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Airwave Earpiece Options




Last week i decided i was going to get myself a new airwave ear piece. I'm not a big fan of Niton or Patrol Store...they are over priced and full of themselves...so i decided to trawl through all the other accessories suppliers. I settled on tetrahandsetsandaccessories.co.uk because they were the cheapest, and didn't blind me with advertising. I wrote this article, sans images, and dropped them an email to see if they were interested in sending me some samples so i could write further articles with more insight into the more diverse accessories. They said yes. which is why their logo is on this article. Now i've explained that, on with the article.

In 2005 the new Airwave radio system for emergency services was introduced and has revolutionised the way the police, fire, and ambulance services communicate. Airwave has better coverage, is clearer, is more secure, has increased flexibility, and offers some great safety features for officers on the ground. It really is a procurement success story, and i for one cant imagine policing without it.

G-Style
As with all technology it has its downside, and for me the biggest downside is finding the right ear piece. So i thought i would put together a bit of a 'tour' of ear piece solutions to show you the alternatives available. All these products are sold freely, and the TETRA standard is not protected technology. Anyway, i only intend to focus on the ear pieces here, so i dont risk touching on operational capabilities of the network itself.

The two aspects that are important to me are Comfort and Clarity...more specifically; Ear comfort, Body comfort , Receive clarity, and Transmit clarity.

Ear Pieces

D-Style
Earbud: The ear bud ear piece is without doubt the most comfortable earpiece because its something we are all used to; its the same ear piece you get free with your generic MP3 player. Disadvantage is that it is easily pulled out.

G-Style: The G-Style ear piece is probably standard issue in most police forces. It wraps around the the outside of the ear and deposits an earbud inside the ear. The angle is such that it can easily sit in the ear without completely blocking it. I have found, however, that after a 12 hour shift it can get very uncomfortable.

Acoustic Tube
D-Shape: The D-Shape earpieces are much larger and dont offer the same customisation as some of the others do. It hooks around the ear, and allows a small speaker to hover over the ear. It doesnt sit inside the ear so is more hygienic, allows the ear to 'breathe', and ensures you can hear the outside world without too much difficulty.

Headset
Acoustic Tube: The acoustic tube variety is what you will see the Secret Service wearing as they guard the lawn of the White House. This is the most intrusive ear piece as it sits in the ear canal and blocks it completely. I find that i am forever removing it so i can speak to people, and therefore miss radio transmissions. It is very much 'all or nothing'. Because it sits in the ear canal it builds up bacteria and can make you more susceptible to infection. For some it is generally uncomfortable at first, but after a while one gets used to it and it can be a god send during very loud and/or safety critical policing operations when there is a lot of airwave traffic...because its difficult to miss any airwave traffic so i would highly recommend it to public order/PSU officers.
Motorola Terminal

Headset: The last option is the full on headset. Not really suitable for operational front line policing, but may be very useful for Bronze and Silver commanders who are further away from the action in a coordination role.

Microphones

Terminal microphone: The microphone that comes in-built with the airwave terminals are very sensitive, so one doesnt need to shout to be heard during a transmission. The disadvantage of that is that is picks up a lot of background noise, can be easily obstructed by clothing, and be rendered useless by the wind.

G-Style with inline mic
In-Line microphone: The inline microphone is currently my preferred choice as it can be clipped in a convenient location around the body, allows the radio to be moved out the way onto the utility belt, and provides a much more responsive PTT button...i have found that the PTT buttons on the airwave terminals can become damaged easily and thereby become very difficult to use, especially if you use a terminal cover.

D-Style with boom mic
and inline PTT
Boom microphone: The boom microphone is a mic on a stick, that is attached to the earpiece...much like the that which you would see Brittany Spears wearing as she hop(ed), skip(ed) and jump(ed) her way around stage. This offers a clearer line of sight between the mouth and microphone, but can get damaged easily. It also can act as a leaver that pulls the earpiece out.

Throat mic with acoustic tube earpiece
and inline PTT
Throat microphone: I have never thought of using a throat microphone before, until today. In fact it was my choice to start using one that prompted this article. It eliminates all background noise, avoids taking up any valuable upper body real estate, and stops you from having to ever shout to be heard. Having not tried one yet its difficult to talk about it from experience, but my current concern is that it may not be very comfortable.

Lapel mic with ear bud earpiece
Lapel microphone: This is similar to an in-line mic, but without a PTT button. These generally come advertised as part of a 'covert' airwave set, and allow for the microphone to be hidden, and the PTT button to be discretely palmed.

Speaker mic
Remote speaker / microphone: In the UK these are being less and less used as time goes on, but i understand they are very popular in the US. I've never used one, but i can imagine they are large enough to get in the way, and offer no option for confidential traffic.

Generally you can purchase any combination you like. I have generally used the G-Style ear piece, used with the terminal microphone. I'm currently using the acoustic tube with in-line microphone. I am now about to order the throat mic with G-Style ear piece...i will let you know how it goes!