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A couple of years ago I wrote a post about AO Safety’s WorkTunes, and ever since then I’ve thought about buying a similar pair. Finally after getting sick of swapping ear buds for hearing protection every time I needed to do something noisy, I grabbed a pair of Stanley AM/FM/MP3 Earmuffs from Menards. Here’s the rundown on my experience with them:

Fit

You adjust the size of the headband from both sides of the earmuffs. Each side can travel from the 1 line to one more notch past where it is in the photo, or about 2″. This gives you 4″ of total adjustment. I don’t have a huge head — I wear a size 7-1/4 baseball cap, and I have the earmuffs adjusted to almost full size. If your head is much larger, I’d start to worry about these earmuffs being too small.

The earmuffs are comfortable and not overly heavy. When I don’t have the radio playing, I forget I have them on. The headband provides enough pressure to hold the earmuffs on your ears, but not so much that it feels like it’s trying to squeeze your eyes out of their sockets, like some other hearing protection I’ve worn.

I’ve worn these earmuffs with both my regular glasses (which are safety glasses too) and with my safety glasses when I’m wearing contacts. The padding around the ears is soft enough so it doesn’t interfere much with your glasses. Again, I’ve worn earmuff-style hearing protectors that wanted to push the glasses around or that make them feel like they’e burrowing into your head.

Radio Features

One thing that annoys me about some devices, especially ones that advertise that you can listen to The Big Game, is that they can’t receive AM radio. I find this absurd, since most sports are still broadcast over AM. Fortunately, these earmuffs can receive AM so I can listen to baseball when it’s warmer.

There’s no indicator telling you which station you’re on, so you need be familiar with where the local stations are in relation to each other to find what you want. To go from AM to FM, flip a toggle switch, then say goodbye to the station you had tuned, because once you move the dial to tune an FM station you’ll lose your AM station and vice-versa.

Oddly, I can’t find anywhere on the earmuffs where it tells you which ear is which. But I mostly listen to podcasts and baseball when I’m working, so it’s not a big deal for me.

To listen to an MP3 player, plug the included cable into the jack on the bottom of earmuffs. Then set the volume knob to its minimum (but not off — otherwise you’ll hear the radio over your MP3s). You’ll need to control the volume with your MP3 player.

The headphones shut off after four hours to save battery life, and I’m glad they do. It’s especially useful when you’re listening to an MP3 player, because when you stop it, you don’t hear anything from the earmuffs and it’s easy to forget to turn them off. The two supplied AA batteries should last you 140 hours; I haven’t swapped mine yet.

Noise Reduction and Sound Quality

Stanley claims a 23dB Noise Reduction Rating when the headphones are off. The radio volume supposedly can’t exceed 82dB, but they say nothing about limiting the MP3 input. If I crank up the volume to the max while listening to the radio, it’s louder then I’d ever care to listen to.

Putting on the earmuffs, there is a definite noise reduction. I can’t judge whether it’s 23dB or not, but the amount of noise reduction is comparable to other earmuffs I’ve worn.

The audio is clear enough for listening to things like talk radio, sports, and podcasts, but music reproduction is pretty flat, even compared to stock iPod headphones. The audio is muffled and sounds distant, like you’re listening through a pillow.

Conclusion

I paid $40 for these earmuffs at my one of my local Menards; you can pick them up at Amazon for $45 with free shipping. For what I paid, I’m relatively happy with them. I can listen to my iPod while working in my shop, they fit comfortably and don”t interfere with my glasses, and they give me at least some protection for the noisy machines around me. The sound quality is nothing to write home about — you won’t be mistaking these for a high-fidelity set.

If I left out anything important or if you have questions or comments, drop me a note below; I’ll be glad to respond if I know the answer. Also if you’re interested in AO Safety’s WorkTunes, Pro Tool Reviews recently did a review.

AM/FM/MP3 Earmuffs [Stanley]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]

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16 Responses to Hands-On: Stanley AM/FM/MP3 Earmuffs

  1. Jerry says:

    “you can pick them up at Amazon for $5 with free shipping.” ? I will buy into the idea of $45, maybe. Sorry – someone was going to say it.

  2. @Jerry:

    You’re right. It should either read $5 more or $45.

    It’s a common typing error for me; I have the bad habit of looking at the keyboard when I type numbers or symbols. Anytime a price begins with a 4, I automatically assume I typed the 4 because $ is shift-4, sometimes I don’t notice it when I look up again.

  3. george says:

    maybe i’m to cautiouse but i just think something like this is to dangerouse in a shop/work environment. the distraction plus the fact that you can’t hear whats going on around you gives me the shivers.

  4. Ben Granucci says:

    I am curious to see when a manufacturer will decide to build some active noise cancellation into something like these.

  5. bigboom says:

    many earmuffs designed for use with firearms actually have a microphone that pics up voices but tunes out the loud noises. you Can find them in a similar price range to these at Wal-mart.

  6. Woodrow5000 says:

    I just wear my ear buds under my muffs. Works fine for me.

  7. dreamcatcher says:

    @Ben Johnson
    I have the AOSafety WorkTunes, AM/FM but no iPod jack. They work okay for jobs like using a chainsaw in the woods, running a jackhammer, or any job where there exists a threat of harming the ipod in your pocket or catching the cord. But they DO NOT work well in close proximity to electric tools. My thickness planer and my grinder scramble the reception if I get too close.

    @Wiidriw5000
    I also have a standard $10 pair of muffs that work great over my earbuds, giving me the same ipod experience as the $40 pair above. The iPod is unaffected by electrical disturbance but care must be taken to route the cord and still I snag it all the time.

    @Ben Granucii
    They do make noise canceling radio muffs
    http://www.amazon.com/MCR-Safety-C7007MP3-Safewaves-Cancellation/dp/B003KYSTBA/ref=pd_sxp_grid_pt_1_2

    @george
    Yes, you are being too cautious. Stop being such a weenie and grow a pair ;-)
    In all seriousness, these muffs don’t block ALL the noise, just the noise above the levels that are harmful to your hearing. You can still hear machines running and people talking – or – someone screaming for help.

    What I am waiting for is a pair of muffs that has cordless iPod connectivity or an on-board iPod carriage. I just hate having that delicate little cord between my head and my pocket.

    DC

  8. @george:
    I agree with you to a point. Often there are times when I need to figure things out or am performing a trickier operation that I’ll turn off all distractions so I can concentrate. I do know what you are talking about not realizing what’s going on around you. I have to be extra careful to look around when mowing the lawn with hearing protection because when I step into the street to turn the mower I can’t hear cars coming.

    But, the fact that I’m wearing the earmuffs to listen to my iPod means that I have my hearing protection on all the time. There’s no forgetting to put on hearing protection and damaging my ears.

    I think it’s up to what the individual is comfortable with.

    @Woodrow5000:

    I just wear my ear buds under my muffs. Works fine for me.

    I have done that for years, but it can get quite annoying, the earbuds can move or fall out of your ears, then you have to stop what you’re doing to fix them. Also if you get the cord snagged you have to take off the earmuffs, fix the buds and put them back on, whereas with the speaker one, the cord is much more resistant to pulling out of the jack and if it does, you don’t have to take the earmuffs off to fix it.

    @dreamcatcher:

    Earlier today I went and tried the radio with my router, table saw, chop, saw, and vacuum. I tried both AM and FM on several stations and didn’t notice any interference. I don’t know if they are more immune to interference than yours, if your equipment is more electrically noisy, or there’s some other factor.

  9. Jerod says:

    For the same money, go with the AO Safety set. They have a digital tuner, display, and presets. I have a set in our skid-loader and my mower.

  10. Ed says:

    My pocket radio pumps enoough power into earbuds that I hear them just fine as long as they’re loose in the muffs.

  11. Woodrow5000 says:

    @Benjamen Johnson Thanks for the response. I haven’t had too many issues of earbuds moving. And of course for safety, I always run the cord under my shirt. I figured out that one the hard way, having wrecked a set on a branch while mowing.

  12. Ian says:

    I have a pair of ryobi muffs that do mp3′s but not radio. They also have a noise attenuator with volume control that work like the fire-arms one’s mentioned above. With my iPod all the way up, I can still hear my work. Or for extra clarity I can turn up the mic and literally have a conversation with someone right next to my cnc machine as if it were in the other room. Added bonus, you can use the mic volume to tune out a conversation as well!

  13. bartsdad says:

    @dreamcatcher,

    I wear these http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0007KQUJS/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_1?pf_rd_p=486539851&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=B003AK5X4K&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=1RJ98R9B6GZYZDYTBXY8 with my Gen 1 Nano in a case clipped to the overhead band. The Nano rides nicely on the band and the unit is self contained.

    I’ll snap a photo at work tomorrow if you are interested in seeing the rig.

    Yeah, the Peltors are expensive, but what is the true cost of safety?

  14. Kenneth says:

    After working in a cabinet shop for five years and going through dozens of earmuffs, I found one thing with most all earmuffs that becomes a serious problem. The padding always fails and needs to be replaced, but most manufacturers do not sell replacements and/or the muffs are not replaceable. This is just a forewarning to anyone gearing up to pay extra for kitted out muffs or to purchase any pair of earmuffs. Leevalley.com sells a variety with replaceable muffs.

  15. Owen says:

    how long is they cord it comes with?

  16. Brad says:

    I have the exact pair of headphones that is above and when I am running my skid steer witch is all day I don’t know what I did without them. U can still hear what is going on around u as much as u could with the with a machine running. I suggest them to anyone that has common sence to look around them while working.

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