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Not Your Ordinary Earphones


May 21, 2015

Ready for another exciting installment of my blog about audio technology? No doubt you are perched on the edge of your seat. (Ha!)

Great sound requires a great seal. Great sound requires a great seal. Today I want to tell you about something new from Puro Sound Labs: the IEM500, the first in-ear monitors in our product line. Why would the “healthy ears” audio company come out with a product like this? The general thinking is that earphones are not good for you, and I agree that bad earphones can be very bad for hearing. Whenever you have high decibel levels right next to your eardrums, you’re damaging your hearing. But ours are different. Our earphones sound so good that you don’t need excessive volume to hear every nuanced sound.

Here’s how:

The problem with earphones is that the ear canal messes with frequency responses and you end up with a huge lump of mid-bass energy in the 200 – 500 Hz range. This big lump of muddy bass energy obliterates the higher frequency range where speech and vocals are found. When you listen to a poorly balanced response like this, you can’t understand speech, so you crank up the volume to compensate. And you fry your ears.

Not with ours. We designed the IEM500s to have dual dynamic drivers in a phase-optimized system. Each earphone has a tiny woofer and tweeter, and these drivers are tuned to wipe out that lump of muddy bass, letting the vocals come back into balance. We also used our Puro Balanced Response curve to put all of the frequencies in their proper place. The methodology is so innovative that it is patent pending.

As in our headphones, we paid a lot of attention to noise attenuation. When you block background noise, you automatically enhance sound quality and eliminate the need for high volume. The IEM500 comes with 5 different ear tips so you can find the one that fits you. The combination of the correct size tip for your ear, and the shape and materials of the chassis, gives these in-ear monitors a glove-like fit that seals out background noise. How much noise, you ask? Try 94%! They block 94% of ambient noise at 1 kHz. Here’s a comparison to an admirable target, the 3M Optime105. These are the big red earmuffs that you see aircraft marshallers on the runways wearing. (I didn’t know they were called aircraft marshallers either, I had to look that up.)

By flattening the mid-bass issue inherent to all earphones, the IEM500 is one of the most neutral sounding earphones on the market at any price. It sounds like a pair of high quality speakers in a tuned listening room. And, yes, it’s a “healthy ears” product. While you will need to keep an eye on your volume, we have 1) all but eliminated ambient noise with great isolation, allowing you to listen at lower volume; and 2) adhered to the Puro Balanced Response® allowing you to hear vocals in music and movies without having to crank up the volume. If you like the convenience of an in-ear headphone, buy these.

And wait ‘til you see what they come with. I made a half dozen or so prototypes trying to design a case that would mimic the way that I’ve always coiled my earphone wire around my hand. Eventually it led me to a drugstore where I ended up buying an elastic sock for a prototype. It’s hard to describe, but you’re going to love the Puro Travel Sock.

A side note: I think the IEM500s are perfect for business use. We’ve incorporated an excellent microphone with high sensitivity and flat frequency response, so they sound amazing on conference calls. We also made the cable out of TPE (thermoplastic elastomer), which eliminates microphonics – those annoying noises you hear when a cotton cable brushes against clothing or a car seat.

The next frontier: frequency response curves, how we created the Puro Balanced Response curve, and other cool stuff.

About the Author

Jason Wehner is Founder and Chief Technical Officer for Puro Sound Labs. He’s a mechanical engineer who says he learned the cross-disciplinary ropes of audio engineering at the “University of Harman” during his first years on the job. A highly creative and versatile engineer and global product manager, Jason has over eighteen years of experience in audio consumer electronic products. He has launched innovative products under the brands JBL, Infinity, Memorex, TDK, and Vizio.