In-ear headphones really make a difference

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While I am a conscientious shopper, I don’t always go for the cheapest thing I can find. I don’t mind spending a little extra money if I get something extra for it—many times that’s a better quality product, but other times you get even more. In the case of in-ear headphones, that something extra is a pair better-sounding headphones.

So it was with great interest that I read Dan Frakes’ profile of in-ear-canal headphones. It wasn’t that long ago that I would have scoffed at the notion of paying a few hundred dollars for a set of headphones; now, I wouldn’t think twice about doing it.

What’s wrong with the Apple-supplied earphones that are included with the iPod? Nothing really—the first time I heard them, I thought they sounded pretty good. But then I tried a set of in-ear headphones from Future Sonics, which is when I realized what I had been missing, both in terms of comfort and music quality.

Comfort: Everyone’s ears are different, so trying to make one set of headphones that fit those ears perfectly is an impossible task. While the Apple headphones are okay, after a few hours on a plane, my ears are rather irritated.

Out of the box, the Future Sonics headphones are designed to mold to your ear canal. They come with several different types of inserts like foam, so you don’t have to continuously move them around looking for a comfortable fit—they fit, end of story.

Of course, you can always take it a step further. I now have a set of custom-molded in-ear sleeves that attach to my Future Sonics headphones. I sat down one afternoon and had molds taken of each ear and had the inserts made from those. Now I can have my in-ear headphones playing music all day long because they are really just an extension of my ear, not something I’ve forced in there to blast music through.

Music quality: Has one of your favorite songs ever come on and you just crank it up and start rockin’? (For me, that’s anytime Zakk Wylde starts playing on my nano, which is quite a bit). Now, have you ever winced when you do that after the sharp ping hits your eardrum? It doesn’t have to be like that. I was very pleased to find out that a quality set of monitors could actually eliminate some of the problems I was having listening to music.

I won’t get into frequencies and all of the other technical jargon, but what I will say is that with in-ear headphones, my music sounds full again. When I play a song (anything from classical to metal), it’s like I can hear every instrument without distortion, noise, or fuzz. If I want to crank things up, I can—and I don’t wind up with a headache.

That said, Future Sonics’ offerings aren’t for everyone. This is a high-end audio company that doesn’t deal that often in the consumer market. (If you’ve ever watched a concert or TV show and see the ear pieces the band or cast are wearing, chances are you are looking at Future Sonics at work.) And with that type of high-end audio comes a high-end price tag. You could easily spend hundreds of dollars. The new in-ear headphones the company is releasing cost about $200, which may too much for some shoppers (though perfectly reasonable for audiophiles).

If you want to spend a little less and still have Future Sonics technology, you can do that too. Many people have heard of XtremeMac’s FS1 earphones —guess whose technology is behind those? That’s right, Future Sonics.

I know some people will read this and still may not be convinced, but if you ever get a chance to try out these in-ear headphones, do it. I bet you’ll be pulling out your credit card after the first song.

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