One of the big problems with off-the-shelf earbuds is that they never fit quite right. Either they don’t get a good seal to block out ambient noise, or they feel like they are pushing out on your ears.
But luckily there are several startups working to get you custom-moulded earbuds in a convenient fashion.
The traditional process of getting custom earbuds requires going to an audiologist, getting a fitting, and then waiting weeks. And it costs hundreds of dollars.
Startup Uvero is trying to cut down that time using a proprietary digital scanner and a process designed around the work of MIT mechanical engineering professor, Douglas Hart. I got to test it out and the entire scanning time took about 10 minutes.
Uvero isn’t the only startup hoping to break open this market with new technology. Instead of scanning, another startup named Revols has developed a custom moulding process for earbuds, which takes about 60 seconds and works by connecting to your smartphone. Those earbuds have yet to hit the market, however.
The consumer process at Uvero is up and running. Right now, Uvero offers two products: a pair of custom earbuds for $269, and custom tips for Apple earbuds and Bose SoundSport, and others, for $99.
This is what my experience was like getting fitted for custom earbuds:
First I stepped up to the testing station. Uvero has a store in Burlington, Massachusetts, but travels to different destinations (I caught up with them in Austin). The company plans to open more permanent stores, and is exploring licensing its scanners.
Before I got scanned, I had to have my ears briefly checked to make sure I didn't have an excessive amount of wax.
This is Uvero's proprietary scanner. The balloon tip inflates after it is placed in your ear. While I was being scanned, I felt a bit of pressure in my ear, but it didn't hurt at all.
Uvero then turns your scan into a silicon tip that is meant to fit perfectly in your ear. That process takes 3-5 business days.
When I got my Uveros in the mail, I was excited to try them, since I always find the fit of earbuds to be less than ideal (maybe I just have sensitive ears).
The speaker appears like it could be completely detached from the tips, which makes sense given that Uvero sells a product that's just a custom tip as well.
It took me a few seconds to get the hang of putting them in, but once I got them into place they fit flawlessly.
If you've never tried custom earbuds, the difference is incredible. It naturally blocks out most sound without any discomfort.
The sound quality of the earbuds themselves was not exceptional. Though the sound was crisp, and the lack of ambient sound helped, it left something to be desired in the bass area. If you are an audiophile, these are not the best-sounding headphones you can get for ~$250. Their value comes from comfort.
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