5 Affordable Ear Plugs

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Why Ear Plugs Matter

You know what sucks? Losing your hearing. Especially if you’re a musician. We all have a reliance on our ears for the greater purpose of enjoying music to its fullest potential. That benefit is soured when our eardrums decide to go all “I’m not going to work anymore” and we’re out of luck.

Between wearing headphones to monitor music and standing in front of a stack and/or a drum kit going nuts, our ears can take a hell of a beating over time and the last thing any of us want is for any permanent damage to happen.

So out of the kindness of our hearts we’ve compiled this simple comparison between a handful of different earplugs. These aren’t those high end, ridiculously expensive plugs either (we’ve opted to leave those out), so you should be able to get these after saving your lunch money for about a week.

Read more about how to protect your hearing – Our interview with Kathy Peck of H.E.A.R.

Click any image to enlarge

Ahead Custom Molded PlugsAlpine MusicSafe ClassicEtymotic Research ER20Hearos High FidelityVater Safe and Sound
Ahead Ear PlugsAlpine Ear Plugsetymotic ear plugshearos ear plugsvater ear plugs
Price: $24.95Price: $19.95Price: $10.35Price: $12.99Price: $15.95
Comfort: They comfortably shape themselves to your ear as opposed to forcing your ears to adapt to the shape of a plug.Fit and comfort: Pretty comfortable.Fit and comfort: Comfortable provided you use the proper size for your ears.Fit and comfort: Pretty damn comfy.Fit and comfort: Comfortable, but nothing special.
Sound quality: They can bring the decibels down by a whopping 26 decibels, but you're going to notice a difference in sound.Sound quality: The sound quality is really good, though some higher frequencies may be muffled.Sound quality: Does really well to preserve the original sound quality. Drops the volume by about 20 db.Sound quality: Sound quality is well preserved with a 12 db reduction.Sound quality: Sound quality is well preserved depending on which filter is used.

Ahead Custom Molded Ear Plugs

With Ahead’s ear mold you get two containers of rather greasy components that, when mixed, harden and become more malleable. At this point you push them into your ear and within about 10 minutes they set and are ready to be used. The other plugs use their shape and filters to reduce volume where as this uses material and mass. In that regard they are great at cutting the volume down, but they’re going to cut down on the quality of the sound while they’re at it. For the price perhaps these would be better suited for more exceptional cases of hearing preservation.

Alpine MusicSafe Classic

The Alpine MusicSafe ear plugs generally pretty good for what you pay. Being the priciest set on the list at $20, they include three different filters, an extra ear tip, and a case to store the bits and pieces in. Overall they’re a comfortable set, but they can cut out the highs a tad and without a cord to connect the two plugs, your chances of losing them go up that much more. Might want to make sure you use the carrying case that can tastefully compliment your keyring, adding a wonderful conversation piece to your daily fashion.

Etymotic Research ER20

The Etymotic ER20 is a set of highly reputed ear plugs. In terms of bang for buck for a quick $10 you can’t go wrong. They are available in two sizes and can drop the decibels down by 20 without typically hindering the listening experience. Given that there are two sizes (and the fact that ear size and shape varies) there is a possible risk of getting the wrong size and having one that doesn’t fully seal the canal. On the up and up though the plugs are connectable via a cord and can be stored in a snazzy keyring case.

Hearos High Fidelity

The Hearos High Fidelity plugs, while not having as dramatic of a reduction in decibels on their side, are still able to preserve the sound quality well at a competitive price. They are washable, they preserve the sound, and they have a cord to connect them. However the cord isn’t the same felt material as other brands and is more fragile. For $13 though it’s reasonable. Plus you can get a snazzy storage case with this set too, but you can’t rock it on your key chain like a total bad ass.

Vater Safe and Sound

Overall the Vater Safe and Sounds share a lot of great traits as the other models already discussed. Their shape and design is a similar cone shape and they include two different filters and a cord to hold the plugs together. As far as features go it isn’t anything you haven’t seen before this far in. The main difference will be whether or not these fit your ears better. And you can still make your fashion statement by storing the plugs in a key chain container. Make sure you wear something that goes with black.



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Kyle Smitchens

Kyle Smitchens is the Guitar-Muse Managing Editor, super hero extraordinaire, and all around great guy. He has been playing guitar since his late teens and writing personal biographies almost as long. An appreciator of all music, his biggest influences include Tchaikovsky, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Steve Vai, Therion, and Jon Levasseur of Cryptopsy.

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