A review of the Comply Foam Tips
I don’t know what the notion on Head-fi is, but when I evaluate ear tips for my in-ear monitors [iems], comfort and isolation are of utmost importance. Sound might alter marginally with various ear tips, but I find that the sound and isolation go hand in hand, the better the isolation the better the sound.
My test system consists of an iPhone 3G, which is connected to a Headstage Arrow 3G amp via a FiiO L3. The iems I used was a pair of Ultimate Ears Triplefi 10 pro [TF10].
The Complies exist in two versions, the T-500 and the TX-500, which each come in three different sizes. I tried both and the only fathomable difference I noticed, between the T-500 and the TX-500, is that the latter version offers a wax guard. This can be quite useful, if you plan on using iems, such as the TF10, which have no frontier that protects the inside of the iems from dirt and wax. The three sizes that exist are S, M, and L, which are, as illustrated in the photograph below, 10.67 mm ± 0.50 mm, 12.07 mm ± 0.50 mm, 12.57 mm ± 0.50 mm. I tested all three sizes and had a few friends try them, as well, and, as far as I could tell, M is the size that was preferred by all. All sizes fit everyone; however L could oftentimes not be inserted as easily and firmly as S and M. Furthermore, S provided a proper seal for most people, however the majority felt that S was the least comfortable, as the plastic nuzzles of the iems could be felt through the thinner foam. I will add, however, that one user, who claimed to have very small ear holes, could only achieve a proper seal with S. I encourage people who know they have rather small ear channels to get S. On the other hand, if you’ve never experienced difficulties fitting iems, due to their size, stick with M.
In order to insert the foam tips, you have to squeeze them and swiftly insert them into your ear before the memory foam expands. At first usage, this was a bit tricky, but it soon became an effortless task. I did notice, however, that when the ear tips are slightly moist, the memory foam will not keep its compressed form. This generally didn’t provide a problem, as inserting them was still possible, however I felt that they didn’t seal quite as well when they are moist or wet. This can be a problem, if you are working out and your sweat causes the tips to become moist, as you’ll feel the seal reduce and hear slight clicking sounds caused by the moving of the ear tip, whilst you run. The severity never reached an extent that provoked me to stop jogging, but it was noticeable and slightly agitation. Additionally, when I used the ear tips in subzero temperate, the memory foam would often harden, making the task of squeezing them nearly impossible. However, squeezing them would often be unnecessary, as the cold would cause them to shrink in size. Thus, I would oftentimes have little difficulties inserting them and once they were firmly inserted, my body heat would cause them to swiftly expand and seal properly.
As for the seal itself, I was very positively surprised. I have never used an ear tip that would seal so easily and firmly, without feeling too intrusive. The foam is very comfortable and the hold is amazing. Generally, I would never have to readjust or reinsert the ear tips, once they’ve been properly inserted. This applied to all situations, whether it was jogging, walking, or merely listening for several hours. This is saying a lot, as the TF10 are infamous for their comfort issues.
I didn’t have any access to any professional equipment to measure the isolation, but I felt that their isolation was superior to that of the stock silicon tips, which the TF10s are sold with. It wasn’t a vast difference and, to be honest, as I felt that the isolation of both ear tips was excellent, but if I was to favor one, it would definitely be the Complies.
Well, as I have stated earlier, this is not a big aspect to me. I will say, however, that the Complies did not worsen the sound quality… In fact, they do sound better than the stock silicon tips. I don’t think it is as much, due to their acoustic characteristics, as it is due to their isolation and seal. If I had to compare the sonic characteristics of the two, I would claim that the Complies provide a more full bodied bass and midrange, both feeling bigger and more natural. The bass extended slightly further and the midrange felt warmer, but not necessarily more upfront. The biggest difference was found in the treble, which was less sibilant and bright. Overall, the Complies do sound better than the silicon tips, but I attribute that largely to their superior sealing capabilities.
Hygiene and life expectancy:
Due to their materials, the Complies can be hard to clean properly. If I get a bit of wax on them, I generally dip my fingertips in cold water and rub the wax off the tips. This works very well and is very easy to do, however it surely does not clean them too well. Due to this, I recommend a dark color, as the white or grey complies show dirt very clearly, making them look rather dirty over time. The packaging states that a pair of tips should only be used for 3 months and I, generally, concur. Over the 3 months of usage, I might wash them once, if I feel it is necessary, but, usually, I try to avoid having to do so, as washing them tends to wear down their foam and make them not hold their compressed form as well.
In order to wash them, I use a bowl of warm water and rinse them in it. Afterwards, I put them on a radiator to dry up. That’s pretty much it. I don’t recommend using detergents, as they corrode the foam.
Hope this is of some use to the avid head-fier.
Furthermore, I'd like to thank Comply Foam for generously sending me some tips to review.
Edited by Leander7777 - 1/3/14 at 2:01pm