Review: Vario Novo Ear Defenders

new vario novo enhance ear defenders

Each pair ship with a selection of silicon and foamie inserts in various sizes plus a handy carrying case - Credit: Archant

Paul Austin reviews Vario's new universal-fit ear defenders - the Vario Novo comes in at £199, meaning a significant saving over custom-fit hearing protection

Vario are major players in the ‘custom fit’ ear defender market. Alas the ‘custom’ bit does come at a cost with bespoke ear mouldings and high-end multi-mode sound enhancement, as well as impressive shot suppression, all adding to the price.

On the custom models, the sound profile selections are announced in the dulcet tones of a lovely disembodied lady as you cycle through... “whisper, social, gamekeeper” and more. It’s all very nice, all very posh and all very expensive, which alas puts Vario’s flagship offerings firmly out of reach of many.

Luckily, they’ve have now launched a much more wallet-friendly alternative in the form of the new Novo range of active ear protection. These are a far simpler affair with foamies and silicone ear bud inserts replacing the custom fit ear moulds, with a simple off/on rather than the multi-mode sound profiles.

new vario novo ear defenders review

A comfortable fit and compatible with over ear defenders for particularly noisy environments - Credit: Archant

The Novo models are available in two flavours: ‘natural’ and ‘enhanced’. As you’d expect, the natural version simply emulates normal hearing but activates when necessary to block the report of the rifle/shotgun. The ‘enhanced’ versions work slightly differently by enhancing the ambient sound so you can pick up on hunting sounds more easily, whilst still offering the same protection from the damaging volume levels encountered behind or indeed around a rifle or shotgun.

The enhance Novo design has obvious appeal for field shooting as the soundscape is very similar to the ‘whisper' mode employed on the Vario custom models. For general range shooting, where there tends to be lots of ambient noise and conversation, the ‘natural’ design would probably be best, while the Elmer Fudds amongst us would be better served with the enhanced design, which do pick up on those telltale sounds of adjacent quarry.

Both Andy Crow and shotgun guru Ben Husthwaite played a part in the development of the Novos and Vario have teamed up with Highland Outdoors to maximise distribution. The bottom line, the Novos are a very simple product, but what they do, they do really well.
The units themselves are very small, only protruding very slightly from the ear, so they’re very handy for doubling up with normal over-ear protectors when shooting in tunnel ranges or when using unmoderated rifles or muzzle brakes.

Each set ships with a nifty little case, a lanyard and a selection of six silicone and foamie inserts in a variety of sizes. Just pop in the appropriate insert and place a battery (80 hours runtime) into each unit and you’re good to go.

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I must admit I’m quite impressed. They’re not dirt cheap at £199, but compared to custom fitted units at almost three times that, they’re a bargain. Absolutely no problems at all when it comes to conversation between shots or picking up a faint sound when stalking, but when the inevitable big bang comes along, you’re fully protected. 

Price: £199