Custom Ear Molds for IEMs

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  1. Takeanidea
    Let's face it; many IEMs are let down by the fit. Why there are so many different styles out there when an oval shaped design will fit comfortably in most ears? I am interested in how others have found solutions to this  problem. I have tried ACS years ago. I got a voucher for a custom ear sleeve. The problems I had getting an audiologist to take an impression of my ears could take up an entire thread. I made my own impressions and sent them to ACS. I wanted an IE800 Sleeve, which they said they could do. They sent me a sleeve which fitted perfectly in my ears. Unfortunately it didn't fit my IEM. They had made a sleeve for an IE80. I eventually ended up with sleeves for Westone UM2s. ACS UK have pulled out of the custom earsleeve market.
    Snugs have taken that gap on. I worked with them for several months last year. We tried to get the earsleeves they were offering to an audiophile standard. The criteria was the sleeves had to sound as good or better than the tips they would be replacing. As nice as the sleeves looked and as comfortable as they fitted I could not get the sound quality I was getting with the standard tips. The depth of insertion was too shallow or the aperture for the IEM was a fraction out or the bore was too short. Despite everything, the only ones I was happy with were made for the Flare R2 Pro Titaniums. Their shape makes it fairly easy to get a decent sleeve design. I gave up on the project. I was being used as a guinea pig and was getting no benefits from the relationship. In fact, I had ordered 3 sleeves so had several hundred pounds tied up in the company, much of which I have lost to sleeves that I don't use.
    I have thought for a long time there must be a solution to the problem of decent universals that have a poor fit or poor isolation. Ideally, I would like to use the tips supplied for the IEMs and mould a shape around the earphone itself to create a good seal and keep the existing sound quality. I think I've found something.
    K3003Tips.jpg

    These are adapted from a Decibullz Contour Earphone Replacement Mold Kit. It looks as if they have stopped making them, which would be a great shame. I have molded them myself. It was a safe process. You heat the mold in boiling water for 5 minutes, take the mold out with a spoon, cool it on a lint free cloth or towel and with it warm and pliable put it into your ear. You have 90 seconds to 2 minutes to sculpt the mold to the shape of your ear. After that it starts to set. When set take the mold out. You have a custom.
    K3003Tip2.jpg

    Of course, as always, it's not quite as simple as it sounds. The kit comes with an aperture with a plastic ring in it for the Decibullz earphone to slide into. That has to be taken out first. Next was the problem of keeping my existing tips and their insertion depth. This will involve a certain level of skill or luck. I have made 50 or so ear impressions or ear molds myself from various kits on the market so I have some experience with this. The molds you are looking at are not a perfect finish despite me being confident with what I needed to do.
    K3003Tip3.jpg

    The solution to the insertion depth and usage of the original tips. I put the earphones in and pushed them in with my music playing. I pushed them in to the usual depth and whilst keeping a fingertip of pressure on them and with my jaw open I pushed the material into my ear and over and around the earphone.You can see the folds and kinks in the finish. It can be done much better.
    K3003Tip4.jpg
    Even with the amateur finish these molds fit the contours of my ear better than the ACS Encore Studio Pro Customs. For those, professional ear impressions done by Andy Rioch, the owner and founder of ACS. The ACS service was fantastic, the whole process was done in under a month from visiting the HQ for the impressions to receiving them in the post. These took me 15 minutes. The CIEMs are not transferable. If you want to sell them you will lose a fortune. The buyer would have to find someone prepared to cut them down and make them into customs that would fit that person's ears. That will cost the buyer a considerable amount of money.
    The advantage of these molds is that they are removable without any chance of damaging the IEMs. You can use a hot airdryer and they will give enough to remove the molds.
    But- here's the beauty of these- they can be used again and again. If you don't get the finish you want or the sound has changed for the worse you are not stuck with it. These are remoldable. You put them back in boiling water and they are good as new.
    I do not wish to get into a trolling war with people that aren't happy putting stuff into their ears. I am perfectly happy for those who feel this is not a safe practice to ignore this thread. If you are in any doubt whatsoever about making your own earmolds don't do it. There are risks involved; the worst case scenario would be a trip to the ED to remove earmold solution that is stuck down your ear canal and has set, thus making you deaf in that ear. The risks are there. The risks are the same for anyone using an earmold kit. 100s of earmold kits are on the market. They are purchased by motorcyclists, swimmers, surfers, workers using heavy machinery, gun enthusiasts, even people looking for a good nights' sleep. Millions of people are using ear molds they have made themselves. It could be your opinion that the whole market is flawed and reckless. I do understand your concerns.
    Please bear in mind one thing...when we have Customs made , we are at the mercy of an Audiologist we most probably have never met. That Audiologist is often someone who makes shallow impressions for hearing aids. Hearing Aids are a far bigger market than customs. Audiologists are of course qualified whereas I am not. I have had 4 ear impressions done professionally. 1 digital one was a waste of time because the impression was too shallow. The other 3 hurt whilst they were being done. There will only be one person putting stuff in my ear from now on and that's me. Others will have had much better experiences than me and hopefully we can hear from them. This is based on my journey alone.
    I'm hoping I can find out what the rest of you DIYers have been up to
     
    sonickarma likes this.
  2. JohnRS
    I have a pair of custom tips from PureTone in the UK. £95 including ear moulds done by an audiologist. The puretone site lists audiologist and they're basically hearing centres, which are everywhere. The moulding took 10 minutes, they sent them off with my IEM'S (IE80's) with an order form, specifying colour, material etc. and 4 weeks later they arrived. Ie80s moulded in place and a perfect fit.
    As for my experience getting moulded, it didn't hurt at all. It felt weird but the audiologist explained this beforehand. The best I can describe it as is like when your ears pop on a plane, the sort of pressure before the pop.
    Here's the finished product.
    20170108_193758.jpg

    The IEM'S come out relatively easily. I plan on upgrading to IE800's in the future so I plan on using Sugru to mould the 800 into the 80 space with the Sugru, which is malleable putty that sets to rubber and should bond to the mould.
    Overall I'm more than happy with the moulds. Isolation is great, comfort is on another level to anything else I've tried.
     
  3. Takeanidea
    Thanks John,
    appreciate your input. You're the only one so far. I have had colds done for me and I've done them myself. Yours were £95.
    My point is that I spent £10, didn't need to invest any further time going anywhere or risking a mistake with the fit and got a perfect match to my ears. The tips I made I can remake for other iems. If I think I can make better ones, it'll take a kettle of boiling water and 10 minutes of my time.
    I like your idea with the Sugru - as you have the ear canal bit right you might be able to remold the outer piece to fit the shells of the IE800. 
     
  4. JohnRS
    No problem. I did look into self moulding but wasn't sure how I'd get the canal moulded or how deep to go. I tried sugru inside a tip, from a tutorial on indestructibles but that didn't work. As it turns out my canals are a weird shape, they go in as normal but then up, whereas most people's just go in. The audiologist said this is likely the reason I couldn't get a decent fit with normal tips.
     
  5. Takeanidea
    Moulding into the ear canal is a trickier thing than I've done. There is no problem if the mold material has been prepared correctly and the pressure you apply is not excessive. I believe the quality of the tips against the contours of your ear canal are an important factor in getting the best sound quality. I shall try molding to my ear canal and see if I can somehow keep the tips on to quality control the sq. The decibullz are said to be a great fit but bass light and I'm sure that is to do with how deep the impressions into the ear canal are and the acoustic properties of the material being used.
     
  6. Takeanidea
    I see you are interested in sugru- I have discovered that the decibullz are made from a thermoplastic compound. That is what is remoldable and heated using a kettle. I've got 500g coming which should be enough for all my earphone problems
     
  7. Takeanidea
    IMG_20170226_114502956.jpg
     
    IMG_20170226_114522158.jpg

    Earpods now customs - made by me for someone else - awaiting further cosmetic adjustments but working perfectly
     
  8. Slater
     
    Where did you get the 500gr of material?
     
  9. Takeanidea
  10. Slater
    Great, thanks.
     
    Multimorph isn't available in the US, but there's an equivalent thermoplastic called Instamold that appears to be the same thing.
     
  11. Takeanidea
    That'll be fine.
    When you put the granules into your bowl they should collect together and then you can press them into a shape. Provided that it starts to cool rapidly it's perfectly safe to use
     
  12. Slater
     
    Great, thanks for the tips.
     
    In your experience, how much have you let it cool down before sticking it into your ears to harden?
     
    Also, how comfortable is the finished product, and how good of a seal do you get? The only types of custom IEMs I've made involved mounting some KZ ED9 in some Radians Silicone Putty Earplugs. The seal isn't perfect (so it doesn't provide the killer bass the ED9 is known for), but they're comfortable to wear for extended periods and the sound is good enough for jogging or working out. Plus they don't fall out when chewing gum, eating, drinking, etc.
     
    LL1.jpg LL2.jpg LL.jpg
     
  13. Takeanidea
    It needs to be cool enough that you can hold it in the palm of your hand. Your IEM is too far away from your ear canal. Use the existing tips . Mould a template around the shell - there will be enough time to do this - and then put them in your ears and start to shape them. Put them under the spout of a boiling kettle to further refine the shape. I strongly believe that the lack of bass is due to the tip being formed by the mouldable material not being as effective as the tips they have been designed for. Only practice will get the fit right and the sound right. Once you have that right just think - that fit will be locked in and there'll be no more trial and error with using them as a universal
     
  14. Takeanidea
    The seal is phenomenal, and the comfort is first class. I smooth and smooth and smooth them down using a boiled kettle and making minute adjustments which will have no bearing on the fit. I push the tips around once I think I've got them correct. If I hear a change (for the better) in the sound when I push them in or out of my ear canal then of course I adjust the moulds again under a kettle
     
  15. Slater
     
    And you've never had any issues with the earbuds themselves being exposed to all of the steam from the kettle?
     
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