Earplugs are the best way to protect your hearing in loud environments, but sometimes they do their job too well. They muddle the sound, so music sounds dull, or you can't understand people talking around you. I've used earplugs for decades; my first set was custom-molded to my ears, and while they were highly effective, the hard plastic plugs were uncomfortable to wear for extended periods of time. So I moved onto inexpensive, but comfy foam plugs that quelled the noise almost as well, but they totally muffled the sound. Foam earplugs can be frustrating to use at … Read more
How loud is loud? I know loud when I hear it, but if you want a number, I'd say at home anything over 90 dB is getting up there, and might annoy neighbors in adjacent apartments, especially after 10 p.m. If you live in a house, 90+ dB would definitely disturb other family members not watching the movie or listening to music. Of course, the volume at concerts and movie theaters is much, much louder than most people would ever tolerate at home. Loud music, games, and home theater takes on an almost physical quality; you don't … Read more
Head-Fi is a national headphone club, and I went to the local meeting in Babylon, N.Y., last Saturday.
The vibe was friendly, and it was great to hear Head-Fi members' home-built gear, but there were a few surprises popping up from the headphone and electronics manufacturers in attendance.
Logitech Ultimate Ears' Personal Reference Monitor in-ear headphones feature a new twist on custom-molded-to-your-ears headphone design. Lots of brands now make custom in-ear headphones, and Logitech's have been among my favorites for years, but the upcoming Personal Reference Monitor takes the personalization to the next level. Once your ear canals' &… Read more
Westone started out in the late 1950s making custom molds for hearing aids and ear protection devices. Once I learned that little factoid I wasn't surprised to hear Westone was the first to introduce custom-molded in-ear headphones in 1993.
This is my first Westone review, so I'm starting with its best headphone, the Elite Series ES5 Musicians' Monitor ($950). The company offers a range of more affordable universal-fit in-ear headphones, like the UM-1 ($109).
I hope to soon do a follow-up review with a universal-fit Westone to better describe the sonic differences between universal and custom-molded in-ear designs.
For now I will say that no universal in-ear headphone from Etymotic, Monster, Shure, Ultimate Ears, etc. has anywhere near the sound-isolating capabilities of custom-fit designs. I always hear more detail, overall clarity, and upper treble air and delicacy with custom-fitted in-ear headphones because those sounds aren't masked by noise. The ES5 is handcrafted at Westone's factory in Colorado Springs, Colo. … Read more