When I ride motorcycles, I typically wear hi-fidelity in-ear speakers with aftermarket sound-attenuating tips. These fit and function like earplugs and also let me listen to GPS prompts, music, bike-to-bike intercom, etc., if I choose. I can still hear what’s going on around me, fatigue is lessened on long rides and audio fidelity is orders of magnitude better than helmet speakers. This background raises two interrelated points: when I ride, I value (1) ear protection, and (2) sound quality.
If you watch Shark Tank on TV, you may have seen the episode including Vibes Hi-Fidelity Earplugs, which the inventor designed to reduce volume of sound while preserving quality of sound. (Check out www.discovervibes.com for the technical details.)
Vibes reached out to me for my $.02 and sent me a set of the earplugs (the packaging describes them as “Sound Enhancing Filters”) to evaluate while riding a motorcycle. The product’s intent was described to me like this: “Instead of blocking/muffling sound, Vibes reduce the volume of engine and wind noise to a safer and more comfortable level, while still allowing you to hear clearly, so you can be aware of other vehicles around you (and listen to music on your radio if you have one). Vibes’ clear and low profile design makes them very discreet and able to fit under most helmets.”
Fair enough, time to ride. I left home on my BMW F750GS wearing my normal hearing protection: in-ear speakers with sound attenuating tips. As is often the case, I had no music playing. I had no route in the GPS so there were no audible prompts. And I was riding alone so no bike-to-bike. After an hour or so I stopped, swapped out my normal setup for Vibes, and got underway again. (Vibes came with three sizes of tips, and I had already determined at home that the smallest ones fit best for me.)
Short story, I found Vibes work as described: they reduced the volume of noise from wind, engine and road, and what I still heard was quite clear. I played some music through the helmet speakers. The sound quality of the speakers themselves wasn’t any better (which is to say, lousy) but the sound quality while wearing Vibes was not muffled as I’d expect with foam earplugs. Speaking of which, a while later I stopped and put in foam plugs (the same NNR 33dB earplugs I wear when operating power equipment, or when splitting a room with certain snoring motorcyclists who shall remain nameless). Foam earplugs reduced the noise level further than Vibes, but Vibes reduced volume and produced noticeably clearer sound. You have to decide what you want earplugs to do for you.
Regarding “able to fit under most helmets,” Vibes have short stems, part of the volume-reducing design, that stick out a bit. The stems also make it easy to insert and remove Vibes. My Schuberth C3 Pro modular helmet went on and off without disturbing the Vibes from their installed location in my ears, a convenience related to that bit of flex a modular helmet’s opening has when the chin bar is raised. With my Arai Vector 2 helmet, whose traditional full-face design yields a more rigid opening than the modular Schuberth, getting the helmet on and off without tugging the Vibes of my ears proved tricky, requiring careful attention to the task at hand. I found greater success keeping Vibes in place putting the full-face helmet on than taking it off. Typical foam earplugs are lower profile than the Vibes and did not have this issue. Vibes don’t stick out a lot, but sticking out just a bit proved significant with a full-face helmet. Your helmet, head and ears may vary. Also, since I don’t wear any kind of open-face helmet without a full chin bar while I’m riding a motorcycle, I can’t offer insight about using Vibes with those helmet types.
Not every application for Vibes requires a helmet. Case in point: the convertible that shares garage space with my motorcycles. A good friend who also rides motorcycles and drives the same model convertible I do told me that he and his wife wear earplugs in the convertible when they have to drive a distance on the highway to reach entertaining driving roads. Interesting. I took our convertible for a spin, slipped in the Vibes and opened it up for a while. Though not the application the folks at Vibes were thinking about when they reached out to me, the wind, engine and road noise were reduced. With the top down, I can still hear what’s going on around me with good clarity, even when my wife asks me to slow down. (Just kidding…she doesn’t ask me that!)
Years ago, I bought a set of earplugs designed for musicians to wear at concerts so I can head-bang without punishing my ears. Those earplugs and these Vibes have similar intent and outcome: reducing volume of sound while doing a respectable job of preserving clarity of sound. FWIW, Vibes are a lot less expensive ($23.98 on Amazon) than those musician earplugs were, and much easier to put in and take out.
Already I can hear people saying, “For the same money as one pair of Vibes, you can buy 250 pairs of foam earplugs!” That is true. However, Vibes are reusable, come with tips in three sizes, and are designed for a specific purpose: reducing volume of sound while preserving quality of sound. I’ve been finding they perform well in that role. I’m thinking they may find their permanent home in the convertible.