Monday, August 15, 2016

Ear Plugs as Foam Tips for Earbuds Hack

First attempt to make some replacement foam tips for earbuds (or "in-ear headphones")

I searched around and tried different, affordable earbuds that I liked, and finally bought the SoundMAGIC E80 Reference Series. As  the reviews of them state, these have a different kind of sound, treble-heavy, which doesn't sit well with everyone, but seems to work well for my ears which have had high frequencies attenuated by age and loud music. 

But the stock plastic tips are totally useless--uncomfortable and stiff feeling, and poor sounding. These come with a sample of premium foam tips which totally transform the sound and the feeling. Unfortunately, these masterpieces of throwaway consumables cost about five bucks a pair, and very soon rip/tear/disintegrate, as shown in the photo above.

Reluctant to replace, living in denial that something that costs five bucks could fall apart so easily and quickly, I've worn these until the foam actually fell off. Then what? 

Make some! Supplies: foam earplugs, scissors, leather punch

Internet to the rescue! I found several suggestions to cut and punch foam earplugs as replacements. First, flatten them lengthwise, and cut to appropriate length. Using the originals as a reference, my first cut was approximately across the midsection. Allow them to expand, then flatten again the other way, to form a disk, and punch a hole through the disk. I used a leather punch on the 11/64" setting.

Results of first try? Excellent on first listen. Using earplugs has the benefit of adding noise reduction. The sound is rich and deep. I would say the ear plug tips are in the same league as the five dollar tips that wear out fast.

Observations: the expensive ones have a tube inside them, and a hole slightly larger than the leather punch will make. I was worried about both of those when I compared my version to them, but any difference is not immediately obvious. I may try to make the hole larger than 11/64" next time, just to experiment. Also, as one of the Internet sources suggested, it may help to make the new tips short, just long enough to isolate the earbud stem from hitting the ear canal. As it is with the ones I made, they are longer than that. Next set will be shorter, to see how that works. It may turn out to be a balance between noise isolation, sound quality, and comfort. Also, I can't say that the rounded end has any other purpose than to look functional, like that's what it should look like. In practice, the square ends seem to go in just as easy, and sound the same to me. Finally, my ear canals are probably narrower than average, and these earplug tips fit them snugly and comfortably. I'm very pleased with the results.

This is not really a bike-related post. I don't suggest you ride with these as they are quite isolating. But this seemed like a simple and great hack, so I just wanted to share it.


  1. Next you know, you'll be comparing different ear plugs - they make dozens of different ones. I used to have a good-sized collection...

    1. First I think the hole diameter should be bigger. I'll try that. Then we may indeed be exploring the wide variety of foam types. Heck, I have these silicone moldable ear-pluggers that might do something interesting in this application.


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