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Old September 13, 2010, 11:48 PM   #1
TheGoldenState
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Acoustics

Ive seen on TV, in some magazines, etc. those Ear Protection that have microphones that are battery powered that are supposed to allow you to talk to fellow shooters without yelling but yet still have the protection needed to prevent hurting your hearing.

Does anyone have experience with these? How well do they work? Safe? What brand would you recommend?

Any information and insight would be appreciated.
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Old September 14, 2010, 11:25 AM   #2
Brian Pfleuger
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I've used a few different brands.

I had a set of Radians muffs that finally broke after about 4 years of heavy use. They were of good quality from a sound/performance perspective but they are a little light on build quality. I guess I shouldn't complain, they did last 4 years for $110.

These days, I have a Walkers Game Ear that looks like a Behind-The-Ear hearing aid and also has wireless radio communication. The sound quality is excellent. It feels like you're wearing an ear plug but doesn't sound like your ear is plugged at all. Every other unit that I've ever used had a definite, but not annoying, "synthetic" sound. The Game Ear is worth the money, but it is more than double and almost triple some of the other "acceptable" brand names, like Radians.

Short answer: If you're on a budget, the Radians muffs and "hearing aids" are functional and a good value. If you want "excellent", the Game Ear is the way to go.
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Old September 14, 2010, 11:40 AM   #3
thesheepdog
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I have used some in the past.
Basically the ear muffs have a built in microphone to enhance your hearing; but at the same time, there is a sensor that is extremely fast to shut the microphone off when a dangerous decibel level is detected (gun fire)
I wish i could afford a pair; they are awesome. And if the battery ever goes out, you still have the hearing protection, but not the sound enhancement.
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Old September 14, 2010, 01:59 PM   #4
wogpotter
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There are 2 systems used for these. The cheaper one & the more expensive one.

The cheaper one turns the internal speakers "OFF" very fast when sound gets above a certain level. This turns the amplified muffs into non-amplified sound-damping muffs till the sound volume drops back to a determined level when the speakers re-energize. At that point you have amplified muffs again. As you can imagine this "ON off ON off ON off ON off ON off" can be a bit distracting & really irritating if there are several shooters firing to the point the safe cuts in.

The more expensive system does not cut the high sound levels off, it just reduces it to the pre-determined safety level but allows it through in a quieter form. The effect is not so much this:
" Shooter ready? Open fire BANG!, BANG!, BANG!, BANG!, cease fire, safe the firearms!"

but something more like:

" Shooter ready? Open fire BANG!, BANG!, BANG!, BANG!, cease fire, safe the firearms!"

The "Peltor Tacticals" work this way which is why I use them. This despite the truly horrible process needed to swap the batteries inside them. The batteries don't need changing that often & I can still hear.
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Old September 14, 2010, 02:12 PM   #5
RWBlue01
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I have a pair, but not that brand. Mine may be Peltor? They work. I can hear the other people when no one is shooting, but with the first shot it is quiet.

On an indoor range, they are no good because someone is always shooting.

In the woods they are a bother because I can hear directionally without them, but the microphones mess with that.
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Old September 14, 2010, 03:02 PM   #6
Brian Pfleuger
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The Radians version of muffs can be had for well under $100 nowadays. Like $75, I think. They pose no problem to directionality. I found them to be quite good from a functional standpoint. Their "auto-off" feature is a bit annoying, as it seems a bit random but, overall, they are well worth the asking price. Certainly, your hearing is worth a lot more than $75. I used them extensively for hunting. I even used them with an "ear bud"style radio connector run under the padding so that I could hear my radio without scaring deer.

Now, the $35 versions of these things that I've handled and heard have been universally crap. The Radians and others in the same $75-ish price range seem to be the bottom of the "acceptable" level.
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Old September 14, 2010, 03:31 PM   #7
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Do these folks actually advertise that they shut the microphone or speakers off for a high sound pressure event? I have no clue why anyone would go to the trouble of doing that? It's not like you can hurt someone's hearing by shooting a gun next to the mouthpiece of a telephone. The system just lacks the power to reproduce sound above a safe level. Controlling that level to a specified amount only requires a simple diode limiter that can be implemented with maybe ten cents worth of circuitry? It will clip the crests off excessively high signals. It's not like anyone will object to the blast sounding distorted. At least, I don't think so?

I suppose, if you were really clever, you could actually invert the signal above a certain threshold and get some noise canceling effect from it if the microphone had enough dynamic range? That would certainly improve the dB immunity rating of the system.


Later,

I actually did find a site selling electronic hearing protection that described clipping as shutting the sound off. That's not correct. It is simply shaving the peaks off the sound waveform above a certain level so they can't get any louder. This waveform clipping results in distortion of very loud sounds that makes them sound sort of like they were being played through a kazoo.

The other popular kind volume protection uses a self-adjusting amplifying technique called compression. This instantly adjusts the volume down as a strong waveform rises, then lets it drift back up again afterward over a brief period (fraction of a second, usually). If the compression is high and implemented without sophisticated signal processing, this produces a real time sound distortion called "pumping and breathing", but that's acceptable with voice quality communication. The advantage is having the volume set itself higher when the sound level is low, so you can hear better.
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Old September 14, 2010, 05:11 PM   #8
TheGoldenState
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Thanks for all the info fellas
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Old September 14, 2010, 05:35 PM   #9
wogpotter
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Hopefully I can remember & answer the points that the discussion has brought up.
Yes some do advertise "shutting off all harmful noise above "XX" Db." These types do seem to actually kill sounds. Maybe I'm hearing a lot of volume decrease & not responding aurally fast enough? (My hearing is kinda messed up from being too close to a couple of very loud KABOOMS, so you need to factor this in also).
The higher priced units do decrease the overall volume quite a lot when noise peaks, but they don't have that "sucking your brain out through the earholes" feeling of the lower priced units. I'm not an audio-electronics engineer, but this is the feeling in layman's terms.
These seem to not have the indoor range problem described either although I don't know why.
The "stereo depth perception" issue described doesn't seem to happen either. I've noticed that the hearing is directional, but sharply to the front. There is an air conditioning unit 90 degrees off to the side at the range where I shoot mainly & it is not heard unless I turn my head that way slightly. It seems that the volume controls work in 2 ways, depending on how the user sets them.
Method 1 seems to deaden loud noise & allow for semi-normal hearing I get this setting by turning up the click-stopped volumes till I just start to hear "white noise" then backing of 3~4 clicks.
Method 2 is when you deliberately let the "white noise" just in the volume setting. This gives an enhanced sound perception with very directional overtones. You can hear stuff off to the side but when you turn the head towards it there is a direction-finding aspect to the muffs. It's a little like wearing NVG's (but on your ears) you have to "look with the whole head" to see like an owl.

One other point.
Don't get "slimline muffs" in the mistaken thought that they won't contact the stock. They will. Look at where the cutout is its at the TOP of the muff where nothing will contact it anyway. Get the biggest bulkiest set you can find the little ones get horribly sweaty during the 95 degree+ temps we've been living through & the saturated foam lining contacting your ear adds to the discomfort.:barf:
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