Comfortable Earbuds

Tom Martin -- Wed, 04/23/2008 - 21:20

Chris Martens has a bunch of earbuds in the office on test for Playback. He let me try the Klipsch Image earbuds, and I have to say they are the most comfortable earbuds I've every used. I generally think earbuds are mildly annoying, but these are really different. What are other very comfortable earbuds that sound good?

Wolfgang -- Fri, 05/23/2008 - 01:34

I have trouble using the words "comfortable" and "earbuds" next to each other. Not sure if I'm in the minority here, but I have trouble keeping earbuds in my ears.

I've tried the top of the line Shures along with a Ray Samuels miniature amp (can't remember the model #) and they sounded very good together, but even with their three different ear canal sizes, I couldn't get them to really stay in.

I would check out firms that measure your ears (like for hearing aids) and make custom buds based on your ears. Ultimate Ears does this and has a top of the line unit, the UE 10 Pro, that might be both comfortable and good sounding. It is pricey at $900 a set.

I believe a few other companies do this too, and may offer custom "tips" or "buds" for some standard chassis?

Happy Hunting,

discman -- Fri, 05/23/2008 - 07:31

Westone and Ultimate Ears both have programs with audiologists to make custom molds. And, in talking with an audiologist, I believe they can make custom molds for just about any standard phone as well. In the latter case, I suppose you're rolling the dice a bit more about how the actual driver housing will fit with your ear.

In your case, I don't think the Klipsches would work at all since the seal is rather less strong than with, say, the Shures.

Also, have you tried phones where the wire wraps over the ear?

Wolfgang -- Fri, 05/23/2008 - 09:08

I have tried phones (not buds) where the wire wraps around the ear.
Much better experience than with the buds. Guess I need the open air pads around my ears. (To give you some idea, I have trouble keeping the wax that swimmers use to keep water from getting into the ear canal from popping out during the course of a swim)

Do you know whether Westone offers "soft" custom buds?
UE only offers the hard type (to my knowledge).


discman -- Fri, 05/23/2008 - 10:24

I don't know, but that may be a function of the audiologist?

Robert Harley -- Sat, 05/24/2008 - 18:13

I used the top-of-the-line Shure ear buds for quite some time, but have switched to the new Sony MDR-NC500 conventional headphones for airplane travel. They are less convenient, but sound terrific and use a new noise-cancelling technology that is extremely effective. It digitizes the input signal and perfoms DSP to cancel the background noise.

Also, I've found that the Ray Samuels miniature headphone amplifiers are outstanding. I listen to the Ray Samuels Predator with my iPod four-to-five days a week. It greatly improves the iPod, whether using the Shure earbuds or a pair of Grado SR80s.

Robert Harley

millermax10 -- Fri, 06/25/2010 - 18:31

Yes, I'm a big fan of the Klipsch Image earbuds. Westone and Ultimae Ears aren't half bad either, but from what I've learned about audiology online, the Klipsch Image earbuds really are the cream of the crop.

radberanek -- Sat, 02/26/2011 - 05:55

My Favourite People,
this forum is a harbinger of things to come, well overdue. As many philosophers observed, from Plato to Schoppenhauer, that all music is politically suspect, we should all be advised to hide our musical preferrences from our neighbours' scrutiny. Disturbing the peace may also be at issue. The headphones or the earbuds are a perfect  solution to conceal your taste in available music, namely, you never found out what's really available.
In addition, using earbuds to listen to e.g. John Coltrane's Love Supreme illuminates the illness of the man by engraving these insane cadences in your brain, which truth you then can take back to the former lionizers of JC with a big question mark. On the other hand, the in-head sound of Thelonious Monk will tell you something about a true genius - unencumbered by "everyman" psychology. Those aspects of listening to  music  the "earbud way" are just my little subjective examples of the possible benefits, the ones that my favourite whipping boy Jonathan Valin is trying to replicate... He reviews $50-100K speakers listening to recordings of smallish groups.
By his own admission, Mr Valin prefers to listen to Ian and Sylvia, various string quartet or chamber music ensembles on a megabuck equipment. Why is he never listening for us to a more harmonically complex music in his reviews? Harry Pearson made a mistake,when he said "I don't have great ears.,I have great mind." Then he hired Valin, the little big fiction man to fake hearing past 14000 Hz.
.Man, oh man, the tribulations of positioning the speakers, killing the standing waves, matching the subwoofers, all this goes away with the earbud/headphone setup. And it reveals more to you, personally, about the music you chose, than the equipment it is played on. And yes, I would buy a $1000 Shure earbuds if the packaging were even less lavish than Steven Stone's teenybopper-ish gush-out.  

quadlover -- Sat, 02/26/2011 - 09:32

I have used both Shure's best and Etymotics for a few years.  My experience is for long term wear (flying cross country for example) the Shures are not as comfortable as the Etymotics.  Sound quality wise I love both, with the Shure having better mid to lower bass (perhaps due to its ear bud fitting into my ear canal). But I like the perceived extended range of the Etymotic 4's.  The biggest problem that I have with the 4's is the cord easily transmits vibration to the buds.  In this respect the Shure is much better.

Steven Stone -- Sat, 02/26/2011 - 18:25

I, too, used the Etymotics and Shure 500's for years.

The main problem with the Etymotics is those filters - I used to go through a set every month, which meant over $60 a year for filters...

The Shures were less comfortable, and the cable was prone to moisture and/or cracking issues. Thank God for Silicon sealant.

So far two months with the Ultimate Ears Reference Monitors and no issues.

As the World's oldest teeny-bopper I say, "BAY CITY ROLLERS FOR EVER!" :)

Steven Stone
Contributor to The Absolute Sound,, Vintage Guitar Magazine, and other fine publications

tchaunche11 -- Thu, 09/13/2012 - 17:47

I just got a brand new set called AirBuds which are finally the solution I have been looking for. I have extremely odd shaped ears and could only manage the satellite shaped buds. Airbuds have a very large tip but it is made from this really soft memory foam type material that you need to squeeze before placing in the ear. There is great isolation, comfort and no suction that I get when trying to use the rubber tips. would highly recommend

All content, design, and layout are Copyright © 1999 - 2011 NextScreen. All Rights Reserved.
Reproduction in whole or part in any form or medium without specific written permission is prohibited.