Whether you play in a band, go clubbing, or attend festivals and concerts, a properly fitted set of hearing protection should be the first thing you invest in. In fact, current estimates suggest 1.3 million, a full 30% of people suffering from hearing disorders, suffer from damage that could have been prevented with the right protection. A good set of musician’s earplugs are light, low pressure, and inconspicuous. You’ll forget you’re wearing them and, even better, hear more of the music than you did in the past by filtering out the distortion, echo, and additional rubbish that only serves to harm your ears.
In this guide, we’re going to run through the top five high fidelity music earplugs in 2022. This list is based on our own assessment as well as the feedback from thousands of customers. We’ll be assessing these plugs based on:
- Level of protection and flexibility: all the plugs in the list block out at least 20 decibels of sound and higher marks were awarded to plug systems with interchangeable filters, for giving you the most control over how much sound they block.
- Quality of acoustic filter: a great pair of music earplugs should create a seamless listening experience for the wearer. The filter should pass the music through clearly and without any of the distortion or muffling that comes with foam earplugs.
- Comfort, portability and intangibles: how comfortable is the plug? How easy is it to clean? Is it light? Does it put much pressure on the ear canal? All of these features are being weighed together to find a plug with the right combination of comfort, protection, and filter quality.
Let’s start with number five.
Pros: Hyper discrete plug with great everyday flexibility for individuals with sensitive ears.
Cons: Bell and stem shape can create a less effective seal on some ear shapes.
A very popular high fidelity hearing protection solution, the Vibes sell about as quickly as we can unpack them. They have a high performing acoustic filter (many people describe them as like listening to the world at a lower volume) and they come with multiple sized tips for finding a unique and appropriate fit. With an average decibel reduction around 22, the Vibes are a good multi-function musician plug, appropriate for all but the very loudest live performance situations. The shape for the Vibes is similar to a bell at the end of a stem, it means that the bulbous tip of the plug will seal off the ear while the stem houses the filter, coursing the music safely through to your ears. These filters perform at a high level (and make the plug almost invisible when worn) but for some ear shapes, the fit is less effective. Of all the plugs listed, the Vibes are among the most appropriate as a plug for sensory processing disorders, autism, or individuals with sensitive ears — they’re great wearing day to day, inconspicuous and comfortable, while performing effectively enough for you to remain aware and vigilant of your surroundings at a quieter volume. The small tip sizes make for one of the most appropriate sets for young adults, or individuals with smaller ears.
Pros: A pair of filters allow you to adjust your attenuation.
Cons: Lower strength filter may be inappropriate particularly for louder events.
Alpine are something of a jack-of-all-trades in the ear plug game: they make something for everything. What unites them? Extremely comfortable tips. The Alpine MusicSafe are made with Alpine’s unique ‘thermo-shape’ material, which softly contours to the structure of the ear to ensure a secure seal and a comfortable wear. The MusicSafe come in two models: the regular, which we’re reviewing here, and a more expensive ‘Pro’ model (available here). The main difference is the number of filters included. The regular MusicSafe has two filters, one blocking a lower amount of sound and one blocking a higher. Interchangeable filters like this are great especially for training musicians, who might be playing in a variety of different environments (think: big music halls, tiny music rooms) and need different levels of protection to accommodate. In terms of wear, they’re suitable for all but the largest of ears, and in terms of sound they provide a really clear listening experience. Only thing to note is that their protection, particularly with the lower-strength filter, is on the smaller side. Keep this in mind before you take them to Opeth or Deafheaven.
Pros: Even sound reduction across frequencies.
Cons: 20dB sound blocking may be insufficient for louder events.
If you’re a millennial who has ever worn a set of reusable plugs at a concert, chances are they’re by Etymotic. Ten years ago, they were pretty much the only brand that anyone gigging in New Zealand had ever heard of. And with good reason: providing even sound reduction across frequencies and a comfortable wear, they were an awesome off the shelf pick for almost every kind of gig. The newest model, the ER20XS, is the latest improvement on their sound technology — ensuring clearer speech and sound clarity. The Etymotic is not only a great concert-going solution, but is also a good everyday pair for individuals with sound sensitivity. The lower level of protection (around 20dB) means you can still hear talk clearly, great if you want to take the edge off due to misophonia or other sound sensitivity related conditions. Like most contemporary musician’s plugs, the Etymotic are a very discrete wear. They’re transparent, small and easily obscured when slipped in. Rare among reusables, they also come in a Large size — great for individuals with bigger ear canals who are typically unable to use reusables.
Pros: Improved filters and fit over the original MusicMate and one of the most competitively priced plugs on the market.
Cons: No interchangeable filter means it’s less flexible than some musician-designed plugs.
Coming in at number two, the MusicMate Pro is the long awaited upgrade to the popular Earjobs MusicMate line. The main developments include a newly upgraded acoustic filter system, a fully transparent body, and a new shaped tip and base for superior fit quality. The MusicMate Pro are one of the most comfortable plugs on the list, with a hypoallergenic flanged silicone tip that does a good job of resting comfortably in all ear sizes. The filters are a significant improvement on that of the original MusicMate, and I found that in testing they preserved the intricacies of whatever I was listening to, just at a lower volume. But how much protection does it give? Suitability of fit is the main determining factor when it comes to how well your ears are being protected: an incomplete seal is as good as wearing nothing, and the wider base of the Pro model makes it far easier to create a safe seal. The MusicMate Pro is rated to 23 SNR so a good mid-strength music earplug that will perform nicely at festivals, concerts or nightclubs. It’s a very small unit, with an almost entirely transparent body (the filter is opaque, but light coloured and subtle) — it’s virtually invisible when worn. A major pro of the MusicMate Pro is price, it’s the cheapest plug on this list (a big benefit of buying Australian) but still goes toe-to-toe with more expensive models.
Pros: Flat frequency response ensures clarity of sound.
Cons: On the pricier side and not one-size-fits-all.
Coming in at number one is the Hi-Fi plugs from EARasers. One of the most professional-grade solutions that you can buy off-the-shelf, they provide a flat frequency response and a slight sound reduction (NRR5), which makes them optimal for classical musicians, or for situations where you want to simply shut out a smaller amount of sound. (As always, Earjobs recommends choosing the right set for the job — you wouldn’t want these in the loudest room in the world, but in many situations they’re going to provide superior clarity and sound when compared to the plugs they beat out). Somewhat unique for an off the shelf, the EARasers comes in multiple different sizes and you have to purchase your size separately. The vast majority of adult men wear Medium and adult women wear Small but check the product description or get in touch with us for more guidance. If necessary, EARasers exchange tip sizes too. In terms of sound and hearing quality, they are a very clear listen, with flat frequency response minimising any distortion or change to all audio sources. For sound sensitive individuals, these would be a perfect ‘take the edge off’ solution, providing a slight reduction in sound without undermining clarity. They’re a very discrete wear, almost invisible when inserted, with tips that comfortably contour to the shape of the ear. Because of the low sound blocking, they avoid the muffled or clogged feeling some people get with plugs. For the clarity of its listening experience, the EARasers are a worthy winner of 2022’s best music ear plugs.