I almost damaged my hearing during my twenties. I went to a lot It’s shows in small venues with very loud PA systems. Occasionally, I remember getting a set of cheap foam earplugs from a gas station beforehand, but more often than not I went without them. Fortunately, I wasn’t one to enter the hole, so standing near the back of the room might have spared me any serious damage. I have mild tinnitus, but no hearing loss, and can fully enjoy all music as I approach 40.
In my 30s, I was wise to ear protection at concerts. Unless it’s an outdoor show, I take earplugs. However, those generic pieces of foam completely seal off your ear canal and can really kill the vibe. The sound comes out muffled and dull, and you’ll likely miss the more subtle instruments. A number of companies have attempted to meet this challenge, with many giving interviews on the filtered sound that allows good live sound to come with an appropriate level of hearing protection.
Sennheiser Recently released SoundProtex plugs with the aim of doing exactly that. It’s soft and flexible, made of TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomer) which contains no plastics or other potential irritants to sensitive skin. These aren’t disposable earplugs either – you can rinse them under water before storing them until your next event. There’s also a small bag included so individual plugs won’t roll around in the bottom of your bag.
SoundProtex plugs come in two versions: Regular and Plus. Each one has three sets of cone-shaped ear tips in sizes small, medium, and large. You can adjust the level of decibel reduction by toggling the small round acoustic filters on the outside of each plug. The main difference here is that SoundProtex only comes with the full block filter while SoundProtex Plus comes with additional low, medium and high block filters. Eartips alone don’t provide any significant protection.
Since each filter provides a different level of protection, it is intended for different activities. Sennheiser says the low mass filter should be used in “non-magnified concerts,” offices or bars and restaurants. The medium block option is suitable for festivals, events, and travel while the high block is suitable for loud music, motorsports, and power tool use. All three of these have different noise reduction ratings (NRR, single digit rating or SRR in the EU) for the level of decibel reduction. Low mass starts at 10dB, medium is 17dB and high is 20dB. Sennheiser doesn’t disclose the value of a full-block filter, but the goal there is to make things air and water tight to eliminate as much noise as possible (yes, you can wear them in the pool, too). While this option greatly reduces environmental roar, it does not create complete silence. But that sure is enough to help you tune in to the world.
Both acoustic filters are made of a “tuned” diaphragm and sound-dampening mesh. The latter, Sennheiser says, equally reduces the high and low frequencies. The company further explains that SoundProtex filters are designed to let in just enough of the higher frequencies by preserving ambient awareness and the ability to carry on a conversation while wearing them.
I was able to test Sennheiser’s claims for the SoundProtex Plus at the recent Thrice show of the band’s Artist In The Ambulance 20th anniversary tour. Thrice is one of my favorite bands ever, and this is their favorite album, so I didn’t want my nostalgic gas station earplugs to spoil me. During the show, I used the large ear tips with the medium block filter while my wife wore the medium with the high block option. Not only did SoundProtex deliver a superior experience to generic foam earplugs, they are also very comfortable to wear for hours at a time. Which, in my opinion, is just as important.
While the SoundProtex does indeed dampen the high and low frequencies, I didn’t notice a huge amount of harsh hits missing from the kick drum or treble absence from the guitars. Sure, the overall sound curve is a bit muted with these earplugs, but they don’t change things up enough to make me consider going without them. It’s a huge improvement over foam earplugs, and frequent concert-goers will get a lot out of the investment. My Apple Watch was constantly hitting 100-105dB on the noise meter, so I was definitely going to leave with my ears ringing. Instead, I was able to drive home normally — no loud post-show conversations necessary.
The SoundProtex doesn’t quite facilitate conversations as Sennheiser describes it. I had a hard time conversing with the waiter, forcing me to awkwardly resort to hand gestures. I also had issues understanding my wife with earplugs so in the end I’m going to pull one out just for a chat. Results are best in a quieter environment, without the loud sounds between settings, but if you plan on talking while wearing the SoundProtex, a low-block filter is a better choice. Of course, this limits your protection so that you can only use it in certain environments.
Sennheiser designed the SoundProtex ear tips with a pull tab on the outside. This makes removing the earplugs easy as they are almost completely pushed into the ear canal once properly placed. This little tab gave me peace of mind that I would be able to get things out, which is not something that should be overlooked.
One problem that party-goers may run into is the price: SoundProtex is $39.95 and SoundProtex Plus is $79.95. A box of 12 pairs of earplugs is $3.49 on local target. more convenient comparison High fidelity earplugs. A set of these comes with one filter with an NRR of 16dB and two sizes of ear tips for $41.88. Moreover, the ear tip design of the Eargasm is almost identical to that of the SoundProtex and is made of hypoallergenic soft silicone. There is also a range of Loop earplugs which were among the first to promise a certain degree of hearing protection at concerts without significantly impairing sound quality. There are a few more options from the company, however engage Good place to start. $34.95 buys you 16dB of noise reduction in four ear tip sizes much like what you put on earbud tips.
SoundProtex Plus is definitely a comfortable hearing protection solution that gives you choices in terms of the level of noise blocking. It’s more expensive than its non-customizable competitors, but if you only use earplugs at concerts, you might not need to swap out the filters anyway. However, if you want to adjust the number of decibels that are throttled based on what you’re doing, the extra investment could potentially enhance your experience. Either way, this set of earplugs specifically designed for use at live music events is a huge improvement over the yellow foam earplugs. It’s a matter of how much or how little protection you want.
All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independently of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. All prices are correct at the time of publication.
“Lifelong beer expert. General travel enthusiast. Social media buff. Zombie maven. Communicator.”