Travel Tip of the Day: Sound Isolating Earphones

I am doing a lot of flying over my holidays, and I got tired of trying to hear my iPod over the roar of airplane engines, crying babies and snoring neighbours.

Trying to find a solution, I first thought of sound canceling technology as a solution, but several things made this unattractive:

  1. Good noise canceling headphones are REALLY expensive ($300+)
  2. They need batteries, which means one MORE thing to keep charged
  3. They tend to be really bulky, especially the over-ear models
  4. You look like a goob wearing them

I looked into alternatives, and only one really stood out: Sound Isolating Earphones.

These earphones basically combine an ear-plug with a tiny speaker that is purpose-built to drive good quality sound within a pressure vessel created by the earplug/ear-canal/eardrum combo. I went to a recommended brand called Shure who has experience making professional monitors for musicians.

Sure Earphones

I opted for these Shure SE210 Earphones which provide sound that I am really impressed with!! They also do a great job of blocking out noise. I managed to snag them for $175 CDN before tax. They came with all sorts of adapters (5 different types) to make a good fit with your ears.

One thing I noticed was that I was playing my iPod at about 1/2 the volume that I ususally would. I suspect that this will provide long-term benefits to my hearing, but I am not sure if this is just indicative of a more efficient energy transfer because of the design. I do think that I am actually listening to the music much quieter now that the background noise is so reduced.

I also find myself enjoying my music collection in much the same manner as when I buy a new stereo for home or car. I want to hear how all my favourite tracks sound on the new equipment! I start noticing all sorts of details that I never did before.

While I am sold on this method of enjoying my music in noisy environments, there are some potential drawbacks:

  1. These are basically earplugs, so if you are jogging or in other situations where you need to hear for sake of your safely, you should avoid!
  2. Some people may find the in-ear style of earphones uncomfortable. I was definitely one of these people, having given up on the Apple in-ear earbuds and others, but found these quite comfortable.
  3. Some people experience wax buildup when using this style of headphone, and regardless, you certainly will become acquainted with the status of your aural hygiene.
  4. Bass response tends to be bad with in ear models. If you want good bass response you may have to splurge for more expensive models like the Shure SE310.
  5. You can’t impress your neighbour with your impeccable musical taste, as these units are pretty much noiseless to anyone who isn’t wearing them.

Note: Since I wrote this post I have since purchased Shure’s SE530 model and you can see the review HERE.

5 Responses

  1. Great tip, thanks! I’d given up on headphones in airplanes; even at top volume they don’t cover up the engine sounds, and they probably do terrible damage in that case.

    Of course, I COULD just entertain myself by paying attention to that kid who’s kicking the back of my seat, or by the drunk rubes on the way to Las Vegas…

  2. Interesting……

  3. […] To get the music out over the din, they play the music LOUD!  Today I was using a pair of sound isolating earphones, and I still couldn’t keep the cursed music out of my […]

  4. well this is useful… (at least for me)

    very thanks

    travel directory

  5. […] Bashford During my Asian vacation, I purchased a pair of SE210 sound isolating earphones which I reviewed for the purposes of air […]

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