In-Ear Fidelity Year Three: Looking Forward

TL;DR

Table of Contents

2021 in a nutshell.

Time sure flies, huh.

A big ol’ HAPPY BIRTHDAY to In-Ear Fidelity, IEF, crinacle.com, however you may call our small corner of the internet. It is tradition around these parts that every year, on the anniversary of IEF’s creation, I have a small sitdown and reflect on the year’s happenings as well as looking forward into future goals and aspirations.

For longtime readers, welcome back to another year. 

For the freshies, welcome… to Year Three.

The Recap

“Year One” report
“Year Two” report

“One year ago on the first of February 2019, almost out of a whim, I decided to drop everything I was doing and start my own website.

– IEF “Year One” Report

Seemed like only yesterday that I was struggling to get the website up and running, getting headaches over code and design, alongside the absolute tedium of migrating stuff like rankings and graphs (all in all taking up months of work to complete).

And now at the three-year mark, we’ve come so far that I can barely remember the times before luxuries like fully-functioning ranking lists or the graph comparison tools.

I don’t want to delve too deep into events of older years again so I’ll just repost the milestone bullet-points I had compiled last year for anyone new to the website.

In the year 2019:

  • In-Ear Fidelity officially launches on February 1st, 2019, initially just as a host for the IEM Ranking List.
    • At this point in time, r/InEarFidelity was the only “social media” available for IEF.
    • The Patreon was also created at the same time, providing a little extra income as the site slowly builds up.
  • The IEM Graph Database is officially completed in May.
  • The Graph Comparison Tool goes public in May for the first time.
  • The crinacle YouTube channel hits 1,000 subscribers in June.
  • In June, IEF breaks 100,000 monthly pageviews for the first time.
  • Headphones.com becomes IEF’s first dedicated banner advertiser in September.
  • IEF breaks 1,000,000 total pageviews in October.
  • Tests for a headphone measurement database begin in December, starting with the experimental EARS+711 rig.

And in 2020:

But I bet you’re not here for old things. With that out of the way, let’s look at the big happenings of 2021.

The YouTube Gamble

The "new" YouTube channel.

Well… calling it a “gamble” is laughable now with the benefit of hindsight, but at the time there was considerable risk that made me fairly hesitant towards branching out into YouTube for the longest time.

My first audiophile-related YouTube video was released back in March of 2019, and at the time saw fairly strong viewership for a brand new channel. Two more videos were uploaded after that and then… I stopped. I was pretty new to videography and video editing at the time, and so each video took up far too much of my time (think 20+ man hours of work each). That alongside my commitments to the website meant that I couldn’t see myself doing both at the same time, so a choice had to be made between one or the other.

Back then, I was still working on getting the ranking list up as well as properly consolidating my data and measurements. My thought process was that if the “foundations” of my audiophile career weren’t even properly built up, it made no sense trying to branch out so early. And so I chose to focus on my website entirely… at least until everything was set up.

The months turned into years as some of my earliest YouTube subscribers began to abandon hope of me ever returning to the platform. And since the website was still getting a fairly stable audience and earning good revenue, for the longest time there wasn’t exactly a need to go back into the YouTube game. 

But the writing on the wall was clear; my audience (while extremely dedicated) was still small in the grand scheme of things. I had respect and viewership within the niche hardcore communities which sometimes translated to respect in larger more mainstream communities, but my influence was undeniably… restricted. Eventually I’d have to try breaking into a more mainstream audience and YouTube was my best shot at that.

Till now I’d still maintain that going into YouTube was never a need, and dropping website content in favour of YouTube content is probably the riskiest thing I’ve done in the entirety of IEF’s lifespan. But I was never one to be satisfied with stagnation, and so on the August of 2021 I decided to just bite the bullet and focus entirely on my YouTube channel, at the risk of endangering the viewership of both In-Ear Fidelity and the channel itself if I failed.

But you know what they say about risk versus reward…

Channel growth graph

Growth was… insane. Far better than anything I could’ve imagined at the time. When I just started uploading in August, I was honestly expecting to hit the 10K subscriber milestone just as the year ended. And don’t get me wrong, hitting your first 10K subscribers within 6 months is already a massive achievement in itself that not many YouTubers can claim to have done.

So imagine my utter surprise when the 10K milestone was hit just 2 months after ending my hiatus. Soon the 10K became 20K, and then 30K, then 40K… all within the span of a single month

(This entire saga has been compiled here for your viewing pleasure.)

And finally, as if Saint Nicholas were bestowing on me a Christmas miracle, the 100K milestone was achieved bang-on on the 25th of December. And with it came the coveted Silver Play Button along with a spiffy Verified Checkmark next to my channel name. A perfect coda to the year of 2021.

And almost as quickly as it came, everything came crashing down right at the beginning of 2022 when… that happened.

Long story short, the original 100K+ channel is now (at least, for the foreseeable future) dead. And rising from the ashes is the new channel crinacle+ which will be where I’d be refocusing my efforts on.

I’m sure longtime readers and subscribers are pretty tired of hearing about “The Restart” so I won’t repeat what had already been said. What’s done is done and while I would love to get my old channel back (Google please!), fortune favours the prepared. And so rather than mourning the “death” of a successful venture hoping for reparations that may or may not even come, wiser men shall attempt to reclaim said success themselves at the earliest possible opportunity. 

(At least, that’s what I tell myself for motivation.)

We’ll see how the new channel goes, and hopefully I’d have great things to share in next year’s “Year Four” report. 

Follow me on Twitter if you haven’t already.

But in the grand scheme of things, YouTube ventures are only a small piece of the 2021 pie…

Collabs Galore

Year Two in 2020 marks the debut of a novel new idea in the IEM space: collaborative projects. The Fearless x crinacle Dawn released in March of 2020, with the Moondrop x crinacle Blessing2:Dusk releasing in December of 2020 thereafter.

And so it would only make sense to build upon these foundations in 2021. Within a span of 2 months between November 2021 and January 2022, three new collabs under the “x crinacle” name has been released. While all of them may fall under similar tuning philosophies (my philosophies, after all), they very much target different audiences with differing price points and signatures.

Let’s start with the first new collab of 2021:

crinacle.com/e

Surprisingly, very few people guessed the manufacturer correctly when this was teased. The Eclipse, built in collaboration with one of the biggest chifi brands in the world: FiiO.

I won’t repeat what I had already addressed in the video above. The Eclipse was the first collaboration project after the Blessing2:Dusk, separated almost a full year between the two. 

And coming hot off the heels of the Eclipse was yet another unexpected project:

crinacle.com/kz

Yes, the joke that came true. The CRN; a full collaboration with one of the most recognisable budget-IEM manufacturers: the legendary “Knowledge Zenith” A.K.A. “KZ”. A much-needed entry into the sub-$50 space that many other manufacturers were terrified of breaking into.

CRN2 soon

And christening the new year of 2022, we have ourselves the most expected collaboration…

crinacle.com/midnight

Yeah… the Midnight was probably the worst-kept “secret” of the three. After weeks of hints, leaks, and marketing material, the Midnight was finally announced on New Year’s to the roaring fanfare of “yeah, kinda obvious innit”.

Regardless, the Midnight was an interesting project in itself in that it was both an exercise of tuning as well as the “intangibles”, resulting in a variant that is arguably superior in every sonic way. A great ending point for the “x crinacle” collaboration project… at least for the time being.

Income & Monetisation

Ah… money. A touchy topic for sure, but a topic I feel needs to be at least addressed especially with concern towards reviewer ethics now at the hobby’s all-time high. So in the name of transparency, I feel like there’s an obligation to disclose where exactly my money comes from, at the very least to placate those who worry about monetary influences potentially clouding the credibility of my reviews.

Given recent circumstances, I don’t think my revenue sources for January 2022 would be necessarily representative of the norm for the rest of 2022. So instead I’ll be referencing revenue streams from December 2021, of which there are 6 that I would consider “stable & recurring”:

  • General advertising
  • Patreon subscriptions
  • Dedicated banner advertising (self-managed)
  • Website subscriptions (an alternative to Patreon)
  • YouTube Adsense
  • YouTube sponsorships

December 2021’s income split illustrated below:

Diversification is the name of the game here in IEF, though you would likely hear the same advice being extolled at any successful business. Never put all your eggs in one basket and all similar quotes.

More importantly, the monetisation options here are carefully selected such that income is not derived off the positivity (or negativity) of my content. That is to say, regardless of whether I bash a product or praise it to the high heavens, I should earn the same amount of money in either case. The factors that affect my income are mostly related to my viewership and audience (website ads, YouTube Adsense, and various sponsorships) or the services I provide (Patreon and website subscriptions).

And of course there is also the “unstable” income that is currently made up of royalties from collaborative projects, of which there are currently 5:

Given the relative recency of some of these collabs as well as the existence of NDAs on others, there’s not much I can reveal other than that the income from these collaboration projects… exist. It should (hopefully) be obvious that I get money when you buy any one of them, and of course I understand that this may pose a different set of conflicts which I’d address in a future video and/or article. 

The Future

Continuing on with the momentum and growth on my YouTube channel is absolutely a given, of course. YouTube will be my main focus over 2022, though that would also mean that website content will take a back seat in the meantime.

Beyond that, there might be opportunities for me to go into a more advisory/consultative roles with audio brands, as well as the potential to finally break into the headphones market with the “x crinacle” collaborative project. None of these are set in stone though, and of course pose a different set of ethical issues that must be discussed at some point. We’ll get there when we get there; things are still a little too vague at this point in time.

But hey, seems like every year keeps getting better than the last, even if there are bumps in the road. So I guess just buckle up and enjoy the ride into Year Four.

As with every anniversary, some more special thanks are in order

To my longest supporters in the audio industry, sticking by me through thick and thin:

Headphones.com
Bloom Audio
Linsoul
ShenZhenAudio
HiFiGo

To my longest-standing patrons whose support never wavered for literal years:

Abheer Monga
Teddy Thamrin
Eliot Jacobsen
Andreas Boye
Denis Dmitriev
Luigi Larocca
Edwin Soto
Philip Huynh
Jackson Poulos
“McMadface”
“Legumez”
Roland
Anthony Nguyen
Andrew Tam
Garret
Lillian
Boyan Velchev
David Gwilliam
Daniel Rød
Alex Chen
Xerpocalypse

And of course to everyone else who have provided support in their own ways, even those simply tuning in week after week to read my content or to watch my YouTube videos, thank you all. 

Can’t stop, won’t stop. Year Four, here we come.

7 thoughts on “In-Ear Fidelity Year Three: Looking Forward”

  1. Good luck with the new channel! I immediately subscribed when it spawned. I may not agree with every sound opinion you have as I think we have different taste, but your personality is a big draw to the channel for me. Funny and well presented, and probably the best outro in the game. Again, I wish success and a quick return to 100k+!!!

  2. Good thinking on the second channel, I had no idea you were still uploading until Youtube recommended me a video from your new channel. Thanks for all of your work, I look forward to seeing what you upload in 2022!

  3. Personally quite disappointed that youtube is now the focus and the website will be taking a backseat but I totally understand why. I’m sure it is the right decision for the business, I wish you continued success and the best of luck with it! You’re definitely my favourite iem reviewer.

    Humble request/suggestion, could there possibly be a small page on the website that accompanies review videos or something? I think a short overall view or list of bullet points of your thoughts with the letter + star ratings (if earned) would be great. Sometimes I just want to get a quick overall view/impression without watching a whole video or having to skip through and find the relevant parts. Then for more in depth etc the video can be watched. No worries if not, I realise this could potentially eat into video views too which might not be ideal but thought I would at just ask =].

  4. Congratulations to you on making you passion become your profession! While I preferred the website reviews to begin with your YouTube vids do provide much more entertainment with the same level of honesty, and as this is now your full-time gig you should do whatever gets you the most return…while still holding on to the integrity you had before with respect to audio quality/tuning that drew us to you in the first place.

    Very happy with my Blessing2:Dusk as daily drivers on commuting, and the influence you’ve had on both my IEM and headphone decisions. It’s nice having someone that can quote numbers to back stuff up rather than just flowery speech.

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