TWO LABS, ONE FACILITY
The Safariland acoustics lab enables our audio engineers to design, manufacture and test communications products specifically for real-world audio environments—like a shooting range, or a Blackhawk helicopter. One of the unique aspects of the Safariland facility is that engineers have the ability to fire a live round in the ballistics lab, measure the frequency range and decibel rating of that particular firearm or round, and then replicate it in the acoustics lab.
The information is then used to develop or test a product for that specific audio environment. “It’s phenomenal to think we have both ballistics lab and an acoustics lab under the same roof in production,” says Medine. “This is just another example of how we all work together to save lives.”
PERCEPTION VS. MEASUREMENT
While our perception tells us a particular sound is loud, (and we should be protecting our hearing, even if that means jamming our fingers in our ears when we hear a painfully loud noise), only measurement can validate frequency ranges and decibel ratings.
“There are a few different ways we can use our equipment to confirm a reading, and we use it for both R&D and production, and getting certifications,” says Brad Medine, Safariland Communication Category Director.
Through careful audio measurement of a unique environment—like the interior of a Blackhawk helicopter in flight—Safariland designs, manufactures and tests hearing and communications equipment specifically for that particular environmental noise. “We can take that same level of noise and frequency range and re-enact it inside of our chamber and get a solid reading on how well our equipment performs,” says Medine.
In communications, having an equally balanced headset not only improves your ability to hear audio clearly, it’s also necessary for achieving accurate sound localization. If a headset isn’t balanced, it can throw off your ability to identify where sounds are coming from. For instance, if you’re at a shooting range and there are a bunch of people around you, you want to know exactly where they are at all times.
The need for 360 degrees of situational awareness becomes even more critical in a tactical environment. Imagine being on a mission and you hear the sound of someone cocking a weapon, and you don’t know if the sound came from behind you, or off to the left. A balanced headset provides the most accurate sound localization, so you can correctly discern where that sound originated.
In addition to testing headsets for balance, Safariland also has the capability to test all of a headset’s components before they’re integrated into a complete piece of equipment. “This information is extremely valuable when it comes to product development,” says Medine, “and we can use this to test every individual component to make sure our speakers, our microphones, even our ear-muffs, outperform everything else on the marketplace. It really does give us an advantage.”
VALIDATION & RESPONSIVENESS
Once products are tested and validated, the results are documented in the Safariland communications testing system. This is necessary for ISO testing, and the logs are also useful in the future if a customer has a question about the equipment. “We can bring up the log of when the equipment was tested and the range it performed in, and have documentation on the testing that was done. It’s a great tool to have and be able to say, ‘It did test in range’.”
Medine takes great pride in the Safariland service department. “When things break or if they’re not working properly we are extremely responsive.” If a customer hears a noise in one ear of the headset, or thinks the headset isn’t balanced, Medine can hook it up to audio testing equipment, run a test and verify the exact problem. Measurement, validation, and responsiveness, they all lead back to one purpose: “We’ve been developing the highest level of communication equipment for over 20 years,” says Medine. “We have one goal, to give our operators the tactical advantage and to save lives.”