ER•20 High Fidelity Earplugs review

ETY Plugs (Etymotic ER20 High Fidelity Earplugs)


  • Ready-fit earplugs (one size fits most) Reduces sound approximately 20 dB at all frequencies
  • Replicates the ear’s natural response
  • Available in various colors
  • Price per pair: $12 with case or $12.95 with case and neck cord (quantity pricing available)

Etymotic ER20 ETY Plugs review

“These Goes to Eleven”

Long before Nigel Tufnel in the movie Spinal Tap uttered the phrase “but mine goes to eleven” the sound at rock concerts, blues clubs, bars and other venues featuring amplified live performances had crossed over into literally ear-splitting levels. Unless you limit your live music experiences to opera, orchestra or small-venue acoustic performances, chances are you are often faced with excessively over-amplified sound. And it always seems to get louder and louder as the performance wears on with the sound board engineers pushing the limits.

Just how loud can the music at a rock concert, club or bar really get? Figure around 110-120 db, or about the loudness of a jack hammer in continuous operation. That is plenty high enough to do permanent damage in a very short period of time. In fact, the EPA’s recommended safe exposure time limit at 112db levels is no more than 5 minutes per week. You can easily exceed that just during a sound check.

Not willing to fork over the cash on a pair of custommolded plugs, I had for a long time used cheap foam plugs designed for power
tool operators. While they do a great job of turning down the volume, they also completely kill the high frequencies as well as the ultimate enjoyment of any performance. I could compensate a bit by adjusting the depth of the fit, but I was never really satisfied with the sound or comfort of foam plugs.

Scheme of ETY earplugs

ETY Plugs to the Rescue

Etymotic is well known in audiophile circles for their high-quality ear-canal headphones. They also make custommolded Musicians Earplugs “designed to replicate the natural response of the open ear” using a patented filter design and must be fitted by a hearing specialist. Costing between $150 and $200 a pair, these seemed a bit too pricey for something I would likely lose at a show, though admittedly when it comes to maximizing live sound quality while at same time preserving your hearing they are probably well worth the investment.

However, Etymotic does offer a much less costly alternative called the ETY Plugs ER20 High Fidelity Earplugs. These consist of small plastic tubes attached to an ear tip flange like that used on Etymotic’s earphones. Sound travels down and back through passages in the plastic tubes which effectively lower the decibel level across the range of hearing. The ER•20 designation indicates an approximate 20db attenuation. To quote Etymotic’s website:

The goal of the ETY Plug™ design was the same as for Musicians Earplugs: to reduce noise but preserve sound quality; in effect, to turn down the noise but not muffle voices, environmental sounds or music. ETY Plugs use a patented tuned resonator and acoustic resisexpand once you insert them, which create an unwelcome feeling of pressure in the ear canal. The flanged tips on the ETY Plugs have a much lighter weight feeling in the ear while still providing an excellent seal. The end result is that I can wear the ETY Plugs for a much longer period of time without any sense of fatigue or need to reposition.

Ear Stuffers for Stocking Stuffers

With the amount of money that we as audiophiles spend on things such as interconnects, power conditioners and vibration control devices, you could argue that spending at least as much on really good custom molded earplugs is simply common sense. The good news is that you do not necessarily have to go to that extreme. With the ETY Plugs, you can spend less than the price of a CD to protect your hearing and still enjoy the sound and performance of live shows.

ETY ER-20 earplugs photo

At just $12 a pair, ETY Plugs are a great gift for music lovers on your holiday list this year. We bought several last year and handed them out to our concert-going and musician friends, all of whom were most appreciative. It is a gift that protects the most vital and priceless element of any audio system… your ears.

external link: ETY plugs on Etymotic website

from affordableaudio,  By Craig Johnson