There’s no doubt about it…hearing protection is a pain.
Sometimes it is a pain to wear, especially if your muffs don’t fit right or the headband is too tight. It can be a pain when the muff cups smash against your ear when you try to get a proper cheek weld. It is an absolute and damaging pain, of course, if you DON’T wear them. And then there is the figurative pain of keeping track of them or toting them around in-between shooting strings.
If you’ve been shooting for a while, you know exactly what we’re talking about. The good news is that the pain of using ear protection—both literally and figuratively—is a thing of the past.
A couple years ago, Walker’s developed a passive in-ear hearing protection system called the Silencer. Basically, these are sophisticated electronic “ear buds” that offer both gunshot sound suppression and ambient sound enhancement in a device that fits securely in the shooter’s ears. No bulky ear cups to get in the way of shooting a rifle or shotgun, no annoying headbands that lead to “shooter’s headache,” and no bulky muff sets to haul around when checking targets or moving to another shooting station. For hunting, the Silencer system proved to be a significant improvement over conventional ear muffs because they did not interfere with our headgear.
Recently, Walker’s took the Silencer concept one step farther, introducing the all-new Silencer R600 electronic ear buds.
Same song, different dance, you say? Not exactly.
The first incarnation of the Silencer (still offered by Walker’s) is powered by replaceable hearing aid batteries. Being zinc air batteries, the clock starts ticking once you remove the tab and expose the battery to air. They are good for around 80 hours of use, but in the real world that means replacing the batteries every time to you go out to shoot, if you’re a weekend shooter.
The Silencer R600 solves that problem quite handily.
The Silencer R600 system comes with a rechargeable battery in each ear piece and a compact charging system that incorporates a rechargeable lithium battery. Also included in the kit is a USB charging cable, a lanyard, cleaning brush, three different-sized foam ear tips, and three Sure-Lock sizing fins.
Recharging the Silencer R600 buds is as easy as it gets. The docking station is contoured to fit the left and right ear buds with their own charging port. A small magnet inside each bud “sucks” the bud into position and secures them onto their charging electrodes. This ensures that the buds don’t accidentally move off the electrodes and fail to charge. The docking case also comes with a sliding lid that provides extra insurance that the buds won’t fall out during storage or when transporting them in your range bag.
Since the Silencer R600 docking station charges via a USB cable, you can plug it into any USB-compatible device. Each full charge of the docking station is good for about four ear bud recharges, so the likelihood of a total battery drain, even on a full day of shooting, is practically nil.
Should that happen, or you forgot to recharge the docking station before you left the house, the USB cable can be plugged into a portable battery pack as seen here. This is especially beneficial when shooting at a range where no power sources are available.
The first Silencers had more of a “hearing aid feel” about them. This was largely due to the external volume control switch and the sliding on/off switch. I found both these controls a bit challenging to manipulate while wearing the original Silencer. The new Silencer R600, on the other hand, does away with the rotating dial and the sliding switch.
The back side of each earbud is covered in a soft-touch rubber, beneath which are located three pushbuttons—one to turn the earbud on and off, one to increase volume, and the other to decrease volume. Embossed graphics located over each of the buttons provide tactile identifiers that allow you to depress the button you want without having to remove the earbud to turn it on or off or to adjust the volume. I consider that to be a welcome improvement over the original design. It took only a few wearing sessions before I familiarized myself with the button orientation and could adjust them quickly and easily.
As mentioned, the Silencer R600 comes with three sets of foam ear tips and three sets of Sure-Lock sizing fins in small, medium, and large so you can choose the combination that best fits your ears. Swapping is a simple matter of pulling the foam tips and soft rubber sizing fins off the bud and replacing them with the ones that work best for you. Having a wide range of fitment like this also allows multiple-size shooters to use the same buds.
How do they fit?
As with standard foam ear plugs, the Silencer R600 foam tips need to be squished and rolled between your fingers before they are inserted into the ear canal. Once in, the bud can be rotated forward so that the protruding “fin” catches the inside curvature of the ear (called the cymba). I’ve found that after the bud is correctly inserted and the foam tip expands and conforms to the ear canal, it stays in place. The original Silencers come with a removable lanyard that loops around the neck and secures both buds in case one falls out. The Silencer R600 does not have this feature for whatever reason. Although I never had one to fall out, I would prefer the security of the lanyard.
With an MSRP of $249.99, the Silencer R600 is a significant investment, but if you want passive hearing protection that is as comfortable as it gets, never requires battery replacement, provides clear and amplified ambient sound enhancement for easy range conversations or hunting, and saves your hearing, the Walker’s Silencer R600 may represent the best money you’ve ever spent.
Walker’s Silencer R600 Specifications
- Noise Reduction Rating: 23
- Advanced digital circuitry
- Sound-activated compression
- Dynamic wind noise reduction
- Variable gunshot suppression
- Auto shut-off
- Audible on/off tone
- Rechargeable lithium battery docking station and ear pieces
- USB cable support
- Includes small, medium, and large foam tips and Sure-Lock sizing fins
- MSRP: $249.99