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Hearing Protection Options for Musicians

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I would expect very little argument if I were to state, “You don’t really know the true value of what you have until you lose it”.

Many things come to mind as we ponder this concept. Your first bass, your hair, your physical condition as you age, and of particular value to musicians, our hearing!

I am sure that we can all look back at our lives and identify occasions where we should have protected our hearing.

I recall when I was playing with a band back in the 70’s that we would occasionally do an evening variety show on local TV. This show had a house band and it was there that I noticed that the bassist had some sort of metallic plugs in his ears. It didn’t dawn on me that this might be a great idea and instead I played for years without taking any protective measures.

Life in general is a very noisy existence. We are often assaulted by excessive noise and hearing loss is a much greater concern than ever. A recent article from Men’s Journal suggested that twice as many people have hearing loss now than in the eighties. It is not surprising to note that the increased use of devices with headphones or earbuds has had a significant effect on this trend. In addition, we are constantly subjected to ambient noise that is often a lot higher than we might realize.

The sounds of living in cities, work environments, movies, home appliances, power tools, clubs and music venues are often excessively loud. And… how often do you wear protective equipment? Do you have a recent memory of going to a concert and having prolonged ringing in your ears after the fact for a day or two?

When we look at noise reduction, we use units called decibels.

Without going into great mathematical detail, it is important to point out that the decibel scale is logarithmic, meaning that it is kind of a curve where small numerical increases in value represent large increases in sound volume. For example, 30 dB has a power ration of 1000 compared to a 10 dB power ration of 10.

The Noise Reduction Rating tells us by how many Decibels the surrounding sound is reduced.

This rating is essential in the selection of the correct gear for the job. Wearing insufficient protective plugs will be better that nothing but you may still suffer damage from the excess.The key is to find the right amount of noise reduction that still allows you to enjoy the sounds you want to hear.

I think I have made my point… we need to do more to protect our valuable hearing!

That said, we have decided to take a look at just some of the options that are available. It is really important to consider the user’s needs as well as just how much sound reduction we desire. We are also going to limit our search to music related applications (Not shooting range, swimming pool, sleeping, etc.).

Musicians on stage often wear “In Ear” monitors. These allow ‘in’ enough sound, while preventing excessive noise. They can be custom fitted or stock sizes.  Here are some videos we have about in ear monitors and related gear.

Fender Professional in Ear Monitors

More info fave.co/2sNa7yY

Ultimate Ears in ear monitors

More information at fave.co/2tnbK3y

If you aren’t plugged in to the sound system, the next best thing would be ear plugs.

First, we look at what I would describe as “Smart” earplugs. They let you hear clearly when the sounds are not loud but protect you when things get extreme.

The sample we tested was the Etymotic MP9-15 Music Pro

These devices can be set at a noise attenuation level of 9 dB or 15 dB  (They are rated at 25 dB noise reduction ) and will actually boost softer sounds for greater clarity. Note that sometimes when you are in a quiet area, your earplugs will pick up sounds you would usually not hear (like when you are in line for the restroom) so I suggest taking them out when you don’t really need them. These little guys run on a #10 Zinc air battery for about 300 hours.

The great thing about these is you can hear conversations without having to remove them and this lends itself to situations where the sounds vary frequently. They are a stock fit but the manufacturer has included a variety of accessories that you can use to find a comfortable format (either a three flange array or a foam tip) and maintain the units functioning optimally. The applications for this kind of earplug are endless, as we are often in environments where the sound levels vary greatly. How many time have you been at a show and wanted to talk in-between songs? These earplugs offer professional level protection for both musicians and the general public.

These are great for venues where the music isn’t too loud or you won’t be too close to the speakers.

More information at fave.co/2sNuRGK

Next we look at the more familiar variety of earplugs that are designed to reduce the ambient noise at different levels depending on the material and designed used.

Etymotic ER-20 xs High Fidelity Earplugs

These earplugs have a Noise reduction rating of 13 dB. They use an in ear design similar to the Music Pro’s, with interchangeable and replaceable tips. This lends itself for these to be a multi-use kind of product where you can get replacement tips every 3-6 months depending on use. With this design you get comfort and clarity at a much lower price.

They come with a carrying case and neck cord. I like the cord because you will be taking them out to hear during quiet times, but you can have them readily at hand when the show gets going.

More info fave.co/2tmWbbW

Flare Isolate ProTitanium Earplugs

These earplugs have a Noise reduction rating of 33 dB. They basically have a Titanium core and an Earfoam tip portion that comes in three sizes, and can be changed easily and are readily available to replace. They are designed to fit over 98% of people. The titanium core is designed to remove “Mud/Muffle” and loud peaks letting you hear more details in music. I felt like the foam kind of pushed the plugs out of my ears as time went by and I was constantly having to push them back into place (maybe I am one of the 2%). As these little guys are a bit on the higher price side, you don’t want them falling out in a dark venue. You might be able to tie a string on them as a neck cord. They come with a pouch for safe keeping.

More info at fave.co/2sNa1HI

Decibullz Custom Molded Earplugs

These have a 31 dB noise reduction rating. These earplugs use a combination system where they have an in ear canal foam or silicone eartip, a sound plug (that can come with a lanyard) and a thermoplastic custom mold. Essentially you heat the mold in hot waters and once it has cooled enough, you can fit it exactly to your ear. If you don’t get it right the first time, you can reheat and remold as many times as you want.  The nice thing about a custom fit is that they don’t fall out easily. The combination in canal portion with the moldable body give enough protection that these guys block out enough sound to be used at the shooting range. This might be too much if you are trying to play a string instrument but could be great for our drummer friends.

More info at fave.co/2tmGv8T

Macks Pillow Soft Silicone Earplugs

With a 22 dB noise reduction rating, these earplugs prove that you don’t have to spend a lot (under $4.00 USD for six pairs) for a comfortable, reusable, ear protection option. They are made of translucent silicone, moldable, putty that shapes itself to your exact ear canal. They are water proof and so comfortable that they often are used to block out snoring (my wife can attest to their efficacy)! Even though they are re-usable, they do have to be changed after about 5 uses when they get dirty or stop being sticky.

More info at fave.co/2t4H8ae

Soft Foam Earplugs

This is by far the most common type of hearing protection you will find. There are numerous brands available and from what I can tell, most are comparable when it comes to the degree of hearing protection ranging from 29-33 dB noise reduction. These are all single use, disposable, and relatively comfortable with a variety of colors and shapes. They lend themselves to be used under “ear muff” style protective devices to double the protective value (at the shooting range). Price wise, these are available in bulk quantities for a low price (I found 50 pair for $8.99 USD) or unit dosed packages, which sometimes are given out free at events.

Here are some options I found

  • Mack’s Ear Care Ultra Soft Foam Earplugs, 50 Pair  fave.co/2vNMi8t
  • Mack’s Ear Care Slim Fit Soft Foam Earplugs, 50 Pair  fave.co/2t4B0Pf
  • The Ear Buddy Premium Soft Foam Ear Plugs, NRR 32 Decibels, 50 Pair  fave.co/2tElx5h
  • HEAROS Ultimate Softness Series Ear Plugs 28 Pair  fave.co/2tDYx6o
  • HEAROS Xtreme 100 Pair Foam Ear Plugs With NRR 33 Noise Canceling Hearing Protection  fave.co/2tEbblR
  • Innerpeace Ventures Chill Box Ear Plugs, 20 Pairs  fave.co/2tEpzee

Summing up, I have no doubt that protecting our hearing is of the utmost importance! There are many options available at different price points and different applications, so you really have to see what feels best and works best for you.

If you have any recommendations, feel free to share on social @bassmusicianmag with some detail so others may benefit from your experience.

Opening Photo by Maelle Ramsay on Unsplash

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Bass Videos

Review: Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB

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Review: Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB

Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB…

Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB – Hearing protection has always been front and center on my mind because I love music so much, I cannot imagine my life if I were unable to hear.

You might remember back in 2021, we had a good look at the Minuendo Lossless Earplugs featuring adjustable protection. This system has a lot of very good features but there was always the question of how much sound attenuation to choose.

Now, the great folks at Minuendo have come up with a new version of their earplugs that has a set 17dB noise reduction. You still get a lot of the great features of the adjustables but you just don’t have to think about the specific sound level. In addition, this new version of earplugs comes at a very attractive price point.

For more information, visit online at Minuendo.com

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Gear Reviews

Review: Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp

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Review: Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp

Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp: A Tribute to 90’s Iconic Sounds

Disclaimer: This pedal was kindly provided by Joyo for the purpose of this review. However, this does not influence our opinion or the content of our review. We strive to provide honest, unbiased, and accurate assessments to ensure that our readers receive truthful and helpful information.

In the realm of bass preamp/DI pedals, capturing the essence of iconic tones from the 90s can often feel like an elusive pursuit. However, the Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp emerges as a great option for bass players seeking to replicate the signature sounds of that era, particularly the revered tech21 SansAmp. With its robust feature set and compact design, the Tidal Wave offers a faithful homage to classic rock tones and low-gain distortions, all while providing modern conveniences for today’s bassist. Let’s delve into why the Joyo Tidal Wave stands out as a versatile and budget-friendly tool for both stage and studio.

Specs:

Measuring at 130 * 110 * 50 mm and weighing 442g, the Joyo Tidal Wave strikes a balance between portability and durability, making it ideal for gigging musicians and studio enthusiasts alike. With a power consumption of just 100 mA and a working voltage of DC 9V, the Tidal Wave ensures reliable performance in a variety of settings.

Controls:

At the heart of the Tidal Wave’s versatility lies its comprehensive control set, allowing bass players to sculpt their tone with precision. Key features include:

– Level: Sets the overall output volume of the pedal.

– Blend: Blends the dry signal with the cab-emulated signal, offering seamless integration of the pedal into any setup.

– Presence: Controls the dynamics of the high upper-mids, crucial for shaping drive tones.

– Drive: Introduces low-gain distortions and classic rock sounds into the clean tone.

– Treble, Middle, and Bass: Provides a 3-band EQ with frequency selectors for bass (40Hz – 80Hz) and mids (500Hz – 1KHz), offering ample control over tonal shaping.

– Middle Shift and Bass Shift: Allows for further fine-tuning of midrange and bass frequencies.

– Ground Lift: Helps eliminate ground loop noise in certain setups.

– DI Attenuation Switch: Adjusts the level of the DI output signal.

– LED Light Switch Control: Allows users to customize the ambient lighting of the pedal.

Performance:

True to its inspiration, the Joyo Tidal Wave excels in delivering classic rock tones and low-gain distortions reminiscent of the tech21 SansAmp. Whether you’re seeking gritty overdriven sounds or pristine clean tones, the Tidal Wave offers unparalleled flexibility and sonic versatility. The inclusion of a headphone out, XLR DI out with cab simulation, and throughout for the original bass sound make the Tidal Wave a versatile tool for both stage and studio applications. From practicing silently with headphones to crafting quality recordings in an ampless setup, the Tidal Wave delivers on all fronts with clarity, definition, and unmistakable character.

Pros:

The Tidal Wave boasts an array of advantages that set it apart from its direct competitors:

– Headphone Out: Transforms the pedal into a convenient practice tool.

– Size and Weight: Compact and lightweight design for easy transportation and setup.

– Rugged Construction: Durable build quality ensures longevity and reliability.

– DI and CabSim: Offers professional-grade direct recording capabilities with authentic cab simulation.

– Familiar Tones: Faithfully replicates the classic rock sounds of the tech21 SansAmp.

Cons:

While the Tidal Wave excels in many aspects, it does have a few drawbacks:

– Plastic Knobs: Knobs may feel less premium compared to pedals with metal controls.

– Cab Simulation Only on XLR Output: Limited cab simulation functionality may require additional routing for certain setups.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of classic rock tones from the 90s. With its faithful homage to the tech21 SansAmp, comprehensive control set, and modern conveniences like headphone out and XLR DI with cab simulation, the Tidal Wave offers bassists a versatile  tool for sculpting their sound with precision and finesse. Whether you’re seeking to replicate iconic tones from the past or forge new sonic territories, the Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp is sure to inspire creativity and elevate your playing to new heights.

Available online at Amazon.com

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Gear Reviews

Review: Joyo Scylla Compressor

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Review: Joyo Scylla Compressor

Joyo Scylla Compressor: When Quality meets Budget-Friendly

Disclaimer: This pedal was kindly provided by Joyo for the purpose of this review. However, this does not influence our opinion or the content of our review. We strive to provide honest, unbiased, and accurate assessments to ensure that our readers receive truthful and helpful information.

In the diverse landscape of effects pedals for bass guitar, finding a compressor that strikes the balance between performance, versatility, and affordability can often feel like a daunting task. 

However, amidst the sea of options, one pedal stood out as a true diamond in the rough – the Joyo Scylla compressor. Despite its wallet-friendly price tag, the Scylla boasts a great array of features and controls typically reserved for pedals with much higher costs. Let’s take a closer look at why the Joyo Scylla is turning heads and earning praise among bassists on a budget.

Specs: The Joyo Scylla compressor measures in at 109 * 72 * 48 mm and weighs a mere 234g, making it both compact and lightweight – perfect for gigs or studio sessions where space is at a premium. With a power consumption of just 100 mA and a working voltage of DC 9V, the Scylla is efficient and versatile, compatible with a wide range of pedalboard setups.

Controls: What sets the Scylla apart from its direct competitors is its comprehensive control set, offering bassists a good amount of flexibility in shaping their sound. With six knobs, the Scylla allows for a very precise adjustment of key parameters:

  • Input Gain: Adjusts the amount of signal being fed into the compressor.
  • Output Volume: Controls the makeup gain after compression, ensuring consistent output levels.
  • Compression Ratio: Unlike traditional compressor pedals with preset ratio options, the Scylla features a continuous knob, allowing for seamless adjustment from subtle compression to limiter-like effects.
  • Attack and Release: Determine how quickly the compression engages and releases, offering a range of tonal possibilities from punchy and aggressive to smooth and subtle.
  • Output Tone Control: A unique feature not commonly found in compressor pedals, the tone knob adjusts the coloration of the compressed signal, adding warmth or brightness to your bass tone.
  • LED Light Switch Control: Allows users to customize the ambient lighting of the pedal, adding a touch of visual flair to their setup.
  • Performance: In practice, the Joyo Scylla delivers where it matters most – in sound quality and performance. Whether you’re aiming for a tight, punchy bass sound or smooth, sustained notes, the Scylla excels in providing transparent compression that enhances your playing without sacrificing dynamics. The granular control offered by its knobs allows for precise tailoring of compression settings to suit a wide range of playing styles and musical genres.
  • Pros: The Scylla’s strengths lie in its granular control, versatility, and compact design. Its sturdy build quality and diminutive size make it a welcome addition to any pedalboard, occupying minimal real estate without compromising on functionality. However, perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Scylla is its price point. Despite offering professional-grade features, the Scylla remains accessible to bassists of all budgets.
  • Cons: While the Joyo Scylla excels in many areas, it’s not without its drawbacks. One notable omission is the lack of metering, which may pose a challenge for users seeking visual feedback on compression levels. Additionally, the plastic knobs, while functional, may feel somewhat less premium compared to other pedals. 
  • Conclusion: In conclusion, the Joyo Scylla compressor emerges as a great option in the world of budget-friendly effects pedals for bass guitar. Its comprehensive control set, transparent compression, and compact design make it a compelling choice for bassists seeking professional-grade performance without breaking the bank. From its intuitive interface to its thoughtful touches like the tone knob and customizable LED lighting, the Scylla delivers a level of versatility and functionality that belies its modest price tag. For bassists looking to elevate their tone without compromising on quality or affordability, the Joyo Scylla compressor is a clear standout.

For more information, visit online at joyoaudio.com/product/265.html

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Bass Videos

String Instrument Humidifiers

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String Instrument Humidifiers

String Instrument Humidifiers

After living in some very humid parts of the country for decades, we moved to a dryer, much sunnier location. As a result, I started noticing some fret sprout on my string instruments and recently did a video on fret sprout correction.

It occurred to me that I should take a more preventative approach to string instrument humidification. Of course, I turned to my instrument maintenance experts, Music Nomad Equipment Care, for a solution and they suggested their Humitar series. (Note: They sent two press samples and I purchased the remainder online.)

Join me as I look at these useful tools for keeping my string instruments in tip-top condition.

The Humitar series is available online at Music Nomad Equipment Care, as well as Amazon.com

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Bass Videos

Review: CrystalBright Rombo Picks

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Review: CrystalBright Rombo Picks

CrystalBright Rombo Picks

PR Sample

Playing bass with a pick is still a touchy subject in our community. I believe you should be able to use whatever you need to get your sound. Even though I mostly play with my fingers, I like to check out innovative new picks that might have something new to offer, sonically speaking.

Judith and Carlos from Rombo recently contacted me about a new material called CrystalBright that they have been researching for the last 12 months and offered to send some prototype picks. After trying them out, I put together this video with my findings.

For more info check out @rombopicks

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