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IEM for airplanes

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

I like my moded Stax SR001 (see avatar) but they have no noise isolation and find them in that version the most comfortable headphones I know. With that ear mold they sit just above the ear channel and stay there quite securely. I also have Vsonic GR06 IEM but that are also not very good in loud environments. My ear channel on the right is quite narrow so I have problems with the fit of many IEMs. I tried HiFiman RE400 at the The Show last weekend in Irvine and they fitted ok if I am using medium/small tips left and right but they isolation seems to be not the best. A lot others I tested have to wide bodies to fit right.

I look for good sound quality using my AK120. I can accept some compromise in bass extension but can not tolerate too bright head phones. As they will be for limited use I do not want to spend a lot on them.

post #2 of 10

I am no great fan of Bose, and normally wouldn't touch them with a 10-foot pole. I have plenty of good headphones--AKG, HiFiman, etc. But I have to say that the noise cancelling of the Bose QuietComfort 20 in-ears is a wonder to behold. Sound quality isn't fantastic, but passable. And nothing beats the ability to reduce airplane noise by about 80%--even if you don't listen to music. I never travel without them. Before I get flamed, please note that I accept the fact that these do not produce stellar quality music, but who needs stellar on a plane? I would rather have a little peace, filled with music.

post #3 of 10

Have you considered custom IEMs? With your narrow ear canal and need for isolation, you seem like an ideal candidate for CIEMs.


Realistically, CIEMs provide distinct ergonomic and isolation advantages over universal fit IEMs when it comes to air travel. They isolate very well, and remain comfortable over long periods of time (e.g. sitting on an airplane). Silicone CIEMs are extremely comfortable and isolate well.


However, they do take time to order and requires an audiologist visit. Entry-level CIEMs don't cost exorbitant amounts of money, though.

post #4 of 10
My air travel iem is Etymotic hf5. It is very small which means no problem with fitting into ear canal with the right tips. I use small Shure olives. I don't have experience with ciems yet (I have two ordered), but I heard opinions that Etymotic provides better isolation.
From my all earphones, hf5 provides the best isolation and I have two other active noise canceling headphones (Senn pxc300 and mm450x), but I don't know how they compare to Bose.
Depending on your budget you can also check er4 which provides similar isolation but better overall sound quality.
post #5 of 10

+1 for Bose QC 20 for flying - Not perfect sound by any means BUT the NC and convenience more than make up for it when you're flying. Most comfortable iem anywhere and you can use the "aware mode" switch instead of having to take out your iem's to hear flight attendant, etc. Finally, they do a good job of just making things quiet if you don't want to listen to anything at all.

post #6 of 10

I've got shure 535 and they do sound stunning. Highly recommended

post #7 of 10

You really can't compare the QC 20's active NC to an isolating iem. Ex. the Shure 535's - Had them (535's) and sound is excellent but they just don't stack up in terms of eliminating noise. If you can just demo the QC's - you won't believe the NC. If you're anywhere near a Bose store or online, they have a bullet proof 30 day money back guarantee. Not trying to sell anyone on these as far as pure sound quality is concerned but for air travel they are ideal.

post #8 of 10

I use the Westone 3's with the long Comply tips for the best isolation.  The heavier bass of the Westone 3's helps to drown out the droning of the engines.  If ear canal size is an issue, I recommend something that has heavy bass and try the narrow, long Comply tips.


I have the Bose QC2's, but found the passive isolation of the Comply tips to be superior.  Of course, the Bose QC20's are probably better than the QC2, but the portability factor plays large when you consider $50 per bag to check luggage.  

post #9 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the replies. I did not think of noise canceling phones. As the Bose seem not to penetrate far into the ear channel they might work for me. As I would not use them much their price is somewhat on the high side (as are the Shure 535).

I also looked at the measurements on Innerfidelity website and the best isolation is for Etymotic models (but no data on HF5).  

Bose Quite comfort in active mode - 25dB above 100hz

Etymotic ER4PT at least -30dB

Shure 535 -30dB but between 100-250Hz only -15-20dB

Hifiman IE400 -20dB

almost IEM (except my Stax) have good isolation above1-2 kHz



post #10 of 10

Etymotic HF5 isolation is rated the same as ER4.  HF2 and HF3 is the same earphone as HF5, but with different cable (mic+remote).

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