Best Concert Photography Earplugs – Earplugs for Gigs

The Best Concert Photography Earplugs

The Best Earplugs For Concert Photography HTBARP

Which are the best concert photography earplugs? When I was starting out as a concert photographer, I always thought it was cool to be in the photo pit without any earplugs or hearing protection. I loved the loud music, being in the pit in front of the speakers. I saw the security guys wearing those yellow foam earplugs, but how uncool was that?! After the concerts, my ears were always ringing, but it’s Rock n Roll, right?

I was very wrong and if you´re someone who thinks the same way I did, this article is for you.

Tinnitus and hearing damage

I first came into contact with the topic of hearing damage when I read that musicians such as Neil Young, Bono, Thom York and Sting suffer from Tinnitus.

Tinnitus is defined as „noise that you hear in one or both ears or in your head that has not come from an external source, especially following exposure to loud music (due to the damage to hair-cells in your ear)“. About 10% of the population has constant tinnitus. (http://www.tinnitus.org.uk/)

Spending over 30 minutes in a noisy club where you need to shout to hold a conversation could already be damaging your hearing. We all know that holding a conversation during a Rock concert is almost impossible which is why it can be dangerous to your ears.

How Loud is too loud?

The safe and statutory limit to which your ears may be exposed is 80 decibels (dB). Regular noise above 80 dB will lead to irreversible hearing damage. For instance, at concerts, noise levels of up to 120 dB can sometimes be measured. For rock musicians, the harmful levels of noise are mainly produced by the drums and the amplifiers.

Maximum exposure without hearing protection (The NIOSH standard: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health)

85dB8h
88dB4h
91dB2h
94dB1h
97dB30min
100dB15min
103dB7,5min

The following infographic shows how soon the maximum exposure time is reached:

Concert Photography earplugs

Now we know that we need to protect our ears to avoid tinnitus and hearing damage at concerts, the question is, which earplugs work best?

I am a former researcher and I love doing experiments. Therefore, I decided to test some different earplug brands on the market in a concert photography environment.

The following earplug review is by no means meant to be a scientific essay, nor do I have the knowledge to discuss technical aspects in the way audio engineers can. I have tried my best to give you an overview of the most commonly used earplug brands concert photographers use.

Remember, it’s not about which brand you choose, it´s way more important that you´re actually wearing earplugs!

I got the earplugs from the companies for review purposes and I have no affiliation with them. This review reflects my personal opinion.

Types of hearing protection

Here’s an overview of the different types of earplugs.

Foam Earplugs

These types of earplugs are the ones you can buy at the drugstore/supermarket or are often given to security guys in the venues. Foam earplugs are cheap and you should only use them once. They do protect your ears, but the sound experience is terrible. Voices become extremely muffled, and everything is finished off with booming “fluffy” bass. They’re certainly safe, but arenít designed for you to enjoy the music.

Wax balls

Wax balls are similar to foam earplugs as they completely seal off the ear canal and you get the feeling of being closed off from the outside world. You can get them from the pharmacy, but I never liked the feeling of them. It¥s difficult to insert them properly into your ear and youíll get sticky fingers.

Filter earplugs

These are the most commonly used earplugs on the market. They completely seal off the auditory canal, but a filter system prevents the sense of being shut off from the outside world. This has the big advantage that these filter earplugs reduce the volume without sacrificing the clarity of the sound. It¥s like youíre dialing down the volume.

Customised Earplugs

Customized earplugs fit perfectly because they are produced using a mold of your ear. You can get a mold made at an ophthalmologist. They are the most expensive type of earplugs.

Concert Photography Earplugs

Eargasm

The Eargasm High Fidelity Earplugs are using innovative attenuation filters and reduce noise evenly to maintain the full spectrum of sound while protecting hearing. Many of their models contain two shell sizes to comfortably fit most ear sizes and the discreet, low profile design make them nearly imperceptible to others. A complimentary aluminum-grade keychain carrying case is also included so that your earplugs are always within easy reach. Whether you’re at a concert, a musician performing with your band, riding your motorcycle, or numerous other environments, Eargasm Earplugs help you turn the volume down anytime you need it!

Eargasm Hgih Fidelity Earplugs

  • protection up to 21 dB
  • two pairs of different sized earplug shells
  • aluminum-grade carrying case (black)

Price $28.88

Alpine Hearing Protection

Alpine Hearing Protection is a Dutch company that specialized in ear protection for musicians, children, travelers, water sports enthusiast, clubbers, motorists and people with sleep issues. 

Alpine MusicSafe Pro

The music Safe Pros are the only earplugs on the market that offers three exchangeable filter sets for low, medium and high protection while preserving excellent music quality. They are produced from a soft, flexible and durable material which the company refers to as AlpineThermoShape which due to the warmth of the ear adapts to the shape of the auditory duct. the Music Safe Pro comes in one size fits all only. Should the earplug be too big, you can easily adjust it to the right size. These earplugs won the Red Dot Award for their design in 2015.

Alpine MusicSafe Pro Earplugs

  • NRR=8-16
  • plastic storage box (you can personalize it with your own photo) that includes
  • three filter sets
  • three earplugs (one spare earplug)
  • strap
  • three color options: white, silver gray and black
  • one size fits all

Price $29

Party Plug

The Party Plug earplugs are the smaller brother of the Music Safe Pro and are a target to parties, clubbing and festival goers. They have the same design as the Music Safe Pro, but have only one filter set.

Alpine PartyPlug

  • protection up to 25 dB, NRR=16,5-21,5
  • 2 earplugs including fitter set
  • Miniboxx
  • plastic carrying case
  • four color options: transparent, black, glossy silver gray, white
  • one size fits all

Price $15.99

Downbeats

Downbeats is a company based in Chicago, USA which is specialized in hearing protection for concerts. DownBeats don’t stop sound in its tracks instead, they filter sound, ensuring that the highest quality sounds are reaching your ears while the harsh noises and feedback are left out of the crowd. The silicon flanges mold to the ear canal for a perfect fit. 

The Original Downbeats
  • protection up to 18 dB
  • 2 earplugs with filters
  • anodized aluminum carrying case blue (including carabiner)
  • one size fits all

 

Downbeats

Long Stem Downbeats
  • longer stem for easier insertion and removal
  • protection up to 18 dB
  • 2 earplugs with filters
  • anodized aluminum carrying case black (including carabiner)
  • one size fits all

Price: $13.95

Etymotics

Etymotic Research, Inc. is an engineering-driven research, development and manufacturing company based in Illinois. The name “Etymotic” (pronounced “et-im-oh-tik.”) means “true to the ear.” They sent me

ETY Plugs

ETY•Plugs® are the world’s highest fidelity non-custom earplugs. They reduce most noise to safe levels while preserving the clarity of speech and the richness of music. ETY•Plugs are configured to replicate the natural response of the ear canal so that when sound enters the earplug, it is reproduced unchanged, exactly the same as the ear would hear it, only quieter.

Etymotics Etyplugs

  • protection up to 20dB
  • 2 earplugs with filters
  • Neck cord with storage case
  • different sizes: standard and large fit

Price: $12.95

ER-20XS

The new ER•20XS is the highly-awaited next generation of Etymotic’s industry-leading ETY•Plugs® High-Fidelity Earplugs. ER•20XS ear tips are interchangeable. ER•20XS earplugs can also be used with foam ear tips with essentially no change in response.

Etymotics ER-20XS

  • protection up to 20dB
  • 2 earplugs with filters
  • Neck cord with storage case
  • different sizes: standard and large fit

Price: $19.95

Music Pro

Music•PRO circuitry automatically changes output levels as sound input levels change. Hearing is natural as if nothing is in the ears until sound exceeds safe levels. As sound levels increase, earplugs gradually provide 9- or 15-dB sound reduction. Natural hearing is restored when sound returns to safe levels.

Etymotics Music Pro

  • provides either 9dB or 15db protection at the flip of a switch
  • 2 earplugs MP with different shapes and sizes
  • Flexible Neck cord
  • Cleaning tool
  • Protective case
  • Batteries
  • User manual

Price: $299

Vibes

Vibes are reusable earplugs designed for sound quality. Traditional foam earplugs are only decreasing the volume of high frequency (treble) sounds, but not low frequency (bass) sounds, which is what causes the sound that you hear to be distorted when you wear them. On the other hand, Vibes lower the volume of all sounds equally, from bass to treble, which allows you to hear the sound clearly, just at a quieter volume.

Vibes Earplugs

  • protection up to 22 dB
  • three sizes of ear tips
  • plastic pocket case

Price $23.99

Dub Acoustic Filters

DUBS Acoustic filters are dynamic ear plugs engineered for sound fidelity. They use an intricate mechanical configuration to lower the level of the sound you hear while retaining the proper balance and clarity. The DUBS are designed for use in loud environments. Wear them at a concert, in a stadium, on a plane or around the city.

  • NRR 12dB
  • 2 earplugs with special design
  • plastic carrying box
  • one size fits all

Price $24.97

 

Earasers Musician HiFi Earplugs

Manufactured by the 50-year-old hearing aid company, and developed by their lead engineer – a musician for over 20 years – Earasers filter out loud noise while still allowing you to hear at a safe, comfortable level. The Earasers soft silicone design is based on one of the most widely used hearing aid tips in the market. The Smart Seal technology conforms to the shape of your ear canal for a more comfortable fit that you can wear all day. Earasers can be cleaned and reused, and when the silicone tip starts to get old, they can be “Renewed” with new silicone sleeves.

  

  • provide up to 19dB
  • 2 earplugs
  • plastic carrying box
  • different sizes: XS, S, M, L

Price: starting at $39.99 up to $79.95 (Pro Kit)

FlareAudio

The company states that their earplugs block all sound from entering your ears including bass frequencies for the first time ever without any batteries. So far only active earplugs were able to do this. The Isolates use a solid metal core (Aluminium or Titanium) that is almost all the way through the tip which creates a sonic barrier deep inside your ear to block noise. The only sound you hear while using ISOLATES is from bone conduction which results in an enjoyable and balanced experience with safe sound detail.

Isolate Pro Titanium

Flare Audio has taken a radical new approach to noise reduction Metals have always been good conductors and so convention would suggest they are not a good choice for blocking sound. However, metal has to have a direct connection to conduct sound. So isolate the metal with a soft foam inside your ear and you end up with the Isolate Pro Titanium

Isolate Pro Titanium

  • protection up to 33dB
  • 2 titanium earplugs 
  • replaceable EARFORMS (3 pairs in 3 sizes)
  • Flare carry pouch

Price $69.99

Decibullz

Kyle Kirkpatrick is an Olympic level gymnastics coach, extreme athlete, and a tech nerd. But he was fed up with headphones because they wouldn’t stay in, sounded awful or hurt his ears. Kyle consulted audio engineers, material specialists and high-level athletes to develop and test hundreds of designs, formulas, and prototypes in order to create an easy and affordable custom molded earplug. In February 2012 Kyle created the worlds first thermo-fit custom earplugs and Decibullz was born.

Decibullz

  • provide up to 31dB
  • Two Decibullz Thermoplastic Custom molds,
  • Three Sets of Triple Flange Tips S, M, L
  • One Set of Max Protect MEDIUM Foam Tips
  • Carrying Pouch

Price $25.99

EARWEAR

The Austrian family business Neuroth has been amassing experience in the manufacture of hearing protection systems for more than 105 years. All of this knowledge has gone into EARWEAR. And so has its unparalleled attention to detail.

EARWEAR Intro Line

EARWEAR Intro Line Music reduces noise to a safe level: A range of linear filters – offering different insulation levels – ensures that you hear everything in proportion. Just a bit more quietly.

Earwear Intro Line

  • provide up to 20dB
  • Three silicone earplugs
  • Sizes M and L included
  • Two interchangeable filters

Price: $60

EARWEAR Design Line (Custom Fit)

The best idea is to arrange an appointment with a local Neuroth partner store to get an impression taken of your ears. Everything else happens on-site at Neuroth. You’ll work with a specialist to identify the hearing protection that is best suited to your individual needs and choose the best filter for you. You’ll be able to pick up your EARWEAR directly from the specialist a few days later (Europe only).

Earwear Design Line HTBARP Logo

  • provide up to 20dB
  • Two custom fit earplugs
  • 3D printed from acrylate
  • storage box

Price: $215

Marketing

The earplug business is a competitive space and so companies try to come up with cool taglines for their products. Here are the taglines for the earplugs I tested:

Alpine Hearing Protection: Love your ears

Downbeats: Get the killer concert experience you want without killing your ears, Cut the noise. Keep the sound

Eargasm: The revolution in hearing protection has arrived

Vibes: Your Sound, Your Experience

Dubs: Go louder longer

Earasers: clearly your hearing matters

Flare Audio (Isolates): Switch off your ears or Long Live Ears

Decibullz: Heat and Shape

Earwear: the right kind of sound at just the right time

 

The Verdict

 Fit of the earplugs

The challenge of every ear plug manufacturer is to find the right fit for every user.

The anatomy of our auditory canal is unique to us so it´s tricky to release a product that fits everyone. All ears are different. It’s impossible to predict the size of an ear canal by the appearance of the outer ear, or by a person’s physical size, age or gender.

Manufacturers have designed different shapes of earplugs or provide different sizes from which you can choose the best fit. I want to make clear that an earplug that fits my auditory canal might not fit yours. However, by reading this review, you´ll get a good idea of what might be the best fit for you too. If you already use ear plugs that fit well in your ear canal, this review will help you with your choice of other earplugs.

Double Silicone Flange: Alpine Party Plugs, Alpine MusicSafe Pro and Downbeats (both short and long stem) use a double flange form and are available in one size only. Both the Alpine and the Downbeats fit my ear canal comfortably and successfully block out the noise.

Triple silicone Flange: Eargasm, Etymotics (ETY Plugs, ER-20XS and Music Pro) and Decibullz come with a triple flange design.

The Eargasm uses silicon triple flange tips and two sizes are included. One size of ear tips fits perfectly.

For the Etymotics you have to select either standard or large fit with their ETY Plugs and ER-20XS models. The Music Pro set comes with 7 different ear tips to make sure you´ll achieve the right fit. From my experience, the large ear tips fit best in my ear canal. The standard size was too small and they didn´t remove noise completely whereas the large size ear tips fit perfectly. The ETY Plugs are built with a really long stem (where the filter is housed). It looks a bit weird when you wear them because 1/3 of the earplug sticks out of your ear. The ER-20XS are the updated model and are a bit more discreet as they’ve shortened the filter and you can only see the handle to insert and remove the earplug.

The Decibullz are the IKEA version of custom molded earplugs. This means you have to do the molding process yourself. It might sound complicated, but it´s a fun way to get your custom molded earplugs in minutes in your kitchen. The package contains S, M, and L silicon flange tips, a pair of foam tips and two molds. You place the molds into boiling water, wait 5 minutes, remove them with a metal spoon, place the earplugs into your ear and gently shape the molds to your ears. After 5 minutes, the molds harden and are ready to use. The Dezibulls triple silicone flange size M fit my ear canal the best.

The Intro Line (Earwear) uses silicon triple flange tips and M and L sizes are included. I chose size L and they’re comfortable to wear.

Silicone Ball-head: Dubs are designed to fit a ball-head shape into your ear canal and come in a one-size-fits-all wheres Vibes offers three sizes of soft, interchangeable ear tips. Personally, I found that the Dubs didn´t fit well and were uncomfortable to wear. For the Vibes I chose size M  and they’re comfortable to wear.

Silicone ear canal shape: The Earasers are formed to the shape of your ear canals and are available in sizes XS, S, M and L. I tested M and L, but I was not able to get a comfortable fit compared to the double/triple flange shape. The L ones fit better and were usable. However, the noise was not blocked out completely and they were not as comfortable to wear over a long period of time.

Foam tips: The foam earplugs from Moldex (Mellows, Spark Plugs) come in one size and are easily adjustable to use. They fit quite well and are comfortable to wear.

The IsolatePRO Titanium also use foam tips which get placed onto the titanium stem of the earplugs. The Earforms (which is what the company calls the tips) are included in the sizes S, M and L. Interestingly, the small sized tips work best for my ear canal and they successfully blocked out the noise.

Acrylate Custom fit:

Custom fit earplugs are the gold standard because they are custom molded to your auditory canals. I tested the Design Line by Neuroth, a company based in Austria. Here’s how it works. First, you have to get a mold taken of your ear canals by an auditory specialist. Then Neuroth will produce the earplugs and ship them to you. The fit should be perfect for your ears.

Fit of the Earplugs (1: don´t fit at all, 5: fit perfect)

Foam Earplugs3/5
Alpine Party Plugs5/5
Alpine MusicSafe Pro5/5
Downbeats5/5
Eytmotic ETY Plugs4/5
Eytmotic Music Pro5/5
Vibes4/5
Eargasm5/5
Dubs1/5
Earasers3/5
Isolate Pro5/5
Decibulls5/5
Earwear Intro Line5/5
Earwear Custom5/5

Make sure that the earplug fits perfectly into your ear canal, otherwise you will still be at risk of damage to your hearing.

 

Protection and Sound

There are 2 important questions for me as a concert photographer and music lover. First, do the earplugs protect my ears and second, what’s the sound like in the photo pit.

Protection

As I mentioned, the safe and statutory limit to which the hearing may be exposed is 80 dB. Regular noise above 80 dBs will irrevocably lead to hearing damage. What does this actually mean for us as concert photographers? I wanted to get some real world data when in the photopit and so I used the app „Sound Meter“ on my iPhone to measure the Decibel levels directly in front of the stage. I measured the Decibel levels at the Thievery Corporation concert in a large concert hall, at the New Model Army concert in a smaller club and at the Asking Alexandria show in a bigger club. In all cases, I measured values of between 90 – 95 dB.

There are 2 standards for determining the effectiveness of earplugs. SNR (Single Number Rating system, European standard) and NRR (Noise Reduction Rating, American Standard). This can easily get confusing as the different earplug manufacturers use either one of these standards. Therefore I’ll refer to the average dB values that get reduced by the earplugs. This data can be found on the manufacturers’ home pages or on the packaging of their product. Earplugs attenuate lower tones differently to higher tones. To understand that, you need to compare earplugs at different frequencies, using High (between 2000 and 8000 Hz), Medium (1000 and 2000 Hz) and Low frequencies (63 and 1000 Hz). However, my point is to give you an idea of how these earplugs can protect your hearing, so let´s keep it simple.

Let´s assume you´re in the photo pit of a concert where you measure 95dB in front to the stage. You´re wearing earplugs which reduce 20dB of harmful high-frequency sounds. Thus, the acoustic pressure on your ears is on average 95 – 20 = 75dB so it´s safe to be in this environment for a long time.

Here’s a list of earplugs with their reduced dB values

Foam Plugs-32dB
Alpine Party Plugs-18dB
Alpine MusicSafe Pro-16 to -18dB
Downbeats-18dB
Eytmotic ETY Plugs-20dB
Eytmotic Music Pro-9dB or -15dB
Vibes-22dB
Eargasm-21dB
Dubs-12dB
Earasers-19dB
Isolate Pro-35dB
Decibulls-31dB
Earwear Intro Line-20dB
Earwear Custom-20dB

All earplugs I tested are suitable for concerts with an average sound level of 95dB (for the complete concert) and up to 110dB (110 – 15 = 95 dB for 10min in the photo pit).

The Sound

At this point, you might wonder why you shouldn´t just get cheap foam earplugs with -30db sound reduction. They will protect your ears even at a Manowar show at 130dB!

I’ll tell you why. You want to use earplugs not only for protection but also because you want to experience the awesome sound from your favorite band when working in the photo pit. In addition, you still want to talk to colleagues in the pit without having to remove the earplugs every time.

I strongly believe that if you have a great sound experience in the pit, your photos will be better quality as well. So, let´s have a look at which earplugs get the job done best.

The following ranking reflects my own opinion and refers to the sound experiences I had. For me, it was important that I could clearly distinguish the different instruments and only experience a decrease in volume.

Foam earplugs are really bad at attenuating lower frequencies. With music lacking bass attenuation, it´ll lead to a „muffled“ unpleasant sound experience. They are great to protect your ears (up to 32db), but are simply not built for a pleasant sound experience.

Dubs. I heard a lot of people raving about the Dubs on the internet, but they delivered disappointing results. Their ball-head shape ear tip only comes in one size and I didn´t like wearing them too long as they became uncomfortable. The first time I tried them, I thought they were damaged. The sound was similar to that when wearing the normal foam earplugs the security guys offer at the entrance of a venue for free. I did test them on a couple of other occasions, but the sound was always „muffled“. I didn´t test the second pair, so I can´t be certain if my pair was working properly. However, if this is the case, then the Dubs are simply a marketing gag

Decibulls. The Decibulls don´t use filters in their earplugs (the newer model will include percussive filters) which result in them losing the high frequencies from the sound of, for instance, guitars. To be fair, Dezibulls are made to protect users from the peak sound pressure of gun shots, artillery fire, and explosions. So they’re not perfect to enjoy a good sound experience at a concert, as they’re not made for that purpose.

The Alpine Party Plugs, Alpine MusicSafe Pro, Downbeats, Etymotic ETY-Plugs, ER-20XS, Music Pro, Eargasm, Vibes, Earwear Intro Line, and Design Line, Earasers and IsolatePro earplugs effectively “turn down the volume” without affecting the sound experience. I’ve tested them over the last few months and am satisfied with the results I got in the photo pit. The sound experience is fairly subjective and it´s hard to tell which ones performed better. What I can say is that I could clearly distinguish the different instruments and I had no ringing in my ears after the concerts. So, all of the above did their job.

 

Which are the best concert photography earplugs?

The question is, which earplugs will work best for you as a concert photographer? There are dozens of earplug manufacturers on the market who claim they have the best product, with prices ranging from $2 – $299.

Finally, here they are! My suggestions are based on the fit, protection, sound, and price of the earplugs.

Here are my best choices in more detail.

The best entry-level concert photography earplugs

1. Downbeats $13.95

My number 1, entry-level earplugs are the Downbeats. There are two versions – short and long stem versions. I found it easier to remove the version with the long stems. They come in one size, and fit my ear canal perfectly. With a -18db sound reduction and a good sound experience in the photo pit, the Downbeats are a good choice if you´re on a budget. And you´ll get a metal case that keeps your earplugs safe in your photography bag.

2. Alpine Party Plug $15.99

The Alpine Party Plugs are the smaller sister of the Alpine Music Pro. They come in one size and their fit and sound experience is similar to the Downbeats (with a -19dB protection). They’re a great choice if you`re looking for entry-level earplugs at a fair price.

3. ETY Plugs $12.95 and ER 20XS $19.95

The ETY Plugs (and their successor, the ER 20XS) are the cheapest earplugs from Etymotics. They come in two sizes: standard fit and large fit and the question that immediately arises is: which size do I need? I tested the standard fit which didn´t fit well. The large size did it´s job, however they didn´t seal my ear canal completely. I found that most of the triple silicon flange earplugs didn´t fit me very well (with the exception of the Eargasm). However, with -20dB sound protection and the cheapest price in the ranking the ETY Plugs/ER 20 XS, are worth a try.

 

The best-advanced concert photography earplugs

1. Eargasm $29.88 – TOP CHOICE!

The Eargasms are my choice when it comes down to invest in advanced earplugs. They come in two sizes and are the only triple silicon flange earplugs that fit my ear canal perfectly. Their sound protection of -21 dB is one of the highest values in this price segment. In addition, you’ll get a cool little aluminum case which keeps your earplugs safe. Highly recommended. IMPORTANT: you’ll get -10% discount using the coupon code: htbarpear when checkout here.

2. Alpine MusicSafe Pro $28.16

I’ve worn the Alpine Music Pros for the past few years and they’ve never let me down. They’re the only earplugs on the market that offer three exchangeable filter sets for low, medium and high protection. I use the last filter the most. With their double silicon flange, they fit perfectly and are comfortable to wear for a long time (I had them with me on tour). The Alpine Music Pro comes in one size only, have a sound protection of -16 to -18 dB and include a plastic storage box. If you want to invest in good earplugs, the Alpine Music Safe Pros are a winner (and also won the Red Dot Award 2015!). Read an in-depth review from my colleague Rui Bandeira here.

3. Earasers $39.99

I like the concept of the Earasers as they don´t use the normal double/triple silicon flange shape but have a special ear canal shape. Earasers is a 50-year-old family business and they will refund the full purchase price back to you if you’re not happy with their product. This is obviously great, but you still have to decide between four sizes. They are available in sizes XS, S, M and L! I tested M and L, but I wasn’t able to get a comfortable fit. The L ones fit better and were usable. However, the noise was not blocked out completely and they were not that comfortable to wear for a long period of time. They get great reviews on the internet though, so definitely check them out. Personally, they simply didn´t quite fit.

 

The best pro concert photography earplugs

1. Isolate Pro Titanium $69.99

Flare Audio are currently the Rockstars in the earplug market. The company raised $580.000 through a crowd-funding campaign (on Kickstarter) which is simply unbelievable in this overcrowded earplug market! Isolates have a solid metal core of Titanium (although they’re also available in cheaper versions made from Aluminium) which creates a sonic barrier deep inside your ear to block noise. The earplugs come with Earfoams in small, medium and large sizes. Interestingly, the smallest sized Earfoam fit me best. I tested them at the Asking Alexandria concert (95dB in the pit) and was surprised by their performance. The sound experience was great and I could clearly distinguish the different instruments, just at a lower volume. During the concert, I removed the earplugs to hear the difference and wondered how the girls in the first row could survive a 95dB blast without any ear protection! The Isolate Pro Titaniums feel solid and the Earfoams have a comfortable fit. Personally, they will become my go-to earplugs at future concerts.

2. Etymotic Music Pro $299

The Etymotic Music Pro automatically change output levels as the sound input levels change using batteries. As sound levels increase, the earplugs gradually provide a -9dB to -15dB reduction of sound level. The overall sound experience was superb and natural and the 7 different filter tips which are delivered with the earplugs, will ensure you’ll find the right fit for you. I used the triple flange shape in Large which fit my ear canal perfectly. The drawback of the Music Pro is the amount of work you have to go through to enjoy their benefits. As they’re active earplugs, they need #10 batteries (1.45 V and 180 mAh) to work. The earplugs don´t have an “on/off” switch, which means you either have to remove the batteries from their compartment in the earplugs or open the small battery door to interrupt the power supply. I lost one of the batteries in the photo pit when I took the earplugs out of their case one time because the battery compartment was open. I also found that the batteries died after 2-3 concerts. The batteries are cheap, but I simply don´t like the way the earplugs work. Yes, the Music Pros are great earplugs and they do a great job, but you have to keep in mind that they’re more cumbersome to use than others on the market. Read an in-depth review on F Stoppers here. Read an in-depth review from my colleague Sean Molin on F Stoppers here.

3. Custom-Fit (Neuroth) $215

Custom-fit earplugs might be the best option available, because they are custom-molded to your auditory canals and, as a result, are often used by professional musicians. However, the procedure involved in getting them is also more complicated compared to other earplugs. First, you have to go to an auditory specialist to get a mold taken. Then the manufacturer will produce your unique earplugs (you might also be able to print your logo on them, which is pretty cool!). If they fit perfectly, they’ll last a lifetime.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, it doesn´t really matter which brand of earplugs you’re wearing, it´s more important that you´re wearing earplugs!

My suggestion is to invest in earplugs that fit your ears perfectly and do the job they’re supposed to do. If they happen to be the cheap Downbeats, Alpine Party Plugs, or Etymotics ETYPlugs/ER20XS, just wear them. If you want to have the flexibility of changing filters and experiment with the sound quality, get the Alpine MusicSafe Pros or the very good Eargasm (IMPORTANT: you’ll get -10% discount using the coupon code: htbarpear when checkout), and if you’re not bothered about the budget to get great sounding earplugs, get the Isolate Pro Titanium. In my opinion, there’s no need to spend $300 for earplugs that you´ll mostly not wear for longer than the first 3 songs of a concert.

Keep in mind that you can easily lose the earplugs in the photo pit. I’ve lost an earplug in the darkness a couple of times when getting them out of my photo bag. If it’s a $15 earplug, it´s fine, but you definitely don’t want to lose a $200-300 product!

Give yourself a healthy gift and get one of the above – your hearing matters!

Let me know your earplug experiences in the comments.

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