Protecting your hearing should not be a privilege reserved for the wealthiest concert-goers. In fact, every single person should have access to a pair of high quality, reusable music ear plugs, to ensure that they’re able to enjoy live music—or anything loud!—without risking long term damage. In this guide, we’re counting down what we think are the best and most effective music ear plugs on a budget. For this, we had a few criteria:
- Price. Obviously a budget music ear plug should be appropriate for someone on a budget. This means, we’ve kept everything in this list below $40 dollars. The average pair of musicians' ear plugs will last up to 100 wears if they are well taken care of — so you won’t have to worry about replacing these regularly.
- Flexibility of Fit. One of the hardest things about plugs is finding the right size. But that can be expensive, particularly if you need to trial lots of different brands. For the sets we’ve chosen in this guide, they’re some of the most flexibly fitting units — likely to be suitable for all ears.
- Quality. Just because these plugs are cheaper doesn’t mean you’re compromising on the listening quality. All of these plugs regularly feature in our ordinary best plug lists, they’re going to provide you with high quality listening experience (without breaking the bank!)
With that in mind let’s jump in, starting with number five.
Pros: Excellent for louder styles of music, with NRR 27 protection it’s among the strongest reusable plugs for music.
Cons: High level of protection may result in less clarity for other genres.
The Hearos Rock ’N Roll plugs are the cheapest set on the list, and also block the highest sound — a great place to start. They’re one of our most readily recommended, particularly for people playing percussion instruments such as the drums, or attending rock, heavy metal or hardcore music. Rated to NRR 27, they’re going to block a really large amount of sound — and this may cause additional compression or loss of clarity meaning they’re the right tool for certain jobs, but not all of them. As a pair, they’re comfortable, fit a wide variety of ear shapes, and come with a carry case for care between wears. The black colour is quite eye-catching though, at the same time, less discrete than some of the other sets listed. Like all the plugs in this list, it’s easily washed with a damp towel — just make sure you let it fully air dry before putting it back in your ears!
Pros: Available in child size, making it great for the whole family.
Cons: Red ringed filter can be a little too eye-catching for every day wear.
Next up, the one that started it all. The original Earjobs MusicMate remains a great off the shelf solution for concertgoers on a budget. They’re comfortable, flexible in terms of sizing, and block a medium amount of sound — about 23db — which is suitable for all but the loudest of musical environments. A major reason they’ve been so popular over the years is the simplicity of their fit: they insert gently and easily into the ear and immediately attenuate sound for all but the largest ears. A great guarantee for if you haven’t used ear plugs before and want something that just works. The main advantage this set has over all competitors on the list is the presence of a child size. Great for your mini-Mozart or fledgling-Freddie Mercury, the child-sized MusicMate is a must-have accessory for music lessons, particularly with electric or percussive instruments. Think about how small a regular practice space is, and how loud your child is smashing those drums. Protect those ears, now! The child-sized set is additionally useful for adults with smaller ears. If you’ve struggled with one-size-fits-all sets in the past and need something smaller, the child-size in the OG MusicMate is a great place to begin. Comes with a keyring attach case as well, so you’re never without your plugs.
Pros: Available in multiple colours.
Cons: Lacks the customisation of Alpine’s more expensive musician’s series.
Alpine are one of the world’s biggest providers of specialised ear plugs and with the PartyPlug series they’ve attempted to create a budget-conscious set for the raver and festival head crowd. They’ve got good 25 SNR filters which provide a clear and accurate sound, making them a great choice for versatile concert going. The Alpine ‘thermoshape’ material uses NO silicone — so if you’re allergic to silicone or have hypersensitivity to synthetics these would be a good choice for you. The tips have the added bonus of contouring to the shape of the ear when inserted, ensuring comfort, but more importantly also ensuring that the sound protection is secure. Unique for this list, they’re available in multiple colours: Black, Transparent and White, which is great if you want to create your own style with the plugs or if you need them to go with a certain aesthetic (hello Berghain!) It comes with the Alpine Miniboxx packed as standard, which is great for transporting your set on the go.
Pros: Medium and Large sizing tips make this the most flexible sizing choice for first time users on a budget.
Cons: Not as strong as our number one pick.
The Crescendo Music 20 is another excellent budget pick. Particularly in comparison to the Hearos, it provides a lower level of sound attenuation — about 20dB — which is sufficient for most live listening experience. One of their oft-quoted descriptions is that you can hear sounds at 105dB for up to 8 hours with these in. Pretty powerful stuff! They’re a low-key wear, made with transparent material and a sound dampening mesh that doesn’t draw too much attention to itself. A big benefit of these is that the filters use this kind of mesh, which reduces the pressure differential between the inside and outside of the ear and can assist in mitigating that ‘clogged up’ feeling some people get with ear plugs. While it’s on the more expensive side for this guide, you have to remember it also comes with multiple sized tips: Medium and Large. While Medium will be suitable for the vast majority of wearers, for larger-eared folk these extra tips are a godsend. Very few off the shelf solutions automatically seal for larger eared individuals — these do a good job.
Pros: Updated shape ensures comfortable contour to a variety of different ears.
Cons: Does not come with a lanyard (yet), not available in children’s size (yet).
If you’re looking for a high quality listening experience at a safe volume, without having to subsist off packet ramen for a week, we’ve got you covered. First thing though, you have nothing to fear. The newly upgraded MusicMate Pro retains everything people loved about the OG model: excellent comfort, the high fidelity SNR 23 filters, and the handy keyring attach carry case. In terms of upgrades, the Pro model has a fresh new conical shape that’s designed to better secure to the ear. It’s comfier, seals more easily, and ensures consistent protection no matter how hard you boogie. The tips are made of a hypoallergenic silicone and are wipe clean with either a damp cloth or an antibacterial wipe. The filters have also had an upgrade. While they block the same amount of sound, there’s a greater clarity to the listening experience that ensures you’re hearing the music as you want to, just at a safer volume. Just as importantly, they’re a discrete wear. In contrast to the original model, we’ve done away with the red circle to make these an entirely transparent set. This means the same level of safety but a less conspicuous set — great for if you’re a day-to-day ear plug wearer who doesn't want to draw attention to themselves. It’s these reasons, as well as the price point, that makes the MusicMate Pro our pick for best budget plug for 2022.