I’ll be the first to admit that I hate wearing earmuffs as hearing protection when on the range. In fact, if I hadn’t viewed it as an absolute necessity, I probably wouldn’t wear them. But muffs have always had the advantage of being the more budget-friendly option over the in-ear hearing protection. Being a frugal and, apparently, slightly masochistic person, I’ve always opted for the muffs.
However, when I was asked to write some more content on in-ear hearing protection, I jumped at the chance and requested the Pro Ears Stealth Elite. So far, they’ve been impressive, and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to the muffs, even to save a few bucks. Here’s why.
One of the really nice things about these earbuds is the flexibility of them. They come with a lanyard that connects the two earbuds but, if you didn’t want that, you can easily snap the cord off and store it in the included case. You still get all the benefits of having hearing protection along with the active hearing – or what Pro Ears dubs “Amplification Mode” – which does exactly what it says by amplifying some noises while blocking the loudest sounds.
When disconnected from the lanyard, they offer an ideal choice for someone who might be bird hunting or on the range putting in a full day of training while listening to an instructor.
NOISE AMPLIFICATION AND REDUCTION
The ear buds have a noise reduction rating of 28, which means next to nothing to me and probably doesn’t mean a whole heck of a lot to you either. I can tell you from experience that my time on shooting ranges and countless hours behind a miter saw have proven these block sound very well. In fact, I can’t tell much of a difference between these ear buds and the typical Walker’s Razor muffs I had become accustomed to in terms of sound reduction, and I’d even give a slight edge to the Pro Ears.
The real magic, however, is when you flip that switch and turn on the active hearing mode, dubbed “amplification mode” by Pro Ears. In this mode, it’s like having a superpower. I feel like Dolores from “Encanto” (Yes, I have a 4-year-old child, and I watch that movie way too much) because it feels like I can literally hear the tiniest noises around me. In this mode, you get five times the audio amplification that you normally would have. It should be noted that both modes on the earbuds work even while connected to Bluetooth. So even if you’re listening to music, you’ll still get the advantage of hearing all that surrounds you.
Don’t need to hear every tiny sound? Just go one setting down, and the “awareness” mode will give you what I would call a normal level of active hearing from a set of muffs like the Howard Leight Impact Sport, which I also have extensive experience with.
Like I said before, the amount of active hearing in “amplification mode” would be ideal for upland bird hunting. Where many uplanders will forego ear pro because they can’t hear the birds’ movements, these would actually aid in hearing that movement instead of deterring it. While these earbuds are great, the audio quality from the Bluetooth may be even better.
CONNECTING THE LANYARD AND THE PHONE
Besides the impressive functionality of these earbuds, the one thing that really sends them to the moon for me is the audio quality. These are by far the best-sounding earbuds I’ve ever used. Now, I’m no audiophile, and I hardly consider myself a tech guru, but I have tried lots of different earbuds over the years. Hands down, the Pro Ears not only beat any other sound quality I’ve ever heard, but it’s not even really a fair comparison. If I could somehow hook these up to my record player, I most certainly would.
Part of how Pro Ears can achieve this is through their use of hybrid digital and analog circuits, something they tout as an industry first. Again, that means relatively little to me, but I can tell you that the results are truly amazing. You get all that beautiful HD sound delivered right to your ear without sacrificing any quality. When compared to my Apple earbuds (not the Airpods, just the standard earbuds that come with the phone), I feel like it’s not even a close comparison. The Pro Ears deliver a much higher-quality and richer sound.
You can charge the lanyard, and they do include a charging cable for you. It uses Bluetooth 5.0 and gives a range of 10 meters, though I honestly feel like I’ve been able to stretch a bit beyond that. Pro Ears claims you get about two hours of listening time between charges, but, again, I feel like I’ve been able to push that longer.
The lanyard is also nice in that it’s a cloth material and won’t tangle or get wound up on itself. That seems like a small thing, but it’s important after you’ve been wearing them all day working on various projects or hitting the range.
ALL SUNSHINE AND RAINBOWS?
At this point, you might be asking yourself, “Alright, but what’s the catch?” That would be a fair question because there is no such thing as a perfect product, and I don’t care what industry you work in. There are two main issues I could see people having with these.
The first is that the lanyard can seem kind of heavy at times, which allows the earbud on the lanyard side (right side) to come loose a little. Now, it’s not heavy enough to cause any neck strain or anything like that, but it can be enough that after an hour or so that earbud starts to work itself loose. For their part, Pro Ears includes all sorts of different tips and ear hooks to help with this and, admittedly, I haven’t really messed with the ear clips, which could remedy the whole situation.
One other issue I’ve had is that sometimes they will not pick up a phone call. Not sure why that is or if there is a setting I’m missing on my phone – did I mention I’m no tech wizard? – but every so often they won’t work to pick up a call.
Finally, the last issue was one that came to bite me this year at SHOT Show in Las Vegas. The switches on the earbuds are very easy to actuate without you realizing it. I was pumped to get to range day and really put these to the test only to be disappointed that I accidentally flipped the switch to “amplified hearing” mode while packing. Thus, I rendered them useless when they ran out of juice.
The solution to this would be to make sure you always have an extra set of #10 batteries, commonly used for hearing aids. While Pro Ears does include four batteries with the purchase, I had already gone through the other set. Is this a deal breaker? Certainly not, but it is something that should be considered.
Whether you’re looking for new ear pro or you want some nice new earbuds, Pro Ears has you covered. They’re American-made to boot, so you know you’re putting money back into the wallets of hard-working Americans and not some Chinese conglomerate. At the price point of just over $150, it may seem like a lot. But when considering how much other noise-amplifying muffs cost, just balance that with the truly exceptional sound quality of these, and I think the cost is well worth it.