“Once inserted, they can comfortably stay in until the end of the night”: D’Addario dBud earplugs review

Versatile and visually subtle earplugs from a trusted brand

D'Addario Earbuds review
(Image: © Tom Bradley)

Louder Verdict

A simple and sleek product that does exactly as it promises. Adjustable attenuation levels make these a great all-rounder, while their earphone style appearance gives them a smart look.


  • +

    Compact, low-profile and lightweight

  • +

    Two selectable attenuation levels

  • +

    Five sizes of rubber ear-tips included


  • -

    The included leash doesn’t do much for street cred

  • -

    Volume slider could be easier to use

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Musicians and rock enthusiasts love nothing more than throwing money at the latest instruments, audio gear or gig tickets, yet often overlook the importance of investing in the most significant musical assets; our ears. We all know that familiar feeling of coming home after an amazing show and being greeted by a constant ringing in the ears. For some, it’s perhaps a sign of a good night, but in reality it’s the body’s warning sign that you’ve been exposed to dangerously high sound levels. Anywhere north of eighty-five decibels is recognised as harmful to human hearing yet any decent rock concert is guaranteed to be considerably higher.

The problem with wearing earplugs for concerts is that for many the sound can be muffled or they give a feeling of detachment from the music or even fellow crowd members. This is where D’Addario comes in with its newly acquired dBud earplugs – designed for filtering sound frequencies rather than blocking them completely. Now this concept is nothing new in the world of hearing protection but the American instrument manufacturer boasts award-winning acoustic filtering for a clear and balanced sound. In addition, the dBuds are also adjustable, offering -12db or -24db attenuation.

The sleek and compact plastic earplugs are supplied with a small rubber carry case, a detachable leash and five sets of interchangeable silicon tips in graduating sizes (the middle size comes pre-installed). All components are finished in black and presented in an elegant package. The buds are also magnetic which allows them to stick together when not in use.

Design and performance

Best earplugs for hearing protection: EarLabs dBud

(Image credit: EarLabs)

Aesthetically simple but clever in design, the main body of the earplug is at a near right angle to the silicon tip that fits into the actual ear canal. This means that once inserted, the dBuds position unobtrusively within the ears; barely noticeable from a side profile and completely unseen from face-on. There is a slight curvature to the back of this section which helps it fit the natural shape of the ear, making these a comfortable pair of earplugs which you’ll quickly forget you’re wearing.

The included retaining strap or ‘leash’, which allows the earplugs to hang around the wearer’s neck, comes pre-installed in the box, although removal is a doddle. The middle section is a D’Addario branded fabric strip which is attached at each end to thin elasticated rubber straps. The dBuds can be secured to the leash by easily pulling the silicon tips from the nozzle, sliding on the rubber straps and replacing the tips.

Despite the convenience and added security of the optional neckwear, the obvious drawback is that it’s pretty hard to look cool with black rubber strands sticking out at right angles from your ears at a gig – somewhat reminiscent of the type worn with spectacles.

EarLabs dBud

(Image credit: EarLabs)

Manufacturers of in-ear headphones get around this problem by building a rigid wire section into the cable which can be shaped over and behind the ear. Something like this could be a welcome addition here. It is possible to achieve this slightly by pulling the leash taught around the back of the ear and tucking the slack into your shirt but it’s objectively too much effort for very little reward (which doesn’t last particularly long anyway).

The reality is that the way the dBuds are designed, they aren’t the type of earplugs that you’ll need to keep taking out anyway. Once inserted, they can comfortably stay in until the end of the night. This is due in part to their compact size and light weight, but also their ability to filter frequencies – making it feel more like the volume has been turned down rather than someone has filled your ears with treacle.

The ability to quickly adjust the attenuation level via a small, round ‘volume slider’ also reduces the need to take them out. This is not only handy for slightly less raucous gigs but also for chatting to your mates or ordering a drink at the bar. At first it can be tricky to move the slider without removing the earplugs or accidentally pushing them uncomfortably far into the ear, but with practice it becomes fairly straightforward and can be done rapidly.


If you’re after a cheaper alternative to the D'Addario dBuds, then look no further than the Fender Musician Ear Plugs. They may not be the most attractive earplugs on the market, but they offer up to -27dB noise reduction, a decent level of comfort, and of course that Fender stamp of quality – all for a great price. 

Slightly more expensive than the EarLabs dBud are the Flare Audio Earshade Pro. Probably the most stylish plugs I've ever clapped my eyes on, these also mute noise to -27dB, while premium memory foam ensures you’ll happily keep them in for hours at a time.


  • Volume slider with two levels of attenuation: -12 dB and -24 dB
  • Protection from noise exposure, even at levels >110 dB
  • Clear, balanced sound using award-winning acoustic filtering
  • 2018 Reddot Design Award winner
  • Includes 5 different sized pairs of silicone tips, a detachable leash, and a carrying case
  • Contact D'Addario
Tom Bradley

Tom is a professional drummer with a long history of performing live anywhere from local venues to 200,000 capacity festivals. Tom is a private drum tutor, in addition to teaching at the BIMM Institute in Birmingham. He is also a regular feature writer and reviewer for MusicRadar, with a particular passion for all things electronic and hybrid drumming. When he's not performing gigs of his own, Tom has a passion for live music.