Ear Pro Part 4 of 4: ESP America Stealth

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In this final part of the series, we’ll be talking about a high-end electronic ear pro model, the ESP America Stealth, coming in at a Cadillac-sized $2,100.

These puppies are custom molded to your ear, and have noise cancellation technology embedded in the molds. They come in multiple colors: green, orange, and black.

ESP America “Stealth” model electronic ear protection.

The customization process was fairly straightforward. ESP America gave me the contact information for an audiologist in my area and I scheduled an appointment. I had wet foam shot into my ear to make the mold, and the audiologist sent it to ESP America. 7-8 days later, and I had my Stealths in hand.

View of the on/off knob, and the battery compartment.

I’ve been using them for the past 5 months, and they are amazingly comfortable and reliable. They reduce gunshots to an acceptable level and keep sound below 90db. I can go about 15 hours on the hearing aid size battery. They are great for pistol, rifle, and shotgunning, even at larger calibers (like .44 Mag, .338 Lapua Mag, and 12 ga).

The one small thing that I noticed is that somehow the ESPs would turn on when inside the supplied soft case and jostling around in my range bag. At first I thought I was careless and forgot to turn them off, but when I contacted ESP America they confirmed that this was a known issue. Their recommended solution is to take the batteries out after each use. I’m too lazy to do that, so I bought a cheap $10 Otterbox and lined it foam. That solved the problem!

I would recommend the Stealths for anyone who requires comfortable ear protection for hours on end, and who needs to hear sounds during that time. I can hear talking and animal noises quite well whether I’m at the range, in competition, or out hunting. ESP America markets to law enforcement agencies in addition to casual and pro shooters, so I’d be interested to know what TFB LEO readers think about wearing ESPs on duty.

The top of the line “Dynamic” model costs $2500, but they also have cheaper models starting at $220. www.ESPAmerica.com.

Chris Cheng is History Channel’s Top Shot Season 4 champion. A self-taught amateur turned pro through his Top Shot win, Cheng very much still considers himself an amateur who parachuted into this new career. He shares his thoughts and experiences from the perspective of a newbie to the shooting community. www.TopShotChris.com.




Chris Cheng

Chris Cheng is History Channel’s Top Shot Season 4 champion, author of “Shoot to Win,” and an NRA News Commentator. A self-taught amateur (and former Googler) turned pro through his Top Shot win, Cheng very much still considers himself an amateur who parachuted into this new career.

He is a professional marksman for Bass Pro Shops who shares his thoughts and experiences from the perspective of a newbie to the shooting community. www.TopShotChris.com.


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  • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/ Steve (The Firearm Blog)

    I thought my $450 ear pro was expensive!!!! $2,500!!!

    This is what I use:

    http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2012/01/26/gsp1-gunsport-pro-earplugs-review/

  • noob

    Hmm. do they have any digital signal processing artifacts when transitioning between loud and soft sounds? chirps, or tinnyness?

    • http://www.TopShotChris.com Chris Cheng

      Hi noob,

      I haven’t heard any digital artifacts like you’ve described.

      Chris

  • gopack2013

    While the high-end price is out of my range of operation, I would be interested in taking a look at the $220 pair. Something that small and that comfortable would be useful when shooting rifle, but somebody may forget to be removed between hot range times, haha.

    Has anybody else had issues with the link at the bottom? It won’t go to a valid website for me.

    • gopack2013

      May forget to remove*
      Tried to blend two different sentences on accident.

    • http://www.TopShotChris.com Chris Cheng

      The link to http://www.ESPAmerica.com should be fixed. Thanks for pointing it out.

  • Titan Norseman

    Personally as a LEO I’d never be a proponent of wearing these while on duty, I’m not challenging the quality of the product but there are too many untested issues. For one the body’s equilibrium is determined with the ears and would wearing these things for extended periods of time start to effect that? Not something I want to learn about in the middle of a serious call.

    Next, what would be the advantage to having them in all the time? Shooting situations are rare and the body tends to block out extreme sounds during high stress situations anyway in order to focus on the threat, its called the tunneling effect. LEOs often describe the sensation as sounding like one was underwater and so the shots were muffled if they heard them at all.

    So that would mean the only real advantage would be the sound enhancement feature and in my experience with that kind of equipment it throws off your sound “depth perception” making it difficult to know how far away those sounds are. This certainly becomes an issue when trying to determine personal security threats around you.

    Now it might be possible that if one did wear these all the time that some of these issues would be resolved but while on the job is not the place nor the time to find out.

    • Noodles

      Now and then wearing a set of MSA muffs which are cream of the crop electronic muffs, I will be at the range alone and hear something as if its near me, turn, and see a bird fly by or a some just get in truck 100-200yards away.

      If I turn the amplification down I get this less, but I can see where you’re coming from. Police/civilian probably not so much, but military I could see extended use.

    • http://www.TopShotChris.com Chris Cheng

      Thanks for your perspective, salient points!

    • http://espamerica.com Jack @ ESP

      Titan – Wearing a product like this is no different that someone who wears hearing aids 14 hours per day.

      I would agree for a patrol officier there would not be much advantage. However for someone like SWAT using them on callouts makes perfect sense. After all if you are training with them on why not use them???

    • http://suburbansdomain.blogspot.com Suburban

      I’d be far more concerned about impacted ear wax. Although it’s not a serious health issue, it is pretty gross, and quite uncomfortable until corrected.

  • Noodles

    “keep sound below 90db”… Uh you sure about that? Because rifle gunshots are ~160-170db at the ears unsuppressed. That would mean these have a NRR of 70-80db… Which frankly is probably not possible as I doubt your skull has that kind of reduction.

    The highest NRR for plugs I could find was 33, and muffs topped out in my quick search at 36. So these would require some I pressure magic to reduce the incoming pressure more than a set a larger closed cell foam plugs.

    So… I’m going to remain beyond skeptical of that claim, but love to hear otherwise in its defense :)

    • http://www.TopShotChris.com Chris Cheng

      Hi Noodles, I contacted the owner of ESP America and hopefully he can come in here and clarify for us. Cheers!

    • http://espamerica.com Jack @ ESP

      What Chris is referring to is that the amplifier limit its output to 90 DB. The Noise Reduction Rating of the plug is 25 DB.

      A couple of other factors to consider is Decibels are measured as a Logarithmic Scale so it is not simple add and subtract math. Also NRR’s are based on a 100db steady state noise and does not take into account impact or explosive (i.e. gunshot) noises. Noise Reduction Ratings have less relevance regarding gunfire. The important thing to provide a good acoustic seal to the ear canal to prevent the concussion from getting to the inner ear.

  • Matt

    ” but they also have cheaper models starting at $220″

    This is a bit of a misnomer. Their cheapest ELECTRONIC set is $900. The $220 set is simply a custom mold with some steel shot in it; no electronics whatsoever.

    I am by no means an earpro expert, but I’ve heard that if one is shooting large bore rifles (i.e. 338 lapua) you should have muffs + plugs because the sound enters both in the ear canal and outside the canal. Perhaps this is just a myth. Any truth to this?

    • http://espamerica.com Jack @ ESP

      While is is possible for the sound to enter through the mastoid bones (behind the ear) it is typically not an issue. Since the bones are towards the back of your head and the blast is going forward away from your head there is little concussion reaching the bones.

      Now if your are talking cannons and bombs that a different story.

  • cc19

    I’ve heard the rule of good optics costing more than the rifle they’re mounted to, but who’d have thought hearing protection would be similar?

  • gunslinger

    wow. over 2k for a set of earpro and you don’t get a nice case to put them in? just a soft bag, and it causes an issue? i call that dropping the ball.

    i do like the idea of molded plug, but wow..

  • Nicks87

    $2,100 for hearing protection?!

    You only get about 15 hrs of use out of the batteries AND they turn on by themselves.

    WHAT A JOKE!

    These are way better and way cheaper.

    http://www.walkersgameear.com/wkrs_products/wkrs_bte_tctlear_01.html

  • Kdawg

    I’ll stick with my 50 dollar Howard Leight muffs, and double up with throwaway plugs when I need to. But thanks for the review!