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Choosing the Best Earphone/Headphone
Isolation, Cancellation -- Where to Start?

Headphones | Earphones | Full Custom Earphones | Earphone Accessories
Isolation Earphones | earbuds | Custom Earphone Molds | Active Ear Muffs

We offer great products for your listening enjoyment from the best names in the audio listening business. Whether you just need a good pair of inexpensive ear buds, isolation earphones that let you enjoy your music on plane trips, or top of the line in-ear monitors for stage performance or sound engineering, the Ear Plug superstore can help. This guide will cover the basics of choosing the audio listening solution that fits your needs. Need a little extra help? We have experts standing by with advice and answers.

Isolation Earphones vs Noise Cancellation Headphones

Isolation earphones and noise cancellation headphones are two means to the same end--good sound without outside interference.  Here's the difference: isolation earphones physically block outside noise, while noise cancellation headphones electronically cancel out unwanted sound. 

Cancellation headphones work by examining outside noises like mechanical engines or other music and creating an inverse sound, a reverse sin-wave of noise designed to perfectly interfere with the ambient noise around you.  In other words, noise-cancellation headphones actually add sound that turns outside disturbances into blank white noise your brain can easily filter out.  Unwanted sound still reaches your eardrums, but you never realize it's there.  Sennheizer offers a full line of cancellation phones that can provide about 10db of noise cancellation.  These headphones are all supra-aural: they cover the outside of the ear, meaning nothing is actually inserted into your ear.

Isolation earphones, on the other hand, provide passive sound from an in-ear source.  There is no extra, added sound; instead, they rely on the basic noise-blocking technology you find in earplugs.  Where cancellation earphones operate from the outside of the ear, isolation earphones are all earbuds, which must be inserted in your actual ear canal in order to work.  Isolation earphones create an acoustic seal inside your actual ear canal, so the sound from your earphones stays in your ear while outside noise can't get in.

Acoustic Sealing

An acoustic seal is the target of all isolation earphones.  When an acoustic seal is achieved, sound projected into your ears by in-ear earphones cannot escape and is channeled directly toward your eardrums--while disturbing external noise has no way of getting in.  Acoustic seals are air-tight, so when you've got it right, you can feel the difference: pulling gently on an acoustically-sealed earphone or earbud will create a gentle tugging sensation inside your ear canal.


Earbuds are in-ear earphones--tiny speakers designed to rest in the outer part of your ear canal.  By reducing the distance between the sound source and your eardrum, you receive a louder, clearer sound quality while creating the potential for an acoustic seal.  Basic low-cost earbuds can sometimes be uncomfortable, however, especially for individuals with smaller ear canals.

Silicon Tips/Sleeves

All our isolation earphones come with silicon tips or sleeves to create a tighter, more comfortable seal.  These tips are made of soft, thin silicon rubber that contours to gently seal the earbuds against your ear canals. A basic single-flange silicon tip like the one used in Shure's earphones will provide about 10db of noise-isolation; a dual-flange tip can offer about 15db of isolation, and the triple-flange tip design can provide 20-25db of isolation.  Foam tips are also available for a few models of earbuds, and can provide isolation ranging from 15-25db, depending on the size and quality of the foam.

Custom Molds

Custom molds are soft rubber tips created in the exact shape of your ear canal to ensure an exact fit and provide a whopping 25db of isolation.  The absolute best in sound isolation, custom molds are compatible with all our isolation earphones--and in the case of all of our Full-Custom Earphones, custom molds are required.  Rather than using a silicon-tip flange system to seal the sound source to your ear canal, custom molds allow a perfect fit and virtually guarantee an excellent acoustic seal.   These individually-created tips are made specifically for you by lab experts and are available in virtually any color you'd like.  For more information on how the custom mold process works and on how to get a pair of custom molds for your isolation earphones, see our Custom Fitting FAQ.

Headphones | Earphones | Full Custom Earphones | Earphone Accessories