Choose Life’s Volume With this Multi-Setting Earplug Design

Crank it up to eleven – or dial it back to silence – with this fascinating new product design from Knops. These attractive ear buds allow users to control the volume at which real-world sounds are heard, all without the use of electronics.

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The project all started (as many of them do) with Knops Co-Founder and Product Designer Richard de Jong’s experience at a music festival bar: awkward ‘I can’t hear you’ barman chat, plus dropped earplugs, plus festival mud… “long story short, we noticed that earplugs can be improved,” he explains.

Unlike regular earplugs, Knops allow users to adjust ambient volume to any of four settings:

One: like you’re not wearing the plugs
Two: filters out vibrant city nose
Three: adjusts live music volumes to a manageable level
Four: creates a personal bubble of silence.

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The earplugs’ gramophone shape gestures towards the analogue sonic function of the device, and is fitted with tuned acoustic filters at its base for fixing the volume settings. The adjustments are made using a circular ring with added knurling, modelled on familiar volume dials, and reduce decibels across all frequencies, making for a more natural noise reduction that retains the quality of the sound.

The whole kit is prettier than your average headphone bud, too, with a mix-and-match colour scheme of gold, silver, black, and white. “We wanted to give it a high premium feel and look”, Richard tells us, so the team turned to jewellery and watches for material inspiration, settling on stainless steel and gold plating to get the slick exterior.

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Knops has already smashed its Kickstarter target, meeting over 450% of its funding goal. And, they do more than just let you switch off poor chat: the threat of long-term irreversible hearing damage from live music is real, and unless we all take a bit better care of our ears, it’s also here to stay.

THE PLUS: You’ve gotten a great response on Kickstarter – why do you think there’s such high demand for ambient volume control?

Richard de Jong:
I believe there are multiple reasons for this. The first one is that we are everyday bombarded with noise -this results in our getting more distracted, and even increases stress.

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TP: The second?
RdJ:
The second one is that more and more people are aware of the dangers of harmful loud sounds. Hearing damage is irreversible.

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TP: And finally…
RdJ:
The last one is design. We noticed a lack in the aesthetics of hearing protection devices as well as in electronic ‘hearables’. We believe that every product you wear should be something that you want to show, instead of hide.

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TP: So how do you feel generally about the future of enhancing the human body with gadgets like this?

RdJ:
It depends. A gadget like Knops is a reaction to the environments we have created for ourselves – we made festivals and nightlife, for example, with very loud harmful sounds. Gadgets that can help you with these problems are perfect. That said, sometimes enhancements are not necessary, and you can actually make the human body weaker and less healthy. So it all comes down to the context.

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TP: When would you most appreciate being able to turn down life’s volume?
RdJ:
Sometimes you get into a discussion where both parties don’t agree, but keep on discussing. In this kind of situation I would really like to, just slowly while the other person carries on talking, turn down the volume, step by step.

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TP: Where do you plan on taking this next?
RdJ:
We are looking to make a Knops 2.0 which includes a Bluetooth headset, so you can also use it to play music. I am also interested in introducing technology in Knops that can enhance sound for people with hearing loss.


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