Hearing protection is exceptionally important for anyone who is involved in shooting. As a guy who’s lost some of my audio acuity over the years, I recognize how precious a gift it is.
It is with that perspective that I write this Peltor Sport Tactical 500 electronic hearing protection review. I am not here to pimp any company’s products or try to sell you on any product. Rather, I am hoping to help you with future buying decisions by offering some insight into how well the Peltor ear muffs do their job.
In this review, I will go over general build and specifications of the Tactical 500 ear pro. I will also describe how the muffs performed on a noisy indoor range. Finally, I’ll give you my recommendations on selecting the right electronic hearing protection for you.
If you don’t have time to read the full review, feel free to hit the highlights in the tl;dr section below.
Why Trust Me?
You should have a healthy dose of skepticism for any review you read online. Many are literally bought and paid for by the company making the product. This includes some of the most popular gun sites on the internet.
So, why should you trust me? First of all, I’ve been a shooter all of my life. I’ve spent a lot of time on indoor and outdoor ranges with a virtual boatload of different hearing protection products.
Secondly, I’ve lost a significant amount of my hearing over the years. While shooting is only part of the reason for my hearing loss, I have a vested interest in ensuring that I protect what I have left. Likewise, I want my kids to have the best protection they can.
Lastly, I am a regular guy. I have to budget to make gun purchases like many of you. This means I have a low tolerance for poorly constructed products. I hate wasting my money and know you do too.
I want to provide you with good information that you can rely on to make informed purchasing decisions. I don’t want you to end up with some of the poor quality shooting gear that I’ve lost money on over the years.
Neither Peltor nor its parent company, 3M, are advertisers. Nor am I in any talks with them to be one. Peltor did not pay me to write this article, nor did they offer.
Peltor did provide these muffs for testing. No promises were made or solicited to have a review written on them. You’re getting my honest opinion on them – for good or worse.
The Peltor Sport Tactical 500, offered good performance with excellent comfort. It is the most comfortable set of electronic hearing protection I’ve used.
The noise reduction was good, though I do not think the offer quite as much attenuation as the previously reviewed Howard Leight Impact Pro.
The audio amplification circuit was exceptionally good at delivering clear, clean voices even with loud noises in the background. However, the reproduction of music was less than exciting with little bass punch and flat highs.
I recommend these highly for their intended purpose: being an exceptionally comfortable set of ear muffs that do well at protecting your hearing and for clear communication. They can be bought through this link at Amazon.
The Peltor Sport Tactical 500 product is an ear muff style of hearing protection that is marketed to shooters. It offers passive protection against harmful noise and has electronic circuitry to boost voices and other low volume sounds.
Built into the Tactical 500 muffs is a Bluetooth receiver that allows streaming of sounds from an iPhone, Android or other device. The unit also has a 3.5mm audio jack for directly attaching to an audio source.
These muffs run on a pair of AA batteries. Peltor also sells a rechargeable battery pack called the Alpha 1100. This pack is charged by a microUSB cable. Alternatively, you can also use rechargeable AA batteries. During my testing, I used Energizer Lithium AA batteries. I’ve found these to be excellent cells during all of my flashlight testing.
Included with the ear muffs is a cord to connect to a phone or other device, a drawstring bag for storing the muffs and an instructional manual.
Sport Tactical 500 In Use
Specification comparisons and slick marketing can be interesting, but the real test of a product is in its use. That’s my job: to take products, use them, sometimes even abuse them, and then let you know how they perform.
For this article, I used the Peltor Sport Tactical 500 exclusively for multiple shooting sessions at an indoor range.
Indoor ranges tend to be tougher on the shooter in terms of noise. A lot of noise can reflect back at the shooter increasing the perceived loudness of a gunshot. A .38 Special on an outdoor range can sound more like a Magnum to a shooter unaccustomed to being on an indoor range.
Right away, I was impressed by the comfort of these muffs. The shape of the cup, cup surrounds and rubber coated headband all worked together to provide great comfort even during multi-hour shooting sessions.
cups: The ear cups are both wide and deep enough to hold my medium to large ears without any problems. I’ve had some muffs that pressed in on my ears because they were so shallow. Others required me to curl the top of my ear into them to form a good seal. Not these – they were a perfect fit.
cup surrounds: Some manufacturers use inexpensive surrounds on the ear cups for their muffs – essentially a thin rubber shell over thin foam. Peltor is not one of those companies.
The Sport Tactical 500 muffs use a textured rubber-like shell with what feels to be a thick, closed cell foam on the inside. The result is very comfortable with a good seal being formed around the contours of the head.
One of the things that thin cup surrounds often fail to do is seal the cup over the arms of safety glasses. I found that the higher quality Peltor surrounds were significantly more effective at forming a complete seal on the head while wearing glasses. Not only does that improve comfort, it also reduces the amount of harmful noise making it to your ears.
headband: The headband appears to have a pair of small, parallel bands that connect the two ear cups. Rubber overmolding then covers the bands and provides stability for entire headband assembly.
For me, the band sits lightly on my head and is comfortable. I also found it to be one of the most comfortable headbands to use with a ball cap. With other ear pro, the button on the top of a ballcap is pressed into my head by the headband. Peltor avoids this problem completely.
The Peltor muffs have large cutouts in the headband for ventilation. Fortunately one is right on the top, so that button on a ball cap fits neatly into the open area.
Fair warning: some people have complained elsewhere that the head band on the Sport Tactical 500 is uncomfortable. In fairness, I think some of the reviewers may not have adjusted the headband correctly. It should sit lightly on top of the head, not pulled down like a hat against a cold winter wind.
general shape: This is something I never much considered until I tested the Sport Ear M4 electronic muffs. Those had a narrow, pointed shape to them that I found to be very uncomfortable.
The Peltor muffs, however, had a much more natural shape to the design. They neither pinched nor sat weirdly on my head.
Another nice aspect of the shape of this product is that it adapts easily to different sized heads. I have a hat size that runs between 7 7/8 and 8. My pre-teen son, who has a reasonably sized melon could also wear these muffs comfortably. My wife also thought the muffs were comfortable to wear.
Noise reduction is very subjective. In fact, even the accepted industry process for measuring the performance of hearing protection is inherently subjective.
For me, the Peltor Sport Tactical 500 provided very good, but not the best, reduction in noise. According to the company, the muffs achieve a 26 NRR (noise reduction rating.) This means that on average, the muffs reduce the amount of harmful noise reaching the ear by 26 dB.
Purely by specs, this seems to be about average for ear muff style hearing protection. Many of the products I have tested land in the 24-28 dB reduction range.
However, I felt the noise reduction offered by the Peltor product was better than the 26 dB suggested. I suspect that the fit of the ear cups and surround helped to block some of the noise that other muffs allow to leak in around the arms of eye protection.
Another reason why the 26 NRR may not tell the whole story is the use of Dynamic Suppression Time Technology. According to the company, this technology measures the energy of a gunshot and sets a suppression time to help reduce echos. While echos are a smaller concern outside, on an indoor range they are a significant issue. An indoor range is where I was testing these muffs.
Of all the muff style ear pro I have tried, the Howard Leight Impact Pro seems to do the best at attenuating gunshot noise. Those muffs are rated at 30 NRR. As a runner up to the Impact Pro, the Peltor are definitely better than many others I have tried – including those with a higher NRR.
Outside of testing ear protection for articles like this one, I always double up on my hearing protection. This means I use both ear plugs and muffs to achieve the best possible protection of my hearing.
When used correctly, ear plugs combined with muffs can significantly improve the reduction of noise. Results in scientific studies vary, but generally show that quality muffs when combined with properly fitted plugs will provide a total attenuation of about 35-40 dB.
When using ear plugs with muffs, I found no perceptible difference between the Howard Leight and Peltor muffs.
Audio Clarity – Speech
Audio clarity is where many inexpensive electronic ear pro fall down – hard. In contrast, this is where the Peltor Tactical 500 shines.
The speech clarity on my set of Peltor muffs is superior to any of the competing products I have tested. Full stop.
There are a variety of factors that go into producing clear, clean audio including the use of higher end electronics. You cannot get good sound from poor speakers, poor mics and cheap DSPs. I do not know what specific brands of components that Peltor used, but the designers clearly selected good quality parts.
Two mics are used for stereo sound. This gives you a more natural feeling for where sounds are in relation to you. Both of the mics are covered with a windscreen and recessed into the cups to reduce wind noise.
Peltor uses something called Clear Voice Tracking Technology. According to them, this seeks out voices and filters non-voice noise to improve the clarity of the speech.
Talking is very easy with these muffs in place. I can easily understand other shooters and felt that the way it cut out during noise allowed for the best possible conversation. Sitting in a quiet area, the speech isolation effect is impressive. I was able to listen to my kids talking in another room with greater clarity, not merely an increase in volume.
I hate Bluetooth. It is a technology that should work much better and easier than it does. For me, however, it always seems to be almost as much trouble as it is worth.
That said, the Peltor Sport Tactical 500 muffs connected very easily with my iPhone 6s Plus. I was pleasantly surprised by this. Equally pleasing was that the Peltor muffs re-paired with my iPhone any time I turned them back on. Frankly, they work as the Bluetooth technology promises it should.
The audio clarity through Bluetooth was as good as with a direct line. I did not experience any drops or interference in the sound.
If you like the idea of streaming music while you shoot, you are not alone. However, I don’t know that the audio reproduction of these Peltor ear pro will please you. The mids are enhanced, presumably for better vocal clarity. However, this is done at the expense of having almost no bass response. Highs are flat.
Let me emphasize: voice reproduction and clarity is excellent. You can easily hear range commands and your buddy on the line next to you. Which is what hearing protection for shooting should do. But, if you are looking for good music reproduction, you may want to run earbuds under the cups of the muffs.
All of the controls are on the outside of the right ear cup. At the rear of the cup is a triangular power button. To turn power on or off, you press and hold this button. When the muffs are powered up and down, there is a voice that tells you “power on” and “power off” respectively.
Also on the right cup is the Bluetooth control. To pair the muffs, press the Bluetooth symbol in the center of the cup’s exterior. Then follow the pairing procedures for your device.
Above and below the Bluetooth button are up and down buttons that alter the volume of amplification.
On the bottom of the right ear cup are two ports protected by a heavy rubber flap. One port is a 3.5mm jack that allows you to plug in a cable and stream sound through it. The second port is a microUSB port that can be used to charge an optional Alpha 1100 battery pack.
The left ear cup holds the power source for the Peltor muffs. This is where you insert the AA batteries or Alpha battery pack. The compartment cover is tethered so it can’t be accidentally lost.
This is a great muff-style hearing protector, and it has quickly become one of my favorites.
The Peltor Sport Tactical 500 offers a great balance of noise protection, clear sound amplification, comfort and price. While the noise protection could be improved some, for me, the comfort is unmatched.
If you are in the market for a great pair of ear pro, you should consider the Peltor unit.
If your budget doesn’t allow for these, consider the company’s Sport Tactical 300 muffs. These are nearly identical to the 500, but without the Bluetooth circuitry. It retains the 3.5mm jack for streaming sound.
Also, you may wish to consider the previously mentioned Howard Leight Impact Pro muffs. They do a great job at noise reduction with a reasonable level of comfort and voice amplification. The price is roughly half of the Peltor ear pro.
However, if you are really tight on money, the original Caldwell E-MAX muffs are one of the best buys for inexpensive ear pro on the market. The quality of noise reduction and amplification isn’t nearly as good as the Peltor or Howard Leight, but for less than $30, it is a great choice on a tight budget.
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