tremm Reader
11/21/21 12:08 a.m.

I think I'm satisfied with something like these ~$40 3m Peltor X5 X5B- 31db NRR. Or these ~$35 3m Optime 105 - 29db NRR

Basically I'm looking for something behind the neck, $20-40ish, and I'd guess @27-31db NRR

Use: general around-the-house. Power tools, small engines (like lawn mowing). No shooting.

I want to wear a wide-brimmed hat while using them. I want to wear earbuds underneath them. 

I want them to be comfortable. And to not fall off while doing average DIY yardwork/housework. 

I don't think I need/want an electronic model- I don't need to talk to anyone while working & don't see the features being worth anything to me.


The way I see it, I want to pay for something that I like to wear, so that I'm more likely to use them every time. I've read the larger ones can get in the way of a hat; and I fear they'll be heavy, but reviews seem positive. I was hoping there would be some fancy compact/lightweight models that might be @25db NRR, but the closest I've found is this 21db 3m Optime 95. - I'm guessing 21db is not great in the real world. There doesn't seem to be a ton of fluctuation in design across manufacturers... most of the >25 NRR cans look about the same size, and I haven't found accurate weight numbers to compare.

I guess the question is, what's the k24 of earmuffs?


If you're just curious, here's a link to Grainger's hearing protection category. No better time to start taking care of your ears than now, no matter your age.

And you can google something like 'nrr db explained'. Basically take the NRR, subtract 7, and then divide by 2, to get the reduction estimate. So a 31db NRR would be 24/2 = 12db reduction. And in that link, there's a chart of how long you can tolerate a noise level safely. From what I've heard, a 3-5db increase is perceived as being ~twice as loud to your ears [or is it 10db?]. Also, I haven't seen anything advertised >@31 NRR from a reputable manufacturer.

I don't understand the nuances of the rating at all. It gets into reduction by frequency (like, a pair of earmuffs may have a 14db reduction between 40-60hz, 16db reduction between 60-80hz, etc.). And you'll find plenty of confusing stuff if you search for '3m ear protection lawsuit'

classicJackets (FS)
classicJackets (FS) Dork
11/23/21 8:05 a.m.

I have these (Link) and like the noise reduction quite a bit. They are definitely clunky and would get in the way of a hat, in my opinion (haven't tried to wear them over a hat but it seems like it would get annoying). I do a lot of work with angle grinders and the noise reduction is great for that, it is genuinely shocking to hear grinders without them now.


The ones you posted look to be super nice and low profile. I would think that the lower profile you go, the more difficult it would be to get earbuds under them, but it all depends on what's comfortable for your ear. That's where I think the perk of the electronic/Bluetooth models would be, in allowing you to get a two-for-one type deal with protection and sound/music. Anything is better than nothing, and like engines - some will be looking for K24, others will recommend LS, and some will say you need a V12 : )

the_machina Reader
11/23/21 9:24 a.m.

I'd go with either of the ones listed, but also consider going with some good in-ear monitors instead of just regular earbuds (something like the blon BL03). That'll help seal out a little more noise and keep your music volume levels down.

SkinnyG (Forum Supporter)
SkinnyG (Forum Supporter) UberDork
11/23/21 9:25 a.m.

The 31dB 3M Peltors are VERY good, I do recommend them. I recommend the highest dB rating you can get; your hearing doesn't grow back or recover.

tremm Reader
11/23/21 5:08 p.m.

I wound up ordering a pair of 3M x4b for <$30 shipped. For posterity, I’ll post what I think I learned for future searchers:

I’ve got no love for 3m- they just had the easiest to find product info, and seem to have the largest line of muffs.

Go out and spend the $5-50 on hearing protection (muffs or plugs) this holiday season. You deserve it. Plugs go up to 33db NRR, so if you like wearing plugs while working then go for it. Buy what you’ll use. Disposable, reusable, fancy, cheap.. you just gotta wear them.


Here’s 3M’s Peltor “X” line of muffs, and a condensed chart to easily compare the models.

The 3M general hearing PPE catalog:

I interpreted this as:

* the lowest protection x1b weighed 149g

* the second-highest protection x4b was only 50g more at 203g. While the champion x5b was 170g more at 319g.

* the x4b lost 2-3db of protection at the lower frequencies to the x3b. But, the x4b surpasses the x3b at the higher frequencies by 2-8db. (the x3b paradoxically outweighs the x4b),

* the x4b loses significantly to the x5b: 3-9db at the low/middle frequencies, but at the high end the x4b actually outperforms it by 2-5db. I assume 9db is a huge sacrifice, and I also think that 0-1000hz covers a lot of real-world noises.

-I don’t understand mf/apvf beyond the layman’s interpretation of what “mean attenuation value” and “assumed protection value” mean.

-SNR = Single Noise Rating. The European version of NRR. SNR is usually more optimistic than NRR [e.g. the X4b is rated 27db NRR, while 33db SNR]. This pdf may be for the european market/models.

tl;dr: the x4b seemed like the goldilocks of weight and protection, for me. My second choice would be the x5b at 319g vs 203g.


More info-

  • I wanted something I’d enjoy wearing. So I went for behind-the-neck aka behind-the-head. And I sacrificed some protection for weight. If you want standard style over-the-head, or hard hat attached, then pull the values for those models
  • I do not know if there are lighter weight earmuffs. If there was a 100g pair that only lost a few db to the x4b, then I’d probably give them a try too. I didn’t feel like the x1b 50g difference was worth the tradeoff of 6-10db.
  • I don’t know much about db. AFAIK +3db is thrown around in car audio circles as a doubling of output energetically(?); and it seems like +10db is perceived as twice as loud(???). That’s what I had in mind when judging these.
  • A pair of full-sized headphones weighs ~260g. So I figured it’d be safe to first try the x4b weight, vs the x5b which are ~60g heavier than headphones. I think weight goes along with clamping force (as they get heavier, they have to clamp harder to your head, which then causes discomfort over time)
  • Cost-wise, there isn’t a huge difference. You can find plenty of $20-25 pairs of over-the-head 30nrr on amazon.
  • This was a PITA, but the frequency comparisons were enlightening. My guess is that a company wants to advertise their muffs as [XX] NRR, or create a lineup around the standard, and sacrifices performance at some frequencies to create a mean value, in combination with weight.

I think this is 3m’s naming convention: 3M Peltor “X” (higher end), 3M Peltor Optime “H” (middle end). Thanks, marketing department, for the useless catalog descriptions. The NRR protection rating typically increases with model number: x1b < x2b < x3b etc. The letter at the end (x1”b”) usually denotes band type (behind-the-neck, over-the-head, hard hat attached, folding, etc.)

I could not find a similar spec sheet for the Optime “H” lineup. This is the H10 info sans weight. I think that is the Optime king. You may be able to find other H model specs by searching for them individually.

If you double bag it, and wear both earmuffs and ear plugs simultaneously, the NRR goes up by 5db (take the higher number of the 2 products, and add 5db).

Most people in the USA say to take NRR, subtract 7, then divide by 2, to get the real world reduction of db. 3m’s site says, “It is recommended that the NRR be reduced by 50% to better estimate typical protection”. I read that the UK health & safety says to subtract 4 from the SNR rating. That all seems like throwing darts to me. The thing that made the most sense to me was to find an OSHA chart of permissible exposure levels | time allowed, then match the (NRR-7)/2 to that. Or just buy X5’s, add plugs, and be done with it.

Watch out for earmuffs advertised as >31db, and also for products advertised by no-name brands. Some companies will advertise an NRR # of a combined muff + plug - so they’ll put a misleading picture of earmuffs with “35 NRR” description - but it’s really a purported 30db NRR muff + plug additive combo. (Even 3m does this sometimes)


  • I did not look into electronic models at all. Honeywell's Howard Leight makes a nice looking set ~$100 & 30 NRR passive. No idea of that market.
  • I did not look into models advertised for shooting. As I understand it, there are two categories of muffs- 1) standard muffs for prolonged noise output (like working next to an engine that runs for 24/7). 2) Impulse noise muffs for short bursts of noise (like a metal stamping machine, or shooting)
  • I didn’t find info easily on Honeywell’s stuff, so I went with 3m. Same reason I went with the Peltor X instead of Peltor H.
  • Keep in mind that hearing damage is a combination of db level *and* exposure time. I don’t think I’ll be exposed for more than 1-4 hours doing DIY stuff and this is all overkill. If you’re spending 8 hours at a racetrack, have a home metal/woodshop, or something similar, please look into it. Might be worth considering frequency specs if you do something like run a table saw all day.
  • I know there’s at least 1 3M hearing PPE related lawsuit.
  • If you want to find more info about a pair you already own, you can try googling “[model number] datasheet”
Fairlady68 New Reader
11/24/21 9:44 a.m.

I have had pretty good luck with my Isotunes Extra 2.0.  I use them in my woodshop and when mowing.  

Our Preferred Partners