I have now used Vibes on and off for a couple of weeks, mostly while sitting in coffee shops (noisy as well as quiet ones) and walking along busier city roads.
I have also listened to music with them and tried them while watching videos and movies at both a moderate and a very loud volume.
In addition to this, I have tested their noise reduction effectiveness at different center frequencies to learn how much noise they reduce for me.
Could I use these to make a buzzing city a bit quieter and fend off “noise overload?”
I find Vibes earplugs comfortable and they provide a good amount of noise reduction across the frequency range without isolating me too much.
In my ears, they reduce bass and treble frequencies more than the mid range: the world sounds more mellow, and many sounds lose their harshness.
I think this makes them a good candidate for people who are sensitive to noise and find the world too loud in general.
Vibes exhibit only a mild occlusion effect in my tests, meaning my own speech, breathing, and walking sounds are a little bit, but not excessively amplified.
However, to make them reduce noise, I have to insert these earplugs relatively deep into the ear. The stem then protrudes just enough so that I can grab it, but I wouldn’t want to insert these earplugs any deeper.
The point being, if they fit you, you may appreciate the short, discreet stem; I certainly do. But, they won’t work for all ear canals at an acceptable insertion depth.
(For more information, please see the section How do I fit Vibes.)
The longest I have had Vibes in continuously was for 5 or 6 hours, and I never felt they exerted excessive pressure in my ears. While doing some reading or writing in a café, I can completely forget I have them in.
At the café and around town
Vibes noticeably dampened all environmental noises, including chatter, clinking glasses and silverware, and coffee grinder, blender and ice crusher sounds.
I enjoy city walks but often find the traffic noise a bit much.
We are talking medium-heavy traffic bursts with every traffic light change from red to green. The loudest culprits are the motorcycles and accelerating small and medium trucks.
So I decided to take Vibes with me for a couple of walks instead of my noise cancelling earbuds.
They worked well at reducing this traffic noise and I didn’t feel too isolated.
Surprisingly, they were also quite effective at reducing low-frequency sounds, albeit not as much as my active noise cancelling earbuds.
Vibes only minimally amplified my own walking sounds. For comparison, I experience much louder thumps with wax earplugs, Loop, and many triple-flange earplugs.
My favorite ANC earbuds would also create much louder thumping sounds (ANC off), but they use active noise cancellation to cleverly remove them.
How do I fit Vibes and what does the manufacturer say
I highly recommend you follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
On the Vibes website it says:
“Insert the earplugs (ear tip first) into your ear, just like you would insert earbud headphones.”
“Do not insert into inner ear canal.”
The box in which the earplugs came contains the remark “Vibes should not be inserted past outer ear canal. Do not over insert.”
So initially, I tried to use these earplugs as a canal cap, as I would with my ANC earbuds and wax ear plugs.
Unfortunately, that turned out to be too shallow: I got no proper seal whatsoever (even with the largest ear tips) and very little noise reduction, certainly nothing close to 15 or 20 decibels.
Now, my ear canal entrance is quite wide and the stem of these earplugs is fairly short.
Here is a size comparison with another brand of Hi-Fi earplugs:
This short stem can be an advantage if you don’t want something to extend out of your ear.
The downside is that if you have a large ear canal, these earplugs could be too small.
To make Vibes work for me, I have to at least partially insert them into the ear canal. I can still grab the stem and remove them, but just. I definitely shouldn’t have to insert them much further.
Take a look: In the image to the left, I am getting virtually no noise reduction while in the image to the right, the result is good: a comfortable fit and moderate noise reduction that includes bass noise.
Design and wearing comfort
I find these earplugs comfortable, and more so than most multi-flange silicone earplugs I have tried.
l have no issues whatsoever wearing Vibes for half a day or longer. They are easy on the ear canal and the seal is consistent even when I move my jaw quite a bit.
For Hi-Fi earplugs, Vibes have a pretty unusual ear tip design:
A bulb-shaped earbud-type tip is fitted over the nozzle of a clear plastic stem.
(While there are other push-in earplugs with an earbud-shaped tip, most Hi-Fi earplugs employ a double or triple-flange conical ear tip.)
The stem is hollow and has a filter inside to provide a more even noise reduction across the frequency range. (Hollow stems are also employed in other Hi-Fi earplugs.)
The earplugs come with three different sizes of silicone ear tips, with the medium-size tips already in place. I use the large-size ear tips.
My noise reduction experience with Vibes, overview
Vibes noticeably dampen all environmental noises. In my ears, both the low and high frequency range appear a bit more attenuated than the mid-range.
Sitting in a louder café or walking on the sidewalk along a busy road with these earplugs feels good.
Both grating higher frequency and bass sounds have their edge removed. I still hear most sounds but everything seems to be covered by what I would call an “acoustic veil.”
I think these earplugs are a good option if you are sensitive to noise or feel overwhelmed by the sounds in your environment precisely because of this veil:
The overall volume of all sounds is reduced and the treble is rolled off.
If you want high fidelity, this may perhaps bother you: I still enjoyed listening to vocals, but cymbals lost quite a bit of their crispness and sparkle.
Vibes have a noise reduction rating (NRR) of 15, which is at the higher end for Hi-Fi earplugs (but not high in the context of hearing protection).
When you put them in, you should notice a significant volume reduction, otherwise you are not getting a good fit!
For me, they help to reduce the volume while keeping me in touch with my environment.
Note though, these earplugs are not designed for maximum noise reduction.
If you want to use earplugs to isolate yourself more from your environment, e.g., to improve focus and concentration, read my post Which Earplugs Are Best for Studying and Taking Exams.
Also, for attending a rock concert or other very loud event, I’d consider earplugs with a higher noise reduction rating (read the following section for details), in particular if you can’t avoid standing closer to speaker walls.
(I wouldn’t recommend being close to the speakers anyway, but you may find yourself in a loud spot with little room to move.)
Perhaps additionally pack easy-to-insert high-NRR earplugs, which you can put in when necessary.
Comparative noise reduction test using my own ears
To understand, how much noise reduction I am getting from these earplugs, I performed a noise reduction test with pulsed noises at increasing center frequencies (1/3rd octave band steps), using my own ears.
(Depending on your fit, your mileage will vary.)
In the following graph, I have plotted my results (Vibes, orange line). As you can see, for most of the tested range, I got more than 15 decibels noise reduction, with a minimum of 13 dB at 250 Hz.
For comparison, I have also included my results for 3M’s Push-Ins (blue line), one of my favorite reusable no-roll earplugs. These earplugs have an NRR of 28.
As you can see in the graph and as is to be expected given their higher NRR, Push-Ins are substantially more effective for me.
Push-Ins also offer an almost even noise reduction across the entire tested range, so they could be a good candidate for concerts. See my comparative low frequency noise earplugs review for more details on Push-Ins.
This isn’t to knock Vibes:
They will keep you more in touch with your environment and generally allow you to communicate better than NRR-28 earplugs.
Just note that while they maybe perfectly adequate for certain events (and noise exposure durations), they are designed for moderate rather than high noise reduction.
Occlusion effect, body generated sounds, and walking impact sounds
When you plug your ears, the character of sounds created within you changes.
For example, your own voice can appear boomy and eating and breathing sounds amplified.
With Vibes I get only a small occlusion effect, which is good.
My own voice sounds dampened (to be expected) but it doesn’t get overly loud. Also, I don’t hear my own pulse as I do, for example, with Loop earplugs.
When walking, there is a slight impact sound when my feet hit the pavement, but again, it is mild. I have no issues using them when out and about.
Depending on your ear canal and insertion, your mileage may vary.
Watching videos and movies and understanding speech
If someone in your family is hard of hearing, they might turn the TV volume all the way up. Could you use these earplugs so you don’t have to leave the room?
Moreover, would these earplugs be beneficial in a movie theater?
I watched videos and movies using Vibes at two different volume levels:
Normal volume (LAeq: 57 dBA, peak: 78 dBC): Can I still clearly follow a movie at a moderate volume?
I had no problems understanding and following a movie or documentary at a normal volume with Vibes in my ear.
Very loud volume (LAeq: 83 dBA, peak 107 dBC): Do the earplugs reduce the volume enough so that I can comfortably watch?
The earplugs reduced the volume enough for me so that I felt fine. I would still set the volume a bit lower, but I’d have no issue watching at this sound level either.
In fact, when watching at a loud volume, I found it easier to understand with these earplugs in my ears than without.
Note: At this sound level, I would not be comfortable watching without earplugs at all. I would want to leave the room.
So when it came to understanding normal and loud movies and documentaries Vibes worked well for me.
Understanding speech in a quiet environment
When someone spoke softly, such as in a quieter café, I had difficulties understanding them on numerous occasions and felt like removing the earplugs.
And that’s what I ended up doing: I removed at least one earplug when chatting with someone in a quiet place.
I haven’t used these earplugs in a classroom or listened to a lecture without audio system. Based on my experience with soft and normal speech, my guess is that they could work as long as the teacher projects their voice well.
As far as I know, Vibes are currently the only stem-based Hi-Fi earplugs that offer an earbud-type ear tip and moderate noise reduction.
This sets them apart from the more widely used double- and triple-flange designs and got me interested.
(For high noise reduction, other earplugs with a stem and an earbud-type tip are available.)
I find these earplugs comfortable and can easily wear them for hours. At the end that counts for a lot in my book.
The stem is short and discreet. This also helps if you want to wear the earplugs under a helmet.
For me, Vibes are an effective “everyday noise volume-down knob” and I like them.
Their main downside is that the stem in combination with the current ear tip selection will be too short for some folks to get a good fit and effective noise reduction.
I would like to see these earplugs to come with even larger ear tips and an additional longer stem: perhaps four different sized pairs of ear tips plus two pairs of stems.
And, they should include a better case that can be attached to something. Seriously.