Cobham DC: Off the shelf soldier networking
Seyntex: A spectrum of military clothing & equipment
Harris Corporation: Wideband communications
SDG Systems: Open Source Operating Systems
Nacre AS: QUIETPRO completes the communications chain
Racal Acoustics: Listen and protect
DSM Dyneema: Diverse protection
Home | Industry | Nacre AS: QUIETPRO completes the communications chain
Nacre ASQUIETPRO completes the communications chain

Eivind Bergsmyr, CEO of Nacre AS discusses the tactical benefits of in-ear ancillaries

The QuietPro configuration used by the USMC. © Nacre
The QuietPro configuration used by the USMC.
© Nacre

Headset ancillaries are one part of the overall communications chain which includes the headsets, the radio system and the transmission in the air, to the next radio system. The importance of headsets is growing as militaries realise that getting secure voice from radio to radio is just one part of the equation. A major priority is ensuring that headsets are capable of ensuring intelligible voice communications from the sender to the recipient in high noise environments, as well as providing them protection against extreme battlefield noise.

QuietPro is the culmination of 15 years of research with acoustics, digital signal processing and electronics by top European scientists. QuietPro has been thoroughly tested during field trials, real combat deployments as well as in laboratory tests across the US and Europe. The system has been assessed and rated superior to other inear competitors due to a sophisticated, proprietary digital platform and a detailed understanding of user requirements. Feedback from the field is that the product is not only saving hearing, but also saving lives by allowing for increased situational awareness in hostile environments.

Nacre is the current successful supplier of the QuietPro Communication and hearing protection headsets for use with the new Motorola Integrated Intra Squad Radio as well as the MBITR radio from Thales (dual configuration) to the United States Marine Corps. The US Military Medical Community continues to champion the QuietPro for its ability to protect the hearing and ultimately the lives of those that wear it.

“The Nacre QuietPro is the most fielded in-ear communication headset and hearing protector in the world,” states Eivind Bergsmyr, CEO of Nacre AS. “The performance of QuietPro has generated sales of 50,000 units in 13 countries on 4 continents. More than 40,000 of these are currently in service with the US Army, US Marine Corps, US Air Force, US Government Agencies as well as Allied and NATO Forces in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.


QuietPro is the worlds most advanced in-ear digital hearing protector and communication headset for use with military tactical radios and intercom systems.

The uniqueness of the QuietPro Bergsmyr comments, is that it combines all key requirements for communication, hearing (situational awareness) and hearing protection needed by the solider. “First it is a communication headset. It has microphone and loudspeaker and it works in high noise environments. It also provides situational awareness (SA). When a soldier is using the system, as long as there is low noise around, he can maintain his ‘normal hearing’ in terms of high sound quality and directionality. As a result he can recognise where the sound is coming from as if he wasn’t wearing any headset at all, identify the sound and consequently, feeling comfortable about his SA, which is critical.”

This SA functionality works up to a certain noise level and is then designed to shut down in steps to protect hearing. Bergsmyr explains, “We have a very smooth transition through that phase, but when noise gets high enough, then you need protection.”

“Let’s say you are on patrol. Typically you want to hear as well as normal or often even better which is possible with our amplified listening. Suddenly, there is an attack. Then you need to be protected against shocks and blast but, at the same time, you need to hear sound that isn’t damaging to hearing. The quality of the SA is critical. If there isn’t a high quality broad frequency presence on both the SA and the talk through functionality, then soldiers won’t use the product.

“QuietPro has a very high quality talk through, an SA feature that can also be amplified if you want to. If you want to break into a room and you are on the outside you may want to listen through the door or walls first. In that case you can amplify the talk through up to four times your natural hearing. This is also a useful feature for patrolling, on observation posts and in silent operations.

The third factor cited by Bergsmyr is the QuietPro’s high quality, high capability hearing protection. “QuietPro combines two approaches. When there is high impulse noise, it immediately shuts out the surrounding sound but opens immediately as sound levels drop to safe levels. That is a unique feature of QuietPro.”

Nacre uses a self designed microchip which is able to shut out the sound immediately, hence no sound above impulse threshold levels will ever be let through. Bergsmyr explains, “We defined the systems to do that because it’s extremely important to protect against impulse noise as this is the most dangerous threat to hearing in a combat environment.” This instantaneous shut-down is essential to protect the user against impulse noise from various weapons. Slower competing systems using some milliseconds to react will not be able to fully protect against every impulse noise resulting in possible hearing damage.

The other aspect of hearing protection is protection against continuous noise, largely generated by vehicles. Bergsmyr explained “That requires a different functionality because you need to adapt in a logical way as things can change very abruptly. QP uses a very sophisticated algorithm to adapt to continuous noise. We never protect more than necessary. Over protection is equally as dangerous as under protection.” This digital Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) is automatically activated when needed, and is one of the main reasons in achieving high-level hearing protection and subsequently the ability to provide clear comms in continuous high-noise environments. While competing in-ear products struggles to achieve protection in the mid-twenties, QP provides an impressive 30 to 40dB of protection depending on the circumstances.

To ensure sufficient hearing protection is actually achieved QuietPro has a build-in leakage control at start-up. An alarm will sound if the protection is not adequate. The user could also manually press a test button any time during operation to perform the same test. QuietPro discriminates between background noise and speech based on frequencies and sound levels. When the noise level gets high enough however - 90-95dB depending on the individual – this is no longer possible. Bergsmyr explained, “Then you have to use your radio. For intermediate noise level there is some discrimination based on frequencies that prioritise speech. We attenuate more in the lower and higher frequencies than in the speech frequencies.”

The QuietPro system has performed extremely well in independent tests done on simulated IEDs which can reach 195dB. A high-level hearing protection prevents the stunning and disorientation caused by massive impulse noise from explosions. Reports suggest that soldiers in Iraq have survived insurgent attacks because of QuietPro.”

The QuietPro is a communication headset with in ear microphone. This is crucial to it’s overall ergonomic capability believes Bergsmyr, because it avoids the need for a boom mike. “This last factor is key in choosing QuietPro over more traditional in ear systems, because of it’s compatibility with gas masks, headgear and other soldier equipment. You don’t need a boom mike, you use an in-ear mike, which is performing well.”

The in-ear mike picks the sound of the user’s voice within the head. Bergsmyr comments, “That sound in its natural form is a little bit dull and strange, so we have to use our own very sophisticated signal processing technology to process the speech to ensure it is both recognisable and intelligible for the user. That was built into the QuietPro, right from the start.”

The QuietPro system can be powered from any external DC source. Should power shut down for any reason, the systems passive protection level keep working against impulse noise. Bergsmyr said, “It is important to remember that the headset can be power from any external source between 6 and 35 volts. You can for example, power it from a vehicle intercom system or radio if you have that capability available. If you remove the power, the system still works well. That’s why the USMC for example, went for this type of system.”

The QuietPro headset can be adapted to specific voice and language requirements specified by the customer. Discussing the frequency issues, Bergsmyr said, “This varies based on speech and speech organs and other factors. It depends on whether you are male, female, deep voice or high pitched voice. It varies between different languages, between those which place greater emphasis on consonants and languages with more vowels. A very vowel intensive language is optimal, with a slightly different frequency response in the communication chain, compared with a consonant intensive language. What is important is that the systems needs to be broad enough from a frequency point of view so it really supports consonants like the ‘S’ and ‘P’, which are very important in lot of languages where the main differentiation between words and are often missed out of a pure communication line.”

QuietPro was awarded the “Innovative Product with Best Battle Capabilities” prize at last year’s Soldier Technology conference in London. The judges were leading soldier technology experts from military forces in the US, Canada and Western Europe. This is a further endorsement to the product’s unique capabilities in battle. In April 2008 Nacre were awarded a €5 million contract with the Norwegian Armed Forces to deliver QuietPro headsets during the course of 2008.

As the commercial success continues Nacre investment in R & D will see new features released in 2008. Already released in April 2008 was the new ‘Whisper mode’ feature and ‘Dual PTT’. In the Autumn Nacre will further release binaural radio nets (one net in each ear) and a dual wireless PTT.

As Nacre looks to the future they will continue to improve the QuietPro to make it even better for the user. Developments together with US and Allied Soldier Modernization Programs to incorporate the technology and capabilities of the QuietPro into future combat systems around the world will underpin the considerable success of this unique audio ancillary product.

Valid XHTML 1.0 Strict