If you’re in the business of audio then hopefully you don’t take your hearing for granted and use some sort of hearing protection when around high-SPL situations. I’ve been a huge fan of Etymotic Research ER-20 ETY’s for a long time and have used them with great results. The new ER20XS earplugs updates the original design with a shorter stem and interchangeable eartips for only a few more dollars. But if you want the ultimate in protection without wearing over-the-ear headphones, Etymotic’s new adaptive electronic MP9-15 MusicPro earplugs take hearing protection to the next level.
The MusicPro earplugs are especially designed for musicians who need protection yet want to hear naturally and they have a number of tricks that you might not expect. First of all, these are active earplugs with adaptive noise reduction circuitry built-in that automatically changes output levels as sound input levels change.
With the plugs in, your hearing remains natural as if nothing is in the ears until the surrounding sound exceeds safe levels. As the SPL increases, the MusicPro earplugs gradually provide either 9 or 15dB of sound reduction, depending on the selection. When the sound returns to safe levels then natural hearing is restored. So what’s cool here is the fact that you can communicate with everyone between songs when things are quiet without having to take the earplugs out of your ears.
The are actually two modes of operation. When the switch is placed in the -15dB mode then you get the natural sound until the levels increase, which causes the noise reduction to increase up to 15dB, and even 25dB when used as directed. The -9dB setting is a little different though, as it still provides the protective noise reduction but also provides a 6dB increase in soft sounds, so it acts a bit like a hearing aid. While this might sound like a lot of gain, it’s actually quite pleasant and provides a nice bit of extra high-end for those that are beginning to have problems in that area (though everyone is loathe to admit it).
The MusicPro earplugs are powered by some tiny #10 zinc-air hearing aid batteries (a package of 8 is supplied with the unit) that are surprisingly easy to install. That’s a good thing because there’s no on/off switch on these things. You have to open up the battery case to turn them off, which actually isn’t that big a deal. The batteries will need frequent changing in that they begin to discharge whether they’re being actively used or not, so you can expect 2 to 4 weeks of use, which is actually a pretty good when it comes to batteries (as anyone using a wireless system knows).
The earplugs are also pretty versatile in that they come with an assortment of eartips to fit any ear, multiple filters and a filter insertion tool, a cleaning tool, and a nice protective case. The Etymotic Research MP9-15 MusicPro earplugs retail for $299, which is a bargain when compared to custom molded models. You can find out more on the Etymotic website or on Amazon.