Gunsonics! Air Protection iPhone App Review


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jrcraig
March 10, 2014, 06:33 AM
Hi everyone,

This is a review I wrote for my shop's website in Australia; I like the app, and wish the developers well so thought it was worth a share here. There's a video that accompanies the review, which demonstrates the app in action at www.facebook.com/theblackrange. Just scroll down until you hit it - currently it's about the third entry down.

For the record, a 10/22 on the video might seem like a pretty tame choice for an American audience, but it's something different for most Australian shooters, who can't own semiautomatic rifles unless they are primary producers. But that's a story for another day ...

Cheers!

James

Gunsonics! is an app designed to turn your traditional passive ear protectors into high-end active noise reducing headphones, at a fraction of the cost. The rationale goes that the computing power of a smart phone is far superior to the basic circuits in noise cancelling ear-phones, as it uses digital signal processing (DSP) instead of older, less responsive analogue processing methods. Consequently Gunsonics! catches 100% of the blast, unlike the analogue ear muffs that allow the initial, and most harmful noise through before cutting off. Gunsonics! promises to cancel the noise of gunshots safely, while allowing ambient noise such as conversation, and bird calls for all you closet twitchers, to continue uninterrupted.

The app itself is absolute simplicity. Gunsonics! has six presets on its home screen to match the sonic profile of varying firearms. Rifle, shotgun, pistol, revolver, observer, and even black powder are allowed for. You simply select the preset, put your headphones in under passive headphones, adjust the volume and youíre set.

Does it work? Absolutely. I used Gunsonics! in a range of shooting situations, and found it to be a genuinely useful addition to my shooting bag. Gunsonics! accompanied me fox shooting, rifle shooting, clay target shooting and informally plinking with friends. Every time I fired a shot, I just heard a quiet pop, and then an imperceptibly quick return to Ďnormalí hearing. You can hear this effect in the accompanying video; the initial sound of the shot is Ďsquashedí to a metallic click, then environmental noise immediately returns.

It wasnít just the impressive noise reduction that was useful; my situational awareness was vastly improved too. Being in a quiet bubble that reeks of AR2208 and insect repellant is one of my favourite places to be, but often times itís safer to hear what is going on. Fox drives, shooting ranges, coaching and sharing a forest with trail riders are just some situations where itís useful to have ears, as well as eyes on whatís happening.

I found the key to comfortable use was getting the volume just right on my earphones. Itís tempting to have the enhanced hearing of the Terminator, but all this extra volume does is tire oneís ears out quickly. Once I had the volume at the right level, I could hear all surrounding conversation, without the unnatural, tinny and slightly otherworldly effect other noise reducing headphones can have.

There are always minor issues and quibbles with any piece of gear. Like all other microphones, Gunsonics! is not ideal for use on windy days or spotlighting, as the wind over the microphone makes that grating noise common to outdoor cellphone conversations and war correspondentís reports. Iím sure it would be possible to make a foam wind muff to mitigate this, though I havenít tried it.

Managing headphone wires can take some thought. At the end of the day, you need a path clear of tangles for the wires and a pocket to put the phone in. There was just too much tangle when moving with a bino harness and rifle sling when fox shooting, but when sitting it was not an issue. Having a summer weight shirt with a closed pocket would fix this, and ultimately being able to hear the whistle more clearly when sitting was worth the minor inconvenience of the wires. Clay target shooting was fine too, as typically I have less clutter on me, and more access to pockets. As an aside, not hearing the conversation in some squads can be better. These are all just personal preferences and habits of mine though; as with all gear itís a case of recognizing the limitations, and finding the application, or work around thatís most suitable.

Battery life seems acceptable, or at least as acceptable as it gets with a smartphone. The iPhone 5 can be heavy on the battery, but with all other apps turned battery usage was only a touch heavier than usual. Bearing in mind this was in an area with sparse coverage, so the phone could just as easily be straining away looking for reception.

In summary, Gunsonics! is neat; itís simple and works exactly as advertised, at a fraction of the cost of quality noise reducing earphones. Ultimately, for the long term health of our hearing, we need to manage the noise that accompanies our sport. If that can be done this artfully, and for about the price of a box of shotgun shells, itís absolutely worth a listen. Android users will find a version for them is in the works, pending improvements in Androidís audio processing capacity.

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Double Naught Spy
March 10, 2014, 08:04 AM
Well, first of all analog headphones do not allow in the pressure spike that you were talking about before cutting off. Second, the notion of being a fraction of the cost is a bit skewed. Smart phones are not cheap. Just try replacing one without a new service plan.

Otherwise, the concept sounds good but the representation here does not appear to be fully accurate.

jrcraig
March 10, 2014, 03:16 PM
Hi Double Naught Spy,

Thanks for the response - I'm not an audio engineer, and drew the 'spike' information directly from Essency, the app's developer. No doubt there would be bias there, but when I contacted them I found them to be absolutely fair and reasonable people, hence had no reason to doubt their research.

You're absolutely right on the cost being cheap only if you have a smartphone plan - which apparently 2/3rds of Australians do. Maybe we're just spoiled down here? Not sure of the figures in the US. That was absolutely a reflection on my 'inability to imagine a world without a phone' bias.

Once again, I appreciate your comments.

Double Naught Spy
March 13, 2014, 03:28 AM
Well I am afraid that they have misrepresented to you how electronic muffs work. You don't need the computing power of a smart phone to produce a fast enough cut-off circuit.

You're absolutely right on the cost being cheap only if you have a smartphone plan - which apparently 2/3rds of Australians do.

LOL, that isn't what I said at all.

Having a smart phone plan does not change the fact that this is not a cheap way to make electronic muffs. You are talking about using an expensive bit of technology that is being paid for over a long term basis (service plan) to fill the role. That isn't the same as what is being claimed.

Field Tester
March 13, 2014, 03:52 AM
Shill?

jrcraig
March 16, 2014, 03:55 PM
Hi Double Naught,

I gather it's a question of response time, also known as attack time; electronic muffs can have a reaction time of 1.5 milliseconds (thousandths of a second). As a gunshot peaks within 2 milliseconds, electronic muffs can miss 75% of each gunshot.

Check out the manual on your electronic ear muffs and see what the response / attack time is by way of comparison. GunSonics has no reaction time - as the protection is always active, unlike electronic ear muffs, no gunshot peak reaches your ears.

What we're talking about is the electronics in the headset reacting fast enough to shut down the amplified sound from getting to your ears via the headset speakers.

Some testing here ... a journalist discusses this in this short video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyidtWw0um4 and confirmed by pocket lint in a video here (at 1:47 mins) http://www.pocket-lint.com/news/125571-video-review-pocket-lint-goes-shooting-with-ear-defending-gunsonics-iphone-app

On cost - you are right about it being an expensive way to make electronic ear protection - but that seems to be assuming a smartphone is a 'single purpose' device like ear muffs. I already have a smartphone, and am happy to pay the cost for the multiple roles it has in my life; communication, web, mail, camera, reference - the list goes on. I also have a set of passive muffs and headphones on hand. Therefore, in my situation spending $10.00 for an app to get even greater use out of my existing smartphone, compared to $150 + for electronic ear muffs was the inexpensive option. That GunSonics has a faster cut off is of course a plus too. Your situation, perspective and preferences may be completely different ...

"LOL"? Sarcastic or derisive? Someone someone could take offense ... ; )

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