Tired of losing an AirPod any time you break into a sprint for the bus? Frustrated that the design of Apple's AirPods Pro doesn't give you as much sound isolation as you'd like, to the point that their inherent leakiness affects their efficacy as some of the best noise-cancelling earbuds around?
You're not alone – and there is help.
Meet Avery, a US company that makes customized buds to simply slip over your earbuds' driver housing, thus transforming and personalizing the fit, security, fidelity and isolation from Apple's AirPods lineup.
And that's not all! The bud specialist can provide the same solution tailored to Apple's Beats-branded offering, Audio-Technica, Bose, your Sony WF-1000XM4 true wireless earbuds, Jaybird, Dr. Dre, Klipsch, Jabra, Skullcandy… virtually any in-ear headphone is (literally) covered and on the menu.
How does it work?
For the uninitiated, (don't feel bad, we hadn't heard of the company until today either) Avery has actually been in the business of providing quality custom molded earpieces for over 35 years, initially for airline pilots and now, for the rest of us too!
It goes like this: after you place an order (there's a drop-down menu asking you to confirm the earphone you currently own and color preference – you can even add glitter) Avery sends you a home impression kit. You can also choose to get deep impressions from an audiologist for high fidelity monitors and aviation headsets. Then, simply send your impressions back and Avery produces an earpiece custom-made to fit both your ear and your in-ear headphones.
When properly fitted (and Avery guarantees the fit – if you don't like them, the earpiece can be remade for free) your old headphones will feel more comfortable, secure and with vastly improved sound isolation.
Avery explains that the custom earpieces will hold your buds securely and comfortably in the ear without any additional loops or hooks over the top of the ear. The earpieces will substantially increase caller volume and block more ambient noise, too, thus allowing you to listen at lower volumes and save on battery life.
Opinion: a lifeline for those with smaller (or larger) ears – but there's always a catch
As someone afflicted with smaller ears, I know full well the sonic gains to be had from achieving a decent (and pain-free) seal between ear canal and earbud. And furthermore, I know that the three sets of S/M/L tips that tend to come with most earbuds simply don't do that.
I get emails from readers who have the opposite problem to me. These music lovers sometimes find Apple's AirPods (and other earbud designs) so loose that they actually leak sound to the point that listening in crowded environments, irrespective of noise-cancellation profiles, is a pointless endeavour.
And that is a shame, particularly when Apple's top-tier AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro are the only Apple in-ears able to grant you access to Apple Music's ground-breaking Spatial Audio with head-tracking from an Apple device – aka immersive Dolby Atmos processing plus directional audio filters that change what each ear hears as you move.
And I think any chance to improve on this mind-blowing experience should be grabbed with both hands.
But there's a catch. Avery explains that when the custom earpieces are slipped over your AirPods Pro, for example, they may need to be turned on and off manually from your iPhone and the "automatic ear detection" setting disabled. This is because the sensors will be covered by the earpieces, thus rendering your expensive and highly-featured earbuds slightly less, er, nifty.
Then, there's the practical consideration, because you'll need to remove those custom tips each time you want to fit your earbuds in their charging case – try doing that with one hand while running for the bus.
Finally, there's the topic of coin. The trade-off for earbuds that will sound better and can be enjoyed at lower volumes if customized to your ear shape isn't just a few wearer-detection and fast-pair features. These earbud tips cost $163 (around £134 or AU$234) so they're hardly a budget upgrade.
Now, Avery will even make customized buds for your $30 Apple EarPods and, while I still maintain that EarPods are better than AirPods for several reasons, I do not think that augmenting Apple's inexpensive EarPod drivers with tips that cost over five times as much as the headphones themselves is a cost-effective solution.
The problem you need to be presenting is a product much further up the food chain – Bose QuietComfort Earbuds (pictured above) or Bang & Olufsen's Beoplay E8, say – which doesn't fit as well as you'd like despite its sonic brilliance.
Here, Avery's solutions can change your relationship with music and headphones. And that is not something I state lightly.