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It’s confession time. Even though I strictly abide by the four weapon safety rules, I haven’t always been the best about ears and eyes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not that guy, but there are times when blinding myself with fogged-up shooting glasses didn’t seem any safer than going au naturale. I’ve also been known to ditch my ear pro from time to time. Worse yet, I’m not alone. So many forms of hearing protection are uncomfortable, downright ineffective, or both that too many shooters would rather subject their eardrums to permanent damage than deal with them.
The good news is that some options are good enough to change my mind, and I bet they can change yours, too. If you have a healthy budget, some of the high-end ear protection might even get you excited about using it. Walker’s is one of the biggest names in protective equipment for shooters, and I got my hands on some of the Texas company’s Silencer earbuds to see how the other half lives.
The Silencers are packed with features and promises of comfort and “crystal-clear hearing enhancement,” and you aren’t going to get them easily. Walker’s tags them with an MSRP of $249.99, although they’re available on Amazon at the time of writing for as little as $179.99. That’s around double what you’d pay for other electronic earbuds with Bluetooth. Is the extra cost money well spent, or are you better off taking the budget-friendly route? It’s time to find out.
I have to credit Walker’s for packaging the Silencer earbuds in a way that shows them off, communicates a ton of information, and feels worthy of the asking price. The little magnet flap is a bit of a gimmick, but I like the presentation. Inside, there’s a run-down of the app and a moto picture of a super cool dude slaying paper in a medium shirt––and look: he’s not wearing eye pro, either!
The back of the box is a library of settings and features that help Silencer earbuds stand out from the crowd. Some of the highlights include Bluetooth, four audio settings, wind reduction, voice prompts, and a noise reduction rating of 26 decibels.
The earbuds themselves are more customizable than the other options I’ve seen. In addition to small, medium, and large ear inserts, the piece that fits in the outer ear also has three sizes to choose from. I expect a perfect fit for this kind of money, so these are a good start. Controls on each earpiece are easy to feel and give a tactile click in addition to an audible cue when pressed.
The case also serves as the charging dock (as you’d expect), and it seems durable enough to toss in your range bag without worrying about the earbuds getting damaged. There’s even a lanyard loop so you can keep it dummy-corded to the rest of your gear. It would sure suck for these things to grow legs when you aren’t looking.
How we tested the Walker’s Silencer digital earbuds
To test these earbuds’ performance as hearing protection, I brought them along for a day of sporting clays to go back-to-back with a set of active earmuffs and another pair of earbuds. A long-barreled 12-gauge is fairly similar to many rifle and pistol reports in terms of volume, and almost all are considered harmful to the ears. Even before I turned them on, the Silencers did a good job of blocking the ear canal to keep noise out. The problem came once I fired them up. First, they seemed absolutely determined to pair with the phone I had left in the car, no matter how many times I turned Bluetooth off. I was able to switch between audio modes, but after a minute or two, the earbuds would reattempt to find my phone. They were also the only ear protection to fall out that day. When they worked, the audio quality was excellent. They just require more user involvement than the other options I’ve tried.
Right off the bat, Silencer earbuds are more comfortable than other forms of hearing protection I’ve used. The rubber portion that fills the ear canal is nothing special, but the portion that fits into the outer ear spreads the weight of each earbud more evenly and takes the strain off the ear canal. The rubber on this portion is soft, and three sizes are included. Even when I pressed the buttons to power up, change settings, adjust volume, and power off, the earbuds stayed in place and didn’t transfer the force to my ear canal. These earbuds weigh seven grams. That’s a touch heavy compared to something like the Caldwell E-Max Shadows, which weigh only five grams. Two grams might not sound significant, but it’s 40 percent more weight attached to your ear so quality design is important.
You can save some money on electronic ear protection by foregoing Bluetooth, but it’s a nice perk if you can swing the extra cash. Pairing was painless; I just turned on the earbuds, hit play on my phone, and they connected automatically. It was unexpectedly convenient, but I wonder if you’d have problems getting the right device synced up in a crowded area. Once connected, I was still able to hear the sounds around me —I could even hear myself type. The sound quality of my music and ambient noise was very good. This is fantastic news for people who want to listen to music or podcasts in public without losing situational awareness.
What we like about the Walker’s Silencer earbuds
When it comes to price-conscious ear pro, I’m more concerned with functionality than creature comforts. Top-shelf earbuds like Silencers need to be excellent all-around.
One thing Walker’s did well was create a system that gives almost everyone a fit that feels custom. Between three sizes of inserts and three outer portions, it’s possible to get a very precise and comfortable fit. It takes a little wiggling to get these situated, but once they’re in the ear the fit is much better than what you’ll find elsewhere. Some people might balk at the lack of cup-style inserts, but it’s been my experience that the ones provided do a better job of creating a tight seal and blocking sound. I did experience one of the earbuds falling out while I was shooting, but I’ll give Walker’s the benefit of the doubt and chalk that up to user error. Maybe I didn’t seat it firmly enough, or maybe I needed a different size of insert.
Being able to choose from four audio modes was also a nice touch. Universal is what shooters will use most of the time, but the others definitely come in handy. If I were receiving instruction, talking someone onto target, or interacting with other shooters on a dynamic range, the speech clarity function would be a huge advantage over something designed only to convey range commands from a loudspeaker. Boosting high-frequency sounds accomplishes the same goal slightly differently, and the power boost is a welcome feature for those of us with subpar hearing.
What we don’t like about the Walker’s Silencer earbuds
It’s hard to find too much fault with a premium product like this, but the high price also makes me less tolerant of any drawbacks.
If these earbuds didn’t come with an app, I wouldn’t think anything of it. Most don’t. They do come with an app, though, and it was completely useless in my testing. I got Walker’s Connect 1.0 downloaded easily enough from the App Store (where it’s earned a whopping 1.5-star rating with 89 reviews as of writing), but that’s where the good news stops. My phone connected to the earbuds and I could use them to listen to music and make calls, but the app refused to connect. Troubleshooting was of no use. The app isn’t required to take advantage of all the earbuds’ features, but the fact that it doesn’t work makes me feel like I’m getting shortchanged.
Having this much control over an advanced set of ear protection is great, but it also opens the door to technical problems and user error. I got frustrated by my audio cutting out and the automated voice announcing “pairing” in the middle of conversations with other shooters. Could I have worked out all the glitches? Maybe, but I shouldn’t have to spend aall morning convincing my $250 ear protection to cooperate.
I’m genuinely impressed by the features Walker’s packed into the Silencer earbuds. Four audio modes, flexible fitting options, and Bluetooth are worth paying extra for. On the other hand, I was disappointed by the amount of time it took to get them to work properly. I’m not going to give up on my Silencers, though; they’ll definitely get another shot at being my go-to ear protection.
If you appreciate having the latest technology and don’t mind committing time and effort to troubleshoot glitches as they arise, these are the ear pro for you. If you want a grab-and-go solution that trades features for convenience, maybe look elsewhere.
Shooting is not an inexpensive hobby. One way to make it extra unaffordable is to insist on having the very best of everything. If you need top-of-the-line firearms, match-grade ammunition, and cutting-edge safety equipment to have fun, you might be waiting a long time to buy everything on your gear list. My advice? Figure out what’s important to you. I’m not competitive, so I’m happy to trot out my old pump-action turkey gun at the local club. My hearing is lousy to begin with, so I’d rather spend money on something that allows me to carry on a conversation over the sound of gunshots. I know other shooters who pop in a set of foam earplugs before stepping up to the firing line with a $12,000 shotgun––to each their own. Until someone else starts footing the bill, but what makes you happy.
FAQs about Walker’s Silencer earbuds
More questions? Here’s Task & Purpose’s additional brief.
Q. How much does Walker’s Silencer earbuds cost?
A. This is some seriously high-end shit, as they say, so get ready to shell out between $200 and $250 depending on what kind of sales various retailers are running.
Q. How do these compare to other ear protection?
A. Technology is where the Silencers shine. Advanced features set these earbuds head and shoulders above the competition, but you’ll need to put in more work to get the most out of them.
Q. What can I control with the Walker’s app?
A. In my experience, not a damn thing. The app is supposed to let users choose from the four audio programs, monitor earbud battery levels, adjust volume, and set the preferred shut-off time. The app wouldn’t connect my phone to my earbuds, but most of those features (the ones that matter the most) can also be controlled with physical buttons on the earbuds. To be honest, I’d rather do it that way than dig my phone out at the range, anyway.
Q. How do the Silencer’s different modes work?
A. There are four sound profiles available. Loud sounds like gunshots are limited to 97 decibels in all modes except for power boost.
- Universal mode delivers all ambient sound as it is received, but reduces loud noises.
- Clear voice mode uses advanced settings to enhance human voices, making conversing and hearing range commands easier.
- High-frequency boost increases the volume of sounds above 1 kilohertz. This is where most voices fall on the audio spectrum, so think of it as a simpler alternative to the clear voice mode.
- Power boost doubles the volume of universal mode and limits loud sounds to 103 decibels.