Welcome to Earjobs Roadtest, the feature where we spend a week testing a product, evaluating its performance, look, and feel, giving you the best insight into new developments in hearing protection. In this roadtest, we’re looking at a very special product, the all new Earjobs™ MUSICMATE® Pro, an upgrade to 2017’s MUSICMATE®, which features a variety of new optimisations for Aussie music lovers, while maintaining the same comfort and value as its predecessor.
- Upgraded filters improve the listening quality, filtering music through clearly without distortion.
- Thinner tip and wider base make for a stronger and more comfortable fit, sealing the ear without putting pressure on the delicate canal.
- All transparent body removes the red ring of the original MusicMate, for subtler more inconspicuous listening.
- Wide-bottom carry case attaches to your keyring, taking up less space while also being more effective as a concert storage spot.
First Impressions and Unboxing
The new era MusicMate Pro comes with an all new box design, including a new wide body keyring attachable carry case and the ear plugs. The box is a substantial improvement on the original MusicMate’s container, making this a far better choice for gifting: it has a glossy design and a transparent front, showing the plugs and the case in all their glory.
The first noticeable difference with the new era MusicMate Pro is the shape of the plug. The tip is narrower and the base is wider, the effect of this is less pressure on the interior of the ear but a better seal for more ear types. To look at: the plugs are almost entirely transparent, save for the filter which is still made of a mostly clear, white material. These are a very low-key plug, almost invisible when worn, and great for stealth wearing whether on the dance-floor or at the shops. Road testing the carry case, I could fit a ring and some earrings in it while I had the plugs in my ears — the wider, shorter case design makes them more useful for the stuff you’re likely to want to protect during a night out, while also taking up less space in your pocket, on your keyring, or in your purse. In terms of accessories and presentation, the Pro is a big upgrade over the original MusicMate, but how does it sound?
For the music test, we wore the plugs while listening to a variety of genres of music through loudspeakers. We wanted to test two things: firstly, how well the sound quality was preserved through the plugs; and secondly, how well excess noise was filtered and how protected our ears were. The MusicMate Pro is rated to 23 SNR, which means it’s going to block out a medium degree of sound — about 23 decibels — which is the standard for musician’s ear plugs and equivalent to the MusicMate. I found that I actually felt the seal on the Pro was superior to that of the original MusicMate, due to the flared base, which means that while on paper they block the same amount of noise, I actually found practically speaking a greater degree of protection to my ears.
The high fidelity filters on the plug, however, are a game changer. Showing just how much acoustic technology has improved in the last three years, I found that music through the MusicMate Pro was clearer, preserving more of the texture of the sound, and allowing me to hear very clearly. There’s very little distortion and echo through these plugs and I found that, even after a few hours wearing them, I was not experiencing any of that plugged up feeling that you sometimes get with cheaper plugs. On the whole, the MusicMate Pro’s filters compete well with the range of high fidelity muso plugs on the market and, since they’re Aussie, are going to be more competitively priced than overseas competitors.
Comfort, Wearability and Cleaning
The best sound performance in the world doesn’t count for much if they aren’t comfortable, so how does the MusicMate Pro stack up against other plugs on the market? The new shape, with the narrow tip and flared base, is very easily inserted and removed and, due to the low density of the plug, there is very little pressure placed on the ear canal, even after long term wear. The plug has a lot of give, it sits comfortable in the ear, and even has some applicability as a sleeping plug — it’s that soft. For individuals with sensitive ears, the plug’s tip is made of hypoallergenic silicone, which should mitigate the itching or discomfort that some people report when they try ear plugs for music. The only concern would be for individuals with particularly narrow ears, if you have smaller or narrower ears, the flared base may actually cause issues with the fit and seal (and for you, the OG MusicMate is a better fit). But for the majority of wearers, the plug’s base is going to make it fit better not worse.
The transparent body makes these a very subtle plug when worn, they sit subtly inside the ear, without the kind of bulging we associate with electronic earbuds or large body foam ear plugs. This makes them a great inconspicuous wear, helpful for situations where you don’t want to draw attention to the plugs or if you just don’t want to have to accessorise the rest of your outfit with what you have in your ears.
To clean the plugs, I just gave them a wipe with a damp cloth. This was more than sufficient to remove any residue that built up after a long period of wear. I let the plugs air dry and put them back in the case, simple! One thing to note is to avoid submerging the plugs in water: the filter is quite sensitive and this can damage it and reduce its effectiveness. For more precise spot cleaning, a damp q-tip can do wonders.
While testing the plug, it became apparent that these could be used in settings outside of music. I trialled the plugs on both peak hour public transport and at the supermarket, and found that they did a great job of reducing the kinds of grating everyday noise that can cause discomfort or stress. The plugs thus have utility, particularly for individuals with sensory processing conditions or high sensitivity, as a tool to mitigate noise discomfort. I found that the filters still allowed me to be appropriately aware of my surroundings and that I was calmer and more comfortable than if I had been not wearing the plugs. (Can noise cause stress and anxiety? See our investigation here).