When I was young I used to do a lot of cycle racing. Cycle racing can be a very dangerous sport. One of my friends in the cycling club to which I belonged was nearly killed on a training run, which could get as competitive as real races, by a learner driver who came round a bend on the wrong side of the road. I've had my spills as well but my most serious injury was, ironically, caused not whilst racing or training. It happened cycling home from a visit to a cycle shop in Walthamstow.
The outcome was the loss of three upper front teeth and fractured skull, the break being above the top jaw below the nose and running round the skull and through the left ear opening. I spent two weeks in hospital with my jaw wired up, drinking Guinness (there had to be some compensation!)
I was fortunate not to lose my hearing in that ear but what I did get, as a result, was a deformed ear passage. This is part of the reason why I have never been able to find a pair of earphones that will stay in my ear. In fact, due to the shape of my ear lobes I can't get any standard earbud designs to stay on either. There are no convenient ledges to hold them in place.
I thought I had found the perfect solution when I noticed a mobile phone headset in a basket of items being sold off cheaply at a motorway services. I could see that one of the components of the set was some butyl rubber moulded ear cushions. They were clearly intended to press-fit onto the earbud and so hold it in place. However, once I'd had a chance to examine them I found that, although exactly what I needed, they were all designed for the right ear!
So, what I've had to do is resort to the design that is held on with a hook that fits over the ear. Until now.
I saw the Koss Spark Plugs on the Internet and thought that they might be worth a try. I found them being sold on Amazon, sold by echo4media at an unbeatable price of £3.99 plus postage. I reckoned at that price I couldn't go wrong.
The Koss Spark Plug earphones are pretty much in the standard earbud design except that instead of the face that fits against the ear being rounded and fitted with a thin foam cover, the face is flat and has a short tube sticking out of it. Fitting onto this tube is the cushion that makes this design different.
The earphone is an intra-aural design where the earphone cushion fits inside the ear passage. The detachable cushion is made of a soft foam plastic. This foam cushion is black, conical in shape, about a centimetre long and has an separate internal plastic tube through which the sound passes. The earphones come with a spare pair of foam cushions in case the originals get damaged or wear out. I don't know if it is possible to buy replacements without the basic earphones.
To fit it to your ear you squash the foam with your fingers until it compresses around the plastic tube, which stops the foam completely squashing to nothing. Before the foam can re-expand you then insert the earpiece into your ear and hold it in place with your fingertip. You hold it there whilst the foam expands and takes up the shape of you ear canal. This could take as much as a minute.
Once foam has expanded you notice that the outside sounds are much reduced in volume although the sound will not be completely cut off as these are not noise isolation earphones. The backs of the earphone casings have holes in them so that you can still hear what is going on around you.
When they arrived I initially, impatient to try them out I plugged them in to our radio alarm in the bedroom but the sound was bass heavy and muddy and I though that they were complete failure. However, I decided to try them out on proper equipment, on my favourite CD for putting equipment through its paces, Yello's Flag album, containing the classic, The Race. This album was recorded using state-of-the-art valve amps and was, at the time (1988) the best example of hi-fi sound you could find. Even now, nearly 20 years later it beats the pants off of just about anything.
Immediately I noticed the difference. The sound was very clear, balanced and dynamic. This was the best sound I had got out of any pair of earphones I had used, possibly with the sole exception of one pair that I know are very good, that I tested with one earpiece of the mobile phone set I mentioned earlier. But, you can't use them with just one earpiece can you?
The earpieces seem very comfortable and secure and feel like they could be used for hours without any problem. I shall be testing them for an extended period but already I think I can say that my search is finally over. The only warning I would give is that, because of the way that they fit the ear it would be wise to ensure that your ears are clean of wax before inserting them. After all, you don't really want to use them as a substitute for a Q-tip do you?!