Honeywell has enjoyed immense success with its Howard Leight Impact Sport electronic ear muffs for decades. These earmuffs are so popular that you would see someone rocking a pair of Impact Sport right beside you, almost every time you hit a shooting range.
Is it just the convenient price that made the model emblematic to ear protection for shooters? We took a deeper look at the muffs in our Howard Leight Impact Sport Review.
First, let’s take a look at the features that these electronic ear muffs have to offer.
The primary task of any protective earpiece is to neutralize the noise and save your inner ear from harsh environments. So, we would get into that aspect of Howard Leight Impact Sports earmuffs first before discussing other specifications. The muffs can suppress the noise by 22dB once the surrounding noise levels exceed the 82dB threshold.
Now, the 22dB noise reduction rating is not the industry leader by any means, but considering the price you would be paying for a pair of Impact Sport, you are getting one hell of a bargain. If you look within a similar price bracket, you won’t find many alternatives that could offer you this much protection.
In real-life terms, how much protection can the 22dB buffer give to your ears? We would say it works better outdoors than it does indoors. Not that it’s not suitable to use indoors, but if someone uses a firearm with a deafening muzzle brake right next to you, the muffs might not be enough to safeguard your ears. About 25% of all workers have been exposed to hazardous noise, with 14% (22 million) exposed in the last year.
Audio Quality & Communication
Howard Leight Impact Sports earmuffs don’t overemphasize on being a top of the line communication unit, rather it aims to be a piece of good ear-pro equipment with satisfactory comm features. The inclusion of two well-built microphones in the Impact Sports circuitry helps it fulfill that fundamental goal.
The microphone electronics does a fantastic job of giving you superb navigational sound consciousness. It differentiates between gunfire and other sounds, singles out the gunfire noise for alleviation, but allows natural sound to come through. This is a crucial feature for following range instructions or maintaining communication with others while hunting.
Anyone who has worked as a Range Safety Officer knows the hassle of sending out instructions. For shooters without an integrated microphone system in their ear-pro pieces, the only way to communicate is to use sign language or handheld signboards. Using an earmuff like Howard Leight Impact Sports eradicates all those nuisances.
One of the things we missed in the Howard Leight Impact Sports earmuffs is the absence of sound compression technology. In ear-pros with sound compression, the sound fades out to a tolerable level instead of muting off completely. This makes it easier to converse with a fellow shooter as you keep firing leads to the other end of the range.
Honeywell engineers have opted for cut-off technology instead. I understand the rationale behind this decision as it keeps the price in check. The muffs completely cut off the sound as soon as the guns are shot. This keeps your ears safe, but also makes obnoxious interruptions in your conversations.
That said, the overall audio quality is very good, to say the least. Honeywell marketed a digitized version of Impact Sports ear-pros, which goes by the name of Impact Sports Bolt. This model boasts a reduced cut-off time, but it failed to replicate the acoustic brilliance of its predecessor.
Design & Comfort
We loved some of the design choices made by Honeywell in building Impact Sports earmuffs, which added to the convenience of the unit. Let’s start with the volume control knob. This is an obvious upgrade over the usual push-button mechanism we see in other headsets. It’s also perfectly responsive when you try to turn the knob wearing thick gloves.
The headband is adjustable to make sure the earmuffs fit perfectly regardless of your head size. This feature is extremely helpful for those who have had trouble finding the right size ear-pro muffs in the past. With Howard Leight Impact Sports gracing your ears, you will not have to worry about the muffs falling off.
While the earmuffs fit snug and cozy, they are uncomfortable to wear in conjunction with thicker shooting glasses because they uncomfortably push the frame to the side of the head. This can be overlooked if you put the muffs for a short shooting session, but if you put them on for a long time you will end up with a throbbing headache.
Going for thinner frame shooting glasses is an obvious path to get around this problem. Alternatively, you can choose to put on your earmuffs first and then put on your shooting glasses. It won’t be an ideal fit as you’ll find the glasses leaning a bit forward. But it won't cause much of a painful sensation, and your shooting capacity will be almost uncompromised.
These muffs fold down to a compact shape for easier portability. You can just throw them into your range bag and still have more than enough space left to put your other gears. There’s no risk of damaging the circuitry when you fold the earmuff as the headband shields the vulnerable components of the unit.
If the Impact Sport team ever seeks our advice to make the next model even better, we would have told them to replace the OEM ear cups with gel cups. The foamy cushion inside OEM cups tends to wear off, and the seal becomes weaker after repeated use. There is also a lot of space left unused within the entire headset, which could be filled with noise suspending materials.
Howard Leight Impact Sports earmuffs have a single battery compartment. Some headsets have dedicated battery compartments on each earpiece. In such models, there’s a possibility of one earpiece battery draining out before the other earpiece battery, which ultimately leaves you with one functional earpiece.
The unit is run by 2 AAA batteries, and you can expect these batteries to keep the earmuffs operational for 350 hours. The extended battery life will make you forget when you had changed the batteries last. To avoid wastage of battery power, the auto shut feature initiates a shutdown procedure automatically after four hours just in case you’d forgotten to switch it off yourself.
3.5mm Headphone Jack
Another thing we would like to highlight in our Howard Leight Impact Sport review is the 3.5mm headphone jack. It’s not something you see in ear-pro headsets all the time. This is a nifty addition that lets you listen to your favorite music and podcasts while you are shooting.
Some high-end models have Bluetooth compatibility to serve this purpose, but the corded headphone idea appeals to us more since it will save some precious battery life.
Aesthetics might not be the top of anyone’s priorities while shopping for an ear-pro gear, but nobody would mind buying one that catches the eye with its stunning looks. Howard Leight Impact Sport headsets sport a slim, trendy appearance, which complements profoundly with a selection of exquisite colors.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. What happens if the batteries die on you in the field? Will they still provide protection?
If the batteries run out of juice while you are shooting or out in your hunting excursions, the earmuffs will still save your ears from hazardous noises. However, they will lose their sound amplification properties and other amenities.
Q. Can you use these for mowing the lawn?
It will protect you from noise stronger than 82dB. For sound levels that clock less than 82db, the integrated microphones will amplify the sound. Lawnmowers vary in noise levels, but an average lawnmower is said to emit around 90dB of sound. Unless you are using a mower that is loud beyond the pale, you should be fine using these ear-pro headsets.
Q. Do I have to buy a separate cord to connect a phone or radio to the 3.5mm jack?
No, you don’t have to buy a separate cord. The product ships with a 39 inch cord that has 3.5mm jacks on both ends of it.
Q. Are these water-resistant?
Howard Leight Impact Sport electronic earmuffs are built for seasons. These muffs are fairly immune to water exposure.
To sum up our Howard Leight Impact Sport review, we must say you will get the best value for your money buying a pair of these ear-pro headsets. Thanks to its practical design, it is very easy and comfortable to use. As much as users love the affordable price tag it comes in, it’s the versatility of this model that makes it a go-to piece for many shooters.
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If you’re looking for cheap active ear pro there are myriad options available from $15 to over $1,000. There is a reason these Howard Leight Impact Sport muffs are probably the most popular model of their type on the market — they’re dirt cheap and work very well.