In this review we take a look at some affordable in-ear headphones that are tailored for monitoring…
In-ear monitoring is common place in music production and performance these days, but it’s also associated with great expense. On the cheaper side of things you can invest less than £100 in some reasonably well-fitted earpieces that may work for mobile production work but won’t be a sealed enough fit to combat high levels of external noise, i.e. loud sound sources such as monitoring, drum kits and other amplified sound.
Without high levels of noise rejection, you’ll be forced to combat it by ramping up the volume of your in-ear monitoring, which in turn opens up the possibility of hearing damage. On this note, don’t forget that having a sealed earpiece also acts as hearing protection from loud external noise as well.
We’ve looked at quite a few different moulded earplugs over the years here at MusicTech and they generally come in around the £300 mark – so quite an investment. The Snugs Solo earplugs we’ve been testing here are considerably less in cost and are also moulded around your existing headphones so you can use a monitoring system that you know and trust.
The production process involves a visit from one of the many UK-spread audiologists working for Snugs who take your ear impressions, then your headphones to send back with the moulded Solo earpieces. One advantage of these moulds is that they are detachable from your headphones, so there’s no permanent alteration made to your cherished headphones.
One disadvantage of this is that the headphone and plug are easy to detach from one another, and although we had no issues when in use we did have our moulds fly off the headphones a few times when pulling them out of our bag for use. So an extra level of care is required in their handling, unless you don’t mind hunting around on the floor for them in a dark recording studio or live venue environment.
The Snug Solos come in a variety of colour choices, and being the tech nerds we are we chose white for left and red for right. This turns out to be very practical, though, as it’s easy to make out which is which by their contrast in colour in even the poorest of lighting conditions. In use, they provide very high levels of noise rejection. We managed to produce laptop music very peacefully on a noisy coach trip and found them to be very useable for a gig as well.