Updated Dec 15, 2021 ...
Helmet-Friendly, Sound Isolating Earbuds
A while back I wrote a piece on how to wire a motorcycle helmet so that it has both internal speakers and an 1/8" audio jack. In that post I make little mention of which earbuds I prefer to wear while riding. I've since started incorporating Plugfones, an audio-active, construction-grade protective ear plug that began as a KickStarter campaign.
“One problem motorcyclists face when using earbuds is shape. Helmets are designed to fit snugly, so internal protrusions can spell agony after many hours.”
Earbuds act as a two-fold solution, providing both protection and clearer communication. There's also the added luxury of in-ride music, receiving phone calls or voice guided gps along favorite routes. Either way, calming audible environmental variables helps riders maintain a "relaxed yet alert" state of awareness.
The most obvious problem motorcyclists face when using standard earbuds is shape. Helmets are designed to fit snugly, so internal protrusions can eventually spell agony over the course of many hours. Construction earplugs don't (usually) cause this as they're contoured for better fitment.
“So ... why not combine the two?”
That's precisely what the good people over at Plugfones did. Available in a few different colors, they include both cone rubber (my preference) and compression foam tips. Flexible wiring feeds directly into their outer hub without any need for a hard plastic guide. Shown below, the white earbuds are of typical design and uncomfortable when worn under a motorcycle helmet. In the next photo, Plugfones route into the ear canal without any sideward obstruction.
Because no elbow guides are required, nothing is pressing against your inner ear while you ride. That means no migraines over the course of your route. It also means superior sound isolation for clear and focused motorcycling, a benefit that surrounding vehicles often lack.
As a degreed musician, my impression of Plugfone's overall fidelity leaves something to be desired ... but this isn't a recording studio environment! Even if it were, Plugfones sound significantly better than a mid-grade pair of Skullcandies. That's thanks to Plugfone's range of audible frequencies working in conjunction with their ergonomically sealed design.
So, if you're looking for an affordable pair of sound isolating, helmet-friendly earbuds with decent audio quality to boot, look no further than Plugfones construction-grade, audio-active ear plugs. After five thousand plus miles of riding, mine are still as good as new. Balancing the measurement of bang versus buck, both sides of the Plugfones scale are tipped in your favor.
What Audio Solutions Do You Employ When Riding Your Motorcycle?
There are other audio solutions on the market. Which ones have you tried? What do you like/dislike about them and why? Your input is invited. Leave a comment!
Ear protection and audio/communication have been a struggle for me since I started riding. First off, I hate earbuds. They've never worked for me. I've never found a pair that stayed in my ears and/or didn't hurt. Plugfones work great. I tried both the silicone and foam covers and prefer the foam. I even tried foam in one hear and silicone in the other as my ears have different shapes but foam in both works the best for me. I love that there is an option though to make it the best fit. I know Robin prefers the silicone. Also they block out noise making them great for wearing while doing yard work or just walking where there's loud traffic/city noise. If I still lived in Chicago I bet they'd be great on the train.
For riding I've been using some custom molded ear plugs that I got from the PlugUp booth at the Progressive IMS in Chicago. These block out the noise very well but require me to crank the volume to max all the time to use my Sena communicator with the speakers in my helmet. I've used regular foam plugs but find they don't block as much noise. On top of this I found with my latest set of molded plugs that they would start to hurt my ears after a while. I find that the PlugFones block more noise than regular foam plugs and allow for clearer sound from my Sena at a lower volume.
Overall I'm very pleased with this product. You can't beat the price. I've seen similar products for over $100. That may be great if you're an audiophile and keeping them in a protective case but if you're riding/working in them (or just tend to be rough on things like me) you need to be able to lose/break them (this is also my philosophy on sunglasses). That being said, I find the audio quality to be fantastic and better then any earbuds I've ever owned.
I can't recommend PlugFones enough and rarely am I ever this pleased with a product.