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Tactical Headsets Update

Written by Susan Geoghegan

A wide range of both wired and wireless headsets are available. These range from simple single-ear and dual-ear headsets to advanced, in-ear tactical headsets that feature hearing protection technology.  The following companies all provide quality two-way radio accessories that serve both the military and public safety markets.

 

Atlantic Signal

www.atlanticsignal.com

The DOMINATOR II was developed with a U.S. Naval Special Warfare team in an effort to overcome issues they were having with other communication systems on the market. Prior to the DOMINATOR project, most of the comms systems available forced the operator to have something in, on or over one or both ears to communicate. Many of the systems required earpieces to be worn in both ears to both RX and TX.

Furthermore, most of those same systems required the use of batteries inside the push-to-talk coupled with software that required periodic updating via connection to a PC. Other systems required ear cups to be positioned and worn over both ears for radio RX.

Other issues with these various designs included ear fatigue, sweat filling the ear canals, less-than-clear transmitted comms by systems using an in-the-ear microphone for TX and dissatisfaction with the quality of amplified ambient environment, i.e., situational awareness (SA) and directional awareness (DA) as compared to SA and DA from natural hearing.

The DOMINATOR development project began in May 2009 and completion in December of 2012—a project that required nearly 3.5 years of development, design/re-design and test and evaluation in both the U.S. and in theatre.

The DOMINATOR II combines a waterproof/noise-canceling boom microphone for TX while utilizing both bone conductors and electronic earpieces for radio RX. The bone conductors and electronic earpieces work independently of one another as well as in concert when operational requirements call for the implementation of hearing protection.

The electronic earpieces are capable of performing three functions: 1) Radio/ICS/Smartphone/MP3 Reception, 2) Electronic Hearing Protection, and 3) User-Controlled Ambient Environment Amplification.

When hearing protection is not required, the earpieces can be removed from the ears and stowed out of the way via a magnet assembly on each earpiece cable. Radio RX is maintained without the use of the electronic earpieces via twin bone conductors integrated into the headset.

Radio transmissions are received via the facial bones directly in front of each ear and passed via bone conduction to each inner ear canal. The DOMINATOR II is available in both single and dual comm radio models and features a broad mix of mission-specific accessory cables as well as connectors for the most fielded military radio platforms. A wireless, gun mount remote push-to-talk control is also available.

The DOMINATOR II met the requirements of the U.S. NSW, including a simple-to-use plug-and-play design, the ability to engage and disengage hearing protection at will, little or no maintenance, no main push-to-talk batteries or software upgrades as well as not having something in, on or over the ears at all times to maintain RX and TX capabilities.

 

CeoTronics

www.ceotronicsusa.com

Since 1985, CeoTronics has been a global provider of short-range mobile digital wireless radio networks and high-quality professional communication headsets and systems. Drawing on the technical expertise of their 16 in-house development engineers, the company delivers cutting-edge solutions to private industry and the military, public safety, and law enforcement markets. CeoTronics’ product line includes the CT-DECT digital radio system for short-range duplex communication, as well as a broad range of audio accessories for radios.

The CT-DECT system provides personnel with a reliable means of speaking and listening simultaneously, leaving both hands free to focus on the task at hand. Ideal for emergency and rescue operations, the standard configuration of the CT-DECT system can support a work team of up to five people, while the CT-DECT Case or CT-DECT Conference unit extends the network up to eight people. 

With the CT-DECT headset, voice is picked up by a noise cancelling microphone and transmitted via radio. Optional CT-ASR (Ambient Sound Reception) enables the wearer to pick up environmental sounds while reducing noise to a level of 85 dB(A) to avoid damage to hearing. List prices start at $2,199.

Designed for law enforcement agencies and fire brigades, CT-CombiCom is a multipurpose communication system adaptable to all operational conditions. The headset can be worn on either the right or left side of the head and is easily configurable using the flexible head strap or headband/neckband. Rugged yet lightweight, it is dust- and waterproof to stand up to the toughest conditions. 

Since the headphone does not close the ear off completely, users continue to perceive ambient sounds.  Available in both a monaural and binaural version, the CT-CombiCom headset can be optionally equipped with CT-DNR (Digital Noise Reduction) technology for noise suppression. Prices start at $749.

Sales Manager Jack Darden points out that approximately two-thirds of the company’s global business is in the law enforcement, fire/rescue, and military markets, making them the better choice for the public sector. In addition, Ceotronics uses only the finest quality components that guarantee optimum cost effectiveness. “The testament to our systems is backed by our three-year warranty—unheard of in this industry. We manufacture quality, reliable accessories and back them to the hilt,” Darden said.

 

The Ear Phone Connection

www.earphoneconnect.com

Established in 1997, The Ear Phone Connection manufactures and distributes tactical communication and related equipment for the law enforcement market. The company offers a complete line of radio accessories that include Lapel, Throat, and Bone Conduction systems, Speaker and Noise Cancellation Microphones, Push-To-Talk systems, and listen-only earphones. The latest addition to their Tactical EarGadgets™ line of microphone and earphone products is the fully loaded Crane Extreme headset.

The Crane Extreme goes beyond the traditional headset by offering a cost-effective, all-inclusive system with all the features necessary to achieve success in mission-critical situations. The ambidextrous threaded connection at the speaker housing allows the user to connect the external microphones to either the right or left side for greater versatility in the field. 

In addition to the primary external noise-cancellation boom mic, the headset package also includes the Tactical EarGadgets™ Cobra noise-cancellation throat microphone. The boom and throat microphone can work together or separately, making the dual microphone setup ideal for conditions requiring a gas mask or helmet. 

Using bone conduction technology, the Crane Extreme delivers excellent audio quality and superior anti-noise capability for unobstructed auditory situational awareness. The headset package comes with a pair of Comply™ Foam 29 NRR eartips designed to protect the ear against hazardous noise levels. The patented dual foam technology increases retention and provides a secure and comfortable fit with or without a helmet. With Comply ear tips, users can hear ambient sound and clear radio transmission simultaneously. Pricing for the Crane Extreme starts at $749.

Company owner Ruben Scheimberg touts the Crane Extreme as the most versatile headset choice on the market. “Typically, any headset modifications must be made at the time of order from the manufacturer. The Crane Extreme’s ambidextrous feature changes that trend and allows users to build their own unique setup. The Crane Extreme brings so many options to the table: switch your boom microphone from left to right, apply your throat microphone when a mask is required, experience safe sound protection at all times, and implement new wireless PTT innovation,” Scheimberg said.

 

FreeLinc

www.freelinc.com

Founded in 2003, FreeLinc delivers reliable, secure wireless communications products to law enforcement agencies throughout the United States. Their patented Near Field Magnetic Induction (NFMI) technology allows communication free from interference, interception and hazards associated with wires, cables and cords. While the concepts behind NFMI are not new, FreeLinc was the first to apply this technology to short-distance, personal communications. NFMI envelops the personal space of each user, creating a “personal communications bubble” that ensures privacy and enhanced security. 

The FreeMotion 100 Wireless Communication System is a single-ear tactical headset powered by near-field communication technology. Its lightweight design provides optimum comfort, and provides 20 hours of continuous talk time on a single charge. The microphone picks up voice even at a whisper, making it ideal for surveillance operations. 

Highly weather-resistant, the FreeMotion 100 comes with an assortment of ergonomically designed ear gels and ear hooks for a comfortable, secure fit. All FreeLinc systems interface with a portable radio through a FreeLinc adapter, which features an on/off switch that returns the radio to standard operation without having to remove the adapter. 

FreeLinc Vice President of Sales, Diane Eller, stated, “With NFMI technology, your transmissions are inherently secure and without the wires, there’s no more need to alter clothing or worry about broken or tangled wires. Our new Remote Push-To-Talk and Boom Microphone Extension for the FreeMotion 100 make it a great addition to your portable radio for snipers, bicycle patrol or mounted divisions.” She encourages agencies interested in purchasing FreeLinc products to contact a representative for information on pricing and volume discounts.

 

Klein Electronics

www.kleinelectronics.com

Since 1991, Klein Electronics has been a leading provider of 2-way radios and pro-quality accessories for radios and Nextel. Certified as a Small Business, Disabled Veteran Owned Enterprise, Klein Electronics is committed to their clients, which range from OEM, distributors, military and public safety, retail chain stores, and the consumer direct. They offer a wide range of products designed specifically for tactical police and military applications.

Ideal for SWAT and rescue operations, both The Commander™ and Modular™ Series allow for on-the-fly customization of headset kits. The Commander™ Series Tactical Headset is an extreme heavy-duty headset with a noise-cancelling flexible boom microphone. It features behind-the-head design with an adjustable rubber sizing bar, and is weather resistant. A Tygon clear acoustic audio tube offers protection in extreme noise conditions. Available with various cable lengths, materials, diameters, and PTT button styles, the Commander™ is priced at $139.

The Modular Commander™ Military/Tactical Headset offers the same features as the Commander™ but requires a modular junction box and connector cable. The speaker is encased in weather-resistant housing located on the back of the headband. The price of the Modular Commander ™ is $90.

For patrol officers, the Shadow™ Listen-Only Earpiece and the Director™ Two-Wire Surveillance Kit are considered the best choices. The Shadow™ features a high-quality speaker, and a clear audio acoustic coil tube with quick-disconnect (an optional black K-Tube™ - DET is available). It comes with a pinkie eartip, a clothing clip, and a 12-inch or 42-inch length cord. With available connectors that include 2.5mm right angle, 3.5mm right angle, and 3.5mm threaded, the Shadow™ is priced at $39.

The Director™ is a two-wire earpiece unit with a clear Quick-Disconnect Audio Tube. It features true noise reduction microphone with side-bar PTT and improved Kevlar-reinforced cabling and materials.  Motorola, Blackbox, HYT, Icom, Kenwood, Relm, Sepura, TEKK, Tetra & Vertex connectors are available. The Director™ is $69 with eartips and a steel clothing clip included.

 

PRYME

www.pryme.com

For almost 25 years, PRYME has been a leading manufacturer of high-quality products for professional users of two-way radios. Their product line includes headsets, lapel and speaker microphones, earphones, GPS accessories, and adapters. Headset options range from medium- to heavy-duty, mini-boom to in-helmet microphone, plus the latest in noise-resistance bone conduction technology. PRYME’s new NBP-BH Tactical Bone Conduction Headset is a lightweight, robust headset ideal for tactical assault-type operations.

Using advanced bone conduction technology, the NBP-BH headset features dual speakers that transmit audio directly into the user’s skull. The unique bone-conducting speakers vibrate the jawbone, which in turn transmits audio directly into the inner ear, bypassing the eardrum. This helps the user to hear better in high-noise locations, even when wearing passive hearing protection. The dual speakers leave the user’s ears uncovered, allowing them to hear incoming radio transmissions while, at the same time, maintaining situational awareness.

The NBP-BH microphone is noise-cancelling and mounted on an Adjustable Flex Boom for easy positioning. In response to feedback from SWAT teams and military personnel, PRYME added a thin, non-intrusive, over-the-head Velcro strap to hold the headset firmly in place during intensive movement. Dave George, President of Pryme said, “The ideal use for this product is in a high-noise environment.  

Pryme’s first generation version had a small mic built in to one speaker, which picked up too much background noise. Customers asked us to improve that feature, and we did. This year we added a flexible boom with a noise-canceling mic element that can be placed close to the mouth.” MSRP starts at $150.

 

Safety Innovations

www.safetyinnovations.com

Safety Innovations is a small, family-owned business that invents, manufactures and distributes innovative products for law enforcement professionals. The company was established in 2012 with the acquisition and release of multiple product lines and technologies from existing companies that serve the public safety, security and military markets. Several new products released in the past year include the Safety Cell™ battery line, the VidMic™ officer worn video system, and the Ear Hugger™ (EHS) line of radio accessories.

One of the products acquired from EHS was the Ear Bone Microphone, which Safety Innovations upgraded with technical and comfort enhancements and then re-released to the public safety market. Ideal for surveillance, military and tactical operations, the Ear Bone Microphone incorporates the earpiece and the microphone into one unit that fits securely in the officer’s ear. This revolutionary patented design features an elliptical earpiece with a soft cushion that rotates to lock into any size ear.

The Ear Bone Mic includes a radio connector, inline Push-to-Talk with auxiliary PTT input, an ear-bone speaker earpiece, and a patented over-ear frame for additional stabilization. The microphone transmits using ear bone vibration and provides ultra-covert communication, even at a whisper. Other features include durable construction designed to withstand harsh conditions, a covert matte black finish to reduce reflected light, and strain relief and tubular reinforcement at strain points. The Ear Bone Mic fits easily under helmets and shrouds, and does not interfere with a gas mask.

According to Erich Pletsch, President of Safety Innovations, the Ear Bone Microphone continues to provide the cleanest, clearest reception of any bone conduction system in the industry, but with enhanced comfort. “We’re really excited about the new enhancements to the Ear Bone Mic product.

The original Ear Bone Mic, like most bone conduction products, was uncomfortable to wear and did not fit all officers well. With our enhanced design, we increased the sensitivity of the bone conduction system and replaced the hard plastic earpiece with a soft, moldable plastic earpiece that fits comfortably in almost any ear,” Pletsch said. The Ear Bone Microphone comes with a hassle-free one-year warranty against breakage and lists for $79.

 

Tactical Command Industries, Inc.

www.tacticalcommand.com

Founded in 1996 by highly experienced tactical professionals, Tactical Command Industries (TCI) is a leading manufacturer of radio communications systems and equipment. TCI works on small custom integration as well as large defense procurement, and provides both customized and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products.

The company was recently acquired by The Safariland Group, a global provider of safety and survivability products for the public safety, military, professional, and outdoor markets. The acquisition of TCI is consistent with The Safariland Group’s strategic focus on expanding its portfolio of brands with top-quality product offerings.               

TCI’s latest addition to its line of Tactical Assault Bone Conduction headsets is the TABC III. Featuring TCI’s proprietary Binaural Dynamic Audio Resonance System (DARS), the TABCIII provides audio directly to the user’s cochlea via his/her jawbone. Bypassing the ear drum, audio is picked up through vibration in the inner ear by way of bone conduction. Equipped with TCI Tactical PTT, this state-of-the-art binaural bone conduction headset features a behind-the-head fit that provides added comfort and freedom of movement. The TABC III also allows the user to maintain complete peripheral vision.

According to Jim Price, Business Development Manager for TCI, the audio response and quality is a huge improvement over the TABCII, yet remains one of the company’s best values for a lightweight, low-profile head-mounted communications system. “The headset itself fits well under all ballistic and non-ballistic helmets and is compatible with other user protective gear,” Price explained.

“Additionally, we can use the TABCIII as the base interface for all the same modifications we made with the TABCII, such as dual communication, in-line disconnect, and C50/FM53 gas mask integration.” Compatible with over 300 different radio systems, it is now available to law enforcement and military customers. Pricing for the TABCIII starts at $480.

                                                                                                                           

TEA Headsets

www.teaheadsets.com

Founded in 1969, TEA specializes in communication headsets and Push-To-Talk devices for two-way radios, vehicle intercom systems, and mobile phones. In 1982, the company designed and began to manufacture the LASH Communications Headset for military and tactical applications.

Since then, the range has expanded to include hundreds of specialized products for the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, public safety and law enforcement agencies, and the military market. TEA’s line of INVISIO® headsets feature their patented Bone Conduction Technology that allows tactical teams to effectively communicate in high-noise environments.

The INVISIO® S10 System is an innovative alternative to the big and bulky boom microphone headsets long worn by tactical operators. The system is equipped with the INVISIO® X5 Headset, a smaller and sleeker headset designed to place the bone conduction microphone in the exact spot within the inner ear where the jawbone meets the ear canal to capture voice. With dual-ear technology, the incoming radio signal (Rx) is received in the left ear while the outgoing radio signal (Tx) is transmitted from the right ear. Speech is clearly transmitted with optimum clarity and minimal background noise, even when wearing a gas mask or re-breather.

Equipped with external microphones on each earpiece, the X5 Headset is capable of super-enhanced hearing that allows the operator to effectively monitor his/her surrounding environment. Comply™ Foam Canal Tips help to provide the highest level of audible attenuation with a 29dB Noise Reduction Rating. Powered by a single AA battery, the S10 Headset System can be used with TEA push-to-talk switches that can be adapted for use with most two-way radios. Operation times are 42 hours using Lithium batteries and 25 hours with alkaline batteries.

Nicholas Lafferty, Director of Marketing for TEA, said that the S10 system features the same innovative in-ear bone conduction technology found in their INVISIO M-Series, as well as enhanced hearing protection. “In addition to using the patented in-ear bone conduction microphone for speech like the INVISIO M-Series, the INVISIO S10 dual in-ear headset system also provides certified hearing protection from noises like gunfire or explosions as well as digitally enhanced situational awareness. The INVISIO S10 can be used with single or dual radio push-to-talk switches and works with both analog and digital radios,” Lafferty said.

 

Threat4

www.xacore.com

Founded in 2003, Threat4 is a leading North American designer and manufacturer of innovative radio communication audio accessories, specializing in solutions for the military, public safety, and Original Equipment Manufacturers. These solutions include push-to-talks (PTTs), high-noise headsets, tactical headsets, speaker microphones, throat microphones, ear bone microphones, surveillance kits, and digital (DSP) headsets with active listening. More recently, Threat4 has focused its efforts in providing Tactical Communications and Protective Systems (TCAPS) to address Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL).

Threat4’s 65000 series headset features dual-bone conduction speakers for radio-received audio and a noise-cancelling boom microphone. The radio audio is designed to be received through the operator’s bones in front of the ears for optimal audio situational awareness. Operators may add hearing protection and engage/disengage at will, depending upon operational circumstances. Compatible with most helmets and gas masks, the 65000 headset is waterproof up to 2m for four hours. It is available in multi-configurations and is compatible with both earplug and earmuff hearing protection. The 65000 is priced at $449.

An upgrade to the 65000, the Threat4 62000 headset provides radio communications, hearing protection, and talk-through functionality for military and SWAT applications. “The 62000 is essentially a hearing protection hearing aid with radio communications,” said Threat4’s co-founder and CEO Patrick Armstrong. “It allows the operator to keep his/her ears open to maintain situational awareness and still receive radio audio through temple tissue.” The x-62000 has been tested in Afghanistan and is currently used by over 100 law enforcement agencies in North America. It is priced at $952.

 

Susan Geoghegan is a freelance writer living in Naples, Fla. She can be reached at skgwriter@comcast.net.


Published in Tactical Response, Jul/Aug 2014

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