Friday, April 6, 2012

The Effect of Ear Sleeves: Etymotic Research MC5

Ear sleeves play an important role in hi-fidelity sound reproduction of IEMs. If the coupling of IEMs to human ears is not air-tight, various non-linear distortion inducing problems occur; loss of bass is merely a beginning. This is why IEM manufacturers include A TON of ear sleeves in their product packages so that customers can get the tightest sealing possible with their IEMs.

Of course, different sleeves demonstrate different quarter-wavelength resonant characteristics, due to the size of the bore being different. Considering the above, one can actually improve or degrade the sound quality of IEMs by simply changing ear sleeves. A rule of thumb: decreasing the bore length & increasing the bore diameter shifts resonant frequencies to higher frequency range, and vice versa.

Here's Etymotic Research's MC5 with different types of ear sleeves:

1. Ear Sleeves of Shure & Etymotic Research are compatible to each other; not sure about the ones made by Westone. Somebody get me some Westone sleeves, then I will include them in this analysis as well.
2. Silicone sleeves offer better bass extension, due to the silicone's water resistant property.
3. Shorter the bore length, the more even high frequency response for MC5.
4. Wider the bore diameter, the better treble extension for MC5.

Personally, I would like to choose gray sleeves among silicones, and shure olives among foams. Of course, all these can be achieved, only with proper insertion depth.


  1. 올리브팁이 총알팁 맞는거죠? 아, 동일팁에서 팁의 크기에 따라 소리가 달라지거나 할까요? 총알팁 관련.. 개인적으로 중팁과 대팁이 헷갈리는데.. 중팁은 압박이 덜한데신 귀를 채우는 느낌이 덜하고,, 대팁은 압박이 좀 강한대신 귀를 꽉 채우는게 차음이 아주 약간 더 우수한것 같아서.. 혹시 소리에서 차이가 있다면 양쪽다 호불호가 있으니 소리 좋은쪽으로 가려구 하는데.. 어느쪽이건 적용은 시간문제라.. 부탁드려요!

    1. 네, 같은 총알(폼)팁이라면 크기야 조절되니 소리는 별 차이가 없을겁니다. 다만 꽉 채우는 편이 초저역의 확보에 좀 더 용이할 수 있지요.

    2. 헉, 답변 감사합니다! 그렇군요.. 마침 큰게 귀도 덜 아픈거 같으니 큰걸로 해야겠어요 답변 정말 감사드려요!

  2. Did you find that you achieved the quoted level of sound isolation (which would also be linked to the bass extension)? I have found that regardless of the tip or insertion depth I can still easily overhear discussions nearby. Any advice is greatly appreciated and thanks for the great articles!

    1. If you need an air-tight seal, I recommend using either Oto-ease lubricant / a comfort cream from

    2. would that be to achieve an even deeper insertion? Because I have tried all depths. Do you find that when the headphones are properly inserted you cannot hear voices directed towards you?