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Among the chaos of logistics and pre-gaming when headed to a live show, hearing protection is often low on the list of priorities—and is only remembered when you leave with your ears ringing and buzzing. Merging convenience, comfort and sound quality is Venice Beach-based EarPeace, founded by music lover Jay Clark who wanted to protect one of his most valuable assets: his hearing.

“Your average rock concert can run at 115 decibels, that's safe for your hearing for less than 30 seconds.”

Made from hypoallergenic silicone, EarPeace earplugs have a small plastic filter that lowers the overall volume while preserving sound quality and reducing unnecessary background noise. (Compare this to foam plugs, which can block the very frequencies you're trying to hear.) They've recently launched an HD version of their original product, which offers a more durable tab and interchangeable filters for more volume customization: one filter offers medium protection (11 dB attenuation) and the other, high protection (14 dB attenuation). Upon testing them for the past few weeks, we enjoyed shows at a pleasant—no longer painful—sound level and by clipping the case onto our keyring, the ear plugs were always easy to access. Plus, they are discreet: EarPeace has three different skin tone options, so no Day-Glo colors or robotic-looking contraptions.

"Your average rock concert can run at 115 decibels," EarPeace founder Jay Clark explains to CH. "That's safe for your hearing for less than 30 seconds. If your ears are ringing or they feel dull after a show, that is a sign of some degree of hearing damage. Although hearing loss is devastating, tinnitus might be even more debilitating and can be caused by a single exposure to loud music. I know multiple music junkies/DJs whose fun ended because their ears never stopped ringing after a particular show and they developed hyperacusis. It's like flipping a switch."

They've been a staple at festivals around the world the past few years, offering limited edition co-branded EarPeace sets at Electric Zoo and SXSW to across the pond for Croatia's Dimensions, Amsterdam's Open Air, Japan's Fuji Rock and much more. "If you are going to convince people that hearing protection is cool and worth using, it needs to be associated with the events and experiences that people love," Clark tells CH. "Music fans want to hear the music clearly, comfortably and stay cool," finishes Clark. He also reminds us that hearing protection isn't just for live music and custom-built sound systems—EarPeace also works well for the daily commute on the subway, sporting games—and those incredibly loud bars where conversations are shouted.

A set of three plugs (case included) starts at $13 and is available from EarPeace online.

Images courtesy of EarPeace.

(republished from the Wall Street Journal - Feb. 23, 2015)

Forget glow sticks—the latest must-have accessories being pushed to young festivalgoers are high-end earplugs.

Startup Doppler Labs has signed a deal with Anschutz Entertainment Group’s Goldenvoice promotion division to distribute more than 100,000 free pairs of its Dubs branded turquoise soft-molded earplugs—valued at $10 each—at AEG’s Coachella festival in California this spring. Pink, blue and teal-rimmed versions of its higher-end “acoustic filters” will be on sale at the event for $25 a pair.

Doppler, which says it has sold 70,000 pairs of its high-fidelity earplugs in stores such as Best Buy Co. and Guitar Center Inc. since it launched late last year, is hoping image-conscious young ravers will don the curvy inserts as a “fashion statement,” according to Doppler’s co-founders, Chief Executive Noah Kraft and Executive Chairman Fritz Lanman.

The earplug market has never been a big growth industry, with manufacturers mostly catering to the elderly or consumers that need protection for professional reasons, such as military members and gun enthusiasts. But the boom in electronic dance music, better known as EDM, has helped make the world a louder place, said Mr. Kraft, while creating a new potential market for hearing-protection products.

Mr. Lanman said the company expects its reception among festivalgoers will be helped by the increasing popularity of wearable technology aimed at health—from smartwatches to smart athletic shirts. Earplugs are the first and most basic of the “hearing-optimization” products that Doppler is planning to develop; future products will likely use chip technology that gives users more control over how they filter various sounds or types of music, said Mr. Lanman.

The plugs that the company is giving away in Coachella welcome kits, by contrast, are effective as far as hearing protection goes, but they don’t ensure the same acoustic richness and clarity that its more sophisticated audio filters can, Mr. Kraft said. Goldenvoice and Doppler declined to disclose the financial terms of their deal.

Electronic-dance-music conglomerate SFX Entertainment Inc. is in talks about a potential deal with another earplug manufacturer, according to a person familiar with the matter, after enlisting New York-based EarPeace to create branded earplugs for SFX’s Electric Zoo and Tomorrowland festivals.

The global earplug market is worth about $600 million, according to calculations by Doppler Labs’, whose investors include Dutch DJ Tiesto, music producer Quincy Jones and composer Hans Zimmer.

Still, it isn’t clear how much young EDM fans want to protect their ears. Derin Alemli, founder and CEO of earplug maker DownBeats, said he has sold 60,000 pairs of high-fidelity earplugs, mostly online, since starting in November 2012. He promotes his brand at nightclubs and dance-music-themed events such as the Groove Cruise, a cruise-ship dance party that sets sail from Miami and Los Angeles. But the future of the business, he said, lies in bundling earplugs into concert ticket packages.

“We’ve found that the live-event channel is not very good,“ Mr. Alemli said. “The reality is that fans don’t make those safety decisions at that moment.”

Some earplug manufacturers doubt that concertgoers will ever embrace plugs as a fashion accessory. While Chicago-based Earlove trumpets its “attractive carrying cases,” Earlove founder Carolynn Travis said that her new, stemless “Discreet Profile” earplugs are proving more popular with youngsters than the original, slightly larger versions of her high-fidelity plugs, which protrude slightly from the ear. EarPeace, meantime, now makes its high-fidelity plugs in three different skin tones.

“When I started, I couldn’t give [the earplugs] away,” Ms. Travis said. “But it’s just a matter of time before it’s like sunscreen—and then it’s going to be a money grab.”

EarPeace Ear Plugs

Music festival season, also known as tinnitus season, rolls on. You may feel like a fogey for bringing earplugs to a show, but better to be a fogey who can hear than half deaf in the prime of youth. EarPeace’s premium earplugs protect your hearing without sacrificing the details of your experience; rather than muffling the sound, it simply turns it down a couple notches. $15

If you're a die-hard concert attendee — the kind of guy or gal who likes to stand right up next to the speakers and groove your little heart out from support band to encore — you should probably invest in a good pair of earplugs. My suggestion? EarPeace's nifty reusable pair.

Confession time: I have always been extremely reluctant to wear earplugs. My oh-so-scientific reasoning? They're dorky. Well, after one week of rocking EarPeace's set of plugs during New York's CMJ music festival, I changed my tune. Why? Well, because of two factors: enhanced sound quality and decreased hearing damage.

Better Sound Quality

To best test this pair of plugs, I hit up one of my favorite bands, French Horn Rebellion, who was playing at a small venue last week. I've seen the band before — sans earplugs — so it was pretty easy to compare and contrast experiences. During FHR shows, I'm likely to stand right up against the speakers.

With the plugs in, the sound was much more focused, less encumbered by reverb. The show was particularly bass-heavy this time around, but instead of feeling the bassline humming in my head, degrading the jams, I now merely felt it in my chest and toes.

Added bonus: You know that old trick? The one where, when in a loud environment, you half-plug your lobes in order to hear your friends as they shout a question into your ear? Well, EarPeace functions in pretty much the same way. It was much easier to hear my friends talking to me while in the venue, which makes for a lot less shouting.

As for aesthetics: EarPeace come in a variety of fleshtones, so it was not apparent that I was wearing them. Translation: If I looked dorky at all that night, I have myself to blame for wearing jorts. However, EarPeace comes with a little carrying case that you can attach to your keys, which — while handy — is not the coolest addition to the chain. It's kind of like rocking a cellphone holster: functional, yet not wholly attractive.

Tinnitus, Be Gone!

When I say I like to stand close to the band, I mean close to the band. I'm including the above photo to demonstrate just how near I was to Rob Perlick-Molinari, one half of FHR, during the show. (For inquiring minds, the photo was taken with FxCamera for Android in Polaroid mode.) Needless to say, after seeing these guys play, my ears are usually ringing.

This time around, though, my ears were completely tinnitus-free after the show — thanks to the earplugs, which were pretty comfortable, as well. They're fashioned from hypo-allergenic silicone and fit snugly in the canal. So while it may not be the coolest look ever to sport, I'm pretty sure my EarPeaces are going to be the newest addition to my concert attire.

The Bottom Line

EarPeaces are functional, comfortable and really enhance your concert-going experience. If you go to as many shows a week as I do — and want to be able to hear the sweet, sweet voices of your grandkids in years to come — I recommend picking up a pair. You can order them through the company's website for $14.95 in a variety of skin-toned colors.


Ready to test out some earplugs yourself? We have four sets of EarPeace plugs and two pairs of tickets for French Horn Rebellion's next concert on November 6 at Glasslands Gallery in Brooklyn, New York. If you're not familiar with the band, check out the video above to hear one of their best jams.

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