Protear Bluetooth FM Radio Ear Muffs / Defenders
On first looks the Protear Bluetooth FM Radio Ear Defender seem to offer great value for hearing protection which also includes FM and AM radio tuners and Bluetooth phone connection for music, podcasts, hands-free calling, etc., but are they as good as the features list may indicate?
Protear Bluetooth FM Radio Ear Defenders - the basics
Features: Reusable and with rechargeable battery, (no swappable batteries), Bluetooth, 3.5mm aux-in, FM and AM radio, hands-free calling.
Protear Bluetooth FM Radio Ear Defenders - performance
There are two criteria for these, how do they perform primarily as hearing protection, and secondly how do they perform for playing music via FM radio or the Bluetooth connection.
Protear Bluetooth Ear Defenders performance as hearing protection
This is a bit of a red flag to me which I struggle to get past - other than the SNR given on the Amazon listing, the manufacturer makes no other performance data available. They have no visible website containing it. To me this starts to look like a non-specialist electronics manufacturer trying their hand at hearing protection, rather than a hearing protection specialist trying to expand their range. So I emailed them to ask for it, to be given the first reply of:
No hearing protector manufacturer should be asking what APV data is.
Meanwhile I ordered a set in the hope that the box and packaging would contain all the data needed. Most hearing protectors from reputable manufacturers have at least the SNR and HML figures and a statement about EN352-1 certification on the packaging and/or on the paperwork inside, and most have full APV data also available on the paperwork inside, and definitely on their website, but not Protear. When they arrived they were in a plain brown ‘Protear’ box with a sicker on the front giving the NRR value. NRR is of no relevance - NRR is the ratings system used in America and is not used in the UK or EU. None of the Protear paperwork inside had any other relevant performance data or any indication of EU Certification levels.
Finally the HML and APV data turned up by email the following day and this is now available on our Hearing Protection Performance Data page.
Armed at long last with the EN 352-1 performance data I was happy that the defenders actually are good enough for most jobs. Their performance is perfectly good once the data can be seen - Protear just need to make this more visible as it is in their interest to do so - the protectors are actually good once you are able to confirm it.
Protear Bluetooth Ear Defenders performance for playing music
Their primary purpose is clearly as hearing protection, but as you can buy decent ear muffs for less than a fiver which will give good levels of protection, the other £55 must be for the music playing abilities, but I am afraid that for this they are simply awful. Imagine the sound produced by one of those early bedside clock radios back in the late 1970s. Tinny and completely lacking any depth. That’s how these things sound.
They do work - the Bluetooth connection to my phone was easy and it stays connected, but the sound they make is terrible. It’s hard to state how bad they sound - like listening to someone’s phone, inside a biscuit tin, 200 meters away.
Another black mark is that as well as the lack of any performance data online, I have found NO data anywhere confirming the maximum volume these things will go to inside the ear defender cup. It should be below 85 dB(A) but without anything confirming it then it’s something of a leap of faith and all you can do is trust it’s OK. Anecdotally they don’t go very loud so seem fine, but without data that’s just an impression.
Protear Bluetooth Ear Defenders build, fit and comfort
Build-wise they are OK. I have used £30 ‘Peltor Optime Push to Listen’ muffs for years and can’t help thinking these Protear defenders do feel a little cheap in comparison, but they are OK.
The squeeze of the headband is about right, no complaints there, and the cushions do their job, but again, they do feel a little like cheap ear muffs against your ears rather than a premium product. I know I couldn’t tell the difference between these and say a £4 Beeswift cheapo muff just by how they feel. That’s perfectly fine and they do their job, but for nigh-on £60 they should feel a little more premium than they do.
Protear Bluetooth Ear Defenders, other comments
There is no other word for it other than ‘a bit amateur’. Even another email I received from them said they were ‘in their adolescence’ and ‘need to do more professional things’, which is nice, but that development should be done in private, not with a product they are charging £60 for. Being pretty much only for sale on Amazon, (which is never a good sign in workplace safety equipment), no website giving a decent level of product information and not even including this data in the packaging is very poor, adolescent or otherwise, and they need to improve on that if these are to be taken seriously for workplace noise safety.
The rechargeable battery is a good or bad thing depending on how you view these things. On one hand, when a set of AAs goes flat you can just swap them for new ones whereas this has to be plugged in for charging (about 4 hours according to the paperwork in the box). On the other hand, if you get into the habit of keeping them charged you’ll never need to hunt about for batteries at the last minute. Weirdly, when they arrive you have to open the battery compartment to connect the battery - I don’t think I’ve ever bought an electronic product where I’ve had to do that before. On balance though I prefer the rechargeable route they have chosen as it is more convenient.
At an even more basic level - they thought SNR stands for ‘signal to noise ratio’ when in this context it is ‘Single Number Rating’. A subtle difference but one which a hearing protection manufacturer should be very aware of. Again, a bit indicative of a manufacturer trying their hand at hearing protection when they aren’t specialists in it. I gently pointed it out and they changed it very quickly on their Amazon listing, but only for that product - all their other products still said ‘signal to noise ratio’ at the time of writing this. Oh dear - that’s still just not getting it.
Protear Bluetooth FM Radio Ear Defenders Summary
Financially these Protear defenders could be great value as the features for this price are excellent. Their stated SNR performance is perfectly fine for a lot of workplaces and they will be suitable for a wide range of noises. The music playback however is hopeless. Don’t buy these expecting to be listening to anything other than a tinny, shallow, metallic, unpleasant noise.
The lack of any data either on a Protear website or in the packaging confirming how well they perform is a basic and inexcusable error - these things are hearing protection first and foremost. Also, nothing confirming the maximum volume they will go to means you have to take it on trust that the protector is not adding more noise back in than it knocks off and therefore leaving people more at risk than wearing nothing at all. Protear need to address this if they want to be taken seriously as a supplier of hearing protection.
If they were half the price then maybe the quality of the music playback would be acceptable.
✔︎ Loads of features
✔︎ Battery life is decent
✔︎ Hearing protection (sound attenuation) performance is good for a lot of jobs
✘ Value for money isn’t great because of the music playback quality
✘ Availability of technical performance data is woeful
✘ Music playback is very poor
✔︎ Build quality - OK but expected a bit better for the price
The features list is good, very good but the music performance is so poor that it really harms the value of them. They are OK, but that £60 price point does look way too high for the quality on offer.