Mark van den Boogaart
My long-held assumption about hearing protection has been yes, definitely for the range, but when I went hunting my earmuffs stayed at home. So it was from that starting point I reviewed the SportEAR TRACKR Electronic Earmuffs by AXIL, a US-based company with more than 50 years’ experience in manufacturing high quality hearing protection.
The earmuffs arrived in a clear blister pack and, after the invariable wrestle with the packaging, I got to grips with what Australian Shooter had sent me. Being a bit instruction phobic I ignored the text, located the battery compartment, fitted the three supplied AA batteries and turned them on.
The first thing I noticed was that with the aid of the volume control I was able to ‘turn them up’ and really bring sounds I otherwise wouldn’t hear when wearing regular earmuffs into audible range. This included voices, birds, even the keystrokes of my computer which to be honest really surprised me as a first-time user.
TRACKR Electronic Earmuffs sport a simple matt black finish with sharp, white branding. The headband is of a wide, flat design measuring 55mm across, while the cushioning and liner of each ear cap was of excellent quality and enhanced the overall comfort.
Dual mounting points on each ear cap work in tandem with the wire frame of the headband to create a sliding adjustment so you can easily fine tune the earmuffs to ensure a perfect fit. Finally, each ear cap is protected by a rubber armour-style finish, giving the TRACKR Electronic Earmuffs an overall feel of quality and durability and a sense they’re really for outdoor use.
Out of the box there’s little doubt this a good set of earmuffs but it’s the technology I really wanted to test. Each ear cap provides 25 decibels (dB) of discrete noise reduction and is fitted with a directional microphone which provides the input for what’s referred to as Autoblocker technology. In simple terms Autoblocker shuts out sounds greater than 85dB, so no more loud noises. It’s also fast so at no time did I experience a lag of sound, that is, a loud sound cut short by the Autoblocker technology.
Interestingly, that very technology is combined with an up to 40dB gain or amplification easily managed via the volume control, so what you have is both high dB noise reduction and low-level sound amplification in the one unit, something you don’t get from standard hearing protection.
At the range
I went to my local club to watch an afternoon shotgun shoot. Sitting behind the firing line I immediately noticed the TRACKR Electronic Earmuffs were easily handling the repeated 12-gauge shotgun blasts. While difficult to describe, it was all just a series of audible pops, none of which were noticeably louder than the surrounding sounds.
What that meant was at the same time conversation, background noise like the clay pigeon traps and even the afternoon breeze where clearly audible. One thing I did notice is these earmuffs work best if you continue to adjust the gain to suit a change in environment – if you don’t and you move to a quieter location you could pick up too many surrounding sounds. As range earmuffs they were spot.
In the field
Jay, a good mate of mine, asked if I’d take him hunting and being a complete novice I had a good think about where I might take him. So as February rolled around we headed to a professional hunting outfitter a few hours west of Brisbane for an ‘Introduction to hunting’ weekend. A big part of Jay’s hunting experience would be firing a rifle for the first time, and over the weekend he was introduced to a number of rifles as well as shooting from a bench and on to sticks when on the hunt.
All through the process the TRACKR Electronic Earmuffs proved invaluable and demonstrated the advantage of being able to clearly hear instructions while dampening excessive noise. On each step of the learning process were we able to talk to Jay who didn’t have to worry about removing and refitting his hearing protection. It may not sound like much but did make things a lot easier and feedback from the bloke who wore them most of the weekend was positive on fit, comfort in 30C heat, sound quality and protection.
In summary, being a first-time user of electronic hearing protection I was most impressed by what the TRACKR Electronic Earmuffs offer, blocking out loud noise while being able to hear clearly made for both at the range and in the field. More importantly, though, these earmuffs address the issue of why too many of us don’t use ear protection in the field.
If you’re in the market for quality hearing protection or, like me, you feel it’s time you took better care of what hearing you have left, you’d be well advised to check out SportEAR TRACKR Electronic Earmuffs, imported by Beretta Australia.