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In many ways, the whole COVID period has provided some much needed rest and recuperation for the ears (at least for us musical types), as we trade the high SPL, feedback laden climate of the live stage for the relative sonic safety of our cozy little studio spaces and controlled monitoring environments. But don’t get too comfortable, live music is back on the agenda and as we start making our way back to the live domain, so too do we become reacquainted with all the potential audiological hazards that come with.
With hearing loss being the number one occupational risk in the live space, now is the time to get serious about hearing protection, even if you aren’t showing any obvious symptoms yet. Your future self will thank you.
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Gone are the days of acoustically suspect, cheap, and nasty disposable foam plugs, the hearing protection market today is an increasingly high-tech and cutting-edge space, mirroring the same kind of technological trajectory that we have seen in other areas of acoustic design, like active noise cancellation, acoustic modelling, and active room compensation. Where hearing protection differs from the above is that unlike the aforementioned’s reliance on active circuitry and onboard DSP, hearing protection is for the most part, almost entirely passive in its design.
This is just one of the factors that makes Minuendo such an intriguing prospect, both as a product and as a development in ear protection. The level of adjustability and nuance that their acoustic attenuation allows for is almost unheard of, especially for a product relying on passive components as the basis for its filtering. At the very least, the mechanical way in which it achieves this is sure to put the industry on notice, as it is truly streaks ahead of even the best moulded in-ears out there at the moment.
Founded in 2018 by a team with extensive experience in acoustics, hearing protection and product development, Minuendo are firmly aimed with the gigging musician in mind (as opposed to just general commercial hearing protection), in turn pushing the brand into some genuinely exciting and cutting-edge areas of design, the likes of which haven’t been explored all that much in regards to musician-specific earplugs.
A ‘lossless’ ear plug through and through, where Minuendo differentiates themselves from the norm is in their ability to provide linear, flat attenuation as you glide through the varying degrees of passive SPL reduction. This translates to a considerably more natural on-stage monitoring experience when compared to traditional earplugs, who largely work by merely muffling the high frequencies and subduing the mid range, without much thought being put into linearity across the frequency range, something integral to the playing experience for most musicians.
Minuendo achieves this via their unique integration of both adjustable membrane tension and a clever approach to porting, in turn allowing for an unprecedented range of passive transparent attenuation options.
Simply by adjusting the onboard lever, Minuendo allows you to take the earplugs from open (-7dB) to closed (-25dB) and everything in between, perfect for accounting for the variance in stage volume and SPL experienced across the different playing environments. The fact that this is achieved while maintaining relative linearity across the frequency spectrum, means that they are suitable for all musicians, even vocalists and guitarists who primarily rely on the midrange as their point of reference and who have had a historically tough time integrating hearing protection into their workflow without compromising on monitoring accuracy.
The onboard lever simultaneously controls a combination of slit thickness, output volume and membrane tensioning to achieve a natural sound across the adjustable range. By using something called the ‘Finite Element Method ‘ (and its equivalent electrical circuit analysis of the acousto-mechanical system), Minuendo have been able to refine the intricate interaction between membrane structure, tensioning, meshes, and varying acoustic canal resonances in a way that allows for maximum transparency from one setting to the next.
Beyond the technicalities, the product itself offers gig-ready build quality and a choice of 12 different multi-flanged silicone eartips, allowing users to A/B different designs to find the best possible seal for their personal anatomic profile. Given there are so many ear tip options, it really pays to try them all at the setup stage, in order to find the best possible fit. Having used the dual flanged middle sized options quite happily over the last month, I decided on a whim, to try one of the three tiered options only to find it provided a vastly superior seal for my particular ear canal.
As anyone who has ever used in-ear monitors or earplugs on stage will attest, even a seemingly decent fit is often only temporary and it’s only too easy to have earplugs fall out of place in the heat of the moment. This is something Minuendo have addressed with their patented Magnetic locking system. Moving around my studio from instrument to instrument, I definitely had my work cut out for me, trying to intentionally dislodge the Minuendo earplugs while engaging in some controlled simulation of rigorous on-stage performance. Being composed entirely of passive components also carries with it the added bonus of requiring zero in the way of charging, making them an awesome prospect for touring, FOH types as well.
With live music and everything it entails (rehearsals, sound/line checks, and the actual shows themselves), being the riskiest of all musical undertakings in regards to potential hearing loss, it makes a tonne of sense to look at something like Minuendo’s new lossless earplugs as a potential protective measure, to keep your precious ears at peak physical condition.
This is only further emphasised when we take into account how many live performers are currently moonlighting as self-recording or self-mixing musicians, disciplines that place an onus on critical listening and to which hearing loss is a very serious and real handicap. In this regard, something like Minuendo’s new lossless earplugs are perfect for keeping your ears safe and in perfect working order. Their ability to provide frequency-accurate, passive attenuation at varying volumes makes them an awesome choice for any musician looking to engage in an act of self-preservation.
Check them out at Minuendo’s website for more.