Tuesday, January 31, 2017

NAMM 2017: Etymotic Music Pro 9-15 Earplugs Review


Smart people in the music business understand that their hearing is a blessing (and their livelihood), and that prolonged exposure to loud sounds will degrade or destroy this finite resource. But, many earplugs wreck the tonal qualities of music, leaving a dead mess that is pretty much unlistenable. So, some musicians and concertgoers eschew earplugs and kill their hearing, replacing it with tinnitus -- which is a really crummy trade-off. Trust me on this. There is a viable solution to this problem, and it is the Music Pro 9-15 Earplugs from Etymotic Research Inc.

Etymotic is located in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, which is near Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. They have been around since 1983, making earphones, earplugs, in-ear monitors, and hearing protection for musicians, firearms enthusiasts, and tradesmen; there is even a line of products designed for children. I met up with Etymotic’s National Sales Manager, Andrew, at NAMM 2017 and he patiently went through the features of the Music Pro 9-15 earplugs. I came away very impressed!

The Music Pro plugs are a huge step beyond whatever silicone or foam rubber things you are cramming into your ears right now. These are adaptive noise-reduction units that automatically adjust to changing sound levels. They have an amazingly natural sound, and only provide protection when needed. And they adapt to sounds incredibly quickly, so that a cymbal crash or pyrotechnic discharge will be muffled right away.

There are two levels of protection that are available at the flip of a switch: 9-dB or 15-dB. At lower sound pressure levels it almost seems like the plugs are not doing much, but as sound approaches unsafe levels, the earplugs will gradually provide 9- or 15-dB sound reduction. As an added bonus, on the 9-dB setting, there is actually a 6-dB gain for soft sounds, which might make eavesdropping on whispered office conversations a little easier. This boost begins to taper off above 70dB, which is where sound levels begin to be attenuated in either mode.

The Music Pro earplugs are lightweight and after selecting eartips that fit my gigantic ear canals, they fit very comfortably. The NAMM environment is fairly terrible from a sound standpoint, which made it an awesome environment to try them out. Indeed, they let in enough sound so that I did not feel like I was missing out on anything, while cutting out painful sounds from the nearby drums and cymbals. And, I was able to converse with Andrew without any difficulty. Etymotic passed the test!

In the Music Pro earplugs box, you will receive a pair of MP•9-15 earplugs, a selection of ACCU•Fit eartips, a flexible neck cord, a filter tool and ACCU•filters, a cleaning tool, batteries (#10), a user’s manual, and a case. Always use the case, as these things are kind of expensive and you do not want to lose or damage them.

Now, these earplugs are electronic, so they run on #10 hearing aid batteries, which you can find at pretty much any drugstore or supermarket. If you are ready to complain about the price of batteries, try buying these same batteries for your really expensive hearing aids for the rest of your life. This can be your future if you do not take care of you hearing…

Etymotic Music Pro 9-15 earplugs cost $299, so they are not cheap, but they are worth every penny as they are an amazing product that could allow you to enjoy your favorite live music at levels are more enjoyable and less destructive. How much is your hearing worth? For more details or to order a set of your own, head on over to www.etymotic.com


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