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Got myself a new piece of “Gucci Gear”.

The TAC-SKY repro of the Ops Core AMP headset, which I want to show  here, and of course a piece of historical explanation precedes it.




1.0 Ear Protection

Since the early 16th century , permanent hearing damage has been reported as a result of loud bangs from the battlefield, and WWI veterans have been receiving compensation for hearing loss Between the American Civil War and WWI , research evolved and eventually led to the first "recommendation" for the wearing of hearing protection for gun operators and other noisy gear, in 1915 we see the emergence of the Mallock-Armstrong Ear Defenders , a first type of active protection which filters noise. The V51-R was a earpro in WWII which could be inserted with gloves on. 



1.1 Jet Engine

With the arrival of the Jet engine things really started to get serious, the extreme noise levels could cause permanent damage in a very short time, and in 1948 the US Navy issued the first real guidelines for preventing permanent hearing damage, from then several studies and programs followed up each other.

In 1974 the first real succession and registration system was introduced with the name HEARS

Hearing Evaluation And Reporting System later 

Hearing Evaluation Automated Registry System


1.2 Combat Arm Earplugs 3M

Where used massively between 2003 and 2015,  the USMC even bought in 2003 the entire stock  

When it turned out that the 3M ear plug did not meet the requirements for which they were selling it, 3M was initially silent in all languages, the farce eventually came to light, and led to a multi-million dollar damage claim for 3M.  a remarkable story

Below rubber ear pros from the Vietnam period in their characteristic cylindrical holder with chain, and the 3M ear plug.


Here you can read more extensively about the earpro history


2.0 Headphones

The first headphones date from 1890 where they were used by the first telephone operators on the switchboards, in 1895 the Electrophone was invented, a  first type of headphone to "stream" opera music into the living room by means of telephone technology. 

The first “modern” headphone was invented by Nathaniel Baldwin and introduced in the  US Navy in WWI

Read more about the early history of the headphones here



2.1 WWII / Vietnam

In WWII we see the H-16U headphone in use by tankers, and radio operators, its flat design made it fit under the steel M1 helmet.

In Vietnam we see the H161C/U headset which was also used by crews of vehicles and infantry.




2.2 The 80's

Below are some iconic models of headsets used in the 80's

2.2.1 LASH throat mic, iconic design of TEA in the 80's   

2.2.2-TASC (Tactical Assault Spec headsets Communication) a one-ear design from TEA, Selex Davies, Harris, and TCI which allows to continue to perceive the ambient sounds, while the ear speaker on the other ear allows to hear the communication, the headset is compatible with helmet wear and maritime tasks. 

2.2.3 LITE headset also a one-ear design by TEA


LASH                                                                                                               TASC                                                                                                                   LITE


2.3 The 90's

In the 90's SOF started  to use lightweight sports helmets, because it is easier to attach accessories such as headsets, lights and NVGs, the results see below, these will be the source of inspiration for the later MICH and FAST helmets.

Read more about this history here


Around that time we sometimes also see the use of Flight Deck Crew helmets, in use by NSW units, in combination with Motorola headsets.



2.4 The War On Terror

After 9/11 , the asymmetrical War On Terror started in 2001, which would also become a more complex warfare with (small) SOF units, requiring more advanced communication equipment. which in 2007 would lead, among other things, to the introduction of the MBITR (Multi Band Intra Team Radio) and with it the increased use of headsets.  

Read more about the history of the MBITR


2.4.1 Peltor Comtac

In 1998 3M introduced the iconic Peltor Comtac headset with active hearing protection, amplification of weak sounds, and integrated ear speakers, combining hearing protection with headphones, and will be the first of a long generation, very popular with Delta, and Devgru.



2.4.2 MSA /Sordin

With the introduction of the MICH helmet in 2001 (Modular Integrated Communications Helmet) 

We see the MSA MICH System aka SORDIN  headsets appear, designed to be used in combination with the MICH helmet.

from 2014 we sometimes see the TCI Liberator  which is almost identical to the MSA SORDIN

Read more about the history of the MICH here



2.5 TCAPS (Tactical Communication And Protective System) 

Initially set up to follow up  hearing damage and prevention among soldiers, it was soon expanded to improve communication and situational awareness.

TCAPS was integrated around 2007 into the Land Warrior program , introducing 2 types of headset. 

Class 1 Rugged Military use: 3M Peltor comtac III  

Class 2 Basic Military use: Nacre QUITPRO  



3.0 Headset Helmet Mounts

3.1 3M 

The PELTOR COMTAC  would become very popular with the SOF, and with the arrival of the FAST (Future Assault Shell Technology) helmet in 2009 it also became common to attach it to the ARC (Adaptive Rail System)rail using the 3M ARC bracket, a system that has been around for some time at 3M for industrial safety helmets. 

A disadvantage of the 3M mount, however, is that the top half of the ARC can’t be used for anything else, users sometimes tried to place the headsets on the back of the rail and work with tilted earpro’s.       




3.2  RAC (Rail Attached Communications)

Ops Core, the maker of the FAST helmet, took advantage of this and developed the RAC headset, which, like the COMTAC, has active damping and amplification of sounds, and was standard equipped with a suspension that is mounted on the back of the ARC rail, which by the way also acts as a counterweight when using NODs (Night/ Optical Device)



3.3 AMP (Adaptive Mission Platform)

An improved version of the Ops-Core RAC was the AMP headset , the design of the Arms itself was simplified, since the RAC design turned out to be too easy to break due to its complexity, the earcups would also not stay in place well enough due to pressure waves from explosions (a problem that also affects the 3M bracket by the way)

Also, the earcups of the AMP can now easily be transferred to a headband, to be able to use the AMP without a helmet, also the boom mic can easily be moved to the left or right 



3.3.2 RAC vs AMP

On the pictures below you can compare the RAC and AMP with each other,

  • Pay attention to the details of the ear cups. 
  • The permanent attachment of the RAC, compared with the clip of the AMP,
  • The details of the Arms







SPEAR is a long-term, evaluation, and modernization program, of USSOCOM

In 2017 , the SPEAR FTHS program evaluated the USSOCOM “headbourne” systems, which led to the introduction of the Ops Core FAST FTHS ( updated FAST helmet) 

  • SPEAR (Special Operations Forces Personal Equipment Advanced Requirements) 
  • FTHS(Family of Tactical Headborne Systems) 

Part of SPEAR, and related to FTHS were 

  • CASL (Communication Accessory Suite Land)
  • CASM (Communication Accessory Suite Maritime)

These consisted of suitable Headsets, and PTTs selected for SOF use, and in conjunction with the wider NGTC programs (Which on its turn led to the new Harris PRC-163 radio)

  • NGTC (Next Generation Tactical Communications) program
  • NGHH (Next Generation Handheld) radio.

Ops Core won 2019 the CASL programme with its AMP headset, (in addition to its contract for the FAST  (Other winner in this program: INVISIO with their V60 PTT and X5 headset)





5.0 Reenactment / Airsoft

So if you read my intro you probably understand now, that for reenactors/Airsofters who want to build an up to date USSOF kit, the AMP headset can be very desirable. Now the original Ops Core AMP costs $1,500, and most likely for most of us a kind of unobtanium. TS TAC-SKY, a CN manufacturer, has developed a replica of the AMP which can be considered as a somewhat more budget-friendly alternative.



6.0 TAC-SKY AMP headset

6.1  TAC- SKY Is a CN manufacturer that makes repro's of existing communication equipment, such as headsets, PTT's, and dummy radios. TAC-SKY do their own R&D, production, and have their own TAC-SKY official store and tacticalskystore on AliExpress.

The newest item of TAC- SKY is this repro of the Ops Core AMP headset, according to TAC- SKY  it's built around a DSP (Digital Sound Processor)for optimal performance, and the dual COMM capability.

The TAC-SKY AMP exists in in two versions

  • Military Version compatible with mil spec radios and PTT’s (Peltor,Earmor,TCA,TRI)
  • Civilian Version compatible with civilian radios and PTT’s (Kenwood,Baofeng,ZTac) 

So make sure you select the right headset, and cable compatible with your radio & PTT, if there is any doubt don't hesitate to contact the store owner, they reply fast, professional, and are very helpful.  

I previously reviewed already there AN/PRC 152-A, and AN/PRC-163 dummy radio cases For this review, TAC-SKY send me their new AMP headset, in the civilian version,

and a discount code for potential buyers: EUJ2RPM5G3KN


6.1 Unboxing                                                                                                            

The TAC-SKY AMP comes in a brown cardboard box, in the set: 

.1 The Ear Cups attached to the headband, in a nice  protective soft fabric pouch

.2 The AMP helmet mounts

.3 Two Double comm cables

.4 One Single comm cable

.5 A cable management set including Velcro straps, rubber cable straps, and a “tiny screwdriver”

.6 A manual.



6.2 Externals

6.2.1 The Ear Cups

Let's take a closer look at the headset now, as mentioned before, the Ear Cups come attached to the Headband.



On the next image all the features of the Ear Cups



At the outside the Ear Cups are identical (except the controls) at the rear we see the metal battery caps which secure the battery compartments, each side houses an AAA battery. The caps are secured with a silicone strap.


NOTE: The spring tension, in the battery housing, is strong, and the male thread is plastic made, this can easily be damaged, push the cap against the tension, with one finger, and screw the cap with the other hand onto the housing. 


 At the rear we also have the outcoming Ear- to- Ear cable, connecting both Ear Cups, this is a permanent connection, the cable can’t be disconnected.



At the front we have the Boom Microphone Port, which can be connected to the left, or rear Ear Cup, a plug covers the Boom Mic Port.which are not in use. The Microphone is connected with two pins and secured with a screw, a tiny flathead screwdriver is supplied with the kit.



Also at the front the two Hear-Through microphones which reproduces ambient sounds from the environment through the Earcups for increased situational awareness.The radio communications function continues with Hear-Through turned on or off.



On the left Earcup whe have a + and - button at the bottom, which activates, or deactivates the headset, and sets the output volume in incremental steps. A vocal signal (English male voice) sounds when the buttons are activated. In the center of the left Cup, we have the mode button, to switch between normal, and Hear-Through mode. A vocal signal (English male voice) sounds when the buttons are activated.



At the rear bottom sides, of both Cups, whe find the Downlead Connections for the Comm Cables, when not in use these are covered with a silicone plug, the Downlead Cable (to the PTT) can be connected either to the left, or right side, or both sides can be connected to a separate PTT in a dual comm setup (i will explain this later)



6.2.2 The Ergonomic Headband

Has a simple, but yet effective design, the band itself is wrapped in a soft fabric material, with 3 integrated velcro straps, for securing the Ear to Ear cable, which allows a fast, and easy transition between helmet, and Headband carry, The slim Headband design allows carrying under helmets..



At the ends of the Headband whe have the so called Arms, these are plastic made, and connect the Ear Cups to the Headband, a simple but yet effective system, at the inside of the Arms are 2 notches which snaps into corresponding holes of the Ear Cups


Check here my complete TAC-SKY AMP photo gallery


6.2.3 The Rail Arms

Included with the kit: the Rail Arms, which allow to install the Ear Cups directly onto an helmet with ARC (Accessory Rail Connectors) rails, has mentioned earlier in my intro section the AMP Arms are an improved version of the legacy RAC arms, the design is much simpler, the Arms are spring loaded to keep the Ear Cups firmly, but comfortable pressed against the ears. 


NOTE: As obvious as it may seem, installing the Ear Cups in the (correct) holder, and sense can actually be very confusing,

below you can see the proper way



When the Ear Cups are properly attached to the Rail Arms, they can be attached onto the ARC rail, by sliding them into the rear slots.


NOTE: The helmet shown on the photo’s is my Wosport FTHS Fast Super High Cut, of which you can read my review here




NOTE: Once the Rail Arms are mounted, the Cable needs to be routed & attached as shown below!



The AMP Rail Arms slide in the rear half of the ARC rail, and can be locked on 3 different heights, the Arms can slide for, and backward, and the Ear Cups rotate in the Arms so that they can be positioned on different face shapes, and sizes, An unfortunate flaw of the design imo is that the spring tension isn't adjustable!



The Rail Arms can be pulled out, until they keep open under the spring tension, i call this the ”Mickey Mouse position” From there on they can be turned backwards, until the Ear Shells rest on the back of the helmet, this is the so-called Stowed Position. 


NOTE: The Rail Arms may only be turned- upwards backwards, otherwise the ear to ear cable will get pinched 


Check here my complete TAC-SKY AMP photo gallery


6.4 TAC-SKY vs Ops Core AMP

The TAC-SKY AMP is a quite good replica of the original Ops Core, except for a few details. like the lack of the Ops Core markings, Download connectors,battery caps etc…A pity for those who like details (like me), but an understandable choice for TAC-SKY to avoid copyright lawsuits. I suggest you take a closer look at Milspecmonkey’s  review of the Ops Core AMP, and FTHS helmet, and the original Ops Core AMP manual  to compare them both for yourself.


6.5 Functionality

The TS AMP, has 3 modes, which can be selected with the Mode button (left ear shell) 

A vocal signal (English male voice) sounds when the buttons are activated

1.Silent mode

With a single press on the Mode button, at the left, the AMP can be switched into silent mode, here the ambient sound isn't amplified anymore, and the headset now works like a standard “earmuff” earpro. The TAC SKY tends to dampen quite well. I don't have any testing equipment to verify the exact noise reduction levels, but according to TAC SKY, the AMP headset was thoroughly tested, prior to the actual production, and selling.  

2.Normal Hear-Through mode

With another press on the ModeI button, the normal Hear-Through mode is selected, In this mode ambient sounds from the environment are earable, but not amplified while loud harmful noise is subdued.

3.Amplified Hear-Through mode

With a long press on the Mode button the Amplified Hear-Through mode is selected, or de-selected (while in Hear-Through mode) In this mode ambient sounds from the environment are amplified, for an enhanced environmental awareness, while loud harmful noise is subdued. I was very curious how this function would be in a repro (about ⅕  the price of the original Ops Core) now i don't  have a real Ops Core AMP to compare unfortunately, but i can tell it works surprisingly well, and his comparable in quality to my old ZTac COMTAC II.

NOTE: TAC-SKY Recommends to switch between both Hear-Through modes depending on the environment in order to determine the best setting.


6.6 Cables and Connections

An important chapter which can be a bit confusing, due to the various options, has been mentioned before: make sure you have the right (compatible) headset, cable, PTT, and Radio.

  • Military Version compatible with mil spec radios and PTT’s (Peltor,Earmor,TCA,TRI)
  • Civilian Version compatible with civilian radios and PTT’s (Kenwood,Baofeng,ZTac)

Up next you need to decide which COMM setup you gonna run, since each setup requires a specific Downlead Cable

NOTE: Each cable Single, or Double exist in a Military, or Civilian version, make sure you select the right cable


6.7 Testing

1.Communication Test

We tested the TS AMP headset, connected with a smartphone, in a noisy environment, (heavy traffic, voices, loud radio etc..) and tried to make a phone conversation, especially in the Hear-Through mode i was very curious about the result, since the maximum output volume isn’t that high compared to domestic multimedia headsets, but i need to say i hadn't any difficulty to follow the conversation, despite my slight hearing loss! The volumes are quite balanced, and allowed me to distinguish the various sources. That being said, if there aren't any imminent threats' communicating in the silent mode is less tiresome of course. The sound output volume is adjustable in incremental steps, by means of the + and - buttons at the left bottom earshell. A vocal signal (English male voice) sounds when the buttons are activated.

2. Ear Protection Test

Then we tested the ear protection quality on the shooting range with .22LR, .38 Special, and 9mm. I wore the headset during the entire session, in the Hear-Through mode, I could easily understand the instructor's voice, while the humming sounds of the air extractions were subdued, when the gunshots fell, the AMP automatically muted the loud sound, like it's supposed to do.



6.8 Conclusion

The TAC-SKY AMP headset does what it should do. All the functions are working well. The AMP has been replicated quite accurately, except for a few details. like the lack of the Ops Core markings, a pity for those who like details (like me), but an understandable choice for TAC-SKY to avoid copyright lawsuits,   the finish of the molded plastic parts,could be better, there are quite a lot of burrs on the seems, and edges. As far as I am concerned, the modular (OpsCore) AMP-design works just great.

The TAC-SKY AMP costs about €245, that's quite pricey, but compared to the €1500 of the original Ops Core AMP, still a bit more affordable I guess? hopefully this is a release-price, and will drop in the coming months? Hope you guys enjoyed my work.  

Check here my complete TAC-SKY AMP photo gallery





Edited by aac
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