Pro musicians and serious mobile music lovers have enjoyed custom-fit in-ear monitors for a number of years. Before being able to pop a pair of tailored IEMs in their ears though, a visit to an audiologist for an ear print to be made is in order. Then the individualized earphones have to be produced and sent out. Though home molding is one way to save time and money while aiming for the perfect fit, HelloEar believes that the technology behind its Arc earphones will deliver "the world's first and only custom fit earphone."
HelloEar is reported to have spent the last four years developing the world's first standardized ear sizing chart, in collaboration with Tsinghua University. By tapping into a 3D ear model database that's been compiled by studying and molding hundreds of thousands of human ears, the company is promising a pair of earphones that will fit like a glove and never fall out.
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Unlike the successfully crowdfunded, but yet-to-ship-to-backers, Revols earphones from last year – where a signal from a smartphone causes nano-composite gel housings to harden in place for a permanent custom fit – Arc buyers will place a coin next to an ear and snap a photo with a phone camera. The process is repeated for the other ear and both pics are forward to the company for earphone production.
A proprietary algorithm then detects key ear parameters from the photos. From the data produced, HelloEar reckons it will be able to produce a pair of earphones shaped to best fit a user's ear type.
Much of the Arc's outer housing flexes and bends as the user moves, something the makers call an Airbag structure. The silicone housing has a silica earbud at one end of the Z-lock housing design and a lip or wing at the other. This design is said to follow the natural shape of the ear for a snug, secure, all day comfort fit.
HelloEar hasn't forgotten the importance of great sound, and has built the Arc earphones around Sonion balanced armature drivers for quick, accurate reproduction, a 20 Hz to 20 kHz frequency range, 106.5 dB sensitivity and 25 Ohm impedance.
There's a wired/wireless modular twist, too. The 3.5 mm audio cable attached to the housing can be disconnected and swapped over for a Bluetooth around-the neck cable for wireless freedom. The cables include a built-in microphone for taking calls when connected to a smartphone. This design might also cater for future module additions like GPS, noise cancellation or fitness tracking.
The Arc project has launched on Kickstarter today. As of writing, pledges start at US$69 for the cabled version and $99 for a cabled/Bluetooth flavor. The Arc earphones will be available in three color options and, if all goes to plan, shipping is expected to start in March 2017. The pitch video below outlines the development.