Overall I’m impressed with the Custom Wraps performance. As well as increasing comfort, Comply have formulated an effective product that is safe to use, super easy to install, and helps you get the most out of your CIEMs. The only problem here is price. At £15.95, or $17.95 in the US, the Custom Wraps work out to be £3.19, or $3.59 USD. This is quite a price to pay for fifty sessions, so if the Custom Wraps came down in price I would be much more tempted to award a higher rating.
Comply Custom Wraps Review:
Once a part of the famous multinational 3M group, Hearing Components, the parent company of Comply, is an independent research and development body that was eventually spun off from the huge 3M conglomerate in 1990. It was at this moment where Hearing Components begun focussing exclusively on developing innovative auditory foam solutions for the industrial, military, and aviation markets, alongside patenting their uses. However, it was in the mid 00’s when Hearing Components finally established a consumer audio division and trademarked the COMPLY™ brand name. In fact, following the massive birth of the headphone generation, Comply launched with the worlds first memory foam in-ear tips. The memory foam ear tip was created and pitched not only as a luxury product for comfort, but as a functional product that helped to provide and maintain a secure fit, something which is particularly crucial with precision tuned in ear monitors (IEMs).
Comply have always produced the original, and arguably best, product, but that didn’t stop from big name competitors from shortly including spin-off versions of the Comply tips with their premium products… most notably Shure in 2007, which were eventually fined for infringing Hearing Components patent (granted in 2009 with a large settlement of $4,622,999 handed to Hearing Components in 2010). Now even after this case, and to this day, Chinese copycats try to replicate the performance of Comply ear tips… and 100% fail (in my experience with those bundled by Chinese and HK based IEM manufacturers). However, Comply tips have become so well respected that the big boys (JH Audio, Beyerdynamic, et al.) include their tips along with their IEMs as standard. But what about CIEMs? Sure CIEMs are designed to produce a perfect seal and the service that goes along with this, but often fit issues present themselves over time and refits can be expensive. Another fact is that sometimes people just can’t handle the hardness of the acrylic shells, when the silicone equivalent is expensive and is not really suitable for large clusters of balanced armatures plus their crossovers and associated wiring, so this is why Comply recently released their ‘Custom Wraps’ (2014).
In each pack of ‘Custom Wraps’ Comply include ten sets, the equivalent of five pairs, and they come in both black and a neutral tan colour. This is ideal for both consumer and broadcast professionals intended use but please remember that with the black colour you will notice unsightly wax particles/residue on the Custom Wraps quicker than you will with the tan variant. However, initially looking at the Custom Wraps you could be fooled into thinking that they are way too big for the purpose, but you would be wrong. The Custom Wraps may measure 3.5mm wide 43mm long and have a depth of 3mm, but upon contact with both light pressure and body heat the foam almost immediately compresses down to less than 0.5mm, becomes noticeably soft, and gently fills the gap between the inner ear and the outer CIEM shell. Due to the foams noticeable solid Tempurpedic like composure you can really tell that the Custom Wraps are a premium performance product in the hand, they even have a nice mild oily feel that will A) not dry out the inner ear, and B) compliment the skin of the inner ear, so the foams composition appears to be well judged for its intended application.
Although the foams composition is clearly impressive it would all amount to nothing if the adhesive backing was poor. Thankfully the adhesive used to attach the Custom Wraps to your CIEMs is in keeping with it’s foam counterpart. Critically the adhesive is well adhered to the foam itself and does not separate even after extreme pulling pressure is applied to the strips. Whilst it goes without saying that the Custom Wraps won’t work with silicone CIEMs, the Custom Wraps adhesive bonds well with the surface of your acrylic CIEMs and has just enough malleability to reposition if an incorrect line is taken during the application – although this is not recommended. Something that I do feel is missing from the general package is a set of isopropanol wipes. The inclusion of these wipes would be cheap for Compy to implement and their main use would be valuable in preparing the surface of your CIEMs to rid it of any wax or contaminants that could otherwise impair the adhesion between the Custom Wraps of your CIEMs. Likewise, the isopropanol wipes would be really handy when the time comes to change the Custom Wraps as they do leave a very small amount of residue when removed (depending on how long you have had them installed). It may not be the end of the world that Comply does not include them within the package, so I can only advise that you purchase your own to optimise their performance – just trust me, it’s a good idea.
If we come on to the installation now, it has to be said that Comply couldn’t have made it simpler. The Custom Wraps for both Left and Right CIEM shells come on a single non-stick backing with easy tear out ends and a good amount of room between the two to help you remove them without touching the adhesive or twisting the foam. What you will notice is that on either end of the Custom Wraps they are terminated with a diagonal cut, the reason for this is that Comply wants you to apply them in a continuous tight coil to prevent the ends from prematurely pealing up, which would otherwise reduce their lifespan. Before you install the Custom Wraps it’s best to identify where you are experiencing issues with your CIEMs. Comply recommend a placement anywhere between 2mm before the end of the nozzle and aperture (just before the nozzle fans out to form the bowl of the outer ear) so it’s best to really think about what area will help elevate your issues, I would also recommend experimenting with placement. What I will strongly advise is that you mirror the placement on both the Left and Right CIEM shells because I have noticed that a placement asymmetry can effect the sonics. If you’re looking to enhance the comfort with your CIEM’s it’s probably best to go for a placement that’s closer to the aperture, but this is just my rough guide. Regardless of placement, the installation is quite simple… First you want to make sure that the edge of the diagonal cut is facing down and on a central plane so that you can form a tight coil as you wrap it around the CIEM shell. When you get to the last turn of the coil a good tip is to use a pair of tweezers to finish sticking the last turn of the Custom Wrap down. The reason for this is that usually the Custom Wrap’s like to curl up and stick to the foam at this part instead of to the acrylic. Using a pair of tweezers allows you to make sure that it’s stuck in the right place to decrease the chance of the Custom Wraps peeling up and requiring a change. In consideration of all of the above steps, including preparing the surface of the CIEMs, the Comply’s Custom Wraps take only a very short time to install and don’t require a great deal of skill at all.
Moving onto the insertion process now, the only thing that you have to do to make everything a lot more pleasant is to roll the surface of the Custom Wraps in your fingertips before you insert them into your ears. This will make the foam more pliable and much more pleasant upon insertion. The standard CIEM insertion procedure does not change, but rolling the Custom Wraps will avoid the whole fist in the ear or teeny tiny mild abrasive sensation for the first few seconds. I do have to say that the pressure isn’t unpleasant and I’ve never experienced any aches or mild pain after significant listening sessions (four hours plus). Likewise the foam appears to be doing an excellent job as I have never experienced any itchiness or dryness from using the Custom Wraps over many many sessions, so Comply have nailed everything in that respect. What I have noticed is that the lifespan of a single pair of Custom Wraps appears to be approximately ten sessions. Usually at this point the adhesive would have moved slightly and the foam becomes a bit saturated with cringeworthy wax, still that’s a good amount of time so from a pack you would have one hundred listening sessions – so, not bad!
I mainly became interested in Comply’s Custom Wraps after I struggled to maintain a consistent seal with my CIEMs. I was finding that before using them I would have to adjust the CIEMs multiple times over the course of an hour and that the balance between Left and Right seemed off – particularly with the bass presence and extension of the trebles. Applying the Custom Wraps provided an immediate remedy and became worth their weight in gold! Now with the Custom Wraps I don’t need to alter my CIEMs at all so I’m a very very happy man. I do have to say that using the Custom Wraps does come with one caveat. This is that the sonic performance does slightly change. Whilst the bass becomes much more rounded and powerful, its attack becomes moderately slower, and this attack descriptive stands the same for the trebles along with a slightly reduced treble extension. On the other hand the sonic improvement to the instrument separation/staging is certainly desired and you just have to weigh up what you want from your CIEMs. Personally I feel that the Custom Wraps have made my life a lot easier and have heightened the performance of the CIEMs in question so I’m a very happy man.
I’ve read on other posts about the Comply Custom Wraps that some are worried about the potential for them to dislodge and get stuck within the ear canal. I have to say that the possibility of this happening is very slim and, because of these concerns, I’ve simulated various environments and even tested the Custom Wraps to destruction – here are my findings… Having left the Custom Wraps out for literally months the foam has not degraded over time. In fact the foam still retains the same composure and light moisturising feel as they did the day they came. What this essentially means is that I’ve found no evidence of the foam disintegrating or having the potential to deposit small foam particles within the inner ear. When testing salinated water and it’s absorption by the foam (to mimic extreme sweat environment – ie. Gym use) I did find that the Custom Wraps did have a habit of tearing apart easier, although this happened at stresses beyond those exhibited within the placement in and out of the inner ear. On the other hand the Custom Wraps were easily wrung out and seemed to go back to their previous state easily without too much degradation – still I would not 100% recommend Gym use with Custom Wraps despite the chances of your inner ears profusely perspiring is minimal (please remember that Ear Wax is hydrophobic and when the Custom Wraps become saturated the chances of this become even slimmer). Another test that I performed was grinding the affixed Custom Wraps against clothing and, again, I found no significant degradation of the foam. Having left the Custom Wraps on my CIEMs for longer than they should have done I found that the foam would slowly move away from the adhesive due to the insertion process. At no point did the adhesive ever lift from the acrylic surface, which is a critical observation. I did also observe that the ends of the Custom Wraps would first lift from the adhesive backing, which is obviously your cue to change them. In terms of testing the strips to absolute destruction, under conditions far more severe than would ever happen in their intended environment, I discovered that significant lateral pressure would lift from the foam but tiny pieces would not dislodge.
Overall I’m impressed with the Custom Wraps performance. As well as increasing comfort, Comply have formulated an effective product that is safe to use, super easy to install, and helps you get the most out of your CIEMs. The only problem here is price. At £15.95, or $17.95 in the US, the Custom Wraps work out to be £3.19, or $3.59 USD. This is quite a price to pay for fifty sessions, so if the Custom Wraps came down in price I would be much more tempted to award a higher rating. With all facts considered The Pro Audio Web Blog awards the Comply Custom Wraps with a four star rating.