Until we get European-style suppressor laws and any Tom, Dick or Harriet can walk into their local gun store an walk out with a suppressor the same day, shooters will have to protect their ears. And even then. If you’re shooting indoors or even with suppressed larger calibers outdoors, you still have to make sure your ear drums aren’t traumatized. The best way to do that (while still hearing things in your environment and/or carrying on conversations) is with a pair of dynamic over-the-ear electronic muffs. They let you hear normal level sounds while blocking the noise spikes. ‘But they’re expensive!’, you say. Au contraire, mon frere . . .
Electronic muffs used to run you a pretty penny. Time was when you couldn’t touch a decent pair of dynamic ear pro for under $250. Thankfully those days are long gone.
Now you’ve got quality, affordable options like SportEAR’s new ProSounds muffs, the M-2 and M-4. The difference between the two models: M-2 has two forward-facing microphones and the M-4 has — you guessed it — four mics, two fore and two aft. I tested the M-4, but other than the two extra microphones, both models are identical.
The muffs have independent on-off/volume control dials on each ear along with 3.5mm input jacks if you’re the kind who likes to blast some Skynyrd while you bust caps at the range or tromp through the underbrush in search of Bambi and his friends.
Plugging an auxiliary cable into one of the ears de-activates that side’s electronics. So you’ll be able to listen to your favorite tunes, but that side with otherwise function as a standard passive muff. Assuming nothing is plugged into the other ear, you’ll still be able to hear electronically enhanced ambient sounds while gunshots or other loud noises will be electronically blocked.
Inside each muff are two distinct sections. The round area is the speaker. The crescent-shaped zone houses the electronic guts of the system — the part that decides what you’ll hear and what to block out. The ProSounds people tell me that separating the two make for better sound quality as well as enabling the battery compartment to be easily accessible from the outside.
Compared to other widely purchased electronic hearing protection for shooters, the ProSounds M’s fit snugly — very snugly, in fact. That’s both good and bad. The M-4’s fit makes for an excellent seal around the ears. You’ll keep out much more ambient sound than some other brands I’ve tried (and own). The downside is that depending on the size of your melon, you may find they’re less comfortable the longer they’re worn.
As for the whiz-bang electronics, they do their job and do it with flair. You’ll have no trouble carrying on normal conversations. Until, that is, someone fires gun nearby. That’s when the electronic attenuators kick in and block the dB spike from frying your auditory nerves.
But that’s not all, if you’re out hunting, where hearing your prey move through the underbrush would be an advantage, you can turn the dial even further to actually enhance ambient sounds giving you the approximate hearing ability of your average elephant.
Wearing them in a very loud indoor range, I was able to avoid my usual technique of doubling up on ear pro. I typically use foam in-the-ear plugs with over-the-ear muffs on top. With the M-4’s I could get away with just the external protection. Shooting outside, naturally, was much better. No reason at all to worry about using anything more than the M-4s.
Noise reduction rating: 25 dB
Weight: 12.5 oz.
MSRP: $139 (M-2 MSRP is $89) Currently only sold via Indiegogo (here).
Ratings (out of five stars):
Design: * * * *
No over-the-ear muffs will ever be called stylish, but the M-Series muffs get the job done. The independent volume controls and aux inputs give you flexibility of use and ease of adjustment. Each ear has a cut-out in the bottom for a good cheek weld when shooting a long gun.
Comfort: * * *
The fit is on the snug side. That’s a two-edged sword. Plus: less ambient noise leakage. Minus: may not be as comfortable when worn for long periods.
Noise Reduction: * * * * *
That firm seal makes for great sound isolation, even when turned off. When turned on the sophisticated electronics make holding normal conversations easy while blocking ear-splitting gunshots. Or dial them up to enhance ambient sounds and hear like a bat out of hell.
Overall * * * *
A great electronic muff at a good price. With options like the M-2 or M-4, there’s no reason to risk your hearing. So don’t.