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Can ear canal size/shape have a HUGE impact on IEM frequency response?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

I'm beginning to suspect that my ears are significantly changing the sound signature of IEMs compared to people with "normal" ears because they sound completely different from what other people here are describing.

 

First, let me describe my ears:

I have very large ear canals and must use the L or XL tips that come with universals. The outside of my canals are a weird shape because I can only use very shallow tips; tips that are longer and more bullet-shaped (e.g. ADDIEM, Klipsche) are absolutely useless as they will NOT seal my ears under any circumstances. When getting impressions for my first customs, I also found out that the inside of my ear canals are much straighter than normal, with much less obvious bends.

 

Now on to what I'm hearing:

Most IEMs sound a LOT bassier to me than what other people are saying in their reviews. However, full-sized headphones sound LESS bassy to me than to others. For example, the bass on the Xears XE200Pro is generally described to be emphasized (but not ridiculously so) and doesn't bleed into the mids much, but to my ears the midbass was unbearably overwhelming and I could barely hear the mids at all. On the other hand, the over-ear M-Audio Q40 is considered a very bassy headphone, but to me they sound very balanced in comparison.

 

I'm starting to think that I hear full-sized headphones accurately because the sound reaches my ears in a relatively normal way, versus IEMs which essentially create sound chambers out of my ear canals, and because I have weird ears I hear IEMs weirdly.

 

Does this make any sense scientifically?

post #2 of 9

It would be interesting to know how you would get on with customs...

post #3 of 9

It makes perfect sense, and is why I always take reports of how IEMs sound with a huge grain of salt.  The reality is that your brain is used to compensating for how sound gets warped by your outer and inner ears, but when you completely bypass the former and couple the headphone entirely with the latter all bets are off.  Obviously you can make assumptions about most people's ears and build to an average set of 'em (which is what universal IEM makers do), but individual differences still impact the sound reaching our eardrums and how our brain interprets that.  One person's neutral might be another person's treble-y nightmare, even if they would have the same taste in frequency responses for speakers and circumaural headphones.

post #4 of 9

Everyone has a resonance frequency, naturally speaking.  Generally, though, it's around the 3 kHz region.  In your case, however, your ear canal is longer, which makes the resonant frequency lower.  So it can make sense that the sound you hear is tilted towards the lower-spectrum with IEMs.  May I suggest using a triple-flange ear tip?  It'll help with the resonances a bit more if you can get the proper deep seal. 

post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by krismusic View Post

It would be interesting to know how you would get on with customs...

My customs are still being made and they won't arrive for probably another month. I'm hoping the manufacturer will know how to tune them properly from my impressions and compensate for the size and shape of my canals.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sethsez View Post

It makes perfect sense, and is why I always take reports of how IEMs sound with a huge grain of salt.  The reality is that your brain is used to compensating for how sound gets warped by your outer and inner ears, but when you completely bypass the former and couple the headphone entirely with the latter all bets are off.  Obviously you can make assumptions about most people's ears and build to an average set of 'em (which is what universal IEM makers do), but individual differences still impact the sound reaching our eardrums and how our brain interprets that.  One person's neutral might be another person's treble-y nightmare, even if they would have the same taste in frequency responses for speakers and circumaural headphones.

Yeah that's what I'm thinking. I guess my ears are just statistical outliers.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tinyman392 View Post

Everyone has a resonance frequency, naturally speaking.  Generally, though, it's around the 3 kHz region.  In your case, however, your ear canal is longer, which makes the resonant frequency lower.  So it can make sense that the sound you hear is tilted towards the lower-spectrum with IEMs.  May I suggest using a triple-flange ear tip?  It'll help with the resonances a bit more if you can get the proper deep seal. 

I tried triple-flange tips but the third (largest) tip wasn't big enough to get any seal at all, and as I mentioned longer tips don't really work. I have a very pronounced bend just inside the mouth of my ear canal but it's much straighter than normal as you go deeper in.

post #6 of 9

Different seals give different sound bro

post #7 of 9

Well if you get a good seal with iems, you'll definitely have more bass presence. You can't trust what other people hear regarding various products, especially if it's different people reviewing different phones; it's a complete random walk. You may have been mislead by trusting other people's ears; it's definitely possible.

 

If you're very confused and want the best answer; you should visit an audiologist and get them to measure your hearing's frequency response. They'll give you a graph showing exactly how your ears measure, and let you know where your hearing deviates from the general if it's the case.

post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 

It's not that my hearing is different from everyone else's in an absolute sense. It's just that IEMs sound way bassier to me than to everyone else, but over-ear headphones sound less bassy to me than to other people.

post #9 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by blueangel2323 View Post

It's not that my hearing is different from everyone else's in an absolute sense. It's just that IEMs sound way bassier to me than to everyone else, but over-ear headphones sound less bassy to me than to other people.


Well, the point is that this might mean your hearing deviates from everyone else to some degree.  Hearing is based on multiple parts of the ear picking up and shaping the sound, and the brain interpreting the sound.  When you skip any part of that, the effect will differ from person to person.  Two people with identical ear canals but wildly different outer ears will still hear an IEM differently because the outer ear has played a part in the development of what their brain considers "neutral."  Since this only comes up with headphones and earphones, however, it's a non-issue the vast majority of the time, so yeah, you hear the same as everyone else with everything else.

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