February 06, 2020
A big warthog, worth a stalk, was feeding near the edge of cover across a burned clearing. Donna and PH Julian Moller unlimbered and headed out; I stayed back to reduce movement and noise. To get the wind right, they needed to be down the road, then approach across a burned clearing. As they moved away I heard this loud crunching. Perplexed, I looked around and realized that, despite a dirt track and soft-soled shoes, I was hearing every footstep. That was when I appreciated how well the Tetra AmpPods work.
Like most life-long shooters of my generation, I have a hearing problem. My audiologist describes mine as “profound.” I haven’t heard a watch tick since dad and I discovered our first prairie dog town — when I was 13. We didn’t know any better, but today there is no excuse: Always insist on hearing protection. I’ve been careful for many years, but in my case it’s a bit like closing the barn door after the horses are gone. Fortunately, I’m not quite as deaf as older gun writers like Keith and Askins were when I first got into the business, but I’m pretty bad.
Three years ago, I took the plunge and got good hearing aids. (My brand is Phonak.) They have reopened my world, some of the best money ever spent. But they do not cut off loud noise because, as the doctor tells me, my hearing loss is “too profound.” I can’t wear them shooting, so I use good sound-amplifying earmuffs. Recently, I’ve carried earmuffs to my deer stands, and I try to remember to put them on when I’m getting ready for a shot.
Tetra is something brand new and altogether different, designed by scientists who are also hunters and shooters. The big difference with Tetra is their Specialized Target Optimization (STO), an algorithm that amplifies the sounds we most need to hear, while “cutting off” loud noises. (Like gunshots.) There are two product lines: Shield and Amp. Both fit inside the ear so are almost invisible and amazingly comfortable. The Shield series is designed for use on the range, or “constant shooting” situations such as a duck blind. Waterfowl models amplify the natural sound range of waterfowl, keep calling at a safe, natural level, while cutting off gunshots. Range models amplify range commands or conversation, and cut off gun shots. Both create a tight seal in the ear, offering effective hearing protection.
The Amp series that I’ve been using is designed for hunting, with AmpPods optimized for deer, elk and turkey hunting. Amp is not designed as hearing protection for constant loud noise, such as on the range. It does cut off loud sounds, but does not create a tight seal, so is intended for field use with only occasional shots. At the range I found the AmpPod very adequate for suppressed fire, but for unsuppressed fire it’s sensible to put earmuffs over the top.
So, if the Amp series is not for constant hearing protection, what is it? Depending on the model, using modern acoustic and electronic science (read magic if you’re a layman like me), the AmpPods are optimized to enhance the sounds we most need to hear. For the Turkey model, Tetra scientists analyzed the acoustical signatures of turkey vocalizations, enabling you to better hear and pinpoint distant gobblers. Similarly, the Elk AmpPods enhance the vocal range of elk, allowing you to hear bugles (and other elk vocalizations) from as much as twice the distance, and better judge distance and direction.
With AmpPods, the watchwords are “enhance and suppress.” They suppress loud sounds like gunshots. For a day at the range or in a prairie dog town, I use a backup (like earmuffs, or Tetra’s Shield series), but AmpPods suppress adequately for occasional shots, and enhance the most critical sounds specific to your hunting.
Unlike most headsets, they’re comfortable, require no adjustment once properly inserted, and don’t interfere with cheek weld with rifles or shotguns. There are two “grades” in the Amp series: 60 “Advanced” and 90 “Premium.” All have multiple settings, adjusted by simply tapping twice on your ear canal and listening for beeps. The 90 Premium series can be customized for individual hearing levels in each ear, just like a hearing aid, while the 60 Advanced AmpPods are “insert battery, plug, and play.”
The Model 60 Advanced Deer AmpPods that I’m using amplify human speech, including soft whispers between you and a hunting partner. Most importantly for deer hunting, the Deer AmpPods are targeted to enhance soft sounds in the woods like twigs breaking or leaves rustling. Tetra uses the small 10A hearing aid battery, with excellent battery life of a week to 10 days. It does take a bit of practice to insert the small batteries, and also to easily insert the AmpPod into the ear canal. As un macho as it is, I strongly recommend carefully reading the excellent instructions. Their website at tetrahearing.com is also a great resource.
I received my deer AmpPods just before departing for Mozambique. I wore them every day, all day. They were so comfortable that I quickly forgot I had them in until, almost mysteriously, I could hear soft sounds like footsteps, and in proximity to a buffalo heard, soft grunting and feeding sounds. Since then I’ve worn them on a mountain hunt in the Swiss Alps, on a couple of pig hunts, and for several range days, “naked,” as it were, for suppressed fire, and otherwise backed up with earmuffs.
I know myself well enough to know that I’m not going to sit on stand for hours with earmuffs, but you can bet that if I do, I’ll be wearing my Tetra AmpPods. I’m sold. Turkey AmpPod 60s start at $699 a pair, a huge amount of technology for the price and to hear the hunt like you never have. Check them out at tetrahearing.com.
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