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 Post subject: MSA Sordin MRCS & TCI Liberator (WIP)
PostPosted: Fri Oct 28, 2011 4:59 am 
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This is a comparative review of the MSA Sordin MICH Ranger Communication System and the TCI Liberator 1s, which are based on the first iteration of Peltor's Comtac line. I am writing this first and foremost as a civilian geardo, and hope to guide you whatever is the best path for you in search of comms.

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First impressions.

- MSA Sordin MRCS
When I received these, I had allready had a set of MSA Sordin Supreme Pro-X before I received the MRCS, and had a fairly good idea of what to expect.
Two things I noticed immediately I got slightly disappointed about, was the fact that the mic was not modular, as I had a faint hope it might be. I also noted that MSA had utilized what is a 3.5mm Jack on the rear of the Supreme Pro-X was actually now the I/O line for the microphone.
There went the idea of getting Spotify on my tacticool headset, oh well...
Another thing worth noting with these, are that in comparison to the Supreme Pro-X, there are fewer volume settings. They do however seem to go across the same spectrum, just in larger increments.

- TCI Liberator 1

This set has the aviator style boom-microphone on it, which was my main reason for getting them: purely for the looks.
- And they certainly delivered on that end.
The left earcup was facing upwards when I opened the box they were in, and my first thought was that they certainly looked impressive. Once I turned them around though, I went "meh", shrugged and proceeded to unscrew the cover on the battery compartment to fit fresh batteries in it.
The replacement of batteries immediately struck me as highly practical, and simpler than on the Sordins (where the second battery always gets stuck in the sodding lower battery chamber), even though it requires a flat-head screw driver.

Fit and comfort.

- MSA Sordin MRCS
As I allready had some Supreme Pro-Xs when I got my MRCS set, I immediately swapped the stock pads with the silicone gel replacement pads, and can't really comment on comfort with the basic pads, other than that it was a pain in the ass to wear protective glasses with the Pro-X set before I got the gel pads.
Even if you don't need protective glasses, buy the gel pads immediately either way - the elevation in comfort is absolutely amazing, specially when looking at cost-effectivity in doing so.
The headband cover these sets come with as stock are fine, but there is definitely room for improvement. I would suggest having a look at the offerings from OC Tactical.

- TCI Liberator 1
First thing that came to mind was that these were far more comfortable than the Sordins with stock pads. Though if there is a way to make the Sordin gel pads fit these as well, I would most certainly make the investment.
The Liberators have a leather headband rather than the adjustable plastic headband of the Sordins. The diameter of the headband is adjusted by pulling or pushing vertically on the metal rods that go into the plastic mounts that attach the cups to the headband. Much like a hydraulic piston, to paint a word-picture.
I must say I do prefer the headband-adjustment of the Sordins, but the Liberators give you greater possibilities of fine-tuning the adjustment, and it also allows the headband a much lower profile in case you will be wearing a helmet/headgear that might push down on the headband and cause discomfort.

I will have to continue this later this evening, I've gotta get to work soon.

Sound Amplification.

- MSA Sordin MRCS
Now, neither the Sordins or the Liberators are marketed as sound amplification headsets, but it is an inherent feature in both of them.
The Sordins aren't too souped up in this respect, but they do provide some general amplification, and specially makes it easier to hear sharp noises, like a twig breaking on the ground or a lock in a door slamming shut.
How useful this is, I suppose varies greatly by what your intended use for them is, but it helps make up for the slight loss of situational awareness despite the mics on the cups being omni-directional. They are located up front after all...

- TCI Liberator 1
When it comes to pure amplification, these knocks the Sordins' socks straight off.
The first thing I noticed when I put them on was "HOLY FUCKING SHIT THIS IS LOUD!"; To be quite frank, it hurt my sodding ears when I was typing on my keyboard.
I suppose I get that this could be useful in situations where one needs auditory situational awareness at a maximum, but the Liberators are having a hard time filtering out background noise. Thus, you hear EVERYTHING, and sharp noises are amplified into loud clicks, which actually caused me some proper pain.
Needless to say, mine are constantly on the lowest setting as I am somewhat concerned that these high-amplified sharp sounds might actually cause some damage if I run the headset on max volume for a prolonged period of time.

Active Hearing Protection.

- MSA Sordin MRCS
I have absolutely no idea how the circuitry works, but the MSA Sordins capture high-volume noises and bring them down to a safe decibel level in order to protect your hearing, but still give you a complete auditory picture of what is going on around you.
Over the years that I've owned MSA Sordin products, I have grown fond of this way of dealing with it and have used them from everything between the shooting range, airsoft, mechanical work and lumbering. Hell, I once put my MSA Sordin Supreme Pro-X on once on new year's eve for shits and giggles once the majority of the fireworks went off, which gave a slightly surreal side to it.
Not once have I experienced the Sordins not bringing a noise down to acceptable levels, even when the battery was running low and they were about to shut themselves off.

- TCI Liberator 1
Unlike the MSA Sordins, the TCI Liberators (and thus Comtac 1s) actually cut off the loud sound completely rather than lowering the decibel level of it. Which is a fine way to do it, the temporary loss of situational awareness lasts just a fraction of a second either way. However, there is a delay in the process. The audio in the headset only cuts out once you've gotten a bit into the noise, nearing it's peak. They do spare you from the loudest part of the sound, but I am a bit concerned as the part you hear before they cut out can get unpleasantly loud at times.

A friend and I went to a shooting range to compare the two headsets head to head. We were only shooting 9mm semi-automatic, 7.62 bolt action and 12ga slugs, so it doesn't in any way give a clear picture on what they perform like in actual combat environments with live fire (the closest we came to sustained fire was slam-firing the shotgun), but at least it gives a comparative basis.
In all honesty, due to the issues with sound-amplification I mentioned before and the delay before the sound cuts off, I was somewhat afraid to turn up the volume on the liberators, thus all testing was done on minimal volume, whereas I adjusted the volume to fit my needs on the Sordins.

The Liberators did just fine with the 9mm, and the cut-off delay didn't really get noticeable until we moved up to the 7.62 and shotgun.
In general, I'd say they performed pretty well, but I would've liked to have the aforementioned kinks worked out. To see how the sets protected my hearing passively, I turned them both off and let off a few rounds. In this respect the headsets were very close, but again I find myself leaning towards the Sordins, and believe this to be a benefit of the gel earpads. With standard earpads I suspect the Liberators might 1-up the Sordins a bit.

Communications.

- MSA Sordin MRCS

- TCI Liberator 1

Operation, Interface.

- MSA Sordin MRCS

- TCI Liberator 1

Conclusion.

- MSA Sordin MRCS

- TCI Liberator 1

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Last edited by Pkekyo on Fri Oct 28, 2011 10:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: MSA Sordin MRCS & TCI Liberator (WIP)
PostPosted: Fri Oct 28, 2011 7:44 am 
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Pkekyo wrote:
This set has the aviator style boom-microphone on it, which was my main reason for getting them: purely for the looks.


Sorry dude, but that shaves a great deal off your credibility imo. Good thing you are honest at least.

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 Post subject: Re: MSA Sordin MRCS & TCI Liberator (WIP)
PostPosted: Fri Oct 28, 2011 4:50 pm 
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Actually, I'd say that he gained some.

A question with battery compartments; Are the Sordins harder to switch batteries in than the TCIs? If so I'm real glad my ears don't fit Sordins so that I went with Comtac 2s, which are probably even easier than the TCI/C1s, with no tools and external compartments.

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 Post subject: Re: MSA Sordin MRCS & TCI Liberator (WIP)
PostPosted: Fri Oct 28, 2011 6:42 pm 
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I haven't got any problems with getting the batteries out really, just give them a good slap and they'll pop right out. The problem that i find with the sordins however is that their ability to protect my ears are somewhat limited imo.
I was out shooting a marlin in .45-70 and after 20-25 shots I really had enough and had to put on additional earpro to keep the banging at an acceptable level. I haven't tried the ComTac 2 but i find that both the ComTac 1 and Tactical 6s/soundtrap do keep loud noises out better.


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 Post subject: Re: MSA Sordin MRCS & TCI Liberator (WIP)
PostPosted: Fri Oct 28, 2011 10:48 pm 
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I can't really see how buying something because it is pretty somehow excludes me from being able to tell how the item does the job it's intended to, but each to his own I guess.

The swapping out of the batteries in the Sordins isn't hard, it's just a bloody annoyance.
The two batteries in the right earcup are stacked vertically on top of eachother, so that once you push the first one in it drops into place below the axis of the actual opening, and then the second battery slides in on top of that again.
What happens it that the lower battery tends to latch itself onto the edges inside the battery compartment when you're trying to get it out, and it's just a pain in the ass having to turn the set upside down and knock it until it gets loose. Fortunately, one does not have to replace the batteries often.
And yes, I do believe the design of the battery comparment from the Comtac 1 to the Comtac 2s is an advancement technically and practically - but it's not as purty ;)






I've added a few paragraphs on sound amplification and active hearing protection, but I'm off to bed as there's about five and a half hours until I've gotta get up and go to work again - will hopefully complete the review tomorrow.

Feel free to ask any questions or come with tips of stuff you'd like me to include and I'll take it under advisement.

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 Post subject: Re: MSA Sordin MRCS & TCI Liberator (WIP)
PostPosted: Fri Oct 28, 2011 11:22 pm 
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Ref sound amp: When wearing dual ear pro (plugs and cups), being able to have them at super-retard-high is a must, unless you wanted a "I can hear people mumbling-headset". Also, it is a useful feature to be able to locate the general area of where lots of noise is coming from, I was able to point out where a non-visible friendly platoon was during an (exercise) assault, from around 400m away with light to dense vegetation, with pretty god damn amazing accuracy. Of course this will depend on the terrain and wind, as well as other sounds around you.

Are you sure that the TCIs cut off the sound? At least with the 2s I am able to hear everything going on, even while shooting, but yes, the sound of a gunshot might sound like a cut-off due to it maxing out the volume that it's currently set at.
After all, it is and input/output system with a mic, speaker and volume controls, and not like some older Peltor industry models, which has actual cut-off tube from the outside to the inside. Anyone got some fixed on this?

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 Post subject: Re: MSA Sordin MRCS & TCI Liberator (WIP)
PostPosted: Sat Oct 29, 2011 8:51 am 
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Interesting point about dual earpro.
What exactly prompts doing so? I have never had to resort to it myself, I have only shot civilian weaponry though...

And yes, they do cut out briefly, which I have heard others complain about as well. This might be different in the second generation of comtacs?
I actually don't mind them cutting out, it's more the first part of the loud noise leading up to the cut-out due to the delay I'm concerned about.

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 Post subject: Re: MSA Sordin MRCS & TCI Liberator (WIP)
PostPosted: Sat Oct 29, 2011 12:02 pm 
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Safety does, and just because you don't think it's that loud doesn't mean that you don't damage your ears.

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 Post subject: Re: MSA Sordin MRCS & TCI Liberator (WIP)
PostPosted: Sat Oct 29, 2011 1:00 pm 
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You should always consider dual earpro. I wear Surefire earplugs with my Sordins. Worth it to my ears.


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 Post subject: Re: MSA Sordin MRCS & TCI Liberator (WIP)
PostPosted: Sat Oct 29, 2011 1:20 pm 
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I second that. I haven't always wore dual ear pro, but have permanent hearing loss in one of my ears from accidentally dislodging my ear pro during extreme close proximity rifle fire. That and foolishly believing my ears were strong enough to withstand repeated flashbang exposure unprotected has led me to always wear plugs and muffs when shooting.


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 Post subject: Re: MSA Sordin MRCS & TCI Liberator (WIP)
PostPosted: Wed Nov 23, 2011 5:36 pm 
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I got the liberators but the head band is set up so it covers the back of my head so doesn't go under the helmet so doesn't dig into my skull.

Nice write up and hey at least he is honest. :D

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 Post subject: Re: MSA Sordin MRCS & TCI Liberator (WIP)
PostPosted: Thu Nov 24, 2011 7:06 pm 
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Good write up!
Peltor actually did improve their high noise canceling process through version II and III (XS and XP or the other way around, can't remember). Comtac I is a bitch to use when working in sustained gun shots environment as the cut off system will engage constantly and isolate you from ambiant sound...
On the v. III they also added a nice feature for dual ear protection, where you can overide the maximum sound threshold when ear plugs are worn in conjunction?
As far as ergonomics are concerned, I've always had a hard time wearing Sordins head band version vs peltors, because of the bulk of MSA's head band, especially under a helmet.
One last thing to note is that the como versions of comtacs I were sometimes not able to handle both ambiant sound and radio reception at the same time, depending on how they were wired (especially at TCI). The issue has been solved for a while now though...

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