Identify a pair of earphones based on far too little information
August 30, 2011 6:41 AM   Subscribe

What were the brand and model of the earphones I left in a muddy field three months ago?

This is one of those limited information, pattern recognition questions that AskMe seems to be spookily good at.

Around six months ago, I bought what turned out to be the best in-ear earphones I've ever used. Three months after that, they dropped out of my rucksack when I was hiking. Despite handling them every day for months and being certain that the brand/company name was marked on each earbud, I have absolutely no memory of what company they're from, what the specific model is called or where I bought them from.* Please help me identify them, so I can buy another pair.

Here's what I can remember about them:
----The cord/cable was in a finely woven fabric cladding, not the usual rubbery coating. It was the same diameter that you'd usually expect (~2mm?) but felt slightly less flexible and was noticeably less "sticky", so it was much less prone to getting tangled in pockets.
----This cladding around the wires was dark with a couple of lighter strands woven in (black and white? Black and pale brown?), which gave it a flecked appearance.
----The earbuds were "in-ear" style. The body of the earbud was black plastic, with a brand/company logo visible on the end that points away from the head.
----The parts of the earbuds that actually go into the ear were not the usual sillicone half-sphere things. Instead, they were blunted cones made of the same squishy foam that normal noise-blocking earplugs are made of, with a hole down the middle to transmit the sound. Presumably because of this, they blocked external sound much better than any others I've tried. These foam in-ear sections were black.
----They may well have had good bass response as a selling point, but I'm not certain about this.

I bought them in a physical shop, somewhere in London, most likely one of the independent electronics shops at the north end of Tottenham Court Road. I probably paid in the region of £25-£40 for them.

Does anyone know what headphones I'm talking about? Alternatively, can anyone suggest a decent pair of in-ear 'phones with the key features of (a) fabric-wrapped wires and (b) foam (or other brilliant) noise isolating sections?

*"Reg, as he insisted on being called, had a memory that he himself had once compared to the Queen Alexandra Birdwing Butterfly in that it was colorful, flitted prettily hither and thither, and was now, alas, almost completely extinct." - Dirk Gentley's Holistic Detective Agency, Douglas Adams
posted by metaBugs to Technology (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'd say something like these, but they've only got the silicone sphere things. You could pull the silicone things and poke a hole in some earplugs.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:04 AM on August 30, 2011

I can't point you to what you lost exactly, but I do suggest looking through the product lines of Etymotic, Shure, and Ultimate Ears.

I'm pretty sure Ultimate Ears made a fabric wrapped set a few years ago, but since Logitech acquired them all the focus has been on cheap models (though they still make good gear at the higher ends). UE earphone models usually come with a set of the noise isolating foam ends, which I love.
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:04 AM on August 30, 2011

Yup, definitely start out with UE or Shure. What you're talking about are generally referred to as IEMs (in-ear monitors), and the foam tips are a standard feature in most higher-end models. They normally come with a selection of various size tips of clear silicone (harder and bulkier), grey/black silicone (thinner and easier fit), and/or foam tips (better isolation, but more of a pain to put in and remove, and need regular replacement).

The black foam tips are usually made by Comply, and they should have tips for almost any phone you end up with.

I'm not familiar with fabric-corded models, but there's been an explosion of IEMs in the past few years.

You may also want to check here for recommendations and reviews.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 7:11 AM on August 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Were they anything like these?
posted by guessthis at 8:44 AM on August 30, 2011

rmd1023, mcstayinschool - Thanks for the recommendations, I'll have a hunt around.

McCoy Pauley: It's handy to know that I can order foam tips for any given set of IEMs (and that's a useful search term, thanks); the tips are more important to me than the fabric wrap, so I might end up with a good solution by just adding the tips to another set of 'phones.

guessthis: Those weren't the ones (mine didn't have the silver section sticking out of the back or the fancy adjustment ring thingy), but they tick all the boxes. I'll have a hunt around their site to see if there's anything more in my price range, thanks!
posted by metaBugs at 9:24 AM on August 30, 2011

My old Sony's had the woven cord like you're suggesting, although they weren't the kind that go right in your ear and they're discontinued now anyway. The fabric/woven cord was way more durable than any plastic ones I've used. A more expensive Sony model might combine that cord with the in ear style you like, so definitely look there. The better Sony earbuds have good bass as a selling point, and good sound in general.

I currently have a pair of JVC in ear buds that came with the squashy cone thing as one of the options (along with three different sizes of silicon inserts), although their cord is all plastic. It's not an uncommon thing to have included, but it will be inside the packet rather than the default thing attached to the earbud.

So I don't think it will be terribly difficult to find the different things you liked without spending a fortune even though they're not the 'standard' setting, because each feature is not all that weird or high end.
posted by shelleycat at 9:36 AM on August 30, 2011

the only black foam tips I know of in common usage are the Shure "Olives" (the common name, so designated because of the vague resemblence to a black olive).
However, I don't think any of Shure's headphone offerings have the cable type you describe.

A search of amazon for "headphone fabric cord" turns up the Zune Premium Headphones, and they do look an awful lot like what you are describing.
posted by namewithoutwords at 12:06 PM on August 31, 2011

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