I’m a late-comer to the hearing protection game. Back in the day, when I went to concerts only sporadically, I didn’t really see much of a need for hearing protection. Rightly or wrongly, I figured that the occasional White Stripes concert or Reignwolf run-in wasn’t going to do too much damage to the ol’ tympanic membrane. When I started writing for 94/7, however, it began to dawn on me that doing time in the front row several nights a week might start to take a toll.
Fortunately for me, my friends Kurt and Paulette were way ahead of me. Not long after hearing about my new gig, they took me aside and gifted me with a box of disposable foam earplugs and an admonition that I needed to make sure I didn’t, you know, go deaf.
I’ve been using foam earplugs ever since, and well… they work. Sort of. They do an OK job of reducing the decibel count, but usually at a substantial cost to sound clarity. Everything sounds a little muffled. More irritatingly, they’re uncomfortable, they have a tendency to fall out, and they have a short lifespan. None of these are great, but what’s the alternative? Getting custom-fitted earplugs is costly and requires a trip to an audiologist, neither of which are really my cup of tea.
A few months ago, I started seeing ads for DUBS Acoustic Filters from a company called Doppler Labs, a product that claimed to offer 12 decibel noise reduction without a loss of clarity (i.e. EVERYTHING I WANTED). I was intrigued, all the moreso because, while they were getting nods from tech sites like Gizmodo and Uncrate, all of these sites seemed to be talking about what DUBS purported to do more than whether or not they actually lived up to their claims. Did DUBS deliver, or was it all just hype?
Fortunately for us (and for you, dear reader), the folks at Doppler Labs very graciously agreed to send us a set of DUBS so we could set about answering that question for ourselves.
DUBS are roughly the same size and weight as a typical pair of foam earplugs, but stylistically, that’s where the similarity ends. DUBS look like a pair of high-tech earbuds – the filter portion is made out of hard plastic, while the part that goes in your ear is sheathed in flexible, soft rubber (well, it may not actually be rubber – but you know what I mean). When worn, they sit snugly but unobtrusively at the opening of your ear canal. Although they probably weigh a little more than a pair of foam plugs, the fact that you don’t have to “cram” them in makes them feel lighter.
DUBS come in four color options – all black but with your choice of accent colours: white, teal, blue or pink – and are housed in a very stylish and handy carrying case.
Alright, you say, they’re pretty – but how do they work? Answer: Really, really well. While I can’t speak to Doppler’s scientific assertions, their claim of noise reduction without sacrificing quality is definitely a real thing.
The first time I wore them, I didn’t realise how well they were working until about 10 minutes into Bastille’s set, when I opined to my friend that it seemed like the band was playing a little softly, especially considering that we were standing about 20 feet from a speaker that was roughly the size of Finland. When I couldn’t hear her response, I took out my DUBS and was promptly deafened. That’s literally how well they work – it’s just like turning down the volume on your stereo. (I didn’t have a chance to pit these guys against anything super bass-heavy, but they work great in the rock / alternative venues I tend to frequent.)
My only complaint about DUBS is that sometimes they work too well. In my experience, while your concert experience will be amazing with a pair of DUBS in, you can pretty much forget hearing what your friends are saying if they’re trying to talk to you. Then again, for some people, maybe that’s a plus too.
Anytime I agree to review something, there’s a certain degree of apprehension at the start of the process. I don’t like pissing anyone off (correction: I don’t like pissing anyone off who just gave me something for free), so I’m always worried about what I’m going to say if their band/product/event sucks. Fortunately, such fears were unfounded in the case of DUBS. Doppler Labs has created a lightweight, comfortable pair of earplugs that lives up to its claims of decibel reduction without substantially sacrificing clarity. While the $25 (US) pricetag is a bit steep for the casual music aficionado, it’s a solid investment for anyone who’s serious about their concert-going experience. In everything that counts, DUBS delivers.
Want a pair for yourself? Buy a set here.
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