Selective Hearing: These Earplugs Let You Turn Down Sounds of the World

We’ve all had moments where we wished we could tune out a particular person or muffle loud music without losing the ability to hear a friend’s voice, but standard earplugs don’t exactly allow for a lot of fine-tuning. But with a new product called ‘Knops,’ you can literally turn the volume of the world up or down in an instant. Founded by musicians, the Dutch startup aims to help you hear what you want to hear and ignore what you don’t with the twist of a tiny knob.

Each pair of knots has four modes you can switch between: the first is clear sound, the second reduces ambient ‘city noise’ by 10 decibels, the third muffles live music by 20 decibels, and the fourth is ‘isolation,’ blocking out 30 decibels. You can easily switch between the four levels whenever you want, eliminating the need to constantly pull out and reinsert your earplugs.

Noting that most earbuds are “downright ugly as hell,” the designers gave Knops a minimalist look available in four different colors and trims. You might imagine that they’d be unnecessarily high-tech, turning a simple product like earplugs into an expensive, high-maintenance gadget that requires syncing to electronic devices or battery charging. Surprisingly, that’s not the case. The creators wanted control over external sounds without the distortion that can come with electronic solutions.

How does it work? According to the creators, “Knops uses no electronics, no apps and no batteries. Instead our earbuds are acoustically engineered. The real sound is filtered using gold old physics. With the help of computer simulations and real-world prototypes tested in acoustic labs, we tuned Knops. We spend a lot of time fine-tuning the sound, so we can provide the best quality sound at every volume level. Working with the natural response of the ear canal.”

You can pre-order a pair by backing the project on Kickstarter for 58 Euros (about $62 USD) or more.