• Price: US$190
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ACS Pro 17 Hearing Protector Review

Last updated 4 October, 2018

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The Lowdown

The ACS PRO custom fit hearing protectors deliver on their promise to protect your ears without degrading sound quality. The service was great and the plugs are comfortable to wear for long periods. If you’re looking for professional hearing protection with adaptability and comfort, then these are highly recommended.

Video Review

First Impressions / Setting up

ACS Close Up
The ACS PRO17 comes with a filter, which is the white circle you see in the centre of the earplug. You can swap these out with other filters that have different levels of noise blocking depending on the situation.

Two weeks later my hearing protectors arrived by post. The silicone plugs come in a discreet little protective case with a cleaning tool, some “comfort cream” to help get them in your ears and the instruction manual. You can choose from a wide range of colours but I went for clear; you can also choose from options such as grips to aid removal, attached cords and laser etching. They arrive pre-fitted with the 17dB filter and each one has a logo on it, one red, one blue – the red one if for the right ear – easy enough to remember – “R”ed – “R”ight.

They are a bit fiddly to get in, and so they should be. They are made to be the exact shape as your inner ear, and the silicone material only has a small amount of “give” in it so they can’t be squeezed down like traditional foam earplugs, that’s the idea. If you’ve ever used noise-cancelling ear buds that need to be twisted into the ear canal to get a tight fit, this will feel familiar to you, but if this is your first time you’d be forgiven for thinking they’ve sent you someone else’s!

But here’s a tip we never like to follow – read the instructions! It tells you how to grip the buds, and the position to start to enter them into the canal and twist into place, and eventually the fit snugly and discreetly right inside your ear – you can hardly even see they’re there from the outside.

And when they “slot” in – wow. Who turned off the world? It’s a very strange feeling. It’s like someone “turned down” the sounds on everything. I can still hear the tapping of my keyboard as I type, I can still hear when I click my fingers and I can still hear Phil when we’re in conversation (I suppose it’s not all good news…) but everything is just quieter. Oh, there is one thing I can still hear just the same as before… my tinnitus. Logically these are not going to do anything to reduce this, only to help prevent it worsening.

At this stage I can’t imagine DJing like this, but I’ll be using them to DJ at my radio show to see if they deliver on the promise of delivering the full frequency range.

In Use

ACS Speaker
The ACS PRO17 plugs are discreet and comfortable for long periods of use. More importantly, they don’t make you sound like you’re “underwater” the way cheap foam plugs normally do.

I started my show off as normal, and fitted the protectors after playing a few tracks, so I could get a “before and after” comparison. The sound system in the Beachgrooves studio is awesome – and it’s loud. There are four speakers pointing directly at you from each corner and a mammoth sub under the desk makes the whole room sounds like a club. And I like it loud (hence my hearing damage). There’s something not quite right about simply “turning it down”. It’s not as easy to feel the vibe and get lost in the mix if you’re working at background music levels. I like to feel the thump – but with the thump comes dangerously high levels on the ears from the mids and tops. My iPhone dB meter shows 101db in there when it’s cranked – not good.

After fitting the ACS protectors I carry on with my show as normal, and I found that they were very quick to get used to. The music in the room sounded, as far as I could tell, exactly like it does normally, just quieter (and I could still feel the thump). Cueing tracks in the headphones was totally fine, although I did increase the volume on my headphone output a little, but nowhere near as much as I need to when playing in a loud room normally. The frequency range sounded bang on, so I was able to pick out the crispness of snares and definition on kicks required to keep the beats locked in time. This is the stuff that you just lose completely when you use foam earplugs.

When mixing (both tracks live in the mix, still using my headphones to check the incoming track is in time), again, all the frequencies are there, I can hear everything I need to from the house system and the headphones, exactly as it would normally be but without the eardrum abuse, the 17dB reduction is just about right for this environment.

After a coupled of mixes I forgot I was wearing them. I felt like I was “in the room” and not underwater, and didn’t feel like I was missing any detail from the music at all. I got into trouble when the station manager came in to hear the system banging out at full blast with me none-the-wiser, I suppose I was still looking for that “extra little bit” even with the plugs in… 🙂

Using the mic

ACS In Ear
The ACS PRO17 is designed to reduce the “booming” sound you hear when you talk while wearing traditional foam plugs, making things sound more natural overall.

I moved from my S4 over to the broadcast mixer to make an announcement. This requires a different set of headphones and taking into the mic. This was a little strange, although nothing like the underwater effect of most earplugs! The sensation is like talking but you can’t hear yourself fully and I had no idea if I was shouting or not, I’ll have to listen back to the recording to check that out, but it wasn’t problematic – just something to get used to.

According to ACS this is due to “the occlusion effect”, the booming sensation caused by sound that is carried to your ear canal through the cartilage at the side of your head, which usually escapes through the open ear canal so is not heard. When you wear ear plugs this sound cannot escape and creates the “boom”, however compared to traditional foam plugs this issue is hugely reduced with the ACS pros because of the way they’re designed: They sit deep enough into the ear canal to extend past the cartilage which ensures that the sound hits the plug and is deadened rather than entering the canal at all.

The PRO filters go one step further by being vented to allow sound to pass both ways, meaning that remaining sound can escape directly through the filter, “providing one of the most natural sounding earplugs available”. Pretty clever stuff.

Conclusion

If you’re a DJ playing out (or even at home), you are exposing your hearing to potentially dangerous levels of sound and you should try to reduce this exposure where you can. At a starting price of £139 ($190) you may not consider these to be an essential DJ purchase, but once your hearing is damaged, there’s no turning back. You wouldn’t consider rock climbing without a crash helmet, and you should start to respect your hearing in the same way you respect your skull.

If you’re a working DJ and you are not protecting your ears – please, start doing something about it now. Your ability to earn money is gone if you lose your hearing, and not only that – you won’t be able to enjoy what you love – music!

The ACS PRO custom fit hearing protectors deliver on their promise to protect your ears without degrading sound quality, or detaching you from the vibe of the room. The service was great and the plugs are comfortable to wear for long periods. The only down sides for me at least were the strange sensation when talking, and that they are not comfortable to sleep in, (for that you need a different designed plug), but for club DJs these are not really the reasons you would buy these in the first place, and if they’re good enough for Tiesto, Deadmau5 and The Prodigy, you’re in good company.

If you’re looking for professional hearing protection with adaptability and comfort, then these are highly recommended.

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