Snugs is a company, and a series of products designed to bring custom fit earphones to the masses. They use the same sort of silicone used in professional in-ear monitors, but here the entry price is £100 rather than a grand or two.
These are the real deal, and offer a great way to get better noise isolation for your favourite earphones. However, you need to make sure you pick the right earphones before this really becomes a worthwhile service.
When you buy a Snugs package, you’re not just paying for a pair of custom moulds and (if you choose) earphones, but the service of getting your ears injected with goo in order to produce the mould. You have a choice here. You can head to your local audiologist, pay £70 to have Snugs visit you or visit one of the company’s high street partners (the cheapest route).
We headed on down to the audiologist, where one of the Snugs team was waiting. If you’ve never had your ear impressions taken, it’s a largely inoffensive, entirely pain-free experience. A fast-drying squidgy material is injected into your ears, left there for a few minutes and then removed. You need fairly clean ears for the procedure to be possible, but should your lug holes be fine, the whole process only takes about 15 minutes.
You then pick your style and Snugs will have your ear tips sent within a few days. Similar services have been available for years, but none has quite had the accessibility of Snugs. You can make your order from the website, and there’s no ‘pro’ side of the business to put you off – as there is with rival ACS.
The final result is excellent. Snugs moulds use soft silicone that is very easy on the ear – some custom earphones use harder plastic that is likely to cause irriation for many people.
Any custom mould earphone takes a while to get used to, but we found the Snugs remarkably easy to fit, and comfortable for hours at a time. The real attraction, though, is noise isolation.
Although they’re designed to fit standalone earphones rather than being part of a custom earphone (meaning they are not fully sealed into a one-piece product), isolation is significantly better than either standard silicone tips or the generally excellent Comply foam tips. If your one criticism of your earphones is that their isolation is not good enough, this is one solution. However, it should also be noted that it won’t fix any isolation issues caused by ports on the earphones themselves (as these won’t be covered up by the Snugs).
Visit one of the Snugs high street partners and you can get your impressions done for as little as £97. It sounds like a lot, and it is. But if you’re a real headphone obsessive, it’s actually pretty good service when you’re getting pro-quality impressions for your money. Replacement pairs cost £67.
There are dozens of colour options, some of which cost a little extra, giving you masses of scope for personalisation. Snugs also makes simpler rubber bungs for surfers and those dealing with snorers (these'll probably be the best earplugs you'll ever have).
One of the snazzier Snugs finishes
As well as offering custom tips for your own earphones, Snugs sells the ‘full package’, where you get the earphones too.
It’s here that we have an issue or two with the Snugs line-up. Its tips are excellent, but the choice of earphones on offer is somewhat problematic.
Headphone choice is a deeply personal thing, but we honestly can’t recommend two of these picks. The Soundmagic E10 cost as little as £30 online, and they are a fantastic budget pair. But paying £167 for them – custom tip or no – feels wrong given for the same price you can get a true high-end multi-driver pair of earphones.
The Final Design FI-BA-SS are a deeply odd pair of earphones – and very new to the UK - which have a rather ‘marmite’ treble-heavy signature that many people won’t get on with. And they quite simply cost way too much when sets like the Shure SE535, UE 900 and Grado GR10 cost less than half the price. They’re good, but also completely bonkers.
The mid-range option, the Etymotic HF-3, are great earphones. But we think the Snugs is likely to attract people who have already fallen in love with their earphones, rather than someone coming to a new pair. And as different earphones use different aperture sizes, you can’t simply switch your Snugs tips between pairs as you like (some do use the same aperture, however).
The Snugs product – those ear tips – is beyond reproach. They’re top-quality, made by professionals, using the same tools used to create in-ear monitors for professional musicians. If you’re concerned whether Snugs tips can match up to rivals like ACS, don’t worry. They do.
However, we recommend the service as a way to get a bit more out of earphones you love dearly, rather than for its headphone package options.
Snugs custom ear tips are hard to criticse. They offer quality and workmanship on-par with professional in-ear monitors. However, the range of earphones bundles is a little too limited at present.
Next, read our best headphones round-up