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:
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.
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.
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.