Over the years I must have tried at least a dozen different styles of hearing protection and audio headphones. My go-to for hearing protection are earmuffs because I like being able to take them on and off easily. I’ve never tried the earmuff style with integral audio. Over the summer I came across a company I wasn’t familiar with named ToughTested when I received a press release for its phone case. Intrigued, I went to their site and discovered the jobsite headphones so I requested a pair to try out. I’ve been wearing the headphones while using various power tools for several months now. There are things that I really like about them and a couple of things I didn’t particularly like.

Features and Fit
1. Heavy-duty cord: the cord is extremely durable. It’s made up of braided nylon and Kevlar – which gives it great flexibility. It doesn’t tangle easily, and maintains its shape better than any other headphone cord I’ve ever worn. I crumpled these up and threw them in my pouch, dropped them in the dirt, stepped on them – and none of this seemed to do any damage to the cord. The lower part includes a coiled run – so there isn’t a bunch of excess cord hanging out of your pocket or, in my case, tool pouch making it less prone to snagging.

2. Built-in, battery-free control. The set has a built-in control module about half-way down the cord. I say battery-free because at first glance you assume there’s a battery in there. The control module allows you to play, pause, skip, go back, change the volume as well as answer and end a phone call. It also houses the built-in microphone. There’s an equalizer setting for listening to music and a voice setting for making calls. On equalizer mode the volume is limited to 95 decibels. Sound quality is decent, but not great when listening to music. Most of the time I kept the set in Voice mode and found the quality better – it was crisper, better defined. Audio mode left me feeling as though the music was muffled. Voice mode is designed to allow you to answer calls in noisy setting by increasing the volume by 10 decibels when you switch to it. So voice mode doesn’t cancel out background noise for the caller, but it does increase the volume for the listener. The large metal hook is nice – it can clip easily to a jacket or shirt and holds well. It’s riveted to the back of the module so you won’t lose it.

3. Ear hooks and Ear tips. The headphones include two sets each of Flexfoam tips (S, L) which will be familiar to most contractors as they resemble Flexfoam hearing protection. They also include tree tips (S, L). I found the tree tips to be easiest to put in, but most uncomfortable to wear for extended periods (they actually hurt after a couple of hours). The Flexfoam tips cancel out the most noise and are most comfortable. Be careful when pulling the foam from the earbud to clean them, though – if you pull too hard you’ll pull the foam right off of the plastic sleeve that’s inside. Best to push them from underneath with a thumbnail or screwdriver – especially if you’ve been jamming the into your ear over and over for a while. I tried at first to squeeze them to make them fit into the ear canal better like typical Flexfoam hearing protection, but later discovered that it’s easiest to choose the right size for you ear and just push them in.

The rubber hooks that are meant to wrap around the ear are cut down the middle so they can be taken off or replaced should they get damaged. They also can be moved up and down the braided nylon cord so you can wrap them tightly around your ear. At first the rubber hooks were annoying because they kept flopping round and didn’t seem to stay put. But I later discovered that they tuck behind the crease of the ear and hook over the front of it. If you do that correctly – it takes a few tries – they will stay put and you’ll barely notice they are on.

Bottom Line
The headphones did an excellent job canceling out noise while running nail guns, a router, table saw and miter saw. It is possible to turn the volume up so high that you don’t hear most of those tools – though I don’t like doing that for safety reasons; I like to hear whatever tool I’m using if only because it keeps me more focused; if the music is too loud I can zone out and lose my concentration. They’re extremely durable, lightweight, and comfortable to wear. I don’t know of any other headphones like them so I can’t compare them to other brands – but they do withstand the rigors of the construction site better than any other set of headphones I’ve ever owned. While I wished the control module was lower – like close enough to clip to my tool belt – I did find it very convenient, especially because the buttons are large enough to use with gloves on. It doesn’t unclip easily if it gets snagged, but it’s heavy enough that it has to be clipped to something, which is why I’d rather have it lower. Also, the audio quality is so-so. The microphone was a little touchy – sometimes callers would complain that my voice was muffled and they couldn’t hear me that well. It’s possible that dust got into the microphone; regardless, I was disappointed with the microphone performance so I stopped using them for calls and kept them just for music/hearing protection. They come with a 5 year limited warranty, which is pretty remarkable for a tech product that’s made for a construction site.

- Comfortable to wear
- Long, durable cord
- Large buttons on the control module
- Stout clip
- Good audio in Voice mode

- Mic quality for calls is fair-to-poor

Jobsite headphones from ToughTested
- IP64 rating for dust and water resistance
- Noise reduction rating from the EPA of 23 decibels
- 4-ft. long cord (5-ft. when fully extended)
Cost: $60
Includes: Tree Tips (S, L); FlexFoam Tips (S, L); Ear Hooks (two sets), carrying case, plug adapter