For the past three weeks, I have been deliberately muting the sound that I hear. Testing earplugs isn’t particularly complicated – after all, you just put them in and then carry about your normal business – but these earplugs in particular claim to have an ace up their sleeve.
You see, the Vibes Hi-Fidelity Earplugs are designed to reduce as much as 22 dB of sound while allowing certain frequencies to pass through to your ear. The intended result for motorcycle riders is a safer audible experience while still allowing you the benefit of enjoying your intercom system.
Inside the box you’ll find the Vibes with three sets of tips. There’s also a small plastic carrying case which fits the entire lot, including the Vibes themselves.
What Makes the Vibes Special?
Earplugs typically come in two varieties: off the shelf, and custom made. Most are made of foam, though a moldable putty is also a common material choice.
In all cases, earplugs work by blocking the ear canal and reducing the intensity of the sound waves that pass through them. The end effect is that sounds are quieter and your hearing is safer. For motorcyclists, this is both a boon and a problem: while reducing the level of noise is generally good, drowning out environmental sounds that we need to stay safe – other vehicles, emergency vehicles, etc. – is problematic.
Vibes aims to offer a solution: as opposed to simply muting sound, Vibes filter sound via their sound tubes. Vibes claims their “sound-enhancing acoustic filters” reduce up to 22 dB of volume while allowing you to still hear your engine, nearby vehicles, and your intercom system clearly.
A Poor Start
The vibes originally made their way to Kevin, who most recently reviewed the Sena Momentum helmet. Unfortunately, after a bit of trial and error, Kevin wound up sending them my way since he wasn’t able to get them to fit comfortably.
At 22mm long, and made mostly from plastic, the Vibes can conflict with how your ear sits in your helmet. For Kevin, this meant significant discomfort.
Fit & Comfort
However, once I received them, I haven’t had the same issue. In fact, I find them quite comfortable to wear and barely notice that they’re there. I’ve tried them while wearing the Shoei Neotec II, Vemar Sharki, and Vemar Kona. In all cases I haven’t had any problems with them.
They’re quite lightweight – as earplugs are – but are notably lighter than others I’ve worn. I also found that my ears don’t feel “full” when wearing the Vibes in the same way that moldable earplugs do. They fit snugly in the canal, but due to their design, don’t impact any other surface.
I’m not sure why Kevin found them uncomfortable, but I suspect that head shape plays a big role here. I’ve got a relatively tall and narrow head – intermediate oval to a “T” – and haven’t had problems.
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Out on the highway is where I notice the Vibes the most. To be clear, their impact on noise is noticed immediately, but they are quite effective at drowning out wind noise and buffeting at highway speeds.
They are also noticeably better in terms of SRL sound quality compared to a set of generic foam earplugs I compared them against. I’m actually able to hear music/calls at highway speeds in the airstream, whereas without them all I hear is buffeting. Compared to the foam plugs, the sound quality of the music via the SRL is also tangibly better.
In the city, I’m able to hear the engine rev and the same is also true of the vehicles around me. However, ambient noise is noticeably reduced and nothing ever sounded “loud”.
I’m Digging the Vibes
Being able to listen to music clearly at speeds in excess of 70 mph is a boon. With an MSRP of just $24, the Vibes offer riders an affordable and capable solution that doesn’t eliminate their situational awareness or ability to enjoy in-helmet audio.
Those with wide heads or narrow helmets should pay attention to their design, however. You may experience the same effects Kevin did. For that reason, if you’re going to pick up a pair, I recommend you do so via Amazon Prime so you can send them back easily enough if you find them uncomfortable.
Disclosure: Vibes provided the earplugs to us at no-cost for our review.