Tough Tested Jobsite Earbuds Review: Hearing Protection For Drummers

Tough Tested earbuds are aimed squarely at anyone who works in a noisy environment, but who simply can't leave their tunes behind. There are several different models in the Tough Tested range, starting with 'Driver' at $39.00 and moving all the way up to 'Marine' which happen to be waterproof for $79.

I got my hands on a pair of the 'Jobsite' edition, which is one step below Marine, and which retails for between $60.00 and $70.00. With a 'FlexFoam' tip that conforms to the inside of the ear to block out as much as 22 decibels of exterior noise, and a large padded hook to hang off the wearer's skull even while moving through a full day of tasks, the Jobsite units also claim to be dust proof and water resistant.

Now, I don't happen to run a machine rig on an assembly line, nor do I man a jackhammer for eight hours a day. That being said, I do happen to play the drums – and I am always on the lookout for a set of headphones that can keep up with the cacophony of my banging on the skins without rendering me deaf at the same time. It was with this in mind that I cracked open the rather industrial-looking case that housed the Jobsite earbuds and climbed behind my kit.

The main thing I look for when I audition earbuds for drumming is how well they stay in my ear. When I'm flailing around with sticks in hand my head tends to bobble a fair bit, and when you combine that with the fact that the earbud cable is linked to the phone in my pocket on the leg that operates my kick drum pedal, well, there's a constant tug of war going on that constantly threatens to dislodge my earphones. Combine that with the fact that I wear a seat of over-the-ear muffs while drumming and it's not a simple matter of occasionally pushing the bud deeper into my auditory canal, as I would have to remove the muffs to do so.

I had high hopes for the Jobsite buds, for several of reasons. The first is that the malleable foam at the tip of the earbuds – which is responsible for making the sound-deadening seal – is fairly sticky, and seemed like it would do a good job of grabbing on inside my ear. The second is the over-the-ear hanger loop that is intended to keep the units in place even when you're swinging a hammer. Finally, if the Jobsite pair was actually capable of blocking 22 db, then I might not need my muffs at all.

In actual practice, the Jobsite units are a bit of a mixed bag as a drumming companion. I've got weird ear canals, as anyone who has seen my custom-fitted hearing protection plugs can attest to. On one side of my head I had no issue with the Jobsite buds staying in place, but on the other they would occasionally tumble out, typically just after the hanger fell off my ear.

Still, the foam plugs did do a decent job of blocking out the crash and bang of my drums – so much so that I was able to use them, in the absence of muffs, without really suffering from any headaches. I had to turn up the volume all the way on my phone to be able to hear all the details I needed while drumming, and use the earbud EQ system to boost the sound – which was kind of a bummer, as that's just as dangerous in terms of hearing loss – but it worked.

With my muffs on I could drop the volume to a safer level and enjoy much better fidelity than I had with standard off-the-shelf earbuds with no noise-blocking capabilities. There's one caveat: you have to be careful when forming the soft foam before putting it into your ear, because it's relatively easy to block the tiny speaker and muffle the sound completely. Also worth noting: the units come with a headset control for phone conversation, as well as two pairs of replacement foam buds.

The Jobsite headphones aren't the perfect drumming solution, but they're amongst the best I've found so far, and certainly better than any over-the-ear noise-canceling headphones I've tried under similar circumstances. Given the issues I had with keeping them in place, however, I can see how they might not work out in every on-the-job situation, especially if you've got weird ears like me. With pricing hovering around the $60 mark, it's not a ton of money to risk for the potential reward of protecting your hearing at work.