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I’ve always been a big fan of Norman Cook under his different names. One of my favourite tracks he ever did was “No Way” under the name Freak Power. There is one line in the song that’s always made me smile as it’s a sensation we have all been used to:
“that funny little noise gets a ride home in your head…”
We’ve all been to a club night, had a great time and come out to that little high pitched whistle as we go home. Whilst funny the first few times, that is actually the sound of damage to our ears.
I was pretty lucky, my ears don’t really ring all that much, even after playing live in loud venues. I actually started getting headaches the next day instead. I’d go home, go to bed and get up the next morning with an awful headache.
Then I started reading a lot online about DJ’s protecting their hearing, it was pretty clear to me I needed to act before it was too late. It might sound a little ridiculous but what came to mind was the film “It’s All Gone Pete Tong.” If you are unfamiliar with film, it’s about a superstar DJ who starts to go deaf from exposure to loud music and an excessive lifestyle. Whilst I choose not to lead an excessive lifestyle (and I’m not judgemental, if you do, that’s up to you) but I am constantly exposed to loud noise.
Having had a conversation with a friend who has worked in engineering for at least 20 years, he is a man who suffers with Tinnitus. He warned me that it drives him mad, the constant ringing/whilst in his ears, and often the quieter the room, the louder it seems. He advised that I protect against this at all costs.
You might think, it makes sense, I am a DJ but the thing to remember that as a clubber, or a person who attends live gigs, you are just as at risk as I am.
I set about finding a solution to this issue and was met with a wealth of questions. Do I want ear plugs? Kind of, but I don’t want those foam things that fall out of your ears and muffle the sound out. What use is that to someone playing music to a crowd? Not being able to hear and enjoy the music I was playing. What about specific DJ ear plugs or musicians ear plugs? Well yes but a lot of those can cost several hundreds of pounds and involve trips to specialist hearing facilities. So what was the solution? Then I came across DUBS.
DUBS are not an ear plug per se. They are advertised as Acoustic Filters.
I know, you are thinking what does that mean? Well basically, it means you put them in your ears much as you would a pair of in-ear headphones. They still let the sound in without degrading the sounds from the outside but they strip out the aggression of certain frequencies (targeted by professionals) that are known to cause noise induced hearing loss. There sound protection rating is -12db.
Let’s just put this in perspective. A loud rock concert or club could be 115 db. Most of the world’s health bodies say that no one should be exposed to 115 db for anything greater than 15 mins a day due to risk of damage to your hearing. If we look at perceptions to increases in db level as well, and increase of 5db is a clearly noticible change, 10db is about twice as loud, 20 db about 4 times as loud. So a reduction of 12db? Bang On!
Check this link for more information about loudness levels and how they work.
So if you are now thinking, why do I want to music to be half the volume? This is the beauty of it, it doesn’t feel half the volume with them in! You still get the kick of the drum in your chest, you still feel the bass rattle through you, the music still sounds great it’s just your ears get 12db less of dangerous frequencies in all night therefore eliminating any dangerous noise from the vast majority of loud environments.
The main body is black but they come in 4 different surround colours. Green, blue, grey and pink. I opted for the grey ones as my headphones are chrome, black and red so any of the other colours would have clashed, plus they seemed like the best all rounder.
When I received them through the post, I was very surprised how small the box was. They came neatly packaged carry case which is pretty discreet in size and easy to slip in your pocket or bag.
My next concern was how they would fit. We’ve all bought in-ear headphones before and had to mess about with the buds to get the sound and the fit right but the DUBS were a comfortable fit straight away. This was definitely a good thing as they are only supplied with one pair of buds. All in all I’d give the fit 9.5 out of ten. It is a little strange at first getting used to them, just because at normal room volume, they do seem to block a lot out and talking with them in is much the same as talking with any in-ear headphone in, you get that slightly muffled and deeper sounding voice element going on. This is not the DUBS, this is simply how your ears work!
Then to the sound test. I popped the DUBS in and put my DJ headphones on. My DJ headphones are the Beats by Dre studio professional so these can really kick some power and move some air so I was curious to what would happen. I plugged up to my mixer and cranked the monitor up to about two thirds of the way to max volume. In a club, I can guarantee, that pretty loud as it’s loud enough for me to hear the headphones over the dance floor system. In a quiet apartment, it’s very loud. This is where DUBS come into their own. They were loud, but not that shrill loud that you can get from loud headphones. They definitely weren’t going to hinder my ability to monitor music during my mix. And they were comfortable underneath my headphones. Winner all round!
I wore them for the whole time I was mixing that evening which was about 2 hours and they were comfortable and after the first half an hour, I’d stopped noticing that there were actually there!
So at that point, I knew my next test had to be a live test. Whilst my monitor feed was loud from my mixer, my house wasn’t running at the full power a very loud club or late bar can be. Also, I’d not tried the usual live trick of talking to people, this is important to me as often people like to request tracks, so I need to hear them.
Friday was my next night at one of the bars I play in and I knew that would be a great test. This particular bar, I have been playing in for about a year, and although it is a bar, it has a sound system that will put some clubs to shame.
The DUBS went in my bag and off I went. I set my gear up and got ready. I popped in my DUBS and began to play. Now there are a few things to bear in mind here as a DJ. Because I am wearing hearing protection, I don’t want to turn the mixer up more because it sounds quieter and blast the dance floor so that is worth bearing in mind.
I arrived at the venue and set up my equipment and got ready to start. For the first hour and a half we don’t really get the sound system going in this venue with it being a bar as the vibe is very much good music to have in the background of socializing, to loosen the crowd up and get them warmed up nicely as they have a few drinks. For this period, I didn’t wear the dubs as they just weren’t required. As the evening progressed, I increased in volume as the venue and dance-floor get busier. By 9.45pm we were up to the higher volumes that we use as the floor comes alive. I set the sound up to ensure that I wasn’t overpowering the floor and popped the DUBS in my ears. There was an immediate noticeable difference.
In the venue, above and directly behind me is a very large speaker and that was where I noticed the biggest difference straight away. The first few minutes of wearing these in a “live” venue was a little weird. I could still hear everything clearly, but just not as loud as it was without them. As a DJ, it took me ten or so minutes to get comfortable wearing them and ensuring that my mixing was at the right level and sounding as good as it would do when I wasn’t wearing them but I need not have worried as everything was as normal.
I enjoyed the night as normal after that although I will admit there were a couple of people out of the many I spoke to who I had to pop one of the DUBS out of my ear to speak to, presumably as they were slightly quieter than the others, but on the whole they only affected my hearing in a positive way. At the end of the night, I was left with no ringing or discomfort (either from the noise or from wearing the DUBS) and I woke up in the morning with no headache!
For the price of $ 25,- and the way these protect your ears, I couldn’t recommend them more to anyone.
Ian "Skev" Hardy developed a love for music at a very young age and set his goals around two simple tasks, collecting great music and playing great music. Ian established FunkySexyMusic in 2013. “I needed a brand to create my vision of how things needed to be, something that when you heard it mentioned meant quality, great music, fun, how house used to be.” FunkySexyMusic is about music that is of the highest quality, "it’s about the fact I spend ages looking for that tune, the new one, the one you haven’t heard before, the perfect one that makes your heart smile and your feet dance when you hear it. It’s about unity, it’s about family and ultimately, it’s about freedom, freedom for you on the dance floor and freedom for me behind the decks." It’s about the fact when you hear Ian Hardy or FunkySexyMusic mentioned, you know what to expect and you should never accept less. Finally, it’s about the love, not the money. Ian was overjoyed to be welcomed into the Dirty Disco Radio family in early 2015 and is aiming to bring you sets and editorial pieces that are to the same high standard that you have always come to expect from Kono and the rest of the Dirty Dsico radio family.