Overall, I really like these. The comfort trumps the less than perfect isolation and bass response for me. They feel, frankly, like you’re not wearing them. The fitting system is ingenious and offers an instant and effective pair of custom-fitted headphones to those who can’t afford to physically get through the step to get a lab to custom-make some similar headphones for them.
First Impressions / Setting up
They come in a relatively big orange box, which contains the fitting kit that looks like a clumsy pair of headphones itself, with two large rectangular plastic ear covers, and a headband. The actual earbuds (these are earbud-style earphones, with over-the-ear loops to hold them in place) are attached to each side of the fitter and look like any other small, in-ear ‘phones. Also in the box is some lubricant, a carry case, some little covers for the back of the ‘phones once they’re fitted, and some instructions.
The earphones are mounted on the end of glossy black bendy rubberised loops with orange decal and have thin orange wires. They are designed for use with smartphones and other remote control compatible devices, and thus have a built-in microphone and remote control button (no volume though). The carrying case is really nice; it’s semi-hard and zips around three sides to open.
So here’s the deal: You wet them with lubricant, put the headband over your head inserting the earpieces into your ears, and when you’ve got a tight seal (everything goes very quiet), you press a button on each side, and – keeping a still jaw and a straight head – wait five minutes. In this time silicone is pushed into the earbuds, and you can feel them expanding in your ears. Five minutes later, the silicone has set hard, and you can remove them.
Then it’s just a case of clipping them away from the fitter (which can now be discarded), which leaves you with two custom-fitted earbuds which it is claimed will isolate outside noise better, and feel more comfortable than any earphones you may have tried before. I found it a bit fiddly wetting them and fitting them, not least because the headband came apart a couple of times in my hands, but once I’d got it all sorted it was an oddly comforting experience.
In the end, sure as promised, I had two strangely shaped earbuds – different, noticeably, from each other too. This is, apparently, normal; Sonomax says that our ear canals are as distinctive as fingerprints, no two people have the same, and indeed it’s perfectly usual for your ears to be a different shape from each other.
If the shape of the finished headphones is to be believed, mine most certainly is, one being svelte and slimline, the other misshapenly bulbous. Something I’ll have to live with, I guess, although now I’ve got a pair of Sonomax Eers to remind me every day of the fact!
Of course, all of this stuff is designed for a purpose, and that purpose is to make your headphones sound better and be more comfortable. Comfort-wise, I can’t argue at all with them: They are lovely to wear. They’re the kind of in-ear headphone that I’ve always preferred; that is, with a small over-the-ear loop to hold them lightly in place. Because they fit perfectly into your ears, there is no pressure at all and yet they feel really snug. Top marks here.
Sound quality-wise, they’re good – but not perfect. To start with, they don’t cut out background noise completely. Sonomax advises you use some of the supplied silicone gel when you wear them to give you a tight fit, but who’s going to do that day to day?
The earbuds, although they have a rubber coating, are quite hard, and while it is possible to isolate the outside world very well by holding them in your ears ever so slightly with your fingers, as soon as you remove your hands, they lose both bass and isolation again. This is a factor of the type of headphones they are, of course; headphones with a headband can apply more pressure and so deliver more bass and isolation.
While it’s probably not fair to compare them to such ‘phones, compared to some other in-ear models, I’ve used – models with really loose, soft slips that also mould to the shape of your ears – they appear no more effective. Yes, all ears may be different, but if your earphones are soft enough to mould to them whenever you put them on, who cares?
The bass issue can be corrected with EQ, so that’s no biggie (unless your device has no EQ, of course…) Once you get them EQed right, they sound good.
Some DJs use in-ear monitoring when they DJ. I can’t comment on that because that is so far removed from my DJing style (traditional headphones pressed into one ear with my shoulder, other ear glued to monitor speaker!) it escapes me how anyone can do it.
However, as I said in the intro, us DJs listen to an awful lot of music away from the DJ booth. That’s actually the biggest part of the job, in my book (music discovery). So any tweaks you can make to your music discovery system will pay dividends. Finding headphones you can wear for hours is, therefore, time and money well spent.
And overall, I really like these. The comfort trumps the less than perfect isolation and bass response for me. They feel, frankly, like you’re not wearing them. When you “wiggle” your jaw or shake your head around, they move equally – because they fit equally. So the bass remains the same on both sides. The outside noise remains equal on both sides. The fit feels the same on both sides.
Also, because of the design, they simply don’t budge. Thus the same headphones can be worm whether you’re running or relaxing. The fitting system is ingenious and offers an instant and effective pair of custom-fitted headphones to those who can’t afford to physically get through the step to get a lab to custom-make some similar headphones for them.
They don’t come cheap. The pair I tested were US$199, and don’t look any different to a decent pair of US$75 buds; they have simple, non-braided cable, for instance. I always break headphones at the cable. I wonder how long these will last? While it’s clear that most of your money goes into the fitting part of the package, it would be upsetting to yank a cable too hard and have their life end prematurely.
However, I have to say I really like them. I am going to carry on wearing them until they break, which I hope will be a long time because they’re ridiculously comfy, and I can forgive just about anything else as long as they stay comfy, and stay working. Not sure I’d ever have bought them at this price, though, but I’m glad I have them. And as they’re now fitted to my ears and nobody else’s, these are one review sample the company can’t have back!