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Walkers 2020 Ear Buds



It was during my first section of the Appalachian Trail that I realized the value of multifunctional gear. I took what I learned in the woods and applied it to everyday life, after all, you don’t need to be living out of a bag for a week to appreciate carrying less stuff around. Everyday carry revolves around this notion because let’s face it, you only have so much space on your hips and in your pockets. That space is likely already occupied by the essentials (gun, knife, wallet, keys, phone) so why would you even dream of adding something like hearing protection to that list?

Most people who have needed to use their gun in the street have fired it without wearing earplugs. I mean what are the odds that you’d have it on you at all, let alone in your ears? Well, if they were in your ears already for another purpose than the chances of leaving an altercation without your ears ringing greatly increases. Of course, situational awareness goes down the drain with passive ear protection, so the only smart choice is something electronic. Every year Walker’s Game Ear comes out with a new class of electronic earbuds and this year I was fortunate enough to test both the Razor VX 3.0 and the Rope Hearing Enhancer.

A lot of folks make qualms about hearing protection like it makes them less of a man for wearing it. I like hanging out with these guys, mainly because you only have to be about two feet away to talk shit about them. Being able to hear after a trip to the range doesn’t make you less of a sportsman; in fact, I prefer wearing electronic hearing protection when I hunt because it amplifies sounds that I normally wouldn’t hear, like a buck snapping a twig 75 yards away. Which brings me back to situational awareness, amplified hearing protection might just help you hone in on someone lurking in the shadows. Now I’m not saying that you should be wearing ear pro all the time out of paranoia, but if you’re the type to listen to music when you go for a walk or jog than these are for you.

Both the Razors and the Rope pick up sounds from the environment and amplify them so you can hear them at their original volume, or crank em up a bit. Both also have circuitry that cuts off the speakers once an unsafe threshold is met, like gunfire. So to test them both properly I brought them to the range and along my day to day routine.

I started my evaluation with the Rope Hearing Enhancers. Most of us are familiar with the platform, a simple wire that connects two earbuds with the circuitry located somewhere in the middle. Walker’s hasn’t departed too far from the norm, except that even when powered off they provide a noise reduction rating (NRR) of 29 dB. When powered on via a hard switch they run off the integrated Li-ion battery for a rated 15 hours, which I found to be true, especially when I wasn’t using the Bluetooth features. When I was using the Bluetooth I found streaming of music and phone calls from my smartphone to be simple and adequately clear. My favorite place to use them was in the gym, because the minimalist design stayed out of the way, even when resting a barbell across my traps to squat. Overall I found them to be just a good solid pair of headphones that work great at the range and good as a day to day hands-free solution for making calls.

Moving on to the Razor was like being reunited with an old friend that took good care of himself over the years. These Razors are in their third revision and I am proud to say that I have tried a set from each generation every step along the way. The newest Razor Neckband setup improved the retraction system of the buds, to which I found to be much less “in the way” and the button placement found a much easier to reach home. The sound quality on these took a big jump forward and they just seemed to sit on my shoulders better than the previous model. Best of all, the new neckband now connects to Walker’s Link 2.0 App which allowed me to change the crossover to one of 4 different listening modes, adjust volume remotely, or even change the duration of the automatic shutoff. While I enjoyed these on the range, I REALLY enjoyed them on a 6-hour flight where I used them to block out the ambient noise of a jet engine and watch movies that I’m embarrassed to admit to. I was able to go to and fro without stopping to charge, and just like the Rope Enhancers, the foam inserts were plenty comfortable for the elongated use.

The two units both served their purposes well. If I had to give an elevator pitch I’d say the Rope Enhancers are a great entry-level unit, especially if you are more on the active side and the Razor VX V3.0 gets you a bump up in sound quality and connectivity. Both sets came with interchangeable earplugs to help customize a fit to your unique ear canal, or if you’re a filthy human being, share them with someone else. I liked that both units charged off of a USB, so that opens the door to charging off a power bank, car charger, or even solar if you are in a jam. Although they are a dime a dozen, I would have appreciated the wall adapter so I wouldn’t have to decide between my cell phone and my ear Pro at the end of the night, but that’s easily solved with a few bucks and a wish account…..just kidding I don’t want to burn my house down.

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