Enlarge (credit: Mark Walton)
In recent years, the humble earbud has fallen out of fashion in favour of the headphone—and with good reason. Headphones offer a sizeable upgrade over their compact counterparts, which often come bundled with smartphones and music players and offer miserable, if at least listenable, sound quality.
Good headphones have more bass (a typical inadequacy of cheap earbuds), are more comfortable, block out more exterior noise thanks to heavily padded ear cups, and in some cases they’re even more of a fashion statement than Apple’s ubiquitous EarPods.
Some might even be wireless.
The tradeoff, though, is that headphones are big. For those that value discretion, headphones, even compact ones, are too bulky to be manageable on the go.
That’s not to mention their impracticality for fitness enthusiasts, for whom earbuds tend to be the preferred option.
Traditionally, the upgrade path for earbuds has been towards sets like Sennheiser’s CX300 II.
These offer decent sound quality and the addition of silicone sleeves, which sit inside the ear rather than outside of it, helping to isolate outside noise, provide better bass, and ensure a more stable fit.
Foam tips like these fitted to UE900 earphones are the best way to get a good seal on a budget.
But even the silicone sleeve has its limits. Until recently, the best fit for consumers has been via foam tips, which are squished before being inserted into the ear where they expand to form a surprisingly solid seal.
As someone that’s been using Comply-branded foam tips for years with a set of Ultimate Ears’ excellent UE900 earphones—which boast four balanced armature drivers, two for bass, and one each for middle and treble—I can confirm they make a huge difference to comfort and noise isolation, provided they’re used with a good set of headphones to begin with.
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