The buttons on the Excel Bluetooth ear muffs were sized perfectly and their layout was very instinctual. Operating them was effortless after just a few minutes of practice. The author used these on a cool fall day, and even with gloves on he was able to make adjustments to tone and volume.

The new ear plugs include a charging/storage dock. Simply plug the dock into any USB power supply with the included cable and it will charge, giving you enough power to charge the ear plugs with up to 14 hours of use in each charge. The small ear plugs have manageable controls, but the included iPhone or Android app lets you control every single feature on the phone, permitting you to have buttons in front of your face instead of having to feel around for them. The XCEL 500BT muffs take the passive protection aspect to a new level by moving the buttons from the cups to the headband. This allows for more internal space to suppress noise while not sacrificing controllability. We wore these on the range for 6 hours during our test and found them to be very comfortable with no noticeable neck strain, largely due to their light weight. The four microphones on each side allowed us to easily pick up sounds all around us, as well as positively ID which direction they came from. While Walker’s new muffs don’t link up to the same app as their plugs, we found the buttons to be sufficiently large enough to recognize by feel, even with light gloves on. The 4-button design keeps it simple enough to easily adjust volume and change listening modes.

Moving the buttons from the cup to the arm band creates a lot of real estate for engineers to work with. The deeper recess allows for not only more sound suppression, but more room for the ear to occupy without bending or pinching.

Overall, our time on the range and in the field with both new products left us with a very favorable opinion of what Walker’s is doing to improve personal hearing protection equipment. Today there is absolutely no reason to sacrifice your hearing or your comfort to enjoy your time slinging lead at targets or pursuing your favorite game. For more information contact Walker’s Game Ear; Tel.: (877) 269-8490; Web: www.walkersgameear.com