As shooters we typically try to stay in step with the latest and most technically advanced gear that gives us an edge in performance or convenience. Hearing protection is one of those pieces of technology that I feel could use a little more upgrading. I am almost certain that you would appreciate having gear that can be used all day without issue or discomfort. Is it not reasonable to expect that 21st century hearing protection should be comfortable enough to be worn for long periods of time, yet effective enough to allow full-time situational awareness without the need to take them off? Also, shouldn’t technology allow us to have hearing protection that is unique to us and fits our unique ear size for maximum effect? After about a month of testing, I have to say that I think Decibullz is onto something with their new “Percussive Filter” design.
Decibullz has recently come into the market with their unique custom fitted earplug designs. They offer a wide range of products from their bread and butter custom molded earplugs to wireless Bluetooth headphones. The moldable portion of the products come in a rainbow of colors so the user can add their own personality. The cool thing is that all the moldable bases are interchangeable to the other products and can be used universally. Now, as of SHOT show 2017, they have added the percussive filter earplugs that I think will be a game changer in the hearing protection market.
The percussive earplug filters are based on the same concept as electronic hearing protection. Their motto for the product is “Sound when you want it, protection when you need it”. The filters, without getting too technical, are designed to allow you to hear ambient noise that normal hearing protection would block out, yet it automatically kicks into action as soon as there is loud noise such as nearby gunfire. Basically this means you are getting the low profile convenience of earplugs that are custom formed to you, with the functionality of electronic hearing protection but for half the price. The cool thing is that these things can protect you from up to 166 decibels without the need for batteries.
Other than the new percussive filters(clearly marked by the orange Decibullz emblem on the backing), you get all the materials you get in their standard custom earplugs, yet the percussive filters replace the standard silicone filters. Due to the young nature of the design and the fact that they had not yet designed the new box unique to the percussive product, I do not have the box that the percussive earplugs will be coming in. I received the standard moldable earplugs with the new filters added into the box. Just keep in mind that the package may seem to include a lot of items. I assure you that everything is easy to use and understand, but is also necessary to ensure that everyone can make the product unique to their specific needs.
As with all Decibullz products, the percussive earplugs come with the moldable body that allows you a custom fit of the earplugs. The moldable material is a thermoplastic that merely requires being dropping in hot water for a few minutes to make it soft enough to mold into your unique ear shape. I recommend following the instructions to the letter in order to prevent messing up the process. Decibullz was quick to warn that the filters MUST be kept away from the hot water during the molding process. I can only guess that they are concerned that the filter would be less reliable or completely cease to function if exposed to boiling water. This isn’t a bad thing entirely as electronic muffs can fail from exposing the electronics to excess moisture.
Just remember that even when you adhere to the instructions, which are quite detailed and leave no subject to chance, the whole process takes little more than 10 minutes to complete. Not too much of a time sacrifice if you ask me, but it can cause complacency and therefore a failure to properly adhere to the instructions.
After the molding process, you will find that using this product is painless. You just slap on the earpiece you want and install the filter. I myself installed the provided foam pieces for maximum effectiveness and protection. Basically, once you get mold done to your satisfaction, you can use any product that Decibullz offers off that one moldable base. Everything is easy to remove if you wish to do so. Nothing is permanent, even the mold. You can remold these things as many times as you wish. Talk about custom and modular.
When I first put the earplugs in my ears, I thought I had molded them wrong. I could hear most of the ambient noise throughout my house. From the slight hum of my computer fan to the faint sound of my dogs snoring, I started thinking that perhaps these things would not protect my hearing. I was prepared for this event though since I spent most of my time in the military not using hearing protection while shooting.
During the course of my testing, I attended two firearms training classes. The Decibullz percussive earplugs protected my ears very well and I often found myself forgetting that they were in until my inner ear canal had an itch. I found it interesting how the unique reports of the firearms would register, but all the loud and overkill noise was blocked.
I am finding it hard to describe what it is like, but to put it another way it is like having electronic hearing protection in a tiny compact form but with greater sound sensitivity. You can hear more and though the volume never gets more than regular hearing protection, you are able to make out most noises that would usually go unheard. Without using these things for yourself, there is almost no way for me to describe it to you.
I would like to mention that the Decibullz percussive earplugs were used during the harshest time during the Alaskan winter where the temperatures consistently stayed in subzero temperatures. During this time, I noticed no change in function and performance despite the filters being subjected to extreme temperature fluctuations. Going from room temperature and then dropping 80 degrees into the subzero temperature range can be hard on gear, electronic or mechanical. With temperature changes like these, warping is common, and I feared that this would kill the technology in the percussive filters.
I personally found it encouraging that they were not negatively effected, despite being left in the subzero temperatures carelessly for a week and then subjected to rapid temperature fluctuations and constant usage. The foam tips that they recommend for maximum protection held up very well and didn’t seem to attract too much hair and dirt when I clumsily dropped the earplugs on the ground. The product still functioned well after getting wet, though it is cautioned to keep the filters away from the hot water during the molding process.
I have never used custom earplugs before, and was honestly very skeptical about the effectiveness of the product. The idea of hearing small noises and still being able to protect your hearing from loud noises without electronics sounded like a unicorn to me. Apparently it is possible after all, but we shall see how consistently it works and for how long. It is still a new concept, but I think it has promise.
Given the technology that we have available to us today I feel that a soft and floppy polymer-type material could be used for the triple flange earpieces instead of silicone, which some people are allergic to.
EASE OF USE: 5/5
The molding process overall can seem a little difficult due to how specifically it must be adhered to. I feel that it can be easy to mess up if someone is careless and not able to follow directions. But given the fact that this is indeed a custom product, it is understandable that it needs to be a somewhat careful procedure. After the molding process, everything is easy.
As best I can tell, the percussive earplugs functioned just as advertised. Personally I have zero complaints about its functionality as it settled my skepticism.
The asking price off of the Decibullz website is $75. Electronic hearing protection can cost upward of $35. It is on the end-user to decide if this is an acceptable price. I feel that the technology in this product does hold a good and unique value for the convenience being offered. Perhaps I am just in the honeymoon phase because this custom fit hearing protection is all new to me. But I would say that $10-$15 less than that would boost the rating to 5/5 for me.
The warranty is only one year and is limited and does not cover accidents, wear, or abuse. Due to the unique nature of the percussive filter, I question what the definition of abuse or wear is for Decibullz in order to get a replacement set of percussive filters. Given the price and the unique nature of the product, I think that the filters themselves should be covered by a longer warranty until there is proof service life and what kind of treatment it can endure.
OVERALL RATING: 21/25
I received this product in order to produce honest feedback for Decibullz. I was under no contract written, verbal, or implied to give positive remarks. The opinions listed here are my own and based off of my experiences with this product.