A few years ago, finding inexpensive, electronic ear muffs for hearing protection was impossible. Electronic ear pro seemed to start at $200 and go up from there. Fortunately, things have changed and they can be found from several manufacturers for less than $50. In this Howard Leight Impact Sport review, I describe one such example.
Electronic hearing protection allow for the amplification of ambient sound. When a loud sound is encountered, the amplification shuts down and the muffs reduce the sound like traditional, non-amplified muffs would.
The Howard Leight Impact Sport earmuffs have a noise reduction rating of 22 dB. The amplification is controlled by a single volume knob, but there are two picup mics: one on each muff. This allows you to hear in stereo and identify where sounds are coming from.
The hearing protection is powered by two AAA batteries, which are included in the package. The Impact Sport muffs weigh about 15 ounces.
These muffs fold into a very small, compact package. They won’t fit into the back pocket of your jeans, but they will take up very little space in your range bag.
The Impact Sport ear pro are also low profile. In less tactical terms, the ear cups are pretty thin. I found that they did not interfere with shooting a long gun as some larger muffs can do. For pistol shooting, this isn’t really a concern.
I found the electronic amplification works well, and conversations and other sounds can be easily picked up through the mics. I only had one complaint about the amplification. The amount of amplification slowly increases until it hits a midway point – then the amplification seems to exponentially increase. The center range of the amplification seems to be very sensitive and you have to very carefully adjust it to what level is best for you. I would prefer a linear amplification with out a drastic upswing in the middle.
According to the docs, the Howard Leight Impact Sport should cut off amplification when encountering noises above 82 dB. When shooting, the amplification circuitry cuts out very quickly and seems to provide good hearing protection.
For constant loud noises, such as running a lawnmower, the amp does not cut out. Depending on the source of information, lawnmowers seem to generate about 95 – 105 dB. I would think that the Impact Sport muffs would cut off the amplification, but they do not. Other brands of electronic ear pro I have tried do cut out when running a mower. Defect in my model or in the overall design? I don’t know.
The Impact Sport muffs do have an auxiliary audio input jack. The 1/8″ stereo jack allows you to plug an iPod, iPhone or other device straight into the muffs. I do not play music when shooting, but know others who do. If you do, this might be of interest to you.
I listen to podcasts and music when mowing the lawn, so I tried the input then. The problem I had was the amplification of ambient noise was not being cut out when running the mower, so it was not a good experience. When shooting, you should have a much better experience.
Overall, I liked the Howard Leight Impact Sport electronic earmuffs. They fit comfortably and did a good job of reducing the noise of shooting. The amplification was clear and in stereo, so I could easily tell from where sounds were coming.
I’ve owned my set for almost a year now. They make regular trips to the range and weekly jaunts to the yard for mowing. They do not show signs of frequent use, and are still running on the original set of batteries.
MSRP on the Impact Sport muffs is about $75. Actual street prices tend to be a bit cheaper, and Amazon even sells them for less than $45.
I hope this Howard Leight Impact Sport review has been helpful. If you are looking for electronic hearing protection, but want to get even cheaper, check out my review of the Caldwell E-MAX earmuffs. The Caldwell ear pro are a little bulkier, but work very well and sell for less than $25.