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Evaluations : Keith Dunlap
Last Updated: Aug 6, 2010 - 1:11:39 PM
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Field Evaluation - Pro Ears Predator GOLD
By Keith Dunlap - Field Evaluator
Dec 21, 2008 - 5:48:17 AM


Predator GOLD from Pro Ears

Pro Ears has led the world in electronic hearing protection/amplification products since its inception, continually raising the bar.  They have raised the bar again in 2008 with their new GOLD Series. 

Pro Ears Founder Dan Nigro says: "What makes the GOLD Series so special are a number of features not offered in any other hearing product.  This is the first electronic hearing protection product to feature a high tech, 8 Bit Micro-Processor that runs a complete electronic diagnostic just like your computer. The Processor runs 10,000 diagnostics per second so you always know your system is in 100% working order." 

When I received the Pro Ears Predator GOLD electronic hearing protection/amplification system, I was eager to put them to the test for this evaluation.  According to recent hearing tests, I have hearing loss in both of my ears, with my left ear having the most loss.  I am anxious to evaluate the sound amplification component of the Pro Ears, as well as the hearing protection feature when firing a firearm.  My evaluation will be based upon a test of the performance of the Predator GOLD system as compared to the advertised features.  Let's take a look at the features of the Pro Ears Predator GOLD system.

 
Predator GOLD from Pro Ears Initial Inspection:

The Predator GOLD Pro Ears arrived in perfect condition.  I found no visible defects in workmanship or finish.  The package included the Predator GOLD headset, four "N" size alkaline batteries, owner's manual and audio cord.  I've provided a list of features for the GOLD series Pro Ears below.  I will expand on some of these in my evaluation. 
  • Micro-Processor Inside - Performs 10,000 diagnostics per second to ensure the entire electronics system is fully functional.
  • DLSC™ Technology - Protects your hearing from loud noise while magnifying fainter sounds. The electronics never "cut out" or "clip" providing you complete awareness of your working or play environment.
  • Fully enclosed, Military Grade Circuit Boards - Increases reliability in harsh environments.
  • Gold Connectors - Provides audiophile (high-fidelity) sound quality.
  • LED Alert Light Indicator on Circuit Board - Provides visual proof that your Pro Ears are working properly.
  • On-Board, Computer controlled Auto-Shut Off - Extends battery life so your Pro Ears work when you need them.
  • Low Battery Indicator - The audio signal provides advance warning about battery strength and prevents surprises. Change your batteries when it is convenient - avoid losing power when it's most needed.
  • Fast Attack Time - With a reaction and recovery time of 1.5 milliseconds, less than a typical pause between words in normal conversation, the system greatly enhances your awareness of your environment while simultaneously protects your hearing from loud noise.
  • Automatic & Programmable Gain Control (AGC™) - Harmful noise levels are kept to within 80 dB. The incredible 50 dB of gain allow the faintest sounds to be magnified up to 8x. Hear clearer, hear further. Two separate settings in each cup allow the user the ability to further adjust each circuit board to meet specific hearing requirements.
  • True Stereo - Each Pro Ears electronic unit is made with independent circuit boards in each ear piece to provide you with the highest degree of quality stereo sound. Stereo sound is necessary for the wearer to pinpoint the origin and direction of every sound. We utilize the most advanced technology available to increase your awareness of your environment.
  • Independent Volume Controls - With separate, independent controls the wearer can adjust each cup for hearing disparity or situational preference. There are no wires connecting the cups to snag or break.
  • Special Replaceable, ProForm™ Leather Ear Seals - Provide the ultimate in comfort and conformity for a tight noise elimination seal. No plastic, no vinyl, no sweat.
  • Adjustable, Padded Headband - Provides the ultimate in comfort and adjustability. Better fit ensures better performance.
  • Modular Design - Each unit conveniently folds into itself for easy storage/carry.
  • Slim Line, Chop Side and Mag designs - Specific designs for your specific hearing protection requirements.
  • 200 hours minimum battery life - Common 'N' Size Alkaline provides long battery life and saves you money.
  • Improved battery retention clips - Easy access battery compartment.
  • Now every GOLD SERIES model comes equipped with aux jack - Receiver/Input capabilities for your Apple iPod, radio, scanners and many other FRS radios and communication/entertainment devices using a 3.5 mm jack.
I had to do some research in order to familiarize myself with the technology and to understand how electronic hearing protection/amplification systems work.  What I found is that there are basically two types of systems…analog and digital.  An analog sound system is superior to a digital sound system for purity of sound; however, digital systems can correct imperfections or enhance and modify sound better than analog systems. Most active hearing protectors or stereo headphones employ one technology or the other.  Pro Ears engineers developed a hybrid digital/analog system found exclusively in the GOLD Series active hearing protectors.

Dynamic Level Sound Compression™:

Only Pro Ears models of electronic hearing protection/amplification muffs feature DLSC™ Dynamic Level Sound Compression Technology. This technology allows the wearer to hear every sound even during high volume noise spikes. Other brands use technology called Peak Clipping or Automatic Level Control (ALC). Peak Clipping turns the amplification system off when noise levels reach a preset decibel leaving the wearer with passive muffs. ALC simply reacts to high noise levels by lowering the unit's volume so the louder sounds still drown out softer sounds. In both technologies, loud noise levels compromise the ability to hear quieter sounds. Only DLSC technology protects hearing while at the same time allowing the wearer to hear lower volume sounds such as normal conversation. DLSC works by instantly compressing all noises over the 70 dB threshold by 50% to a safe level while amplifying all sounds below that to 70 dB. The result is the wearer will hear everything, including conversation, while simultaneously being protected from dangerous, high volume sounds.  Click here for more information on how DLSC actually works (too much to write in this evaluation).


Block 1 - Gain and Volume Control
This block amplifies the microphone. The gain can be adjusted from 0 dB to 40 dB.

Block 2 - High Pass Filters
Cuts the low frequencies below 300Hz, eliminating most of the wind noise and other low frequencies.

Block 3 - Dynamic Level Sound Compression (DLSC™)
This circuit automatically adjusts or compresses the input signal by as much as 45 dB. The DLSC will automatically adjust the internal gain in order to maintain the safe output level of 85 dB.

Block 4 - Low Pass Filters
Limits the high frequencies that are allowed to pass. The 3 dB point is at 5Khz.

Block 5 - Speaker Amp
This stage provides the high output current required to drive the speaker with no distortion.

The Dual Layer, Military Grade, sealed Printed Circuit Boards with ground planes make it immune to weather conditions as well as interferences caused by Radios, TV, Ham stations and other sources. The All-Surface Mount Design uses the highest quality parts available and is based on five, low power Integrated Circuits allowing the unit to consume less than 4 Ma with a battery life of more than 200 hours.

Features independent volume controls (left and right)

Testing:
My evaluation included testing for comfort, amplification and noise reduction.  I evaluated while wearing the Predator GOLD unit for extended periods of time both at the range and during hunting situations.  My son had to sight in his muzzleloader for the upcoming whitetail season, so we took the Predator GOLD to the range to test them out.  I had already read the instructions that came with the set, and understood the expected results while using them at the range.  What I was not expecting, was that they would be so comfortable on my head and ears.  My son and I both tried them out during our shooting, and were both pleasantly surprised at the comfort, and adjustability of the Predator Gold.  We were able to hear each other talking, but as soon as we took a shot, they eliminated the higher decibel sound of the gun blast.  The amazing thing about the Predator GOLD is the quality of the sound amplification, while shutting out sounds with over 70 dB, like the firing of a gun.  

Next step, I packed the Predator GOLD Pro Ears into the woods for an all-day whitetail hunt with my son.  I noticed right away that all sounds in the woods were enhanced with tremendous clarity.  As I mentioned earlier, I have hearing loss in both ears, but worse in my left ear.  I was able to adjust the volume for each side of the Pro Ears independently, and thus amplify sound adequately for both ears to achieve proper balance.  I like this feature.  Never before have I been able to hear the sound of a squirrel or bird so far away…with such clarity of sound. 

As my son and I sat quietly during the morning of the hunt, we had one whitetail doe walking quietly behind us, and I would never have heard her in the wet leaves, except with the help of the Predator GOLD system.  I was able to pinpoint her location more quickly, and even though we could not get a shot at her (because she was too close for us to move without being busted)…I was encouraged that I even heard her sneaking behind us.  The Pro Ears are compact enough to pack into the woods in your coat pocket, or your backpack…and light enough that they don't weight you down.  Most importantly, when you finally take that shot at your quarry, you have full confidence that they will protect your hearing, which is so very precious to any hunter or shooter.

An additional feature on the GOLD Series is the auxiliary 3.5mm jacks, which enable you to listen to your iPod, MP3 player, or radio scanner at the NASCAR race, while protecting your hearing from louder sounds.  I plugged my daughter's iPod Nano into the auxiliary jacks, using the cable included with the Predator GOLD.  The sound was very high quality when compared to the iPod earphones.  The auxiliary jacks will be put to use with my scanner at NASCAR races in the future.

The Pro Ears Predator GOLD fit nicely, even over a hat.

Specifications as Tested:
  •     Model:  NRR-26
  •     Weight:  9.3 oz.
  •     Earmuff Cushion Materials: visco-elastic foams with Pro Form™ leather
  •     Finish/Camo Pattern: Natural Gear Camo
  •     Retail Price:  $309.95
  •     Warranty: Limited five year warranty
Conclusion:
The Predator GOLD from Pro Ears measure up to the advertised hype.  I found them to be very comfortable for extended use, and the sound quality is as advertised.  I will be using my Pro Ears at the range from now on, as well as at the next Dover NASCAR race in June 2009.  The Pro Ears eliminate loud noises while enhancing less loud noises.  Other brands seem to temporarily eliminate all noise while protecting from the loud noises.  Like all electronic hearing protection/amplification products Pro Ears GOLD units are a tick over $300 which is middle of the pack but by far the best buy out there. You get what you pay for and you cannot put a price tag on protection from hearing loss.

To see the full line of Pro Ears products, visit their newly redesigned website: Pro Ears

 

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