Hearing protection is generally a form of protection that is shared by construction or manufacturing workers. They are however vital for shooting sports and other much louder activities such as racing and being part of a debate team… Just kidding!
Before we start with our top 5 in price order, we would like to begin with an honourable mention.
Honourable Mention: Honeywell Howard Leight (£50~)
The Howard Leight is a very popular and economical choice for many who want a cheap and effective over ear protection solution. This is mostly true depending on the head size and shape of the user. Unfortunately, the main issue is that the headband does not have as much retention for smaller heads.
The Howard Leights are rated at 22 dB of noise reduction which is the borderline of comfort for shooting indoors and absolutely fine for outdoor shooting and other activities. The Howard Leights include a 3.5 mm AUX input for audio input and have a very simple dial interface for turning on/off the active hearing with manual volume adjustments.
Powered by 2 AAA batteries with an automatic shut off after 4 hours of idle use; these over-ears have the potential to run for 350~ hours prior to replacing the batteries. The Howard Leights are very popular because they are priced economically at £50~.
If you already own Howard Leight ear protection and have issues with fitment, we highly recommend replacing the ear cups with gel cups. These will not only make the ear protection more comfortable but also make it easier to fit with differently shaped heads.
Peltor Optime III Earmuffs (£20~)
As the only over ears with passive hearing protection, these Peltor Optimes are the cheapest of the list but also one of the best rated for noise reduction at a rating of 35 dB (perfect for indoors and outdoors). The limitation of not being able to hear electronically is not ideal however this is counteracted by price of £20~ and effective hearing protection.
Another disadvantage to the Optime III is the large cups on each side. Not an attractive look compared to more streamlined alternatives. The large cups are however the reason for the great noise reduction and accounts for a good seal around most users.
The Peltor Optime III is a great starter or backup ear defender for anyone who needs the best protection possible for their hearing. A popular product that is used at airports, engine rooms and power stations.
Walker’s Razor Slim (£50~)
The Walker’s Razor Slim is relative to the Howard Leight ear defenders with only an extra dB of active protection over them at 23 dB of active noise reduction (also borderline for indoor shooting).
The Razor Slim is also priced at £50~ with the same features and similar ergonomics of the Howard Leight. The headband has more retention for smaller heads and hence has a much better overall fit in comparison. Using similar dial functions for on/off and volume control, there is little differences between the two ear defenders other than the better fit on different head types.
One of the reasons that the Howard Leight is an honorable mention and not the Razor Slim is mainly due to the better fit and growing popularity of the Walker. If you are after an economical active ear defender, try out both ear defenders to see which fits best. However if you are young or have a smaller than average head, the Walker’s Razor Slim may be your best bet.
3M Peltor SportTac (£120~)
The Peltor brand is well know for making good ear protection for many industries. One of the most popular of these products for the lower end of the bracket is the SportTac headset. With a noise reduction rating of 26 dB, these headsets are much more comfortable for indoor shooting however can still be uncomfortable with larger calibres.
Equiped with active noise reduction and interchangable coloured shells, the SportTac is powered by 2 AAA batteries and bolsters a long battery life of 600 hrs (with the included auto shut off).
The head fit for the SportTac is also great for variations of head types and can be made even more comfortable with the addition of gel cups. Although the SportTac does not include a 3.5 mm AUX jack, it does have a 2 pin J22 audio input for external radios. Priced on Amazon at £120~ which includes an extra pair of coloured shells, the Peltor SportTac is a great option for users who want a little bit more from active noise defenders.
If you are thinking of buying and/or already own a pair of Peltor SportTacs and would like to make them more comfortable with a better seal, we highly recommend purchasing a pair of gel cups to replace the foam cups. You can get many different variations with cut outs for both glasses and different shaped ears. The best gel pads we recommend are the NoiseFighters Sightlines Gel Ear Pads.
MSA Sordin Supreme Pro X (£200~)
The next on the list hits just under £200~ with slight variations in the model. The MSA Sordin is the next upgrade from the Peltor SportTac as it increases the noise reduction rating to 25 dB and includes gel cushions in the package. A cheap alternative to SportTacs if you intend to shoot more indoors and intend to buy gel cups for them.
The MSA uses similar controls for on/off and volume control as the Peltor SportTac however removes the proprietary audio input and adds back the 3.5 mm AUX input for normal devices such as mobiles and mp3 players. Known to be popular amongst military and firearms instructors, the Sordins have very clear sound and can amplify surrounding audio to a factor of 4.
It is hard pressed to find a good alternative at a fairer price, however we are not at the end of our list. Baring in mind that a pair of SportTac headsets and a good pair of gel ear pads would be priced the same as a pair of MSA Sordins.
3M Peltor Comtac XP (£200-£400~)
The last and most expensive of the list is also the one we would recommend for the money due to both the active noise reduction and the ability to implement PTT radio communication alongside super clear audio. The 3M Peltor Comtac XP is the one step prior to going overboard with the price of ear protection at £220~.
With a sound reduction rating of 28 dB, the Comtac XP is technically at the ideal rating for indoor shooting without discomfort or potential hearing loss. This headset is very expensive to be used as mere active noise reduction, however with the added option of push to talk communications. The Comtac XP uses 2 AAA batteries with a lifespan of 500 hrs and an automatic shut off time of 2 hrs.
Unfortunately the Comtac XP has been replaced with a newer version called the Comtac XPI. The latest version has had a few updates such as better electronics and a slimmer frame. The downdraw to this is that the price of the XPI fluctuates between £300~400. Whether you go for the XP or the newer XPI, we recommend you shop around and try to find the closest to the XP’s pricing.