A pair of earbuds or ear plugs are not the obvious choice when it comes to reducing in-helmet noise. However, there is a very straightforward reasoning behind giving them a try. As we know, motorcycling can be a noisy business and tests have shown that depending on the helmet and the bike and its relevant screen, wind noise can easily reach levels within the helmet where permanent hearing damage can occur.
A pair of earplugs can significantly reduce the amount of noise entering the ear canal and help to reduce the chance of hearing damage. However, depending on their design, they can also mask external noise which can be useful, such as traffic around you in town, for example or sirens of approaching emergency vehicles.
Also, if you like to listen to music or sat nav instructions or make and take calls through an intercom in your helmet, then earplugs can also reduce not just the volume but also, the quality of the music you listen to.
1. Jabra Elite Active 75T Earbuds
So how about wearing a pair of earbuds that feature active noise reduction technology and pair with your phone to offer the benefits of both a pair of earplugs and an intercom as well, with the added benefit that you can then use them off the bike too?
I’ve used various Jabra products over the last 20 years and have always been impressed, so this set of Bluetooth earbuds jumped out straight away. Promising excellent audio quality, active noise reduction and vast control options via a phone app, on paper they looked like they could satisfy just about every requirement.
First things first; they look like 1970s hearing aids in this beige but they are also available in dark grey – much cooler. The individual earbuds charge in the housing which contains a battery, itself charged via the supplied USB cable. The earbuds activate as soon as they are removed; you can wear just the right one for say phone calls or both for music.
Pairing them with your phone as a Bluetooth headset is a doddle and once done, they automatically connect each time you remove them from the case. You get three sets of silicone earpieces to get the fit right and once inserted, they are comfortable and not too heavy.
You know they are there, for sure and if you are putting a helmet on, you need to be a little careful as they are deeper than ordinary earplugs but they don’t protrude too far and once on, all is good.
With them in and turned off, sound cancelling is as good as any motorcycle earplug I have tested, and I’ve tried everything from 12p squidgy foam ones to £30 aluminium-based versions.
However, a quick press of the left-hand plug (or switch through the app if wearing a helmet) activates ‘Hear-Through’, which uses the built-in microphones to amplify external ambient sound and present it through the earplugs, so you can hear what’s going on around you.
Very useful in traffic, for example. Turn the Active Noise Cancellation on and this makes sure that the ambient noise is reduced as speeds increase, for example. It’s really effective and cuts external noise dramatically.
With hear-through turned off and music on, they really come to life. Music audio quality is nothing short of superb: it seems to lose little by virtue of being wireless with deep, powerful bass, punchy mid-range and clear and accurate vocals. They are, in this respect, as good as any earplugs or headphones I’ve ever tried.
For me, there is only one drawback but many may not see it as such. With a helmet on, you can easily make and take calls from the app on the phone but – and it’s a big but if this is important to you – while you can hear the caller perfectly, they cannot hear you at all if you’re moving and hardly at all even if stationary. The helmet destroys the multiple microphones’ ability to pick up your voice. However, if you’re not wearing the helmet, then they work perfectly.
Related: Best motorcycle intercoms
Of course, if you’re off the bike, then you can wear them whenever you want. You can wear them all the time and make and take calls with the hear-through on so you know what’s going on around you; watch movies on your laptop or phone in a hotel in the evening, make or take video calls for work… anything you can do with wired or other wireless earbuds.
If you aren’t that interested in phone conversations on the bike but want a combination of earplugs and an intercom that works for music and sat nav instructions, with the added benefit of working as a super-high quality pair of earbuds off the bike, then these are great.
Sound quality is superb, they are packed with features and the app makes control really easy. They are a little more bulky than normal earplugs but then, they are so much more than just that. A great option for a different take on an intercom with added usefulness.
Superb audio quality
Active Noise Cancellation really works
Hear-Through highlights ambient noise for urban use
No good for phone calls inside helmet