In our quest to try as many different earplugs and hearing protectors as possible, we tried the Howard Leight Matrix ear plugs. Were they worth it? Did they really reduce noise while still remaining comfortable?
And short answer is: no. These earplugs are strange. They’re not squishy, they’re not comfortable and they don’t seem to easily reduce noise.
What are the Howard Leight Matrix earplugs?
What makes these earplugs different right off the bat is that they do not need to be rolled. Normally, you squish and roll a foam earplug into a thin, cylinder shape. You then insert the earplug and wait for it to slowly expand to fully fit your ear canal. This means foam earplugs tend to have high Noise Reduction Ratings (NRR) and provide a snug fit into the ear canal.
However, these earplugs aren’t squishy at all. This is done on purpose. Howard Leight says you don’t have to roll these earplugs, but simply insert them as they are. We didn’t like this.
The idea is that you’ll save time inserting them, since you don’t have to roll them. That makes sense, but the earplugs themselves don’t feel all that comfortable when they’re that hard.
However, you’re supposed to be able to hear voices clearer with these earplugs versus a traditional foam earplug that makes everything sound muffled. These could be better for workplace environments, which helps reduce harmful noise but still allows you to hear voices from coworkers.
However, if you need ear protection with voice capability, we would prefer using a high fidelity earplug such as the earplugs recommended for musicians. High fidelity earplugs basically turn down the volume on noise to a safe level, but still let you hear everything you need to, including conversations. While these are more expensive than foam earplugs, they are almost always reusable (and far more comfortable than the Matrix earplugs).
Either way, these earplugs come with a NRR of 29 dB which is definitely impressive.
The Matrix earplugs have a smooth outer skin and reduced diameter in order to provide long-term comfort. However, they don’t feel as good as other earplugs. If you need a foam earplug, we would choose the Mack’s Ultra Soft earplugs instead (especially for sleeping). The Ultra Smooth earplugs are incredibly comfortable and the noise reduction is second to none. Realistically, they’re about the same price as well. Both earplugs are disposable, too.
The benefit of this type of design is that they don’t make you feel “plugged up” like other foam earplugs. To be honest, we’d rather have the plugged up feeling since that’s more comfortable than this material.
Because of this type of foam material, these earplugs are not reusable. To find out if reusable earplugs are for you, make sure to check out our guide on reusable earplugs. Of course, you’ll need to buy more disposable earplugs as you can’t wash them.
Howard Leight itself is a wonderful brand and company, creating wildly popular earplugs and earmuffs. They are prominently listed on our Best Ear Protection for Shooting list. Of note, Howard Leight makes incredibly powerful electronic earmuffs, ideally for situations like hunting and shooting.
Benefits of Matrix earplugs:
NRR of 29 dB
Slim fit and reduced diameter
Don’t need to roll them, reducing time
Can take them out and put them back in without rolling them
Can still hear some verbal conversations around you rather than cancelling out all noise
Cons of Matrix earplugs:
Feels weird and uncomfortable
Doesn’t fully expand into the ear canal
Because of its shape, feels like more noise is let in
So many other alternatives with the same NRR but feels much more comfortable than this
Alternative earplug options
If you’re looking for a comfortable foam earplug, there are numerous other options out there. Thankfully there are tons of alternative foam earplugs on the market, and all are typically similar prices.
Like we mentioned, we love the Mack’s Ultra Soft earplugs. These come with a huge NRR of 32 dB, essentially the maximum rating for earplugs. Plus, these are super comfortable and soft on your ears.
If you need something a bit smaller, the Mack’s Slim Fit is a great product designed for slightly smaller ear canals. The slim version has a slightly lower NRR at 29 dB, but still a great rating. Both ear plugs are comparable in price.
Other than Mack’s products, we really enjoy The Ear Buddy Premium Soft Foam Ear Plugs. Like the Mack’s Ultra Soft, these earplugs have a NRR of 32 dB. They massively reduce external noise while still feeling comfortable in your ears. They have the same bright colour as the Matrix so they’re easy to find in case you drop them.
All three of these options come in tubs of 50 pairs with high Noise Reduction Ratings – two options have essentially the maximum rating for earplugs as well. All three options are soft foam earplugs, that will need to be rolled. As well, all three alternative earplugs are disposable.
Verdict on the Howard Leight Matrix Ear Plugs
At the end of the day: we’re not a fan. We can see that these types of earplugs may be beneficial in industrial work environments, but not for everyday life. They’re fairly uncomfortable and definitely not squishy.
If you really do not like rolling earplugs, or work in an environment where you’ll have dirty hands, the Matrix earplugs would be a great fit. You can’t be taking out earplugs, then having to re-roll them to put them back in your ears when you’re covered in dirt, oil or any other substance. These earplugs would definitely come in handy as you’ll just need to insert them.
However, with so many other products on the market, we would suggest picking a different earplug instead.
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