Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Review of SensGard Hearing Protection

Yeah, not a terribly sexy posting, but I like these quite a bit and that was the last thing I thought I'd say about hearing protection!

Since it's been at least a few weeks since I was a teen able to listen to heavy metal on "11" all day with obviously no damage (teens are invincible; stuff happens to other people...) I now actually find I like working with these on more than off.

SensGard makes two varieties of the ZEM hearing protection (you'll see it listed as ZEM not SensGard at local woodworking stores; dunno why).  A -26db attenuating and a -31db attenuating pair.

I wanted to review these about a year ago, but had no idea how to show you how well it works given my camera equipment at the time.  Now, I have a microphone I used so you can hear the difference.  I made sure the audio path to the camera wasn't going to mess with the sound so no automatic gain control or clipping.

Man, to think, just weeks ago I could listen to Iron Maiden at "11" with reckless abandon.  Hmm, that might have dated myself... okay, "few weeks" might be gratuitous...

Note: they won't stop the voices in your head.

Voilà, a video review of an audio product...


  • Brian said...

    Just admit it. You got the green ones because they match your festool stuff. Secondly, I noticed you wearing the orange ones a while ago and took the kind of guy you are into consideration and bought myself a pair. They are spectacular. I have to say wearing them, (for nine and a half hours a day) they are the most comfortable hearing protection I've ever tried. Not to mention they do a wonderful job.

  • Brian said...

    OH YEAH! btw how do you like the new DC? I've been eyeballing it.

  • ChrisHasFlair said...


    Good video. Watching the cuts between the three audio levels was fun.

    You probably wouldn't know this, but SensGards are a pain to put on if your hair covers your ears. Ear muffs are much easier. When I had short hair, I did like my SensGards very much.


  • HalfInchShy said...

    Chris Wong with short hair?!? No photo, didn't happen! I'd agree though; they'd be miserable with long hair...

    Hey, the color match was a lucky draw, Brian! 9 1/2 hours a day? Dude, what's your day job?! I could see them working well that long, but wow, long time in a noisy environment!

    hmm how do I like that Laguna DC... you could wait until Friday or Monday or you can click this :)

  • bob kloes said...

    Nice job Paul Marcel. I am going to get some of the 31 db ones. I was amazed at how much more they muted the sound. I don't have any hair to worry about. Saves on shampoo. bob

  • Jonathan Mulzer said...

    Can you hear the music as the dust collector or table saw is going? I imagine not, but I thought it was worth a shot.

    I may have to pick some of these up. I am not opposed to the foam earplugs, but they hurt my ears after a short while. I had to wear them in a previous working life. These may be just the ticket for working in the datacenter but still being able to hear my team. :)

  • HalfInchShy said...

    Hi, Jonathan... once the tablesaw and DC are on, you've pretty much drowned out the music! But once they're turned off, you hear it just fine with some attenuation if you use the -31s. The -26s seem to let in the music more clearly.

    I'd bet the -26s would get rid of the fan rumble of a data center; they are lighter and more comfortable than the -31s; the part you push into your ear on the 31s is a hair larger than those on the -26s.

    And, Bob, you'll like the -31s for all that planing you do!

  • Fong said...

    Great review Paul!
    I switch between cheap muffs (strap interferes with goggles) and squeeze in plugs (where I can't hear my music). I had no idea there were passibe resonant attenuators. Genius!

    For those wondering why 31 is so much better than 26 dB, the decibel scale is a logarithmic scale of base 10. That means a change in 10 dB is a 10 times change in power ratio. So for the SensGard, a difference of 5 dB rating is a power ratio of 3.2. In other words, the 31 attenuates 3 times that of the 26.

    Also available in conservative blue & black colors.

    Seriously Chris, where are the short hair photos?

  • Brian said...

    I work for a place called Bunk & Loft Factory. We make bunk beds and other furniture mostly for kids "built kid tough." You can check out our stuff at
    It's not fine furniture but it's a great job.

  • Unknown said...

    Did you know that SensGard also makes audio headphones with the same passive noise cancelling technology?

    In a shop, you'd have to be careful about the headphone wire, but in some places, this could let you listen to your music and still reduce the loud ambient noises.

    Paul McAfee

  • Tim Raleigh said...

    Thanks for introducing these to me. They work great. I really like them 'cause you can hear what te machine is actually doing. I haved used a lot of different hearing protection but dislike most of them because they are either too bulky or block out too much sound.
    I have the 26's in red, and I am going to order the 32's to see if I like them better.
    On the sens gaurd site it appears some of those snazzy colors you have are no longer available.
    I like the red ones they work.

  • HalfInchShy said...

    I should have mentioned that, Paul... I saw those on their site when I ordered the lime-green -31s last year. But like you said, the wire! I don't like a wire hanging off me with tools around. But that would work great. I guess if you had a small MP3 player strapped to your arm under your sleeve and ran the short cable down behind your shirt, it might be okay.

    Snazzy is my (second) middle name, Tim! I know Peter on FOG is trying to see if we want to do a group order of the lime-green -31s stamped with FOG on it. You could always get those!

    Not sure why they went black; most 'protection' devices are bright colors so you can easily verify your shop guys are wearing them.

    One other thing I forgot to mention in the video is how to put them on. Seems simple... if you start with the band down behind your neck, insert in ears then rotate up 90º you have the advantage that when you look down, they are already in pretty tight and won't rotate further. Maybe that's obvious but I tried a headset-style protection before these and seemed like no matter how I put them on, looking down made them rotate and become a hazard on their own.

  • Unknown said...

    That's THE best demonstration I've ever seen of the ZEM's. I've heard people talk about them for years, but I never really bought it. Your demo sold me! I ordered one of each and I'm seriously considering getting the headphones too. I currently wear a pair of ear muffs with an MP3 jack connected to my phone. I run the cord under my shirt to the phone in my pocket. It lets me listen to podcasts and music, but most importantly it lets me hear my phone ring. The cable has never been an issue. Thanks for taking the time to come up with a creative demo. The SensGard people really need to link to that video!

  • HalfInchShy said...

    Thanks, Mark... glad you liked it.

    So I later realized I didn't mention the best way to put them on. You are supposed to have the headband behind your head when you pop them in then rotate them 90º to get the band up top while they snug up in your ear. If you just push them in or do the above but with the headband starting in front of you, you'll find that when you look down, they'll rotate and loosen up. The other way, rotating would just 'tighten' them.

    Let me know how you like the headphone version if you decide to try them out. I don't have them (yet! :)