Best Electronic Ear Muffs of 2017
If you’ve been shooting, or working with noisy machinery without ear protection for years, you’ve probably discovered how badly your hearing has been affected over the years. It’s common to find many older people at shooting ranges that have suffered the same fate too.
So, if you still have your hearing in-tact, and want to keep it that way, what do you do? Ear buds, don’t really block enough sound, and at this point are more a sop towards avoiding litigation, rather than genuinely caring for people’s health. Full ear defenders on the other hand, tend to block everything, including voices, commands and communication.
It’s this point, that a solid pair of electronic ear muffs come in. They block out everything, just as a good ear muff should do, yet they feature small microphones on the outside of the muff that are designed to pick up low level noise only.
By using a good electronic muff, you can block out the harmful noises, without missing out on the conversation around you. The best models even feature location microphones, perfect for hunting and tactical use.
|Pros||Well priced, electronics work well and superb battery life. Top marks for the speedy noise cancellation function too.||A rock solid pair of muffs with an awesome microphone setup, perfect for hunting trips. Comfortable for longer day shoots too and avoids the want to take them off constantly.||A more expensive pair of muffs, yet you can see where the money has been spent. Better quality, easier to wear and a nice, slim-line design make this one for all day use.||An awesome price for what you get. Well designed, look good and the omni directional speakers and ultra-thin design sweeten the deal.|
|Cons||To avoid lobe pinching and improve comfort, some users might not get a perfect cheek weld. You’ll need to choose which is more important to you.||The size of the muffs are an issue, which is a shame because in getting rid of one reason to constantly take them off, Howard Leight might have stumbled into another.||Rubberised band is a shame, plus the satin black paint finish doesn’t make these as “tactical” as they name would suggest. If 3M can make these in a green/brown or dark sand color they would be perfect!||It’s a shame the Walker’s logo is placed in white over the top. If you hunt frequently you might end up using black tape to cover it!|
The Best Electronic Earmuffs of 2017!
Low Profile E-Max
Our Rating: (4.2/5)
|Noise Reduction Rating||23|
|Power Source||2 AAA|
The Caldwell muffs offer reasonable protection at 23 NRR, whilst the lower profile stops the muffs getting in your way. When a noise above 85 decibels is picked up by the microphone, they instantly switch off to protect your hearing and keep the harmful noise outside.
- 23 NRR (Noise Reduction Rating)
- Lower profile than most ear defenders.
- 2 microphones, and 2 speakers for complete stereo sound.
- Audio jack for connection to an MP3 player or Phone.
- Runs on 2 AAA batteries.
These muffs were specifically designed for use on a shooting range, as that 85-decibel cut off occurs very quickly, fast enough to shut out the sound of gun fire. They’re also dark green in color, which will help the hunters out there to stay concealed.
As for the battery life, we didn’t have to change them at all during our review and we’ve heard accounts of these muffs being used for weeks at a time without requiring a battery change. If you go shooting as a weekend sport, you’ll likely get away with buying batteries as you go – no need for rechargeable.
The muffs sit very snuggly on the ears, with no pinching on the upper ear or lobe, whilst the top support is sheathed in nylon covered foam which is comfortable for long use. I could wear these muffs quite comfortably for an hour before taking a breather.
The only issue some of our reviewers had with the Caldwell electronic muffs, was the fact they couldn’t quite get the cheek weld they needed for accuracy. The muffs are low profile, yet do drop down slightly more than other brands. Of course, this is an age-old battle between comfort, lack of ear pinching and physically being able to shoot better.
2. Howard Leight
Our Rating: (4.5/5)
|Noise Reduction Rating||30|
These muffs are a definite step up from the Caldwell in many ways. They feature multi-directional microphones, allowing you to gauge the direction and distance of a sound, perfect for hunting.
The noise level on these headphones is set at 82 decibels, whilst the passively block out noises at 30 decibels.
- Multi-directional microphones.
- Takes 2 AAA batteries.
- 30 NRR (Noise Reduction Rating)
- 82 decibels cut off.
The first thing that stood out with the Howard Leight, was the size of the muffs, which is far larger than the low-profile Caldwell muffs, and larger than any of the others we reviewed.
The main reason for this, is the sophisticated multi-directional system used inside the muff, allowing you to hear exactly where noises are coming from. This system works well in practice, and would be a huge improvement for those who use their gun for hunting and tactical purposes.
The muffs themselves are a nice fit, with no pinching and a comfortable headband for long term use. I could wear these muffs also indefinitely without suffering any pain, and the sound pick up made using them for conversation easy.
Of course, all this additional trickery comes at a price. The size of the muffs means the do get in your way slightly when using them, plus you might suffer when trying to get a decent cheek weld.
Those of you who work on building sites or within industry will have heard of 3M before. They manufacture everything, from high end safety equipment to sticky tape! The Peltor Tactical Muff obviously fits into the high-end safety equipment range, and that’s exactly what you’ll be getting for your money.
The Peltor includes a stereo microphone/speaker setup, an NRR rating of 200, plus a more ergonomic design that’s specifically for all day use.
- 20 NRR (Noise Reduction Rating)
- Audio jack for MP3 or Phone use.
- External battery compartment for easy swap outs.
- Automatically shuts down to prevent battery draining.
- Powered by 2 AAA batteries.
Unfortunately, these electronic muffs are black in color, which might put some tactical users off; however, the black used is satin/matt, so although not finished in the traditional NATO green, they don’t reflect as much light as you would think.
The microphone setup works well, and although it doesn’t have the fancy multi-direction system of the Howard Leight, they do a reasonable job of picking up voices and the stereo system does allow you to tell left from right.
The muffs themselves are a more ergonomic design than the previous two muffs, and they really do allow you to stay comfortable for hours at a time. The only major issue I have, is that the headband is slightly rubberised. I would have preferred a more breathable fabric to be used.
These muffs are far more slim-line than the Howard Leight pair, which means they get in your way less. Of course, this slim-line design does have its drawbacks, the NRR is 20, the lowest of all the muffs we had on review; however, they still do a fine job at dampening noise and you shouldn’t let the NRR figure put you off.
4. Walker’s Game Ear
Our Rating: (4.5/5)
|Noise Reduction Rating||23dB|
These electronic muffs show a lot of promise. Manufactured by Walker’s, and featuring some cool additions that should make them a best seller!
- 23 NRR (Noise Reduction Rating).
- Omni directional microphones.
- 89 decibels noise cancelling.
- Slim-line design.
As soon as I unboxed the Walker’s I thought they might blow the other electronic muffs featured out of the water! Finished in a dark bronze and matt black color, they have the look of a quality tactical muff and really look the part.
As for the electronics, the omni directional system works almost as well as the Howard Leight design, yet somehow Walker’s have managed to pack all this technology into a muff that’s not much bigger than the Caldwell featured earlier.
The headband design is also worth praising too. The nylon band feels more comfortable, especially in comparison to the 3M Peltor, plus it allows the ear pads to fit snuggly to your ear.
Those ear pads are comfortable, don’t pinch and I found myself easily wearing them over the course of an afternoon at a shooting range.
Noise cancellation is good, and although it only cuts in at 89 decibels, it still performed quickly with even the barrel providing enough noise to activate the cancellation function.
The unusual thing about this review, is that the price point of different muffs didn’t appear to affect quality. All the muffs reviewed were sturdy affairs, even the Caldwell muffs, which were by far the cheapest on offer.
Our review team discounted the 3M Peltors straight away. They work well, yet that price tag makes them completely unrealistic.
That leaves us with 4 different electronic muffs, and we’ve narrowed down our choice to two that really impressed us.
Best Budget Choice
If you really want to save your dollars, then the Caldwell Low Profile Muffs works extremely well. They have enough protection to keep you safe, plus the electronic system works perfectly considering how cheap they are.
If you want an upgrade, or simply want to buy the best set of muffs you can, then the Walker’s Game Ear is exactly what you want. We were blown away by the quality, omni directional system and comfort of these muffs; even though we’ve classed these as an “upgrade purchase”, that’s great value.