Tool Reviews: Two New Flavors of Bluetooth-Enabled Hearing Protectors

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This article is from Issue 101 of Woodcraft Magazine.

ISOtunes XTRA 2.0 and ISOtunes Link 

Overview

ISOtunes XTRA 2.0 ear buds

  • ANSI-certified 27dB NRR
  • Output limit: 85dB
  • 11-hour rechargable battery life
  • Noise-isolating microphone
  • Easily connects to any BT-Enabled smart device

ISOtunes—a foremost manufacturer of Bluetooth (BT), OSHA-compliant hearing protection devices—has released a new version of their popular earbuds, as well as a set of over-the-ear muffs. Both provide hearing protection while allowing you to listen to music, podcasts, radio, or anything channeled through your phone (or other smart device), including calls. Very cool. Having used them for a while now, here’s my take on each. 

The ISOtunes XTRA 2.0 earbuds come with a variety of interchangable foam and silicone tips to fit most ears, with the foam ones intended for sound protection. With a 27dB NRR (Noise Reduction Rating), they provide adequate sound protection, although it’s not quite as good as with any of my shop ear muffs. Surprisingly, I found the foam tips comfortable enough to wear for extended periods. I also like the integral magnets, which connect to form a secure necklace when hanging. The tips insert and remove easily and quickly, and the whole band-and-buds assembly is non-intrusive and easy to wear throughout the day. 

The sound quality is good for phone calls, podcasts, and talk radio. The 85dB ceiling prevents hearing damage while allowing plenty of volume to override machine noise that leaks in. Music aficionados, however, should remember that audio precision is not the raison d’etre of these buds. Also, I wish the “noise-isolating” microphone worked better, as callers often complain that hand-sanding and other scratchy or high-pitched noises drown out the conversation.

ISOtunes XTRA 2.0 ear buds available at isotunes.com, $79.99 ISOtunes Link ear muffs #175078, $79.99

Overview

ISOtunes Link ear muffs

  • ANSI-certified 25 dB NRR
  • Output limit: 85dB
  • 14-hour rechargeable battery life
  • 28-hour AAA battery life
  • Noise-isolating microphone
  • Easily connects to any BT-Enabled smart device

The ISOtunes Link muffs provide over-ear sound protection comparable to my other shop muffs. Even when wearing eyeglasses, the noise-suppression is noticeably better than with the ISOtunes earbuds. I find the muffs comfortable to wear on my head, but not my neck, where they squeeze tightly and impede head movement, prompting me to place them aside when not in use. The sound quality of music is considerably better than with the earbuds, and there’s plenty of available volume that’s still safely capped at 85dB. Unfortunately, the built-in noise-isolating mic suffers from the same limitations as with the earbuds. 

BOTTOM LINE: The ISOtunes XTRA 2.0 earbuds are a great choice if you want sufficient, easy-to-use in-ear protection constantly at hand, and you don’t care much about music fidelity. 

The ISOtunes Link ear muffs are a good choice for those who don’t like ear inserts, don’t need hearing protection constantly at hand, and/or who prefer better audio quality. 

—Tester, Paul Anthony

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