By Team EarPeace
I wanted ear plugs that provided adequate protection for concerts, but didn’t ruin the overall sound. Triple flange ear plugs seem to be the most popular design, but they didn’t work for me since I seem to have large, but shallow ear openings. Therefore, the double flange ear plug options were the most comfortable and are where I focused my efforts. I quickly found three ear plug options that I liked the most and ultimately got the EarPeace HD ear plugs since they were the best combination of protection, fit/comfort, and value. For more information, please read my full review and comments for the various ear plugs that I evaluated below.
I love live music and have been to many concerts over the years. However, this has also lead to some hearing problems since I have developed some sort of tinnitus in my right ear (probably from never using hearing protection at concerts and standing right in front of large, loud speakers too often). I decided it was time to protect my hearing and decided to look into high fidelity ear plugs prior to a recent concert. I’m not an expert at this stuff, but wanted ear plugs that would offer adequate protection, but fit well, were comfortable, and didn’t completely ruin the music. There are a ton of options available, so I decided just to get a whole bunch of the more popular ones and take a look at them…
Fit is very important for two reasons: long term wear comfort (if they don’t feel good it’s likely that they won’t get worn) and a good seal guarantees maximum sound protection. I quickly discovered that my ear openings are apparently large, but shallow. This quickly ruled out any triple flange ear plug designs since those are typically long and narrow. None of them fit well in my ears, including the “large” ones, since they wouldn’t go in past the second flange. Therefore, they didn’t seal well and just felt like a Q-tip sticking out of my ears. Not good, but this definitely helped reduce the options for me to just two flange designs.
The ear plugs with two flanges fit really well for me and were most comfortable. Even though the flanges on all the plugs are made from the same material (i.e., silicone), the two flange ones felt so much softer and flexible than the three flange ones. I was able to get a good seal and the plugs felt good for the entire concert. Between that and the protection, I had not ear ringing whatsoever. The music still sounded quite good and so I still enjoyed the concert even with ear plugs. Overall, I am very satisfied with the decision to get high fidelity ear plugs and will be wearing them at all concerts or loud situations from now on.
I have included my comments for each ear plug below and attached an image that has a comparison of the plug prices and features for quick reference. Please note that this was based on my own research at the time of purchase (early March 2017) and things could have changed since then. Hopefully this information is helpful.
1. EarPeace HD – THESE ARE THE ONES THAT I DECIDED TO KEEP – Double flange design; soft material and very comfortable; comes with three ear plugs so there is an extra in case one is lost; two filter options, but I primarily used the higher 14 NRR one as I wanted more protection and this was slightly above average compared to the other ear plugs; liked the “light” color option and available in other “flesh-toned” colors; removal tabs made the process easy and aren’t very noticeable; larger carrying case, but fine on the key chain or in a pocket (also has spot at one end to hold the extra filters or plug); tested at a concert and thought that the middle tones sounded a bit muddled, but took out the plugs and discovered that it was really just the terrible sound mixing!
2. DownBeats (Long Stem) – Double flange design; soft material and very comfortable; identical to the regular DownBeats with a slightly longer stem; these were my second pick as they felt “lighter” in my ears, but didn’t seem to block as much as the EarPeace despite having better specifications (I suspect this was because the plugs were actually too small for my ear); the longer stem was necessary as it was extremely difficult to remove the regular DownBeats with the shorter stem; the longer stem is still barely visible when the plugs are in the ear; the other reason for not keeping these is that there are no detailed specifications available from the manufacturer; smallest case of those evaluated (but not as small as the Eargasm case).
3. Alpine MusicSafe PRO – Double flange design; extremely soft material and very comfortable; comes with three ear plugs so there is an extra in case one is lost; three filter options; I really liked these, but the carrying case is large and inconvenient; too much stuff overall, so these are probably most ideal for musicians; slightly more expensive and more than I wanted to pay overall.
> DownBeats – Double flange design; soft material and very comfortable; the stem is so short that getting these out of the ear is extremely difficult without tweezers; there are no detailed specifications available from the manufacturer; smallest case of those evaluated (but not as small as the Eargasm case).
> EarPeace (Original) – Double flange design; soft material and comfortable; comes with three ear plugs so there is an extra in case one is lost; similar to the EarPeace HD, but only single filter option and not as high NRR; liked the “nude” color option and available in other “flesh-toned” colors; different removal tabs as compared to the EarPeace HD and they are longer, look like little antennae, and are more obvious; larger carrying case, but fine on the key chain or in a pocket.
> Earasers (Medium) – Unique molded shape; medium did not fit my ear quite right and therefore felt very strange; lowest protection of all the plugs evaluated; terrible carrying case (just a round plastic snap-shut case); very expensive.
> Earasers (Large) – Unique molded shape; large was too long and actually stuck out of my ear; lowest protection of all the plugs evaluated; terrible carrying case (just a round plastic snap-shut case); very expensive.
> Etymotic ER20 (Standard and Large) – Triple flange design; available with standard or large flange; pretty standard filter design and look (triple flange with round flexible stem); this plugs seems to be popular and fairly ubiquitous and a good option if triple flange in comfortable; very reasonable price for average protection, but would recommend the LiveMus!c HearSafe plugs for more protection (but at double the cost).
> Etymotic ER20XS (Standard and Large) – Triple flange design; available with standard or large or both included in the universal kit (see below); Etymotic ER20XS filter is longer than the Etymotic ER20 filter and feels like a giant things sticking out of the ear; earplug is fairly obvious in the ear; more expensive than the Etymotic ER20 for barely any extra protection and a much more obvious plug.
> Etymotic ER20XS Foam (available in the Etymotic ER20XS Universal Kit) – Triple flange design; available in the universal kit along with the standard and large flanges; kit includes two filters and two each of the three different flanges; Etymotic ER20XS filter is longer than the Etymotic ER20 filter and feels like a giant things sticking out of the ear; the universal kit is best option for these plugs if unsure of flange size or if the foam flange is desired; foam offers best fit/seal, but good luck getting it in the ear as it feels like inserting a stiff, over-sized packing peanut; everything barely fits in the somewhat awkward and flimsy key-chain case.
> LiveMus!c HearSafe (Standard or Large) – Triple flange design; available with standard or large flange; comes with four plugs, two of two different filters; similar, but slightly smaller case as the HearPeace plugs; really only interested in the higher protection plugs; save $10+ by getting the NU-branded version that appear to be identical to these plugs.
> NU Ear Plugs (Large) – Triple flange design; appear to be re-branded LiveMus!c HearSafe plugs (see above).
More Options Not Evaluated (and why)
> DUBS – Did not evaluate; single flange design; did not like the visible appearance and obvious look in the ear).
> Eargasm – Did not evaluate; triple flange design; did not like the visible appearance and obvious look in the ear); smallest key-chain case.
> Hearos High Fidelity Series – Did not evaluate; triple flange design; appear to be very similar is style and specs to the Etymotic ER20 plugs; many other Hearos options available ranging in features and price.
> NU High Fidelity Ear Plugs – Did not evaluate; triple flange design; appear to be re-branded Eargasm plugs; smallest key-chain case.