About 6 weeks ago, I purchased a set of Howard Leight R-01902 Impact Pro Electronic Shooting Earmuffs from Amazon for $72 (now listed for $111). http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...?ie=UTF8&psc=1
I have no idea why the price has increased so much.
I purchased the muffs because of their high (for electronic muffs) NRR rating of 30 and reasonable price. Plus, as they run on AA batteries (one pair of Duracells included) that are supposed to last for 450 hours, the muffs seemed promising.
My initial impressions were that the muffs were a bit bulky, but the noise reduction was excellent. The on/off rheostat is a roller. I do not like this feature because the roller wheel protrudes from the profile of one of the cups and is not protected. However, the switch functions fine.
As with other HL Impact muffs (and some other brands), there is a goodly amount of delay between when the muffs are turned on and sound is transferred electronically into the muffs. I tend to think that that batteries are dead every time I turn on the muffs until the sound comes up inside. This is annoying, but not significant.
These muffs fit (me) great, seal very well, close of exterior noise very well, and I am very pleased with the noise reduction performance.
I have now worn the new muffs for three sessions of pistol shooting of about 1 hour each, 2 short sessions of checking zeros on rifles (maybe 30 minutes), and approximately 50 hours of hunting time (actually using the muffs). My primary shooting muffs are Peltor Comtacs that cost several times as much, have shorter battery life (older technology), less NRR, but have very good sound quality and very good stereophonic reproduction with a much narrower profile. So my comparison will be with these muffs as the standard.
For the price I paid, I like the new muffs. However, I find that compared to the much more expensive Peltors, the sound quality is nowhere near as good. For the range, general conversation with other shooters, etc., this isn't an issue. For use as an aid during hunting, it certainly isn't a benefit. Where I often wear my Peltors with the volume turned up high in order to increase my ability to hear noises around me, the new muffs do not reproduce the sounds as loud or clearly. As such, sitting in the dark while hunting and trying to listen for hogs, I have much more trouble picking out and recognizing specific noises and find myself lifting off one cup or the other in order to more clearly hear specific noises.
For me at least, the stereophonic reproduction isn't nearly as good as the Peltors either. While fine for the range, this does not work all that well for echolocating noises. As with lifting off one cup to hear sounds more clearly to identify them, I find myself having to lift off both cups in order to better echolocate with my bare ears quite often. The Peltors are not perfect in this regard either, but only rarely in the last 5 years have I needed to do this with the Peltors. I might do it a couple of times during a given night hunt with the Peltors, but need to do it several times an hour with the new muffs when there are animal noises going on around me.
Thursday night provided a good example of this. I was sitting in an exposed tripod stand. I would hear noises with the muffs on and then turn on my thermal or NV gear and look to the spot where I heard the noise to see what made it. Accrucy in being able to quickly spot the source of the noise based on echlocation was just okay. The general direction was accurate, but the specific direction was not. Even when a 220 hog showed up and was only 30 yards distant, what I thought was the location of the hog was some 5 yards off to the side from where the hog was actually located. As the hog was partially hidden by brush, finding the hog with regular night vision put me at a disadvantage because I was looking in the wrong location for the hog and had to correct my search using the thermal vision. In short, for hunting purposes, these muffs are not ideal for improving your hearing capabilties for the purposes of identifying and locating game.
As for the bulk of the muffs, it is substantial. Dressed up in cold weather gear (coveralls, sweatshirt, etc.) I found the muffs were constantly in contact with my clothing and rubbed on the fabric above my shoulders when turning my head. The rubbing, of course, produces noise picked up by the microphones and overrides ambient nature noises. The muffs are large enough that I could actually tilt my head slightly to one side and rest the muffs on my shoulder to prop up my head. This is not nearly such an issue with the lower profile Peltors.
Based on my limited experience with the HL Impact Pro Sport electronic muffs that are much lower profile, I would guess that the electronics inside both are probably comparable. The shortcomings here noted for the new muffs are similar to what I experienced with the Impact Pro Sport muffs which have a much lower NRR rating, lower price, and significantly lower profile.
I had used the Impact Pro Sport muffs numerous times over the last year (because they were muffs always carried in my vehicle) when I did not have my Peltors with me. Like the new muffs reviewed here, they were functional, but not great for the purpose of hunting. However, they died unexpectantly, hence the purchase of the new muffs. My oldest pair of Peltors, however, is over 11 years old now.
I have NOT had a problem with shooting rifles despite the bulk of the muffs. Currently, my hunting rifles are set up with higher set scopes and so my cheek weld is higher. No doubt a lower cheek weld would yield some problems.
I cannot yet comment on the battery life of the new muffs except to say that when I wear them, I always have the volume turned up to the highest setting and after well over 50 hours of use, I am still on the original set of batteries.