As a theatre musician, you often feel like a sardine in a tin can when you’re in the pit. It’s small, dark, and you normally share real estate with the drummer. While that may not seem like a big deal, your ringing ears and possible hearing loss become more important than finding a small rig to cram into that pit. So for the past seven years, earplugs have been in my gigbag.
New for 2013 are the MusicSafe Pro earplugs, from Alpine Hearing Protection. Curious to hear (or, not hear?) the difference, I was very graciously given a set of them to try out. Initial impressions were good. They looked good, felt good when in your ears, and had some great features. The Alpine earplugs have three sets of filters, capable of pulling out varying levels of sound. Most earplugs in this price range don’t have this option at all; you only get that once you pay for custom molds. They also have a much more compact profile, staying “hidden” when in your ears.
With the earplugs in hand, I started a four week, 33 gig schedule. This allowed me a little over one week to use each set of filters to compare which one works the best for the application. With a five person pit in a 10′ x 10′ area, these earplugs could be a lifesaver. The biggest thing I noticed throughout this entire run was that the smaller profile wasn’t as convenient as they claimed. You’re provided with a tube that allows for you to easily insert the earplugs in your ears. Without it, it’s actually kind of difficult to get them seated correctly; I rarely had them fit as well as I did with that tube. The bigger profile of comparable earplugs (like the Hearos brand) wins out in this department.
Attenuation values MusicSafe Pro in decibels
Hz 125 250 500 1000 2000 4000 8000
silver dB 14.8 15.0 15.7 18.7 26.6 24.4 18.9
gold dB 18.8 15.6 16.0 18.5 27.7 23.9 22.0
White Filters: I could hear little to no difference between having them in and the few times I took them out. Especially with the location of the drummer to my spot (as in, I was basically in his lap), I still heard a little ringing at the end of the night. Nothing really major, but definitely something that wouldn’t work in this close proximity.
Silver Filters: You can definitely hear a difference with these ones in, although it’s very slight. These definitely kept the offending drumming frequencies out of my head and saved my ears. For regular gigging, these would be my go-to filters to use.
Gold Filters: For me, these ones pulled out too much. Things started sounding muffled, and it was hard to hear the vocal monitor (which was quiet to begin with) over the band at times. If I was playing in a band that didn’t understand the concept of stage volume, these filters would be ideal. For my purposes, these ones really were too much.
With the varying needs of musicians and workers alike, Alpine makes a great set of earplugs with the MusicSafe Pro. While the small, compact profile also makes it hard to install without their included tube, the extra filters allow a lot of options in a price range that doesn’t usually offer that.