Photo by Matt Satorius
Over the last couple years I’ve had a lot of guys ask about the Live Wires a lot of us had made, and the truth is that I never got a good seal on mine so it’s hard for me to comment on the actual quality of them. But a lot of our musicians and audio guys are still using theirs so there you have it. In the time since we Live Wires was here, the company has split into a couple of different companies, but I don’t know their names these days.
Aside from the personal earbuds that some of our musicians and audio guys bring in, we still keep universal earbuds from Shure on hand. The nice thing about the Shure’s is that you can actually still get custom sleeves made by Sensaphonics which seemed like a good idea for me since a lot of our band are using the Shures. So while I was at Gurus in Chicago, I took advantage of the fact that Michael Santucci, founder of Sensaphonics, was on hand to get some new impressions done.
It took just over a week’s time to get my new sleeves for my Shure SE425’s. The sleeves were pretty easy to put on my 425’s. They can be removed fairly easily, although I’m not sure it’s something I’d want to do on a regular basis without care because they do fit snuggly on the 425’s, and I know we’ve had issues with guys snapping off the nozzles from 425’s in the past while removing Shure’s standard universal sleeves.
The new sleeves were very easy to insert into my ears, unlike the Live Wires I had. The silicone that Sensaphonics uses is much more comfortable and also more forgiving when inserting into your ears. Plus I get a great seal which has actually resulted in the 425’s sounding a little bit darker when listening to an iPod than I remember them when using the universal sleeves. I mixed monitors for a rehearsal this week, and the darker side I was hearing with the iPod didn’t seem to be a problem. The isolation also seems much improved over the stock sleeves to the point where I can’t hear anyone talking to me without completely pulling an ear. As an alternative to fully custom in-ears–which Sensaphonics also makes–the Shure/Sensaphonics sleeve combo seems like a win for me. If I did more monitor mixing, I would bite the bullet and get a pair of their custom in-ears, but for the time being these will suffice.
In addition to the custom sleeves, I also ordered a Sensaphonics dB Checker. This is a device that you can place between your earbuds and an IEM pack or iPod or whatever you plug your earbuds into. The device will then give you a dB reading that corresponds with what you’re injecting into your ears. The dB Checker measures an LEQ over a period of time you can set, and then it gives you the NIOSH and OSHA recommendations for how much daily exposure you can have at that sound level. The dB Checker works with Sensaphonics own in-ears as well as the latest Shure universal earbuds. It seemed like a great tool for our musicians and volunteers to have access to to help ensure they are listening at safe levels. I gave it a test drive with my 425’s and was happy to find my preferred listening level to be in the low to mid-80’s which incidentally is also right around where I mix in the studio.
So if you’re looking for something more than a generic in-ear, but you’re not quite ready to jump into the world of full-on custom earbuds, I would suggest you take a look at what Sensaphonics has to offer.