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Sonomax PCS-250 Sculpted eers Headphones Review

by May 13, 2012
Sonomax PCS-250 Sculpted eers Headphones

Sonomax PCS-250 Sculpted eers Headphones

  • Product Name: PCS-250 Sculpted eers Headphones
  • Manufacturer: Sonomax
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStar
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStar
  • Review Date: May 13, 2012 20:40
  • MSRP: $ 299.99
Typical nominal impedance
32 ohms
103 dB SPL /100 mVrms @1 kHz
Maximum output level
115 dB SPL
Frequency Response
18 Hz - 16 kHz
1.3 m (50 in.) kink-resistant
3.5mm (1/8'') gold-plated stereo jack
Typical Weight
Approx. 15 g (0.53 oz)


  • Sound quality
  • Great for both gym and critical listening
  • Non-fatiguing
  • Comfortable
  • Molded earphones are COOL!


  • Molded earphones means you can't share them with others
  • Finicky fit for optimal performance
  • Average imaging


Sonomax PCS-250 Sound Quality

PSC-250_bothOf course, next after comfort when considering earbuds is sound quality. The Sonomax PCS-250s are spec'ed from 18Hz to 16kHz. They have two drivers in each earbud and a crossover to balance out the frequency response. I first used Rives Audio Test CD 2 to try out the frequency response claims. I found that the 16kHz claim was accurate. The 20Hz tone came through nice and clear as did the 25Hz tone.

In playback situations, I found that, as I mentioned, having thePCS -250 Sculpted eers correctly inserted was imperative to achieving good performance. When listening to Junior B on the eye album by Yello, having the PSC-250s correctly placed was the difference between great bass and no bass. It was that dramatic. In fact, you can pretty much kiss any sort of decent sound quality goodbye if the eers are not firmly inserted. If there was a break in the seal, much of the high end and all of the bass would leak out. With them correctly inserted, the Sonomax PSC-250 Sculpted eers bass sounded as good, if not better, than my Denon AH-D1000 headphones.

A/B testing in-ear molded headphones like the Sonomax PCS-250s is an exercise in frustration. You can go from the Sonomax to separate headphones but going back again just isn't feasible. I tested them with the Denon AH-D1000 headphones which, when reviewed, retailed for about 1/2 the price of the PCS-250s. Of course, the thing to remember is that they are completely different animals with different uses. I'd never consider taking the Denon's to the gym.

PSC-250_left     PSC-250_right

That said, the overall presentation of the Sonomax PCS-250s was mush more lush (I hate that I just used that word, but it fits) than the Denons. The Denons sounded like they were more reserved overall with the Sonomax eers provided a much fuller midrange and an overall richer sound. Now it may be that the Sonomax had a more pronounced response through the midrange (I found Maggie Reilly's vocals on "Close Your Eyes" to be particularly forward and intense in comparison with the Denon's which sounded like she was singing at me from the back wall of a concert hall). Both headphones, to me, sounded very good though the Sonomax were definitely a step above the Denon's. While I've long loved the Denon's, the eers just sounded much fuller and more engaging. The overall presentation was more dynamic and, dare I say it, dramatic than the Denon's, which sounded much more sterile in comparison.

PSC-250_crossoverUnlike other, cheaper, earbuds, I didn't find the Sonomax PCS-250s to be fatiguing in the least. The top end was very clear and not at all shrill. Even at high volumes, the Sculpted eers headphones were a joy. Demanding material like "Planet Dada" from Yello with tons of electronic pops and clicks didn't become fatiguing or painful in their presentation (or, at least, not any more so that the artist intended). Even lower quality MP3s sounded fine, probably due to a bit of a roll-off on the top end. This really means that the eers are great all-around headphones for all sorts of music and file compression types.

The only downside to the overall excellent sound quality was the need for the perfect fit. After a while of wearing them, I didn't have much to worry about but, at first, it took a while for the eers to "warm up" and fit right in my ear. And even then, if I turned my head in a certain way (and looked up for some reason), they tended to loosen up and I would start to lose bass. Usually, once I turned back forward, they'd re-seat but sometimes I'd have to push on them to get them back in. Now, this may be a problem with the original molding or it may be just the way molded earbuds are. Either way, it was a minor annoyance.

I ended up taking the Sonomax PCS-250 Sculpted eers to the climbing gym to try them out in a loud, noisy, and, admittedly, smelly environment. I would rarely recommend climbing with headphones in but I wanted to see how they would work. In preparation, I wore the headphones for an hour beforehand to make sure they were warmed up. As I found in my listening tests, movement was an issue for performance. As I climbed, I could feel the eers moving around and occasionally losing that perfect fit. As I moved back, they'd re-seat and things would sound better.


But then I started to really think about he use of the eers. Would I consider taking any of my other headphones to the gym? Certainly not the on/over ear ones. They'd surely fall off with sudden movements not to mention the sweat factor. Even the normal earbuds that hang from your ears would be too likely to dislodge. With the earhook, I had little to worry about no matter what happened. On top of that, they sounded pretty awesome at home when I could make sure they were seated properly. So I ended up with a set of headphones that would work great in a gym (where sound quality isn't so important) plus could double as a high-end headphone for the home. Suddenly that $300 price tag was starting to make more sense.

The only disappointment on the sound quality front was the imaging. For the price increase over my reference models, the Sonomax eers didn't sound any better. I expected them to exceed my other headphones on every category. Here, they just tied.


I only really have two suggestions for Sonomax. I really, REALLY, wish the molded part of the earbud was separate from the driver unit. This would mean that you'd go through the molding process and then install the molds on the drivers (like a normal earbud with multiple tips). This would allow Sonomax to include more than one set of molds so that you can take another shot at molding them if you felt you made a mistake. Also, the way they are designed, the Sonomax eers are really single user earphones. While I appreciate I now have a built-in reason to tell my kids that I can't share my $300 earbuds with them, my wife would have liked to have a chance to test them out (and use them when she is working out).

The standard length of cord for any earphone seems to be 1.3 meters (50 inches). Sonomax adheres to that standard. I just wish someone would change that to something a bit longer. The cable is just long enough for me to slip the phone into my front pocket while in use but not long enough for it to be in my back (or in the side pocket on a pair of cargo pants). Surely, a few extra inches wouldn't hurt? I'm also partial to running the cable down my back (rather than hanging from my front). This keeps them out of the way when I'm cooking... I mean pumping iron. With the cable running down my back, no pocket is close enough.

Sonomax PCS-250 Sculpted eers Fit and Use

PSC-250_inboxThe 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.

PSC-250_moldedTo 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.

Sonomax PCS-250 Sculpted eers Conclusion

PSC-250_inbox2Are the Sonomax PCS-250 Sculpted eers the best earphones I've tested? Yes. By far. Of course, that's a short list right now. But even when comparing them with my full-sized Denon AH-D1000 and Audio-Technica ATH-M50 headphones, the Sonomax come out on top. They may not have the flattest frequency response, but they have a very full and rich sound and is a joy to experience. The molded earpieces means that you've got a set of earphones that are tailored just for you and, paired with the earhooks, will take an act of extreme violence to get them off your head. While the finickiness of the fit means you may not get the best performance unless you are sitting still, the fact is that these are headphone that you can take to the gym and, after, do some critical listening. If you are looking for high-end audio even when working out, check out the Sonomax PCS-250 Scultped eers. You won't be disappointed.

To hear more about the Sonomax PCS-250 Sculted eers Earphones, head over to the AV Rant Podcast for more.

Sonomax PCS-250 Sculpted eers Earphones

MSPR: $299.99



The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
Build QualityStarStarStarStar
Treble ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Treble SmoothnessStarStarStarStarStar
Midrange AccuracyStarStarStarStar
Bass ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStar
About the author:
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As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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