ISOtunes Bluetooth Earplugs with Serious Noise Reduction – Review

ISOtunes are slick wireless bluetooth earbud headphones with noise cancelling tech built into them, but to me the stand out feature is that they offer true noise reduction just like hearing protection. This means that whether the units are on or off, they will block out noise with a noise reduction of 26-27 decibels. Pretty sweet!

ISOtunes are:

  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • Earbuds: smaller, lighter and cooler (literally) than muffs
  • 26 decibel noise reduction, 27 on the Pro model.
  • Equipped with a noise cancelling mic that eliminates solid state noise (like table saws, vacuums, etc.) for clear calls in loud environments
  • up to 4 hours runtime (up to 10 hours on the Pro model)
  • Built in rechargeable battery
  • answer calls over headset
  • volume control, stop, pause, and skip music tracks
  • IPX3 water and sweat resistance
  • memory foam tips

The company ISOtunes was kind enough to send me over their bluetooth noise reducing earplugs, both models which include the standard model named ISOtunes and the step up model ISOtunes pro.

Because both units are so similar in many ways, this review will cover both units at the same time unless otherwise stated.

As a tool user myself, I often use power tools such as saws that are very loud. I’m constantly looking for soundproofing methods on websites like to see which methods might work for me. Usually I wear my Harbor Freight $3 ear muff for the loud stuff to protect my ears and they work great and drown out all the loud harmful noise. Thing is, I also like to listen to music while I work, and when I place the earmuffs over my ears, they don’t just drown out the loud noise caused by the machinery, but also my music. So that’s one of the great features about the ISOtunes is that they drown out loud noise and because they’re a pair of bluetooth headphones, they can play music – wirelessly.

It’s great that they’re bluetooth headphones because it means that they don’t have a super long cord that needs to be plugged into your cell phone or music device. They play wirelessly from your mobile device which means that you don’t run the risk of a long cord getting caught on something, this also means you don’t have to have the music device on you. You can set it down and play it from a distance, although in my use with the earplugs, you can’t stray too far and must have a direct line of connection with no walls in between otherwise you’ll end up with your music cutting in and out or disconnecting altogether. It’s bluetooth connection isn’t particularly strong so it’s best to stay within a few steps from the streaming device.

I’m a big fan of wireless headphones. I currently have a pair of Harmon Kardon BT models so I was eager to test these new ISOtunes, especially the Pro model. My Harman Kardon doesn’t offer any noise cancelling and it does a decent job of reducing outside noise since they are around the ear headphones. So both ISOtunes models blew the Harman Kardan out of the water when it came to noise reduction. Actually the ISOtunes are so good at reducing noise, they are a tad bit better than my dedicated Harbor Freight hearing protection earmuffs.

While wearing the ISOtunes around the house, it was like I was isolated from the surrounding noise. When my wife would speak to me, all I could hear was a faint whisper of her voice, but as soon as the music starts playing, it nearly silences every noise around you. I also tried out the ISOtunes while doing yard work and my yard tool’s noise was basically cancelled out with the ISOtunes while I played music. Only when I played the music in the lowest volume that I’d be able to hear the blower running but just barely.

So they impressed me how great they reduce noise, even when they’re off they do an outstanding job. Of course they don’t drown out all the noise, you’ll be able to faintly hear noises just like you would with standard hearing protection, and once you start playing music, it basically cancels out loud noise.

As far as music quality is concerned, my Harman Kardon BT headphones have nothing to worry about. If I want to enjoy my music to it’s fullest, I’ll reach for the Harmans as the audio quality of the ISOtunes is decent at best. I’d say the sound quality is about as good as kit headphones, maybe a step down. They’re perfectly enjoyable if all you care about is listening to music but they don’t wow me and they won’t wow an audiophile. The thing for me is that there isn’t much detail and resolution in the audio and the ISOtunes can’t resolve detail very well when the music gets busy and many instruments are playing at the same time.

The sound is very flat and lacking overall with vocals and instruments, although they are better at playing electronic music. The bass is decent as well so these won’t be replacing your Beat’s headphones as there’s not much oomph. But as I was saying, they are perfectly enjoyable if you don’t care about top notch audio quality. The reason you’ll be getting these is because they kick butt at isolating loud noise.

Both models offer what they call Soundsafe Technology which is basically a volume limiter that limits the loudness to a max 85 decibels. This goes along with the theme of noise reduction and safety. Since tthey are worried about your ears, they also limit the volume so it won’t cause damage to your ears. In practice I still found the max volume to be loud enough to enjoy my music. And because the tips are so effective at isolating sound, a little bit of volume goes a long way when you can’t hear your environment around you. I would be perfectly comfortable at having the volume set to half or 3/4 loudness and rarely felt the need to raise the volume to the max.

As far as runtime is concerned, you can expect up to 4 hours on the standard model and up to a rated 10+ hours on the Pro model. I got the stated 4 hours of runtime on the standard model (I ran them 3 different occasions on separate days at varying volume – medium to high volume). And I got 10 hours and 47 minutes of runtime with the Pro model which is spot on with the listed runtime of 10+ hours. I also did the test on multiple occasions on separate days with varying volume.

Both units offer the same volume and track control and the ability to pause/play music and choose the next or previous audio track on the units with built in buttons. They also let you place calls while using the headset, as well as offering water and sweat resistance making them well suited for any activity that makes you sweat. You won’t have to worry about sweat or water breaking your headphones making them perfect for rigorous activities such as hard labor and exercising.

Both units also have the ability to show you remaining battery on your mobile device. Supposedly this is said to only work on Apple devices but I was able to see the remaining battery meter on my android phone when connected.

Both units come with a USB charging cable, spare tips and a slick little black case to store everything inside. The charging cable uses a standard mini USB connection to the headphones which is great because if you ever lose the charging cable, you can simply use the mini USB charge cable from your cell phone to charge, that is unless you use iphones which use a different charging cable. Although a charging cable is provided, it doesn’t have the charging base that the cable plugs into to connect to a standard wall outlet which means you’ll have to buy one separately or charge directly into available USB ports that can charge such as the ones in your computer.

The standard model is black with green lettering and has nice machined metal housing over the speaker magnets which gives it a nice feel and actually feel premium compared to the Pro’s all plastic black with orange construction. The Standard ISOtunes also have a neat magnet on the back of each speaker that helps them click together so they don’t dangle loosely when being worn.

Ironically the standard ISOtunes have better materials. The standard model features a simple yet elegant metal body with ear tips. The tips on the standard model fit snuggly in place. There isn’t much to hold them in place other than a tight fit but they do offer add on secure fit tips that have little wings that hold in place in your ear for a more secure fit. In practice I found that they do feel more secure with the secure fit tips but the hold without the extra wing tips was good enough for me and had enough hold. The Pro models are shaped much differently and the wire that connects to the speakers have flexible metal that allows to wrap around your ears for a more secure fit. The tips are also angled differently on the Pro model and do go straight in as they do on the standard ISOtunes.

Both models offer replaceable tips. They offer memory foam tips in 3 sizes s,m,l and these are made by Comply. The memory foam tips are what make the earplugs get their hearing protection. Both models also offer separate tips that are supposed to be more comfortable than the memory foam tips but at the cost of not having noise reduction.

Also for some reason the pro model tips are much larger and longer than the ones found on the standard model and as a result were much less comfortable than the standard model. Also because the tips on the Pro model are so long and the flexible plastic tube which is found on all the tips standard and pro model, were so long they constantly scratch the interior of my ears as they go in. This is something I didn’t like and I didn’t experience this on the standard model’s tips. Also because the tips are angled on the Pro model, it made it difficult to find the right angle to insert into the ear. So for comfort, I’d stay away from the Pro models. Although that could just be with my experience and I’m sure everyone’s ear canals may be slightly different and it might not be an issue for you but I had no such issues with the standard ISOtunes model.

Also the eartips would slide out of my ears with the Pro models which would let noise in reducing their noise reduction qualities. Even though they had the wrap around frame, they did not help in keeping them in place.

I had high hopes for the Pro model and even though it does have much better runtime, personally I’d stick to the standard ISOtunes model mainly because of fit and ease of use. Sure the Pro model offers much better runtime but those are an uncomfortable 10+ hours of use. In my experience the standard ISOtunes had a more comfortable fit which makes up for it’s 4 hours of runtime. Also sound quality is the same on both models and is equally decent. I did expect a big leap in sound quality with the Pro model but it was the same as the standard ISOtunes.

The killer feature of the ISOtunes is their impressive effectiveness that rivals standalone hearing protection while giving you the ability to enjoy your tunes on the go.

For more info, check out the Isotunes website

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