All you need to know about buying in-ear earphones

he main objective here is not just to learn which IEMs to purchase, but rather how to go about finding the right one for your needs.
All you need to know about buying in-ear earphones

Other important things to consider include sensitivity, frequency response and the type of magnets employed. A high-sensitivity driver will provide greater sound pressure levels per watt, which makes it easier to amplify. Frequency response, although it tells you about the sonic reach of an IEM, it never really gives you an idea of the quantity and quality of impact and authority at those frequencies. Take this spec with a pinch of salt and audition the IEM yourself to be sure. As a rule of thumb, powerful neodymium magnets will provide better bass than regular ferrite ones, so it's an added incentive if an IEM is outfitted with the former.
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Just changing ear tips can have a profound effect on sound signature


Ear tips, isolation and sound signature
These tiny cushioning interfaces between your auditory canal and the IEMs may seem to exist for the sole purpose of ensuring better ergonomics, but there's a lot more to the ear tips than it is otherwise apparent. You would be surprised to know what significant a part these tips play in the overall audio signature of the IEMs. In-ear earphones generate a miniscule power output because they have to move a very small column of air in the canal to produce sound. They, however, are at their best efficiency when the seal between the tips and ear canal is perfect. Any amount of leakage leads to a loss in the sound pressure levels, which directly affects the bass performance. It is therefore important to choose a tip that's sized just right for you. Meanwhile, you may want to refer to this handy guide on how to wear IEM effectively.

Ear tips come in three different materials: rubber, silicone and foam. Silicone tips are superior to rubber ones in every single aspect including durability, hygiene and comfort. As such, only the cheapest IEMs will include rubber tips, because any decent brand worth its salt makes it a point to outfit its earphones with silicone tips. These tips themselves are available in varying thicknesses—a factor that can affect sound isolation as well as signature. Thick walled ear tips generally afford better sound isolation, but at the cost of making the sound darker or more bass heavy. Conversely, thinner ear tips may not provide the best isolation, but they are best paired with dark IEMs. Silicone ear tips also ship in double and triple flanged versions, which boost bass and mechanical sound damping by an even larger extent. These multi-flanged ear tips, however, may prove a bit intrusive and uncomfortable to some users.
Gently twist the IEM while inserting it
Using the right sized tip ensures a proper seal, which in turn improves bass response


Finally, you have foam ear tips, which are quite expensive and significantly less durable than their silicone equivalent. However, they are still preferred by audiophiles thanks to an unparalleled level of noise isolation offered. Because foam ear tips practically conform to the natural shape of your auditory canal, they are by far the most comfortable of any ear tips as well. The only problem is that these ear tips tend to attenuate higher frequencies and boost bass by a large degree. They are, therefore, paired the best with brighter sounding earphones, because they can make darker IEMs sound even boomier than they already are.

Instead of just listing out the hottest IEMs in the market, what you have here are all the important parameters that need to be considered before purchasing a pair that's right for you. This not only allows you to choose an IEM with the right type and configuration of drivers, but also check out the box and figure out if you would require a separate headphone amplifier or not. Once you have purchased the IEM of your choice, though, don't forget to experiment with different ear tips to fine tune the sound signature to your liking.

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