Listening to music on a run or during workouts is a very personal thing – and I’m not talking about my penchant for using Little Mix to psyche myself up in the weights room. Er, my friend’s penchant, that is. I’m talking about headphones.
The technology’s got to the point where you can expect excellent sound quality without breaking the bank, but what fits one person’s ear may not be right for the person sitting next to them. I’ve tested some pairs and absolutely loved them, only for colleagues to try them and find that they’re either too painful to wear or the earphones fall out when they run. Even interchangeable bud sizes can’t solve every issue.
If you’ve ever struggled to find a pair that fits your ears – or simply don’t want to spend a pile of money on something you don’t know if you’ll get on with – help is finally at hand. It comes in the shape of, well, your own earhole.
RECOMMENDED: Best Sports and Running Headphones
Snugs offers custom-fit earphones with a surprising lack of fuss. After placing an order for a pair of Snugs Wireless, I arranged an appointment with someone from the firm to come and scan my ear canal. It’s nowhere near as invasive as you might fear. The man who came simply pointed something in my ear for a couple of minutes, which created an image on a laptop. That was it.
Little more than a week later the earphones arrived.
— Ben Isaacs (@tweetsfromben) August 3, 2016
It was immediately clear they had sent me the right ones – not because I’d know my ear shape anywhere, but because they had my name printed on them in capital letters.
My first attempt to try them didn’t go well – they can be fiddly to get in, but Snugs does provide detailed instructions and even a lubricant to help get them in perfectly. If they’re not in quite right you’ll know about it: they’ll be uncomfortable and sound tinny – and that’s if they stay in.
But when they’re in, they’re in. To the point where there’s also a knack to taking them out because they’re so well lodged. Obviously this leads to excellent sound quality but also the blocking of ambient noise (Snugs also makes hearing-protecting ear defenders for industrial workers and musicians), something to bear in mind if you’re running or cycling on the street – you may not hear traffic so well.
I used to wear gel earplugs to help me sleep and I found the Snugs to be similarly satisfying when they formed a seal. They keep the sound in your ear, rather than directing it towards the person next to you on the bus, and deliver satisfying bass. Also, like my old earplugs, my ears felt a little bit weird after I’d taken them out, but this passes soon enough.
Sitting on public transport is one thing, moving around quickly is another. But the Snugs stayed in perfectly during a 5km run, even though I turned my head a lot to check traffic (I had the volume lower than I normally would so I could still hear cars). As with the best earphones, I very quickly stopped thinking about them.
The ones I tested cost £199, but everything except the custom buds on these are based on the budget MEE Audio M9B earphones, which cost around £30. The next option up in the wireless sport range costs £299 but are based on the superior Jaybird X2, which cost around £100. Obviously, having bespoke buds will improve the sound dramatically but it does raise an interesting question: are you better off with buying the buds without the earphones? Because Snugs offers that too.
If you have a pair of earphones you already love – perhaps you’ve invested in a high-end pair but want to upgrade for either audio reasons or to ensure they don’t fall out during workouts – then you can simply order some compatible buds. You’ll need to have your ear scanned like you would with the packages (unless you’re a returning customer) and supply the make and model of your existing earphones so the Snugs team can tailor the fitting. If your pair isn’t on the extensive list they’ve worked with before, you can just send them to Snugs and it will work around them. This service starts at £139.
There’s no doubt that this isn’t a cheap way to buy earphones, so you will need to decide how important this is to you – but we found the fit of the Snugs unmatched.