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Earphones and Headphones: Try Before You Buy


Many customers canít always decide what earphones or headphones they want to go for, obviously you are unable to try them and you often take the plunge based on review sites, calling us and speaking to friends or colleagues. All too often we hear people wishing they could try them first, and now you can...

We have, after speaking to many of our customers and potential customers decided to stock a selection of "try-before-you-buy" demo units on many of our popular earphones, in-ear headphones and custom in ear monitors!

The list will grow over time and include the models we are often asked about, at present we have a selection of ACS, Shure, 1964 Ears and Unique Melody - Our main site product pages are highlighted with "demo units available" for every model we currently have, if you canít see what you want to try, please just give us a call...

Our sales office can be contacted on 01920 876 958 should you wish to book a demo appointment...

Ear Impressions: FAQs


Ear Impressions: Frequently Asked Questions - FAQs

Are they safe?

Yes, any person taking ear impressions must be qualified and also insured - They will then perform the procedure correctly and more importantly safely. At The Headphone Company we are both qualified and insured, we also use the latest equipment and impression materials for our ear impression services, both at our offices and on-site

Why would you need them?

Ear Impressions are required for any custom fitted product, be that ear plugs (musicians, DJs, motorsports, shooting, etc.) or custom in ear monitors (custom IEMs / custom earphones)

What are the costs?

Prices can vary but you do have a choice, there are a range of national chains that will be able to help but also local independents that you may not even realise are there

Typically you would expect to pay about £35 for a pair of ear impressions, some centres may charge up to £50, this often happens if they are a busy centre, so if their time is limited, they will charge a premium - Always check prices before before you book an appointment but never pay more than £50 for a pair of ear impressions where you will be attending an appointment at their premises. If you are looking for a mobile ear impression appointment then you would expect to pay slightly more than £35

At The Headphone Company we offer appointments at our premises in Hertfordshire, but we also offer a mobile service that covers London, Hertfordshire, Essex & most areas of Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, West Suffolk and Middlesex. Our prices range from £35 and we are able to visit you any day of the week including evenings and weekends

How long do they take to make?

Typically an appointment will take no more than 30 minutes

How long do they last?

Maximum 3 months before they start to degrade / change shape so they must be used by then or re-made. With some of our custom products your ear impressions will be digitally scanned, free of charge and held on file for 5 years meaning that any re-makes or new custom products in that time will not require a new set of ear impressions

Whatís the ear impression process?

Initially during your appointment our qualified professional will examine your ears to ensure that the ear impressions can safely be taken, generally speaking only an excess of ear wax will prevent us from proceeding - In these circumstances you should see your GP / Nurse to have the wax removed, we can then re-book your appointment

If your ears are OK, they will place a small piece of foam into your ear canal to prevent any excess impression material going into your ear. They will then inject into the outer part of your ear canal the soft impression material: This process will take approximately 10 - 15 minutes

Once set, the impression along with the foam will gently be removed

Do I need an open mouth impression?

This will depend on a few factors and is best discussed with us in person. Generally speaking an open mouth impression will mean that your ear canal with have extra grip on your custom product when the mouth is closed and a normal amount of grip when in the same position as when the impression was taken - Ideal for singing musicians (as the seal is less likely to be broken with constant mouth movement) or audiophiles that are used to wearing Custom IEMs and want that extra bit a grip / tighter seal

Again, to decide what is right for you, please speak to us...

Audiologist or Custom Specialist?

All Audiologists are more than qualified to take an ear impression but not always do they understand that an ear impression can be used for more than just an hearing aid! If you are using an audiologist to have impressions made for any of our custom products please ensure that you have made the purchase with us first and that we have sent you your ear impression instructions for the audiologist to follow

As a specialist store that provides custom ear plugs and custom in ear monitors we know what we need to do and why we need to do it, no fuss, no hassle, we know what detail is required for every product, for every client, no matter what shape or size your ears are - Our specialist service, advice and experience cannot be rivalled

Can anyone have ear impressions taken?

Technically yes, however for ear protection ear plugs or custom in ear monitors itís best that you are over 16 years old, this is because any younger and your ears will out grow the custom product too quickly, ie: youíll possibly be spending money every year to have new impressions taken and new custom products made

What does an ear impression look like?

Whatís a bad impression? Does it make a difference?

A bad impression is an impression that has any of the required detail missing. It can make a difference in 2 ways: 1) It could stop the product being made requiring you to spend more time and money to get fresh impressions, delaying ultimately the production of your custom product or 2) Worse case, your custom product is made and it either doesnít fit, doesnít form a seal, is uncomfortable or possibly all of these issues

At The Headphone Company we will never make a bad impression, likewise we will never send any bad impressions to any of our custom manufacturers. If you are sending us impressions directly we will check them to ensure that they are useable and advise you if they need to be re-made, this is free of charge and part of our service!

Can I use a self impression kit?

Not a good idea! Will never be as accurate as having a professional make them and honestly do you want to have someone unqualified squirting anything in your ear? Donít forget also the subject mentioned above, bad impression = bad custom product

Can I use Blue-Tac?

Er, no although I have seen a video on YouTube of a guy making custom earphone sleeves with Blue-Tac, I guess he was on a very tight budget?

I already have a moulded product, do I need new ear impressions?

Yes, as all custom products are made from ear impressions, you cannot mould a new product from an existing custom product

I have ear impressions already, can they be used?

Only if they are less than 3 months old and have all the required detail (we can check this for you)

Need more information or help?

For a full list of our services for ear impressions Click Here or to talk to our ear impression department directly, call us on: 01920 876 959 (Lines Open: Mon - Sun, 9.00am - 9.00pm) or email by Clicking Here

Best In Ear Monitors

So, what are the best in ear monitors?

Unlike off-the-shelf universal earphones / in ear monitors, the question really isnít that clear cut - There isnít a 1 size fits all answer basically!

Everyone will have different requirements, different needs, budgets will vary of course also, you may just be an audiophile looking for a great sound, a musician that needs to hear the mix perfectly and nicely balanced or a DJ that wants ear protection but with extra low end rumble...In other words, you need to tailor what you require to the right in ear monitors

What we can say is that we know where the best place in the UK is to buy the Best In Ear Montiors, with us, The Headphone Company!

We currently range custom in ear monitors by...JH Audio, ACS, Alien Ears, Westone, Minerva, ProGuard, Sleek Audio, Puretone, Unique Melody, Rooth and 1964 Ears - Sensaphonics and Starkey should be with us shortly! We are also able to offer the full range of universal in ear monitors from Shure and Westone, with or without custom sleeves

We believe that no matter what your requirement is that weíll have the right product or more likely choice of products for you! With the selection that we have available to us in addition to having a dedicated custom department with an in-house designer thatís always on hand with his iMac, Magic Mouse and Photoshop to take care of your artwork, your purchase will be hassle free and managed from start-to-finish, this, we can guarantee!

Already have some top-end universal in ear monitors / earphones? We are also able to take your working universals and turn them into a custom in ear monitor by reshelling them using your drivers and a new crossover, on some models we can even add in new drivers for an improved sound and performance

Good news! From today you can also contact our department for custom in ear monitors, 7 days per week on 01920 876 958, lines are now open Monday - Sunday, 9.00am - 9.00pm (formerly just office hours)

Need Ear Impressions? No problem, we have that covered also with our own in-house qualified professional taking ear impressions 7 days per week at our offices or with you at your premises (office, home, work, studio, backstage, music shop, music college, during rehearsal, etc). Donít worry if youíre not within our catchment, weíll help you get in touch with an audiologist in your area!

Want to browse now? Then Click Here to go straight to all our custom in ear monitors

Why do Clear Earphone Cables turn Green?

Often people have asked us why their clear earphone cable turns green, often wondering are they, itís simply chemistry Iím afraid!

The element copper undergoes the process of oxidation, if it is exposed to air. Copper metal reacts with oxygen, resulting in the formation of copper oxide which appears green in colour. Copper does not react with water, the outer green layer formed after the oxidation of copper is known as a patina

Unlike other destructive oxidation, the patina acts as a protective layer. This is the reason as to why copper is considered as an important metal, as it is resistant to corrosion. The patina prevents further corrosion of the copper beneath the oxidized layer

An example of a green cable is shown below on these custom in ear monitors, with a clear cable...

Whilst not necessarily being that attractive to the eye, oxidation of your earphone cable does not affect the sound of them. Note also that oxidation occurs regardless of the colour of your cable, so even if the outer part of your cable is black, white, beige or any other colour, the copper on the inside we still turn green, you just canít see it!

Headphone Buying Guide: Jargon - What does it all mean?

So, to make your purchase that little bit easier we thought we would put together a brief guide of what all the technical headphone jargon means:

Measured in ohms, itís the amount of resistance that is produced by the internal parts of the headphone - In terms of how this affects the headphone, basically the lower the resistance the easier it will be for your music player (phone, laptop, iPod, etc) to produce the sound that you hear. So, an headphone with a low resistance can play at a lower volume for comfortable hearing whereas an headphone with a higher resistance will need to be turned up to achieve the same volume level. Earphones & Headphones for portable use, eg: with a phone, mp3 player, iPod or laptop would typically have a resistance of 16 or 32 Ohms. Headphones for DJ use or at home with a HiFi / amplifier would typically have a resistance of 64 Ohms or above

Frequency Response
Frequency Response is a measure of the range of sound that the headphones will produce, shown in Hertz (Hz) - Most headphones will produce sound between 20 - 18,500 Hz. The frequency range for simplicity is split into 3 main regions:

ē Lows, eg: Kick Drum or Bass Guitar
ē Mids, eg: Snare or Vocals
ē Highs, eg: High Hats, Violins or James Blunt

Headphones will produce sound above 18,500 Hz and below 20 Hz however usually as the overall range is increased outside of these points the price typically increases also, a point to note is that having an headphone with a range over 18,500 Hz has no real benefit as you are pushing the boundaries of what the human ear can process - Just as importantly at each end of the range as you approach the end the volume (or SPL) will roll-off also (SPL and Roll-Off are explained in the next section)

SPL - "Sound Pressure Level" or Volume ultimately is measured in dB (decibels), in just about all cases you will see on our site in the tech spec sections that this measure is taken at a frequency of 1 kHZ as this is the point at which most headphones reach their peak volume - Headphones will normally reach an SPL at 1 kHZ of between 100 - 120 dB

A point to note as described in the section above that all headphones have a roll-off at each end of the sound range, so although an headphone at 1 kHZ may give a peak volume of 115 dB, at say 10 Hz (bass end) it may only reach 100 dB, the diagram below gives an example of this, as you can see the roll-off (decrease in volume) is more extreme at the high end:

Transducer / Drivers
Often referred to as drivers or transducers, in essence this is the internal speaker part of the headphones. Most headphones will have 1 driver with measurements of 9 - 15mm. Single driver headphones of quality may also be referred to as having a full-range or wide-band single driver, Shure for example with the SE315 promote it as a single driver earphone with a tuned bass port

Twin or Double Driver headphones have 2 separate speakers in each earphone taking care of their part of the sound range, usually a woofer for the lows and a tweeter for the highs. Typically the earphone body is slightly larger, as is the cost but the sound is far superior to that of a single driver earphone

Triple Driver headphones, as above, however an extra woofer is added into the mix - The result being that the sound range is split into 3 and each part sent to its appropriate driver, the result is that your music will sound like never before, triple driver headphones are simply the best consumer headphones available

A small electrical component in double / triple driver headphones to allow the sound range to be split up and sent to its appropriate driver

Not too much jargon when talking about cables, more considerations which relate to where and how you want to use your headphones. So, weíll look at length, extensions, fixed or detachable, routing and weight:

ē Length: The average portable headphones would have a cable length of about 1.2 - 1.5m, more than enough to reach into your coat or trouser pocket, whereas headphones for DJ or Home use would be between 1.5 - 3m and in some cases coiled for extra flexibility and movement

ē Extensions: This is only a consideration if you want a cable length shorter than 1.2m maybe because your player is going to go in a shirt pocket or in an arm strap for jogging and you donít want too much excess cable - Some earphone cables are made in 2 sections, the first is fixed to the headphones and is about 30cm in length, you would then have an extra cable of about 90cm in length giving better options for use

ē Fixed or Detachable: Again, only a consideration depending on the use you have planned for your headphones - Most headphones have a fixed cable, so headphones 1 end, jack plug the other which is more than ideal until you break or damage a cable. Top-end manufacturers such as Shure, Westone, Sleek Audio and Ultimate Ears have pro models that have detachable cables, ie: the cable and the headphones are separate parts, although mainly aimed at musicians that need to keep spares while performing they are equally suited to the consumer - A perfect scenario is snagging the cables 2 days before that 2 week trip or or worse still, youíre backpacking packing around Asia, how handy would having a spare cable be?? Equally as important, damaging a cable out of warranty, if the cable is the fixed type then theyíll be heading for the bin, if you have a detachable cable, replace the cable and youíre good-to-go

ē Routing & Weight: Cables on headphones over the £50 mark are generally routed over the ear, just like musicians, the idea (and a good 1) is that the weight of the cable is supported by the top of the ear making it less likely that the cable weight and movement will pull the earphone out of the ear - Cables are also then kept out of the way. This also means that the cables can be thicker, heavier and therefore stronger, top-end Shure SE cables are now also kevlar re-inforced, a serious bit of kit! Lightweight cables, typically used when cables arenít routed over the ear are generally thinner (to keep weight down) but can sometimes be weaker as a down side

Jack Plugs
For portable headphones they will always be the standard 3.5mm (usually gold-plated), suitable for all iPods, iPhones, iPads, PCs, TVs, Laptops, NetBooks, MP3 Players and many more - Home stereos or DJ equipment would usually require an adaptor to take the jack up to 6.3mm, some headphones include these although they are widely available as an accessory. Jack plug shapes are generally straight to cater for iPod / iPhone cases however the preferred option would be a right-angled style for strength and to aid the life of the earphone

Sound Isolating (Passive)
Sound Isolation is the amount of outside sound the earphone will block out when sealed within the ear canal, measured in dB - Typically sound reductions would be in the region of 25 - 35 dB. There are many reasons why sound isolating headphones have become the norm and so popular, the seal with the ear enhances the sound quality to levels you wouldnít believe possible when comparing them to say the standard apple headphones especially at the lower end, outside sounds cannot leak into the ear canal which would spoil the music coming through but just as importantly, no matter what volume you have them at (safe though of course), people around you will not be able to hear your music! The term passive simply means no electronic parts are used, just your ear and a silicone / foam tip to produce the isolation

Noise Cancelling (Active)
More commonly found in headphones for travelling although there are a few headphones out there with the same tech - Noise cancelling uses electronics within the headphone itself or as part of the cable, therefore active, the idea is that these electronics pick up and listen to the noise outside of the headphone, process that and filter it out whilst sending the audio from your player through the headphones - Result, pure music, no noise!

For headphones that need to be used with mobile phones such as a Blackberry or iPod, a Click-Mic is a small device on the earphone cable that allows you to answer / end calls, the callers voice is then put through to the headphones and the mic picks up your voice. For iPhones the click-mic can also control your iPod, it will stop and resume tracks, skip, rewind, etc.

Open Backed Headphones
Open Backed Headphones or Vented Headphones allow sound to pass through the ear-cup, this lends itself to creating a more natural sound stage - This will however mean that people around you will be able to hear the music and that if you are in a noisy environment you may hear whats going on around you - Most top-end audiophile headphones will be open-backed

Closed Backed Headphones
Closed Backed Headphones or Sealed Headphones are in essence the opposite of open-backed. They form a seal around the ear and the ear-cup is also sealed, this avoids sound leaking out or noise leaking in, this has increased sound isolation has great benefits if you are using them for DJ or Production use for example - A point to note however is that as the sound doesnít leave the ear-cup it will bounce or reflect within the space it has and can lead to the sound being less natural or open as with the open-backed type above

If you would like any advice or assistance with what headphones to buy, please call our sales office on 01920 877 117

This article is Copyright 2010 - The Headphone Company