I don’t play very loud, but hearing protection is still a concern because I have a bit of tinnitus from my years of playing in bands without earplugs.
When I have a gig or go to a show I’ll typically wear my Westone ES49 custom earplugs. These are really great, but when practicing for a long time I need something more (and something I can plug into my phone to play along to albums or use a metronome app).
KAT Ultra Isolation Headphones
I’ve been using the KAT headphones for a couple of years. They sound fine and the isolation is pretty good, though I still get a lot of “boom” from the bass drum that causes some hearing fatigue.
The build quality is okay and for $70 I don’t expect a lot more. I’ve had to make some minor repairs, like re-gluing the pads on and fixing a broken clip. Not really a big deal.
My only major complaint with these headphones is that the size of the ear pads is a little small. My ears hurt if I practice more than a couple of hours because they are being pressed on by the headphones.
Vic Firth Stereo Isolation Headphones
The Vic Firth headphones are very similar to the KAT headphones.
The reviews are slightly better for these and they’re just $80.
If I were starting my headphone journey again I’d probably order both and return the pair that isn’t as comfortable.
UltraPhones High Isolation Studio Headphones
I was recently was given a used pair of UltraPhones by a friend. I’ve been aware of them, but the $200+ price tag kept me from buying them. I wish I had gotten these sooner!
Created by drummer and educator Gordy Knudtson, these are simply the best, featuring 3M Peltor hearing protection headphones fitted with Sony 7506 Studio Monitor components mounted inside.
The UltraPhones are incredibly comfortable and the sound quality is awesome. They also block out more bass frequency than the KAT headphones.
I can’t overemphasize how comfortable these are. I’ve worn them for up to 4 hours and barely knew I had them on.
If you can afford it, don’t hesitate buying a pair of these. You can buy them directly from GK Music.
Advice to young musicians: Protect your hearing. You won’t regret it.