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If you’re like a lot of us, you double up your hearing pro, especially when shooting indoors. Some type of in-the-ear plugs under a pair of muffs. On the plus side, it’s a cheap solution that does a good job of protecting your ears and making sure you’ll be able to hear your grandchildren someday. Assuming you want to. But it can be hard to carry on a conversation or hear range instructions. But Essency is has come up with a new solution, GunSonics!, for smart phone owners designed to turn your inexpensive passive ear muffs into active hearing protection that they say outperforms expensive electronic muffs. Basically, you buy their $10 app for your phone, shove standard earbuds in your audio canals, then put your passive hearing pro over the top. We’ll be giving GunSonics! a try to see if it’s worthy of that exclamation point or not. In the mean time, their press release is after the jump . . .

Transform Passive Ear Protectors Into Advanced Electronic Ear Protection

The GunSonics! app for firearms enthusiasts transforms passive ear protectors into advanced electronic ear defenders for under $10.00

Audio app pioneers Essency publish a revealing hearing safety chart to coincide with the release of new ear protection app for firearms, GunSonics. The chart compares the reaction time of electronic ear defenders against the formation of a gun blast to show just how well they perform against the GunSonics! hearing protection app.

The GunSonics! App works with passive ear protectors, worn over the top of standard issue headsets connected to an iPhone or Android handset. This allows shooters to choose passive ear protectors with a higher NRR (Noise Reduction Rating).

Electronic ear defenders sold for shooting, have a microphone on one or both ear cups that feed an internal amplifier, which then transmits ambient sounds to the user with speakers inside the ear cups. When a gun is fired the amplifier temporarily shuts down and hearing protection is dependent on the speed of shut down and the passive attenuation of the ear cups.

The key factor is whether electronic ear defenders act fast enough to prevent harmful sound pressure peaks from reaching the user’s ears, via the internal electronics.

Gunshot blasts generate an ear shattering shockwave that peaks within 1 millisecond (thousandth of a second) and is millions of times louder than the safe listening levels recommended by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

The chart, based on manufacturer specifications, reveals how the fastest electronic ear defenders on the market fail to react before gunshot blasts peak. The GunSonics! Ear protection app is the only product on the market to catch and stifle 100% of gunshot blasts.

The sound pressure level (SPL) of a gunshot varies from 144dB for a 0.22 caliber pistol to 170dB for larger revolvers or rifles.

NIOSH state ‘exposure to one gunshot at 140 dB SPL constitutes 100% of a person’s daily allowable noise exposure’. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) permissible exposure limit for impulsive noise is also 140 dB SPL. Exposure to an electronically amplified gunshot can lead to non-reversible noise induced hearing loss or tinnitus.

Essency co-founder, Alex Georgiou said: “The safety comparison chart on shows that the GunSonics! App powered by the advanced audio processing of a modern smartphone, blows away the tech used in the best electronic ear protectors.”

The GunSonics! App has a number of advantages over electronic ear protectors:

  • Safer audio than any electronic ear defender designed for firearms
  • Clear iPhone screen interface – easier than trying to find buttons on ear cups
  • Six presets finely tuned to each gun types sound signature
  • Smooth audio, speech is never interrupted by gunfire
  • Amplification of quiet sounds
  • Weatherproof as long as your iPhone/Android device is under cover
  • Allows the use of higher NRR passive ear protectors for maximum safety
  • Hundreds of dollars cheaper than pro electronic ear defenders

GunSonics! the ear protector app is available now on Apple’s iTunes App Store priced at $9.99 USD. Android version to follow soon.

About Essency

Founded in 2008 by audio engineers, Essency specialize in creating cutting-edge mobile apps. The company’s combined knowledge in the fields of music, sound engineering and computing have enabled them to deliver some remarkable real-time audio technology such as Awareness!® The Headphone App and GunSonics!®. 

GunSonics! is a registered trademark. Copyright © 2013 Essency. All Rights Reserved. Apple, the Apple logo, iPhone, iPad, iPad mini, iPod touch, and Mac are registered trademarks of Apple Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries. Other trademarks and registered trademarks may be the property of their respective owners.

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  1. Groovy! So many more attactive muff style ear protection w/o electronic noise reduction feature, than with. Will try at next range date.

  2. I don’t feel like my ear buds form well enough in my ear canal to protect from the pressure waves of a firearm.

    Also – I don’t want to trust my hearing to Android or Apple – seriously. When I’m shooting my 460XVR, a revolver that can damage your hearing permanently in one shot, I don’t want to have the app crash moments before I send a round.

    Interesting concept – I’ll await the review though.

    • You do realize that you don’t just use this with earbuds alone, right? You put the earbuds on, then put your normal muffs on over them.

      • I have a .460 Smith XVR 8 3/8″ revolver as well. As far a I know, it it the loudest firearm I own, and my .357 Smith 340 PD is the second. Either way, I wouldn’t risk my hearing to untested technology, nor do I desire to wear ear buds all day. I doubt that this will work well, but I’ll wait for the TTAG review before my final opinion.

  3. Ever handled a touchscreen phone with gun oil and unburnt powder on your palms? Let me tell you, it’s not fun.

    Neither is a dead battery, which brings me to the next dilemma.Is this app a battery hog?Methinks yes, especially when I’ll be running ShotTimer Pro in the background.Since I’ll need the shot timer app running too as I shoot, this is a recipe for laggy hearing protection.

  4. The app worked ok for me at an idpa match. I have never tried electronic muffs so I can’t compare but I could hear the S O better. I wore muffs over the earbuds as their website advises, the only problem was when the wind picked up the mike got it and I a bother.

  5. The best earbuds I’ve found for comfort are from SkullCandy. Both the sound and comfort are incredible. Not affiliated with them, but have used for years, and they cost around $20. HTH

    • But I don’t mean to sound negative — it’s always great to see innovation. If it really is better than electronic headphones, then hopefully the competition will force other products to improve as well.

  6. I have yet to find a pair of earbuds that don’t cause me irritation after 15 minutes or so. Hard plastic in my ear gets painful quick, which is why I finally invested in a quality pair of Sennheisers.

  7. Well, I can’t speak to the effectiveness of this app, because I’m not a member of the iHive.

    I’m reasonably curious about it, though, so when the Android version comes out, perhaps I’ll check it out, and maybe Nick will too. (That’s why he didn’t write this, by the way. He doesn’t have an iPhone either.) However, unless it dramatically out performs a set of Howard Leight Impact Sport electronic muffs (which are about the best bang for the buck out there in active noise reduction), I’m not sure it’ll be worth the extra “fidgety-ness” at the range. I want fewer things to pay attention to when I’m at the range, not more.

    • On the GunSonics website analysis of Electronic Ear Protectors, the $73 ‘popular budget hearing protector’ is almost certainly the Howard Leight, which I use myself.

      Alarmingly, their chart shows that Howard Leight do not block the first 5ms of the gunshot blast. I’ve always thought mine weren’t that great – now I know why!

      Howard Leight may indeed be the best bang, which is not a good thing in this case.

    • Hi Matt,

      I eagerly await the TTAG review and hope the Howard Leight Impact Sports are one of the electronic muffs used to compare Gunsonics.

      As one of the guys involved in creating the app and as an ex recording studio engineer who use to earn a living from using his ears, I was absolutely horrified with the results when we put a number of electronic earmuffs to the test alongside the app.

      The manufacturers own specification suggest that the initial part of gunshots may be amplified by their audio circuits before being fed into your ears. Our fears seemed to be confirmed when we found out that 5 out of 5 instructors at a well known shooting range who used electronic ear defenders for years, were either partially deaf or suffer from tinnitus.

      The app itself is easy to use, fire it up, pick a preset, screen lock and put your phone away. A lot easier with a touch screen than trying to find volume controls while wearing any of the electronic headsets we tried.

      The only setbacks are that you have to make sure you tuck the headphone leads out of the way so they can’t get tangled and the app uses one mic (on your earbuds) as opposed to 2 mics used by most electronic ear defenders.

      Realtime audio on Android is much more difficult than we first thought, we have had to postpone its launch while our devs continue work on a notoriously difficult task.

    • Its not just the processing power of the iPhone (which is by far superior to the electronics in ear defenders) but the way the app has been built to deal with gunshot noise, in particular to catch and treat 100% of each shot which are at their most damaging state in the first millisecond.

  8. This really can’t be the best idea for protecting your hearing.

    Best advice: Double plug! Ear plus and then muffs.

    Your ears will thank you.

    Your wallet will thank you if you can avoid spending thousands on high-end digital hearing aids, when you are only in your early forties.

    Trust me on this.

  9. Just to be sure everyone is clear. This is NOT, I repeat, NOT noise reduction.
    It’s an AMPLIFIER of normal speach sounds, that mutes the amplification of gunfire.
    You MUST wear hearing protection for this to work properly!

      • We’re still looking into the use of noise isolating earbuds with the app. One known make worked particularly well but needed ‘good technique’ to fit in your ears, doesn’t matter much if a bud pops out while listening to music but could be ear lethal if that happens while shooting so don’t feel comfortable recommending earbuds without doubling up with a decent set of passives.

        But, if you’re looking for the safest way to shoot while being being able to hear ambience, using the app with a good pair of noise isolating earbuds worn with high NRR passives on top will give you the ‘double plugging’ effect and the highest level of ear protection possible for shooting.

        This raises the costs a bit but is still much cheaper than using top end electronic ear defenders and is what we recommend for instructors and regular shooters.

        • Alex, thanks for the response. Even regular plugs can be hard to fit just right — so I’d be more worried about the earbuds popping out or with the cord interfering with proper seal of the muffs.

          When used correctly, I find that foam plugs offer very good protection — the same 33 NRR offered by the best passive earmuffs, which your system relies upon. So when using double protection, the plugs protect the user from the first 1.5-5 ms of blast missed by the electronic muffs. Whether your system provides better overall protection really depends on how well the earbuds block sound, in addition to the passive earmuffs.

          I’ve never used electronic earpro, but I’m considering it… so I definitely appreciate any more info you can offer.

  10. I have mixed feelings about using an app instead of getting a set of active muffs for hearing protection. For a price of a meal it will be worth trying at least. I will definitely get back to you after I go to the range. Thanks for the write up.

  11. Hi Guys,

    GunSonics currently has a 99c trial price for 24hrs if anyone wants to try it.

    If you shoot a lot or are an instructor, use the app with noise isolating earphones and normal ear protectors for up to 36NRR, it works the same as double protection except you don’t end up feeling isolated.

    Would love to hear what you guys think.

  12. How come I can’t find any users who have written reviews of GunSonic! and comparing them to electric ear muffs? I haven’t found any reviews from disinterested user at all. Whats up? People not buying. If this app really works and does not have any delay I would be glad to buy it for $10, but I want some disinterested reviews first.

      • I will be glad to provide a review, but I cannot accept it free if I write up a review. I will purchase the app. Is there a place you would like the app reviewed? My main concern was delay, because I plan to use this with competition shooting with start/stop buzzer.

        • I would be more than happy for you to just write your review here?

          If you won’t accept a free review copy, how about if I offer you a full refund in the event you are not fully satisfied with the app?

          What earphones do you plan on using?

        • I purchased the app this evening and will test it later this week when I go to the gun range. I probably won’t post a review until next week. Tuesday nights we practice NRA Bulls eye shooting which it will be important for me to hear the announcer and start/stop buzzer. My initial test this evening shows there are no noticeable delays, so I don’t expect to be disappointed.

          The head gear I use is Howard Leight Leightning L2 with 27 NRR. I will be shooting .45 ACP and .22 LR.

          Let you know how it goes next week.

        • You can increase your NRR by using a pair of noise isolating earphones which will take you up to to 36NRR. Noise isolating earphones add a little more expense but I recommend this method of hearing protection for all shooters, its the equivalent to double plugging.

          The other thing to take care of is the earphone cable, wind it behind your ear so the cable drops behind your shoulder and under your jacket so its out of the way but leave a little slack in the cable to allow for free head movement.

          Good shooting and look forward to reading your review.

      • Alex,

        Sorry for the delay in writing up a review on Gunsonics. We had a ice storm here and we were not able to shoot last week. I got a reasonably good test of Gunsonics this week and am please with the app. I will be writing up a formal review and will post it soon. Are you Alex Georgiou one of the co-founders of the product? I just want to verify this for the review.

        • Alex, GunSonics! is not showing up in the U.S. iTunes Store anymore. I’ve had a few people ask me about it. Do you know what happened to it?

        • Hi Brian,

          Thank you for the review, sounds like you put GunSonics through its paces, I’m really pleased with 4.5 out of 5!

          There’s some very useful feedback regarding the high impulse echo in the indoor range, did you try the Auto Fire mode? although designed for automatic weapons it should take care of the high impulse echo in indoor ranges. Spectator mode might also help, its designed to cope with cluster fire so should take care of the echo. Please let me know if it doesn’t.

          Regarding earbuds…
          I strongly recommend using in-ear earphones with any high NRR ear protectors, this would give you double hearing protection and the absolute safest way to shoot while being able to communicate.

          The only other method of hearing protection that can match this level of hearing safety is using foam earplugs and ear protectors together but then you lose all communication.

          GunSonics will be available again soon…
          We recently made the app free to try for 30 minutes with an option to buy the full app via an in-app purchase but Apple changed the way it handled in-apps while the app was in review(!), this resulted in some users not being able to purchase so we temporarily withdrew it. The app should be back on the App Store within the next couple of days.

          Apologies for the inconvenience but once its back we will be making the app totally free for a limited time. I’ll let you know when its back.

          I would also welcome any comments from regular users of electronic hearing protectors who try GunSonics while its free.


  13. GunSonics Review – An Alternative to Electronic Hearing Protection

    Ear Protection: Howard Leight Leightning L2 with 27 NRR (non-electronic)
    Electronics: iPod Touch 4g iOS 6.1.x, cheap marshmallow ear buds with mic

    Recently I found myself in need of electronic hearing protection. In the past I’ve always been satisfied with my passive hearing protection whether it be my Howard Leight or just foam ear plugs. When I joined a pistol league, I found I had a need to be able to communicate with others while shooting at the range. I really did not want to spend money on electric hearing protection that had a lower NRR than my Howard Leight’s, and electric protection with a higher NRR was out of my price range. It dawned on me that I ought to be able to use my iPod to transfer sound from the mic into earbuds which I normally wear while I’m shooting, so I began searching for apps. I was not satisfied with any of the apps that I tried, and GunSonics seemed to be too expensive to risk only to be disappointed.

    Alex Georgiou, one of the co-founders of Essency Ltd., contacted me after I asked about GunSonics and offered me my money back if I was not satisfied. I could not pass that up, so I purchased the app. Since I already owned an iPod, ear buds, and passive hearing protection, the app was the only cost needed to upgrade to electronic hearing protection. I can now listen to the other team members without putting my hearing at risk.

    The very first thing I noticed when using GunSonics is it was like having super hearing. I could hear people talking in the gun range 8 lanes away. If you ever forgot to put your hearing protection on and walked into an indoor gun range, you know the pain and ringing that is left in your ears (not a mistake you are likely to do twice.) With my new super sensitive hearing, I was amazed when a gunshot burst out, my ears did not hurt nor ring; yet I could still hear people talking. Without any doubt I could tell that the app was suppressing the loud blast when a gun is shot.

    One thing that I was really concerned with was delay that can happen when an input signal is modified and sent to the output. In this case the sound is received at the microphone, sent into the iPod, filtered/modified, and then transmitted to the ear buds. If there was a delay, I could not tell. During the rapid fire round I could not tell any delay when the buzzer sounded. Therefore, I believe GunSonics is suitable for competitive shooting sports.

    Although I am well pleased with the app, I did find a few downsides to it as well. I could not find a way to adjust the sensitivity of the microphone using the app. Obviously the volume can be turned down, but I think I could reduce an annoyance if I could adjust the mic sensitivity.

    Annoyance you say? Yes, you heard right. For you outdoor shooters I don’t think this will be a problem, but for us indoor shooters not only is the high impulse sound made by a gunshot loud, but the echo from the high impulse sound is also loud. Using just passive hearing protection, the echo from a high impulse sound is almost indiscernible, but when using the GunSonics app you can hear the echo for a couple of seconds. The loudness of the echo was louder than the people talking next to me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it is unsafe, just noticeable and after a few hours I was glad to turn off the app so I could have some quiet time. I suspect that this is a problem with all electronic hearing protection and not a fault of GunSonics. I don’t think I would have been as annoyed if it were not for the 44 mag and .223 that was being fired a few lanes away. I also noticed that the sensitivity changed with different ear buds. As a result I was able to improve annoying high impulse echo. The really best advice I could give with using any Electronic hearing protection is to keep the volume turned as low as possible. Keep in mind you want to hear the people near you and not the people 8 lanes away.

    Since I don’t own any electronic hearing protection, I cannot compare them to GunSonics. I also have no way to verify some of the claims the developers make as to GunSonics being a better safeguard than electronic hearing protection.

    Using GunSonics, keeping the iPod volume low, and using good passive hearing protection, I believe GunSonics allows for a safe alternative to electronic hearing protection. Overall I would give GunSonics a 4.5 out of 5 score.

    I should also point out that GunSoincs works with the iPhone and I would assume with the iPad as well. It appears that current Android devices have hardware issues that make it impossible to send audio from the mic to the ear phones without any delay, so don’t expect this app to become available for Android any time soon. There are hearing aid apps for the Android that you can use that will allow you to hear normal conversations at the gun range, but due to the delay these apps will not be suitable for use for timed competitive shooting.
    Hearing loss is something that almost everyone will experience as they get older. The problem is that it appear the damage is likely done while we are younger, so it is important to protect your hearing while you still have it. In my notes below are links to where you can find out more about hearing loss and how to prevent it.

    1. Initial gun high impulse sound is suppressed/eliminated.
    2. High impulse echo in indoor range is not eliminated.
    3. High impulse echo in indoor range not heard using only 27 NRR non-electronic hearing protection.
    4. High impulse echo in indoor range as heard using GunSonics can be measured in seconds and became annoying.
    5. High impulse echo in indoor range as heard using GunSonics is louder than normal conversation as heard using GunSonics.
    6. Sensitivity was altered when I changed to different ear buds.
    7. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL),
    8. Centers for Disease Control and prevention, Adolescent and School health,, School cafeteria – 85db – 8 hours exposure.


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