Monday, November 10, 2008
Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 08:00 AM
When I think of what matters to me in a pair of headphones, comfort isn't usually at the top of the list - not because I don't want them to be comfortable, but because sound quality is always the thing that I care about the most. Take the Ultimate Ears super.fi 5 EB's for example: they are fantastic-sounding headphones, but after an hour or so or having them in my ears, my ears tend to hurt a little. And my right ear never seems to seal up air-tight with them in. Despite that, I adore the super.fi 5 EB's, and put up with the discomfort - partially because it's rare that I listen to more than an hour or two of music in a single sitting. But do I wish the super.fi 5 EB's were perfectly comfortable after extended periods of use? You bet! And that's exactly why the Comply Foam Tips caught my attention - they claimed to improve the comfort experience for a variety of headphones, so I contacted the company to ask for a few samples.
As you might expect, there's not much to them at first glance. They come in simple, attractive packaging, and are sold in a variety of package sizes (three pairs for $14.95, five pairs for $19.95, and ten pairs for $37.95 USD). You'll need to select the type that are compatible with your headphones of course; brands supported include Ultimate Ears, Apple, Creative Labs, Klipsch, Plantronics, Sennheiser, , V-Moda, and many others - including the Zune headphones. They're very simple to use: you pull off the old headphone tips, and gently twist on the Comply Foam Tips. It didn't take me more than a few seconds per headphone.
Do the Comply tips work? Absolutely. I was, frankly, more than a little surprised that after two hours of listening to my Zune using the super.fi 5 EB's that neither of my ears have even the slightest bit of discomfort. For me, that's a radical improvement and it makes me enjoy my headphones (andy my Zune) even more. I didn't notice any difference in the level of noise reduction provided, and the audio quality also sounded identical.
My only minor complaint about the Comply foam tips: it seems like they take a while to completely expand and fill the ear canal. On one hand that means unlike other foam tips I've used in the past, you don't have to do the thumb-and-forefinger-roll and jam them into your ears in under one second - you can take a couple of seconds to get them into position. The down-side of this approach means that, depending on the headphones you're using, you'll have to hold the headphones in place for five to ten seconds while the Comply tips fully expand. Ultimately, that's not a big deal, but it's something to be aware of - and this is assuming, of course, that you need to compress the Comply tips before inserting them into the ear canal in the first place. Some people might be able to just stick them in and go, but I prefer to let them expand. I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention that at $5 per pair for the three pack, these are mighty expensive pieces of foam - but short of damaging them somehow, each pair should last quite a while. And having improved headphone comfort is certainly worth a few bucks, isn't it?
UPDATE: After using the tips for a few months, it's worth mentioning that they're a magnet for ear wax and look quite disgusting after a few weeks of use. This will vary from person to person, as we all have different ear-to-wax ratios, but I suspect the average person may need to change them after a month or so of heavy use, which makes the price of $5 per pair even more costly on a yearly basis.
Jason Dunn owns and operates Thoughts Media Inc., a company dedicated to creating the best in online communities. He enjoys photography, mobile devices, blogging, digital media content creation/editing, and pretty much all technology. He lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada with his lovely wife, and his sometimes obedient dog. His ears are now much happier!