Peltor SportTac II ear defenders - ear defender review
- Credit: Archant
Chris Parkin presents this in depth review of the Peltor SportTac II ear defenders
Serious ear protection
All day comfort
Good battery life
I did lose one of the foam microphone shields
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Look after your ears, a little bit of research can be very valuable, and it never hurts to ask why Peltor are world leaders in this field!
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I can often be shooting all day for days in a row and, despite other ills, my ears currently work very well and I’d like to keep them that way. Due to the size of the rifles I shoot, regular muzzle brake exposure and the (often painful) experience of covered firing points, defending my eardrums is a serious priority for me personally, and I have researched the subject in more detail than many others. It’s a simple fact that the damage is cumulative, and anything registering above 85dB is a known risk factor, with complex health and safety guidelines in the workplace that dictate the time and exposure levels that can be sustained, and the correct protection SNR (Single Number Rating) required of supplied protection. Given that gunfire is well into the 130-plus decibel region, and sound moderators don’t make as much difference as you might hope when firing in great quantity, I started to look around for an ear defender unit that suited my needs: all-day wear, highest possible SNR protection, and electronic noise transmission to be able to communicate easily when instructing.
Being a rifle shooter meant I could be a little more generous with the actual size of the defenders, and given my positive experiences of the use of Peltor units, I naturally looked there first... and last. Peltor’s SportTacs are a great unit that I still wear for hunting, but I wanted to go above 30dB of SNR. Health and safety guidelines state that from 100-105dB, 30+ is recommended, and you can see where this is going; we are noisy buggers, us shooters. Thankfully, out in the open, we don’t get too much reflection of sound, and it is mainly produced in intermittent bangs, rather than continuous noise, but given that I was getting a slight ringing noise in my ears every now and again, and a very slight continuous hiss, it was clear that damage was being done.
Ear defence is rated in Single Number Rating (SNR), meaning it is an average over all frequencies. I have a theory that some electronic defenders still broadcast sound through them so loudly that these alone can give you some slight tinnitus after a long day, and I now regularly turn off entirely if I’m suspicious that they are. After all, it’s no different to wearing earphones with music blasting in!
Peltor’s ProTac IIs have deep shells allowing plenty of space around the ear, which gives more volume inside to dissipate pressure and is a little less sweaty on hot days. Your ear will not end up touching the liner and, most importantly, if you shoot in a hat, which is pretty common, they allow a slightly better seal where they overlap the hat’s rim. This is also the case for spectacles. I wear glasses for sunshine, wind protection (I wear contact lenses that easily dry out) and, of course, safety protection in case of an accident. The same applies to any regular eyesight-correcting spectacles, and be aware that where that frame passes behind your ear it can easily break the seal of the ear defender, and reduce the noise protection you receive. In some cases, very noticeably!
Controls on the ProTacs are pretty simple. One side contains two (supplied) AA batteries to give approximately 270 hours of use, and the opposite side has a single on/off button with +/- volume controls above and below, adjusting both sides in full stereo. Each side has a microphone shielded from wind noise, and below the battery compartment, a socket is in place to connect further accessories, although it’s not a standard 3.5mm audio plug; it’s a proprietary Peltor lead. The padded cup surrounds are fluid-filled and replaceable for hygiene purposes, along with the internal foam dampers; don’t take this for granted, a damaged seal reduces the efficiency of any ear defender, and if it’s getting flattened, it’s time to replace! After a couple of hours in use, a repetitive bleep will sound to warn you that they are ready to shut off, but a single button press will re-activate them into another time delay. Overhead, all sprung wires are stainless steel for long-term corrosion protection, and the band itself is nicely padded and well spaced, so it doesn’t press the button in the centre of a baseball cap into your head, which is a subtle nicety!
I never shoot without ear defenders and, although they can feel bulky, electronic ones like the ProTacs with high-quality shielding and stereo control often benefit users in the field; you remain more integral to your surroundings and others around you, rather than being a little shut off and secluded ‘in your own world’. I can shoot a shotgun in defenders of this size, although some can’t and, although they look bulky, they are comfortable all day and that extra air volume within the shells does seem to stop your ears getting too hot. You can hear beaters, vehicles and quarry moving that you might not have been able to hear before.
Alongside unloved scope mounts, which are worth good money, I’d pay a little more attention to hearing protection too, while you still can! Stepping up from a 26dB SNR SportTac defender to a 32 ProTac II has made a noticeable difference to my comfort throughout the day, and afterwards!