AXIL XCOR Earbuds Review: Read Before You Buy!

I think AXIL XCOR earbuds are an essential piece of equipment 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 XCOR review.

Most hunters and shooters probably wear some form of hearing protection at the shooting range and afield. However, while plain old foam ear plugs, over the ear muffs, and even newer electronic ear muffs and buds are certainly better than nothing, there are drawbacks to using those forms of hearing protection.

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 started using AXIL XCOR electronic earbuds and they’re now my favorite ear protection, especially for hunting. I’ll get into the details here in a minute, but AXIL XCOR ear buds provide wireless digital hearing protection and have 4 great features that set them apart from the competition.

First, AXIL XCOR earbuds protect your hearing. Second, they provide digital audio enhancement and actually make quiet sounds easier to hear, but will still protect your ears from loud sounds like gunshots. Next, they’re also sleek, wireless ear buds. 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.

In this article, I explain what makes AXIL XCOR 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 XCOR earbuds free of charge in exchange for an honest review and evaluation. In fact, they made some improvements to the current production XCOR ear buds based on feedback I provided about the prototype I initially received.

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. In fact, you’ll receive the best available pricing and receive a discount off MSRP by purchasing through any of those links. 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 XCOR 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’s XCOR earbuds (and some other AXIL products), do things a little differently and use digital hearing protection. Instead of simply turning off the amplifier when loud noises are detected, this sound compression technology allows the user to still hear all sounds in the environment around them, but reduces extremely loud noises to safe levels.

The advanced noise-canceling technology these digital earpro buds use completely eliminate 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 automatic compression 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 XCOR earbuds protect hearing and they shut out sounds at 85 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 and bluetooth audio.

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 AXIL XCOR ear buds 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.

picture of axil xcor ear buds

To turn on hearing enhancement, long touch (~2 seconds) the control area (where it says “AXIL” on the ear bud). Use the rectangular button on the top of the ear bud to turn the hearing enhancement volume up or down to your preference.

A small green light will illuminate on each ear bud for approximately 2 seconds once they’re turned on.

Turning sound on/off and adjusting volume on one ear bud will make the same adjustment to the other ear bud simultaneously.

AXIL advertises that XCOR earbuds provide hearing enhancement. This can can offset mild or even moderate hearing loss and will also potentially amplify normal hearing to better than average levels to allow the user to detect quieter sounds and/or noises at increased distance.

The XCOR ear buds will automatically connect to each other and begin searching for a Bluetooth device to pair with when you remove them from the case. You’ll need to select “AXIL XCOR” on your specific device (like a phone) to connect to the ear buds the first time you use them together.

Afterwards, they’ll automatically connect to your device if it’s in range (about 30 feet) when you remove them from the case.

Then, single tap the control area on the bud in the right ear to turn the audio volume up, single tap the left ear bud to turn down the audio volume, double tap either ear to pause/play, triple tap the right ear to skip forward, and triple tap the left ear to skip backward.

You can also use AXIL XCOR ear buds to make or answer calls on your phone and even use with some bluetooth-capable radios.

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 faster and that you can expect around 4 hours of battery life when using Bluetooth and hearing enhancement together.

Similar in concept to Apple Air Pods, the included AXIL XCOR storage box doubles as a charging case. Simply remove the XCOR ear buds from your ears and place them in the charging case to recharge their batteries.

According to AXIL, the charging case contains enough power for 2 full recharges of the XCOR buds. If the buds start out as fully charged, that will give you a total of 3 full charges.

The case itself is recharged using a USB-C charging port. It takes about 2 hours to fully recharge the case and ear buds while plugged in.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of AXIL XCOR earbuds, let’s talk about what I like and don’t like about them.

picture of axil xcor review case

What I Like About Them

First, AXIL XCOR earbuds are outstanding in their primary role of protecting hearing. Worn properly (and this is important), they’re both comfortable and extremely effective.

In fact, they provide ear protection on par or possibly even better than virtually any other ear plug or ear muff I’ve worn.

You need to wear them properly though. AXIL XCOR earbuds come with 3 different sizes of black silicone tips and 3 different sizes of max protect foam plugs. The XCORs come with the medium plugs already attached and while the small and large plugs are included inside the case.

First, it’s important that you ONLY wear the black foam tips at the range or when hunting (the silicone tips only provide about 19 dB of noise reduction and aren’t rated for shooting). You should ALSO take a couple minutes to see which foam tips fit you best before actually going shooting.

They WON’T protect your hearing (and will be uncomfortable to wear) if you skip that step.

I have smaller than typical ear canals, so I wear the small plugs. The medium plugs should fit most people though and the large plugs are perfect for those with larger ear canals.

The XCOR ear buds will provide excellent ear protection while at the same time being very comfortable to wear if you fit them properly (video coming with details) and use the appropriate tips that fit your specific ear canal.

That brings me to my next point.

AXIL XCOR earbuds are also incredibly 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.

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 shooting range (and even out hunting) when it’s hot and humid. In fact, I probably spend more time hunting and shooting during hot and humid weather than anything else.

Well, regular ear muffs very quickly get hot, sweaty, and uncomfortable in hot or even warm weather.

So, earbuds provide a big benefit to start off with compared to over the ear muffs.

However, I’ve also used electronic ear plugs (like Walker’s Game Ears and even the old AXIL GS Extreme) that are nowhere near as comfortable as AXIL XCOR earbuds. I thought the AXIL’s GS Extreme ear buds were comfortable to wear (and the best I’d found to that point), but I think the XCOR ear buds are a big improvement over even the GS Extreme.

I’ve worn the AXIL XCOR earbuds for 8+ hours at a time while hunting without discomfort.

This is especially important when using them for hunting ear protection like I do. In those circumstances, I think it’s a good idea to put on ear protection at the beginning of the hunt and leave it on until I’m done hunting. The last thing I want to do is fiddle around trying to put traditional hearing protection in/over my ears when I have a deer standing 50 yards away.

Fortunately, that’s not an issue with AXIL XCOR 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 XCOR 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 and once again, provide a noticible improvement over even the GS Extreme (which I also thought was excellent).

Wind noise isn’t as big of an issue with the AXIL XCOR as I’ve experienced with most 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 like bulky earmuffs do.

picture of axil xcor review rifle

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 excellent and definitely approaches what most people would agree is “studio quality audio.” In fact, their Bluetooth sound quality is very nearly on par with my Apple AirPods Pro Bluetooth earbuds (which don’t provide ear protection).

Audio quality is also excellent with the hearing amplification feature. There’s very little distortion with the sound and I can easily tell what direction a certain noise is coming from. My voice (and the voices of others around me) also sounds normal when I have a conversation while wearing the XCOR ear buds.

All in all, I think AXIL XCOR earbuds are incredible 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.

Here’s an example with some actual results afield that demonstrates what I mean and why I like them so much.

I took a set of AXIL XCORs to Africa on a hunt right after AXIL officially released them.

I wore them every single day for 10 days straight, normally putting them in around 6:30am when we’d leave camp after breakfast and then leaving them in until 11:30 or so when we’d have lunch. Then, I’d put them back in all afternoon around 1-2pm and wear them until we were done hunting in the evening around 6pm.

I was not listening to Bluetooth audio during that time, but the hearing enhancement was on all day long while we were hunting and I did not have any issues with the battery getting low.

Furthermore, the provided exceptional audio performance and excellent sound quality. The XCORs were also so comfortable that I often completely forgot I was wearing them. I had no issues carrying on a conversation with those around me and I was always able to quickly determine the direction a sound was coming from.

Additionally, the hearing enhancement they provided also helped me detect sounds other people couldn’t hear. In fact, that hearing enhancement helped me spot game several times and the ability to identify very quiet sounds made by approaching game also gave me an indication that something was coming before the animals arrived.

To give you an idea of how impressed I was with their performance, they’re the only ear protection I’d trust enough to wear when on the trail of a cape buffalo in thick brush. Cape buffalo can be very dangerous animals and, your life literally depends on your ability to hear, see, or even smell that buffalo in the thick brush.

picture of axil xcor review buds buffalo

The excellent audio quality and the hearing enhancement the XCORs provided gave me the confidence necessary to wear them on the tracks of buffalo for multiple days on that hunt and they didn’t let me down.

And of course, the XCORs also did an excellent job of protecting my hearing from loud gunfire.

These are all important factors for evaluating hearing protection for use afield and I think they’re the perfect hearing protection for hunters.

What I Don’t Like About Them

While I think they’re excellent ear buds, there are a few things I don’t like about AXIL XCOR earbuds that you should be aware of before purchasing a set.

First, they have a very slight hiss when the hearing amplification feature is turned on.

For reference, my Howard Leight Impact Sport earmuffs have a hiss as well. So do my GS Extreme ear buds. The hiss on the XCORs is much less than that of the GS Extremes and a little less than the Howard Leight muffs.

The hiss doesn’t bother me at all, but it is something to be mindful of and some people may be more sensitive to it than I am.

Next, they’re comfortable to wear, but my ears did get a little sore by about day 8 of my recent Africa hunt. Note that I was wearing them basically all day every day for about a week before they started to get uncomfortable.

This won’t be a problem for the vast majority of hunters, but it’s also something to keep in mind if you have a lengthy hunt coming up.

Next, they’re not difficult to use, but AXIL XCOR earbuds take a little bit of time to set-up properly and figure out. The instructions are well written and the controls XCORs are intuitive to use, but make sure you take the time to learn how to use them.

Additionally, I don’t link how short the included charging cable is. It works fine, but at about 10″ long, it’s not quite long enough to charge the storage case from a standard wall outlet (which are about 18″ off the floor in my house) without suspending the case in the air.

This is a minor concern to be sure and the case will work just fine with any USB-C charging cable (which is what I did), so you can fix this problem without much difficulty at all. Just thought I’d mention it though.

Finally, while they provide plenty of ear protection under normal conditions, I think you should double up your ear protection with ear muffs if you’re shooting in a REALLY noisy environment. By this I mean shooting something like a .300 Win Mag with a muzzle brake or a short barreled AR-15 at an indoor range.

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 XCOR Electronic Earbuds: Final Thoughts

All things considered, I think AXIL XCOR earbuds are an outstanding form of ear protection and are definitely the best thing I’ve found to use while hunting.

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.

There’s a reason why I use AXIL XCOR earbuds for hunting and for trips to the shooting range: they provide an excellent balance of the features most important to me at a reasonable price.

Bottom line, AXIL XCOR earbuds are an essential piece of gear that I think are well worth the money as hearing protection from damaging noises for a variety of outdoor activities an outdoor enthusiast might enjoy. This includes stuff like hunting, shooting at the range, working with power tools, doing yard work, working around motorcycles, auto racing, and basically almost any other indoor or outdoor activities that require ear protection.

Do you want to buy AXIL XCOR electronic ear buds for yourself? Click the button below to get the best pricing on these ear buds ($120 off MSRP through Sunday, 16 July at 11:59pm MST) along with free shipping to most locations.


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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.

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3 thoughts on “AXIL XCOR Earbuds Review: Read Before You Buy!”

  1. I’m interested in buying a set of the Axil Xcor not only for shooting protection, but also to use at work as just music headphones. At work I normally keep one in ear and the other in the case so I can alternate when the battery dies on the one I’m currently using. Do the Xcor’s allow use one at a time for bluetooth, or do you need both out of the case at the same time in order to use bluetooth? I’ve reached out to Axil for an answer but haven’t heard back so I’m hoping you could supply an answer for me. Thank you in advance


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