Hearing protection is incredibly important for everyone, but when you make your living producing and mixing you get totally paranoid about it. I've been on an endless quest for comfortable, affordable, and effective earplugs for years. Decibullz is a newer company that makes user-moldable earpieces for listening and hearing protection, and their Professional Music Filters are built for people who, like us, might have to walk into the live room during drum setup, or head out to a club to see new bands that we will be recording, while needing to protect our hearing. The most unique aspect of these Filters are the thermoplastic custom molds; the user simply drops the earpiece into boiled water for five minutes, then molds the softened plastic to fit the contour of the concha and tragus (the area outside of the external auditory meatus, or ear canal). The part of the filter that fits inside the canal uses replaceable/swappable rubber flanges or foam tips, and three different sizes of each are included. The custom molds can be reheated and refitted, and two sets of molds are included just in case. The Filters plug in after heating (during fitting) and offer 17 dB of attenuation in the mids and highs, claiming to be "suitable for music up to 102 dB." That is not as loud as most bands I go to see! Molding the pieces was easy, and the whole process took me about 30 minutes while I was working on repairs at my studio. The zippered carrying case is a nice touch but is far larger than the filters themselves, so I'll personally be looking for a smaller case. In use, they reminded me of my most recent hearing protection, Earasers' Musician's Hi-Fi Plugs, except that the molded portion covered more of the seal between earplug and ear canal, letting less bleed in. The Decibullz' claimed 17 dB reduction was okay at some shows and around moderately loud instruments in the live room, but when the metal bands hit the stage, or the drummer hits the snare when I'm placing a mic, there is not enough reduction. While this sort of filter might be enough for hearing protection and keeping the music present when playing on stage or in rehearsal, for loud concert attendance and setting up mics in the studio or onstage, I'm wary. Decibullz' Professional Music Filters offer a unique, moldable musician's earplug solution for performing and enjoying live music, but I'd like to see a variety of filter options for different dB reduction amounts (they're easy to pop in and out). That said, I do like the sound quality and the unique comfort of these filters.

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

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