Worktunes and Bluetooth safety earmuffs in general are designed to protect your hearing from loud noise (e.g., power tools, gas-powered lawn mowers, leaf blowers, etc.) while at the same time allowing you to listen to audio.
Unlike standard headphones, Bluetooth earmuffs are first and foremost hearing protectors. Most of them attempt to limit the maximum volume to a level that doesn’t put your hearing at risk.
In my experience, despite being volume-limited, current Worktunes models go more than loud enough to enjoy most music, audio books, and podcasts.
But, some old music and audio books are recorded at a much lower than average sound level and can be very quiet even when played at 100% volume.
- The information provided here is for informational purposes only. You are responsible for what you do with it. If in doubt, always put your hearing first!
- If you are using your earmuffs in an occupational setting, check with your company’s safety personnel before changing/installing anything!
- Also read the conclusion of this post for other reasons as to why your Worktunes may appear not to be loud enough.
Why are Bluetooth safety earmuffs not as loud as standard headphones?
Worktunes Connect (model without radio) have a built-in volume limiter that tries to keep the maximum listening volume to <82 decibels.
Worktunes Connect+AM/FM can be switched between volume limiter and dosimeter (safe volume control technology). The dosimeter initially allows for listening at a higher volume and auto-adjusts the max volume to keep the average sound level over the course of a work day to below 82 decibels. So if you only listen for shorter periods of time you can listen somewhat louder.
Most other Bluetooth safety earmuffs also employ some kind of volume limiter.
For comparison, with many headphones you can easily reach unsafe sound levels of 100 decibels and more.
A safe volume limit is a good thing because it helps to protect the wearer
If you can’t hear your music or audio book amidst the noise you are trying to protect your hearing from, this may be a sign that the environmental noise level is too high for your earmuffs to reduce it to a safe level (i.e., typically to below 85 decibels).
Alternatively, your glasses or worn-out ear cushions could cause a poor seal and noise leakage.
If you could increase the music volume to for example 100 decibels (as you can with some standard headphones), you would perhaps not notice that your earmuffs aren’t sufficiently protecting you.
As a consequence, you might put your hearing at risk due to both excessive environmental noise and loud music.
Furthermore, your employer might not be able or willing to approve safety earmuffs to protect you from occupational noise while allowing you to potentially damage your hearing by listening to loud music.
4 Tips to make quiet recordings louder on Worktunes
Unfortunately, some older music is recorded so quiet, that (depending on the phone) it doesn’t get to 82 decibels even when played at maximum volume.
1. If you have the Worktunes Connect+AM/FM, set them to Dosimeter mode
As mentioned earlier, Worktunes Connect (the model without radio) always operate in limiter-mode, so there is nothing that can be configured here.
Worktunes Connect+AM/FM can be switched between limiter mode (<82 decibels) and safe volume control technology (dosimeter mode, as described above). In my experience, on the Worktunes Connect+AM/FM, the dosimeter works better than the limiter.
To switch to dosimeter mode, do the following:
- Turn off your Worktunes
- Long-press the volume knob and the Tuning Dial together until you get the voice assistant response: Settings Mode.
- Press the Tuning Dial multiple times until you hear Dosimeter or Limiter (ignore the responses Dosimeter Default Setting and 9/10 khz AM).
- Turn the Tuning Dial to toggle between Dosimeter and Limiter.
- Press the Func button to exit.
2. On Android phones, volume booster apps can increase the overall volume
Some Android volume boosters work system wide, so in principle allow you to increase the volume of all apps, including Audible. This can be helpful for audio books and podcasts that have been recorded too quiet.
I am not aware of any such app for iPhone/iPad.
On a Samsung Galaxy J7, I have had good success with the app Volume Booster GOODEV.
Boosts of around 5% worked well for me to increase the volume of quieter recordings on the Worktunes Connect+AM/FM. I don’t go beyond that.
The app also works with the Worktunes Connect muffs (Bluetooth only model), but not quite as well, because their limiter already boosts quieter passages. So don’t think of this as a way to outsmart the limiter but a way to slightly increase the volume of quiet recordings only.
3. On iPhones/iPads use the EQ setting Late Night.
iOS devices have a built-in equalizer, accessible under Settings->Music->EQ.
The EQ settings generally only work in the Apple Music app, but there is one exception: Late Night works system-wide.
Late Night is designed to boost quieter passages while at the same time limiting the volume of louder parts of a recording.
It does even work with audio books and podcasts.
In my experience, Late Night helps with some music and books, while there is virtually no effect when listening to others.
4. Use a media player with an adjustable pre-amp (Android and iPhone/iPad)
Some music players allow you to boost the volume from within the app.
The free open source multi media player VLC is one such example: It has a built-in equalizer with an adjustable pre-amp.
I like that VLC is available for most platforms, including Android, iOS, PC, Mac, and Linux and can play audio and video files in many different formats.
Note: there are several other media players that feature an equalizer and some kind of pre-amp you could try if you don’t like VLC.
On Android, VLC can access the built-in music library. On iOS, however, you have to create a separate media library.
My favorite way to add media files to VLC from a PC/Mac is by using WIFI Upload. (PC and iPhone/iPad/Android phone must be connected to the same WIFI network). Using your PC’s web browser you can easily upload media files to VLC (VLC documentation Wiki).
So you don’t have to install iTunes on your PC to add to VLC’s library on an iPhone.
Alternatively, if you already have iTunes installed or are using iCloud, Dropbox, or Google Drive, you can use these services as well to upload media files.
Note: VLC supports media files in many different formats, but I haven’t found a way to access Audible books.
Please be mindful if you decide to try the tips in this post and always put your hearing first!
I have only had the need for tips #2-4 when playing old music files and for a select few audio books and podcasts. I do, however, check that Worktunes Connect+AM/FM are set to dosimeter mode (tip #1).
With most music, audio books, and podcasts, your Worktunes should be more than loud enough even in a very loud environment.
Current 3M Worktunes models have a noise reduction rating (NRR) ranging from 23 to 25.
If your earmuffs appear to be generally too quiet, I strongly recommend investigating the following:
- Is the NRR of your earmuffs sufficient for the noise level you are trying to protect yourself from? If you are using your earmuffs in an occupational setting, seek the advice of your company’s safety officer or your boss.
- Do the earmuffs seal properly, or is there noise leakage due to you wearing glasses or worn out ear cushions?
- The problem of not enough volume may be related to your phone: Borrow a friend or colleague’s phone and try that.
Finally, some music isn’t suitable for listening to in a workshop or while riding a lawn mower.
For example, to appreciate the quieter sections of instrumental or classical music, you need a quiet environment, not a background noise level of 60 to 70 decibels (inside the ear cups).