Vast improvements have been made in hearing protection in recent decades. Nowhere has this been more obvious than at the consumer level of ear pro for the shooting sports where performance has increased and prices decreased. Prices for some kinds electronic ear muffs have dropped so low that they can be had for less than $30.
In this review, I take a look at the Caldwell Premium Series G3 electronic hearing protection muffs. These muffs are not the cheapest set on the market, but with a suggested retail price of less than $60 they are certainly affordable. Combined with its feature list, this made them worth investigating.
The question is: did they measure up? In my time with the G3 ear pro, they failed to meet my expectations.
The first section of this review covers the basic information about the hearing protection. The fit and range sections cover my personal experiences with the muffs. Then, I finish up with some alternatives and final thoughts.
Note: All of the photos used on this page are stock images and not original photographs as I normally use. I became so disgusted with these muffs that I threw them away after testing them. Unfortunately, a power surge to my house took out my primary photography hard drive and its backup. While I was able to recover the vast majority of my images from an off-site backup, my photos of the Caldwell G3 muffs were lost. I apologize for the failure to provide good photos for this review.
The Premium Series G3 is a set of over the ears, muff-style hearing protection. Each over-the-ear cup of the muffs contains sound attenuating foam. A rubber-like gasket is used around the edges of each ear cup to form a seal with the shooter’s skin.
Caldwell uses an electronic system to boost low level sounds like voices, while the muffs passively reduce harmful noises like gunfire.
A total of six (6) AAA batteries are needed to power the G3 muffs. According to Caldwell, the run time on six batteries is about 250 hours.
The headband connecting the two ear cups has a soft, fleece cover.
The G3 muffs I am reviewing are part of the company’s Premium Series of hearing protection. At the time of this writing, the G3 is the sole member of the line, but the naming suggests additional models may be forthcoming.
Caldwell set the suggested retail price of these muffs at $59.99.
The muffs have a 21 dB NRR (noise reduction rating.) A NRR is a guideline that can be used to compare how much noise reduction any particular hearing protection product may provide. The higher the number, the better the noise attenuation.
It has been my experience than most plugs offer noise reduction in the 25-33 dB range. Also in my experience, most muffs seem to run in the 24-29 dB range.
A rating of 21 dB seems to be exceptionally low to me. Typically, I would not consider using range muffs with such a low level of attenuation.
However, the numbers don’t always tell the full story as any suppressor manufacturer will tell you. Other factors, such as the sound frequency and duration, also play a role in how dangerous the noise may be to your hearing. One kind of hearing protection might attenuate high frequencies better than another kind even if the second one has a higher NRR.
Caldwell built the G3 muffs with an sound system that allows you to amplify ambient sounds and speech. When the circuit detects a harmful level of noise, the circuitry alters the sound to prevent hearing damage.
Many inexpensive electronic muffs simply cut the amplification circuit when loud noise is encountered. This has the effect of dampening all sounds when it shuts down. If you are talking to someone and another shooter down the line pulls the trigger, the gunfire shuts down the circuit and your friend’s voice is cut out mid sentence.
In these muffs, Caldwell employs a different technology. Instead of cutting out, the circuitry uses a compression technology. The intended effect is to remove harmful noise without cutting out all of the other sounds. Ideally, you would be able to continue your conversation normally even with gunfire.
According to Caldwell, this compression circuitry “delivers unsurpassed performance.” For a muff with a MSRP of only $59.99, that is a big claim.
The G3 ear pro have dual microphones – one on each cup – to provide a stereo effect for the shooter. This helps to give you a sense of where a sound is coming from when wearing them.
Fit and Impressions
From the get go, I was not impressed with the G3 ear pro. The plastic seemed cheap, and there were a variety of imperfections in the molding. This is a very subjective thing, and you may very well disagree if you were to hold the same muffs in your hands.
The fit of the head band was not comfortable on my head.
I have a larger than normal head with a hat size of roughly 7 7/8 with a crew cut. So, I recognize that some “fits most” sizing won’t work for me. However, I’ve never had a problem with any hearing protection before now.
On my head, the headband seemed far too narrow – almost as it it was fitted for a short cone head rather than a rounded or blocky head. This “pointing” of the head band applied pressure to the top edges of my head, which became uncomfortable with long shooting sessions.
I gave the Platinum Series G3 to a few other shooters to try. After all, the fit problem may be just with big, block headed guys. However, none of the men or women who tried the ear pro liked the way it fit.
My wife spent more time with these muffs than anyone else after me. Without me pointing out the way it fit me, she commented about how the head band strangely peaked on her head as well. Her head, by the way, is well within the normal range and is not blocky.
The muffs fit over my ears ok, though not with as much room to spare as other hearing protection I’ve used. If you have rather large ears, you may want to try a test fit of these before buying them.
On The Range
For reducing the volume of harmful gunshot noise, these muffs seemed to be the worst of any ear pro I’ve tried in the past 10 years.
At both indoor and outdoor ranges, these muffs seemed to allow more loud noise in than any other passive or electronic muff I own. While I normally will double up anyway on my ear pro – combine both plugs and muffs – I feel this should be mandatory if you plan on using these muffs.
I found the electronic circuit did a poor job at amplifying ambient noise. In fact, it seemed inferior to the company’s lower priced E-MAX line of budget priced electronic ear pro.
The one feature that could have redeemed the ear pro for me – the compression technology – did not deliver. Instead of offering more natural lower volume sounds during shooting, the amplification cut out repeatedly while offering no observable improvement over standard “on-off” circuitry. Again, the E-MAX series seemed to perform better than this set of supposedly premium ear pro.
Wearing the muffs for any period of time causes discomfort due to the shape of the band. Wearing a ballcap doesn’t improve the comfort level either. The longer I was at the range, the more annoying it became.
Overall, I found the G3 muffs offered marginal protection, poor electronics and decreased the enjoyment of shooting.
Ok, so if I don’t like the Caldwell muffs, what do I like?
I have a few inexpensive options you might want to consider.
If you are looking for the best electronic ear pro for a bargain basement price, take a look at the Caldwell E-MAX muffs. These are not perfect muffs, but I like them a lot more than the Platinum Series G3.
The Platinum Series G3 offers stereo mics, which is an improvement over the older E-MAX line. However, I feel like the E-MAX does a better job of fitting my head and blocking loud noise. My observations are backed up by Caldwell’s own specifications as the E-MAX has a NRR of 25 dB – 4 dB greater than the G3. Since decibels are measured on a logarithmic scale, the increase in sound attenuation is substantial – more than double.
Additionally, I feel the E-MAX responds more quickly to shut off the amplification circuit when a gunshot is detected. Although the G3 compresses the sound rather than cutting it off entirely, it seemed to have a slower response without a distinct improvement in clarity of speech at those times.
The E-MAX has a MSRP of only $29.99. That seems to be incredibly cheap – half the cost of the Platinum Series G3. The “street” price often runs for even less. You can find the current price on Amazon here.
If you can believe it, I’ve purchased several pairs of these on Amazon for about a third less. If you are running a shooting class, these are cheap enough to buy for a group of students to increase their ability to hear range commands.
Howard Leight Impact Pro
In the sub-$100 price range, my favorite ear pro is the Howard Leight Impact Pro. The ear pro is configured as a muff style hearing protection with rather large cups that fit over all sizes of ears. (Note: At the time of this writing, the Impact Pro muffs were substantially cheaper than the Caldwell G3, which make them a no-brainer. Check Amazon for current pricing on them.)
The Impact Pro uses stereo mics for better sound direction detection, and I found that they are clearer that the Caldwell G3. Speech is easy to understand and can be amplified to very high levels if you desire.
I also found that the Impact Pro model offers much better sound attenuation than either the E-MAX or Platinum Series G3. Again, the numbers seem to back me up on this one. According to Honeywell – the owners of the Howard Leight brand – the Impact Pro offers a NRR of 30 dB. This is 9 dB greater protection than the G3.
Since the dB scale is logarithmic, that works out to be almost a 10 fold improvement in noise reduction.
Also, the audio shutoff circuit seems to kick in much more quickly than either of the Caldwell products.
This may not be a concern for others, but it is important to me: it fits my head much more comfortably than the Caldwell Platinum Series G3. You can read my full Howard Leight Impact Pro review here.
The Caldwell Platinum Series G3 ear pro was a disappointment. Based on my prior experience with Caldwell’s electronic hearing protection, I expected better performance from this unit.
Does this mean the Platinum Series G3 is not worth buying? On its own, it is does offer some level of sound attenuation. However, when compared to other products on the market, I feel there are much better choices. As I stated above, I much prefer the Howard Leight Impact Pro muffs.
I hope Caldwell continues to develop its line of affordable hearing protection. Unfortunately, in my opinion, these muffs simply don’t offer the best protection or features for the price. If, however, you are interested in them, you may wish to check Amazon for the current best price.
Update: Since I wrote this review, it appears the Caldwell Platinum Series G3 has been removed from the company’s website. I guess that means others had a similar opinion to my own. My alternative recommendations are still available. You can see an archive of the Caldwell sales and information page on the WayBack Machine here.
Caldwell provided the Platinum Series G3 muffs used in this review. The company provided them to me free of charge with no strings attached to how I reviewed them. The company did not ask for a link to their sites.
No money or other form of compensation were offered or accepted to complete this review. All of the opinions in it are my own based on my use of the product.
I have no financial interest in any firearm or hearing protection manufacturer.
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The Caldwell Platinum Series G3 hearing protection worked, but I did not like them. I feel there are better alternatives on the market including the older Caldwell E-MAX and Howard Leight Impact Pro. Of those two, the Impact Pro is a clearly superior product and costs about the same as the Caldwell Platinum Series G3.