Friday, September 16, 2011

Pro Ears Ultra 33 and Pro Tac Gold Ear Protection Review: Gun Blogger Rendezvous

I was lucky enough to meet Charles Ricci EVP of Altus Brands Pro Ears ear protection.

He came by the Gun Blogger Rendezvous and gave everyone a pair of Pro Ears Ultra 33 passive ear protection.

He also was came out the the shooting range with the group and let us all try out a pair of Pro Tac Gold ear protectors which are manufactured in the U.S.A. Pro Tac Gold is their high end active hearing protection with very sophisticated circuitry to cut out the harmful sounds while letting in the conversion or range commands.

I normally wear my Peltor ComTac II and find them very comfortable to wear. I have had no problems with them for over three years of hard use in all sorts of weather conditions. So, I will compare the two hearing protection devices in this article.

Construction Comparison

I mentioned that I have had this Peltor Com Tac II for over three years and have used them in all sorts of training conditions. I train about 120 hours a year in rain, heat, dust, dirt etc. and they have stood up to the task.

When opened up you can see that the circuit board is screwed to the main housing by three screws and protected from sweat and moisture by a rubber flap. Also, the batteries are mounted in separate housings that are sealed shut and thus protected very well from the elements.

The housing is very thick plastic and shows limited wear and tear.

One one side there are sealed buttons to turn the unit on and off and adjust the volume.

Rubber flap protecting electronics

Electronics securely held in place by three screws.

Pro Tac Gold Ear Protection

The Pro Tac Gold Ear Protection housings are very thick and durable looking,

One thing that I noticed right away is that the batteries and electronics are integrated into one package and placed on a foam bed right which is covered by a thinner piece of foam which acts as the barrier between the ear and the batteries/electronics.

So, in this case the foam is the sound deadening material and used as a structural material holding the electronics in place. I don't know the lasting structural characteristics of the foam is but if the foam degrades so does the positioning of the circuitry. There is a lot more foam in the Pro Tac than in the Peltor. On the bright side there is a no-questions-asked 5 year warranty on the Ear Pro products according to Charles Ricci. Can't argue with that now.

Foam holding circuitry in place with batteries
To change the batteries, you need to flip down the thin foam flap on the insert and get in there with your fingers. I found it easier just to remove the ear cups to change the batteries because my fingers were a little to big to fiddle around in the small space also the foam flap piece gets moved around and could be inadvertently damaged if you aren't careful.

Electronics sitting on top of foam.
The speaker and the electronics placed on the foam. To the right is the foam that holds them in place and on top is the foam piece that covers the electronics and is the barrier between them and your ear. If you sweat a lot this could be a problem since sweat is salty. I'm just guessing though.

Included cables to hook up an iPod for communications etc.

There are individually adjustable volume controls on either side that act as on/off switches too. They don't "Click" to a position so if you want to match the volumes it would be by feel and guess.

Overall profile of the Pro Tac Gold Ears

On thing I noticed is that the profile of the ear protection housings were opposite on the passive pair vs the active pair I was using.

The passive pair the low profile was on the top but on the active pair the low profiling was on the bottom which make more sense if you need to tuck into a rifle or something.

Profiling of passive ear protection reversed.

Profiling on active ear protection looks correct here.

A couple of concerns: I don't know how they would hold out in inclement weather or if you sweat a lot I don't know if the electronics would be adequately protected from that either. Also, the unit uses "N" type batteries and I don't know how long those would last. Hopefully, a long time though.

When I was using the Pro Tac Gold ear protection at the range in Reno's Washoe public range they really did a great job blocking out the sound of all the guns going off around me. The electronic part also helped hearing the range commands. I can see how these would be really great at an indoor range too. Overall I was very happy with them and they worked according to what was promised.

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