Tactical Hearing Protection Showdown: Peltor Comtacs vs. Otto NoizeBarrier TACs

Whether you’re kitting up a helmet for the first time and need a solid pair of helmet-compatible hearing protection, or you just want some of the best over-the-ear hearing protection in the shooting business, both the Peltor Comtacs (specifically the Comtac IIIs) and the Otto Noizebarrier sets are worthy of your consideration. The Peltor Comtacs and Otto Noizebarrier TACs are among the top choices for their advanced features and reliability in providing hearing safety, improved situational awareness, and all-day shooting comfort. Today we’ll dissect their specifications, features, pros, and cons, to give you a clear guide for selecting between these two impressive sets of hearing protection.

Noise Reduction Capabilities

Noise reduction ratings (NRR) are critical in evaluating the effectiveness of hearing protection for shooters and anyone else who is frequently exposed to intense noise for any amount of time. The NRR rating measures the amount of noise that the specific set of hearing protection mitigates for the user. The Peltor Comtacs with an NRR of 23 dB and the Otto Noizebarrier with a 25 dB NRR stand out for their capabilities in reducing harmful noise levels. 

Both the Otto NoizeBarrier TAC and the Peltor Comtac IIIs prioritize the balance between effective noise reduction and maintaining situational awareness. The Otto NoizeBarrier TAC and the Peltor Comtac V offer a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of at least 23 dB, which is a substantial level of protection against harmful noise levels encountered in shooting and tactical environments large bore (.50 cal), full-size and intermediate rifle cartridges. This similarity suggests that both models are highly effective in mitigating noise while allowing for clear communication and environmental awareness through either face-to-face speech, or over comms. 

The Otto NoizeBarrier TAC introduces several advanced features, such as dual-coil speakers and proprietary NoizeBarrier technology, to automatically adapt loud or impulse sounds to a safe level, while ensuring that normal-level sounds, nearby conversation, and radio communications are clearly audible without clipping or shutting down the situational awareness functionality. The noise-canceling boom microphone with built-in wind and noise reduction technology in the Otto NoizeBarrier TAC virtually eliminates background noises, ensuring clear radio transmissions even in loud environments​​​​.

The Peltor Comtac IIIs also emphasize their omnidirectional microphones and high-fidelity speakers to enhance voice communication and warning sounds. The accurate sound replication provides a natural sound experience with unmatched clarity, despite the protective NRR of 22 dB, slightly lower than the Otto Noizebarrier rating. The Comtac V includes features such as a balanced mode to adjust environmental listening volumes between the left and right ear cup speakers, further showcasing its flexibility and adaptability to various user needs​​.

Both headsets offer excellent noise reduction capabilities while also incorporating technology to maintain or enhance situational awareness and superb sound quality. In terms of overall noise reduction capabilities, the Otto Noizebarriers have a slight advantage in both their active and passive noise reduction capabilities over the Comtacs.

Comfort and Fit

When comparing the Comfort and Fit of the Peltor Comtacs and Otto NoizeBarrier TAC headsets for extended shooting or tactical use, both brands have made significant efforts to meet the demands of modern soldiers and shooting enthusiasts with their designs but there are obviously some major differences.

The Peltor Comtacs are designed with user comfort in mind, featuring a rubberized headband that is more durable and suitable for various outdoor conditions, including inclement weather or any kind of moisture. This update from the original leather headband to a rubberized one in the ComTac V model shows 3M's intentional choice to provide a durable yet very comfortable set of tactical hearing protection/communications gear. Moreover, the Comtacs can convert to a helmet-compatible headset using ARC adapters which can increase overall comfort and simplicity with your helmet setup. 

Honestly, the best thing about the Peltor’s is their replaceable gel cups which can get chilly to the touch when first putting them on, but do tend to warm up considerably over use which can be a positive or a negative depending on the weather. These comfortable gel cups also help to add to the Peltor’s overall noise reduction capabilities by providing a good seal around the entirety of your ear. 

The Otto NoizeBarrier TAC, on the other hand, emphasizes its comfort and fit with several user-centric design features. It boasts "Ultra-soft Comply" foam ear cushions that not only ensure comfort over long periods but also enhance noise isolation. These ear cushions can be easily snapped off and replaced similar to the Peltor’s but there are far fewer aftermarket options available for the Ottos. Furthermore, the low-profile earcup design of the Otto NoizeBarrier TAC ensures that it does not interfere with the shouldering of a firearm and is compatible with major Hi-Cut helmet systems - with the Otto’s being developed after the Peltor models, NoizeBarrier TACs have a more streamlined and modernized design.

Both models are designed with the end-user in mind, focusing on comfort for extended wear, ease of use, and compatibility with other gear. The Peltor Comtacs offer a robust and versatile design that is slightly more focused on adaptability with different headgear, thanks to its ARC adapter compatibility. The Otto NoizeBarrier TAC, with its emphasis on soft, easily replaceable ear cushions and a low-profile design, appears to prioritize immediate comfort and ease of maintenance.

Battery Life and Power Management

The battery life span is approximately for Peltor’s Comtacs is said to be around 500 hours. This significant battery life is crucial for extended operations, reducing the need for frequent battery replacements. However, real-world use and my own personal experience suggest the battery life may be somewhat less, depending on usage patterns and the environment you live in, with some reports estimating around 400-450 hours of operational time, suggesting a variation based on the intensity of use and the quality of batteries employed​​ as well as how judicious you are about making sure the headset is turned off. That being said, even 400 hours is quite a long time and if you’re worried about the headset dying on you suddenly, the Comtacs feature premature warning signals that are emitted every 30 seconds for five minutes when battery power is low, then the unit switches off. 

The Otto NoizeBarrier TAC, on the other hand, boasts about a 75-hour battery life with 2 AAA lithium-ion batteries​​​​. This headset also features auto idle shutdown to conserve battery life, which will not degrade with depleting batteries, and an automatic shutdown feature after 2 hours of idle time to further conserve power​​. Obviously, the much lower battery life could be a potential inconvenience, but for someone who is simply traveling to and from the range every day or even for a weekend, a 75-hour battery life is enough to get you through several days of shooting without much worry. 

The Peltor ComTac III boasts an impressive battery life of approximately 500 hours, supported by 2 AAA batteries, and features an auto-off function after 2 hours of non-use, optimizing power management for extended missions​​. On the other hand, the Otto NoizeBarrier TAC offers a battery life of around 75 hours with features like auto idle shutdown and automatic shutdown after 2 hours of idle time, to efficiently manage battery usage​​ and a lighter overall package.

What you Get for What You’re Paying

The Peltor Comtacs are generally priced between $700-$800 depending on where you purchase them from. Used pairs can often be found online for around $500 or sometimes even less but your mileage will always vary by going the secondhand route. At a minimum new asking price of around $700 the Comtacts are clearly aimed at professionals and serious shooters seeking high-end features, durability, and long battery life. After all, these are the headsets you often see in photos of active military personnel. 

In contrast, the Otto NoizeBarrier TAC's pricing varies based on configuration, with options compatible with various radios ranging from $665.00 to $825.00​​. Additionally, a direct listing showed the Otto NoizeBarrier® TAC available for $648.60, indicating a lower entry price for the base model compared to the Peltor Comtacs​​. The Ottos are also newer and have more modern audio drivers which has led many users to report that the overall audio quality of the Noizebarriers is much better than that of the somewhat aging Comtacs. 

The Bottom Line

Which of these two sets of professional hearing protection you choose is highly dependent on your specific needs and the type of shooting that you do. The Comtacs are world-renowned for their quality in virtually every shooting field, but they are indeed expensive, heavy, and can be considered quite dated by many today. Meanwhile, the Otto Noizebarriers are relatively new, and offer the non-professional shooter comparable capabilities, in a modern package that doesn’t cost quite as much as what the military uses. Ultimately, either pair will serve you well no matter what type of shooting you do and my advice would be that unless you are planning on doing a lot of active off-grid shooting, the less expensive Ottos will do just as well as the Peltors.