Sunday, June 30, 2013

Enjoy the music and protect your hearing - LugPlugs ™ test

When I was young, I used to go to this rock club and many of my best memories are connected to that place. The owner and DJ, who I funny enough met again for the first time in many, many years right after the Johnossi show last weekend, is probably the person who influenced my taste in music most and with that nothing less than my life.

We had such a blast dancing through every Friday and Saturday night to old and new tunes really mostly all driven by noisy guitar sounds. I have no idea anymore how we managed to spend there so much time given the fact that we had school at 3 Saturday mornings a month and that I was working also for the local newspaper spending my Sunday mornings at the editorial office writing. It seems that I was immune against sleep deprivation and I am very sad that I lost this ability over the years, when you look at the effort and planning it takes me now to get through the hockey playoff season. But when you are that young you simply do not care.
What we also did not care about was the amount of noise we took in every weekend especially hanging out at our favorite spot in the club which was awfully close to one of the giant speaker sets. I mean ... it was the early 90ies, it was Rock 'n' Roll - when it didn't ring in your ears it was simply not loud enough.

Of course there were people (parents, teachers, other annoying creatures) that pointed on us telling us that this was not fun but dangerous and we would all go deaf like Pete Townshend! This is actually proof we had some kind of cool parents and teachers and that we were good kids, because all involved parties at least knew who Pete Townshend is ;). But still ... although the idea of going deaf on too loud music made us shiver a moment it did not change our behavior at all. We kept on dancing and we kept on hanging our heads over the monitors of Rage Against The Machine or Alice In Chains or Kyuss being the front row kids at the shows.

Years later life had naturally slowed down due to studying and then taking on the first more serious jobs although mine was music business related and I kept hanging my had over monitors but just not as frequently anymore. The ears also kept ringing when they got an overdose of noise, but I realized I was shrugging it off less lightly than I did before.
Then finally I went to a show here in Munich a little more than 10 years ago. I am trying very hard to remember what show it was and I think it was Monster Magnet. All was as usual until the next day. Normally the next morning the ringing would be (at least mostly) gone, but ... it wasn't.  My right ear was okay, but my left ear had a pretty annoying ring and it felt blocked. It was like somebody would press on it with a flat hand. That was when I got really scared. Words like "acute hearing loss", "premanent damage", "tinitus" were rushing through my brain and I considered seeing a doctor immediatly and I should have. I ended up not going and giving myself another day to see how it would develop and I was lucky ... it was much better and one more day later I was fine again.

BUT I got the warning signal and when I had to go to the music shop next time to pick up new guitar strings, I asked for earplugs - musician earplugs. I never started using just normal noise cancelling ones or even tried to plug rolled up paper tissues into my ears like many people do at concerts. That was not an option because I LOVE music and if I would look at a future with earplugs then please with plugs that would allow me to still enjoy the sound. So I ended up buying my first set of Alpine MusicSafe.
I remember when I used them the first time I was for a couple of moments super unhappy because I felt the loss of volume and how they filtered the sound, but after a while it felt okay.
And this is a recommendation I have to give to all new users of earplugs at shows:  Do NOT remove them again immediatly because you feel the sound changing (I am not saying getting worse - just changing!). Keep them in, get used to it and it will impact you less and less over time!

I turned into a real believer finally at a Stereophonics show a couple of years ago. I had my earplugs in and I really enjoyed the concert. Before the encore I put the plugs out to talk to my folks and they were all complaining: "The sound is shite. It is way too loud. I hear just ringing and not really the instruments."  And I was like. "Really? I can perfectly hear every detail. I think the sound is great."  They stared at me like I was a Marsian. Then the band came back on stage and I kept my earplugs in my hand and .... GOOD LORD - it was AWFUL! A piercing ringing, brutal noise, the high notes TOTALLY distorted. I hastily put in the plugs again and .... ahhhhh .... music. That is when I finally laid the idea of "earplugs are healthy but are ruining the sound" to rest for good. They just don't - at least not, when you are choosing a high quality product and not go for cotton balls.

I would like to tell you that I went safe ever since, but I didn't. To be honest I still kept my earplugs at home way too often. Sometimes I simply forgot them. More often I got tired to put them in and out during shows when wanted to talk to somebody and had to hold them in my hand. Sometimes it was so dark and crowded that I was sure I would lose the expensive plugs when I would try to finger them out of their little purse to put them in. Sometimes I had  to put them out in less noisy areas like backstage and did not bother to fish them out of the jeans pockets again. It just did not work out really.

BUT then just lately I ran surfing the endless space of the internet into Steve Broadfoot's LugPlugs ™.
Steve is an avid music lover himeself and spent many, many years organizing concerts and working with bands like The View, Biffy Clyro, Franz Ferdinand and others.
The man knows about
a) how loud rock music is
b) how awesome rock music is
c) how much it needs hearing protection especially when you are out at shows a lot
d) how impractical regular earplugs are
e) (and not least importantly) how not cool earplugs usually are. 

Based on all this he came up with a stunningly simple yet awesome idea and worked on it until he was pleased with the result: He attached a set of good earplugs to a lanyard  - the type of laynard you use for your keys and very similar to the ones you use to wear your AAA pass when when you are working at a show.

You can wear your LugPlugs ™ laynyard with your earplugs before and after the show wrapped around your wrist or - like I do it - tugged to your belt or around your neck - where you obviously have it also during the show when you pull out the plugs and put them into your ears.

LugPlugs ™ are available via (also for international orders) as:
- Standard version LugPlugs ™ branded or Biffy Clyro branded
- Musician version LugPlugs ™ branded or Biffy Clyro branded

For bands, venues, all kinds of businesses where hearing protection makes sense - they can be produced with the brand of your request. Please get in contact directly with LugPlugs ™ for pricing and all other needed information.
Also a couple of new, great product extensions and variations are in the pipeline - stay tuned for those!

I - of course - own the Biffy Clyro musician version and how I got them is pretty amazing:
At that time they were not internationally available and I just tweeted 
LugPlugs ™ that I would really LOVE to have the Biffy ones if I only could order them. Within in the shortest time Steve picked up my request and turned around the necessary adjustments at Amazon so that I - and others outside of the UK - could order. He emailed me back often within minutes and  took care of all my annoying questions and requests. You could not meet a nicer person to deal with.

I got my own Biffy earplugs very quickly together with some more sets I passed on to friends who go to concerts very often and everybody liked them. I FINALLY got around to test my own set last weekend (I had a long dry period with no shows here) and can now share the experience from my own perspective. 

Here you see my plugs: 

Biffy Clyro Musician Version 

Biffy Clyro Musician Version - deconstructed

Like you can see in the first picture they come looking like nothing but a cool Biffy Clyro lanyard with the plugs tugged in safely in little pockets at the inside of the lanyard.
The two halfs are at one end connected with a click clasp (goes behind your neck when you wear them) and a Velcro fastner at the other end. The actual earplugs are connected with the lanyard so you cannot lose them and you can put them in and out like you want to without ending up with plugs in your hand or crumbled up deep down in your pockets are or - even worse - your earplugs falling down to a dirty floor in the darkness of a venue. 

The most important part of the test came of course at the Johnossi show (perfect band to test because the club was small and the band is really loud)  when it was all about the sound and I came out of it as a happy camper. The volume reduction is just fine. It was still loud like a rock show but just not so over the top anymore. I am a bass person and so I was happy that not much gets lost here. The most significant reduction through the filters comes for the high notes, where the LugPlugs ™ cut of the painful peaks. 

I tested it all around ... no plugs for the first couple of songs (I thought the sound was fine). Then we moved closer to the stage and I put the plugs in. After the one song it took me too adjust it was really fine from the sound perspective. Finally towards the end I pulled the plugs for a moment in front of stage just to check on the difference and was like "OUCH!".
My ears had so well adjusted to the sound through the plugs that the unfiltered one almost bit me and I quickly put them back in. The plugs are soft and I had no issues to wear them for quite a while. I also realized a difference in the filters from my old plugs: I did not have to pull them when I talked to my friend. Her voice came through just good enough to communicate. 

And finally - we should  just not fake that this is not important because it really is - although this was a show of another very cool band I loved to show of my piece of Biffy merch and the whole lanyard set up does not look awkward at all, which is a big pro.

I am really happy with my LugPlugs ™ and cannot wait to wear them to the upcoming shows this fall which will include hopefully the one or other Biffy Clyro fall tour concert and I TOTALLY plan (ticket is here already) to hang my head over the monitors of Queens Of The Stone Age at the front row here in Munich in November. That is when my ears will need their new bodyguards very urgently.

On a final note:  Like I earlier said
Steve is fantastic and I absolutely love to support small businesses based on a good idea driven by great people with passion and love for what they are doing. Steve's story is also touching me for some very personal reasons (you will see in the video). I wish him and his family all the very best from the bottom of my heart and of course much and well deserved success for LugPlugs ™ . 

I invite you to watch this super cool videos by
BBC Scotland about Steve and how he started LugPlugs ™ .  Thanks a lot to the man himself for putting this on YouTube because we out of UK people sadly cannot watch the official BBC streams! 

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