Earproof Rockit by Arthur Stone
Introducing...the Earproof Rockit:
The Earproof Rockit is an earplug (pair) designed to attenuate sound (-15 dB) whilst maintaining some linearity in ambient sounds rather than muffling as a standard earplug would do. It's reusable and reasonably-priced. The Rockit design uses one-size-fits-all memory foam to easily and effectively to fit a range of ears.
Earproof sell a range of earplugs: from the basic, affordable Rockit's (subject of this review) to mid-priced specialist audio/performer earplugs up to more expensive custom-fit earplugs. In addition earplugs are available for sports, motorsport and surfing/watersports.
The custom and specialist earplugs share similar technology; although the basic Rockit has different tech and features it still benefits from the same build-quality and design expertise as it's more expensive counterparts. The Concert and PRO version will be reviewed soon.
Great to review a product focused on maintaining ear health and good hearing. The benefit of the Earproof Rockit is in preventing the hearing damage that sustained and peak loud sounds can cause. Concerts, gigs, raves, house parties, street parties, Marshalls, noisy neighbours, mating hedgehogs...
The ears differ from the eyes in that we cannot close them, although most people can self-attenuate through muscular contracture to some degree (e.g. wincing at a loud noise); also there may evolutionary pressures on different types of audition. Another way the ears differ from the eyes is that with vision we see a world outside of ourselves - a 180 degree panorama, whereas we are at the centre of a soundstage...sound enters our body and being in a different way to the sense of sight. In a sense, the Rockits’ are like sunglasses for the ears and auditory system.
A Brief History of the Earplug:
The ancient Greeks tell the tale of Odysseus's voyage and the enchanting sound of the Sirens; the crew fashioned earplugs from beeswax to protect themselves from the Siren's song, whilst Odysseus is tied to the ship's mast as he is an audio engineer and needs to hear the truth (without filters).
Beeswax remained popular until silicone and memory foam were utilized in the 20th-century. The addition of a central tube or flange allowed an attenuated version of the ambient sound; in addition to being useful for safety or communication in noisy environments, the flange attenuation is useful for audio - production and consumption.
There is a mature and developed science and industry surrounding earplugs and this intersects with medical products and health science.
9.95 Euros per pair
39.95 Euros for 6 pairs
Available from Earproof’s online shop.
Attenuation is achieved by blocking incoming sound by restricting the inlet size and forcing the majority of sound through a membrane filter. The Rockit has been tested to EN 352 standard and specs are published from this showing attenuation in dB at points across the frequency spectrum:
The Earproof Rockit is a high-quality device and well-designed; it is comfortable to use to the point of becoming unnoticeable. As someone who grew up at a time when the standard doctor’s advice was to 'put nothing smaller than your elbow in your ear' - I'm a bit hesitant about earplugs in general, also I've never used an earplug that didn't muffle the sound...so the Rockit faced a challenge.
The shape of the ear naturally concentrates the energy from 3 kHz to 12 kHz due to its semi-parabolic shape. In use, I found this part of the frequency spectrum to be relatively unaffected and this allowed speech and environmental cues to still be heard and this is a major difference between the Rockit (and other Earproof products) and standard earplugs. With the Earproof products we are moving towards an ‘augmented reality’ of sound, hearing and audition.
Ear shape and size is unique (like a fingerprint); there is an average size and general differences in sex and age. Our ears grow larger as we age; this is thought to be due to collagen losing elasticity as the human body ages. The mid- and inner ear are formed by less flexible cartilage whilst the hammer, anvil and stirrup bones remain the same size after initial development.
The outer external ear (the flappy bit) is the pinna and it is mainly structured by the elastic, flexible collagen, whilst the ear canal connects the pinna to the internal part of the ear. The Earproof products are designed to be inserted into the outer part of the ear canal;
Left and right ears can be different sizes too: this isn’t an issue with the Rockit’s universal memory foam fit.
Good insertion technique is the key to success. Earproof have a short YT demo video here.
The Rockit is designed to be placed gently into the outer edge of the ear canal; the one-size-fits-all soft foam easily seals the ear. The Rockit's outer plastic edge has raised sections which assist in inserting the earplug.
In practise, it's super-easy to use (squeeze the foam/insert); very comfortable; and attenuates 15 dB - ish whilst maintaining reasonable linearity and mix balance. When listening in a loud home studio environment the effect was similar to wearing headphones whilst the main monitors are on (both in phase!). There is greater awareness of the body detecting sound pressure and vibration; for tracking e.g. guitar amp, and attending gigs/concerts, this accentuation of the bodily sensation feels good. One becomes more aware of the 'inner self' in a similar way to meditation or sensory-depravation but personally I didn't feel claustrophobic when wearing the Rockits’.
I didn't manage to test the Rockits at a gig or festival; I did get to a sound system and there is a benefit in testing controlled home studio conditions to hear the attenuation in detail. Festivals and gigs can often be the audio equivalent of the Atherstone Football Game.
Diogo, our Gearslutz Review Manager, will be flying to New York to test the Rockit and other Earproof products in the field, at gigs and the notoriously riotous and noisy AES show.
In the studio I was able to hear how the Rockits' attenuated a fixed reference, and able to A/B that, and testing with headphones on. I heard that the Rockits’ didn't compress the sound too much: more providing a levelling of the frequency spectrum with a tilt towards treble and without harshness. When A/Bed, the -15 dB attenuation was consistent and linear at different volumes. The effect of the Equal Loudness Contour was less pronounced.
Given this relative balance of sound and associated lack of claustrophobia, I felt I had much more situational awareness within the physical environment and my balance was unaffected by the loss of spatial information that would occur with standard earplugs that attenuate the full frequency range.
Let's make a distinction between medical products, tested for, and prescribed by, an audiologist, and the products reviewed here. The review is testing in the audio/leisure realm only; naturally, Earproof's advice and product instructions should be followed. Problems with hearing, e.g. pain at loud or prolonged noise, should be dealt with by a medical professional.
Despite the reasonable price (for reliable, comfortable, effective ear protection) the Rockit is designed to be reusable. How long it is reusable will depend on several factors: user care; cleaning; environment. My concern long-term will be bacterial build-up; which can be remedied especially with a new set.
When using the Rockit in hot Summer temperature, there was a little ear wax at the seal points left on the foam when I removed them. I simply wiped them with a tissue and stored them in the supplied metal container. In terms of disposability and recyclability the Rockit is offering much more than single-use and is certainly less costly than treating ear damage.
A further 15 dB (approx.) of attenuation is achieved by blocking the Rockit's centre tube with finger pads.
There is also a more expensive -20 dB Concert version which Earproof recommend for raves: something to consider for super-loud environments or prolonged exposure.
Outside of the studio, gig, rave and concert I would be happy to wear the Rockit's in other environments, for example, to reduce ambient noise but still hear some detail when travelling (as passenger) or when neighbourhood noise is annoying. handy to have to hand. They create a comfy vibe where annoying sounds are soothed.
Sound quality 5/5 Very good for this price and a marked improvement over standard earplugs.
Ease of use 4/5 Bit fiddly but manageable. Getting a good air seal is key to success.
Features 5/5 Foam is comfortable and effective; the plastic outer side has good ergonomics in terms of ear fit (discrete, doesn’t stick out) and the ridges give some grip when inserting/adjusting. The internal tube and membrane attenuate effectively.
Bang-for-buck 5/5 This is an earplug attenuator that can be effectively used in comfort; it works. The build quality is great. Low-cost ear survival.
Given the cost and comfort, the Earproof Rockits’ are something to plan on using and equally useful to have on stand-by for exposure in noisy environments; a precaution that will have lifetime benefits. It's not wise to stare at the sun; we use filtered glass and advanced materials to prevent eye damage - our ears deserve the same.
Credits and links:
A morphometric study of the external ear: age- and sex-related differences. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12900628
Odysseus and the Sirens vase: By Siren Painter (eponymous vase) - Jastrow (2006), Public Domain.
Images used courtesy of Earproof; additional images by Arthur Stone.
Rockit product page at Earproof.com
Earproof Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFS...tq7weMg/videos