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Loop Earplugs Review: Expert Lab Testing and Live Audio Samples

"Loop Experience plugs combine comfort, unique style, and sound quality. It may be difficult to find a better earplug at this price."
Expert review by Abram Bailey, AuD

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As an audio engineer and Doctor of Audiology, I've taken it upon myself to identify the absolute best earplugs for concerts. It's important to me to find earplugs that are comfortable, sound great, and provide an acceptable level of hearing protection.

I recently acquired Loop Experience Earplugs and measured their performance in the HearingTracker Lab. In the video below, you can hear my overall impressions and a few audio recordings of their performance. My detailed hands-on review continues below the video.

Loop Earplugs: Comparing the options

Loop Earplugs are a stylish universal-fit hearing protection device. They have several unique offerings, the Quiet, Experience, and Engage, which I've summarized in the comparison table below. Each model is also available in a "Plus" version, which are the same as the non-plus versions, but you get a few extra accessories and there are some unique colors you can choose from with the Plus versions.

Product Max NRR Price Also includes
Quiet 27 dB $24.95 Silicone ear tips
Experience 18 dB $34.95 Silicone ear tips
Experience Plus 18 dB $44.95 Silicone ear tips, foam ear tips, Loop Mute
Engage 16 dB $34.95 Silicone ear tips
Engage Plus 16 dB $44.95 Silicone ear tips, foam ear tips, Loop Mute

Comparing the available Loop Earplugs in 2023

Loop earplugs have a very unique design and undoubtedly earned their name from their torus, or doughnut, shaped body. While this offers a unique and stylized appearance, it is not solely aesthetic.

The secret to this design requires a short dive into our anatomy. The adult ear canal has a fundamental resonance around 4000 Hz³. This resonance is altered significantly when the ear is occluded or plugged with a hearing protection device — think of the tonal differences between blowing over either an empty or filled pop bottle. Without this resonance, speech becomes muffled and you can feel isolated from your surroundings.

Fortunately, Loop Earplugs have a hidden feature which accounts for this shift and restores a more natural occluded sound quality. This is accomplished via a hollow acoustic channel built into the “loop” portion of the device. This resonant chamber improves sound quality for the wearer and can be found in the Experience model.

My Review of Loop Experience Plus

Today, I'm reviewing the popular Experience model, which is designed for more general sound exposures and offers a reported 18 decibels (dB) of sound attenuation. They are currently available for $34.95 in Loop's shop. And I paid $10 more for the Plus version, which came with the Loop Mute and foam earplugs, which I've also tested in the lab.

What’s in the Box?

In the box, you will find one set of Loop earplugs, ear tips, and a carrying case. The earplugs appear to be made of a light but strong plastic. This seems to be a common trend of newer hearing protection devices, whereby silicone ear tips are detachable from a more rigid and resilient earpiece.

There are several benefits to this configuration. For example, the acoustic membrane may be better protected yielding a longer lifespan with more stable sound quality. Secondly, the silicone ear tips can be replaced without needing to purchase a new set of devices. A third benefit is that you are guaranteed a better fit from the start without having to (1) purchase separate sizes or (2) modify the existing ear tips. Regardless, the latter is generally not recommended as it can negatively affect a device's performance.

The Loop Experience devices come with four sets of silicone ear tips ranging from extra-small to large. If you opt for the Experience Plus, an additional three sets of foam ear tips are also included. Users should experience no difficulty finding a good fit due to these options.

Experience Pro Loop United States 2022 03 17 07 26 12

What's in the box? My review units were Midnight Black. The Loop Experience devices come with four sets of silicone ear tips ranging from extra-small to large. If you opt for the Experience Pro, an additional three sets of foam ear tips are also included. The photo above shows the Glorious Gold Loop plugs.

Another notable offering that comes standard with the Plus are two sets of Loop Mutes. These are noise blocking rubber sleeves that provide an extra 5 dB of sound attenuation. They accomplish this by plugging a sound bore, or opening to the acoustic channel, within the inner circumference of the loop. This is a great addition to both the Experience and Plus which will be discussed in greater length below. Mutes can also be used with the Quiet version albeit only for visual aesthetics.

Loop Mute

Loop Mutes provide an extra 5 dB of sound reduction.

Both the earplugs and mutes come in a variety of discrete and vibrant colors allowing for personalization. Extra ear tips and mutes can also be purchased separately when in need of replacement or simply for customization.

Subjective Sound Quality and Fit

I was immediately impressed with both the style and feel of the Loop Experience Earplugs. They are lightweight and sit well recessed with the concha of the ear due to the loop’s anatomic angle and shape. This seemed to provide good retention even during more rigorous movements. The low profile also means they can either be inconspicuous or have a stylish flare based on your color choices. For example, the midnight black earplug with white mute creates an appealing bullseye.

Loop Earplugs In Hand

Loop Earplugs are very small, as you can see in this image.

Regarding acoustic seal, the medium foam and silicone ear tips provided the best fit for my ears. While I did not have any retention of seal issues, I would have liked to try multi-flange ear tip which are not included.

The overall sound quality is impressive and the sonic footprint holds true to “high-fidelity” expectations. A common test for me is to wear the plugs while listening to my favorite reference audio tracks around 90 dB A-weighting from my listening position. If the hi-hat and snare wires are audible, it subjectively cues me to a more uniform attenuation. This was definitely the case.

The mutes were also an impressive addition. Inserting them decreased the overall volume a fair amount while retaining a relatively natural sound quality — call it subtle but sufficient. After a little practice I could take the mute in and out without having to remove the earpieces. However, this was challenging, took more time than it was worth, and I could see it causing eventual tears in the mutes.

Lastly, I wanted to draw attention to the provided carrying case. I believe the case to be the largest deciding factor of whether or not people use their devices. If the case is resilient and connected to your car keys, earplugs will be used when needed as they are always available. Alternatively, they often sit on a shelf having been forgotten at home. I found the Loop case to be too small, fragile, and difficult to operate. It would not withstand daily use connected to my keys. I would therefore highly recommend purchasing a separate keychain pill medicine box. Metal waterproof options can be found online for minimal expense.

Normal Listening Versus Loop Earplugs

In this comparison, you will hear how Loop earplugs reduce sound entering your ear canals.

No Earplugs - Electro Rock:
Loop Earplugs - Electro Rock:

Volume-Matched Comparison

Next, let’s see what happens when we increase the levels to get a similar volume in all recordings. This will help you hear how the earplugs affect overall sound quality when we take the volume jump out of the picture.

No Earplugs - Electro Rock:
Loop Earplugs - Electro Rock:

A Deeper Look at Attenuation

While my subjective analysis of the Loop Experience Earplugs was largely favorable, I wanted to see how they would hold up against more objective measurements. To accomplish this, standard audiometric pure tones were presented to a miniDSP Earphone Audio Response System (EARS) via a Yamaha HS5 powered monitor. Several measurements were taken for each ear tip and the mute. The process loosely followed testing procedures outlined in ANSI S12.6-2016¹. However, as a manikin was used insertion loss was calculated based on the difference between the unoccluded and occluded response.

To assess eartips and the associated acoustic seal, recordings were made from 125 to 8000 Hz for both the foam and silicone couplers. The Loop earplugs were completely removed and reinserted into the ears between recordings to account for insertion variability. Average attenuation characteristics for all recordings can be seen in Figure 1. Ear tips offered similar attenuation; however, the silicone tip performed slightly better providing a few decibels more attenuation across the spectrum. This is not to imply that silicone tips will always work better. Fittings are personal and should be assessed by testing tips for both comfort and seal.

Loop Foam Vs Silicone

Figure 1: Average attenuation characteristics between the foam and silicone ear tips. Note: Loop Earplugs now refers to the Experience Pro as the Experience Plus.

This begs the question, what happens with a bad fit and poor acoustic seal? Neither of these are uncommon and I have in-practice heard people opt for shallow insertion as it “sounds better.” To this end, a recording was also made with shallow earplug insertion such that a needle pin air gap existed between the ear tip and EARS ear canal. The results can be seen in Figure 2 where it is clear that even a needle pin gap has a detrimental effect on device efficiency. Attenuation is limited to frequencies above roughly 2000 Hz with little to no protection in the lower frequencies. A second, and more shocking point to note, is that the poor fit seems to have a resonant effect around 1300 Hz (noted by the red asterisk in Figure 2). My measurements indicated up to a 12 dB boost compared to the open ear condition. This ultimately suggests that a poor fit not only limits sound protection but adds other unexpected hazards. 

Loop Poor Acoustic Seal

Figure 2: Average attenuation characteristics for both a good (blue line) and poor (gray dashed line) earplug fit. A resonant effect can be seen around 1300 Hz whereby sound pressure levels at the ear drum microphone are greater with a poorly fitted earplug than in an open ear condition. Note: Loop Earplugs now refers to the Experience Pro as the Experience Plus.

Does the Mute Work?

It was also important to assess the attenuation characteristics of the Mute. Loop claims that it offers an additional 5 dB of protection which aligns well with my subjective listening. The aforementioned recording methods were repeated and the attenuation characteristics of the Mute can be seen in Figure 3.

Loop Earplugs without Mute:
Loop Earplugs with Mute:

The Mute appears to function as intended offering increased attenuation across the tested frequency range. There is a trend of greater attenuation towards higher frequencies which may be a result of resonant effects and the mass law. Ultimately, this aligns with my subjective testing and supports the efficacy of the Mute in either extreme situations or for those with greater sound sensitivities.

Loop With And Without Mute

Figure 3: Attenuation characteristics of the Loop Mute. Note: Loop Earplugs now refers to the Experience Pro as the Experience Plus.

Do Loop Earplugs offer 18dB of Attenuation?

My testing suggested a NRR of 17 dB with the Loop Experience Pro. This is very close to the reported 18 decibels of protection. With the addition of the Mute however, the NRR increased to 33 dB. This suggests roughly 16 dB of additional protection which differs significantly from the 5 decibels Loop references. I was honestly surprised by the latter as I found the Mute “subtle but sufficient” in my subjective listening experiments.

Regardless, the attenuation measurements included in this article are presented for demonstration purposes only and are not meant to be interpreted as laboratory data. Measurements were obtained on an acoustic manikin that may not meet international standards for anthropomorphic head and torso simulators. Furthermore, the miniDSP EARS do not account for the roughly 40 to 60 dB attenuation limitations observed when testing on humans².

Final Thoughts

I have been very impressed with some of the newer hearing protection devices on the market — the Loop Experience is no exception. These devices offer several desirable features and my testing supports their high-fidelity status. The ability to quickly change attenuation properties with the Mutes is a fantastic addition and it is great to see this feature being introduced with more devices.

As a final note, I do think it is important to keep an eye on the device's sound bore. As there is no screen or protective filter, I can foresee it becoming occluded with debris, oils, and or wax. This would likely influence how it works considerably but that is another test for another day.

The packaging does include a disclaimer that the earplugs are good for 5 years. This is a great reminder that hearing protection devices do not last forever and deteriorate over time. Regular follow-up with your audiologist can help assess their state and whether or not your hearing conservation methods are keeping your ears safe.

My Rating

Loop Experience plugs combine comfort, unique style, and sound quality. It may be difficult to find a better earplug at this price. If you are in an extremely loud environment, the Mute offers additional sound protection too. The only thing missing is a resilient keychain case.

Category Rating
Sound Quality 4.5
Features 5
Fit & Comfort 5
Attenuation 5
Visual Style 5
Price 4
Occlusion 3.5
Overall Score 4.5

All ratings on a 5-point scale with 5 being the best.

References

  1. ANSI (2016) (R2020). American National Standards Methods for Measuring the Real-Ear Attenuation of Hearing Protectors. ANSI S12.6-2016 (R2020). Acoustical Society of America, Melville, NY.
  2. Berger E.H., Kerivan J.E. (1983). “Influence of physiological noise and the occlusion effect on the measurement of real-ear attenuation at threshold." J Acoust Soc Am. 74(1):81-94.
  3. Wiener, F.M., & Ross, D.A. (1946). The Pressure Distribution in the Auditory Canal in a Progressive Sound Field. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 18, 248-248.

Music Credits

  1. Music by ComaStudio from Pixabay
  2. Music by Coma-Media from Pixabay

We independently reviewed this product. When you buy through our links or using our discount codes, we may earn a commission.

Steve Taddei

Doctor of Audiology

Dr. Steve Taddei is a licensed audiologist in Rockford, Illinois. He hosts and produces the Hearing Tracker Podcast and is a professor at several institutions proctoring courses in acoustics, hearing conservation, and audio arts. Additionally, he remains an active member in the music and audio engineering community. Whether speaking to students or consumers of hearing technology, he aims to promote self-advocacy and increase hearing health awareness. In his free time, he enjoys woodworking, mountain biking, and playing guitar.

Discussion
Anna Timm

Thank you for this highly detailed review! I saw in your bio that you enjoy woodworking as a hobby. I am currently a woodworking student in an AA program, and I also require hearing protection at my job as a firer on small steam locomotives at a theme park. I have noticed that in both settings, I avoid wearing my earplugs, and I have tried a few types trying find to some that work. Even though I would like to protect my hearing, I find that in my school setting, it’s important for me to be able to hear my classmates and instructors even out in the shop when using machinery, and the earplugs that are easiest to take in and out are the foam necklace ones that are not comfortable to wear, so I use them only with the loudest machines like the planer. I like the silicone tiered ones on a cord marginally better; I need a better fit, and sounds are still muffled like underwater. Similarly, in the steam engine, I find that both types of foam earplugs provided as our PPE are difficult to take in and out frequently (and kind of gross with dirty hands, gloves on, etc), and I really need to be able to clearly hear my coworkers speaking, as well as the fire to keep it well-balanced. The foam earplugs seem effective but make these softer noises muffled, while the particularly loud elements of being in the engine that I need protection from are more sporadic than constant sounds. I don’t know if the Loop Experience Pro will be the ideal option for me in both of these environments, but I think I will give them a shot, because it will be better for my ears than what I am doing now, which is avoiding wearing my earplugs as much as I should be for reasons of comfort and in order to hear the things I need to.

Steve Taddei

Hello Anna, thank you for reaching out. What you are experiencing is a common problem. Fortunately, there are several options that can be comfortable, protect your hearing when loud sounds occur, and preserve speech so communication is an option.

Nowadays there are several earplugs offering adjustable attenuation. This can provide more or less sound reduction based on whether you need greater protection or speech clarity. Earplugs I’ve tested that fall within this

category are Loop Experience, Minuendo Lossless Earplugs, and Eargasm Slide. Based on your post, I would say the Eargasm Slide may work well. They offer an array of both silicone and foam tips so you can find a comfortable efficient seal. The adjustable “slide” is also rather large making it easier to switch between more/less attenuation. They also come with a neck loop and are magnetized which can improve retention when they’re looped around your neck. I do find them comfortable for long use and the removable tips make them easy to clean.

You had originally asked about Loop plugs with the mute. While I like these plugs, I find it difficult to add/remove the mute without removing the earplugs from my ears. For this reason, I did not recommend them based on your description of use.

There are also active earplugs that are designed for similar purposes. For example, Etymotic Research offer a device called the Music Pro. This device sits in your ear like a standard earplug but amplifies softer speech sounds as though your ears were open. However, if louder sounds occur the earplugs decrease the volume up to 15 decibels. These devices are more expensive, require batteries, and may be more susceptible to breaking down if you expose them to lots of debris.

Overall, you seem to want a device that protects you and allows clear communication. This device also must be comfortable, resilient, and easy to use. The Eargasm Slide should do exactly this for relatively little cost. With the Slide closed, the acoustic filter is protected from debris (Sawdust!). As they sit within your ears, they will not interact with safety glasses while using power tools. I’ve included the link to my full review below. We do have a promo code for 10% off should you go this route: HEARING TRACKER. Hope this helps and good luck!!

Member

I am looking for a recommendation for earplugs but I have, apparently, very small ears. What type of earplugs would you recommend for me?

Member

Confused: vertical axis in figure 2 says attenuation in decibels, which peaks for poor fit at 1300Hz, but the caption says that’s the frequency at which the eardrum would experience high pressure. Attenuation means reduction. So is the vertical axis total volume simulated at the ear drum, or total attenuation (reduction) of volume simulated at the eardrum?

Member

I currently own a pair of the Loop pro for going out to bars and clubs and venues where the music is often loud and conversation can be difficult but necessary. I have been happy with the noise reduction and fit that the Loops have given me and my ears are happy whenever I am going home, however I still find that conversations are still a bit muffled and I often have to ask friends or co-workers to repeat what they just said. I would be interested in seeing a conversation test under loud music conditions between Loops and other types of adjustable passive hearing protection like the Sennheiser SoundProtex (and Pro versions) and the other brands you mentioned before to see if they are worth investing the same or more for better speech clarity.

Member

Hello,

I tried the loop experience plus with the mute, at band rehearsal, loud rock band, I found that it didn’t offer much Noise Reduction, I tried them again and the same thing happened, it felt like 12db reduction not 23db, my ears are still ringing. The box also says 7db NRR

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