At the CanJam section of last fall’s Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, a manufacturer said something that’s resonated with me ever since. “The fit is the sound,” he told me, referring to the fancy new tips included with his company’s in-ear monitors. With that simple statement he summed up the reason why different listeners can have such different opinions of headphones. With IEMs, unless the tips seal well and the sound tubes fit properly within your ear canal, you’ll get little or no bass, and your treble and midrange will be out of balance at best and grossly uneven at worst.
Perhaps 50 feet away in the same ballroom, Phonak — the world’s largest manufacturer of hearing aids — showed me a way they’d come up with to address the fit problem with IEMs. The company’s Perfect Fit system employs L-shaped earpieces designed to conform to the folds of your pinna, allowing the body of the earpiece to reach further and more consistently into your ear canal for a better fit.