Best Electronic Ear Muffs/Hearing Protection for Shooting & Hunting
The average gun fires at a level of 140-150 decibels. Sound experts agree that anything over 85 decibels is “dangerous” and “potentially damaging to the ear
Best Electronic Ear Muffs 2016
You can see why it’s so important to have electronic ear muffs to protect your hearing.
While any product is better than nothing, the simple truth is that some brands are stronger than others when it comes to battery life, noise reduction rating (NRR) and even comfort level where the ear muffs rest against your head. I’ve had a lot of customers over the years with a lot of different needs, but I usually recommend the same few brands over and over again. They’re the ones that get the job done.
If you’re looking for the best of the best in electronic ear muffs, here are just a few products that will keep your hearing safe while you’re firing a gun.
Quick Comparison of the Best Ear Muffs
Howard Leight Impact Sport OD Electric Earmuff
Howard Leight by Honeywell
Caldwell Low Profile
3M Peltor Sport Tactical 100 Electronic Hearing Protector
3M Peltor Soundtrap/Tactical 6-S Electronic Headset
Champion Electronic Ear Muffs
⊕ Blocks noise over 82 dB
⊕ Can connect with smartphones, radios and music players
⊕ Uses one knob to control sounds and settings
⊕ Earcups designed for comfort
⊕ Designed to go behind-the-neck rather than over-the-head
⊕ Available in a variety of colors and styles
⊕ Recessed microphones reduce ambient noise
⊕ Audio jacks for phones, radios, scanners and other media
⊕ Comfortable headband
⊕ Independent volume controls for each earcup
⊕ Can be modified for different wearing styles
⊕ Easily stored and folded
⊕ Extremely affordable
⊕ Adjustable headband provides top-notch comfort
⊕ Can be collapsed, transported and stored with ease
⊕ High level of noise reduction (NRR 28)
⊕ Audio jack can connect phones, radios and media players
⊕ Padded headband provides comfort and style
⊗ Bulky storage
⊗ Not for intense noise
⊗ Automatic shut-off after four hours
⊗ Average battery life
⊗ Middle-tier affordability
⊗ No color or customization options
⊗ Wear can be uncomfortable for first-timers
⊗ Limited accessibility to batteries
⊗ Durability is iffy
⊗ Not designed for intense noise
⊗ Batteries not included
⊗ Not suited for intense sounds
⊗ Relatively flimsy construction
⊗ Middle tier of affordability
⊗ Bulky construction
⊗ Lacks the features and specs of other products
⊗ Only available in over-the-head style
⊗ Lacks customization options
⊗ Medium-profile earcups aren’t compatible with all gun types
If you're looking for the best electronic ear muffs for shooting and hunting, the Impact Sports are simple, effective and easy to use. They're the closest thing to a universal choice that you'll find.
Despite their flaws, the Impact Pros are a worthy investment for gun owners of all types, and they're pretty comfortable to boot.
The E-Maxes are a learning experience, but as long as you don't mind an adjustment period where you get used to their controls and design, they can be exactly what you need for a better experience at the range.
Though their 22 NRR isn't the highest on the market, the Sport Tactical 100s will do a fine job of protecting your hearing while you're engaged in basic gun activity, and they have plenty of special features to compensate for their lower sound reduction.
They might not last forever, but while you have them, the Soundtraps are a very flexible and customizable option in hearing protection.
Get back to the basics with the Champions. While they aren't as technologically stunning as other products, they're strong, durable and easy to use, making them the tortoise in a tortoise and hare story.
The Pro Slim Golds are both strong and stylish, but they may not be what you need as an individual because of their lack of customization options.
In-Depth Reviews of the Best Electronic Ear Muffs 2016
Now that we’ve glanced over numbers, features and specs, let’s take a closer look at these products and figure out which one is truly the best for you.
1. Howard Leight Impact Sport OD Electric Earmuff
When browsing the best electronic ear muffs on the market, you’ll probably stumble across the name “Howard Leight” quite a bit. This is because they’re a great brand offering high-quality yet low-priced products, and the Impact Sports are some of the most popular noise reduction ear muffs out there.
What makes them so great? Well, for starters, they’re very easy to use. There are no fancy cords or controls that take a college degree to understand; the most technical aspect of the Impact Sport is the audio input jack, and if you have a smartphone or MP3 player, you already know how to plug those in. Just put on your ear muffs, crank up your favorite tunes and get to shooting.
The Impact Sports are also easy to adjust to your own preferences. One knob controls everything, so whether you’re amplifying your music or quieting exterior sounds, you’re always the one in the driver’s seat.
The one drawback of these ear muffs is that they aren’t the strongest on the market; with a noise reduction rating of NRR 22, the Impact Sports won’t block anything especially explosive. That said, 82 dB is more than enough for the demands of the hunting or gun range, so as long as you don’t expect the Impact Sports to protect you from a rock concert, you’ll be fine.
All in all, the Impact Sports are an excellent addition to your hunting bag and a worthy investment for the money. If you’re in need of ear muffs that will get the job done without a lot of fuss, these are the ones for you.
2. Howard Leight by Honeywell R-01902 Impact Pro Sound Amplification Electronic Earmuff
Are you tired of bulky, heavy ear muffs that seem to do more harm than good? Do you dream of a day when you can hunt for hours without worrying about the comfort of your equipment? The Impact Pros are here to make your visions a reality.
Made with patented earcup technology that includes rubberized pressure points, the Impact Pros will cradle your ears, not chafe them. They’ll also last for more than 450 hours before you start to notice any signs of wear. The same design that keeps them comfortable will also reduce the likelihood of scratches and cracks.
As for noise reduction, with a rating of NRR 30 and guaranteed protection of up to 82 dB, you can take the Impact Pros just about anywhere. Plug in your music player and go hunting, shooting, tracking and off-roading as you will; these ear muffs will block all harmful, high-pitched noises while still filtering through human conversation. They’re able to perform this magic because of active technology and built-in stereo microphone system.
At the end of the day, the Impact Pros are worth the money. They might not be as affordable as other electronic ear muffs on the market, but you’re getting what you pay for in terms of noise reduction. If you consider the Impact Pros a long-term investment, you’ll get back your bills and then some.
3. Caldwell Low Profile E-Max Electronic Ear Muffs
Many of the best ear muffs use the same kind of design, but the E-Max breaks the mold while still providing the noise cancellation you need to enjoy a day at the range.
What makes the E-Max so different? For one, it uses a horizontal design that goes behind your neck rather than over your head; this means that you can wear hats, helmets and other headgear without any uncomfortable bulkiness. It’s a design that takes some getting used to, but once you adjust, you’ll never want to go back to over-the-head ear muffs again.
As for noise cancellation, the E-Max will block anything over 85 dB while simultaneously allowing anything under 85 dB. This is the “active” technology that separates electronic ear muffs from regular noise-cancelling headphones. You’ll be able to hear voices, instructions and range commands with ease, but as soon as someone fires a gun, your E-Max will automatically block the damaging sound waves.
There are a few drawbacks with this product, including the way its power source is packaged; because of its unique design, it can be hard to actually access your batteries when it’s time to change or recharge them. But this is a minor inconvenience overall. It certainly isn’t worth passing over the E-Max when it’s one of the most affordable brands of electronic ear muffs on the market.
If you’re tired of paying big bucks for ear muffs that don’t work, give the E-Max a try. Their low price is second only to their convenience.
4. 3M Peltor Sport Tactical 100 Electronic Hearing Protector
Designed for technology lovers, the Sport Tactical 100s are both high-brow and high-quality. They employ everything from adaptive frequency responses to internal echo reduction to offer advanced hearing protection that blows other ear muff brands right out of the water.
Are you tired of ambient noise? The Sport Tactical 100s use recessed microphones to block wind and other background sounds.
Do you like listening to music or podcasts while you shoot? Enjoy a 3.5mm audio jack that can hook up all kinds of media players and devices.
Maybe you’re a fan of comfort first and foremost? These ear muffs come with low-profile cups so they can be easily used with rifles and shotguns. They also boast a re-engineered headband that won’t dig into your scalp as time goes on.
The one drawback of the Sport Tactical 100s is that they only offer a 22 NRR. This isn’t as strong as others on the market, so they’re best suited for, say, indoor shooting ranges rather than extreme outdoor hunting. You might also notice that they aren’t as good at blocking sound when the sounds are very high-pitched.
All things considered, however, the Sport Tactical 100s are enough for everyday shooting and more than enough when it comes to special features and perks. 3M is a trusted name in equipment, and when you put on these ear muffs for the first time, you’ll understand why.
5. 3M Peltor Soundtrap/Tactical 6-S Electronic Headset
These are the ear muffs you want if you value flexibility more than anything else. Not only can they be modified to both over-the-head and behind-the-neck wear styles, but they also come with independent volume controls in each earcup. You simply won’t find this level of customization in a non-3M product.
As for their noise reduction, you’ll enjoy active hearing protection that provides all the standard benefits of electronic ear muffs, including amplification and sound filtration of low-decibel noise. Stereo microphones in each earcup help you pick up and control their individual volumes.
The Soundtraps are also extremely light and portable, great for storage, transport and hearing protection on the go. They weigh in at only 1.6 ounces and can be folded away for easy organization.
Unfortunately, their lightweight nature comes with a catch, and it’s the same as the other 3M product on this list: They just can’t deal with a high or intense level of decibels. They max out at 19 NRR.
All things considered, I’d recommend the Soundtraps to people who hate the inflexibility of regular ear muffs or people who don’t have the need for intense volume control. The Soundtraps are a great product; they’re just not heavy-duty.
6. Champion Electronic Ear Muffs
We’ve seen some wizard-like technology on this list, so let’s get back to the basics with the Champions. Built solidly and meant to last, the Champions have none of the special features or controls that define other ear muffs, but they might just outlast them all.
First things first: How well do they reduce noise? The Champions have a strong 25 NRR, so you can take them everywhere from the range to the warehouse. They’ll block out high-decibel sounds with ease.
As for construction, while they’re somewhat big and bulky, they’re extremely durable. These ear muffs are the kind that you can pass on to your children some day. As long as you don’t mind the over-the-top headband, they’re pretty comfortable too; the headband is both padded and adjustable, so you can move it around until you find the perfect fit.
Last but not least, the Champions are some of the most affordably-priced ear muffs on the market. You can obtain them for a fraction of the cost of other brands. This makes them very tempting to try since you won’t lose anything but your lunch money if they don’t work out.
Whether you’re on a budget or just looking for a simple pair of electronic ear muffs that don’t require an instruction manual to understand, think about the Champions for your next purchase.
7. Pro Ears Pro Slim Gold
Despite their name, the Pro Slim Golds are available in a variety of colors. What makes them “gold” is their high-quality construction and the strong array of features that they offer.
Let’s cut right to the chase and talk about their noise reduction rating. With a 28 NRR, you can do just about anything with the Pro Slim Golds short of detonating a nuclear warhead on top of them. 28 NRR is one of the strongest ratings available, so these ear muffs will protect your auditory senses from any kind of shooting you need to do.
The flip side of this strength is that the Pro Slim Golds might not be suitable for alltypes of guns. They have medium-profile earcups, so if your favorite gun needs high- or low-profile earcups instead, the Pro Slim Golds might not be the ear muffs for you.
They do have an audio jack for your music needs, and it’s hard to beat them in terms of style. They’re comfortable, convenient and fashionable, an attractive trio in terms of long-time value.
I would recommend the Pro Slim Golds if they match your specific needs as a gun owner. If they aren’t what you’re looking for, you can’t force them to become something new, but if they do suit your purposes, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything nicer.
Best of the Best Ear Muff
Howard Leight Impact Sport OD Electric Earmuff
It simply doesn’t get any better than the Impact Sports. With good noise reduction, built-in battery power and a single knob for all controls and settings, they’re the perfect mix of convenience and strength. You can even plug in your smartphone or music player to listen to your favourite tunes during target practice.
As for their technology, they’re not passive at all, so they’ll filter in the good sounds while shutting down the bad. Their internal microphones will amplify non-harmful noise up to 3x while the clamor of guns and bullets will be completely blocked.
Don them at the shooting range; use them to help you catch dinner; you can even take them to the factory for your next shift. The Impact Sounds will get the job done every time. But you don’t have to take my word for it: Check out their product reviews on Amazon if you don’t believe me.
Howard Leight Impact Sport OD Electric Earmuff
Best Value for Money Ear Muff
Champion Electronic Ear Muffs
The Champions are so affordable that it’s almost a crime not to give them a shot. They don’t represent a big investment, so what do you have to lose except loud, painful noises?
The price isn’t the only attractive thing about the Champions, however. They also boast a strong 25 NRR that will protect you from a wide variety of high-decibel noises. Toss in their adjustable headband, durable construction and easy storage options, and you have yourself one of the best ear muffs on the market.
They may not look like much, but the Champions more than live up to their name when push comes to shove. Check out their reviews on Amazon to see how much other customers love them, too.
Champion Electronic Ear Muffs
Choosing the Best Electronic Ear Muffs: A Buyer’s Guide
If you’re in the market for electronic ear muffs, it can be difficult to know which way to turn. What does dB mean? What’s the difference between passive and electronic noise cancellation? What’s an internal audio jack, and why is it important?
The bad news is that there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to the “best” products out there, so you’ll have to decide your own needs, priorities and price ranges before making a decision. The good news is that it’s easier than you think to make sense of the acronyms and find a pair of ear muffs that will get the job done.
Here are just a few things to keep in mind as you go shopping. While this is by no means an exhaustive list of considerations and requirements, it should be enough to point you in the right direction and open the door for further research.
Look at the NRR
A product’s noise reduction rating (NRR) corresponds to how well it blocks out harmful sound. There’s a lot of complicated math at the heart of it, and you don’t need to research it unless you’re truly interested in the mechanics of attenuation, but here are the basics:
-The scale goes up to 33 NRR.
-The higher the NRR, the stronger the noise reduction.
-Any product not ranked with a NRR has not been tested or certified by industry organizations.
In short, never buy ear muffs without an NRR number, and pay attention to NRRs when comparing and contrasting products. While you might not need the highest number, a gun owner shouldn’t dip too low, either. Firing a weapon is more dangerous to your ears than a wailing baby on a plane.
Understand the Difference Between “Passive” and “Active” Technology
Passive ear muffs block all the sound waves that they can handle at their NRR. For example, if you’re wearing a pair of passive ear muffs with a 20 NRR, they’ll block anything and everything at the 20 NRR level.
Active ear muffs, on the other hand, usually have a more complex system for sound management. For example, they might allow noises under a certain dB (like human speech) while blocking out sounds of a higher dB (like gunshots). They might use internal microphones to pick up and amplify low-level sounds.
Electronic ear muffs are usually “active” by default, but there are occasionally low-price or low-quality models that aren’t as active as they could be. Make sure you know exactly what you’re buying before you hand over your credit card.
Consider Battery Life
Batteries are an important consideration in the lifespan of electronic ear muffs. How long will they last during the day? How many hours of use can you expect overall? Are they replaceable or rechargeable? How many batteries do the ear muffs need, and are they included with your order or sold separately?
Think about location as well. A product with hard-to-find or hard-to-reach battery packs can be quite inconvenient when you’re hunting in the wilderness, especially if you’re doing an emergency battery switch. Imagine the frustration if a buck gets away because you’re fumbling with new batteries!
You should also note that some products come with automatic battery shut-offs after a certain number of hours. This can be a lifesaver or a complete pain depending on how you use your ear muffs, so plan accordingly.
Measure the Earcups
It’s a common misconception that earcup size is a matter of preference. This only applies to headphones, not electronic ear muffs. Headphones can be as ill-fitting as their buyers want because it doesn’t matter if outside sound waves leak into their music; with ear muffs, on the other hand, the sound of a gunshot penetrating your earcups defeats the entire purpose of wearing them in the first place.
Pay attention, too, to the “profile” of your earcups. They come in low, medium and high profiles, and certain profiles are best suited for certain types of guns. For example, if you do a lot of shooting with a beloved rifle, you’ll want ear muffs with low-profile earcups. High- and medium-profile earcups might do in a pinch, but they won’t be as comfortable, and they may affect your shooting accuracy if you’re twisting your head and neck in weird positions to accommodate the wrong kind of earcups.
Envision Them With Your Other Gear
If you’re looking for ear muffs, you’re probably looking for other hunting or shooting equipment too. Try to keep everything compatible. For example, if you’ll be wearing a helmet or some other kind of headgear, you’ll probably want behind-the-neck rather than over-the-head ear muffs. If you’ll be donning safety glasses, you’ll want to avoid top-heavy ear muffs that cut into your line of sight. Gloves will make precision ear muffs difficult to use. Radio interference can mess with tech-equipped ear muffs.
A good rule of thumb when buying ear muffs is to envision your entire outfit as you shop. Include hats, helmets, glasses, gloves, microphones, radios, tracking gear and anything else that will be physically on your person while you hunt or shoot. A little foresight now can save you a lot of headache in the long run.
Some people only put on ear muffs when they’re taking a shot. Others wear ear muffs continuously during an outdoors hunting expedition or while shooting at the range. You’ll want to find a comfortable pair that fits properly, especially if you’re in the latter category where you’ll be wearing your ear muffs for hours at a time. Here are a few things to consider about ear muff construction:
-Are they worn behind-the-neck, over-the-head or across-the-scalp?
-What are they made of, and is that material comfortable to you?
-Are heights and widths adjustable? Can you customize them according to your head shape or shooting position?
-Is there padding? Can it be removed? Can it be supplemented?
-How are their earcups designed?
It isn’t the end of the world if your ear muffs aren’t a perfect fit, but again, you might notice differences in your shooting ability if you’re too uncomfortable. Ultimately, it’s worth the effort of finding a pair that fits.
Give Yourself a Price Range
How much can you afford to spend on ear muffs? Keep in mind that the listed price of the product isn’t always the final price you’ll pay.
You might also need to buy batteries, microphones or other technical accessories on top of things like shipping charges and extended warranties.
You might need to order special storage or transport items, too. Make sure you’re calculating all projected expenses when figuring out your final bill.
Read the Fine Print
Speaking of warranties, never buy ear muffs without one. Since they’re precision tools that can cost hundreds of dollars at a time, they aren’t something to be bought without careful consideration of the consequences.
• What happens if you break them? Is the warranty voided by human error?
• Does the warranty cover battery changes and upgrades or only the original purchase item?
• Who’s responsible for return shipping charges in the event of accidents or defects?
• How long does the warranty last? Does that period cover all parts or only certain ones like the power pack?
• Will you get all your money back?
These are just a few things to consider as you look for the best electronic ear muffs for shooting and hunting. Remember, there’s no single pair that will suit everyone, so you’ll have to find one that meets your needs specifically. Good luck!