Most earbuds use a silicone tip that works OK, but doesn't always give you the best seal — which means outside noise will still creep in (and bass response will suffer). Comply memory foam tips are a good alternative, with a few caveats.
Comply tips are nothing new — they have been around for years, and a lot of you have raved about them in the comments before. So, we figured it was time to give them a test run to see how good they really are, and compare the different styles.
Comply has memory foam tips for a lot of different earbuds. When you head to Comply Foam's web site, you can use their tip finder to find the right model for your favourite brand. After that, you get the choice of three main styles (shown above): Active, Comfort and Isolation. The Active styles are designed to stay in your ears while you exercise, and the other two are self-explanatory. You can also get the Comfort and Isolation styles in "Plus" variants with a "wax guard" that prevents earwax from building up in the tubes of the 'bud.
We tested out all three styles with a couple pairs of earbuds over the course of the past week. Here's what we found.
Sound: This is obviously the most important factor for anything headphone-related, and Comply tips do significantly alter how your music sounds. They give you a much better seal, which means you're going to get better bass response — but it also drowns out a lot of the treble. The extra bass sounds really good, but there's definitely a sacrifice that goes with it.
Each style, however, affected the sound differently. The Isolation tips had the strongest effect (I personally couldn't stand them), with the Comfort tips being the closest to the original sound (though still fairly different). The Active ones were somewhere in between. Which ones you like will depend on your personal preference, as well as the earbuds you're currently using — earbuds with a flatter sound are more heavily affected than earbuds with a strong high end.
Comfort: Overall, these are pretty darn comfortable, though they are kind of hassle to put in your ears. I thought the Active tips were probably the most comfortable, followed closely by the Comfort tips.
Related note: I tried the Active style on my morning run, and it worked beautifully. I've never been able to get earbuds to stay in my ears when I exercise, so this was a big deal for me. On that front, these tips are 100% winners.
Isolation: Comply tips isolate outside noises significantly better than regular earbuds, as you'd expect. I tested them in a noisy coffee shop and on a plane, and while they weren't exactly noise-eliminating, they were much better than the silicone tips. I didn't notice a huge practical difference between the three styles, but the isolation tips are designed to isolate better than the others as you'd expect.
Durability: Over the years, some users have brought up some durability issues with Comply tips, but experiences seem to vary across the board. Some users find that the tips fray after mild use, while others have been using them for months with no problem. I haven't had any issues with mine, but I've only been using them for a week or so. But it's a common enough complaint that I thought it was worth bringing up. The Active tips do feel a bit more durable than the others, though.
Cost: Here's the biggest downside: the price. The Active tips are $US10 for a pack of 3 pairs, Isolation tips are $US15, and Comfort tips are $US17. You can get all 3 pairs in the same size (small, medium or large), which makes it better, but it still feels like a lot to spend on earbud tips. But, if you like them, they may be worth the price — especially when you consider that your earbuds themselves may have cost a lot more. Heck, the Active tips are worth it for the exercise applications alone.
The bottom line: Would I buy these? Yes, though I had to get over my concerns with the sound first. At the end of the day, there's a reason people swear by these: They're comfortable, isolate noise very well, and (depending on your preferences) can make your earbuds sound better. If the durability issue and the cost scare you away, you might also consider making your own for less than a dollar — though the comfort and quality is more of a gamble.