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highly isolating IEM recommendation for helmet use?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 



I need earplugs suited for motorcycle use. I've tried out a few drugstore-level products (poor isolation) as well as helmet speakers (not quite loud enough to enjoyably get through earplugs) and want to try something better.


I have an upper target of $100 in price, give or take.


I am looking for IEM's with the following three criteria, in order of importance:


1. Isolation - as high as possible. I normally jam 33dB-NRR foam plugs in as deep as they will go. I can tell you for sure that single-flange silicone are totally inadequate in the SPL levels I'm operating in. I commute on the freeway three hours or more each day, and cannot overstate the importance of adequate hearing protection for myself. No earplugs = ringing in my ears and deafness for up to an hour after the commute.


2. Form factor - over-the-ear wire loop, and flush to ear. Something probably more like the Shure SE215, and less like the Etymotic HF5 stick-shaped plugs. Anything that sticks out will jam into the helmet, causing pain, and dislodge the plugs or interrupt the seal as I squeeze my head into or out of the helmet. Over-the-ear wire loop isolates the forces and keeps the plugs in position under the helmet.


3. Sound Quality - Is still important, but must yield to 1 and 2. I primarily listen to audiobooks/lectures, music, communication and telephone. I might also use them at work to help me focus in a noisy environment.


I'm sorry to ask for a recommendation as my first post, but I have spent some time searching and reading guides and threads, both here and at other forums for advice. The information on isolation I found tends to be SQ-centric, mainly for static listeners, and doesn't really address the unusual environment of freeway motorcycling.


I've been looking at the SE215 - good form factor, but my concern is that the isolation may not be good enough.

I've been looking at the Etymotic HF5 and MC5 - good deep insertion and isolation, but my concern is that the form factor may be painful.


Thank you very much,


Edited by rmzalbar - 3/11/14 at 1:31pm
post #2 of 7
Originally Posted by rmzalbar View Post



Isolation is determined by a number of factors, keep that in mind.  A few would be the housing shape and insertion depth, however, a third is a the tip type.  I know you said that 24 dB is not enough isolation for you, but do keep in mind that is what custom molded IEMs (for stage use) offer (just using that as a bench mark), and it's quite a bit of isolation.  If you want to bump up above that, you'll have to ditch silicone entirely (I don't think Etymotic silicones go above 24 dB isolation) and go after foam.  If you swap from silicone to foam, then you'll be able to break that 24 dB barrier. 


I know Tyll from Innerfidelity bikes like you do, so it may be wise to message him (forget his username on Head-Fi).  He saw the RE-400 as a possible replacement for the ER6 as a biking IEM due to their size and shape.  Plop on foam tips and they will isolate more than you need them to.  The same goes for the Rockets.

post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 

I will follow up with the RE400, thanks for the tip.


My best luck with isolating earplugs (last time I tried them) was with the Radio Shack version of the Koss Plug with the conical foam. Due to the way they were designed, however, the foam would bunch up instead of insert, and ergonomically speaking they were real ear-bleeders, I mean literally, with the hard plastic tubes jamming into the sides of my canals. Surely there are better options.


The SE215 looks like a possibility with the form-fitting design and the olives, but they don't look like they go in very deep. Wish there was a way to try before I buy.

post #4 of 7

Geez last thing I would want personally is isolation when i'm driving a car let alone a bike.  

post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 

Perhaps you don't operate your car with 95-105 dB of wind noise pounding your eardrums. In your car, you are indeed isolated from this noise by the shell of the car and its aerodynamics. Through hearing protection, I am seeking an attenuation of this noise down to approximately the level of a car. Most people who don't ride motorcycles, or don't spend 95% of their motorcycling on the freeway as I do, simply aren't aware of this "feature" of motorcycling.

post #6 of 7
I ride a bike as well. Just simply giving my opinion. I personally wouldn't feel comfortable wearing IEM'S
post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 

What do you ride? My current bike is a Yamaha FZ1.


Do you wear foam earplugs? For shorter rides or casual riding, I don't bother with earplugs, but I also ride 1.5 - 2 hours to or from work, twice a day each weekday, all at southern california freeway speeds, and that's more exposure than my ears can take. I always wear them at those times and on any trip that puts me on the freeway for more than about half an hour.


It's not one of those things where it's just bad in theory, either. On days when I've forgotten my plugs, it's all ringing noise and muffled voices at work for the first half hour after I arrive, and usually lying in bed listening to the ringing later that night.


I can understand not wanting to potentially blind one of your senses on a bike.

Edited by rmzalbar - 3/11/14 at 8:56pm
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