If you have been to a concert in the last few years, you will have noticed that the musicians are often wearing form fitted earphones. This affords the musician the ability to control exactly the volume they need to hear from the rest of the band, while suppressing the ambient sound emanating from the monitors and the house PA system.
I was finally able to experience the attraction with a pair of custom fitted Etymotic ER4PT. I was directed to an audiologist, who took an impression of my ears. First I needed to get my nasty wax buildup removed. A silicone compound was then injected in each ear and once it quickly hardened the process was complete. She shipped the molds to Etymotic, and within a short time I received my earphones.
Custom earphones are slightly different in terms of getting them to fit. Rather than merely jamming buds into your ear, a bit more effort is needed to pull your earlobe and work the earphone toward your ear canal to ensure a tight fit. The soft plastic obviously fits perfectly once seated.
In going through my usual workout routine in the gym I had a far more immersive experience with the sound. The stereo separation was remarkable. The bass response was solid but not overbearing. The highs were crisp but not shrill. Because the custom earpieces are larger than traditional earbuds it takes some getting used to, but the result is worth it.
The goal for any earphone (or audio speaker for that matter) is to disappear, such that there is next to nothing between you and the music. In this case, the form fitted earpiece diminishes ambient noise (without the active noise suppression made famous by Bose with full over the ear headphones), but there remains a sense of the earpiece being physically present. This sensation contracts in short order.
Etymotic estimates a 30 dB reduction in sound, which is the attraction for musicians and audiophiles.
Although I have noticed the crystal clear molds are getting a bit yellowed with use, Etymotic says gentle washing with soap and water will restore the colorless molds.
For audiophiles or anyone aspiring to become an audiophile, the Etymotic custom earphones are a wise investment.