MSA Sordin Supreme Pro-X Review and Analysis
The MSA Sordin Supreme Pro-X headset is the "top of the line" model of the Sordin line of electronic hearing protection, known well in the shooting world for years. It is available in a range of colors/camo and with two different suspension options - over the head and behind the head. The particular headset pictured here is a Multicam model with behind the head suspension.
Price is typically around $280 with gel ear seals.
Uses two AAA batteries, rated battery life of ~600 hours.
NRR rating of 19
Waterproofed. Battery compartment is O-ring sealed, circuit boards coated in conformal coating
Two front facing microphones, one on each earcup
5 volume levels
Battery save feature, headset will turn off after 4 hours with no button presses, warning tone will be heard 2 minutes before turn off
Sound compression, does not "clip" or turn off the speakers when loud noise is encountered
Will save last used volume level
Adjustable for fit
3.5mm audio IN port on left (control side) earcup
The headset: This is my headset with Multicam dipped cups and behind the head suspension. There are gel seals installed on this headset. These headsets are available in a couple other colors, including OD Green, Black, and Blaze Orange Camo.
You can see the two front facing microphones here. The microphones have foam windscreens which are covered by rubber shrouds
Left side earcup. Front (microphone) to the left. The controls are on this side. The power button is in the middle, with volume down to the left and volume up to the right.
Right side earcup. Front (microphone) to the right. The battery compartment is on this side, to the left. You can see the lanyard I've attached to the battery door.
The 3.5mm audio IN port on the left earcup is pictured below.
The battery compartment is accessed through a metal screw on cap. The battery port is sealed with an O-ring, preventing water and dust ingress. The battery cap is steel and knurled to make unscrewing it easier. The post on the end is for attaching a lanyard to the cap, as seen below. The other end of the lanyard should be tied to one of the steel suspension wires on the headset. This prevents loss of the battery cap when changing batteries.
Here are the internals of both earcups, seen after removing the ear seals and outer comfort/acoustic foam. Both circuit boards are entirely coated in conformal coating, preventing water/dust damage to the boards and the components on them. All seams on the battery compartment are sealed. The battery leads in the inside are also sealed. The circuit boards are held in place with Torx screws. Behind the boards are 1/8" thick pieces of acoustic foam.
The other side of the control side circuit board. Here you can see the majority of the small components in this headset. The two IC's (Integrated Circuits) are covered with the same coating used on the internal battery leads. This is a nice thing to see as the IC's are critical components, so I appreciate that they've afforded them some extra protection beyond the clear conformal coating.
As the conformal coating is mostly clear it is difficult to see if it really is applied to all the components. I want to make this clear - ALL components mounted on the circuit boards in Sordin Supreme Pro-X headsets are coated with conformal coating. Conformal coating is a broad term for a variety of electronics coatings used to protect components from water, abrasion, dust, and other environmental hazards.
The coating on this board has a UV tracer and as such can be seen fluorescing under UV light. My camera doesn't handle the UV light well, but as you can see all components are coated and therefore protected from water damage.
Use as shooting muffs: I'm comfortable firing a range of weapons with this headset, to include 5.56 AR-15's with 16" barrels, 9mm handguns, 12 gauge shotguns, and the like. However, my shooting is done exclusively outdoors in an open space. No deleterious effects were experienced. Experiences shooting indoors or in enclosed spaces may differ however.
The sound compression works flawlessly, even with multiple shooters firing at once. The compression is instant and the headset is very fast at coming out of compression when harmful sound levels have ceased.
Sound quality: The sound quality of this headset is excellent. There is a slight electronic background "fuzz" or "hiss" that increases as you go up in volume but it is only noticeable in my opinion at the upper two volume levels. It is not loud enough to negatively impact sound quality, all sounds still come in crisp and clear. Wind noise does come through, but I have yet to find a headset that does a spectacular job with wind noise. The most comparable headset, the Peltor ComTac III, seems to handle wind noise only marginally better in terms of suppressing it.
The headset does present a slight high range bias, with bassy or low sounds (foot steps on wood stairs, door closing, etc.) coming through a bit muddled. It does however mean higher pitch/range sounds come through particularly clearly and it makes picking up crunching leaves and similar sounds easy.
Locational and directional hearing is ok, not as good as natural human hearing. The headset handles direction distinction better than distance distinction.
Overall the sound reproduction very good but lacks in certain areas.
Durability and environmental resistance: This headset is not officially submersion rated as far as I know, but given my knowledge of electronics waterproofing I'd say this headset could indeed survive submersion for a couple minutes at least. As mentioned above the battery compartment is water tight, the circuit boards are coated with all components being sealed from water, and the 3.5mm port is water tight.
The headsets construction in terms of material quality and design choices is top notch. The headset is made in Sweden. The shells are high quality plastic, likely glass reinforced polymer of some sort. The wire pins are steel. The windscreens on the microphones are protected from damage by the rubber cages. The battery cap is steel and features a lanyard point to prevent loss of the cap when changing batteries.
With the circuit boards and all components on them being coated with conformal coating I don't see any way water could damage those components. Even the solder joints are coated. This headset should be durable and reliable through a variety of tough conditions, including extremely wet environments.
The ear seals are excellent in terms of construction quality. Their bonding to the plastic backer is seamless and done very well. They feel very durable.
Operation: Operation of the headset is extremely simple. The only functions are on/off and volume up/down. To turn the headset on simply press the middle (power) button once. To turn it off, hold the button until the headset turns off. To adjust the volume press either the volume up or down buttons once to cycle up/down one level. Tones are heard for each action, including turning the headset on and off. A slightly longer tone is heard when you try to adjust the volume past the upper or lower most levels, alerting you to having reached maximum adjustment.
Compatibility with consumer electronics: Using any 3.5mm male-to-male cable you can hook up devices such as cellphones to the headset to play audio in the headset. You can also hook most FRS/GMRS radios into the headset provided they have a 3.5mm audio OUT port or an adapter cable with a 3.5mm end to plug into the headset.
Extra info - purported issues and changes to the battery compartment: Going back before 2014 there are plethora reports of issues with MSA Sordin headsets, with the primary issue being total loss of functionality. It is my opinion that the vast majority of reported issues with MSA Sordin headsets are attributable to two things - headsets shipped as lemons (bad QC/non-functioning) straight out of the factory and battery issues, partly related to the battery compartment.
There are still reports here and there from users of brand new headsets having issues. It would seem quality control on Sordin and/or MSA's part is lacking.
Before 2012 MSA Sordin Supreme Pro and Supreme Pro-X headsets featured a black battery compartment with a battery cap that lacked the lanyard post. In 2012 this battery compartment was upgraded and is now grey, as seen above in my headset.
I do not have details of what was changed in the new compartments. I contacted SRS Tactical in an attempt to find out more, asking about the battery compartment change and how durable the new boxes are. The full text of the email I received in response to my questions is below:
The original box was black with flat top cap. The new box is grey with knob for lanyard. Upgrade around 2012. Spring is now screwed on to cup. New boxes are tight fitting. We sell over a 1000 sets a year with a few needing new box. They hold up well but of course you only hear about ones that don't.
Conclusion: The MSA Sordin Supreme Pro-X is a very good electronic hearing protection headset, though growing outdated. It is durable and built to last, with the sealed battery compartment, conformal coated circuit boards, and protected microphone windscreens. The sound quality is excellent, with some caveats, and it is simple to operate. With the 3.5mm audio IN port it is easy to pipe in audio from a variety of consumer electronics.