When I saw Hüsker Dü and Soul Asylum perform at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston in 1986, the bands were loud enough to cause physical pain to my ears. The high frequencies were especially piercing. Later that night, I knew I was in trouble when I couldn't hear my pee splashing into the toilet. The next morning, I visited an audiologist. Unsurprisingly, a hearing test confirmed the damage to my ears, but I was hopeful when the doctor explained that I should expect most, if not all, of my hearing to return within a month. I was given a handful of foam earplugs and the advice to wear the earplugs whenever I attended a concert. A month later, I returned for a follow-up test, and thankfully, my hearing tested normal. Since that show, I've always had earplugs or hearing protectors close by, donning them not only at clubs, but also when I'm traveling by airline, using power tools, motorcycling, or doing anything that puts stress on my hearing. I even keep headphone-style earmuffs on my mixing desk so I can put them on when I'm entering the live room while a band is warming up. I've tried many different styles of hearing protectors — custom-molded, active noise-canceling, silicone-flanged, even cotton- reinforced beeswax — but I always fall back to disposable foam plugs. Foam plugs work best for me, and plus, they're cheap, so when I inevitably drop one and it gets stepped on, I can always pull out a backup earplug from my pocket. My favorite brand of earplugs is Howard Leight (www.howardleight.com), and in particular, I prefer the MAX line. I have yet to find an earplug — of any type or technology — that protects my ears from broadband noise better than MAX. For example, one of my motorcycles throws a lot of boomy, turbulent air at the bottom opening of my helmet. Even though I ride with the quietest production helmet (Schuberth C3 Pro), the noise, especially at low frequencies, is tremendous, and the only earplug that allows me to enjoy all- day riding is the MAX. When I go on a weeklong tour, I bring along a dozen pairs with me. As with any of these style earplugs, I have to carefully roll up the MAX plug and insert it properly, but I've found that the contoured shape of the MAX makes it less finicky; I get a perfect seal pretty much every time. MAX earplugs are available in three different sizes, with or without a keeper cord. There's even a two-color, two-ended MAX that is smaller on one end than the other — convenient for industries that need to provide earplugs to employees. For concert-going, the MAX earplugs work too well, so my other go-to from Howard Leight is the Matrix. Unlike the shaped MAX, the Matrix looks like a straight piece of Slim Jim that's been cut down to size (and dipped in bright paint), and instead of rolling it up, you just shove it into your ear. The Matrix allows significantly more volume through, so music sounds far less muffled, and you can easily make out what your friend is saying to you between songs. It too is available in three different sizes. Both the MAX and Matrix lines are "workplace" products that are usually sold through industrial suppliers. I purchased mine from Amazon after I first visited the Howard Leight website and ordered free samples of various models and sizes. Howard Leight also has earplugs that are marketed to consumers, but I haven't tried any of them. ••• Regrettably, the title for the Phoenix Audio N90-DRC/500 compressor/gate module review in Tape Op #104 (page 45) had the company name cut off in both the paper and electronic versions of the magazine. The error was corrected after the issue went to print. If you downloaded the magazine before the fix was made, feel free to download it again to receive the correction. Our apologies to Phoenix Audio.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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