Custom molded headphones are — it turns out — pretty great. But what a pain to visit an audiologist and get silicone injected into your ear-holes. What if there was a fun, geeky way to do it yourself, in the comfort of your own home?
Thanks to SonoFit Eers, there is. I tested out the $300 PC250 headphones and found the fitting process to be kind of freaky and fun, and the results to be quite excellent. Read on to see just how they work, and how good they sound.
For a pair of fancy earbuds, the box that contains the Eers is huge. The buds themselves aren’t that large — they’re like slightly oversized earbuds with an over-the-ear retainer. What takes up the space is the fitting equipment, which itself looks like a pair of headphones your dad might have used when he was younger. It works like this:
A big headset fits over your head and holds an earbud at each end. You put it on and stuff the tips into your ears. At this stage they are little skinny rubber things. You need to adjust the fit so that the headset is vertical, and the buds are seated deep but comfortably in your ears.
You then flick the switches on either side and set off a five-minute timer (you read through the instructions ahead of time, right?). A two-part silicone “epoxy” is slowly pumped into the earbuds, swelling them like tiny balloons inside each of your canals. You will hear a popping sound as the noise in the room fades away, and then you will emit a silly little girl’s giggle as the buds tickle the inside of your head.
Once your time is up, the buds have solidified and are now a perfect fit for your ear. You can remove them from their scaffold and recycle it. The earbuds also come with a little zip-up case to protect and store them.
After all that fun fitting them, you have a pair of headphones that seal you off from the world more effectively than most noise-canceling headphones. And once inside this sphere of silence (I’m wearing them as I type this and I can’t hear the keyboard), the PC250s sound fantastic. There’s plenty of bass, but it doesn’t overwhelm. The separation between left and right is better than you probably ever heard before (giving a very convincing 3-D sound-stage) and the highs are clear and very well separated.
Better, the music has room to relax. Cheaper headphones (like Apple’s own crappy earbuds) often sound like the music is rushing ahead of you, which gets stressful fast. These just let it come when it’s ready. That’s not to say that you can’t rock out — you certainly can.
The other advantage of the silent bubble is that you can keep the headphones down low. I can walk the streets with my iPod Touch at half volume and easily hear music and podcasts. It’s actually very relaxing.
Custom-molded headphones also stay put. The over-the-ear bars are not really necessary, as these things are fitted perfectly to every crevice inside your ears. This makes them super-comfy, too.
But that tight fit means that the headphones are also tricky to get in. The kit comes with some lube, but once that’s gone you can rely on good old spittle. It’s gross, but it helps you to screw the things into your head. Still, these aren’t the kind of headphones you’d use if you’re going grocery shopping and need to take them off at every stall in the market.
Another concern might be environmental: the Eers have a helluva lot of plastic in the box which is useless after your fitting.
Finally, the in-line mic and remote doesn’t have a volume control — just play/pause. It’s a small thing, but then there isn’t really anything to complain about otherwise.
If you’re in the market for a pair of $300 earbuds, then these are worth a look. That’s a lot of money, though — more than I paid for my iPod Touch. But like I said, they sound amazing, they are comfortable enough to wear all day, and the fitting process is a blast.
If this is too rich for you, there are cheaper Eers available, with single drivers, from $170. If you can afford it, though, I’d seriously consider the PC250, with its dual drivers and crossover. It’s just a shame you can’t test the things before you buy them.