Instead of explaining N times what earphones I use, I thought I’d rather make a 1-off blog post.
I’ve probably spent >1000 hours of my life (ooh getting into that order of mastery) researching audio equipment. Way too much, but I find I enjoy it.
I’ve previously owned the Sennheiser HD-280 and Sennheiser HD-25. Both amazing headphones, but I found it a hassle to carry them around everywhere. I didn’t want to constantly have to make the choice “should I bring my headphones” and then at times have to regret it either way.
Enter IEMs (In Ear Monitors). (lol formatting)
Piece of evidence #1
Multi-IEM Review - 281 IEMs compared
Scouring the big table at the bottom for the best value, the first cheap-ish (<200USD) pair that is available in the UK is the
Etymotic HF5 w/ custom ACS tips
Some more research on other forums, reading some more reviews and confirming that Etymotic’s special partnership w/ ACS is also available in the UK and SOLD
Getting the tips
So you want to get the custom tips? http://www.etymotic.com/customfit/index.html
Schedule an appointment where you bring the registration form. I went to a big Boots on Oxford Street. Had to wait about 40 minutes until it was my turn (though there seemed to be some drama and unusual). Then got my ears filled with wax, and that stuff sent to ACS. IMPORTANT You don’t pay when getting the impressions taken, I had to be pretty insistent on not having to pay and being confident that this was a special deal thingy on what I felt were shaky arguments, until she called some dude who explained that I get charged over email, once the impressions arrive. Which happened, I got a link to an online payment form (79 quid iirc), and 2 weeks later received my custom tips in the mail.
Amazing isolation. Oftentimes I’ll take them out on the street and notice how load it actually is. The biggest thing is that I don’t get distracted at work. If I’m wearing lesser headphones I very often get distracted by stray conversations or people enjoying the use of their keyboards (an italian coworker brings forward particular a particular joy in this area). This is an amazing benefit I’ve never had with larger headphones and makes working in an open-plan office tolerable.
Very analytical. They are said to be amongst the best in this, and even though I’d owned and used the Sennheiser HD-25 quite a lot before which are said to very good in this regard as well, when I first listened to the Etymotic’s I had the feeling “oh my god I have to re-listen to my entire music collection”, the differentiation between instrument is especially something which caught my eyr.
Perfect fit. If you get the custom-moulded tips you’ll never again feel uncomfortable when wearing them long hours, worry about the air seal being broken and having to re-fit them, or fiddle in the dark when you don’t know which side is left and right.
Super light. I always have my earphones on me, no thinking required, if I suddenly have to take them off (e.g. it starts raining) I can simply put them in my jacket pocket and pretend nothing’s happened.
Bone conduction. With this good of a level of isolation you will start to notice how air waves also make your bones in your head vibrate. Imagine you open your mouth and suddenly you can hear outside noises become louder! You will hear your own footsteps when walking, have to take them out while eating, and if you don’t wear the cables forward and over the ear, you will get plagued by loud microphonics (the cable touching/rubbing against stuff). Even though this might sound annoying, I’ve gotten used to it by now (don’t notice footsteps any more, just take them out when eating and putting them on over the ear even though it’s slightly fiddly and takes long) which is something I’ve read frequently when research as well.
It’s something in your ear. It’ll feel a bit weird, and also they’ll have a fine earwax patina / crust in some areas if you don’t clean them regularly.
More fragile. While the HF5 are a solid build, the cable is still rather thin and the connection not made of rocket steel. Especially coming from the HD-25 which I feel were indestructible, I’m now more careful with them and e.g. don’t just throw them on the bare table.
Short-ish cable. Perfectly fine for walking around but when it’s connected to the computer, I’d wish for some more range. (e.g. I mostly use the HD-280 at home because they have a nice long curly cable, are robust and super-comfy. And probably mostly because it means I don’t have to re-plug everything I come home (the earphones can stay in the jacket))
Less base. I like base in my music. As said above, these are more analytical in nature, which almost always also means there’s less power on the low end. The base is there, but it never pushes itself into the foreground. I know some people that will love that, however I sometimes miss it.