In today's BOOM TOOLS, BOOM sound designer David Osternacher talks about the Elacin® ER hearing protectors by Neuroth/Audio lab Austria
- Flat attenuation: optimal music experience, maintains the natural timbre
- Good speech intelligibility
- Price: about 165,00€
1. Briefly describe the product. What does it do?
Elacin ER plugs are custom fitted hearing protectors with very evenly distributed attenuation, commonly used by professional musicians.
2. To what extent have the Elacin ER plugs / improved your way of working?
Hearing protection doesn’t really improve a sound designer’s way of working, in most situations. But it does make sure that it doesn’t get worse, if you don’t want to deny yourself going to concerts, clubs or simply drill a hole into your wall at home.
3. What are the pros?
The plugs are custom fitted to your ear canal. The process of making a mold of the inside of your ears is slightly uncomfortable, especially if you’re paranoid about damaging them, like many audio professionals are. But it’s totally worth it. The earplugs fit you perfectly. They don’t move around, they don’t fall out and they aren’t uncomfortable. You hardly notice them after a minute. You can clean them yourself and easily take them with you everywhere you go. No more expensive disposable plugs, which don’t come close to the quality of the Elacin protectors, and can be a pain to restock. The biggest advantage is the high quality of the attenuated sound, but I’ll get into that in answer number 5.
4. What are the cons?
The biggest drawback is the price. 165 Euros isn’t cheap for a pair of earplugs, especially since the manufacturer recommends getting newly fitted protectors at least every four years. Although I’d say if you need hearing protection this expensive, you’re probably qualified to judge if it still fits or attenuates sufficiently yourself. Since the product aims to be a one-stop solution, some on-the-fly customizability would be nice. There are different filters for different levels of attenuation available, but you can’t change those yourself. Having to visit the acoustician before use kind of defeats the purpose of carrying your hearing protection in your pocket.
5. What is the Killer-Feature? What do you like in particular?
Without a doubt, the highlight of the Elacin protectors is the quality of the attenuated sound. As you can see in the chart below (X: Frequency in HZ, Y: Attenuation in dB), the attenuation curves are quite flat, especially for the medium strength filter. It does get audibly steep in the higher frequencies, but as far as ear protection goes, I haven’t heard anything better.
6. Compared with similar products from other manufacturers. What is better / worse?
I’ve had a pair of Elacin protectors from another manufacturer, but as those are standardized in Europe (EN 352-2), there should be no discernable difference. I didn’t have both pairs at the same time, so I couldn’t make a direct comparison, but I didn’t notice anything different in the new plugs. As I mentioned before, common disposable protectors or even plugs that are marketed towards musicians can’t keep up with the sound quality or the comfort of Elacin ER. For very high levels of noise, you’ll still want to resort to heavy-duty ear-enclosing defenders. But for day-to-day noisy situations or high-fidelity attenuation, Elacin protectors are a great choice.
7. The Elacin ER plugs are best suited for whom / which area of application?
Most Elacin users are probably musicians. For them the high-quality attenuation is a no-brainer, because they can protect their ears at rehearsals and still hear in considerable fidelity. As a sound designer, I use it mostly in my personal life. I can go to sports events or clubs without worrying about my ears or looking ridiculous. Most importantly, I can safely attend concerts and still hear the music clearly, instead of deciding between an expensive, muffled mess and hearing loss.
8. How is the price / performance ratio?
On the one hand, if you’re mainly looking for hearing protection, it depends on how often you use it. Disposable plugs aren’t cheap either, and if you use a lot of them, you’ll arrive at the price of the superior Elacin protectors after a few months or years. So that’s really just a matter of doing the math. On the other hand, if you’re a musician, or if you spend a lot of money on musical performances, anything but high-quality hearing protection would be a waste. It’ll never be a bargain, but the price / performance ratio is certainly appropriate.
9. Your conclusion to the sound designers / BOOM blog readers out there?
If you want to reliably protect your ears, and still listen to live music or have a conversation in a noisy bar, I can unequivocally recommend Elacin ER. As far as recording sessions go, it’s advisable to also bring something with stronger attenuation, depending on what you are recording.
10. How many points do you give the product (0-10) ?
I deduct a point for the lack of convenient customizability, and even though I have yet to experience something better, another point for the increased attenuation in high frequencies. There has got to be room for improvement, after all. 8 Points.
Elacin Website: http://www.elacin.com