What Happened To Vibes Earplugs From Shark Tank Season 8?

On January 27, 2017, the 14th episode of the seventh season of "Shark Tank" aired on ABC. Midway through the show, Jackson Mann pitched the Sharks on investing in Vibes, his brand of acoustically-balanced earplugs for use by concertgoers and musicians. He got the idea after he ruptured an eardrum while standing too close to a speaker at a concert.

A demonstration involving the Sharks wearing the earplugs while a brass band played proved that the product worked as promised — lowering the volume to safe levels while not muffling the sound as traditional earplugs do. Quickly, though, the Sharks fell like dominos for several reasons, including distribution hurdles and a lack of proprietary technology.

Even without the "Shark Tank" investment, Vibes is still a functioning company, though, selling its earplugs directly and through various retail channels. But how exactly did "Shark Tank" fit into that larger picture?

What happened to Vibes on Shark Tank?

When Jackson Mann of Minneapolis, Minnesota, entered the Tank to pitch the Sharks on his Vibes startup selling "high-fidelity earplugs," he asked for $100,000 for 20% of the company. His presentation was simple: Basic earplugs, the kind you can easily grab at most pharmacies, are far from optimal for listening to music. Regardless of whether you're playing in a band or taking in a concert, they just dampen the sound without any regard for its fidelity. He proved this by having his hometown's McNasty Brass Band play for the Sharks, who were wowed by how much the Vibes earplugs lowered the volume without muffling the sound.

With further scrutiny, though, it became clear that this was not a business that had much appeal to the Sharks as an investment opportunity. For starters, there was no proprietary technology. Mark Cuban didn't think there was a big enough market and dropped out, only to be joined by guest Shark Chris Sacca, who felt nobody would remember to buy the earplugs unless they were sold at concerts, which he saw as a significant distribution hurdle. (Cuban, speaking as an arena owner, also added that he felt that selling Vibes at arenas was a non-starter and that they were too expensive to constantly give away, as well.)

Barbara Corcoran bowed out over Mann's iffy salesmanship, and Lori Greiner followed, feeling that the earplugs would be too difficult to market. That left Kevin O'Leary, who offered a non-negotiable $100,000 investment for 3% equity and a $2 per unit royalty until he made his investment back. But Mann knew going in that he didn't want one of "Mr. Wonderful's" trademark royalty arrangements, so he left without a deal.

Vibes after Shark Tank

When Jackson Mann went on "Shark Tank," Vibes was essentially brand new — in business for five months with about $30,000 in sales. However, he was a major beneficiary of the "Shark Tank effect." As he told the Hear the World Foundation in June 2017, "The exposure from the show gave us the visibility we needed," and "we sold out of product within a few days of airing and were on back order for months."

CNBC reported in July 2018 that Vibes grew from $33,000 in sales in 2016 to $2 million in 2017. Feedback from the "Shark Tank" appearance also led to Mann broadening the marketing of Vibes. Instead of being pushed mainly as a product for those creating or consuming live music, Vibes' marketing shifted to including, for example, those with sensory processing issues like some people with autism. "This feedback was an integral part of understanding how our customers were using our products and gave us [the] confidence to expand beyond concerts," Mann told CNBC.

As the company grew, it also allowed Mann the room to support a cause with each purchase: Hear the World Foundation, a Swiss non-profit that assists children with hearing loss to ensure they hit their development milestones on schedule. At least as of 2018, this was $2 per unit of Vibes, which retailed at $23.99 for a pair at the time. "We really wanted to do something to protect and give other people the ability to hear," Mann told CNBC. "In many areas around the world, access to health services is very limited." Those services can include hearing aids, educational services, or even funding.

Public data aggregator ZoomInfo claims that Vibes LLC has grossed at least $11.6 million to date, but the sourcing for that figure is unclear.

Is Vibes still in business?

Vibes earplugs are still widely available. Not only can you get them directly and from Vibes' Amazon store, but they're also stocked at Walmart and many musician-focused retailers, like Sam Ash, Guitar Center, Musician's Friend, and Sweetwater Sound. These days, they retail for $28.95, less than the original $23.95 price when adjusted for inflation. On Amazon, it's in the top results — both sponsored and organic — for searches like "acoustic filter earplugs" and "high fidelity earplugs." There, it averages four-and-a-half stars in user ratings out of a pool of 12,165 customers. In the aggregate, professional reviews have been similarly positive, with Don't Waste Your Money averaging 19 of them out to a score of 8.7 out of 10.

As those professional reviews go, the most recent one (and the top hit for "Vibes earplugs review" without quotes on Google), from USA Today in May 2023, focuses on the sensory issues angle. That review speaks well of the product's comfort, its 22-decibel reduction across all frequencies, and affordable price point while saying they may not be the ideal earplugs for those with sensory issues because others provide greater volume reduction and the Vibes make it difficult to hold a conversation.

Also, as noted in the "Shark Tank" episode, Vibes are far from the only earplugs on the market with acoustic filters, with generic brands even available at chain stores such as Rite Aid. What the average concertgoer might prefer can depend on various factors, including the design, price, and degree of volume reduction.

What's next for Vibes?

It seems like Jackson Mann is content with Vibes benefitting from the "Shark Tank effect" for years on end to the point of becoming a key brand name in the world of earplugs. More specifically, Vibes appears to be making very little effort in marketing Vibes beyond paying for their products to get priority in Amazon search results.

The "Notes" blog on the Vibes website has not been updated in three years since a post spotlighting a woman with Asperger syndrome who uses Vibes to increase her ability to function in noisy environments. Mann, meanwhile, does not maintain a public social media presence and has not given any interviews in at least a few years.

As of 2023, Vibes are pretty firmly entrenched as "those earplugs from 'Shark Tank.'" The product is a perfect example of the kind of benefits that being on the show can reap for a business owner, even if they don't leave with an investment.