LINK: Loop Earplugs | Price: $29.95/€29.95
If you’re a gigging DJ and don’t use ear protection, you’re an idiot. There, I said it. And you don’t even need to spend a fortune to get a reasonable degree of protection, but there are options at all price points. It’s also worth getting your hearing checked out. Once It’s gone, it’s gone.
With those words of wisdom in mind, I was happy to be contacted by the Loop Earplugs team, asking if we’d like to give a set of their plugs a try. Digging into it, the Loops seem to be ideally suited for aesthetically conscious DJs: the plugs are said to offer a fairly flat -20dB reduction in volume, and are designed to loop elegant, akin to ear jewellery some might be inclined to wear. The externally-facing loops come in a choice of Midnight Black, Glorious Gold, Swinging Silver, Flirty Rose Gold, and aptly, Raving Red (which we were sent).
In a nutshell
Affordable earplugs with 20dB reduction, that aim to be stylish as well as functional.
The Loop earplugs come as a pair, presented nicely in a simple but fairly elegant card box. You also get everything you need to fit them in all your varying earholes: both foam and silicone tips, with the usual choice of small, medium, or large. There’s also a little pleather zip-up purse to carry them in.
The finish of the Loops is a nice gloss metallic paint, similar to what you’d see on a car, for example. What’s impressive is that it’s a 3D printed part, which traditionally means some roughness to the texture. These look like cast shapes.
Features and build quality
While the Loops offer a mostly flat -20dB reduction across the board, the biggest selling point is the accessorising value of the design. The hooped section is meant to serve more than an aesthetic decision, with it forming part of the sound reduction system. Personally, I’m fairly indifferent for the design, but appreciate the practical application it provides.
Another practical use of the loop section is to grip and shift the plug in your ear. The shape sits well in the ear lobe, but offers a handle to grab when you remove them.
Once you find the right tip size (which seem fairly consistent with other ear buds/plugs I’ve used), the Loops should fit comfortably in your ear canal with a decent seal. When I first fit them, I quickly realised I needed to orient the loop section correctly within the ear hole to get the right fit, after which they stayed in firmly, and had a low-enough profile to not have problem with headphones.
I found (without much surprise) that the foam tips were a much better isolation than the silicone ones, but (and here’s where I was surprised) the difference is considerable. Across every plug and bud I’ve ever used, my ears have always fit medium tips best, but even compared to every size of silicone, the medium foam tips felt so much more effective.
Looking at the design, and how the plugs sit in your ear, it feels like the silicone tips could have benefitted from a longer stem, so they can fit further in. It wouldn’t really need much more than a couple of millimetres extra. This is with the big fat caveat that everyone’s ears are different, so it might be less issue with certain ear shapes.
If you look at the manufacturer’s frequency response chart, you’ll see there’s less reduction around the 250Hz mark, which is where the crossover between hats and snares sits. This will give the sound a ‘brighter’ feel when you have the Loops in. What isn’t shown is how they cut down on one of the important elements of dance music: the kick. The chart only goes as low as 125Hz, which is just about the top end of where a kick bass sits.
From using them, there’s definitely some punch coming through on the low end, but it doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the sound. So, coupled with some brightness where the snares/hats meet, you’ve got a good combination for DJs who need clarity in the essential elements.
If you’re hoping to include a set of earplugs in your everyday carry, keeping them safe in your pocket or bag is almost as important as their performance. When I reviewed the dBuds, a concern I had was that the silicone pouch was open-ended, leading to an invasion of fluff. This concern gets proven every time I have to dig out crap from the ear canal section with a toothpick. The little bag to hold the Loops might be cheap fake leather, but it has a big metal zip (giving the bag a sort of ‘black leather jacket’ design) to keep dirt out. It remains to be seen how it holds up long term in a pocket (fake leather tends to crack over time, leaving the fabric underlay exposed), but a sealable bag is a much better solution.
At a price point that you’d usually expect to find the uncomfortable barbed-style plugs for sale, the Loop Earplugs offer a definite alternative. While the idea behind the looped ‘jewellery’ design might not be to everyone’s taste (I’m personally not a huge fan), working DJs should find these practical thanks to the low profile design, as well as the mixing-friendly frequency response of the sound filtering.
I suppose the question “would I replace my current dBuds with the Loop Earplugs?” needs answering. I’m reluctant to let go of the dBuds as they’re so practical and have the flexibility of adapting to loud clubs as well as more informal bars. But with that said, the Loops would, without doubt, be on standby as a backup, or perhaps in case I need to lend some ear defence to a friend.