ER•20XS and Music•PRO

If you’re a serious musician, you don’t need a lecture as to the importance of proper hearing protection. But if you’ve only ever grabbed those squishy foam plugs, we can understand your disappointment in the experience. They feel fine and reduce volume, but they totally destroy the quality of the sound in the process. High end frequencies? What high end?

Etymotic has been producing hearing protection for over three decades, and their latest high-fidelity products really fit the bill for serious musicians: reducing volume from dangerous listening levels to acceptable levels, while preserving audio quality.

We have spent some time with both the ER•20XS High-Fidelity Earplugs as well as the Music•PRO High-Fidelity Electronic Earplugs, and have to say… these work great! No matter what the scenario, we experienced lower volume levels with full audio quality. They were comfortable enough to forget about for hours on end, and musical instruments sounded as bright and clear as expected, only quieter. So, how do they differ?

The ER•20XS earplugs are passive and come with a tiny, soft plastic, carrying case and three different tips: standard and large, 3-flange rubber tips, and a foam tip. They are designed to reduce sound levels 20dB at all frequencies, and a thin cable can be optionally installed that lets you hang the earplugs around your neck when they are removed from your ears.

We used them in live rehearsals with our band, attending live music concert events, and… walking around the drum hall D at the Winter NAMM Show! We never enjoyed the drum hall as much as we did this year with the ER20s fitted to our heads.

The active Music•PRO earplugs are more involved. Shipping in a small hard case, they include a larger assortment of tips and a cable, but that’s where the similarities end. They use hearing aid batteries and provide active monitoring of the ambient noise level. A recessed switch facilitates choosing between two different operating modes: Natural hearing occurs until a loud sound is experienced, at which point they deliver nearly instantaneous 15dB reduction. Or, the earplugs provide a 6dB boost for softer sounds, with automatic 9dB reduction was needed.

Our primary issue is the reliance on hearing aid batteries. Though no fault of the earplugs, those batteries drain from the moment you remove their protective shipping sticker, whether installed or not. Opening the battery compartment when the earplugs are not in use may extend their life a little bit, but you should only expect 10-14 days of useful life at best before replacement.

Etymotic supplies many batteries to start, and they are cheap enough to purchase at a pharmacy, but we found that managing batteries wasn’t worth the effort, particularly since the ER20s sounded so fantastic with zero fuss. For someone used to living with hearing aids, or whose job requires working in a loud noise environment, making battery management part of your hearing protection routine isn’t a big deal, and these earplugs do a great job reducing the loud stuff without compromising your ability to hold a conversation. But for the average serious musician, this is a hassle we’d rather not bother with. At $300 for the pair, you really must commit yourself to the process. Fortunately, should your batteries die, have no fear. The Music•PROs will still passively reduce sound levels.

Bottom Line

Costing only $20 for a pair of ER•20XS earplugs, unless you’ve already purchased custom earplugs, it would be foolish not to check out these earplugs. We’ll be packing ER20s with us whenever we find ourselves attending a concert event or without use of our custom, in-ear monitors. You’ve got those, right?

Confusing operation may not matter if your end game is sound design or use in the studio. In that regard, there’s a reason many pros have snapped these synths up: the Accelerator is a highly authentic sounding, modeled-analog synth, and some of its sounds are downright fantastic. “Solplex

Contact Information

Etymotic Research

Overall Rating

ER•20XS 4 Stars
Music•PRO 2.5 Stars

You might also enjoy