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 2021. This list is based on our own assessment as well as the feedback from thousands of customers, we’ll be examining 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: Cheap and reusable, a great first plug for drummers.
Cons: Lack the higher tier acoustic filters that create the most authentic listening experience.
In fifth place, a great introductory plug with high level blocking and none of the bells and whistles: the Hearos Rock n’ Roll. It’s rated to NRR 27, which makes it a higher sound blocking plug, great for individuals with percussive instruments like drums, and great also as an introduction to musician’s hearing protection. The high level of sound protection belies that the filters in this plug are not as great as in some of the ones we’re going to run through. They’re a comfortable plug, they block a lot of sound, but you might find some of the intricate musical features are being lost. That said, they’re the cheapest reusable plug we stock and highly regarded, particularly by drummers, and may provide enough to make up for some of the higher tier features that are missing.
Pros: Eye catching design in five colours and lightweight, with solid filter performance.
Cons: Ear-ring design not for everyone, case could be better at the price point.
Coming in at fourth, the Loop is unique among high fidelity musician’s plugs for its eye-catching looped design. Coming in a range of colours, it’s an accessory as well as a piece of hearing protection, and the hollow loop filter performs well either in allowing you to hear conversation or in transmitting music clearly through to the ear. It comes with a variety of foam memory tips, which is great for customising your fit, but the case is a little flimsy and for this price point could be made of stronger stuff. The Loop’s filters strongly outperform that of the Hearos, I found that I could hear the full range of sound with far less distortion. The plugs are comfortable and very light weight, with good seals that remain strong even if you’re dancing or moving around a lot. The Loop design is not for everyone, however, and it makes it harder for inconspicuous wear.
Pros: Hyper discrete plug that’s got great flexibility as an everyday solution 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 is perhaps 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.
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, a new plug debuted in early 2021, 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. Fit-ability 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 second cheapest plug on this list (a big benefit of buying Australian) and goes toe-to-toe with more expensive models.
Pros: Interchangeable filters make this the best plug for enthusiasts and professionals, while the range of accessories make this a complete kit.
Cons: Thermofit material great for 95% of ears but less effective with wider or deeper ears.
But only one plug could reign supreme and in 2021, it’s the Alpine MusicSafe Pro. The Alpine MusicSafe Pro was ultimately distinguished by the quality and breadth of its interchangeable filter system, coming with three discrete sets of filters providing low, medium, and high levels of noise protection. This grants you the best opportunity to find an appropriate level of protection for the kind of performing or listening you’re doing (at the end of the day, an acoustic crooner has very different needs to the frontperson of a metal band). Alpine’s signature thermofit material flexibly adjusts to the shape of the ear, using the natural heat of the body to create the best fit: we find that this suits the majority of ears excellently and distinguishes Alpine’s range from their competitors. The acoustic filters all perform to a high degree — we found that they preserved the widest range of sound while still blocking out the right degree of distortion. If you’re someone who’s performing constantly or a real audiophile, the Alpine MusicSafe Pro is the best choice for a musician’s plug in 2021.
For more information on the kinds of musician’s, DJ, and enthusiast plugs we stock, you can see our entire music earplug range here.