U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)- Hearing protection is an aspect of shooting that most of us seem to take pretty seriously. Some may be more “on point” about it, and some spend top dollar to keep their ears up and running for as long as possible. So where does today’s review of the Impact Sport In-Ear hearing protection fall on that line? Price, performance, and more, just ahead.
Howard Leight Impact Sport In-Ear Hearing Protection
First, let’s check the tech specs as provided by Howard Leight.
- Noise Reduction Rating (NRR): 29dB
- Individual and simultaneous Bluetooth® VER 5.0
- Individual Bluetooth® button with volume control and separate hear-through volume control
- Realistic, natural hear-through functions with digital circuitry
- 9mm Dynamic range speaker
- 2x Omni-direction in-ear microphones
- The device actively listens and automatically compresses amplification when loud impulse sounds like firearms discharges exceed 85dB
- Run-time of 10 working hours
- USBC Rechargeable with a charging time of 2 hours
- Unit Battery Type: 200mAh Lithium Battery
- Flexible, moldable ear hook
- 3 different ear tips for ideal ear canal fit
- Price: $165 (MSRP), $113 (street)
Besides the earbuds themselves (which are connected by a wire), there’s also a small, padded carrying case that contains the additional sizes of earplugs, and a USB-C charging cable. This whole setup looks fairly workman-like, serviceable, and durable but certainly not cutting-edge style.
One big difference between these “hear through” earbuds and most electronically powered muffs is the lack of sound amplification. These in-ear buds do have omnidirectional microphones to keep ambient noises audible, but Spinal Tap fans may be upset you can’t turn amplification to “11”. Noise quality is excellent though, with normal noises passing through easily, and even complex musical arrangements sounding great when played through the Bluetooth receiver.
The noise dampening aspect of these earbuds works really well. Unlike most muffs, these buds have a really short delay before sound returns to normal. Gunshots don’t lead to a long period of compressed volume, meaning you’re back up and running quickly, able to hear safety communication or an animal running through the brush.
The analog circuitry present here is a real preference for me, as digital compression circuity seems to be really prone to fuzz and feedback. Combined with a 29-decibel reduction rating, the Impact Sport In-Ear hearing protection is shaping up nicely.
The first time I wore the Impact Sport In-Ear buds, they weren’t all that comfortable. By the second or third time, I’d gotten used to them. They really stay out of the way, both physically and with regards to not calling your attention to them the way a hot, sweaty set of muffs might. Getting a good cheek weld on a rifle’s stock is no problem here. These buds are about as minimal as you can make them. Getting to the control dongle hanging behind and below my left ear is a little cumbersome, and memorizing the button layout so I know by tactile response whether I’m hitting the volume up or Bluetooth volume up took some time, but it’s not like you launch nukes if you hit the wrong button.
Battery life is as advertised. I think the lack of extra amplification helps keep electrical usage down. This battery is tiny, but even when listening to my favorite music for hours while working and shooting, the battery life keeps surprising me with how little it’s drained.
When it comes to price, that’s where I think the Impact Sport In-Ear hearing protection stumbles a bit. (Well that, and having yet another entry into the Impact Sport lineup. Branding works! Get some more catchy names.) At $165 (MSRP) these are high enough that many won’t buy them unless they try them hands-on first. The street price of $113 is certainly more palatable, but if Honeywell/Howard Leight could get this down to $99, I think there’d be a substantial increase in the number of interested buyers.
As for me, I can give the Impact Sport In-Ear hearing protection a solid recommendation. Whether the price is worth it or not is your concern, the performance has shown me that this might be the most effective set of earpro I own. Will it replace my favorite muffs that have fancy gel pads and other upgrades? Well, yeah. Maybe not every single range trip, but certainly when it’s hot out. Or if I’m shooting something of a more “big-bore, unsuppressed, muzzle brake” variety and want maximum protection, then definitely. Too many of us fall into the trap of “my hearing’s already damaged, what’s a little more?”. As someone whose doctor and wife are pushing for hearing aids while still in my 30’s, take heed. Every little bit you can preserve now matters! If you think the Impact Sport In-Ear is a good solution for you, then check em out!
About Rex Nanorum
Rex Nanorum is an Alaskan Expatriate living in Oregon with his wife and kids. Growing up on commercial fishing vessels, he found his next adventure with the 2nd Bn, 75th Ranger Regt. After 5 tours to Afghanistan and Iraq, he adventured about the west coast becoming a commercial fishery and salvage SCUBA diver, rated helicopter pilot instructor (CFII) and personal trainer, before becoming a gear reviewer and writer.”