By Phyllis Pollack
Etymotic Research is among the nearly companies 1,500 companies representing nearly 5,000 brands that is the promoted its products at the National Association of Music Merchandisers (NAMM) convention, held during January 24 through January 27, 2013.
The company manufactures and markets an expansive line of headsets, earphones, and both ready-fit and custom earplugs, offering high-quality products for ear protection.
The Who's Pete Townshend, who was honored during NAMM Week 2013 as a recipient of this year’s Technical Excellence and Creativity (TEC) Awards, was far from being the only one present at the high-profile convention with hearing loss.
According to Who vocalist Roger Daltrey, because of hearing loss, the guitarist was unable to participate in the 2011 tour, throughout which the singer and his band performed the entire Tommy album from beginning to end.
While damage to the ear cannot be repaired, it can be prevented.
Etymotic works with hearing care professionals throughout the country, providing their custom fit models of earplugs, for those that want to have a mold made, giving them the most personalized sound protection.
Staffed with audiologists and technical sound experts, Etymotic Research’s mission also includes educating both musicians and the general public about auditory damage resulting from unsafe sound volume, and advocating initiatives about hearing loss.
Etymotic Research is also known for manufacturing Vic Firth ETY Plugs. Two years ago, Vic Firth, the world’s largest manufacturer or drumsticks and mallets, merged with Avidis Zildjian Company. Based in Boston, the Vic Firth Company has approximately 430 products in its extensive catalog.
Vic Firth earplugs offer 12dB reduction. They offer the ability to hear music, without losing definition or clarity.
Etymotic Research manufactures products for the ears of both music professionals and consumers. The company offers a plethora of devices, with a broad spectrum of price range.
The company manufactures numerous sound production products, including custom fit earmolds.
Its products can be purchased online and through reputable dealers nationwide.
Etymotic Research is a recipient of the Safe-in-Sound Award for Innovation in Hearing Loss Prevention, awarded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and has been lauded by the National Hearing Conservation Association.
Among other accolades, Etymotic Research was honored with a Design and Engineering Innovations Award in the Health and Wellness category of the Consumer Electronics Association.
Among Etymotic Research's products, Vic Firth’s ETY•Plugs are the world’s highest fidelity non-custom made earplugs. They reduce most noise to safe levels while preserving the clarity of speech and the richness of music.
This year at NAMM, Vic Firth gave away free pairs of the 20dB reduction earplugs at their booth. Made for those in loud environments, they are available in two sizes.
The blue eartips with clear stems are streamlined, while their white eartips with red, purple, blue or clear stems are made for a larger fit.
One of their items on display at Etymotic Resarch's NAMM booth was Etymotic Research’s Music PRO.
It not only reduces ambient sound, it also amplifies what what the you want to hear.
Etymotic Research’s MusicPRO MP915 earplugs activate automatically, allowing regular hearing when sound is safe, but give automatic protection from both loud, sustained music and sudden, loud percussive sounds. The soft sounds of music and speech are amplified in the enhancement mode.
Gail Gundmundsen, AuD, Doctor of Audiology, is one of the licensed audiologists representing Etymotic Research.
At NAMM, Gundmunsen explained the benefits of having an Eymotic Research MusicPRO.
“It is an electronic hearing protector that gives you the choice of either a 15dB sound reduction or a 9dB reduction. When you get in the position for the 9dB reduction, you get a 60dB amplification, so you can actually hear a little better,” she explained.
“So it censors when the sound is too loud, and when it reaches a risk for hearing loss. It automatically starts becoming a hearing protector that happens electronically,” she says.
She demonstrated its amplification, and its screening out ambient noise in the Exhibit Hall, where the background din is extremely loud, with thousands of NAMM attendees and exhibitors, and musicians playing at booths.
“It has a 9dB reduction, but you’re hearing me better, because it has amplification to give me a little bit of a boost in your hearing,” she said during a demo.
“Therefore, if you were at a rock concert, you would get a nine decibel reduction, and if you need a little bit more, you flip the switch on the back of the earplugs, and now it becomes an automatic 15dB reduction in sound. So if you walked into a quiet place, it would return you back to your natural hearing,” Gudmundsen says of the MusicPRO.
Music educators really like this, because if they’re standing in front of a bunch of students when they’re playing, they don’t have to take them out when they stop. So this is an electronic hearing protector,” she says.
The MusicPRO can also be helpful to performers, and entertainment industry support staff, as well as audiences.
Because they work instantly, they are beneficial for protection from loud percussive sounds, such as a cymbal strike.
MusicPRO earplugs integrate two of Etymotic Research's passive custom hearing protection products for musicians, the ER-9 and the ER-15 Musician's Earplugs.
Their protection becomes active only when hearing is at risk, while there is automatic activation of 9dB or 15dB flat attenuation, depending on which mode is selected.
They retail for $399.00.
Gudmundsen adds, “They run on a really small battery that lasts about three weeks, which is actually very good. Replacement batteries are really cheap, and are available anywhere you would buy batteries.”
A MusicPRO purchase comes with a protective case, and other items, including a neck cord, for those that prefer to use one. A purchase also of the Etymotic Research MusicPRO also includes a choice of sizes when it comes to eartips.
As far as the eartips, she says, “If you’re wearing them a lot, you’re wearing a foam ear tip, you want to replace those fairly often. But if you’re wearing the three-flange, like what you have on right now, about every 60 to 90 days, depending on how often you use them. Some people can go a lot longer than that.”
She cautions, “But if you’re using them all the time, and you use them a lot, you want to freshen it and make sure they’re in still in shape to be using.”
Its accompanying instruction manual includes extremely detailed instructions on how to insert them to get the perfect fit for maximum benefit.
Gudmundsen recommends using any disinfectant wipe, including Audiologist's Choice brand Audio Wipes for cleaning audio products, noting, “You can take the ear buds off and disinfect them, and let them dry, and put them right back in again.
“You get a protective case with the Music PRO, and there shouldn’t be too much bacteria or anything else like that is going to cause you trouble,” she states.
They come with a case, a cleaning device, and other accessories.
Etymotic Research’s high-fidelity earplugs reduce sound evenly at all frequencies. This way, sound is unaltered, but quieter. No other earplugs, passive or electronic have ever proved to have this claim.
Another consumer audio protection product she demonstrated at NAMM was the Etymotic Research hf3, a high-fidelity noise-isolating headset, designed for use with iPhone, iPod and iPad.
Gudmundsen elaborates, “It has a three button microphone. Two one for volume control, play and pause you have them on your main switch.”
“The beauty of it is that if you are in a noisier place, and you have your earphones in place, and you try to make a phone call, you can hear better,” she remarks. “Once you put it in and get a nice, deep seal, it eliminates about 35dB of noise. So you have a nice sound reduction.”
For those that frequent loud places, like NAMM’s exhibit halls, or loud concerts, this item is a must-have.
“There’s a microphone there,” Gudmundsen points out.
“When you’re making a phone call, the microphone is pretty close to your mouth, so that it’s not picking up too much ambient noise,” she says.
This is a great item for those working in music that need to make phone calls while surrounded by loud music.
A programmable noise isolation app that lets you listen to music and the outside world at the same time.
“It is really, really a high-quality product to listen to your music on,” said Gudmundsen. “That’s really what it was made for.”
With audio supported for use with iPod touch (2nd, 3rd and 4th generation), iPod classic. iPod nano (4th, 5th and 6th generation iPod shuffle (3rd and 4th generation), iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4, as well as iPad, .
The remote and mic are supported only by iPod nano (4th, 5th and 6th generation), iPod classic (120GB, 160GB only), iPod touch (2nd, 3rd and 4th generation), iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, and iPad. The remote is supported by iPod shuffle (3rd and 4th generation). Audio is supported by all iPod models.
But with high performance, balanced-armature drivers, the hf3’s isolation quality and the amplification were immediately audible. When trying them out, I was impressed with the immense amount of noise the hf3 blocks out while playing music in an iPhone.
One of the great things about this is that you don’t have to blast music extremely loud in order to block out other noise in the room.
Having to blast music extremely loud in order to block out other noise, can cause collective, permanent damage to the ear.
Etymotic Research's hf3’s are documented highest noise isolation of any earphones or headphones on the market today.
They are packaged with an assortment of noise-isolating ACCU-Fit eartip options that provide crucial sealing of the ear canal, including three-flange, foam and gliders.
The perfect companion for any apple device, affordable replacements of the eartips are available through Etymotic Research’s website, as well as accessories including an airline adapter.
With a two-year warranty, they have CCU Filter User-replaceable filters that protect the balanced armature drivers from earwax.
With an MSRP of $179.00, they are more than worth the price.
Etymotic Research’s hf5 model escalates noise isolation to the 34dB to 42dB sound isolation.
More importantly, its programmable noise-isolation feature uses its Awareness! HD for Etymotic Research App, made for Android Google Nexus 7.
Those using it can listen to both music and the outside world with the Awareness Etymotic Research app, a mobile app that lets listeners change sound level to not only hear music, but also the environment around them.
This feature is great for numerous purposes. It should be noted that when using the app, there is no need to adjust one’s earphones.
With many products to choose from, Etymotic Research's earphones block up to 98% of ambient noise.
However, for times when one also wants to hear the outside world in addition to music, the app offers the best of both worlds.
Follow Phyllis on Twitter.