Review: 3M WorkTunes Hearing Protector AM/FM Radio with MP3 Support (lol)

11 months ago comradetao Comments Off on Review: 3M WorkTunes Hearing Protector AM/FM Radio with MP3 Support (lol)

p1040861 What Are These?

The 3m WorkTunes Hearing Protector is an over-the-ear noise blocking system that also houses an internal AM/FM radio and headphone speakers.

Specifications

  • AM/FM Radio
  • Station Memory (store favorite stations) & Digital Tuning Functions (browse)
  • Voice Assist (tells you what station you’re on, + a few more functions)
  • Adjustable cushioned headband
  • 3.5mm audio input jack (use these as headphones)
  • 24dB NRR (Noise Reduction Rating)*
  • Washable ear cushions
  • Powered by 2AA batteries for AM/FM function
  • included 3.5mm m-m cable for plugging in music players

Usability

p1040865This is one simple to use radio. 3M probably had ease of use in mind when they designed it; and they nailed it. There are only four control objects. A satisfyingly resistant rubberized volume knob with a deliberate feeling detent at the start of the turning motion that functions as the on/off switch. There’s a similar feeling clicky tuning knob for browsing stations or moving through your station memory. On the same side as those knobs, you also find the AM/FM switching button and a mode button. The AM/FM button is marked with a raised dot so your fingers can find the correct one without looking.

You can pretty much put these on your head, pull them down to the right fit, and start pressing buttons. A person with a lot of electronics use under their belt will probably be able to guess how the different functions work; it’s that intuitive. If you don’t guess correctly, just grab the included manual sheets.

Once you’ve started pressing buttons you’re going to hear one of the best features of these hearing protectors; voice assist. A pleasant mechanical-sounding lady will announce to you each station you switch to. She doesn’t get annoying though, because she waits until you settle on a channel for a second or two before identifying your current channel. That way, you don’t have to listen to her nag about every decimal frequency jump you make while looking for your favorite Norwegian comedy pop music channel (#engineforgabriel).

Plugging in an MP3 player or phone is also easy, but this one might throw you off a little. When you plug in an external source, the hearing protectors kill all the on-body controls and cut the radio. At this point, you should just turn the radio part off. The headphones, when a cord is plugged in the 3.5mm port, will function just like normal headphones.

Durability

These feel solid. The hinges and wires of the headphone band don’t look like the sturdiest construction, but you can’t always judge durability by looks. Just from the feel, they seem solid. The knobs and buttons seem sturdy and well made. Overall, I’d say these are about the talkiest headphones I’ve ever worn.

p1040863The manual mentions that these are washable. Do NOT mistake that for water resistant or water proof. Areas like the battery port are not sealed to block water or dust ingress. However, the the manual suggests that the hearing protectors can be wiped down with a sponge and that the ear cups can be remove for cleaning or replaced. It also recommends that you inspect for cracks or damage regularly and replace the ear cups every 6 months or so (may depend on usage). If you are using these to block out noise, I echo these recommendations. You would not want damage or fault to decrease noise attenuation (reduction) and accidentally expose your ears to more damage than necessary.

What about that noise reduction?

Yeah, that. 3M rates these suckers at 24dB of noise reduction. However, that’s not going to be a 24dB reduction for everyone and every sound across the board. The manual even admits this. The manual says that the average person will only receive 50% of that noise reduction! Also, the reduction in noise is different for differing frequencies. For instance, 125Hz is listed at 16dB of noise reduction (8dB if you take that 50% advice) and maxes out at around 40dB (20dB) at 4000Hz. Basically, you’re going to get noise reduction, but how good it works depends on the type of noise and how well the protectors fit.

My experience

I can put these on while my family watches TV and completely block out their sound. Even typing at my desk, with the AM radio on, the clicky sounds of my mechanical keyboard are just barely audible; and that’s with the radio volume very low. The sound quality of the headphones is average at best. These are NOT an audiophile sleeper hit. They just give you sound. To drive that point home, I fired up the Galaxy Note 4, plugged in the MP3 compatible (lol) cable and listened to a FLAC file of Doobie Brothers – Black Water. There’s a light chime twinkling sound at the start of the song and, while with other headphones it comes through clearly, it’s barely audible at first here. These do not have a ton of range. That said, they do sound pleasant. You’ll still get to enjoy your music if you’re not picky.

p1040868Funny thing about these is that they’re actually pretty comfortable for me to use. I would have thought plastic ear cups and heavy headphones would drive me nuts, but they’re really not too bad. There’s a slight texture on the ear cups to make them less sticky and the cushioned headband is very comfortable.

I took them out to do some yard work with some ordinary non-powered hedge clippers. The world went practically silent for me. It was actually kind of scary to think people (maybe the least effective secret agent ever) could be sneaking up on me and I’d never hear them.

I also gave these to my dad to try out while he was sanding and getting ready to paint his front door. The sander is so loud you can hear it clearly from two floors up and probably all the way down the street. I can’t say for sure how well they blocked out the sound, but instead of coming in the house yelling in adjustment to the loud environment, he was using a normal voice. He also said that he couldn’t even hear the hose running while he was spraying down the front porch to rinse away the dust. Sounds (lol) good to me.

He also covered them in sanding dust. Still work great.

Conclusion

So, I reviewed these because I found them on Slickdeals.net for around $25+tax with free shipping. At that price, I figured they could be a useful too. On Amazon, they’re still in the mid or low $30s. That’s not too bad. If you want some basic noise reduction for yard work, woodworking, or other things like that, and you want to listen to the political talk shows or local Chilean folk music station, I think I can safely recommend these.

Many people have talked about a cheaper option of buying some small headphones or earbuds and wearing them under more basic hearing protectors. The thing is, many similarly rated hearing protectors don’t offer the radio or audio features but are still about $20 or more. For the slight add-on price and the convenience of radio listening without the need for an external device, I think the value is there. Just remember though that it runs on 2x AA batteries so that’s a cost consideration if you don’t already have a stock of rechargeables.

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