By: Greg Chabot
Full disclosure, Nitecore sent me this product to test. I did not buy this product with my own funds.
Ten years ago, I noticed I was having difficulty hearing commands/instructions on the range while using old-school earplugs. A friend loaned me his old set of Peltors and I became a believer in electronic ear pro from that day on. I have wanted to try earbuds, but cost has been a factor as I’m on a tight budget. Comfort is another factor as I have read reviews complaining about comfort, ease of use, etc. A few months back, I received an email advertisement from Nitecore about their NE20 earbuds. It piqued my interest; I applied to be a tester for them. After approval the earbuds were mailed to me to put through the paces.
The earbuds come well-packaged and fully charged. The case/charger is made of plastic and has a convenient belt clip. Charging is via an included USB cord, the NE20 has a battery life of 32 hours. The test sample came with S, M and L foam pieces with corresponding ear fins for a precise fit into your ear. Changing them out was simple and only took a minute. Take the time to fit the earbuds for the best performance and comfort — a lanyard is also included. Bluetooth 5.3 is standard with the NE20 to connect with other devices if you choose to.
The NE20 earbuds have three modes of operation:
1) Silent mode, which works like traditional earplugs.
2) Standard mode, that amplifies outside sounds slightly.
3) Enhanced mode, that amplifies outside sounds more. (Louder)
The modes can be activated via a single button interface. You can use either bud to change the modes or hold it in to go to silent mode. Overall, I was impressed with how simple it is to set up and use this product.
I want to first inform readers that I have lost a good portion of my hearing from wartime service. I wear hearing aids and deal with tinnitus daily. When I listen to music, I have the volume at “Brain Damage”. I listened to music through the NE20 earbuds, they connected to my phone with no issues. I thought the music sounded decent to me with what is left of my hearing. I’m sure the Audiophiles out there may differ from my opinion. I first tested the NE20 in an industrial setting. I wore them while cutting grass and they worked great. On construction sites, I could hear others speaking to me and they worked as advertised. I had no issues with discomfort from the buds. They didn’t work their way loose while moving around. In the heat, sweat didn’t affect comfort or performance. I preferred using the NE20 to earmuffs as I could hear others without my hearing aids in. I experienced no feedback or distortion with a hood pulled up and rubbing on the earbuds. They did not become loose from my hood, and they stayed put while exercising at the gym. I believe hunters will appreciate the enhanced mode in the woods as the NE20 made it easy to hear animals and other sounds while hiking.
Note: They do stick out more than traditional earbuds.
I tested the NE20 with various weapons and calibers. No issues to report with performance and they canceled out the noise. While shooting long guns they stayed put while running and gunning. Unlike earmuffs, I didn’t have to worry about the stock pushing up against them compromising protection. I then tested the NE20 with the loudest weapon I have access to, a SOCOM 16 CQB.
Note: I do not recommend readers try this without double hearing protection!!!!!!
I fired some rounds from inside my truck with the NE20 earbuds. In a confined space they performed admirably and did cut the noise down considerably. I experienced minor ear ringing from the muzzle blast after that test and called it a day. Being honest that is a lot to ask of any brand of electronic hearing protection without a suppressor in a vehicle.
A few days later, I tested the earbuds in silent mode with earmuffs over them. There were no issues with comfort or protection while shooting from inside a vehicle. Outdoors, the NE20 worked great in all modes while shooting the SOCOM 16 CQB. No worries about sweat or rain, the NE20 earbuds have an IPX5 waterproof rating. They are not rated for underwater — if you submerge them, you will wreck them.
I enjoyed my time testing this product. It was easy to use, and it worked as advertised in loud environments. If you like to listen to music, they synced right up to my phone and the sound quality was decent to my beat-up ears. With an MSRP of $89 USD they are budget-friendly compared to other products. Being a new product, it is unknown how they will stand the test of time. I believe if end users take half-ass care of them, they should give end users years of service, that is to be seen. If there is enough interest, I will do an update in the future on how they have held up. At the time of this writing, they were not yet available at the Nitecore USA website.
Big thanks to Nitecore for believing in me.