As a New Yorker, I’m always wearing my earphones in noisy places. Whether I’m in the subway, busy streets, or just trying to get some work done at a cafe, I rely on my earbuds to create a little bit of a safe space, auditorily speaking. But most earbuds don’t really do a great job of blocking out the outside world. So what’s a person to do who doesn’t want to carry around giant over-the-ear headphones? I decided to try Decibullz Custom Molded Bluetooth Wireless Earphones to find out if that was the answer.
The Customization Process
In general, custom fit headphones come in several different types and processes. Some are fitted by an audio professional after an in-office consultation and measurement. Another way some manufacturers do it is by sending you materials that let you create a mold of your ears and then send it in to them for the creation of your headphones. But what was really appealing about the Decibullz process is that none of that is necessary. Their product can be customized at home and then used immediately, without the need for professional fitting or waiting for weeks for the final product to be created. According to the company’s pitch, you just heat up the enclosed molds and push them into your ear to shape them. So I figured that sounded like something even I was capable of. The actual molding was very straightforward. I just boiled some water and took it off the heat, then plopped one of the molds, along with the silicone tip into the hot water for five minutes. (You can use a pot or heat it in the microwave — I used a pot.) If you do more than one mold at once, they can stick to each other, so you have to do them separately. Then I just attached the rest of the headphone, stuffed it into my ear, and pressed it in place until the mold filled the bowl of my ear. (Bonus: I learned that the bowl of your ear is called the “concha”, which reminded me of seashells. Double bonus: It’s also pretty NSFW in some Spanish-speaking countries.) Though they suggest using a mirror to help, it wasn’t even necessary, as it all seemed to work as expected. But hey, safety first. Then you just let the molds cool in your ear for five minutes, during which you can be listening to music if you want. You’re already using them! Then simply repeat the process for the other ear and you’re good to go. Also, you can repeat the process as often as you like in case you mess up or want a different fit, which makes things a bit less nerve wracking. The whole thing reminded me of molding a sports mouth guard as a kid. Easy peasy.
The resulting ear buds do indeed fit the ear really well, and are very comfortable. They don’t mold to the inner canal of your ear, because the standard silicone tips don’t heat mold like the main section. So you need to choose the right size of tip for optimal performance. (Those can be swapped out later or at any time.) But once you do, the whole thing feels like a custom fit for your ear, and the molds do a pretty good job of blocking out external sounds. My pair didn’t feel totally locked in if I moved around really aggressively, so I imagine they might slip around a bit if you used them during sports or vigorous activity. Since there’s no type of retention device as some unmolded Bluetooth headphones have, the custom fit is supposed to perform that function. But again, choosing the right tip helps with that, and I also think that by re-molding them and pressing them in even more firmly, you could probably get an even tighter fit. They’re certainly more comfortable than any unmolded option I’ve tried. And choosing a slightly larger silicone tip not only added more security but also better sound isolation. For my mostly commuter-type use, the fit was more than adequate, and better than any headphones I’d used previously.
Pairing, Sound and Performance
Pairing with my phone was fairly standard, and easy to figure out. The earphones paired immediately, and the phone reconnected smoothly on subsequent uses. They also had a pretty solid range on the connection, with decent reception up to at least 15 feet away as long as no interfering objects got between me and the phone. I did have to remember to shut them off when I wasn’t using them a few times, so that I could hear normal sound on my phone, but that’s true of any Bluetooth headphone. The sound isolation offered by the custom molds was very good compared to most earbuds. It’s not as effective as true noise cancellation, but that’s usually only available on over-the-ear models and at a much higher price point. Choosing the right size tip also had a significant effect on how much isolation could be achieved, especially in the high end of the auditory spectrum. The sound on these earphones is excellent for a Bluetooth connection at this price point, with clear, crisp reproduction through the full volume range. They weren’t quite as loud as some headphones I’ve used, but loud enough for any safe practical use..
Controls, Battery and Charging
There is a control pod/inline remote located on the cable that connects the two earphones. It offers a multi-function/play/pause button, volume up and down controls, and the ability to skip tracks forward and backward. Battery life is fairly typical for the category (four to five hours), and is something that first time users of Bluetooth headphones will have to get used to. If you just keep your earphones in your pocket or bag, you’ll have to start remembering to charge them before you leave the house, so you don’t get caught with a dead headset. The charging process is easy, with a mini-USB port on the inline remote, where you can plug in the included USB cable. Charging to full capacity usually took about two hours, which is a little longer than stated in the instructions.
The Bottom Line
I really liked these headphones, and they provided great value for the price. Most of the custom fit earbuds on the market cost significantly more and require more time and effort to get fitted. Even without the unique molding features, the Decibullz offered great sound, and a good feature set for earphones in this category. Battery life is solid, and the controls and pairing are smooth and intuitive. The only quibbles I had were minor ones. Since they’re not true wireless, and don’t come with a charging case, you do have to remember to charge them regularly before you leave the house or office. And if you’re on the road and the battery dies, you have to wait until you can plug into a USB power source to power up again. So in that sense, they don’t compete with Apple Air Pods and other versions that come with a charge case. They do work while they’re charging, though, and can be attached to a portable battery just like your phone can. The other small thing was the size of the carrying case. One of the main reasons people choose Bluetooth earbuds is the small size that the cordless earbuds offer, and being able to slip them into any pocket.. But this case is much bigger than it needs to be, and even bigger than the ones with most wired earbuds, mostly so it can hold the full size USB cable and also accomodate the irregularly shaped ear molds. Still, a cleverer case design might overcome this and add on-the-go charging capability. But the ability to mold these to fit your own ear, and the other unique advantages offered by Decibullz Custom Molded Wireless Earphones make them a very worthy purchase. They’re available in a variety of ear mold colors that add a little pop to their distinctive appearance.