Sonomax PCS-250 Sculpted eers Fit and Use
The search for the perfect headphones for you will inevitably lead you across earbuds. There are many different earphone solutions out there but, to many, the best will always be the sculpted ones. These are earbuds that are designed to fit perfectly in your ears. Traditionally, this is done by having a mold made of your ear canals, sending the mold off, and getting a perfectly designed set of earbuds just for your ears. The outlay of money was very high and not many could or would spend the money for these custom solutions.
Sonomax has released their new Sculpted eers solution. Rather than having to send off a mold, they provide, with each set of earphones, a way of custom molding the buds to your ears. We took a look at the PCS-200 earphones a few months back but, in a stunning lack of communication, we had two reviewers ask for review samples at nearly the same time. Fortunately, Sonomax had just released their new PCS-250 eers so they sent out these for this review.
Rather than go back through the fitting process, I'll refer you to the original Sonomax eers review. Basically, there is a headset you put on. You insert the earphones and press the button. The earbuds are filled with a type of silicone and mold to your ears. The earbuds are completely sealed so none of the silicone ever touches your ears (it's basically filling a bladder). In five minutes, you have perfectly formed earphones.
After I finished the molding process and waited the suggested 30 minutes for the earbuds to set, I started testing them. It took me a while to really get them working correctly. This wasn't a design flaw, per se, but because molded earbuds area a completely different animal from normal earbuds. So my initial reactions were pretty negative.
To start with, I believe I got a better mold with one of the earbuds than the other. My right ear hasn't provided as secure a fit as the left. For this reason, I urge you to really read the directions (at least three times) before you go through the molding process. Since the molding process is a one-shot deal, you want to make sure you do it right. There are no take-backs on this one.
Poor right ear fit aside, Sonomax suggests using a bit of water or water-based lubrication when installing the PCS-250 eers for use. I strongly concur. Aside from reducing the noise isolation properties, a poor fit in the ear hamstrings the bass response. While it may seem a little weird to have to wet your earbud before putting them into your ears, it will make a world of difference. At first, I eschewed this direction and unfairly judged the bass response as weak. It is far from that (more on the sonic properties of the PCS-250 eers later).
The overall fit and feel of the Sonomax PCS-250 Sculpted eers has been excellent. They are comfortable enough to wear all day and their noise isolation properties are excellent for a passive solution. I often wore just the right ear as it has the inline microphone and I had a heck of a time hearing anyone standing on my right. When installed properly, these isolated sound much better than the Sony XBA-1iP In-Ear Headphones (the Sony's are 1/3 the price in all fairness but do represent the "normal" earbud with interchangeable rubber tips) and reminded me more of the earplugs I used to wear when I worked at a glass plant.
Specifically on comfort, I found that the Sonomax PCS-250 Sculpted eers grew more comfortable (rather than less) the longer I wore them. I attributed this to the material warming up with contact. I never forgot they were inserted (I rarely believe reviewers who say that "they forgot they were wearing them"), but I never had to take them out because my ear canals were aching. Sonomax has this warning:
Your ears most likely have never worn custom-molded earphones before. Custom buds will be the most comfortable earbuds you have ever owned, but you will need to break them in, just like a new pair of shoes. For the first week, wear your earphones for only a short period and gradually extend the time. By the end of the week, you should be able to enjoy your earphones for extended periods without any discomfort.
Personally, I didn't have this problem. From day one, they felt great. I suppose this "warning" is more to make sure people give the PCS-250s a fair shake before writing in to complain. Not a bad hedge in my opinion, considering how important correct fitting is to performance.
The PCS-250s have an over-ear hook for running the wire behind your ear. This helps secure the earphones and takes the weight off your ear (from the cord hanging down). The one time I got the wire hooked on a drawer pull as I walked through the kitchen, I pulled the cord from the phone and the earphone came out of my ear but the earhook stayed on my ear. I just about fell over backwards though. You will not have to worry about these falling out when exercising. The hooks are really great for hanging the earbuds from your collar when not in use as well; something I did often especially when only wearing one earphone.
The Sonomax PCS-250s have a non-tangle cord that I have a love/hate relationship with. Most of the non-tangle cords I've seen are wider and flat. The Sonomax solution is just as thin as a normal cord but it is stiffer and less pliable. While you can still wrap it around your hand, it doesn't really want to stay wrapped. I find that this makes the cord, in general, a pain to work with but, I have to admit, it rarely got tangled. The biggest tangle risk was the earhooks but, even then, after weeks of use, I think I found myself untangling it only once or twice. And those tangles weren't the normal bird's-nest but just a few seconds of unwrapping.
On the right earphone cord is an in-line mic with a single button control. This allows the Sonomax PCS-250s to operate most smartphones and MP3 players. I found the mic to work better than the one in the Sony XBA-1iP and my wife reported that I sounded "closer" than I did even with using the phone alone. The button control was easy to find and operate and worked well with my Samsung Galaxy Nexus.