bit higher with a bit more detail until a higher frequency. When thinking about which one to get, you need to take into account that Atlas is an upgrade to the original sound of Model X with the bass boost turned on, especially in terms of resolution, depth, dynamics and punchiness, but Model X has also the bass boost turned off sound mode, and Model X can come in a custom version, which will be better in terms of fit and comfort than both Atlas and the Model X universal.
Lime Ears Model X vs Beyerdynamic Xelento – Xelento is one of the IEMs people are still using, even though it is not exactly new at this point. In fact, a lot of people have been expecting a Xelento upgrade from Beyerdynamic for a while now, and although nothing is officially confirmed yet, there has been talk of one recently. Now, when it comes to comfort, Xelento is much more of a shallow fit IEM, but it has driver flex. A large number of people have found Xelento to be very comfortable though, and in comparison, it is smaller and easier to fit with any size of ears, than Model X which is slightly on the larger side. The cable Xelento originally comes with is better than the cable Model X comes with. There is a Bluetooth cable for Xelento officially made by Beyerdynamic available on the market as well. Now, the sound, is actually quite different. Xelento is creamy, punchy, deep, but very very smooth in the treble, it has a very smooth and velvety treble, leaving the bass and mid to play, but hiding the treble behind. By comparison, Model X has a better treble extension and more treble detail, or at least, they are much better at revealing that detail. If you want a really smooth and creamy IEM, with nice depth, impressive bass, warm and thick sound, full presentation, but with a very very smooth treble, Xelento is still a very interesting choice, but if you want something that’s more balanced across the spectrum, but is still very full and has a nice body, then Model X with the bass boost turned on makes quite an excellent choice. This being said, Model X also has a bass boost turned off sound mode, in which it is bright and neutral, so you get two signatures in one with Model X if you decide to make it your choice, and if you’re curious to explore things.
Lime Ears Model X vs TheCustomArt Fibae Black – Ah, two IEMs made in Poland, by two companies that are physically quite close to each other. I know that I should probably be stacking Model X against Fibae 4, but until that gets to me, I wanted to showcase mainly that both companies make an excellent work in designing a very well made and comfortable IEM. This being said, there are differences, The Custom Art places much less emphasis on the package of their IEMs, but includes a more practical carrying case, they also managed to design an IEM that is physically smaller and which is easier to fit with a wider range of ear sizes, having the bore thinner and going deeper in your ears. Fibae Black relies on an inner sonic chamber design to do their magic, while Model X has a lot of optimisations in both the inner chamber and the bore, and especially in its sound tubes, and each technology has its advantages and strengths. Fibae Black manages to be very laid back, relaxing, smooth and easy to listen to, while Model X is exciting, has a lot of treble, they have better dynamics and are more versatile having two sonic modes. This being said, I have at least one friend who heard both and told me he will order a Fibae Black, because Fibae Black is also almost half the price of Model X, so while Model X has some advantages, Fibae Black still will have its fans and people who’ll decide to go for it.
For the pairings part of this review, because Model X is easy to drive, yet does scale with a better source, I have chosen QLS QA 361 Portable Player, FiiO M6, and Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ as the main pairings for Model X.
Lime Ears Model X + Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ – Why not start with the best pairing, I thought to myself, knowing that this is a weird move and that some people may judge me for it. Brooklyn DAC+ is a proper flagship that amazes me every single day I’m using it, and well, I’m using it almost daily as my benchmark and main Desktop Headphone DAC/AMP. The pairing between Model X and Brooklyn DAC+ is quite outstanding, both in terms of soundstage width, depth, but also in terms of dynamics and how real those little IEMs can sound. On the other hand, Model X picks a smidgen of hiss from Brooklyn DAC+, and you can notice that physically it may not be the best option, unless getting a different, maybe longer cable, for Model X. The sound is plenty detailed, has excellent dynamics, impact and depth, especially with the bass boost turned on, and has very nice revealing abilities when the bass boost is turned off.
Lime Ears Model X + FiiO M6 – FiiO M6 is one magical little device, not because it is the best sounding in the world, but because it is small, has all the streaming abilities you can desire, is very neutral and has a beautiful sound for its price range, especially when you remember that there are very few devices that sound this good at that price range. Furthermore, M6 has a smooth UI, has most of its software issues already sorted out by FiiO, and is able to power Model X properly, with little to no hiss, making it quite an outstanding pairing for Model X, if you want to have a small, portable, lightweight, yet very capable DAP to drive them quite well, especially for the price point of M6.
Lime Ears Model X + QLS QA 361 – I felt like ending this review recommended pairings, with something magical, so QLS QA 361 is the choice, this is a magical DAP, that has no streaming abilities, it simply reads your music collection from a microSD card, so you don’t have to worry about anything else. The Amplifier module inside QA361 is one of the best there are, you’d be amazed by how much work went into designing it to sound the best it could. Overall, QA361 has a softer sound, that really compliments harder edged IEMs and headphones, and now, this works beautifully well with Model X, because it makes them even sweeter and slightly softer, more musical than their normal sound. The softer signature of QA361 compliments Model X both when it has the bass boost turned on or off, and QA361 feels like a really sweet match for Model X if you don’t need streaming and other bells and whistles that other DAPs can provide.
Value and Conclusion
The value of Model X is undeniably good, you get not only the IEMs, but also a fancy carrying case, proper Spinfit and hybrid tips, and even foam tips, you get some of the best sweets I have tastes, as a treat, and you get a very solid IEM, with two possible tunings, one that’s warm, V-shaped and fun, and one that is neutral, reference, and a bit cold and bright, leaving the best of each world to you.
Starting with the build quality and comfort, Lime Ears surely haven’t missed a thing in terms of how comfy and well made they designed their IEMs to be. The aesthetics are beautiful, and that carbon face plate is pretty beautiful, with the Lime Ears logos also adding a nice touch to the overall design of their IEMs. The comfort is okay to good, depending on how large or small your ears are, but you can always get the custom version, which will mean that regardless of what your ears look like, you’ll get heavenly comfort. And with Lime Ears’s warranty and reshell options, of having the IEMs re-fitted 3 times during their lifetime, you really don’t have to worry about getting your first custom IEM, they will still fit regardless of what changes happen in your life, and if they won’t, Lime Ears will be there to support you.
The sound has two sides, one that is bright, analytical, sparkly, and which compliments female voices, and detail, and one side that is V-shaped, is fun to listen to, and compliments everything, form guitars, male vocals, and even pianos, including large organ pianos. All of this is at the flick of a button on the outer IEM shell, so you don’t have to worry that you have to replace filters or such, the Bass Boost is really easy to reach and engage.
I have to add Model X to Audiophile-Heaven’s Hall Of Fame, because it is a very interesting IEM, with two possible tunings that will surely bring a lot of fun if you decide to go for it, making it a good entry for our list of the best products we’ve ever tested.
At the end of this review, if you’re looking for a IEM, or a CIEM, one that can do two signatures, both be analytical, sparkly and happy with the treble, and a signature that is more fun, V-shaped, and which feels both deep, wide, dynamic and punchy, if you want to have the option of getting up to 3 re-fits, and if you want to get one of the best overall packages, and taste the sweet taste of Polish candy, you should totally consider Lime Ears Model X, it is a unique IEM with a lot going on for it.
Full Playlist used for this review
While we listened to considerably more songs than those named in this playlist, those are excellent for identifying certain aspects of the sound, like PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you’re searching for new most, most of them being rather catchy.
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I hope my review is helpful to you!