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The best earplugs for musicians 2020: protect your hearing from the practice room to your next gig

The best earplugs for musicians 2020: protect your hearing from the practice room to your next gig
(Image credit: Future)

As musicians, we rely on our ears for all kinds of things. They keep us in tune, they make sure our instruments sound the way we want, and they allow us to gain inspiration from all kinds of places. Basically, without them we'd struggle to do the thing we love so much. So it makes sense to give them a bit of help –here's our pick of the best earplugs for musicians.

Naturally, your hearing changes over the course of your life, particularly if you're a guitar player, drummer, DJ or studio musician. But with an estimated one in every eight people in the United States - of all ages - suffering from some form of hearing loss, it's crucial that musicians in particular take steps to protect their ears. 

Thankfully, the technology around protective earplugs has improved immensely, so they're no longer a necessary evil. Gone are those oversized foam products we used to see, with today’s versions decidedly more low-profile. This guide will explain more, along with outlining some of the best earplugs for musicians today. 

The best earplugs for musicians right now

While many brands of earplugs seem to promise the same (or similar) levels of noise reduction, and most use the same (or similar) materials to produce their buds, we did notice a couple of important differences between the plugs we tested. 

One set stood out for us in particular. The Earasers, while not the strongest at attenuation, were so small and discreet that the overall experience of wearing them was positive. Nods also to the Earos One, which we found had the best overall sound reproduction. Neither end of the frequency spectrum was overly exaggerated, and they were comfortable enough to wear for long playing sessions.

The best earplugs for musicians: buying advice

To the uninitiated, the prospect of wearing earplugs can be a negative one. After all, why would you actively choose to wedge something in your ear that will limit the sound you're hearing? How will you know what things sound like? In music creation, we're always looking for the tiny margins where we can improve a sound, song or arrangement. And if we can't hear accurately, how can we critically assess what we're listening to? 

Nowadays, that is not a thing we should be concerned about. That's because there are plenty of options on the market that offer noise reduction but not at the expense of sound. This means you can use earplugs and they will only reduce overall volumes, not cut out certain frequencies or overload others. So your music won't be reduced to a muffle, as some fear, but you will instead be able to play for longer without damaging your ears. 

Another bonus is that none of the earplugs for musicians in this list are expensive, relatively speaking. So if you try one set and they don't work, you're not tied to them forever. Just try a new pair. That said, the benefits of trying sets from the higher end of the scale do bring added benefits like higher noise reduction ratings (NRRs) and – importantly – comfort for extended sessions. It's all very well reducing decibel levels to a satisfactory range, but then your ears ache because you have cheap buds in them. Comfort and accurate noise reduction are the two priorities here.

The best earplugs for musicians available now

Best earplugs for musicians: Earos One earplugs

(Image credit: Earos)

1. Earos One

The best earplugs for musicians, hands down

Price: $40 | Material: Silicone | Noise reduction: 17 – 25db

Made for musicians
Unobtrusive
Accurate frequencies at any volume
Sealing them in place takes practice

Sure, there are earbuds for all kinds of activity: concerts, construction sites, shooting, sleeping. The Eearos One, however, are one of the best options for musicians specifically. Boasting input from a former MIT Acoustics Lab director, these buds have some credibility behind their classy styling. 

Their unique soundbore technology delivers superb noise reduction, while retaining clarity and a wide frequency response.

Best earplugs for musicians: Earasers earplugs

(Image credit: Earasers)

2. Earasers

These musician-focused earbuds hit the spot

Price: $39.99 | Material: Silicone | Noise reduction: 19db

Ideal for stage and studio
Comfortable
Attenuation not as high as others

The Earasers earplugs are another of the entries on this list which are geared specifically towards musicians. This is on account of the filters that ensure a flat frequency response akin to using studio monitors. The benefit of this is that every frequency you're supposed to hear is accurately represented through the earbuds, yet overall noise volume is also reduced accordingly. 

We were a bit reluctant to pull too hard on the antenna-looking part of the bud, but once we'd got to grips with them we found these to be among the best we'd tried. 

Best earplugs for musicians: Vibes High Fidelity earplugs

(Image credit: Vibes)

3. Vibes High Fidelity

The best earplugs for when discretion is preferable

Price: $23.98 | Material: Silicone | Noise reduction: 22db

Nice design
Suitable for all ear sizes
Best suited to loud situations

The Vibes High Fidelity earplugs focus on attenuating - reducing - incoming volumes, but use special filters in order to fine-tune certain frequencies. This, they say, reduces overall noise but doesn't leave the sound muffled. Anyone who's used foam earplugs will attest to the thick, muffled sound you get. Not so with these.

We also liked the construction – once in your ear, the Vibes are extremely low profile thanks to their clear plastic housing, so you can wear them without raising attention. 

Best earplugs for musicians: Hearprotek High Fidelity

(Image credit: Hearprotek)

4. Hearprotek High Fidelity

Cost-effective entry point to earplugs

Price: $15.99 | Material: Silicone | Noise reduction: 20db

Decent volume reduction
Two sizes of ear tip included
Not the comfiest after an hour or two

If the thought of using earplugs during band practice or live performance is alien to you, it may be advisable to check out a cost-effective set. Same as when you learn an instrument you don't go straight to a Gibson Les Paul, it's worth trying out a few sets to learn what you do and don't like. 

The Hearprotek earplugs are inexpensive, and come in an aluminium case so you can stash them on your belt loop. They're not particularly suited to extended use, but for waiting through the support bands before you go on stage, they're perfectly decent. 

Best earplugs for musicians: Eardial HiFi earplugs

(Image credit: Eardial)

5. EarDial HiFi

Near-invisible heating protection

Price: $34 | Material: Silicone | Noise reduction: 20db

So small!
Superb filtering
Small can also mean easily lost!

If you're on the fence about earplugs, we understand. Which is why we can highly recommend the EarDial HiFi set; once these buds are in, they are extremely low profile and blend in with the colour of your skin. You get all the benefits of noise reduction and accurate filtering, without looking like you've taken any action at all. 

A nice touch comes with the accompanying iOS app, which alerts you to increased noise levels in your environment. 

Best earplugs for musicians: Decibullz earplugs

(Image credit: Decibullz)

6. Decibullz

Custom-fit plugs designed for staying power

Price: $25.99 | Material: Thermoplastic | Noise reduction: 31db

Moldable plug section works well
Great value
Almost too quiet in some situations

Big in the world of in-ear monitoring, customised fittings aren't always as practical for lower-cost applications like earplugs. Or so we thought. Step forward Decibullz, which have been created to cover a multitude of noisy situations. The most interesting part of these buds is the customisable molded nature of them. 

Specifically, the three-flange tips come attached to a thermoplastic section which, after heating in warm water, becomes pliable and can be molded to fit your exact ear shape. Ideal for comfort, and with a 31db protection rating, they'll keep your ears snug and secure.

Best earplugs for musicians: Eargasm High Fidelity earplugs

(Image credit: Eargasm)

7. Eargasm High Fidelity

The best all-rounder earplugs for musicians

Price: $35 | Material: Silicone | Noise reduction: 21db

Multiple sizes available
Discreet
Easy to clean
Relatively pricey

People use earplugs for all kinds of situations. From musical to sporting, there are plenty of circumstances where things can get very, very loud. And while we've covered musician-specific earplugs elsewhere in this list, there is definitely space for a solid all-rounder. 

The Eargasm High Fidelity range offers up to 21db of noise reduction, yet ensures that a quality sound reaches your ear thanks to attenuation filters that filter - rather than block - the sound. The included aluminium case makes them easy to take anywhere, too. 

Best earplugs for musicians: Vic Firth High Fidelity earplugs

(Image credit: Vic Firth)

8. Vic Firth High Fidelity

Drummers take note...

Price: $16.99 | Material: Silicone | Noise reduction: 20db

Great clarity across both cymbals and kicks
Neck cord is welcomed
Inexpensive
None!

As one of the better-known brands in the drumming world (the specialise in quality drumsticks), Vic Firth would inevitably want to ensure the hearing safety of its users. These cheap and cheerful earplugs offer a fairly standard 20db of sound reduction, yet on test we found these were ideal when used behind the drum kit

The included heavy-duty neck cord is a nice touch, too, meaning you can take them out in between sessions and not worry about losing them.