Visting Thomas Muller at Acoustix Hearing to try the Ultimate Ears custom monitor range last week got me thinking about another one of his products – my Elacin ER FlexComfort Musician’s Earplugs are with me every single time I go to a live gig.
If you like live music (and if you’re heavily into hi-fi, you probably love it) then you need a set of these things. I don’t consider them merely a nice product to have, rather they’re a necessity because dealing with hearing damage isn’t something you really want in your life.
Some local gigs I’ve attended have been diabolically loud e.g. Jeff Wayne at Vector, Ben Harper at North Shore Events Centre or even worse, Big Day Out 2009 – what a bloody debacle. Thank goodness Neil Young had his own people to set up his sound because he was just about right, while everything else was a screechy booming mess. I’ve used foam earplugs at certain gigs but they’re a dead loss, you either get too much of one frequency or attenuation over the full range, leaving you with a wasted ticket and wondering what all the fuss was about.
I know, I know. If it’s too loud, you’re too old. Cool – you deal with the tinnitus then, or the inability to properly hear the music you love. Good luck picking the difference between CD players when all you hear is “beeeeeeeeeeeeeee eeeeeeeeee eee ee eeeeeeeee”. I was lucky enough to get away with my hearing more or less intact despite spending too much time in too many clubs and hundreds of hours on shooting ranges but now I guard my hearing like the Secret Service teams look after Obama.
Which brings us back to the Musician’s Earplugs. They’re designed for musos and DJs but happen to be perfectly suited for audiophile ear protection duties. They’re custom molded to fit each ear canal, a procedure that isn’t exactly comfortable but certainly isn’t painful.
There are three interchangeable filter options available that attenuate either 9dB, 15dB or 25dB across the full frequency range. I’ve found the 15dB filters give a good balance between cutting sound down without shutting everything off. The gigs I’ve attended with the plugs have been more enjoyable than without, which is why I like them so much. They cost a little over $300 including fitting but tickets for a few gigs that are a blast instead of a burden make that cost a non-event.
They’re also great for vacuuming and working with power tools, although the 25dB filters might be better suited for that purpose. Yes I even avoid that kind of noise – after all, I’m strange enough that I actually want to be able to hear the difference between obscure audio cables.