This is a review that I have wanted to do for awhile now, because it was one of the few times where I actually did a side by side product test in the field. In Iraq I was able to play around with both the MSA Sordin Supreme Pro X and the Peltor Comtac 2 electronic ear muffs while out at a weapons range.
I mention these two, because these are the top of the line tactical models of the two companies mentioned and they seemed to be the most popular models out there that guys use. Now both are very good at what they do, and that is cut out loud noises (explosions, gun fire) yet allow you to hear normally when there is no loud noise. They can do this, because they are electronic hearing protectors, armed with noise canceling circuitry. So on the plus side, they protect your hearing, but on the down side, they require batteries and they can break down when you least expect it. But hopefully they don’t break down and hopefully the batteries do no cut out on you, when you need them most.
They are essential to command and control though, because if you can’t hear directions coming through a radio or from your buddies when you really need to hear them, then you could miss out on life saving information. Gunfire from inside a vehicle is only amplified, and it is important to preserve your hearing as much as you can during an incident. I even wore regular combat earplugs(little rubber guys) over in Iraq just for some insurance. But I tell ya, these electric hearing protectors are cool.
So I will start this out by reviewing which of the two seemed tougher or better built. I would have to say that the MSA model was better built and it looked and felt more like it was built like a tank. I would say that both would do just fine out in the field.
As for comfort, both fit on my head and under my helmet just fine, so I had no issues with that. Electric muffs in general will drive you nutty if you have to wear them for awhile. Although you can buy various upgrade kits out there, in order to make the ear cups more comfortable, you still won’t escape the sweat build up and pressure buildup on your head from these things. I was more concerned in my testing on how they fit on my head and how they fit under my helmet, and they did just fine. The helmet I used was an RBR.(I recommend getting the pad kit and making a pad channel in your helmet, if you use the head band style muff)
The battery type and life of each model was interesting, and yet again, I would have to go with the MSA model. The smaller AAA batteries took up less space, weighed less, and surprisingly the MSA model had longer battery life do to some interesting circuitry. The Peltor model used AA batteries, yet had a shorter life. I also liked the metal screw cap of the battery compartment on the MSA model more than the flimsy rubber cap of the battery compartment on the Peltor model. It just felt like the MSA model was better built.
Both models have input jacks, and that is great if you want to link your radio/MP3 into these ear muffs. And both Peltor and MSA offer boom mics, cables, and push to talk switches to really make your headset useful. For the models I tested, they did not have these components set up, and they were just basic. In Iraq, I witnessed a lot of guys with interesting communications set ups that utilized these types of muffs–soldiers too.
So here is the biggest difference between the two, and the one difference that mattered to me. The sound quality was far better with the MSA model. The Peltor model had this annoying clicking sound that drove me nutty. It was faint, but still noticeable and that was the final death blow to the Peltor for me. The MSA model was very quiet and they worked as advertised. They are also somewhat cheaper than the Peltors and that is alright with me. But still, if I am going to pay 200 plus dollars for this kind of gear, it better work like a champ and give me a warm and fuzzy.
I would like to say that both models will to the job and both of these hearing protectors will impress you. The coolest test you could do with these things, is have a conversation with someone else during gunfire at a range. You can hear every word, because the circuitry blocks out the loud noises, but goes back to assisting your hearing during normal levels. And that is the other advantage of these muffs. They do not muffle sound, when you want to hear commands at the range or out in the field. The microphones on these things will even amplify sound, to assist you in hearing. I have tried this at night while wearing these things, and they are great for picking up on distant sounds. Just increase or decrease the volume adjuster on the side of the headphones. So do not worry about these electronic ear muffs ‘muffling sound’ like non-electronic ear muffs do.
Another test that was interesting in hearing quality, was the wind test. It seemed the MSA model was able to recognize these types of noises when wind blasted at the microphones on the headset, and blocked them out. The Peltors did not do that great of job at this. Like I said, the MSA model seemed to do a better job in the sound quality department. And you can even buy an MSA upgrade to get 4 speaker units, as opposed to the standard 2 speaker models. I believe Peltor does not offer this feature. Not that I recommend getting two more speakers, but hey, it is available for those that want it in the MSA model.
As for compactness, both models folded into themselves into a nice size. The MSA model comes with a removable headband piece, which is nice if you want to wash it. I think you can also buy ear cup upgrade kits for both models from the companies themselves, or I think Oregon Aero offers up kits. I also recommend that if you get the headband models like pictured below, that you move around your pads in your helmet to provide a trench. And if you do not have pads in your helmet, I highly recommend getting them. I have Oregon Aero pads in my RBR helmet, and they work great–soft, comfortable, and very stable.
Oh, and for a disclaimer, I do not work for any of these companies and no one has paid me for my opinion. In fact, I don’t own either of these units right now, and the ones I tested were owned by friends. I do own a cheap 50 dollar electronic ear muff made by Peltor, but that thing pales in comparison to both of these high end models I reviewed. To me, the MSA Sordin Supreme Pro-X electronic ear muffs have the Feral Jundi stamp of approval. –Head Jundi
MSA Sordin Supreme Pro-X
200.00 to 260.00 dollars (prices vary)
MSA Sordin’s top of the range WATERPROOF electronic hearing protector for the part-time and professional shooter.
Optimised hearing with high amplification. Fully waterproof microphones and battery compartment. AUX-inlet for connection to external radio/walkie talkie. Slim design cups to suit most types of shooter.
* Digital electronics with high amplification with natural and realistic sound
* 600 hours battery life from 2 x AAA batteries
* Two seperate waterproof microphones with excellent sound quality and perfect directional hearing
* Removable headband cover and replaceable hygiene kits
* Tested to IP67 at the Swedish National Testing and Research Institute
* AUX-inlet (3.5mm) for hunting radio, dog tracking devices, I-POD players.
An MSA Sordin Supreme Pro Dual Com Headset here.
Peltor ComTac II Military/Tactical Ops Headset
250.00 to 300.00 dollars (prices vary)
Com-Tac: OD-Green / SWAT-Tac: Black. Electronic headset for military applications, requires 2 AA batteries. Fits under PASGT, MICH and ACH helmets. Military green cup color. Easily retrofitted to a 2-way communication set-up by adding a microphone (MT70 or MT21) and by using a wiring harness (FL6AC) and the correct push-to-talk (PTT) adaptor for your radio model. Active-volume function in stereo. Last volume setting is stored when powered off. Automatically switch off after two hours if no function is used. Two signals are emitted as a warning that the units will switch off in one minute if no function is activated. Battery life is up to 250 hours. Three warning signals are emitted every 30 seconds for five minutes when power is low, then the headset switches off. Polarity protection of the circuit if the batteries are inserted backwards. The Active volume will be attenuated down to about 30 dB when an external radio signal comes in through the audio input. External signals will remain audible even when the batteries are dead and when the ComTac is switched off. Weight: 315g.
• Military Green OD Cups
• Noise Reduction Rating of 20 dB
• Advanced electronic design will allow for continuous
communication on 2-way radios even when batteries fail,
only talk-thru feature is inoperable until batteries are replaced
• Cup microphones provide talk-thru listening capability. Electronics
will instantaneously suppress harmful impact noises to 82 dBA
inside the earcups, while amplifying up to 18 dB ambient
• Folding headband with leather covering
• 1 AA battery in each cup, 270 hrs battery life, waterproof battery
• Headset fits under PASGT, MICH & ACH helmet systems