A few months before this year’s SHOT Show there was a buzz going around about some new “state of the art” (ear pro) hearing protection making its way to the market. The hearing protection so discussed are from OTTO Communications and are called the NoizeBarrier Micro. They are electronic earplugs, but these are definitely not your daddy’s electronic earplugs. They are high definition rechargeable electronic earplugs, and thus far they’ve proven to be as good as RUMINT made them out to be.
Otto Engineering: “Otto Excellence”
I ended up stopping by OTTO Engineering’s booth at SHOT Show and got to do a quick five-minute demo on them. I was pretty impressed at first sight and wanted to get a set to play with for a little while. Long story short, but I had to do a thing for a gal for a guy with a thing. Happily, I received a loaner set of NoizeBarrier Micros to try out.
Here are some products specs before I get too far into the weeds.
• Up to 40 dB of impulse noise protection
• Up to 15 dB adaptive noise attenuation
• Hearing enhancement mode – amplifies soft sounds up to 5X
• Natural hearing for safe sounds
• Accu-Technology high-definition sound quality
• One-button touchpad, 2-mode operation
• Rechargeable with up to 16 hours of continuous use
• NRR: 28 dB(Foam Tips); 23 dB (Small Standard 3-Flange Tips)
Note: you can learn more about NRR/Noise Reduction Rating via the CDC Occupational Noise Exposure outline. For a more shooting specific explanation, read Ben Findley’s Proper Hearing Protection for Shooting. Another good rundown, albeit from an industrial perspective, can be found at Cooper Safety Supply: Noise Reduction Ratings Explained.
• Frequency Response: 40Hz – 16kHz
• Transducers: Balanced armature receivers (speakers), Wide bandwidth, low-noise MEMS microphones
• Battery Performance:
o Earplugs: Up to 16 hours
o Charge Station: 20 earplug charge cycles
The first thing I noticed when I opened these things is the fancy, robust case that they come in. Outstanding, thought I – I’ve lost, crushed, or otherwise broken many a set of earpro. I knew I had to return these, so I had to resist letting my Dirty Uncle Clay get ahold of them for “strength testing”, but I sure wanted to.
NoizeBarrier Micros are rechargeable and that fancy case they come in recharges them. It also provides a nice heads up display to let you know how much juice is left in each earpiece and how much power the case has left. The case itself recharges each earpiece once you set it in the dock. Also included is a cleaning kit, along with three different ear tips to match the users’ needs.
‘Cuz some ears are bigger – and nastier – than others.
Electronic PPE for Shooting
I prefer in-ear hearing protection when it’s available, for many reasons (including the ability to achieve a good cheek weld and, when necessary, to wear a helmet).
I took these to the range four times while I had them. Two of the range trips were an all-day deal (so I had them in for 8 hours). A few times I actually (honestly) forgot I had them in. While I was at the indoor range, I lived on the wild side a bit and didn’t double muff as most ranges recommend.
I let it ride and was again impressed. The NoizeBarrier Micros did their job and knocked down the loud noises to a normal level. I also noticed they don’t cut out like most electronic hearing protection does when a shot is fired, making it easier when trying to talk to someone when people were shooting guns.
I also noticed that while wearing the NoizeBarrier Micros that they did an excellent job at bringing quiet noises up to a normal level of hearing. I wore these out and about on the town and to a coffee shop for the fun of it. It kinda made me feel like I was doing Sterling Archer spy stuff.
Otto did a very good job of enhancing sounds around me and making them audible. I also noticed that they improved my spatial awareness, but it felt natural and not awkward or uncomfortable.
I suppose the strongest recommendation I can give is that I will be buying a set of these. At $399 they’re a bit pricey, but I have a feeling they will last a long while (and the comfort will be worth it).
You can find more out about OTTO Communications (not to be confused with Otto Engineering, mind you) online, https://www.otto-comm.com/. The NoizeBarrier(s) and other products are in their active hearing protection lineup: https://www.otto-comm.com/noizebarrier-active-hearing-protection.
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