U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)- When it comes to the “negatives” we shooters associate with exercising our firearms-related freedoms enumerated in the 2nd Amendment, the one that comes up first is usually a depleted wallet! The most serious and common side effect of routine shooting though, is hearing loss. Consider it no wonder then, that hearing protection devices have such a large share of the ancillary accessories market. From plain foam plugs to bulky muffs to multi-thousand dollar wonders, there’s a method for everyone to protect their sound catchers. Today I’m checking out a company that’s new to me, with Axil and their GS Digital in-the-ear electronic hearing protection. GS is short for Ghost Stryke, but that verbiage is only found on the website, not the manual or packaging.
Let’s check the specs as provided by Axil, then break them down before getting to the hands-on time.
- AudiCORE 1.5 100% Digital Sound Processing (DSP)
- 29 dB Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) (22dB with silicone tips, 29 dB with foam)
- Digital Sound Compression (DSC) Hearing Protection
- Universal Medical Grade, Non-Allergenic Acrylic Shells
- Standard #10 Hearing Battery
- 28 dB Gain/Amplification
- Manual Volume Control to set at your desired level
- Pre-tuned for high fidelity and most listening environments
- Effective in Wind
- Background Noise Filtering
- Whistle/Feedback Cancellation
- Custom Fit Medical Grade, Non-Allergenic Acrylic Shells
- Battery life: 140 hours
The package includes a 6-pack of batteries, 2 pairs of each type of plug (2x foam, 2x silicone), cleaning brush, neck lanyard, SecureFit Extenders (helps retention in some ear shapes), and a small carrying case.
While we’re often told not to judge a book by its cover, it’s true that packaging is our first impression of a product. Here, Axil has chosen some pretty slick options, from the box to the manual. Looking deeper at the product itself, there’s one item that really stands out on the list above. That’s the 29 dB noise reduction rating GS Digital provides. That’s a full 7 dB better than the ubiquitous Howard Leight Impact Sport electronic ear-pro I see most commonly. It’s even 3 dB better than the Peltor Sport Tactical 500 series that I love. 3 dB is a doubling of sound energy, so that’s a big difference between the GS Digital and the closer of the two headsets.
Given that the foam plugs offer such a big performance increase over the silicone plugs, foam seemed a great place to start. The plugs just slide over the exposed stems on the GS Digital body. Pop-out two batteries and let them air out for one minute, as zinc-air batteries work a little differently than our usual AAA and AA alkaline batteries. The SecureFit Extenders aren’t needed for my ears, so it’s back in the box with them. The retention lanyard takes just a second to slip on over the body of the GS Digital earpieces, giving a bit of a friction fit. Definitely good to use if you’re going to bet doing some vigorous movement at the range.
After completing the first-time setup, the GS Digital ear-pro is ready for use.
Popping them in for the first time, they feel like they’re in pretty securely. Given that my first day of use wasn’t a range day, the GS Digital was first tested by house-shaking heavy metal and some power tools. The volume knobs are a little small to use with gloves on, but are otherwise sufficient. Noise reduction is stellar!
I’ll say that after just a couple of minutes I nearly forgot the GS Digital set was on and in my ear, a testament to both the sound quality and the comfort with the foam plugs. Sound dampening is really quick, with no detectable lag between a sharp noise and the reduction of volume. If there’s going to be a constant droning of noise (i.e. a large engine), it’d be best to turn the GS Digital all the way down or pop the batteries out to save their charge a bit.
On to range day!
The first thing I notice is that the GS Digital does, as advertised, do well against wind noise. My electronic headsets struggle with this, so it’s nice to have a new option. The overall sound reduction is very stout. It’s a good feeling having in-ear protection, with the effectiveness of foam plugs combined with the techno-wizardry of electronic ear muffs.
The volume knobs are tiny, making them a bit tough to manipulate. I have knotted fisherman’s hands, but not full-on gorilla mitts, so many will have less of an issue than me while a few will have a tougher time. You really aren’t likely to be fiddling with these knobs once you put some gloves on, so set the volume level you like at the start and forget it after that.
Did I mention how much I like the sound reduction with the Axil? I did, and I’m doing it again. There’s a big difference in moving the protective layers from outside the ear canal to the inside of it. When properly seated, the Axil earbuds give a better level of Aural comfort than any of the electronic muffs I have. On rare occasions, recoil can disrupt the “seal” of the ear protection momentarily, but it remains a minor issue.
I do struggle with the Axil GS Digital’s battery life. I’m not talking about running out of juice while on the range, rather during storage. Even when I pop the battery compartment open during periods of disuse, I find either the battery compartment inadvertently closes and kills the battery, or it stays open and the battery runs down anyways. For someone who’s using this set often (range employees, instructors), I don’t think this will be an issue. For more occasional shooters, running a new set of batteries every range trip might be an onerous expense. For someone who uses the set a couple times a year, maybe a big game hunter who doesn’t want the heat and weight of muffs, we’re back into green territory.
The Axil GS Digital earbuds are solid performers. If protecting your ears is your only priority, then you’ll be hard pressed to protect them better than with the GS Digital buds. If you’re weighing performance against cost and battery life, there’s a little more mental juggling to be done at $499. One thing’s for sure though, The Axil GS Digital is a phenomenal defensive barrier against hearing loss. Check em out!
About Rex Nanorum
Rex Nanorum is an Alaskan Expatriate living in Oregon with his wife and kids. Growing up on commercial fishing vessels, he found his next adventure with the 2nd Bn, 75th Ranger Regt. After 5 tours to Afghanistan and Iraq, he adventured about the west coast becoming a commercial fishery and salvage SCUBA diver, rated helicopter pilot instructor (CFII) and personal trainer, before becoming a gear reviewer and writer.”