Thursday, January 16, 2014

Auritech Ear Protectors: The Earplug Roundup

Auritech Biker Hearing Protectors
Auritech packaging. You can see a small diagram
on of how the protectors are supposed to work.
A while back, I was approached by a representative at Allearplugs.com, who of sell "New generation hearing protection." She was curious if I would be interested in a free pair of their protectors to review or maybe give out as a prize. I replied that was indeed interested in free stuff that I could keep all to myself.

Auritech as a brand is produced in the Netherlands, tested in Germany, and sold through the website mentioned above. When I was approached by the representative, I was particularly interested in owning a pair as they're higher quality than any I've ever owned, and they're valued at £19.95 which is in the ballpark of $30+. So, seeing as how I make zero dollars running this website every year, I thought it a fair bargain. So, there you go - full disclosure on the scenario. That being said, I'm aiming for impartial.

They're called "Biker" New Generation Hearing Protectors for Motorcyclists. The "Biker" subline is a single variety amongst a number of targeted hearing protectors intended for various purposes from hunting to music - though the only actual difference I see between any of them is the color.

So, what does Auritech provide for $30? It starts with some (fairly) easy-to-open packaging, a small textbook on how the "protectors" work (including charts), a waterproof, anodized aluminum carrying case, and, of course, a silicone-free pair of protectors. 

The protectors themselves are shaped like a Blade Runner Christmas tree and differ from most others in that they have a cylindrical channel running through their center which holds a sort of ceramic plug. The idea here is that the channel/plug blocks certain frequencies while letting others through - thus letting you talk, listen to music, or (more probably if you're willing to spend more than a few bucks on ear plugs) use you $400 bluetooth headset while blocking wind noise.The first question, really, is "Does it work?"

The short answer is: Yes. It does. 

How do I know? Is this a shameless plug for Auritech? No. No it is definitely not. I know, because I spent a couple of days wearing them. Actually I spent a couple of days wearing one of them in one ear, and a different type of ear protector in the other (occasionally flip-flopping them to be sure I wasn't hallucinating results). Still, it's all subjective - but here's the impressions.

What was the competition and how did it stack up? 

The boxes tend to get stained when you leave them
in the garage.
My comparison product is my go-to hearing protector: The 3M tekk protection. These are the ubiquitous orange tubes that you can buy as a single pair from the hardware store for about $1. Or, you can pick them by the 200-pair pack for about the same price as a single pair of the Auritechs. ($30). Cheap. In fact, at that price, the tekk protectors work on the exact opposite principle as the as the Auritechs. (Here referred to as the Saturation Principle, which is the one I apply to guitar picks.) Stuff a couple pairs into your tank bag, into your jacket pockets. Put some into your toolbox, into your glovebox, or into your nightstand for when your "significant" other has too much to drink and you need block out the snoring. Why? Because they get the job done, and they do it well. On top of that, they're cheap and reusable...ish. (If you don't mind jamming the disgusting junk back into your ear.)


Are the orange tubes as nice as the Auritechs?

They don't look like much.
Absolutely not. Why? Well, I wouldn't say it's comfort. Honestly, I don't mind foam plugs - though I got used to them back when I made "cheese food product" for Kraft. Long story short, I find them both pretty comfortable. However, there is (and to my surprise) a drastic difference in performance. After listening to music with one of each in either ear, I can honestly say the difference is obvious. Both plugs claim to block around 29 dB, but the Auritechs only do it (according to the literature) at the frequencies that matter for hearing protection. Thus, the music sounded (more or less) like music. It wasn't perfect, but I admit, yes, the Auritechs were significantly better. 

Other than orange tubes are the other kind of foam ear plugs - there are many brands, but I've primarily used Leight Sleeper. I had pack of them in the compartment on top of my tank for quite a while. There isn't much to say when comparing this type of foam ear plug (or any similar varietie) to 3M's orange tubes except that I prefer the shape and foam properties of Leight Sleepers over 3M's OTs - I find them slightly easier to use, slightly more reusable, and slightly more comfortable. That being said, the result was basically the same. It sounds like your head is wrapped in wool.

A comparison shot of the cores used in the "blue devils"
and the Auritechs (right). You can see a small channel
through the center of the Auritech ceramic core - though
this channel does not run the length of the ceramic plug.
Unknown brand. Refered to here only as the "blue devils."
Perhaps a better test is to compare the Auritechs to other, cheaper, rubber(ish) ear plugs. There are many varieties - and I do not speak for all brands as they range from $5 to 170+. However, I did find a pair of cheap reusable, ceramic-cored earplugs in my collection.

At this point, I honestly can't remember exactly where they came from, but I can tell you with relative certainty that they were somewhere between $5-10, and likely came out of an interstate truck stop. These ear plugs have the same center channel and a ceramic plug similar to the Auritechs, but if I was offered a pair of these plugs in a room of 30 hungry 2-year-olds, I would turn them down and live with the permanent reduction in decibels. After about 15 minutes, these blue devils give the impression of someone probing your ear canal with dental tools.
After about a half hour, it feels like someone has got their whole thumb jammed in deep enough to scrape your ear drum.

In terms of overall performance, the blue devils work. Actually, they work pretty well - though the Auritechs do work better (according to my extremely subjective tests), and the blue devils hurt like hell. I guess you get what you pay for.

The second question is, are it worth the money? In short summation, I can only say that they are better than any of the other hearing protectors I tried - though I do not claim to have tried them all. I wish I could offer an opinion on the $15 price point protectors, but for the moment, I can't say how they perform.

So, I am very happy to have them. But, should you buy them? Well, that really depends on who you are and what you want. Like so many things, the Auritechs are a premium item and come at a premium price. Personally, I could not justify the $30 - but, I've had a bad habit of losing semi-valuables since my G.I. Joes started to disappear in kindergarten. I'm understandably apprehensive of spending quite so much money on anything so small.

Still, if you're the kind of person who appreciates the small differences between a Kawasaki Concours 14 and a BMW K1600 and you have the money to buy the latter, then you should definitely opt for the Auritechs. But, that's not the only case... if you happen to have Bluetooth in your helmet, or, if you're the kind of guy a hell of a lot and appreciates the small (more affordable) luxuries life has to offer, then the price, then I say yeah. They're worth the extra bucks, because they feel like quality, they do what they say they'll do, and I think they'll last










3 comments:

  1. Brady:

    I have only used the cheap foam type and they seemed okay except you are constantly loosing them. I wanted a more premium model with integrated speakers, like those they sell at motorcycle shows, but haven't bought one yet.

    Do they have a loop or something so you can tether them when they are removed. That would make a big difference for me, then I could just loop them around my neck when not in use and easy to find later.

    bob
    Riding the Wet Coast

    ReplyDelete
  2. No loop. Honestly, it would make them just that much nicer - but looking at similar models that do have a loop, it would block the small channel with the ceramic plug in it. They DO come with a pretty nice carrying case, but that's only helpful if you don't lose them before they get in there.

    Best,
    B

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm one of those that gave in to the sales hype and got custom molded ear plugs while at a rally. They are much more comfortable than the 3M disposable kind and block the wind noise almost completely (as well as just about every other sound). I wish that they had some sort of string as they are too easy to drop when pulling off the helmet. Those that you tested seem like they would work at least as well and not do such a great job at blocking all sound. To use my Sena, I have to have the volume cranked up almost all the way when using the earplugs.

    Good review!

    ReplyDelete