Combining hearing protection earmuffs and Bluetooth headphones for listening to music and making phone calls is what these 3M Worktunes Connect aim to do.
To me the description “hearing protector combined with Bluetooth headset” sounded like a great marriage, so I had to get a pair.
In this post, I am giving the 3M Worktunes Connect an in-depth review.
I’ll focus on how they perform as a hearing protector, how well they do in open offices and coffee shops, and how they sound.
I’ll look at noise attenuation, wearing comfort, sound quality, battery life, Bluetooth pairing, and weight.
Many people wear earbuds underneath their earmuffs to listen to music while mowing the lawn, “eating weeds,” or doing metal or wood work.
If you choose your earbuds wisely, this actually does work quite well. But you have to stick something in your ears and deal with wires that might get entangled.
All in all, earbuds underneath earmuffs are still a compromise.
So can these 3M Worktunes Connect replace regular hearing protection earmuffs while injecting a bit more fun in your workday?
Can they perhaps also be an economical noise canceller for students and office workers who want to protect their performance and sanity in a noisy environment but don’t want to fork out the cash for premium noise cancelling headphones?
OK, let’s get to it.
My impressions summarized
The 3M Worktunes Connect are effective and comfortable earmuffs. The built-in Bluetooth headphones allow you to listen to music and audiobooks while protecting your hearing from loud noise. The sound quality with music is adequate and with audio books it is excellent.
The earmuffs are well adjustable and should fit smaller as well as larger heads.
They can make mowing the lawn, blowing leafs or doing metal and woodwork a lot more enjoyable.
The battery life of these Bluetooth earmuffs is excellent (I got 38 hours of continuous music streaming on a single charge), they are easy to pair with phones, and the controls work well.
Unfortunately, they don’t have volume control buttons, so you have to adjust the volume in your phone.
In a moderate noise environment, the quality of the microphone for making phone calls is decent.
The microphone does not cancel background noise, so in a loud environment you have to switch off your machine or remove yourself from the noise source to hold a conversation.
These earmuffs reduce environmental noise and chatter well: they are an effective budget alternative to active noise cancelling headphones for blocking distracting noises for students and office workers, and improving concentration.
The headband force is less than that of many other earmuffs, but most normal headphones—employing significantly less force—are more comfortable.
The 3M Worktunes Connect are on the heavy side. With 350 grams (12.35 oz.), they are as heavy as the highest-rated earmuffs I own. I didn’t find the weight bothersome, but it may become an issue if you work a lot over-head.
In conclusion: the 3M Worktunes Connect are a good, economical product and I recommend them.
Consider these if you are looking for earmuffs that allow you to listen to music or audiobooks while protecting your hearing.back to menu ↑
The Worktunes Connect are comfortable hearing protection earmuffs. The ear cushions are soft and I don’t feel the headband. The headband consists of steel wires and a ventilated rubbery top.
The earmuffs are well adjustable and should fit small as well as large heads.
For comparison, the Howard Leight Sync Stereo (HL Sync), wired earmuff headphones I reviewed a while ago, are a lot less adjustable and work best for smaller heads.
The Worktunes exert less headband force than many other earmuffs, but still significantly more than normal headphones.
They weigh 350 grams (12.35 oz.), which makes them heavier than most earmuffs and headphones and as heavy as the passive NRR-31 Peltor X5A earmuffs.
At 250 g (8.82 oz.), the HL Sync are a lot lighter.
While I’d prefer the Worktunes to be lighter, the weight doesn’t bother me because the headband and ear cushions distribute it well.
I have so far worn them for periods of about 4-6 hours at a time and find them comfortable.
However, if you are doing a lot of over-head work, the weight might become an issue.
The ear cushions of these earmuffs get as sweaty as any other ones when worn in a warm climate.back to menu ↑
Worktunes are first and foremost hearing protection devices.
They have been tested according ANSI standard S 3.19-1974 and have a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of 24.
As required for hearing protectors in the U.S., they have an EPA label stating the NRR on the box and a more detailed attenuation table in the manual.
To learn more about the Noise Reduction rating and how to use it, read this post.
Subjective Rating when working in a high-noise environment
The 3M Worktunes Connect are good noise protection earmuffs. Their ear cups and soft cushions seal very well—even when I move my head a lot.
They work better for me than the Howard Leight Sync because they fit my head better. Moving my head with the HL Sync sometimes breaks the seal.
Sawing through metal with a circular saw (noise level app. 95 dBA), I felt these earmuffs were perfectly adequate for reducing the noise and protecting my hearing.
Under these loud conditions, I had no issues listening to podcasts, audio books, and music.
Compared to the 3M Peltor Optime 98, which also fit me well, these earmuffs are noticeably more effective at the lower frequencies and less so at the mid frequencies.
Noise reduction numbers
In terms of their noise reduction rating, they are very similar to the HL Sync Stereo and the passive Peltor Optime 98 earmuffs (both NRR 25), so they are fit for similar use cases.
The noise reduction numbers by frequency band for the 3M Worktunes Connect and the HL Sync are virtually the same.
Compared to the Optime 98, the Worktunes Connect reduce low-frequency noise better, but the Optime 98 attenuate the mid-frequencies (500-2000 Hz) significantly better.
Here is a noise attenuation table comparing the 3M Worktunes Connect to other earmuffs:
|Earmuffs||NRR||125 Hz||250 Hz||500 Hz||1000 HZ||2000 Hz||3150 Hz||4000 Hz||6300 Hz||8000 Hz|
|3M Worktunes Connect Bluetooth||24||18.6||21||28.5||32.4||35.1||39.1||41.4||41.7||41.1|
|Howard Leight Sync Stereo||25||19.1||22.4||28.7||31.7||36.8||39||39.4||39.4||41.4|
|3M Peltor Optime 98||25||15.5||22||33.7||39.7||36.5||42.7||40.1||39.8||40.6|
|3M Peltor X5A||31||23.9||30.5||41.1||43||38||43.1||44||41.1||40.3|
For comparison, I have also included the noise reduction numbers for the NRR-31 3M Peltor X5A, the most effective passive earmuffs I am aware off.
The X5A reduce noise better across the board, which is reflected in their NRR; they are built for very high noise environments. And it isn’t only the numbers; putting on the X5A it becomes immediately clear who is boss.
But, for many applications, an NRR of 24 is fine and, unlike the Worktunes, the X5A don’t have built-in speakers.
To this day, I have not come across any certified NRR-30 earmuffs that are suitable for playing music while protecting one’s hearing.
The Worktunes Connect as everyday noise and voice cancellers for students, offices, and coffee shops
To summarize it, I have found the Worktunes Connect to be very good noise blockers against chatter and everyday noise, on par with good noise cancelling headphones.
Noise cancelling headphones perform better against low-frequency noise (including the baritone of voices), but these work better against the mid-frequencies important for speech intelligibly.
And because these earmuffs also have speakers, you can play white noise and other masking sounds and almost completely isolate yourself from even loud offices and coffee shops.
To test this, I have worn the 3M Wortunes Connect in some really busy shopping centers and cafés, taking my work along.
Here is the noise I experienced on a trip a few days ago while working in an airport coffeeshop:
Playing white noise at a very moderate volume, I had no problems blocking out the distracting noise onslaught and concentrate on my reading and writing.
So these are a good budget alternative to expensive active noise cancelling (ANC) headphones if you are a student or office worker who has a hard time focusing.
The main advantages of ANC headphones compared to the Worktunes:
- The best ANC headphones work better against AC and ventilation compressors and low-frequency traffic noise.
- While the Worktunes Connect are comfortable for earmuffs, they are not as comfortable as good headphones. They exert significantly more headband force than ANC headphones.
- Good headphones sound better.
I am happy with the Worktunes’ performance as everyday noise blocking device, but I will still take my Bose headphones to the café and the office. The Bose are just so comfy and get rid of this rumbling and humming I find stressful.back to menu ↑
Bluetooth connection, wired connection, and operation
The Worktunes Connect have a single button, which makes them very straight-forward to use. Press and hold the button for three seconds to power the headset on. To pair them with your phone or iPad (or re-pair them), press the button twice. This has worked flawlessly for me.
Playing, pausing and skipping tracks all work fine with this one-button control.
What I am missing is the volume control I have come to expect from normal Bluetooth headphones. With these, you have to adjust the volume on your phone, which is inconvenient at times. I wished the muffs had additional volume-up and volume-down buttons. Then the controls would be perfect.
I have tried the Worktunes with an Android phone (Samsung Galaxy J7) and an iPad. Bluetooth pairing was easy and fast, and the Bluetooth connection was stable. I had my phone in my right pocket, the same side where the control button is on the earmuffs.
Unlike some Bluetooth noise cancelling headphones, these can only be paired to one device at a time, but switching between iPad and Samsung was easy.
Occasionally, the Bluetooth connection did become a bit choppy, but at least for me this wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. It happens with all my headphones. Perhaps at times engine/machine electronics and/or other wireless connections are interfering with Bluetooth.
Wired connection and multiple-source function
I have also tried the earmuffs wired (the 3.5 mm cable needs to be sourced separately) with a notebook computer and a phone, which worked great.
You can use the wired connection with a PC and still receive phone calls via a Bluetooth-connected phone.
When a call comes in, the headphones mute the wired connection and you can answer the call by pressing the control button. Ending a call brings you back to your audio.
You can also switch between a wired and wireless source using the control button.back to menu ↑
Answering phone calls
The Worktunes Connect are a complete headset with a built-in microphone. When a call comes in, any currently playing audio is muted and the microphone is activated. You can take the call by pressing the control button or reject it by long-pressing the same button.
In a normal environment (a convenience store or along a moderately busy street) my call partners had no problems understanding me. They felt the microphone quality was fine. I also had others try the muffs and had no issues understanding them either.
In a loud environment, you can easily hear when someone is calling, but the electronics don’t employ any noise cancelling on the microphone input, so background noise gets picked up as well. This makes it infeasible to hold a conversation in a high-noise environment.
What you have to do is stop your lawn mower, saw, or router, and then answer the call.
Also, because these muffs block noise very well, I was always inclined to talk louder than I normally would.
This, however, will disturb others when making phone calls in a quieter environment. Consciously lowering one’s voice helps but it feels odd when you don’t hear yourself well.
Overall though and considering the price, I was quite happy with the headset function of the Worktunes Connect.back to menu ↑
Sound quality and maximum volume
The Worktunes Connect produce a balanced sound. I find them enjoyable for listening to most genres. The highs are detailed without sounding harsh. Because of the excellent noise reduction, I can hear details that would otherwise get lost.
The bass, however, sounds restrained and is generally not very pronounced.
If you crank up the volume in the hope of getting a punchy bass, the kick drum will trigger the built-in volume limiting function—temporarily lowering the overall volume (as if someone was fading out the music).
I prefer the Worktunes’ sound over the HL Sync Stereo’s. Comparing the two directly, the Sync Stereo earmuffs sound overly bright and at times even harsh. These are more balanced.
When listening to podcasts or audio books, the sound quality of the Worktunes is excellent.
But these are noise protection earmuffs first and headphones second: compared to high-quality noise cancelling headphones the sound quality and in particular the bass don’t hold up.
Likewise, if you don’t need noise protection, but just want excellent sounding headphones for the same money, youd’d better invest it into normal over-ear headphones (e.g., Audio Technica, Sennheiser, etc.).
On the other hand, the passive noise isolation of these earmuffs is very good— at least as good as that of the most expensive noise cancellers I have tried.
You can easily listen to music at a very moderate volume and isolate yourself from your environment.
The volume of these earmuffs is limited to 82 dBA when used with most phones. As far as I am concerned, this is fine for normal listening and considering that you are using the muffs to actually protect your hearing.
I have read some reviews that complain about this limitation and I understand where they are coming from:
The Worktunes Connect don’t allow you to crank up the music and feel your bass like you could with powerful headphones.
Consequently, these are not your headphones if you want a strong bass and/or listen to music at a high volume or want to experience the maximum dynamic range some music offers.
But, I also understand where 3M is coming from:
Protecting users’ hearing from outside noise with these earmuffs and then allowing them to raise the audio volume to an unhealthy level just isn’t a good idea.
NIOSH advises to use hearing protection when exposed to a noise level of 85 dBA or greater, so limiting the audio output to 82dBA sounds prudent to me.
If you are working in a high-noise environment and have a hard time hearing your music, this can be an indication that the noise level is too high for these earmuffs and you should wear earplugs underneath or use earmuffs with a higher noise reduction rating.back to menu ↑
The battery life of these earmuffs is excellent. I get about 38 hours of continuous play time out of them before I have to recharge.
So basically, I can use them for a complete work week on a single charge.
When you turn them on, a female voice reports the current battery status as high, medium, or low. I just recharge when the battery status hits low.
A standard USB cable (not USB-C), to be used with a phone charger or notebook computer, is included.
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The 3M Worktunes Connect are a well-thought-out combination of hearing protection earmuffs and headphones. They are great if you want to spice-up your workday with some tunes or audio books.
For many work environments an NRR of 24 is sufficient.
If your company provides you with passive NRR-25 earmuffs, chances are the Worktunes will do the trick as well. Make sure your workplace actually allows you to use these to listen to stuff while working.
The Worktunes Connect are also very effective as an everyday noise blocking device for offices, coffee shops, and dorms. In many situations, I didn’t have to play any music to remove enough of the distractions for me to concentrate. In addition, they have built-in speakers, so you can easily add white noise or other masking sounds to shield yourself form environmental noise.
Keep in mind though that while these sound decent, sound quality and comfort aren’t comparable to that of expensive active noise cancelling headphones. But if you dread that expense yet want excellent noise reduction, these might be your budget solution.