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For your ears only

Pity the poor earphone user, putting up with open-air models that rob the music of its dynamic range, and ear buds that fall out if one so much as glances to the side.

Pity the poor earphone user, putting up with enclosed headphones the size of canned hams, open-air models that rob the music of its dynamic range, and ear buds that fall out if one so much as glances to the side.

Fortunately, these private mini-speakers are reaching a new stage of evolution, thanks to companies like Las Vegas-based Ultimate Ears. The company’s range of in-ear headphones aren’t cheap (they start at an ear-popping $500), but if you use earphones in your profession–as a performer, public speaker, or otherwise–they could be a crucial upgrade to what you have now. You’ve seen them, or products like them, if you’ve been to very many concerts–a number of singers have the almost-invisible custom-molded earphones in place so they don’t have to rely on stage monitors to hear the band.

The earphones are handcrafted from inner-ear impressions made by an audiologist. As a result, they fit as snugly as can be, and while delivering top-notch sound, they block out all extraneous noise.

The secret of Ultimate Ears’ great sound is a dual-driver design that delivers high and low frequencies through the same speaker and letting them mingle-as opposed to the single midrange frequency that most earphones provide. The frequency response range of 20Hz to 16kHz, and the 119dB sensitivity range, means you get hi-fi results at low volumes, and no distortion when you crank it up–and they go loud.

If you’ve seen the gyrating dancers in iPod commercials, you know darn well that earbuds won’t stay in place with all that thrashing. But with a custom-molded set like those made by Ultimate Ears, you can head-bang to your heart’s content with no risk of losing the music.

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