Ears On Test: Do Custom Tips Make a Difference?
I visited the Snugs booth at CES last month. They were offering free 3D scans for their custom ear tips. How could I resist? Just a few weeks later, they shipped from Great Britain, and I was finally able to hear what all the noise was about regarding custom-fitted eartips. When I first opened the package, I was bit surprised at how small they were. I expected a much larger bit of silicone with a lot more detail and depth. These were designed to go onto the Echobox Nomad earphones, and will also fit a variety of other earphones. Before you order a pair for yourself, verify that they will work together with your prefered earphones.
My Snugs arrived packed in a handy carrying case; they were in my choice of color (glittery purple, if you must know) and looked very similar to standard eartips. There is only a slight contour to hint that these are custom for my ears. They come with detailed instructions on how to place in your ears to align them to the scan results. I could tell immediately that these were designed exclusively for me.
The fit was ideal. I knew they were properly positioned because they were so comfortable. Snugs are made from a soft medical-grade silicone, but even after a few hours, they were still comfortable and secure. I had thought they would be more effective at blocking out ambient noise, but I could still hear a bit of traffic as I walked down a busy street. From a safety perspective, that’s not a bad thing.
I first listened to the Nomad earphones with a variety of the supplied eartips. In addition to five supplied rubber eartips in assorted sizes and shapes, the Nomads include a pair of memory-foam Comply eartips. Not surprisingly, the Comply tips sounded most similar to the custom Snugs. The Nomads also come with three different acoustic filter options. The filters are easy to exchange, but are a bit small and fiddly, so change them out in a place that you’ll be able to spot them when one inevitably falls out of your hands. The Nomads also use a replaceable MMCX compatible cable that has to be attached before use. To use a word from their own literature, the whole setup process is a bit squiggly, and I have thin fingers, so it might be even more fiddly for someone with larger fingers, but once everything is put together, you’ll never have to mess with it.
The sound of the Nomads with the Snugs is very, very clean. I started out with their “balanced” filter and felt that the sound was just too sterile and a bit thin. Not at all distorted, but it needed more bass. I switched out to the bass filter and the balance improved. It’s still a very clean, bright sound and not even close to being bass heavy. Honestly, I prefer a warmer, darker sound, and I wish there was more deep impact. I switched out to a few other of the eartip options to make sure the Snugs weren’t affecting the bass response. The bass response was different with the other tips, but it never felt quite sufficient.The Nomads are great for people who prefer a bright sound, and the different filter options makes them easy to customize.
Overall, the Snugs custom eartips are impressive. I tried the Snugs with an older pair of Audio-Technica earphones and a new pair from Sennheiser, and they sounded great with more than enough bass and are certainly better than the standard eartips on both examples. I’m looking forward to trying them on a variety of other earphones. They are extremely comfortable, and they are secure without completely isolating me from the outside world. Snugs customs are going to be a permanent addition to my headphone collection.