The MPow HP102A earmuffs are advertised with a noise reduction rating (NRR) of 29 decibels.
This is among the highest I have so far seen for Bluetooth hearing protection earmuffs, so I had to get a pair and try them out.
I compared the noise reduction of the Mpow HP102A to that of three other earmuffs with NRRs from 24 to 29.
This included the Worktunes Connect, the Peltor Sport Bull’s Eye, and the Mpow HP044A.
In my tests, the Mpow HP102A were substantially less effective at reducing noise than these earmuffs, two of which have a lower NRR.
They are comfortable earmuffs, but when taking them off, the headband does not stay at the set extension; it zips back to its smallest extension.
I have to readjust them every single time I put them on; this also makes it difficult to extend the headband to the same length on both sides.
- Comfortable ear cushions
- Good call quality under moderate noise
- Good max Bluetooth volume for music and calls
- Much less noise reduction than even lower-rated earmuffs
- No U.S. EPA label and no attenuation data by frequency
- Headband adjustment mechanism is difficult to use
- OK audio quality but recessed mids (speech) which is not ideal for loud environments
Most Bluetooth hearing protection earmuffs have NRRs ranging from 24 to 26. This is fine for many applications, but there are quite a few use cases were a higher NRR would be beneficial.
So reading that the Mpow HP102A have an NRR of 29, I was very excited.
However, putting them on, I felt something was odd:
There seemed to be much less attenuation at lower and mid frequencies than I would have expected from NRR-29 earmuffs.
Environmental noises that NRR-24 earmuffs render unnoticeable could still be heard.
I readjusted the muffs several times and eventually pressed against the ear cups to ensure they seal properly, but this didn’t change anything.
They did seal and the sound appeared to be coming through the muffs.
Next I tried them against a lawn mower (95 dBA) and while they did reduce the noise somewhat, they performed worse than other earmuffs I had brought along:
- 3M Worktunes Connect (NRR 24) [review]
- Peltor Sport Bull’s Eye (NRR 27) [review]
- Mpow HP044A (NRR 29) [reviewed as part of this hearing protection earmuffs review]
The speakers of the HP102A go quite loud for Bluetooth earmuffs, but music and audio books still got lost in the lawn mower noise.
I also tried them against loud pink noise and coffee shop chatter, and again, they performed worse than the muffs listed above.
Noise reduction by frequency band
The HP102A didn’t come with an attenuation table by frequency (see section NRR and Labeling for how that would look), so I decided to perform a comparative real-ear attenuation test (1 subject) with pulsed noise for the octave band frequencies for which earmuffs are tested in the U.S.
The result was that the Mpow HP102 attenuated noise significantly worse at every single frequency band than the three earmuffs mentioned above. (For detailed results, see the appendix below.)
- The HP102A earmuffs blocked significantly less lawnmower, pink, and speech noise than the three earmuffs I compared them to, two of which had a lower NRR.
- They were also outperformed by a large margin when comparing by octave band frequency.
NRR and Labeling
The MPow HP102A came with two printed numbers on the box, one stating an NRR of 29, the other an SNR of 36 (Europe), but there was no U.S. EPA label, neither on the box nor in the user manual.
The format of the EPA label (U.S.) and to-be-included information are precisely specified.
Moreover, no attenuation data by frequency was given. This data is the actual test result and basis for the NRR calculation.
See, for example, EPA label and attenuation data that come with the Worktunes Connect+AM/FM:
Because of the missing EPA label and attenuation data, I would feel uneasy using these earmuffs as a hearing protector even if they had performed better in my noise reduction tests.
(If they reduced noise better, they could make decent study earmuffs though.)
Headband, Wearing comfort, and Fitting
Overall, I find the HP102A comfortable. The ear cushions are soft and provide enough space for my ears.
For earmuffs, the headband force is on the lower side (good).
The headband (all-plastic) is a bit wider but otherwise very similar to the headband of the Mpow HP044A.
It has the same design as the headband that has been in use for many years in the Howard Leight Thunder series (Honeywell) but it doesn’t quite work that way:
After adjusting the HP102A headband to fit my head, it doesn’t stay put. It zips back to its smallest extension.
When I put the earmuffs on and then adjust the headband, it does stay in place for as long as I wear the earmuffs, so perhaps that’s the way the manufacturer envisioned it.
(There were no fitting instructions on the box or in the manual.)
As far as I am concerned, this feature (?) makes using and adjusting the earmuffs inconvenient.
On the Howard Leight and the Mpow HP044A muffs, the headband doesn’t reset itself.
(Note: I don’t know whether this is an issue or a design feature, but checking on Amazon, several reviewers there have also reported this self-readjusting mechanism.)
Sound Quality and Max Volume
When connected via Bluetooth, the Mpow HP102A go somewhat louder than most other Bluetooth earmuffs I have tested. Unfortunately, they still get easily drowned out by a lawnmower because they block less noise.
In Bluetooth mode, the earmuffs have a boosted bass and treble and attenuated mids.
Singers’ voices and speech are somewhat recessed, which isn’t ideal for loud environments.
Overall though, I find the sound quality OK for earmuffs.
I also compared the Mpow to my current reference, the Worktunes Connect+AM/FM:
The Worktunes sound more balanced and overall a lot better. Moreover, they have a built-in equalizer, allowing for more bass if you want that.
I also connected the earmuffs via the included headphone cable to my phone:
In this mode the earmuffs have less bass and treble and sound more balanced. I would say they sound better but somewhat lack bass.
However, the max volume is much lower than with Bluetooth.
I confirmed this with other devices.
Only when using them with my notebook (which has a pretty powerful headphone amplifier), did I get a volume that was comparable to the Bluetooth connection.
When using the earmuffs in Bluetooth mode, volume control is via the skip track buttons (see image below).
Short-press to adjust the volume, long-press to go to the next/previous track.
The volume knob on the side is for controlling line volume only.
Bluetooth Connection and Pairing of the Mpow HP102A
Bluetooth pairing was straightforward and worked flawlessly.
I was able to disconnect from one phone and connect to another one without turning the muffs off. (Many earmuffs have to be turned off or require disconnecting using the phone.)
The connection stability was generally fine, and in line with other earmuffs I have tested.
It did get choppy at times when I covered the right ear cup with my hand, but with all muffs I have tested so far, I have been able to tease out some weakness.
Here is how you pair them
With the earmuffs turned off, press the power button for 6 seconds until the status LED alternately flashes red and blue.
(Alternatively, you can also put them on and follow the built-in voice assistant.)
Then tap the entry MPOW 102 in your phone’s list of available devices to pair and connect.
When you next turn the muffs on, they automatically attempt to reconnect.
You can also disconnect and connect to a different device without turning the earmuffs off:
To do this, press the Start/Pause button on the muffs for about 3 seconds to disconnect.
Then use the phone you want to pair to and connect from there.
The MPow even allow for two active Bluetooth connections at the same time
To achieve this, initially pair them with your first phone. Then disconnect and pair with your second phone.
This results in Mpow 102 Bluetooth entries in both phones.
The next time you turn on the earmuffs, they automatically connect to your second phone.
Tap the Mpow Bluetooth entry on your first phone and they connect to that one as well.
I tested making calls along a relatively busy road. All call partners reported they could hear me well, better than with the Worktunes that I had brought for comparison.
On my side, I had no problems understanding callers. The sound quality was OK but somewhat worse than with the Worktunes.
I think this is due to the Mpow earmuffs’ frequency response (recessed mid frequencies). Emphasized mids would be better for speech as mentioned under sound quality.
The Mpow HP102A are quite comfortable Bluetooth earmuffs.
The call quality in a moderate noise environment is good and the sound quality is OK for earmuffs.
However, the HP102A don’t reduce noise well:
With a stated NRR of 29, they are supposed to outperform NRR-24 rated hearing protection earmuffs, but they perform worse.
Their underwhelming low and mid frequency noise attenuation made me feel exposed rather than protected.
Moreover, these earmuffs did not come with a U.S. EPA label and attenuation data by frequency!
The HP102A do some things right but need improvement to be better suited for hearing protection or blocking out distracting noises.
Please check my comparative review of Bluetooth hearing protection earmuffs to learn what to look for and which models I recommend for what purpose,
Appendix: Results Noise Reduction Test by Octave Band Frequency
The table displays the excess noise reduction in decibels, i.e. the amount by which these earmuffs outperformed the HP102A.
The Mpow HP102A reduced noise less effectively at all frequency bands, and they were particularly weak in the range from 125 to 1000 Hz.
For example, the equally-rated HP044A from the same distributor attenuated by 9, 10, 13, and 8 dB better for this range.