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Friday, June 17, 2016

[Impression] Snugs Custom Eartips for Etymotic ER4


Snugs is a UK based company that specialized in making silicone soft-shell custom eartips for IEM. Though they don’t make custom IEM themselves, they do offer a couple of IEM models that you can order with the custom eartips included, from the cheapest GBP $159 SoundMAGIC E10S to the most expensive GBP $1K Shure SE846. They also offer soft earplug if isolation is what you need. But if you already have a pair of IEM, they can also make just the eartips themselves, starting around GBP $139 if it is one of the compatible model. You will however need to check with them on what option is available to which IEM. If your IEM isn’t on their list, you might need to pay an extra GBP $30 and send in the IEM in order to make a new template for your IEM. You will also need to send in your ear impression of course. Those in some part of UK might be able to get this done via a digital ear scanner which save you the trouble of sitting through the typical silicone ear impression casting process. You can also get a digital scan from Jaben Singapore as well. But if you can’t get a digital scan, a normal impression done professionally will do a fine job as well.

I opted for a pair of half-shell for my ER4S since it is pretty much my reference these days (which is also good news as the new ER4SR and ER4XR should also fit these eartips). The turn-around time was only a couple of weeks, which actually is pretty quick consider I didn’t use digital scan but went for the old silicone impression method, then the impression had to be sent from Jaben Singapore to UK followed by the finished eartips themselves from UK to Singapore. Of course - as with any custom work, the turn-around time greatly depends on shipping time as well as how fast the lab can build them.

ER4 with custom cable and Snugs

As far as build quality goes, it is just about perfect. I picked transparent for both sides so any flaw will be easily spotted, but there isn’t any. The surface is smooth to the touch and there isn’t any bubble inside. They also fit my ears very snugly (*put intended :-) ) on the first go. But like any new silicone eartips, these custom can be slightly harder to slide into the ears due to friction when they are new. In that case, you can use the included hearing aid lubricant to ease the process. Once you use the eartips long enough, it will eventually absorb a bit of your skin oil and make the process a lot easier. Sometime a tiny bit of baby lotion will also do the trick. After the initial break-in, these eartips slide into my ears pretty easily. Though I have been quite used to custom IEM at this point, there is still no deny that soft silicone is definitely better than hard acrylic, especially after hours of use.

From left: Hifiman RE1000, ER4 with Snugs and Lear LCM-5

Like any change of different eartips, these custom eartips also alter the sound of ER4 just a tiny bit. I use mostly the same stock tri-flanges on my ER4 for the last few years and so it has long pass its break-in period. If anything, it sounds slightly more open than a brand new pair of tri-flanges - but otherwise it keeps to the highly detail and transparent, if not sometime being referred as the ‘sterile’ Etymotic’s house sound. The custom Snugs, in comparison, brings a tighter and deeper bass response and a crispier upper notes. This is perhaps due to the fact that Snugs has a tighter fit (*which improves lower end) as well as a wider bore size (*which helps upper end) when compared to the tri-flanges. While it is definitely different, I won’t call it a good or bad thing. Like any eartips rolling, it is all about what you are looking for as a listener. Someone’s good eartips might be another person’s mediocre. For example, I don’t really enjoy Westone STAR or SpinFit even though many stand by them. However, it is still something to keep in mind if you even wanted to get a pair of Snugs or any custom eartips – not necessary that you will get the same effect since you might not be getting them for ER4,but for something else. However, it will definitely change the sound, just more or less. Then again, I’ll have assumed the main reason for custom eartips should be about comfort and isolation, which Snugs will deliver in ace. Overall, I’ll say I am quite satisfied with the experience.

A thank to Snugs and Jaben Singapore for the sample.

Last but not least, here is something you don't see everyday - a custom made transparent ER4 with Snugs.

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Important: All postings are my own personal opinion only and should not be treated as absolute truth. I do get things wrong just like everyone else. Always do your own research!

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