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I’ve always used passive hearing protectors (like the Peltor 10A; see TM 11/2/07) when I’m in the shop (or mowing grass, or having a “discussion” with my wife), but have wondered if the electronic, or active, versions offer any major advantages. For example, the Pro Ears® Pro TEKT, pictured above, have DLSC™, or Dynamic Level Sound Compression technology, which compresses all sounds over a 70-dB threshold by 50% (to “a safe level”) while amplifying all sounds below the threshold. They claim the result is that the wearer hears everything, like normal conversation, but is protected from dangerous high-volume sounds.

The electronics to accomplish this consist of five basic blocks: an adjustable gain and volume block, a high-pass filter block (cuts frequencies below 300 Hz, eliminating wind noise and other low frequencies), a dynamic compress block (adjusts or compresses the input signal by up to 45dB; adjusts gain to keep output at 85dB), a low-pass filter block (3-dB point at 5kHz), and a speaker amp block. There are independent circuit boards, shown below, with independent volume controls in each ear piece.

This technology is not inexpensive: the Pro TEKT Gold electronic ear muffs start around $290 online.

Any experience out there with these, or similar active hearing protection? What did you think? There’s one — and only one — Amazon review (link below) that’s not very complimentary, but the sample size is about as small as it gets. Let us know in comments.

Pro Ears [Manufacturer’s Site]
Street Pricing [Google Products]
Pro Ears Pro Tac Gold Via Amazon [What’s This?]

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15 Responses to Hot Or Not: Electronic Hearing Protection

  1. Chris S. says:

    I can tell you the harbor freight ones are nothing more than crappy passive ear muffs with a microphone and speaker. It somewhat filters sound but the eatmuff itself isnt even that good at blocking out noise.

    Ryobi makes a set that uses their tek4 battery thats pretty affordable but i have no experience with it. Ill just stick to my cheap foam plugs that block out everything.

  2. rick says:

    I respectfully disagree. I have used a $250 pair and the harbor freight $10 ones (on sale). `The harbor freight ones are great, they work very well. I agree, the sound quality pushed through them isnt great quality and their is room for improvement for how the headphones conned to the band too. But for the price, they are great. I was very pleased. They served my needs for shooting and for working with tools . But as with everything harbor freight. I wouldnt by them if I were to use them every day. But for more occasional use, they are good.

  3. Chris says:

    I use an ANR-capable headset every day at work. The ANR is really quite useless when it comes to noises that are not constant. So if you’re working around a diesel engine running at full throttle all the time, or something like a circular saw that makes fairly steady noise, it’s useful, but if you’re expecting an ANR setup to provide superior protection to a passive hearing protector for activities such as hammering or shooting, where the baseline noise level is generally low with intermittent loud sounds, don’t be surprised when you’re terribly disappointed. ANR simply can’t react fast enough to cancel out that sort of noise.


  4. Chris says:

    Also, ANR is much better at canceling out lower-frequency noise than high-frequency stuff, in my experience. The ANR on my headset really knocks out prop thrum well, but doesn’t do much for slipstream noise, whereas foam plugs are sort of the opposite — they knock out the slipstream noise but don’t do much for prop noise.


  5. Shopmonger says:

    HOT, very Hot……… Not all of them are equal, the most important part is that they need to be comfortable, or you wont’ wear them…..
    They have their place, and yes not all situations will be suited for these, but that are great for many steal and wood workers.


  6. Cybergibbons says:

    I find these are pretty good. I think the advantage isn’t so much in the active noise reduction itself, more that the passive reduction can be far higher whilst allowing the active part to allow speech through.

    I used to wear Peltor Optime II muffs, but upgraded to Optime III. The reduction in noise was massive, but I also couldn’t hear anyone without lifting the muff from my ear… active ones allow through the speech but block the noise.

    This was in the environment of slow speed diesels, so probably about as loud as it gets.

  7. Bob says:

    I have used the Peltor Tactical 7S headset while shooting at the gunrange for several years now. These electronic headsets are popular with shooters. I have also used it them while working with loud power tools, they are great. I have not had a use where the loud noise last for more than a minute or two so I can’t make a recommendation for long term use situations.

    I like the fact that I can wear my headset and be able to talk to someone and hear them without any problem but if a loud noise occurs (gunshot or tablesaw) they kick in instantly and muffle the sound.

    They are also good if you have a minor hearing problem because with the volume controls you can turn up the volume to make it easier to hear normal conversations yet still maintain protection from loud noises.

    The price range varies on these and you can find cheaper versions for $40 as the saying goes “you get what you pay for”. I find that the more expensive versions are worth the extra cost.

    Peltor makes several versions: http://www.peltor.com/peltor.com/comm_main.cfm?platform=Tactical%20Headsets

  8. Mike says:

    Just to clarify, the muffs pictured are not using “ANR”, they do not generate a sound that cancels noise. They do not reduce noise any better than a pair of plain old earmuffs with identical specs. What they do is let through (and amplify, desired) sounds up to a certain level after which the speakers cut out (for cheaper sets) or clip (for pricier ones). This allows you to protect your hearing without losing awareness of what is being said around you.

  9. Bren R. says:

    I owned a pair of Caldwell electronic muffs. They only lasted a few months before they got that analog volume potentiometer scratch to them (just like your old hi-fi with the real volume knob)… clean with tuner cleaner, clean with tuner cleaner, finally give up, remove the electronics, caulk all the openings in the shells and stuff them with poly batten and use them as extra-attenuating standard muffs.

  10. Jaxx says:

    Can someone clear something up for me, if you have a pair of true “ANR” headphones from a company like Bose or Sennheiser, they generate a sound at the opposite end of the wavelength to the unwanted one, thus cancelling it out, and your ear “hears” nothing e.g. the mechanical parts in your ear vibrates but your brain does not interpret any noise.

    However does this not put the same strain on your ear as if it heard the noise in the first place? If not more? Just trying to get my head round why this technology is meant to be useful in airplanes if you want to arrive without a headache, because with or without you are going to hear the same “amount” of vibrations, just not interpret them into anything with the ANR’s.

  11. Justin says:

    The Bose one are AWESOME. I’m a marine engineer and the chief has a pair of these that I borrowed once. So nice!

  12. Joshua says:

    I have a pair of the Caldwell for shooting my gun. They are basically an earmuff with a mic and speaker built in to each side. When the noise hits a certain level it cuts out the mic. They work well for me. I typically have problems hearing when there is a lot of noise but I actually hear better with these than I do without hearing protection. I haven’t had any problems with them not catching the louder noises. I can put them on and clap and I’ll hear all the normal ambient sounds but no clapping.

  13. Chris W says:

    Jaxx, the way they work is by amplifying and inverting the sound. They actually cancel the undesired sound wave so it never reaches your eardrum. They are not meant for hearing protection. They attenuate low and moderate level sounds, but don’t help much with harmful levels of sound.
    Mike is right, these are hearing protectors with an electronically limited pass through of safe sound levels.

  14. Chris W says:

    I should clarify my previous post. In responding to Jaxx, I was talking about true ANR headphones, not these.

  15. K says:

    I really like the Peltor hearing protection, these are NOT noise-canceling, instead they have a circuit to cut out the amplification with any high-impulse sounds, like shooting, hammering, etc.

    With the Peltors I can “double up” on hearing protection (earplugs plus the muffs), and yet with the amplification still hear people talking, range commands, etc.

    Definitely hot.

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