Professional Tool Reviews for Pros


3M Worktunes Headphones AM/FM Radio Review

3M Worktunes Headphones features -1

I do a lot of outdoor work, and it’s nice to listen to the radio or my trusty iPhone music while mowing the lawn or working in the shop. 3M one-ups the normal headphones by integrating 22dB SPL of NRR, or Noise Reduction Rating. For all practical purposes, that means that if you put these headphones on, you can basically expect around 22 decibels of noise reduction when you don them and go about your business. That’s actually quite a lot of noise reduction, though you can get a similar NRR from a good pair of properly worn in-ear earphones. The advantage is that the 3M Worktunes Headphones are a “grab-and-go” product we were eager to test.


Editor’s Note: Check out our review of the 3M WorkTunes Connect Bluetooth Headphones

3M Worktunes Headphones AM FM Radio
3M Worktunes Headphones.

3M Worktunes Headphones Features

Physically, the 3M Worktunes Headphones are yellow and black, though they also come in other colors, depending on the SKU and where you buy them. All of the real electronics are in the left headphone, and the cable leading from that one to the right is, unfortunately, exposed. The flat, wide cable runs along the top of the headphone band, held tight by a plastic clip.

3M Worktunes Headphones

Another odd thing we noted was that 3M opted to cheap out on the headphone band itself, choosing a plastic (as opposed to rubberized) solution instead of a truly padded, comfortable headband. One advantage is that it won’t stain or collect germs. There are also hard corners/edges that had a tendency to dig into our skin when we took the headphones off our ears and placed them around our neck. There’s also just a lot of plastic on these headphones, like the place where the headband connects to the ear cups. It’s a stress point and a likely place for the phones to break one day if dropped onto a hard surface by accident.

3M Worktunes Headphones features
3M (top) and a more robust competitor (bottom)

With the controls all located on the left earphone, it was easy to access the volume control for the radio and the buttons. There is an AM/FM button to jump between modes, and a left and right button to move and scan through channels. If you press it in single, brief clicks, it will take you manually through the stations. Holding it down engages scan mode in either direction. The LCD makes it easy to see what channel you’re on, though it’s not backlit – which we wouldn’t expect for this type of product.

Memory Presets and Recall

A Memory button both recalls and stores stations into one of five presets. There are five presets for AM and five for FM, so you don’t have to skimp when you set them up. Press it to cycle through the presets, and hold it down to enter “edit” mode. Once in the edit mode, you can use the Forward (>>) and Back (<<) buttons to select the Memory position you want to store the new station into, and then press and hold the Memory button to store it.

3M Worktunes Headphones AM/FM Radio Review

Editor’s Note: The NRR (Noise Reduction Rating) is a single number rating that is required by law to be shown on the label of each hearing protector sold in the U.S. The values of sound attenuation used for the calculation of the NRR are determined in accordance with ANSI S3.19-1974. The NRR calculation assumes a pink noise with octave-band levels of 100dB. Thereafter various correction factors for the C-weighting scale and A-weighting scale are introduced. The octave-band noise levels are logarithmically summed to obtain the overall sound level in dB(C) and dB(A). NRR is computed by subtracting 3 dB from the difference between the unprotected C-weighted and the protected A-weighted levels at the ear.

The Volume knob only affects audio from the AM/FM radio, and it also turns on and off the Worktunes – though none of this affects the insertion of an MP3 player via the included 1/8-inch mini jack on the rear side of the left headphone. There is no cap on the MP3 jack, so if you use the headphones outside for long enough, there is a possibility of corrosion on that input.

3M Worktunes Headphones features -2

3M Worktunes Headphones Listening Tests and Use

As is often the case, budget-minded noise reduction headphones don’t always produce the best sound – nor would we expect them to (but maybe we should have higher expectations). With the 3M Worktunes Headphones, however, it actually came across as sounding boxy, particularly with male and female vocals – and with a colored midrange and very little clarity in the high end.

There was more bass than with similar headphones we’d listened to and used previously (some of which we had on-hand for comparison) but the extra bass was causing a lot of breakup and distortion. The headphones didn’t seem to limit low-frequency reproduction, and as a result, anything that exceeded the capabilities of these headphones’ drivers resulted in compression and distortion. 3M should consider inserting a passive filter to roll off the low frequencies, leaving the speaker more able to handle what it can handle, and not have to deal with the stuff it can’t.


As for noise reduction, they work very well – and we’d expect no less from 3M. We compared them to our reference stereo headphones and, in terms of external noise reduction, the 3M Worktunes headphones provide 3-4 times the level of noise reduction. Whereas I simply couldn’t get the audio loud enough to mow the grass and still hear my tunes, the 3M headphones allowed me to listen at moderate levels and enjoy my music. In case you haven’t thought through this, this also means that it’s protecting your hearing. Ever wonder what happens when you crank up the tunes in a MP3 player to compensate for external noise? You’re literally blaring audio directly into your ear. That is extremely dangerous and 3M does an excellent job addressing this with this product.

Room for Improvement

There are some oddities, like the fact that the first 4 positions of the Volume control don’t yield anything, then the fifth position allows sound to actually begin coming into the earpieces. This is pretty minor. We also found it very strange that we could listen to both the radio and our MP3 player – at the same time. That’s correct. Since the 3M Worktunes headphones don’t actually amplify the audio from the iPod or MP3 player, the volume and power knob actually allows audio from the radio to pour into the headphones while you are also feeding it audio from somewhere else. Some may call that a “feature”, we’d call it a slight “oops.”

Conclusion

If you’re grabbing these primarily to lower outside noise while you do your work, we can give them a hearty thumbs up. If you want to emphasize quality of sound reproduction, then you may want to sample some more brands for comparison or go with some quality in-ear earphones.

At $49.99, these aren’t cheap, but the competition does tend to be higher priced (and some of that competition is clearly the same OEM). Peltor, for example, sells what appear to be these exact same headphones for around $88 – compared to that, 3M looks like a bargain. If you just want hearing protection, 3M and others offer radio-free models that provide this much or more noise reduction for under $20. Whether or not adding a radio and MP3 feature for the additional $30 is worth it will be a decision you’ll need to make for yourself. In our opinion, these would make a great gift and they will most certainly improve any noisy outdoor work experience.

 

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