I do NOT want clipping. I am not sure if this is the correct term but what it means is that some cheaper muffs when presented with a noise above X amount it shuts the the speaker off. To me it is very disoreinting. The second type just lowers the speaker volume so as not to hurt your ears.
Actually, the technical term for what those cheap-o electronic muffs do is "compression suck".
Well, that may not be the technical term, but it's what we called it when I worked in sound. Clipping is when a circuit is overloaded and it distorts. There is some of that involved with the cheap muffs as well. I won't get into explaining slew rate and the other things that make them give you that disorienting, weird sensation, but it can be cured by buying nicer gear.
The reason the expensive ones are expensive is they have to use electronics that are fairly complex. I have only had a nice set in front of me to examine a few times, but I think I saw a compressor component, a limiter component, what looked like it could be a filter component, 2 amplifiers, and a power circuit for the micro-condenser mic. All of that x2 for the whole assembly and good components are not cheap.
That's for a non-digital design, though. I'm sure there are sets out there with little computers in them that do all the audio processing. Those would be slightly less complex in design, but probably not any less expensive.
The $20 junk-piles that I bought don't have much of that. It just looks like a powered mic run into the cheapest high-ratio compression circuit they could find in Taiwan, run into the amp for the speaker. When you hit a high-ratio compressor with something like a gunshot without a limiter in front of it in the signal-path and feed the results directly into a cheap headphone speaker amp (clipping it), you get the disorienting crunch-suuuuuck down to nothing effect.
I'm also in the market for a really nice pair of electronic muffs. Thanks to my $20 investment in useless junk I now know that the spendy ones are worth the pain in the wallet.