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MOLDED EARPLUGS TEST AND REVIEW: The UK’s Ultimate Ear are no strangers to molded earplugs, they’ve been making custom plugs for years – but this ‘generic’ earplug is much cheaper. Is it as good as they claim?
In the post one day was a set of blue earplugs looking very similar to the custom earplugs Ultimate Ear have built their reputation on. Turns out that what they’ve done, is to take all their years of experience in hearing protection and attempt to come up with a single plug that aims to be as effective as their custom offering. Coming in three different default sizes of ‘Small’, ‘Medium’ and ‘Large’, Ultimate claim that they can give the user an excellent experience of fit, comfort and noise reduction.
All very nice, but what are they actually like under the helmet?
The substrate is “medical grade silicone” and they have a tactile ‘reassuring’ feel somehow and whilst the insertion technique takes a little practice it’s easily mastered soon becomes second nature. Once in place the noise reduction is dramatic; it feels like the world has just turned down 5 notches!
With the helmet on people must raise their voice for you to hear them and they’re just moving their mouth at you at 10 feet.
But please don’t be thinking that these should totally block sound. You won’t want that and they don’t.
Out on the road you almost ‘feel’ the bike rather than ‘hear’ it. Frankly, it’s a little disconcerting to start with, such is the dramatic change in the noise levels; it is genuinely astounding!
Of course you can still feel the wind buffeting the helmet and that in itself generates some in-ear noise but everything is muted to a ‘background’ level. Even redlining at 11,000 rpm the audible sound that comes through is not distracting and bizarrely, almost calming; there’s no doubt that the attenuation these plugs provide is very, very good. So good in fact, that they are CE approved – and that’s quite an achievement.
I recently had cause to ride out to a mate some 130 miles away and with my ‘generic’ plugs in place, throughout the 90 minutes of riding, most of it at the speed limit; they didn’t move, slip or cause any discomfort. I have never had that from any other foam/rubberised plug* that I’ve tried, there was always something ‘not quite right’ but with these you can just forget about them and get on with the ride.
To prove a point (if only to myself), I took them out for the way back and over a cup of tea with my wife, there was a gentle ‘buzzing’ bouncing round my head – a bit like the morning after watching a Motorhead gig from the third row. I’m convinced!
It is just amazing how prolonged, and not necessarily just loud noise, can insidiously affect your state of mind without you being overly conscious of it…
These earplugs from Ultimate Ear are a “must have” and at £29.99 they are an absolute bargain.
* Speaking of foam plugs, I know that we’ve all had a go and I’m sure that you’ve had just as much frustration with them as I have had, and the gods know I tried a few…
Some spring back too fast so it’s very difficult to get them just right, some are too coarse a texture and irritate the ear canal, some just slowly slip away and are then just ineffective and they all get dirty… but that’s the beauty of these molded plugs. They’re designed to leverage the natural shape of the ear to hold it in place. The insert is not too short (ineffective) , or indeed too long (dangerous). With the supplied semi-hard case they are much easier to keep clean, but worst case scenario, a quick wipe with a light alcohol based towel (Baby Wipe) – and you’re good to go. Result!