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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

Specifications:

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.

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36 Responses to Gear Review: ProSounds M-Series Electronic Muffs

  1. 25 db noise reduction isn’t enough for most indoor ranges. The foam plugs, if you put them in properly, will give you about -30 db. There’s probably no better single layer of protection.

    I have the Howard Leights and they’re good enough for most outdoor use. Probably about 20-22 db. But they’re only about $50. They cut the noise from a report instantaneously – probably within a few milliseconds, and that’s good. But they take longer to open up again. Maybe half a second or more. Trying to hold a conversation while someone is shooting repeatedly is difficult. You miss words. I wonder if some of the pricier electronic muffs work better in that regard.

    • Yes, the expensive ones (MSA Sordin) don’t clip noise and instead digitally compress the noise and bring it down to safe levels. They’re very,very water resistant (with the TCI versions and you can damn well go swimming with them on) and are far more comfortable for wearing for 5-8 hours during classes, etc.

    • It does not matter which manufacture you look at, they all have static NRR rating of between 18 and 26NRR.

      The electronic headset simply cuts-off sound such that it is never more than 82db

      The ProSounds M-Series Electronic Muffs are no different in that respect.

      While different MFG have different features like actually being waterproof (something the ProSounds M-Series Electronic Muffs are not), they all function roughly the same, making sure the sound does not go above 82db.

      There are not shooting earmuffs from 3M that actually have a very high NRR rating of 70+ BUT, when you wear these you cannot hear anyone around you. It is like being in a bubble.

      The value of the electronic muffs is they allow you to hear the person next to you, but cut off certain sounds from going above 82db. If you have a sound that is 100db, these will take down the sound about 22 to 26db so you do not sustain hearing damage.

      What is more important that NRR rating is can the muff actually create a good seal so they work correctly. And that is where the higher priced options work better. The seal the ear muffs make not the NRR rating.

  2. Will an electronic ear protector rated for 24dB NRR muffle more gunshot noise that a passive ear protector rated, say, 33dB NRR?

      • This is the line that I think is unclear if not erroneous “you’ll still be able to hear electronically enhanced ambient sounds while gunshots or other loud noises will be electronically blocked.”

        Not to be pedantic, but assuming they are not active the sound is not electronically blocked, it is mechanically blocked the same as the cheapies.

        • There may be some confusion on the term “active noise control”.

          These earmuffs sound like they are using a type of automatic level control, where the amplifier is turned off when sound over a set level is present, turning them into passive earmuffs until the sound drops below the set value. This works, to a point.

          Active noise control is a separate microphone, control circuit, amplifier and speaker that detects sound, electrically inverts it, amplifies it and is fed to a dedicated speaker that in effect creates ‘anti-sound’ that cancels out the sound *before* it vibrates your eardrum.

          All of this is fine up to a point, because as others have noted, your eardrum is not suspended in free space, it is attached to your skull, and physical vibration of you skull will vibrate your eardrum. Hence, you *will* hear that.

          This is a fair primer on active noise control:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Active_noise_control

          I suppose it is *possible* to design an active noise control gun range, so the offending noise is canceled out before it hits your ear and skull. That would be a neat trick that would require some really innovative engineering and large piles of money. Perhaps RF can fund research in that area.

          The Bose company makes some true active noise reduction aviation headsets and consumer earphones with that technology, but it ain’t cheap. Like about $1,000 for the aviation headsets, and around $300 for the ‘Bose Quiet Comfort’ ones…

    • If you want an amazingly thorough review on the science behind active ear protection, Check out Trevor on the Trigger’s article Gun Science: Active Electronic Ear-pro deep dive. It ‘s a great way to learn about the difference between hearing pro that shuts off the mic/clips loud noises and hearing pro that uses digital compression to lower sounds. After having a slew of Howard Leights and Peltor ear pro (and breaking most of them) it pushed me towards spending a bit more and getting a set of MSA Sordins. Night and day between the inexpensive sets and the Sordins and completely worth it.

      • Agreed. I picked up some of the Howard Leight’s for taking new shooters out, but I’ve been using Pro Ears Gold for a while. The HL’s are nicer than passive ears, but when the lead starts flying the clipping is so bad that you can’t effectively communicate. They’re most helpful for the first few seconds of hot range (before the shooting starts) and the first few seconds after cease fire (to remind the newbies to remove mags and show clear).

        The Pro Ears use dynamic sound compression (like the Sordins) instead of clipping (like the HLs and probably these ProSounds). The difference is night and day. I’ll personally never settle for clipping having tried compression.

        This video compares passive / clipping / compression ear pro & how they sound. The audio is simulated and the differences exaggerated somewhat, but it’s a pretty fair comparison of what you get out of each type of ear pro:
        https://youtu.be/qDWvW6iGWWE

    • Compared to what?
      The beauty of electronic muffs is you can wear them over earplugs, crank up the volume so you can have conversations, and they still suppress the gun report. Best of both worlds, I think.

  3. How do these compare to say the Peltor TacSport or Howard Leight Impact Pro (or for that matter the Impact Sport)?

  4. Don’t go cheap on your ears.
    The difference between 25db and 33db reduction is significant.
    My audiologist says after you get above 110db the sound pressure is going through your face bones and still causing damage to your hearing.
    I double up and rarely go to indoor ranges. I do other training to stay sharp during very cold times. The minute it looks remotely nice, 35° no wind, I hit the range. Now that it’s been in the 80° when it’s supposed to be 40° or less in March we won’t have to worry about cold winters just Dengue Fever etc.

    • Where I work, we have equipment that exceeds 140 db inside an acoustical booth. You still need hearing pro if you’re just outside the booth for any time (not if you’re just passing by). We use those huge “Princess Leia” muffs and foam plugs. Health and Safety tells us the muffs are good for -30 db and the plugs are good for at least that. But they tell us don’t expect to get to -60 db by doubling up. Our expert tells us it’s almost impossible to go beyond -45 db NR because the sound pressure propagates through your skull.

  5. One thing no one talks about in these reviews…how does wearing safety glasses affect the product. I tried muffs back in the day at my old job, but since we also had to wear safety glasses the “seal” was broken by the glasses AND the muffs would cause the glasses stems to push in to the side of the head, hurting.

    • I am very familiar with that problem. The solution is muffs with a neckband. In my experience, MSA Sordin Pro-X neckband version is extremely comfortable (especially if you pay the extra $20 and get the version with gel cups; though that is upgradeable later), and completely resolves the issue with glasses.

      • I don’t understand how the neckband creates a better seal as some have pointed out their glasses keep a tight seal from happening. How does the neckband improve on that?

  6. How is hearing protection rated in reduction of decibels? I take it, these stats are based on optimal testing conditions using a human analog. My point is I don’t think I have ever seen these claims of noise reduction, from ear muffs, while wearing eye protection. The ears of eye pro do interrupt the seal of the cup on ear muffs.

    I can certainly tell the difference with eye pro on or off with ear muffs, gel or no gel inserts. Don’t get me wrong, there is certainly a reduction of noise, but are you really getting what they’re advertising?

    Just another reason to end the NFA.

  7. The 25 db is analog.
    My 3M ProTac 2 have 32 db analog but the electric block all complete at 82 db peak and i can communicated to others (bumps lower volumes up too) …..
    But it s realy bulky and sucks for longarms, but for handgun shooting it s good and an not so expensive option if i see the price for electric in ear”s …….

  8. I don’t mind spending the money on good stuff, but comfort is a big priority as well. Otherwise, doubling up with foam and low end muffs, is my agenda. I know in the long run this will be more expensive, but when the wife learns I dropped $200+ on a set of muffs I don’t use, even if I claim it’s for the kids benefit… YIKES!!

    If there was a way to rent or test during indoor range time, I would surely drop a dime or three on good hearing protection.

  9. I wouldn’t necessarily wish for European-style suppressor laws. In many European countries, suppressors are prohibited for civilian ownership, period.

    Only Norway & Ukraine have no restrictions on ownership and sales of suppressors. Places besides them that do permit them require you to have the corresponding (registered) gun or the general permits to own firearms to begin with. In those cases the suppressor is still able to be taken home on the day of purchase. Out of all the countries in the world that permit suppressors, only here in the US is there the byzantine paperwork.

    The ideal situation would be “New Zealand-style suppressor regulation” which is to say unregulated. You can buy/make a can with no restrictions imposed.

  10. These units are NOT adequate for protecting your hearing on any indoor range. You MUST double up your muffs with plugs if you want to have the best chance of protecting your hearing from permanent damage while shooting.

    The NRR of any hearing protection device should ONLY be used as a means to compare one type of hearing protection to another. In other words, a 31 dB muff can be technically speaking more effective than a 25 dB muff assuming a proper fit. To determine the actual dB reduction that any hearing protection device actually offers to your ears, you need to do some math.

    For example, if you are at a rock concert where the level of noise exposure is 100 dB and you are wearing earplugs with an NRR of 33 dB, your level of exposure would not be reduced to 67 dB. Instead, to approximate the actual amount of decibel deduction applied (when decibels are measured in dBA which is the most common), you take the NRR number (in dB), subtract seven, and then divide by two. Given the previous example, your noise reduction equation would look like the following: (33-7)/2 = 13. This means that if you are at a rock concert with a level of noise exposure at 100 dB, and you are wearing a hearing protector with an NRR of 33 dB, your new level of noise exposure is 87 dB NOT 67 dB. If you are wearing a product with an NRR of 27 it would only deduct 10 decibels or (27-7)/2 = 10 leaving you with a noise exposure of 90 dB NOT 73 dB. For you sticklers I am dividing by 2 because OSHA strongly recommends that a 50% factor be applied to compensate for a number of factors including the fact that most people don’t wear their hearing protection in a manner where a near perfect seal is maintained.

    These muffs reviewed here have a passive NRR of 25. They will reduce your noise exposure by only 9 dB or (25-7)/2. This is NOT enough to protect your hearing on any indoor range.

    So what do you do? You double up on your hearing protection. When you double up on your hearing protection by wearing plugs under your muffs you do not add the NRR ratings of the devices together. Instead the extra layer of protection provides you with a 5 dB bump. A good pair of plugs underneath these muffs will only provide your ears with 14 dB of sound reduction (25+5-7)/2 = 14. At our hypothetical rock concert your exposure would be 86 dB.

    This means that when you expose yourself to even a moderate gunshot noise impulse of let’s say 140 dB you are still exposing your ears to (140 – 14) or 126 dB when wearing these muffs with good plugs. 126 dB will cause permanent hearing loss in less than 10 minutes of continuous exposure. Fortunately gunshots by their very nature are very short impulse type noises, but imagine how loud it must really get at your local indoor range when it is very busy!

    Getting a set of MSA Sordins combined with a good plug that is inserted properly and deeply into the ear canal can make a real difference. When the Sordins are equipped with the optional gel seals they almost always automatically fit correctly even with shooting glasses on. As the quality of the seal both in your ear and around your ear begins to increase, the actual noise reduction rating experience at your ear begins to approach the NRR of the muff +5. In other words the 50% correction factor can begin to approach 1 as the seal’s integrity is increased.

    So what’s the moral of the story? ALWAYS wear muffs with plugs on any indoor range. Make sure that you insert your plugs fully by inserting the plug fully while lifting the top of the ear with your opposite hand. Hint: they won’t probably feel very comfortable if you’ve got them in deeply enough. Make sure that you maintain the best possible seal on your muffs. If you can afford it get yourself some MSA Sordins with the gel seals so that noise leakage around your hair and your safety glasses is minimized.

    Please stay safe and protect your hearing!

  11. I have attended several advanced multi-day (4-9 days) shooting events/courses where electronic hearing protection is mandatory. I have suffered permanently hearing damage because of this. I now wear foam plugs as well as the Emuffs but catch serious greef for not being able to hear the rangemaster because the combination blocks so much of my hearing. I have looked but can not find foam plugs with a dB of less than 30 to wear in combination with the Emuffs.

  12. DON’T BUY! I backed these muffs on Kickstarter, and got delivery last week. Two steps into the range I realized these have minimal noise reduction, lots of hiss, and if there’s any breeze the mics will be overwhelmed. The headband is too small (even though I wear a size small hat), and the customer service is terrible! It seems that they sent reviewers a different product. What we consumers get is UNUSABLE junk!

    • I also backed the kickerstarter and I agree with Jordan. I had to double up with earplugs shooting outside. There so many backers bashing these earmuffs on the kickerstart page.

  13. I question if prosound now under the Axil umbrella paid you for this review. The headsets do not work, I should know i myself have one and it is useless. They have a known issue where the headset actually amplifies sound making using them at a gun range etc useless and equal to wearing nothing at all. They also have a constant crackling and or hissing, not to mention that the headsets are extremely uncomfortable to wear. Even if you do manage to get a headset that does not have the sound amplify issue, the headsets are still useless at either an indoor or outdoor gun range.

    After contacting them about the issue they refused to send a new headset and a return label to send the defective one back. I had to pay to return there useless headset and the replacement is exactly the same as the defective one that I returned having the same issues. Take a look at the Kickstarter forums for them, there is nothing but hundreds and hundreds of customers reporting problems and useless headsets of which Prosounds no longer even replies to.

    Your review is glowing and I question that as it goes against what almost all of there customers are experiencing. a set of Howard leights is 1 million times better than prosounds at less price. Save your money!

  14. Agree with Brent Adams completely!
    These are absolute junk and DO NOT WORK! They actually AMPLIFY the sound levels they are meant to clip…..

    I got sucked in to purchasing 2 pair through Kickstarter and after waiting many months they finally arrived down under.
    As well as the sound issues the headbands are so tight I guarantee you will have a headache after wearing – and I have a normal size western head…

    I never bothered trying to get 2 new “improved” sets having read scores of bad reviews on the original version and regarding the replacements not working either.

    Lasty the Prosounds X-series passive blocker – he ones with a ‘click button’ to shut them down are junk as well AND Prosounds are insisting that original buyers of Ver 1 send them back at personal cost before Prosounds will issue Ver 2!

    Did you even try them out before you wrote the review Dan? I think not…..

    I bought a set of brand new Debens in the box from EBAY USA for $75 plus shipping and lo and behold – they actually work!

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