For years, I have always assumed that quality electronic hearing protection was beyond what most people were willing to spend. Most electronic ear muffs seemed to start around $150 and go up from there. After buying the Caldwell E-MAX electronic hearing protection, I know that there is a high-quality, reasonably priced alternative.
(Edit: At the time this article was written, there were few sub-$100 electronic ear pro options. In recent years, this has changed. Right now, there are a number of good quality electronic, or amplified, hearing protection products. Check out my reviews of the Howard Leight Impact Pro and Impact Sport hearing protection muffs.)
The Caldwell E-MAX ear muffs use an electronic system that allows you to amplify normal sounds, but immediately shuts down when a loud noise is encountered. The E-MAX is rated at 25 db sound reduction, which is about average for the hearing protection muff market.
Unlike some of the other inexpensive electronic ear muffs, the E-MAX is true stereo amplification, meaning there are two microphones: one on each muff. This allows the user to properly identify the direction sound is coming from. Other products use only one mic which can cause some confusion in the shooter by removing the ability to differentiate direction.
I used the E-MAX muffs on several trips to the range, and let me start off by saying I was impressed. The sound amplification worked as advertised, with range commands coming through very clearly. Conversations with other people were very easy to conduct, and the stereo mics allowed me to know where people were when they were standing behind me, etc.
The amplification circuit is a simple one. It does not use any compression technology to reduce the impact of the gunshots on conversation. Nor does the system use any kind of tracking technology to help clarify speech.
Rather Caldwell appears to use a simply amplification circuit. This will be a vast improvement over passive only ear muffs. However, when compared to higher quality electronic hearing protection the differences are stark. See my Howard Leight Impact Pro review and Peltor Sport Tactical 500 review for additional information.
The first trip to the shooting range with the E-MAX was to a day-long shooting course for my police department. During the day, I shot SIG SAUER P226 .40 S&W pistols, Remington 12 gauge shotguns, H&K MP5 subguns, and AR-15 carbines.
The E-MAX worked flawlessly to instantly dampen sounds when people were firing. At no point did the muffs seem inadequate for the cartridges we were shooting, and in fact, they seemed to work as well as non-electronic muffs -combined- with the old foam plugs. I don’t know how that could be possible, but it certainly seemed that way.
During that training course, a lot of walking, running, and pushups were done to create stress in an effort to simulate the body alarm response. At all times the E-MAX stayed firmly in place, without a need for constant adjustments.
The Caldwell E-MAX muffs were very comfortable throughout the day. The muffs fold up nicely into a compact “ball” for easy storage.
One of the small complaints I have about these muffs is that the padding around the ear cups is not very thick. As a result, they do not seal very well around the arms of shooting glasses. Eye pro is as important as ear pro, and finding a pair of muffs that work well with your shooting glasses is very important.
In this regard, the E-MAX are not any worse than most of the passive ear muffs I have used. The best set of hearing protection I’ve used with glasses is the Peltor Sport Tactical 500. However, those are about $100 more than the E-MAX.
The biggest compliment I can give to the Caldwell E-MAX electronic ear muffs is I purchased a second set for my wife.
If you have ever wanted a set of quality electronic ear muffs, you should definitely check out the Caldwell E-MAX. I love mine. The E-MAX retail for only $39.99 at many retail outlets. Amazon sells the E-MAX for a lot less.
As more affordable options in electronic hearing protection have become available, I have upgraded to other brands and models of ear pro. However, I still have two pairs of the E-MAX on hand for when I take new shooters to the range.
I have found the E-MAX work very well with new shooters as it allows them to better hear range instruction while still offering good noise attenuation. Also, since the price is very affordable, I can send them home with the new shooter as a “welcome to the shooting world” gift.
Please note that I do not recommend the Caldwell Platinum Series G3 electronic hearing protection. I found this more expensive ear pro to be uncomfortable and offer seemingly less attenuation of gunshots. Further, the build quality seems inferior to the original E-MAX.
Neither Caldwell nor its parent corporation are advertisers. I am not in any talks with them to be one.
No one paid to have this article written.
The E-MAX hearing protection reviewed in this article was purchased by me from Amazon. They were not provided as a T&E sample from the company.
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