You may be wondering, “Why does this even matter? I thought you guys host a site about headphones.” Well, you’re not wrong, but we also cover all things audio. And believe it or not, ear tips greatly affect audio quality.
Let’s get down to it; it’s payday and you’ve earned yourself a new pair of in-ears. After ripping the package open, you’re left with superb earphones that include sub-par ear tips of the small, medium, and large variety. What to do, what to do. Well, you could settle… but that’s what Tinder is for. Instead, make that initial investment worth it and pick up a pair of specialized tips.
What you should know about premium ear tips
Sound isolation makes a difference. If you want to dig deeper, make sure to check out our in-depth article, but if time is of the essence, know this: Ear tips that are too small won’t form a cogent seal. This degrades both sound quality and comfort. Though wiggling ear tips seem fit for torturing Tickle Me Elmo, they’re in no way conducive to good sound quality.
What’s more, the same can be said for ear tips that are too large. In this instance, they just slip out of your ear. Finding the appropriate style of ear tip takes time and is well worth it. After all, why invest the money into premium earbuds, if you’re not going to figure out how to get the most out of them?
“Different strokes for different folks” couldn’t be truer here, but we’re not here to speak in platitudes. No, no, no. If you want to “keep calm and carry on,” go back and revive that 2010-era Pinterest board. Now, there are a wide array of styles to choose from, so here’s a bulleted list to keep things organized.
- Standard: The lowest common denominator of ear tips. This style is typically pre-installed, especially at the consumer level; just take a look at the RHA MA750 Wireless. RHA provides listeners with ten pairs of options (ranging in style and material); yet, the company still showcases its standard, dual-density silicone ear tips, because they please the majority of listeners.
- Bi-flange: These are more invasive than traditional ear tips. Though they take some getting used to, these are great for providing additional sound isolation while still being easy to pop in or out at a moment’s notice.
- Triple-flange: Speaking of invasive, triple-flange ear tips may feel like they’re excavating your ear canals (relative to standard tips), but they provide all the same benefits as bi-flange ear tips and isolate you even more from your surroundings.
- Wingtips: These are pretty much reserved for workout earbuds and are usually an optional add-on to the separate silicone ear tip. However, that’s not always the case (see: Bose SoundSport Free). Wingtips rest against the triangular fossa, creating a secure fit to combat vigorous movement.
- Custom: If you have the budget for custom-molded ear tips, it’s worth trying out. These will transcend any previous ear tip experiences that you’ve had. Since they’re molded to your ears, they’re supremely comfortable. However, you may writhe in financial discomfort.
Aside from this, there are size variations to account for. For each style option available, you can typically find them in at least the usual small, medium, and large, not to mention my favorite T-shirt size, “smedium.”
Just as there are different styles, there are also different materials. Sure, there aren’t as many options here as there are with clothing textiles, but it’s nice to have some liberty in choosing what fits you best.
- Silicone: This is the usual suspect for ear tip construction. It doesn’t isolate sound as well as foam, but it’s comfortable and washable. Plus, silicone tends to be more durable than its foam counterpart and more affordable. What’s more there are varying grades of quality with silicone ear tips. For one, the Panasonic ErgoFit include silicone ear tips but are palpably less premium than the aforementioned RHA ones, or even something like what the Jaybird X3 include.
- Foam: If you’ve been around the block, then you’re likely familiarized with Comply. The company has made memory foam ear tips accessible in the consumer audio market and are frequently recommended here at SoundGuys. These are a great value and noticeably improve sound quality. Comply accommodates a wide range of use-cases for their ear tips. Whether you play sports, need quiet time, prioritize comfort, or want something specific to true wireless earbuds, Comply has you covered.
If you’ve ever looked closely at your earbuds without the ear tips on them—we don’t blame you if you haven’t—then you may have noticed that there isn’t a universal standard in earbud-nozzle diameter. Some are narrower than others (. This means that you’ll need to do a little research to ensure that the core of your premium ear tips fit around the earbuds.
Typically, a quick visit to a manufacturer’s website will do the trick. For instance, Comply walks users through finding compatible ear tips via its “find your fit” module. This is a basic, step-by-step process that guarantees compatibility.
As you can see, there are a few variables when it comes to picking out the right ear tips for you. But like any good recipe, once you understand all of the ingredients and what pairings work, the final product is that much more enjoyable. All it takes is time to define how you plan on using your earbuds and figuring out what style and material seem the most fitting. Then it’s a few clicks to make that sound-altering purchase.