Earproof Concert 15 dB by Arthur Stone
Introducing…The Earproof Concert 15 dB is an earplug (pair) designed to protect the ear and auditory system from exposure to overly-loud noise at concerts and gigs whilst keeping musical content coherent and enjoyable. It has an advanced miniature passive design that keeps the ear cool and uses medical-grade materials.
Ear health is important; any pains or concerns should be checked by an audiologist or doctor. Follow Earproof’s instructions carefully.
Price: 25 Euros (per pair) including 2”/6cm metal container.
Available from Earproof.com’s online shop.
Ears come in different sizes; the Concert’s come with 2 different size inserts e.g. M and L, or L and XL. This allows room for fitting; also left and right ears can be different sizes.
Other products in Earproof’s range include: the one-size-fits-all foam Earproof Rockit reviewed here; a 10dB Acoustic earplug; a 20dB Concert version for louder raves, etc.; and versions for surfing, action and motorsport. There is also a 50 Euro PRO version which will be reviewed next.
Specs: The chart supplied by Earproof from independent laboratory-testing shows the expected attenuation at different frequencies across the spectrum. In use I found the cited attenuation to be remarkably accurate. -15 dB is an average (of -16 dB treble and -11 dB bass) equates to the difference between a loud shout and soft speech. In the upcoming Earproof PRO we will dig a bit deeper into the specs.
The Concert 15dB earplug consists of two main parts: the flexible, hollow, medical-grade thermoplastic (TPE) insert; and a small, metal, capsule-like filter containing a platinum membrane. The filter capsule can be detached from a pocket in the insert making it possible to replace the TPE inserts easily.
TPE, or thermoplastic elastomer, performs like a cross between plastic and rubber – soft and flexible - but leaves no residue or sticky plasticizers. It seems quite robust; no exact reuse times quoted by Earproof and I guess it depends on several factors: conditions and length of use; environment; storage; ear health.
I did enquire about the membrane/filter tech but also respect it is proprietary info; the important thing is how it performs and that’s what I’m judging the product on.
In all, the product is designed and finished to a professional standard, despite its apparent lack of size.
The Sensory Homunculus: Young children tend to draw people (anatomically) as a sensory homunculus – a map of how children sense the world. The homunculus corresponds with the concentration of nerve endings. The ears, the erogenous zones of consenting adults, have many nerve endings. So in terms of how we perceive the world the ears play a much larger role in relaying sensory information to the brain than other body regions. The ears are more sensitive than their size suggests; also, in the Rockit review we noted that whereas sight is an external 180 degree field of vision, sound travels into our bodies and we are central in the 360 degree sonic field. We can close our eyes but not our ears.
Although the Earproof Concert 15dB is a small device, it too plays a much larger role than its size would suggest.
The Ear is Gear: The ear is part of the signal chain…a delicate yet durable organic microphone and analogue-to-digital converter (from environmental sound pressure to brainwaves). High-end studio gear.
We can see the Earproof Concert, not as an independent mechanism in itself but something that works with the ear, becomes a part of the ear. The Concert is effectively a temporary implant that segues with, and enhances, the ear (and brain) function in noisy environments.
The Earproof Concert is modifying or fine-tuning the resonance of the human ear in a similar way that a mute changes the sound of a trumpet.
A word in your shell-like…The conch shell has long been revered as a musical instrument and ceremonial object; the oldest book, the Bhagavad Gita, describes the use of giant conch shells, blown through, to produce a signalling sound (and still doing so 5000 years on). Although animal bone flutes are amongst the earliest surviving human artifacts, it’s equally as likely that conch shell flutes co-evolved in coastal regions as the earliest of musical instruments. From the conch and the architecture of its shell, we can learn how the human ear occludes and facilitates sound. Underlying the conch shells architecture is the Fibonacci Spiral, the Golden Ratio, the shape of galaxies, the dimensions of the human ear. The Earproof logo.
Seashell Resonance: When held to the ear, a sound is heard in the resonant cavity within the conch shell; folk history says it is the sound of the sea. In fact, it is the sound of the environment (usually the seaside!) resonating inside the shell as if it were an instrument body. The human ear acts in a similar way but as a receiver/collector of sound rather than a transmitter like the conch flute.
The Occlusion Effect – which can be heard by talking aloud with fingers in ears – is a boomy resonance generated by the finger in the ear, the ear architecture and the bone conduction of internally-generated sound reflected back onto the eardrum. Normally, without an object in ear, the internal sounds will not be discerned (effectively, occluded sounds are below our perceptual noise floor); also, the occlusion effect is balanced out by external sound. The internal sounds are always there but we’re not aware of hearing them.
Selected acoustic impedance: Whereas regular full-bandwidth earplugs can accentuate the occlusion effect (like fingers in ears) and create a sense of ‘aural claustrophobia’ and imbalance in relation to the environment, the Earproof Concert counteracts occlusion: a vacuum seal develops between the TPE ridges and insulates against bone transmission. Meanwhile, the Concert’s membrane filter allows a controlled amount of limited-bandwidth sound in to the ear to maintain better sonic balance (in terms of Equal Loudness Contours) of perceived sound.
Plus: the Lombard Effect: An advantageous side-effect of the protection of ears is an improvement in the way we speak: in environments with loud noise, speech increases in volume, pitch, rate, duration and pronunciation – the Lombard Effect.
All this means an increase in workload for brain and body; headache material. The attenuation created by the Earproof Concert overrides the instinctive Lombard Effect. You’ll be less scrunchy and wrinkly-looking from grimacing and shouting. More beautiful than you already are.
In the upcoming Earproof PRO review we’ll look more at the Lombard Effect in terms of how a musician/performer might benefit; if the vocalist is instinctively and uncontrollably raising their voice (or instrument) to compensate for loud environmental noise, then they will not be giving their best performance and are effectively wasting energy.
Ear cooler: In addition to the benefit of ear health through reducing exposure to loud and prolonged noise, and the reduced stress on the voice, the Earproof Concert’s open, membrane design lets the ear ‘breathe’ and reduces heat build-up (which is a common problem with many earplugs, buds, and closed-back headphones).
You (still) Got the Look: The Concert 15dB sits flush inside the ear with the TPE tab resting neatly against the outer ear; this makes the earplug almost invisible from most angles of view. This might be useful for a variety of reasons e.g. video/photo, inconspicuousness, accidental dislodging. Another advantage of the flush design is that headphones can be worn over them; handy if the feed is too loud and can’t be changed. The discreteness is part of the ergonomic charm of Earproof’s design.
In Use: Getting a good seal is necessary; technique is key. Earproof have a short demo video here:
To start I mistakenly pulled my ear from above rather than behind my head; it felt a little unnatural at first but never painful or uncomfortable. A bit fiddly for the first few go's but easy once muscle memory develops.
Getting the vacuum seal between the ridges reduces the bone conduction of sound and the TPE insert sort of floats tightly in the outer ear canal. A small tab on the insert enables manipulation and removal easily. Within a few seconds the Concert earplugs were unnoticeable apart from the change in what I could hear; sure, I could feel them if I focussed on them, but it wasn’t distracting.
Sonically, it was like listening with headphones on to a bright treble-tilt mix – but not harsh, and an attenuation of external (non-bodily) sound by a remarkably accurate 15 dB; a threefold reduction in perceived volume.
I didn’t feel particularly claustrophobic, enclosed or cut off from the environment or it’s sonic cues; my balance and situational awareness was good. I had less of a sense that I was situated inside my body from the cues from internal body sounds and occlusion.
In terms of a comparison between the affordable Rockit, Concert and more expensive PRO: I’d describe the Rockits as more spitty and sibilant; the Concerts slightly boxy against the PRO’s, and this is how the mid-range sits with all being bright and full, clear treble, with a stability of image/soundstage as bass increases with volume increase. All models shift the Equal Loudness Contour to be balanced at a louder volume than unaided hearing.
In a loud setting, the Concert 15dB’s made it seem a more relaxed and peaceful experience. My focus was less ‘scattered’ by the sound. I don’t usually play my monitors so loud. It wasn’t an exact reduced volume version of the visceral naked-ear experience; more like listening to myself listening – an aural Cartesian Theatre.
In noticed a slight squeeze or compression either side of a flat mid-range; the low-mids were slightly exaggerated and a little boomy and there was a slight sense of boxiness (although that could be room acoustics). Listening to a small PA system, the added energy seemed to balance out the room acoustic and I felt there was an excellent sonic balance in comparison to both a loud studio mix and a small concert/gig.
Again, following the ‘augmented audition’ theme, I came to regard the Earproof Concert 15 dB’s as an aid to enjoying high-quality audio in loud environments rather than a crude barrier to loud sound. Impressed.
Diogo our Gearslutz Review manager, is currently in New York testing the Earproof gear in the field. Reports to follow.
Running Man: In the dystopian sci-fi novel Running Man the air is so toxic that people use ‘nose filters.’ Essentially the Earproof Concert 15dB is an implant – a temporary implant, a semi-implant.
The idea of implants and practice of body modification is thousands of years old; as old as the earliest instruments. Over time, instinctual actions such as wincing at loud noise became anticipatory actions (fingers in ears). The first person (or primate) to put their fingers in their ears after lightning, anticipating the sound of thunder, was a pioneer…a proto-Gearslut.
So, roll on a few thousand millennia, and here we are. Many body parts can now be replaced often by intelligent machines or lab-grown bits; the natural body can be improved on and augmented. Humans have created exogenous technology – to do the work by proxy – but equally the inverse is true – our technology has become embedded in the human body. Despite dystopian scenarios, there are many positive benefits.
I think the Earproof products continue this tradition: less something to block out sound (an original intent) to now augmenting hearing in difficult environments in addition to protecting the ear.
At a time when neural lace, lightweight bone conduction tech, and nano-biotech is viable for practical applications, so too we see the development of ‘augmented hearing’ products and environments.
Sound quality: 5/5 Given the 15 dB of attenuation, very good. Balanced; full-mids.
Ease of use: 4/5 Bit fiddly. Need to estimate ear size correctly. Comfortable for long use. Discrete. Easy to clean and store but perhaps important to remember which earplug is used for each ear to avoid any potential cross-infection between ears.
Features: 5/5 Medical-grade TPE and high-quality, well-designed and manufactured components. Good support. Neat container although buds can become trapped inside.
Bang-for-buck: 5/5 A great investment in your ears and future hearing. Not just about preventing damage but also making music more enjoyable in difficult environments.
Conclusion: A big distinction should be made between standard historical earplugs that limit full-bandwidth, and what Earproof offer with the Concert 15dB (and the rest of their ranges): I prefer to call them ‘augmented audition’ devices.
The Concert 15 dB is a step up from the basic Earproof Rockit which was likened to sunglasses for the ears; the Concert is more like polaroid sunglasses for the ears. The vision (music) is more coherent, has less glare; colours and contrast are more discernible.
If you’re going anywhere loud then your ears deserve these. Don’t stare at the sun!
Credits and links:
Earproof Concert 15 dB product page.
Fibonacci Spiral: By User:Dicklyon - Own work using: Inkscape, Public Domain,
Lobatus gigas: By cheesy42, CC BY 2.0
Human Ear drawn by Mr Woolner: By Thomas Woolner
Fibonacci Spiral: By Jahobr - Own work, CC0
Fennec Fox: By I, Wildfeuer, CC BY-SA 3.0
French Lop: By Voogt, Gos. de Wormeley, Katharine Prescott, tr Burkett, Charles William, 1873- ed - Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/inde...curid=66797231
Strombus alatus: Public Domain.
Other images courtesy of Earproof; additional images by Arthur Stone.