Comparing Earbuds – Pt.1 The FIT

It seems like everyone and their brother is in the earphone business these days. You can get them with designer names attached, jewels, multiple drivers, custom ear molds, with mics for your phone, you name it! if we had 6 ears, I am sure there would be a 5.1 earphone available. I’ve noticed that I have had several discussions over the last few weeks about comparing earbuds, so I felt that this topic might be relevant to a lot of you. When it comes to earbuds, whether you are comparing or just using, the FIT of the earbud is numero Uno!

Ear buds are tricky beasts to compare. The problem is that each of our ears is unique, every earbud is different and the frequency response of the earbud is largely dependent on its fit in your ear canal. When I say largely dependent, I mean it. Try this… Put your earbuds in, get a good seal, pick a track with some low end, then pull on your earlobe to break the seal. It will go from nice full response to sounding like a telephone.

Because this fit is so important to the performance of the earbud, most manufacturers include a dozen or so little ear pieces with their earbuds. Despite popular belief, this is not because there is too much rubber in the world and they want to get rid of it. Most people take them, look for the one that they think looks most comfortable and throw the rest away… Or, they just use the ones that come already attached and never realize that there are more in the package. This practice is doing yourself and your earbuds a great injustice!

So, how do you know you are using the right earpiece? Here are some tips.

1.) Pick the Right Foamy
Get your earbuds and all of the little rubber and foamy pieces. Pick an earpiece to start with. First, if it doesn’t isolate the ambient sound around you very well, they are too small. If they push themselves out of your ear, they are too big. If there is no in between size, go for the larger or try a different style. ( Be careful though! If it is too big, the earpiece will pinch closed and you don’t want that either.)

2.) Get a Good Seal
When you place the earbuds in your ears, open your mouth. The top part of your jawbone moves forward and it will open your ear canal. Next, once you have them in your ear, do the old “pull your earlobe” trick mentioned earlier. You should be able to hear the seal break. Now listen to some some familiar material. Is the low end energy to your satisfaction? Is there definition in the bass notes? If not, try a different size or style.

Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

Lastly, if you have some extra cash burning a hole in your pocket, have a mold taken of your ear canal and have a custom earpiece made for your earbuds. Most of the folks who make these can make them for any pro earbud and even bluetooth phone earpieces. They are well worth it!

Good luck and happy listening!