I think AXIL GS Extreme earbuds are an essential piece of gear for those who want to protect and enhance their hearing afield and at the range. I explain why I feel that way in this AXIL GS Extreme earbuds review.
Most hunters and shooters probably agree that it’s a good idea to wear hearing protection at the shooting range. Plain old foam ear plugs and over the ear muffs work well for certain applications. However, traditional hearing protection muffles all sounds and there can be drawbacks to using them.
For instance, it can be really tough to have a normal conversation with a person or hear commands from a range officer while wearing ear muffs or ear plugs.
Regular ear plugs and muffs present even more potential issues for hunters. Most hunters are understandably very reluctant to sacrifice the ability to hear the snap of a twig indicating an approaching deer or the clucks and purrs of a nearby turkey. This can obviously adversely affect their odds of success afield and, at first glance, the risk-reward calculation doesn’t seem like it makes sense to wear hearing protection afield.
After all, what harm can a single gunshot cause?
Unfortunately, noises louder than 120 decibels can cause immediate and permanent hearing loss (a gunshot is about 130-180 decibels). So, a single gunshot can actually be pretty bad, especially when that damage is accumulated over the course of 20-30 years of hunting.
I have two pieces of good news for you though.
First, while noise induced hearing loss and tinnitus are both permanent, they’re also preventable. Second, there are some outstanding hearing protection products available these days that also provide hearing enhancement as well.
I’ve used a number of different types of shooting and hunting hearing protection over the years ranging from traditional foam ear plugs to electronic ear muffs to electronic ear plugs. They’ve all worked to varying degrees (especially at the range), but I was never completely satisfied by my hunting ear protection options though.
However, I recently discovered AXIL Ghost Stryke Extreme electronic earbuds (also known as the AXIL GS Extreme) and they’re easily my favorite ear protection, especially for hunting. I’ll get into the details here in a minute, but they have 3 great features that set them apart from the competition.
First, AXIL GS Extreme earbuds protect your hearing. Second, they provide audio enhancement and actually make quiet sounds easier to hear, but will still protect your ears from loud sounds like gunshots. Finally, they have 5.0 Bluetooth connectivity and can be paired with your phone to allow you to listen to podcasts and music or even take phone calls.
Though those functions are desirable and useful individually, they really take things to a new level when combined in the manner they are with the AXIL GS Extreme.
In this article, I’m going to explain what makes AXIL GS Extreme earbuds different from most other ear protection products these days and go over the pros and cons of these earbuds so you can make an informed decision regarding whether or not they make sense for you to use yourself.
Before we get started, I have two administrative notes:
First, the folks at AXIL sent me a set of AXIL GS Extreme earbuds free of charge in exchange for an honest review and evaluation.
Second, some of the links below are affiliate links. This means I will earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase. This helps support the blog and allows me to continue to create free content that’s useful to people like you. Thanks for your support.
What Are AXIL GS Extreme Electronic Earbuds And How Do They Work?
The story of AXIL begins with the founding of the Harris Hearing Group. Based in the western United States, they have worked in the hearing aid industry since 1958 and dove into the sporting ear protection world in 2000 when they launched the SportEAR brand.
Founded in 2012, AXIL is a family owned business headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah that’s the final result of combining those two brands and all of their experience and expertise accumulated over the course of over 50 years in the hearing business.
Due to their history and experience in the hearing aid industry, the folks at AXIL took an approach with their hearing protection that’s slightly different from what some people may be used to with electronic ear protection.
Older electronic earmuffs and ear plugs (and some lower cost modern electronic ear protection) will simply turn off their microphones when they detect sound levels above a certain level and protect the user with regular passive hearing protection. After a certain period of time, the microphones turn back on.
The end result is that they’ll amplify quieter sounds under normal conditions, quickly turn off when detecting a louder noise, then turn back on when the dangerous noise is no longer present. That way of doing things generally worked pretty well and was a massive improvement over passive hearing protection by protecting hearing from dangerous sounds while providing hearing amplification the rest of the time.
However, that could get a little annoying when in certain really noisy environments. For instance, there may be almost continuous gunfire at a shooting range.
Under those conditions, the amplification will be constantly cutting in and out, leaving the user with just the passive protection and no amplification. This isn’t dangerous, but it can be annoying, especially when trying to have a conversation.
The speed the amplifier turns on and off is called “attack time.” Well, more modern electronic hearing protection developed by the sporting goods industry have faster processors to decrease attack time to shorter and shorter intervals to reduce the “clipping” effect experienced with older electronic ear muffs.
More advanced models, like AXIL GS Extreme earbuds, do things a little differently and use sound compression technology instead of simply turning off the amplifier when loud noises are detected. This allows the user to still hear all sounds in the environment around them, but reduces extremely loud noises to safe levels.
This completely eliminates that clipping effect experienced with other ear protection. However, it can be a little confusing to users used to having their electronic ear muffs shut off to block out gunshots. Indeed, a gunshot will still sound exactly like a gunshot with ear protection that uses sound compression technology.
It won’t be nearly as loud as it would be without ear protection though. This is great once you get used to it because they deliver a continuous stream of sound into your ears at a safe level without cutting in and out.
Like I mentioned earlier, this is how AXIL GS Extreme earbuds protect hearing and they shut out sounds at 95 dB or higher. According to AXIL, they have a 29 dB noise reduction rating (NRR), which is towards the high end of normal for an NRR with hearing protection in that price range.
They also provide hearing enhancement.
AXIL GS Extreme earbuds have two small control sticks. One of them controls hearing amplification and the other controls bluetooth functions.
To turn on hearing enhancement, just flip the toggle switch on the left hand control box to the “ON” position and use the plus and minus buttons to turn the hearing enhancement volume up or down to your preference.
AXIL advertises that GS Extreme earbuds provide 6x hearing enhancement. So, they can offset mild or moderate hearing loss and even amplify normal hearing to better than average levels so the user can detect quieter sounds and/or noises at increased distance.
To turn on Bluetooth and pair with a device, press and hold the middle button on the right hand control box. Then, use the plus and minus buttons on that side to turn up and down the Bluetooth volume.
It’s important to understand that these features (what AXIL terms hearing enhancement & protection mode and bluetooth audio mode) can be used in combination with each other or independently. The two modes also have independent volume controls you can use to tune to your environment.
For instance, you probably don’t need hearing enhancement to mow your yard, but you might want to listen to music or a podcast while you work. So, you can leave the hearing enhancement off, but turn on Bluetooth.
The passive ear protection provided by wearing the AXIL GS Extreme will dampen the sound of your lawn mower and you can listen to your favorite podcast via Bluetooth at a comfortable level while you cut the grass.
Likewise, you might want some amplified hearing to hear approaching game while you’re hunting, but not be distracted by music or a podcast. In that case, you can leave Bluetooth off, but turn up the hearing amplification a bit to hear sounds you might otherwise miss and still protect your ears when you shoot.
Finally, they use a rechargeable lithium battery to power those electronics. AXIL advertises that they’ll provide up to 12 hours of hearing enhancement and around 6 hours of Bluetooth audio mode. Note that using enhancement and Bluetooth together will deplete the battery much faster.
The battery is charged via a micro-USB charging port on the right hand control box.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of AXIL GS Extreme earbuds, let’s talk about what I like and don’t like about them.
What I Like About Them
First, AXIL GS Extreme earbuds are very good in their primary role of protecting hearing. Worn properly (and this is important), they’re extremely effective and provide ear protection on par with just about any other ear plug or ear muff I’ve worn.
Like I said though, you need to wear them properly though. AXIL GS Extreme earbuds come with 2 different sizes of white silicone tips and 2 different sizes of foam plugs. First, it’s important that you ONLY wear the black foam tips at the range or when hunting (the white tips have a lower 22 dB NRR and aren’t rated for shooting) AND take 5 minutes to see which tips fit you best.
They WON’T protect your hearing if you skip that step. However, they’ll provide very good ear protection and will be very comfortable to wear if you wear them properly (watch this video for details) and use the appropriate tips that fit your specific ear canal.
That brings me to my next point. AXIL GS Extreme earbuds are also very comfortable to wear for long periods of time. This is one of the things that really sets them apart from other ear protection models I’ve used. After all, ear protection doesn’t do you any good if you don’t wear it when you need it.
I live in Texas, so I spend a lot of time at the range (and even hunting) when it’s hot and humid. Regular ear muffs very quickly get hot, sweaty, and uncomfortable.
So, the fact that they’re earbuds is a big benefit to start off with. However, I’ve also used electronic ear plugs (like Walker’s Game Ears) that are nowhere near as comfortable as AXIL GS Extreme earbuds. I’ve worn the AXIL earbuds for 4+ hours at a time without discomfort. They also use moldable Sportfit ear hooks to keep the buds securely in your ears as you move around.
This is especially important when using them for hunting ear protection like I do. In those circumstances, I want something I can put on at the beginning of the hunt and not worry about until I’m done. The last thing I want to do is fiddle around trying to put something in my ears when I have a deer standing 50 yards away.
Fortunately, that’s not an issue with AXIL GS Extreme earbuds. Providing good hearing protection and being comfortable to wear for hours at a time are essential features in hunting ear protection.
So is hearing enhancement.
Luckily, AXIL GS Extreme earbuds do a good job with that as well and I can actually hear better with them on than I can with nothing at all. While I cannot independently verify how much hearing enhancement they provide, they do indeed provide a noticeable boost to my hearing.
They’re also not bad in windy conditions. Yes, the wind can be pretty loud in some cases, but wind noise isn’t as big of an issue with the AXIL GS Extreme as I’ve experienced with other ear protection models. At the same time, high winds can be pretty darn noisy with nothing in your ears at all when your head is turned just right.
I just turn the hearing enhancement off if the wind is too annoying though.
The fact that they’re earbuds instead of over the ear muffs is also a plus when shooting long guns as they do not affect my cheek weld.
I’ve also been pretty happy with the battery life for these bluetooth ear buds. I haven’t had occasion to use them for 12 hours at a time, but I’ve never had issues with them during multiple hour range sessions or hunting trips.
The sound quality AXIL GS Extreme earbuds is good or excellent depending on the mode. I wouldn’t quite describe them as providing “studio quality audio,” but their Bluetooth sound quality is very nearly on par with my Apple AirPods Pro Bluetooth earbuds (which are quite a bit more expensive and don’t provide ear protection).
Audio quality is a little lower, but still good with the hearing amplification feature. There’s a little distortion with the sound sometimes, especially when I talk when the volume is at higher levels, but it’s not a major issue. We’ll talk more about this in the “what I don’t like” section though.
All things considered, I think AXIL GS Extreme earbuds are outstanding choices for many hunting applications as well as for the vast majority of shooters. The same goes for those who want comfortable hearing protection with Blutetooth capability to use while mowing their lawn, operating heavy equipment, etc.
What I Don’t Like About Them
With all that said, there are a few things I don’t like about AXIL GS Extreme earbuds that you should be aware of before purchasing a set.
First, they have a constant hiss when the hearing amplification feature is turned on. For reference, my Howard Leight Impact Sport earmuffs have a hiss as well, but it’s not quite as loud as what I experience with AXIL GS Extreme earbuds. It doesn’t bother me much, but it is something to be mindful of.
Next, they are sensitive to my voice and sound funny when I talk while the hearing amplification is turned up at high levels. This isn’t a major issue most of the time though because the times when I have the hearing amplification turned up the highest (when hunting) are also the times I’m least likely to be speaking.
Some people also don’t like the wires and control boxes that hang down behind your head when wearing them. It doesn’t bother me with the sort of activities I do with them (I just tuck the ends down the back of my shirt), but they can get in the way if you’re doing a lot of work with a rifle using a single point sling for instance.
In that vein, all the controls are located behind your head when you’re wearing AXIL GS Extreme earbuds. I picked up the controls very quickly by feel, but it can be a little frustrating to figure things out at first.
AXIL GS Extreme earbuds also just take a little bit of time to set-up properly and figure out. I really liked the GS Extreme once I got the feel of how to wear and use them, but it took me some time to really get comfortable with it.
Once again: read the directions in detail, use the right tips, and ensure you’re wearing them properly (watch this video for details). The vast majority of the people I’ve seen who didn’t like these earbuds neglected one or all of those steps.
Finally, while they provide plenty of ear protection under normal conditions, they are a little lacking in that department in REALLY noisy environments. If you’re shooting something like a .300 Win Mag with a muzzle brake, a short barreled AR-15 at an indoor range, or a Barrett .50 BMG, then you should double up your ear protection with ear muffs as well.
That’s not something unique to AXIL GS Extreme earbuds and I’d give that advice to anyone shooting under extremely loud circumstances like those regardless of the ear protection they’re using. It’s still something to keep in mind though.
AXIL GS Extreme Electronic Earbuds: Final Thoughts
All things considered, I think AXIL GS Extreme earbuds are an outstanding form of ear protection.
They’re not perfect, but I think they’re comfortable to wear, they do a good job of protecting your hearing, they provide hearing amplification and Bluetooth connectivity, and are very comfortable to wear for hours at a time. Yes, there are other models out there that are better than the GS Extreme in one area or another, but they also usually cost quite a bit more money.
Likewise, there are also other Bluetooth headsets and earbuds that have better sound, but are significantly more expensive and lack the hearing protection and hearing amplification features of the AXIL GS Extreme.
With all that said, there’s a reason why I use AXIL GS Extreme earbuds for my trips to the shooting range and for my hunting excursions: they provide an excellent balance of the features most important to me at a reasonable price.
Bottom line, AXIL GS Extreme earbuds are a great piece of gear that are well worth the money for hearing protection at the range, while hunting, working with power tools, doing yard work, auto racing, and basically almost any other indoor or outdoor activities that require ear protection.
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NEXT: BEST GIFTS FOR HUNTERS
Endorsement Disclosure: Per the guidelines of the Federal Trade Commission, the product reviewed here is an endorsement and I received compensation by “in-kind” payment to review the product.
John McAdams is a proficient blogger, experienced shooter, and long time hunter who has pursued big game in 8 different countries on 3 separate continents. John graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and is a veteran of combat tours with the US Army in Iraq & Afghanistan. In addition to founding and writing for The Big Game Hunting Blog, John has written for outdoor publications like Bear Hunting Magazine, The Texas State Rifle Association newsletter, Texas Wildlife Magazine, & Wide Open Spaces. Learn more about John here, read some of John’s most popular articles, and be sure to subscribe to his show: the Big Game Hunting Podcast.