how tight should an iem seal be?
Jan 8, 2008 at 3:09 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 16


New Head-Fier
Jul 17, 2002
I'm a new IEM user and just got a pair of's. How silent should the outside world be with no music playing? I can still hear things that you're supposed to hear, like cars and airline announcements. I'd rather not, though.

Should I be shoving the phones deeper in the ear with a smaller fitting piece, or trying a larger piece at a shallower depth to fill more of the canal? Or is it just not going to happen that all outside sounds get shut out by these IEMs?

Thanks for the response. I'm already planning to buy more IEMs for comparison (as of now, cheap ones, then cheap customs) so my wallet is toast.
Jan 8, 2008 at 3:43 AM Post #2 of 16



That's how much they should block out sound.
Jan 8, 2008 at 4:03 AM Post #3 of 16
It isn't going to just completely isolate you from the world without music going. The amount it shuts out varies between phones and it varies within the frequency range being heard from the outside world. Check out HeadRoom - Right Between Your Ears and check their comparison graphs. At the top theres a thing that says technical information and then product graphs, you can then choose a few headphones to look at and then choose the isolation data to compare a few models.

The short and sweet of it is that while canal phones will cut out the most sound form the surrounding environment, nothing will completely isolate you. With music, however, you will basically not be able to hear anything with certain canal phones. Ety comes to mind as a brand that, with even just a bit of music playing, the outside worlds noises practically melts away entirely.

When a correct seal is made you will hear outside sounds as more muffled, you can also tell by a sort of suction forming in your ear if you try and remove the phones. Not much, but a little suction. Depending on the phones they may have to go deeper, it would help to know which phones or at least which kind of tips. But if you get a muffling of the outside world and can get that suction going you have a good seal.
Jan 8, 2008 at 4:12 AM Post #4 of 16
Ok, I guess I have a good seal then. I definitely get the mini-suction but it doesn't stay consistently. I've been using the UE super fi 3's with either the medium tips or the biflange. I have been saving the foamies for a flight to Asia this week.
Jan 8, 2008 at 4:17 AM Post #5 of 16
Oh wow lol, I completely missed where you mentioned the phones being used. Sorry about that, I hate it when I see that happen in other threads. Umm, I don't know about the super fi 3s but with my super fi 5EBs there isn't that much isolation without music at all. Even with a good seal it just does not do much to really isolate. As an aside I can't get a seal in my right ear to save my life, lol.

With music you should notice some decent isolation though correct? Also it would be allright to try out the foamies to see if you liked them before hand. Despite the guide saying they should be thrown out and the silicone tips should be washed after every use they are not that delicate. Though with my foamies the plastic bit in the center came off from the foam, the glue just didnt hold it.
Jan 8, 2008 at 4:33 AM Post #6 of 16
Every IEM i've tried does not block sound completely when music is not on. Generally, you'll just hear softer versions of everything outside which is about right considering the approximately 26 DBs of seal that earphones claim. While music is playing, you will probably hear very little to no outside sound unless the track is very soft. Of course, on a plane, bus, or metro, you're still going to hear some outside rumbling, but it should be very bearable and a HUGE improvement over no isolation.

As for fit, there's no need to be that conservative about using your foamies. With good care, they'll easily last a month or two. I wouldn't recommend washing them too often as that tends to kill it quicker. Oh, and try ALL the tips to make sure you've got the best fit.
Jan 8, 2008 at 6:48 AM Post #7 of 16

Originally Posted by Leland /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Ok, I guess I have a good seal then. I definitely get the mini-suction but it doesn't stay consistently. I've been using the UE super fi 3's with either the medium tips or the biflange. I have been saving the foamies for a flight to Asia this week.

having trouble keeping a seal? Look up the flip-flop mod for UEs.
Jan 8, 2008 at 6:54 AM Post #8 of 16
When ppl around u in a reasonably quiet environment talk and u can't understand what they are saying, only murmurs. And when u bite, u get a big echo.
Jan 8, 2008 at 7:05 AM Post #9 of 16
Thanks for the replies - I think I had some fantasy expectations
Or maybe wasn't prepared for 5 screaming babies and a rocky flight on my first voyage using IEMs.

So yes, with music I do get a decent seal and isolation that is good but definitely doesn't block out the engine hum of a plane or rumble of a bus. I ordered some foamies that fit Shures and I might see if I can make those fit, too.

Good to know that the OEM ones will last a while, too.
Jan 8, 2008 at 7:06 AM Post #10 of 16
Also, I've tried the flip flop mod, but seems hard to get a good seal. Perhaps I'm not doing it quite right, but I'm definitely getting chewing/swallowing feedback so I'm there. Just wasn't as much isolation as I was expecting OR I was surrounded by some really loud people.
Jan 8, 2008 at 7:24 AM Post #11 of 16
If you want supreme isolation, the Etymotic IEMs are the ones to try. I used to have a set of the Er-6i that eliminated all noise on airplanes, no problem. My Shures are not nearly that isolating, sometimes it can be frustrating.
Aug 19, 2010 at 10:30 PM Post #12 of 16
On the flip side to this question, how do you know if its too tight?  I hear my gf take out her JVC FX500's and i hear an actual pop from her ears when she takes them out (as if someone was whispering "pop" next to you).  Is that too much?  I'm worried about her eardrums...
Aug 19, 2010 at 10:33 PM Post #13 of 16
but not too tight.  N'aw'Mean?

Aug 19, 2010 at 10:42 PM Post #14 of 16
Etymotic and Klipsch are the best isolating IEMs.  Nothing you can do will block out bone conduction since sound waves travel along your jaw bone for example.  
Aug 19, 2010 at 11:28 PM Post #15 of 16
Sensaphonics seal test:
Also it's not the earphone that blocks out noise (unless it's open ported like the JVC FX500 / FX700 = detrimental to isolation but increases bass reproduction), it's the eartips. e.g. Shure Olives, Monster SuperTips [ovepriced to the max if you don't buy an Monster IEM and want to buy them separately), Etymotic tips, foam eartips, Comply eartips are all known to be great for isolation. Experiment with all the bundled tips that your 3 includes and use the ones that fit your ears the best. your ears via heat will mold around them.

Users who are viewing this thread