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Normal 3D Printed Earphones

Premium sounding, custom-made accessories printed in an NYC storefront

by Josh Rubin in Tech on 08 August 2014

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The most irritating, widely experienced issue with earphones is that they're made for the "universal ear." The one-size-fits-all approach works for many, but leaves others wondering if they'll ever find a pair that fits their ear. While brands like Ultimate Ears and Etymotics offer custom-made, studio quality solutions, the service comes at a price that again isolates most consumers. NYC's Normal aims to bridge the gap, with a buzz-worthy bit of technology. Customers use a well-designed, easy-to-use mobile app to effectively scan their unique ear shape (or "earhole," as Normal loves to say), which is then translated into a 3D-printed earphone. This process can either be done remotely or starting this Saturday, 9 August 2014, in-store at the Normal NYC factory storefront.

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Thanks to clever engineering, Normal has done away with the need to physically take a mold of your inner ear in order to create a custom fit earphone. All that is needed rather, is a quarter (used for scale) and their mobile app. Once a panorama-style ear image is taken, the app creates a 3D rendering of your soon-to-be earphones. From here, the user is free to chose the finer details that will grace their completed set. From selecting the cord color to that of the 3D-printed fitting (that attaches to the standard driver and housing), the app allows you to further customize the already custom process.

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As for how they sound, our test pair produced crisp, clear sound in a comfortable housing. With a 14mm neodymium dynamic driver in each ear bud, our Normals performed well at a range of volumes, though the bass was best at lower volumes. The fit didn't create a complete seal like that of Ultimate Ears, but for the price ($199) Normal is far and away a promising option. The finishing on the 3D-printed fitting component is soft to the touch, ensuring the earphones are comfortable to wear. And, of course, the smartphone-friendly cord with volume control and mic is handy as well. As a special finishing detail, the case is also custom made to perfectly fit your pair of earphones and ensure the best protection possible.

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While the app is the avenue through which most will interact with Normal, the "Factory" (designed by HWKN, creators of Architizer) deserves a proper introduction as well. Located in NYC's burgeoning Chelsea neighborhood, the modern, cheeky space boasts 10 Stratasys Fortus 250mc 3D printers, accompanied by a wide assortment of ear-themed accouterments. Here, with the help of specially trained "fitters," customers can witness earphones go from mobile imaging to printing in a matter of moments.

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The Normal "Factory" flagship will open to the masses tomorrow, Saturday 9 August 2014. For a closer look at the intimate process and inside the new storefront see the slideshow.

Images by Josh Rubin

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