Dubs' "Acoustic Filters" are snazzy new earplugs that hope to conquer one of the biggest obstacles between you and wearing crucial gear to protect your hearing. Though they're not the first earplugs in the world, they're some of the first that don't look terrible. Can Dubs trick you into better hearing with design?
If you go to lots of loud concerts or otherwise expose your ears to deafening noise for any periods of time you need to take steps to protect your hearing. In the case of concerts, earplugs have always been a suitable option, but the designers at Dubs correctly observe the two main impediments to people actually wearing earplugs. The first is that cheap earplugs make the music sound terrible at the same time that they make the music quieter. The second is that earplugs make you look like dweebus. Dubs hopes to address both.
Dubs plugs provide 12 dB of noise reduction using a 17-piece physical filtration system to reduce the sound pressure at different frequencies at the right levels so that the quieter final product sounds natural. It's not as simple as simply knocking down all of the frequencies at the same level because your ear perceives the full range of frequencies unevenly at different sound pressure levels. Dubs are supposedly engineered to nail that frequency curve so that you hear the music properly even though it's quieter.
Earplugs that don't make the music sound terrible have long existed, and in my experience, if you're willing to spend $US20-$US30 for a reusable set, they're going to sound reasonably good. I've got a few different kinds scattered between backpacks, my apartment and the office so that I've always got some handy, and I find they all do a pretty good job. The show won't sound quite as good, but I also don't go deaf and that seems like a reasonable trade off to me. We'll have to try the Dubs out at a show before we can say they really sound so amazing that they're better than everything else, but at the very least that 12 dB NR rating hits the minimum of what you need.
Dubs' more important contribution is creating colourful earplugs designed to look good enough that people might actually want to wear them. Too often, people don't wear earplugs because they look lame, or worse, because they simply don't realise they should. Dubs' greatest innovation might be packaging the earplug in a way that people think pop them in. Imagine if earplugs were suddenly cool.
Headphone company V-Moda tried this with designy earplugs called Faders, which I am fond of. And anecdotally, I've seen earplugs spread like a fad amongst musicians I know personally. One dude in the band gets a set and suddenly they're all wearing them. How metal is that? Hopefully Dubs will help spread the Gospel of ear protection to a broader audience as well.
If Dubs work as advertised, the $US25 price tag will be more or less on par with your standard set of reusable plugs. They even come with a handy carrying case to help you keep track of the Dubs between shows. And if you can keep from losing them, $US25 is a small price to pay to keep you from losing your hearing. [Dubs]
Pictures: Nick Stango