How to Use a Gas Mask Microphone & VPU Device

How to Use a Gas Mask Microphone & VPU Device

by Samantha Biggers

Communication is key to your survival, especially within a CBRN environment.

For those without the proper equipment and training, this can often reduce them to simple hand gestures or deeply hindered, muffled conversations.

Luckily there are various communication devices available for gas masks depending on your unique needs. Some are designed for situations where being loud is not a problem, while others are better for missions where you need to keep a lower profile.

In this article, we will be covering how to set up microphone and voice projection unit (VPU) communication devices on your gas mask, what the best accessories are, and best practices.

For more information on what to look for when purchasing a gas mask, check out our Definitive Gas Mask Buyer's Guide.


  • 01

    Why do you need a gas mask communications setup?

  • 02

    Planning Your Communications Setup

  • 03

    Talking Diaphragms and How They Work

  • 04

    VPUs (Voice Projection Units)

  • 05

    Earpieces for Industrial Applications

  • 06

    MIRA Safety Gas Mask Microphone

  • 07

    Choosing a Headset

  • 08

    Integrating Your Communication Setup

  • 09

    Communications Setup Best Practices

  • 10


Why do you need a gas mask or respirator communications system?

(Image courtesy of 1911 Syndicate)

Many situations require people to wear a non-disposable half- or full-face respirator.

Unfortunately, doing so can make it difficult to communicate because any thick object covering your face will muffle your voice.

Misunderstood commands and lack of information can be disastrous in highly dangerous situations.

Lack of communication can lead to misunderstandings or not hearing important information or instructions. Consider a medical situation in which people need to communicate about how to handle it. Not being able to understand one another easily can make a huge difference when seconds count.

Slow communication makes doing practically anything take longer.

Time is wasted when it takes longer to get your message across to your team, and that time can add up quickly. Slow communications can create dangerous circumstances or cost you money.

Masks shield indicative facial expressions, making verbal communications even more important.

While masks shield you from some terrible substances and microbes, they also cover a lot of your face, making it difficult for others to see your facial expressions. In some cases, this might be a good thing, but when you want to communicate, it’s a detriment. One side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic is that many kids weren’t exposed to facial expressions during part of their formative period. Doctors are beginning to see just how much of an impact this has had on children's ability to perceive others’ emotions.

In the future, times when mask wearing is either required or a wise precaution are likely to occur.

COVID-19 was quite an experience, but we all might be surprised to learn how bad actual biological warfare would be. During a major biological attack, a disposable N-95 or P-100 won’t cut it. During such an attack, you’ll thank yourself for having a good half- or full-face respirator with professional level cartridges for each member of your family. For a child or someone with respiratory or other health issues, a PAPR unit may be required. The ability to communicate will be important if you have to wear a mask for an extended period at home or to get to a safe location.

Planning Your Communications Setup

How important are communications for you and your situation?

In general, the ability to communicate effectively is a good thing. But if you will be by yourself or with just one other person, investing in a communications setup for your mask may not make sense.

Lone-wolf types will probably need to seek out others at some point, but if you plan on being on your own during a major disaster, then communications may not be on your list of priorities.

Who do you want to communicate with and how far away are they?

To communicate with those in your immediate area, a voice projection unit (VPU) may be all you need. However, a VPU could cost more than a modest microphone and radio set up.

Radio prices vary a lot, but you need to be realistic about how far away you need your communications to reach. A radio with a 10-mile range is adequate to reach the immediate area.


The cost of communications devices for use with gas masks varies greatly. The MIRA Safety Microphone is designed to work seamlessly with the CM-6M and CM-7M masks and costs around $150. Other communications systems can run as much as $1,500. It’s best to evaluate your needs so you don't spend too much on a system with fancy features that you don't need.


Tough conditions require tough gear. Radios differ significantly in their degree of ruggedness. You need to match each component in your communications setup to the conditions you expect to use them in, now or in the future. And remember, water resistant is not the same as waterproof.

Planning Your Communications Setup

Good quality gas masks have a built-in diaphragm that helps the wearer communicate effectively. That doesn't mean you don't have to speak louder than usual or take care to speak as clearly as possible. In my experience, I can communicate just fine with someone within 6 feet of me while wearing my MIRA Safety CM-6M mask. My voice is much clearer than when speaking to someone while wearing my 3M half-face respirator that I wear while spraying pesticides or painting. The 3M has no speech diaphragm at all.

How do speech or “talking” diaphragms work?

The diaphragm is a piece of thin plastic or metal stretched over a hole in the gas mask. When you talk, that metal or plastic vibrates and amplifies your voice. The larger the diaphragm, the greater the projection. Talking diaphragms tend to alter the speaker’s voice considerably. In fact, you’ll sound quite different talking through different styles or brands of masks with diaphragms. Soviet-era masks are said to have a kazoo-like sound.

Voice Projection Units (VPUs)

Voice projection units (VPUs) are a more modern solution employed by military, SWAT and riot control units for maximum communication even with large crowds.

A voice projection unit works like a hands-free bullhorn, amplifying and broadcasting your voice using an integrated speaker. VPUs are designed to integrate with your gas mask, allowing for easy communication without removing your PPE. They’re an amazing upgrade for most gas mask owners.

The only real downsides of using a VPU are in the device’s limitations. Some VPUs will only integrate with a specific gas mask. Others use 9-volt batteries, which can be costly to replace and sometimes hard-to-find.

MIRA Safety’s VPU-1 was engineered to address some of those key challenges. It features a rechargeable internal battery, potentially saving you hundreds over the lifetime of the unit. It also has an integrated MOLLE clip for easy mounting, and it functions with any MIRA Safety Gas Mask or respirator.

(Image courtesy of Blue Line Syndicate Group)

Installation takes just a few seconds. After that, the MIRA Safety VPU will project your voice up to 83 decibels to make you heard loud and clear.

Earpieces for Industrial Applications

If you have to wear a gas mask in a loud industrial setting, there are in-ear systems with both a microphone and speaker. Cavcom makes the Talk Through Your Ears System that mutes industrial noise to allow crisp and clear communication. This is a specialty product that goes well beyond what the average gas mask wearer needs, and its price tag reflects that.

Radio Communications

Being able to use a gas mask and communicate via radio is advantageous, especially during an emergency. A gas mask microphone, headset, and radio can be combined to create an extensive communications network that’s easy to use.

Radio Range

How far you can transmit and receive depends on the following factors:

  • Topography

  • Type of radio

  • Network interference

  • Other physical obstructions

No matter how good your radio is, in mountainous terrain there will be spots where communication is impossible. When a radio says it has a range of up to 20 miles, that’s its range under ideal conditions. So you can expect 20 miles if there are few obstructions and few elevation changes. However, you may get a good range at high elevations where you can transmit and receive without obstructions.

(Image courtesy of APTAC Strategies)

Of course, the type of radio matters too. Remember that radios add far more weight than a microphone and headset. So it may be in your best interest to go with a small radio, even if it costs more. Pricey radios tend to have a better range. If you’ll be using it in a mountainous area, definitely get a radio with a range greater than the maximum distance you want to communicate.

Network interference is another factor that affects the overall quality of communications. Better radios have features that help minimize problems from interference.

It’s important to remember that radio communications are not private unless you use a private channel. It’s easy to forget that and give away information. If privacy is important, remember to set up a private channel before you get busy.

MIRA Safety Gas Mask Microphone

The MIRA Safety Gas Mask Microphone is an adapter interface that connects with electronic communication devices and is compatible with CM-6M, CM-7M, TAPR, and CM-8M respirators. The noise-canceling, dynamic, moving-coil microphone has a durable polymer housing.

The microphone installs in seconds via the exhalation valve port on your mask. No additional batteries or power are required. The microphone is designed to provide crystal clear communications for up to 30,000 hours.

The two-pin NEXUS U-173/U connector allows for compatibility with Peltor and Ops-Core headsets.

At under 2 oz., this microphone won’t add any noticeable weight, but it will make a huge difference in how you feel about wearing a mask while performing tasks and working with others.

Choosing a Headset

There are many choices when it comes to communication headsets. It’s important to choose one that’s compatible with your gear and offers the comfort and versatility you need. For example, if you’ll be wearing a helmet, you need a headset that’s compatible with the shape and style of your helmet. Many ballistic helmets feature an above the ear cut that allows you to comfortably wear an over the ear headset.

Consider how often you’ll use a headset when deciding how high end you want to go. Unless you plan on using it often and weight is a major factor, it’s hard to justify the most expensive headset on the market, even if it has some nice features.

Silynx Clarus

The Clarus system is a radio-based communications system with comfortable low-profile earbuds. It is compatible with full and half-face respirators. It’s also the smallest and lightest headset system you can buy. At over $1K, it’s a serious tactical investment. The Clarus system works like other radio-based headsets. The ear buds attach to a control box that is then plugged into the two-way radio of your choice. You can plug a gas mask microphone into the control box and use the push button feature to transmit radio communications and hear incoming communications.


Peltor is a well-known manufacturer of high-quality headsets that vary greatly in price. The MIRA Safety Gas Mask Microphone integrates seamlessly with Peltor headsets.

Ops Core

If you’re considering all your options and want top quality, then definitely add Ops Core to your list, especially if you have a MIRA Safety mask and want to add a microphone and headset.

Integrating Your Communication Setup

Now that we’ve thrown a ton of components at you, let's talk about combinations.

A typical set up for gas mask communications includes the following:

  • Microphone

  • Headset

  • Radio

Your other option is to just get a VPU, but as stated before, they’re expensive and have to be matched to a specific mask for the best results.

More than likely, you’ll carry your radio in a holster or case on your belt or other gear to have it as close at hand as possible.

Communications Setup Best Practices

It’s essential to correctly install your communications equipment on your gas mask. Mistakes are easy to make and can cause exposure to harmful substances.

  • Make sure you have a good seal. Incorrectly installed communications devices can result in a leaky mask.

  • Follow manufacturer guidelines and instructions. With personal protective gear, going against manufacturer instructions is dangerous.

  • Test all communications equipment well before you need it for a mission or during an emergency.

  • Always check gear for damage and test it after a long period of storage or disuse.

  • Never overestimate the distance your communications gear will reach. Until you test it in a specific terrain, there’s no way to know how far it will reach.


The ability to communicate effectively while wearing a mask can make a big difference when working with others or surviving a CBRN event. Wearing a full-face gas mask and having to repeat yourself over and over gets very frustrating. Adding a gas mask microphone to your kit is affordable and recommended if you plan on training in your mask or expect to wear it for an extended period.

VPUs are useful for communications in your immediate area or if you want to speak clearly via radio. They also perform well in industrial or commercial settings with a lot of background noise.

Surviving a CBRN disaster will likely be the greatest challenge of your life, but with the right tools and training, you'll be able to maintain lines of communication that can coordinate with others to help you escape.