Best earplugs for concerts 2024: gig-ready hearing protection, tested by music fans and musicians

There's nothing quite like catching your favourite band live, while discovering a new artist at a festival is always a blast. But in 2024, amid the clamour and chaos of securing a ticket for an upcoming tour, it's easy to forget about protecting your hearing until the last minute before making your journey to the venue – and that's where our guide to the best earplugs for concerts comes in.

We've tested countless pairs of earplugs at countless gigs, from tiny dive bars, to huge arenas and festival sites, and both in the crowd and on the stage. We've also consulted with hearing experts to compile this guide. 

Being prepared ahead of a concert or festival (or even a band practice, for that matter) is vital, and to better understand why hearing protection is so important, we spoke with Emily Broomhead, the campaigns manager at Tinnitus UK, after the charity reported that 30% of people will experience the condition at some point in their lives. That's a staggering figure, particularly for those of us who regularly attend live events.

Emily told Louder: "Keep taking and using earplugs. Take a spare pair of earplugs too, in case you lose one or both. And importantly, if you feel uncomfortable you can always walk away. No live event is more important than your hearing. Never be afraid to leave. We get so many people telling us, 'If only I had walked away.' Don't let that be you."

Some earplugs offer comfort for long festival weekends, while others are best suited for music fans who also perform themselves. Right now, our top choice earplugs for gigs are the Loop Experience 2, which strike a perfect balance between performance, comfort and style. You can check out all our top picks below. 

For more information about tinnitus and how to protect your hearing at live shows and festivals, visit the American Tinnitus Association or Tinnitus UK, while Loop earplugs have a multiple choice test on their site to help you assess your level of hearing damage.

Best earplugs for concerts: Quick list

Recent updates

31/05/24: This guide has been completely overhauled. We've assessed and streamlined our product choices to make it much easier to find the right earplugs for your needs. We've also added more clarity on each of our choices and gone into more depth with our buying advice and testing methodology.

Best earplugs overall

Man holding a pair of Loop Experience Earplugs in his hand

(Image credit: Future/Chris Barnes)
The best earplugs if you're after great looks and top performance

Specifications

Materials: Silicone
Noise reduction: 17dB
Extras: 4 sets of silicone ear tips (XS/S/M/L), 1x keychain case

Reasons to buy

+
Don't muffle the sound
+
They look fantastic
+
Very comfortable

Reasons to avoid

-
The style won't be for everyone
At a glance

Buy if you want a distinct set of earplugs: Loop Experience look like no other earplugs thanks to their hoop design which come in a variety of wild colours.
Avoid if you want a more discreet pair: The Loop Experience may offer up to 17dB of noise protection, but their eye-catching design won’t be for everyone.

We think the reusable Loop Experience 2 High Fidelity Earplugs are the most stylish in our list thanks to their cool ‘loop’ design – hence the name. Not only do they look great, but they also come in a variety of colours to help you stand out in the crowd: Black, rose gold, gold and silver. Loop often puts out limited edition colours too. But of course the real test is what they can do to help protect you when out and about and at concerts. So, why do we rate these as the best live music earplugs overall?

For starters, they offer a 17 decibel reduction in noise, which isn't the highest rated here, but in our tests we found they did a fantastic job of removing the more jarring frequencies without crushing the detail and nuance of the music. In fact, we found they helped naturally mix a muddy sound during one gig, taming the low end and bringing out more clarity in the guitars. 

The pack contains XS, S, M and L silicone tips to ensure a good fit, which is so important to the performance of the plugs. No other choices in this guide offer as many size options. Once we found our fit, these plugs stayed firmly in place, without feeling uncomfortable or giving us any ear fatigue – even with some vigorous headbanging. And of course, that loop design makes them easy to remove once you're done using them. The supplied keychain carry case means you shouldn't lose them easily. It's small enough to stow in your pocket too, ideal if you're not taking a bag or coat to the gig. 

In our opinion – and taking the relatively small cost into consideration – having a set of these plugs on hand for every live event is the best choice you can make right now for your future hearing health.

Read our full Loop Experience earplugs review

Best budget earplugs

Man wearing a pair of Fender Musician Earplugs by a window

(Image credit: Future/Chris Barnes)
The best earplugs when budget is tight

Specifications

Materials: Silicone
Noise reduction: 27dB
Extras: Carry case, cord

Reasons to buy

+
Ace for standing close to the stage
+
Reusable
+
Easy to clean
+
Budget friendly

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the softest
-
One size only
At a glance

Buy if you want budget protection from a known brand: Fender are better known for their range of guitars, but these no-frills earplugs are perfect for gig-goers on a budget.
Avoid if you're after a more comfortable fit: These Fender earplugs offer great protection, to a point... but in our experience, they're not so comfy for long sessions.

This pick is from one of music’s more familiar brands. Fender's Musician Series plugs are unashamedly no-frills – hence the low price – but in our experience they're a much better alternative to the free foam plugs that are dished out at live venues.  

They're one size, so there's no customisation here, but once inserted correctly they form a decent seal and help protect from the full force of stage volume, delivering an impressive 27dB NRR (noise reduction rating). We found them to work great in both a rehearsal room environment (Fender's intended use case for them) and at live shows, particularly if heavier music is your thing. We lost some detail, as you would expect from such a primitive pair, but our ears always thanked us for it the following morning. 

They’re also reusable and super easy to clean with some soapy water, so if you're in a pinch and want some cheap and cheerful earplugs from a known brand, these are well worth throwing in your basket.

Read our full Fender Musician Earplugs review

Best for comfort

Vibes Hi Fidelity Earplug in a man's ear

(Image credit: Future/James Farmer)
The best earplugs for not looking like you're wearing any

Specifications

Material: Silicone
Noise reduction: 22dB
Extras: 3x silicone ear tips (S/M/L), carry case

Reasons to buy

+
Slick design
+
Discrete
+
Suitable for all ear sizes
+
Well suited to loud music

Reasons to avoid

-
Easy to lose
-
Can muffle the sound a little
At a glance

Buy if you want a discrete set of earplugs: Vibes make excellent earplugs and their simple, comfortable design makes them a top choice for the fashion conscious.
Avoid if you need more than 22dB of noise protection: 22dB of hearing protection is not to be sniffed at, but if you’re a live musician, there are better options here.

The Vibes Hi-Fidelity earplugs focus on reducing (attenuating) volume, employing special filters to fine-tune certain damaging frequencies. We found that overall noise is reduced, but without muffling the sound too badly, although we did find we lost a bit of top-end during our tests. If you're used to using cheap foam options, you'll know what we mean by 'muffled'. We didn't find the muffling to be too distracting with these earplugs, though. In some cases, they even helped eradicate the muddiness in a live mix.

We think the design and build is super cool too. Once they're in your ears, we found that the low profile and clear plastic housing meant it barely looked like we were wearing them – something our gig-buddies commented on too. If you've been unsure about wearing earplugs because of the way they look, these could change the game for you. 

During long band practices and multi-band bills, we found them to be among the most comfortable earplugs we've tested too. They're super lightweight and the soft silicone tips are very ear-friendly. 

Read our full Vibes Hi-Fidelity review

Best filter options

Man wearing a pair of Alpine MusicSafe Pro earplugs

(Image credit: Future/Daryl Robertson)
The best earplugs for versatility thanks to multiple filter options

Specifications

Materials: Thermoplastic
Noise reduction: 16dB/19dB/22dB
Extras: 3x filters, travek case, cleaning spray, cord

Reasons to buy

+
Interchangeable filters
+
Differing levels of noise attenuation
+
Carry case included
+
Cleaning spray for added hygeine

Reasons to avoid

-
Definition gets lost at times
At a glance

Buy if you want a pair of earplugs for different types of events: Interchangeable filters mean you can customise your plugs to the type of event you're attending, from acoustic pub gigs, to EDM all-nighters.
Avoid if you want crystal clear audio: While some earplugs will give you excellent high-fidelity sound, we found these can lose a bit of definition - although that won’t matter so much at a festival.

As one of the bigger names in ear and hearing protection, the Alpine MusicSafe Pro earplugs are well worth checking out – they're a particularly popular choice amongst our musician friends. 

We found the best thing about them is the interchangeable filters, making them a great fit for a variety of musical scenarios, from band practices, to acoustic gigs or the aural barrage of a stoner rock all-dayer. You can select the appropriate attenuation for each gig, from 16 to 22dB. 

While we didn't experience crystal clear audio all the time – there was a noticeable drop in the low mids during one particular band rehearsal – they still provided a well-balanced sound that was much more comfortable to the ear than the unfiltered sound. 

These plugs are one-size, but we found them to provide a snug fit overall and didn't fatigue our ears as much as we thought they would. They're also pretty discrete once in the ear, which is ideal if you don't want many people to know you're wearing them.

Hygiene is key to maintaining healthy ears and ensuring your earplugs last a long time (a build-up of bacteria can mean they need replacing sooner than anticipated), so we also love that Alpine includes a spray bottle of cleaning solution with these plugs to help you keep them up and running.

Read our full Alpine MusicSafe Pro Earplugs review

Best for musicians

Best earplugs for concerts: Earos One

(Image credit: Earos)
The best earplugs for musicians at a good price

Specifications

Material: Silicone
Noise reduction: 17dB
Extras: 3x ear tips, carrying pouch

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable
+
Great price
+
Superb noise protection

Reasons to avoid

-
A bit unwieldy to use
-
Design is an acquired taste
At a glance

Buy if you're a musician looking for comfort and protection: These are a top choice for musicians as they’re comfortable and offer great protection for a good price.
Avoid if you want something easier to use: When we put the Earos One through their paces, we found them to be a bit unwieldy to use – getting a secure fit took time.

If you’re a musician who's looking for a cracking set of earplugs that not only provide great volume protection, but are also comfortable for long rehearsals and can be used during live gigs too, then the excellent Earos Ones are a great choice. It helps that they're super affordable, too.

Musicians will see the biggest benefit as these plugs were conceived by a former director of the MIT Acoustics And Vibratory Lab and "designed to reproduce the sound curve of your natural ear – delivering a unique combination of sound clarity and hearing protection". This is a pretty accurate statement and our tests delivered mostly favourable results, with only the odd occasion where we would have preferred a little more top-end in our mix. 

Naturally the look is a little more 'out there' than other plugs we've tested for this guide – filling much of the ear – but you get used to the style pretty quickly. The large wing does help you get a decent fit, but getting them installed securely does take some time and manipulation. Once in place we found them to perform excellently, however. They were comfortable to wear and they made our time on stage much more bearable thanks to their medical-grade TPE tips.

Read our full Earos One review

Best for kids

Alpine Muffy Kids Ear Defenders on a white background

(Image credit: Alpine)

6. Alpine Muffy Kids Ear Defenders

The best ear defenders for young rockers

Specifications

Materials: Polyester
Noise reduction: 25dB
Extras: Carry bag

Reasons to buy

+
Hard-wearing
+
Lots of colour choices
+
Foldable
+
For children up to 16

Reasons to avoid

-
Not ideal for glasses wearers
At a glance

Buy if you want a quality set of ear defenders for your child: Alpine have turned their expert attention to ear defenders and come up with the Muffy – a robust and colourful set that'll protect your kids' hearing.
Avoid if your child wears glasses: The Alpine Muffy can get a wee bit uncomfortable for kids who wear glasses, as the earcups can cause pressure above the ears.

There are more and more music events being held both indoors and outdoors with families in mind, such as The Big Feastival and Glastonbury’s Kidzfield, and most rocker parents will be looking for the first opportunity to expose their offspring to the joys of live music. Even if there’s not a lot of music at a family event, ear defenders for little ones are a great idea when venues and locations get super busy... and noisy. 

Earplugs are not recommended for children. Instead, on-ear defenders are the way to go. Our top pick for kids right now is the Alpine Muffy ear defenders, which offer up to 25dB of noise reduction and is ample for most uses. 

We found them to be robust enough to withstand repeated use and abuse, being pulled on and off and stretched to within an inch of their life. They're also foldable and come with a travel bag to keep them safe and sound. 

Their light weight and stretchy headband mean they're particularly comfortable for young people who aren't so used to wearing headphones or ear defenders yet, but we would err on the cautious side if your child wears glasses as they can press above the ears – a common complaint with any over-ear product. 

We love that they come in so many funky colour options too. The more appealing they are to your child the more likely they will be to wear them.

We also tested

Across the Louder team we're attending live events most nights of the week, and we're usually testing earplugs at the same time. The earplugs at the top of this guide are the ones we highly recommend, but there are many others out there worth a closer look. Here's a select few of the other earplugs we've tested recently.

Image

Eargrace High Fidelity Earplugs
Material:
Silicone| Noise reduction: 23dB | Extras: 2 sizes in the pack, aluminium case, cord, cleaning brush
Louder rating:
4/5

The Eargrace High Fidelitys stand out for a number of reasons: the combination of attenuation filters, which ensured I could hear the full musical frequency spectrum live but at a reduced volume. They also come with a number of handy accessories: a case, cleaning brush and connecting cord. As an entry point into hearing protection at a sensible cost, these are easy to recommend.

Read our full Eargrace High Fidelity Earplugs review

Image

EarLabs dBud earplugs
Material:
plastic/silicone| Noise reduction: 24dB | Extras: 5 sizes of silicone tips, detachable leash, carrying case
Louder rating:
4.5/5

The EarLabs dBud will give you two levels of noise reduction: 11db and 24dB and they come with three eartip sizes so you're guaranteed to get a good fit. They also have an in-built acoustic filter and while they tend to stick out more than some earplugs in our list, they still come recommended.

Read our full D'Addario dBud review

Image

Earpeace Concert earplugs
Material:
Silicone| Noise reduction: 25dB | Extras: Hge range of ear tips sixes and types, cord, soft case
Louder rating:
4/5

The neat Earpeace High Fidelity Concert earplugs are a great option as they offer up to 26dB protection for your lugs. They're also reusable and come with a really handy carry case which doubles as a keyring, so you need never worry about heading to a gig without them in your pocket.

Image

Minuendo high fidelity earplugs
Material:
Silicone| Noise reduction: 23dB | Extras: 2 sizes in the pack, aluminium case, cord, cleaning brush
Louder rating:
4.5/5

The Minuendo high-fidelity acoustic earplugs might be a bit more expensive than other options in this list, but we think the extra financial outlay is worth it. You can adjust noise levels between 7dB and 24dB and they come with a bunch of ear tips and flanges so you'll get a great fit to keep your ears safe - whether in the crowd or up on stage.

Expert buying advice

Loop earplugs

(Image credit: Loop)

How to choose the best live music earplugs for you

You can trust Louder Our experienced team has worked for some of the biggest brands in music. From testing headphones to reviewing albums, our experts aim to create reviews you can trust. Find out more about how we review.

If you’re investigating in hearing protection for live music, it’s likely for one of two reasons: either your hearing is in good shape and you’d like to keep it that way, or your ears have taken a battering over the years and you don’t want to make things worse.

Whatever reason, dedicated hearing protectors are a very wise purchase for anyone who loves live music – or works in a noisy job. As with the best headphones for music, most hearing protection tends to fall into one of two brackets: over-ear and in-ear. We’re not going to dwell too much on the differences as they should be fairly self-explanatory, however in this guide we’re focusing on in-ears instead of bulky ear defenders for adults. We have included one pair of over-ear defenders aimed at children.

You get what you pay for with earplugs. You could put a small amount of cash into something cheap, yet ultimately disposable, or you could invest in something that will see you through many years of gigs and festivals. We have options for most budgets in this guide.

The main things you should be looking when exploring your earplug options are:

  • Fit - Will the earplugs create a tight seal in your ear to optimise their performance and ability to reduce damaging frequencies? For this, you'll want plugs that offer multiple tip sizes so you can tailor the fit to your ear canals.
  • Comfort - This feeds directly into comfort. Most earplugs for live music will be worn for a good few hours from the support bands right through to the encore of the main act, so ensure they don't cause any discomfort when worn over long periods.
  • Noise reduction - To what degree will the earplugs impact the sound you're hearing, also know as the noise reduction rating (or NNR, more on this below). If you mostly attend acoustic events, you won't need as high a rating as you would for heavier guitar music or EDM.

Who needs earplugs?

If you attend events where the noise levels will be above the safe level (see the chart below for more on this), or you work in an environment where you will be exposed to higher than normal noise levels for long periods, then you should explore hearing protection as a priority.

It doesn't matter your age, or whether you have hearing damage already or not, anyone who uses ear protection is actively prolonging their existing ear health.

What is a NNR (noise reduction rating)?

A decent barometer of earplug performance comes in measuring the levels of noise a product offers protection from. For example, any ear protection sold in the United States must be tested according to American National Standards (ANSI), upon which it is given a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR).

However, attending a concert with a decibel level of 100dB and wearing 33dB-rated earplugs doesn’t mean the new level is 67dB. No, that would be far too simple! 

Instead, there’s a formula: deduct 7 from the NRR rating and divide the resulting number by two. This is the amount of protection on offer. 

So, continuing the same example; a 100dB concert would be reduced to 87dB by wearing ear protection rated at 33dB.

This graph from the Hearing Health Foundation highlights where live music sits on the noise level spectrum, and clearly shows that it's at the higher end of 'harmful'. If that's not enough to convince you of the benefits of hearing protection then we don't know what will.

Hearing Health Foundation noise levels chart

(Image credit: Hearing Health Foundation)

Should I get custom moulded earplugs?

With a wide range of earplugs available, there’s much talk about the benefits of custom moulded earplugs and the difference they can make when it comes to protecting your hearing, either at a live show or in the work environment.

Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach like most earplugs, like the name suggests, custom earplugs are moulded to the shape of your ear canals to provide a comfortable fit and keep unwanted noise levels out. 

Some models allow you to mould each bud at home. It can be a bit of a faff to get right, but it does mean you’ll get a good fit which is really what we’re after. You can also remould them should the results not be perfect the first time around... so no worries about messing things up straight out of the box.

If you want to go that extra mile, you can visit a hearing healthcare professional who should also be able to take impressions of your ears and create moulds for custom silicone earplugs.

It’s also worth pointing out that custom moulded earplugs can be priced significantly higher than other earplugs due to their individual nature, with guidance suggesting that new ear canal impressions are taken every four years as your ears continue to grow as you get older.

Musicians often move from regular earplugs to custom moulded plugs or in-ear monitors as they start playing bigger gigs. Our friends at MusicRadar have a complete guide to the best in-ear monitors.

An ear with a pattern of foam earplugs surrounding it

(Image credit: Getty Images/MirageC)

Are foam earplugs any good?

In our opinion foam earplugs should only be used as the very last resort. If you really have no other option and the venue you're at is responsible enough to offer them, then please take them. However, unlike the options in this guide, foam earplugs reduce volume, but muffle the overall sound in a very unrefined way. They're uncomfortable too, so you won't want them in for long.

On this writer's concert travels, I’ve seen foam earplugs given away free at the bar, but the uptake has never seemed that high – although at a Swans/Anna von Hausswolff concert several years ago, I was only too happy to see a cup of red foam earbuds perched on a table. In all my years of watching live music, I had never experienced music so loud, and I gratefully stuffed a couple into my lugs.

It was a memorable live event for all the wrong reasons as I couldn’t really pick out any intricacies in the music after only a short time. Even worse was that my head ached for several days afterwards and my hearing took a battering. Despite these negatives, it was that night that convinced me to invest in a good pair of earplugs and I haven't looked back.

So foam earplugs are better than nothing if you’re in a pinch, but remember that each pair should only be worn once and then disposed of. The shape will change with repeated use and they’re not the most hygienic option available.

Expert advice for musicians

Man wearing in-ear monitors plays guitar on stage

(Image credit: Future)

It’s not just music fans who need to look after their hearing – musicians who are constantly exposed to potentially damaging frequencies are well aware of the risk of hearing loss.

We spoke with Liam Hennessy, the head of health and welfare at Help Musicians, and Paul Checkley, who is partner and clinical director at Harley Street Hearing & Musicians Hearing Services about what steps musicians can take to better protect themselves. They both stressed the importance of preventing career-threatening hearing issues and highlighted the Hear For Musicians initiative for members of The Musicians’ Union.

Liam also spoke about the “rising issue” of hearing loss within the industry, saying: “Help Musicians is seeing an increase in the number of musicians getting in touch for help; Tinnitus UK also saw a 47% surge in those seeking help for tinnitus during lockdown. 

“Speaking openly about these issues helps to remove the stigma and encourages others to seek help, as well as prompting those without symptoms to regularly check their own hearing health. We would encourage all musicians to take preventative measures to protect their hearing in order to sustain a long and healthy career in music."

Paul added: “The key here is to ensure your hearing is protected. There are now special flat-response musicians earplugs, which reduce the level of the music entering the ear but maintain the fidelity by attenuating all frequencies to the same level. Most standard earplugs attenuate more high frequencies, which can result in a dullness of sound and make speech difficult to understand. The flat response plugs simply reduce the volume without affecting the sound quality.

“If you are struggling with tinnitus there are a number of techniques and therapies that can help. The best place to start is with your GP who should be able to direct you to someone who can help.”

Expert advice for parents

Best earplugs for concerts: Children wearing Alpine Muffy ear defenders

(Image credit: Alpine)

More of us are taking our kids to festivals and indoor concerts, but it's always a worry about just how loud these events will be. Investing in a good pair of ear defenders for little ones will give you peace of mind, with these over-ear devices providing a varying degree of noise protection.

It's unlikely you'll take a baby to a concert, but if going to a location where there could be music playing, a pair of ear defenders from the Banz Bubzee range is a good place to start. They cater specifically for the 0-36 month age range and come in various colours and designs. For older kids, Alpine make top ear defenders with up to 25dB of noise protection, but you'll also find many more on the market.

The American Tinnitus Association recommends building a Hearing Protection Toolkit to help prevent hearing damage in children.

They say: "The two basic styles of hearing protection are earplugs and earmuffs. Because sound waves move like water waves, hearing protection must fit like swim goggles do. Earplugs should seal off ear canals, and earmuffs should fully seal around the ears.

"In environments where noise can’t be avoided, children under age 3 should use earmuffs designed for babies or toddlers. Children aged 3 to 12 can use appropriately sized earmuffs. People aged 13 and older can use earmuffs or earplugs, depending on which fit best."

Why trust us

Louder’s reviewers are a collective of music fans and musicians who have been attending and performing gigs since the 80s – from the noisiest AC/DC stadium shows to ear-splitting club shows – we know first-hand how bad gigs can be for long-term ear health. Between them, the Louder testing team have attended thousands of live music events over the last 5 decades – we've brought together their expertise to test, review and pick out earplugs that they rate for this guide.

Some of us are also musicians – including gigging drummers and guitarists – who have spent more time than we can remember squeezed up against Marshall stacks or ear height with a ride cymbal. We know the impact this activity can have on your ears when you don’t use protection, and we know the protection that works best.

Meet our experts

Scott Munro profile pic
Scott Munro

Louder's eComm Editor Scott Munro, who maintains this guide, doesn't suffer from tinnitus, but now wears earplugs regularly after a torturous experience at a live concert several years ago which sparked him into action to do more to protect his hearing.

Chris Barnes
Chris Barnes

Chris Barnes is the eCommerce Editor for Guitar World, MusicRadar and Louder, and is also a drummer. With the sound of crash cymbals permanently ringing in his ears after 20+ years of playing, and with 26 years of attending and playing live gigs under his belt, he knows the importance of quality ear protection and has used everything from free foam earplugs to custom moulded in-ear monitors.

Eleanor Goodman
Eleanor Goodman

Metal Hammer editor Eleanor Goodman has been living with tinnitus since she was a teenager and has relied on earplugs when attending concerts and festivals and has spoken about the importance of looking after her hearing and how she deals with the issue.

Emily Broomhead: British Tinnitus Association
Emily Broomhead

For this guide we've also spoken with experts from Harley Street Hearing & Musicians Hearing Services and Tinnitus UK about the importance of earplugs, and gathered advice and information from the American Tinnitus Association.

How we choose

With so many earplugs on offer on sites like Amazon it can be hard to work out where to start. That's where we come in. We filter out the generic products and focus only on brands we know and trust. Then we look at headline claims about noise reduction, plus any features that would be beneficial to live music lovers, such as a carry case. 

It's from here that we draw up our shortlist. We then reach out to manufacturers to call in samples for testing – often multiple samples so a number of the team can try them out without sharing the same pair, which is a hygiene no-no!

All the earplugs we test are put through their paces at live events, in the rehearsal room and out and about to be sure the ones we recommend are up to the job. 

We’re constantly updating our guide as new products drop onto the market, and we will always strive to bring you what we consider to be the best earplugs for gigs.

How we test earplugs

Best earplugs for concerts: Flare Audio Isolate Pro earplugs in a music venue

(Image credit: Future/Chris Barnes)

The Louder earplug review process is editorially independent and not influenced by any third parties. Our review samples are sourced directly from the manufacturer or purchased via a retailer.

We’re music fans here at Louder, therefore, we test our earplugs in the only proving ground we know – live music venues and band rehearsal rooms. 

Our testers evaluate the earplugs in the following categories:

  • Comfort and fit
  • Performance
  • Features
  • Build quality/materials
  • Design
  • Cost

This enables us to produce accurate, well-balanced and real-life reviews to help you easily figure out whether the plugs you’re interested in are really the best choice for you.

Our testing criteria in detail:

  • Comfort and fit - In this category we test how easy the earplugs are to insert and whether they stay put over time, including movement tests from basic head turns and conversation to vigorous headbanging. Do the earplugs come with multiple tips to allow for an optimal seal or if they're one-size, does this work for the different ear canal sizes of our team members? Are the earplugs comfortable for long periods of wear or do they fatigue the ears quickly?
  • Performance - Music is incredibly important to us, so we want to know how little or how much the earplugs colour the sound of our favourite artists, whilst still removing those damaging or jarring frequencies that can lead to hearing loss.
  • Features - What else comes with the plugs? Do they include a carry case, a cord to connect the earbuds together, or any cleaning products?
  • Build quality/materials - In a nutshell, are they built to last, or will repeated uses lead to rapid degradation in performance?
  • Design - These are items we will be wearing out and about, amongst our peers, so we also assess how stylish and discrete (or not) each pair of plugs is. Aesthetics are subjective, but we aim to give our take in balanced way.
  • Cost - We assess each pair on all the factors above, before deciding whether the cost is justifiable.

Read more about how we test earplugs here. 

How to buy earplugs

There's a huge amount of earplugs on offer these days, so how do you know how to go about buying yours? Follow these simple steps to make the process easy. 

1. Choose your earplugs - arguably the hardest and longest step is deciding which earplugs are right for you. We've sorted the earplugs in this guide into clear categories, which should give you a good head start.

2. Read reviews - once you have your shortlist, your next step is to read reviews. We have earplug reviews on this site which can help you make a more informed decision. You may also wish to read reviews on forums or the product pages of retailers' websites, but be advised these aren't likely to be truly impartial.

3. Choose your retailer - Now that you've got all the information on your chosen interface, it's time buy! You might have a favourite retailer, but we'd always advise shopping around for the best price.

4. Wait for a sale - If your next gig isn't for a while, it's worth holding out for a sale before you purchase to get a discount. The biggest sale of the year typically happens around Black Friday, but you'll find retailers offering discounts at various times. This could be a spring or summer sale, Memorial Day or Presidents' Day sale, or just a random flash sale.

Chris Corfield

Chris Corfield is a journalist with over 12 years of experience writing for some of the music world's biggest brands including Orange Amplification, MusicRadar, Guitar World Total Guitar and Dawsons Music. Chris loves getting nerdy about everything from guitar gear and synths, to microphones and music production hardware.

With contributions from