A $3 bet over custom-fit ear molds
Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2007
A topic of recent discussion between iLounge editors has been that of custom ear-molds. I’ve been looking for a way to reduce the costs of replacing the foam tips for my Shure E500PTH, so I investigated the possibility of getting custom ear-molds made. While not everyone’s ideal solution, it seemed that the cost of getting them made was a viable alternative to the annual cost of replacement foams - a bag of 20 foam tips (10 pairs) works out at about £20/$40, while a pair of custom, reusable molds were approximately £80/$160. While initially appearing to be expensive, the customs would of course pay for themselves over a couple of years, taking into consideration the frequency of replacing foams which became dirty or had lost their ability to expand after compression.
With my ear canal impressions duly made by a local audiologist and sent off to a company in the West Country, it was a matter of waiting to see if they could be made for the E500s. While Westone’s UM56 custom moulds are available for the Shure E3/4/5 range, the new E500 had not been tested, so although the shafts the tips fix to were the same size, making these moulds fit a new range was a unknown area.
Eventually the custom tips arrived and after a few minutes of fine tuning the orientation of the tips on the body of the E500s, I achieved a comfortable fit. After the softness of the foam tips these initially appear to be hard on the ear but as the are moulded to the inside of your ear canal you soon get used to them. The isolation afforded by these custom tips is far better than Shure’s silicone rubber tips, and on initial listening, they’re as good as the foam tips.
Shure now make a new style of foam tip available for E500 (now SE530) users, similar to the “Comply” tips and made from coated foam. They are more resistant to dirt and grease/wax than the original yellow foam tips, and will last longer according to Shure booth staff. I actually used a pair on the flight home from San Francisco and I was able to keep them in for the duration of the flight (10 hours) without the itching which occurs with the silicone tips.
As the old adage goes “the proof of the pudding is in the eating,” so over the next few days I will be using the custom molds and will update this article accordingly. We’ll see whether my £80 investment is worth it; Jeremy’s made me a $3 bet that Shure’s new foams are better overall.
UPDATE: 29 Jan 07
Well, I have been using these custom molds now for the last couple of weeks and, after the initial fumbling around to find an easy way to insert them, they have now become everyday wear for my Shures. They seal in the ear nicely and have proved to be as comfortable over fairly long periods of listening as the foams. So my experiment has been a success (and Jeremy’s money is mine). I intend to take them on my trip to Singapore in April, so a long haul flight will be the final test, but I am confident that the custom molds will pay off in the long run.
And, after all, that was why I tried this ‘experiment’ - replacing foams once or twice a week (depending on how dirty they got) at a cost of £2 (almost $4) a pair would soon add up. And while you can wash the foams once or twice this reduces their ability to expand.
Of course the new foam tips are now available but I have not seen a price for the packs but I was told they would cost more than the yellow foams.
Now, what to spend my winnings on….
If you have a comment, news tip, advertising inquiry, or coverage request, a question about iPods or accessories, or if you sell or market products, read iLounge's Comments + Questions policies before posting, and fully identify yourself if you do. We will delete comments containing advertising, astroturfing, trolling, personal attacks, offensive language, or other objectionable content, then ban and/or publicly identify violators. Wondering why we're talking about something other than iPods? Check the Archives: Backstage has been here and kicking it since 2004.
- Apps: Duolingo 3.3, Marvel Unlimited 2.0, Smash Hit + Wave Wave
- Apple running large iPhone 5c ad on NY Times site
- Report: iOS 8 Maps to gain public transit directions
- Apple updates Remote app with improved Apple TV integration
- iOS 7.1 reveals two new iPad models?
- Apple TV 6.1 update released, allows users to hide channels
- Apple releases iOS 7.1
- Apple iPhone trade-in program arrives in Canada
- Apple TV adds iTunes Festival channel
- iLounge Game Spotlight: Doggins
- Grovemade Bamboo iPad Case for iPad mini
- Soundfreaq Sound Rise SFQ-08 Wireless Speaker with Alarm Clock
- Chil PowerShare Reactor 5.1 Amp Multidevice Charger
- TwelveSouth SurfacePad for iPad mini
- Neptor NP056K Dual Port Portable Battery Charger
- RooCase Dual-View 360 for iPad Air
- Mophie Space Pack for iPhone 5/5s
- SnowLizard Products SLXtreme 5 for iPhone 5/5s
- Lepow Moonstone 9000mAh Power Bank
- Thought Out PED4 Planet IPA10 for iPad Air
- iHistory: From iPod + iTunes to iPhone, Apple TV + iPad, 2001 to 2010
- iHistory: From iPod + iTunes to iPhone, Apple TV + iPad: 2011 to Today
- Viewing only downloaded iTunes Match tracks
- Splitting purchased content between two iPads
- iLounge’s 2014 CES Best of Show Awards: iPad, iPhone, iPod + Mac
- Preview: 7 Big Apple Trends To Expect At The 2014 CES
- Non-Bluetooth Lightning dock speakers
- Shared Apple ID and switching away from iPhone
- Syncing multiple iCloud data with a family Mac
- iMessages come in from email address instead of phone number