I have never been a big fan of earplugs for shooting hearing protection. They just never seem to provide the same level of protection that plain earmuffs do. My attitude has changed significantly with the introduction of Caldwell’s E-Max Shadows Bluetooth Noise-Reducing Earplugs.
I received a sample of E-Max Shadows while attending a writers’ conference at American Outdoor Brands in Columbia, Missouri, this June. I have been working with them for a couple of weeks now and have used them for a wide variety of tasks. They aren’t just for protecting your ears on the shooting range.
Main Features of the Caldwell E-Max Shadows Earplugs
These are the main features of the E-Max Shadows Earplugs:
- Bluetooth compatible with mobile devices
- 23db NRR — high-quality stereo sound
- Separate left and right channel earplugs with dual microphones for directional clarity
- Illuminated on/off indicator and auto-shutoff
- Electronic on/off and volume control
- Interchangeable tips in various sizes for custom fit
- Rechargeable storage case
Read the Directions First
The E-Max Shadow earplugs are very well-thought-out and easy to use … if you read the directions first. I didn’t do that. I tried to use them at the shooting range at the conference, and because I didn’t read the directions, they weren’t as effective as they could have been. So here are some things that you should know about them in advance.
First — and this was something that I had to get used to — is that there are no mechanical switches used to operate them. It is all done by touch. Once you get used to the lack of mechanical controls, operation becomes second nature.
The Rechargeable Storage Case
At the heart of the operating system is the rechargeable storage case. The case contains a built-in lithium battery that recharges via a USB port. A short USB cable is included. The batteries in the earplugs themselves will supply power for up to five hours of use. The battery in the storage case can fully charge the earphones four to five times before it requires charging. Two small LEDs on the front of the case glow bright green when the case is fully charged. To turn the earplugs on, simply pull the plugs from the case. There are red/green LEDs located on the touch panels that indicate the charge level in the earphones. Pulling them from the case for the first time with your mobile device in proximity will allow you to pair them. The plugs are marked “R” and “L” for proper ear insertion and case storage.
There are two types of interchangeable ear tips in different sizes for precise fit. The instruction manual tells you to use the foam tips (rather than the ribbed tips) for the best hearing protection. I actually found that the ribbed tips worked best for me.
Activating the plugs puts them in the “noise cancellation off” mode. It is in this mode that you have the best audio for music or whatever you are playing from your mobile device. You can change the volume level by sliding your finger up and down either panel, or you can change it on the mobile device. In order to activate the electronic noise cancellation, you have to hold a finger on either panel for two seconds. With noise cancellation on, your Bluetooth connection will drop to the background, and your music will not be as loud. In order to hear your phone calls at the best sound levels, you will also want to turn noise cancellation off.
The Caldwell E-Max Shadows earplugs are useful in a wide variety of situations. One of the things I really like is that they allow me to listen to my favorite tunes while I’m cutting the grass. I normally wear plain hearing protectors while running the tractor since electronic noise cancellation doesn’t help cut down on the drone from the engine and blades. This is because electronic noise-canceling headphones are only useful for canceling loud, sudden sounds like gunfire. With the right tips in place, there is enough mowing noise reduction coming from the plugs alone. I have been wearing them at the YMCA for listening to my workout music and have taken a couple of phone calls on them.
In the noise-cancellation mode on a public range, normal conversations can occur AND, most importantly, you can maintain situational awareness. While the sound-reduction capability is not quite as good as electronic muffs with a 25 Db NRR, the Shadows certainly provide a good level of protection, and they don’t get in the way when the wearer is shooting a scope-sighted rifle. They are certainly cooler to wear than muffs in hot weather.
Currently on sale directly from Caldwell for $129.99, the E-Max Shadows are worth the price due to their versatility. I guarantee that you will find plenty of applications for them!