IsoTunes has launched new Air Defender AM/FM hearing protection ear muffs.
As suggested by the name, they offer over-the-ear hearing protection with AM/FM connectivity, as opposed to Bluetooth.
IsoTunes says that this model is “ideal for hobbyists who want to listen to the radio – or don’t have strong cell service on the job – while working in loud environments and prefer a comfortable, over-ear style that doesn’t break the bank.”
Features include up to 60 hours of battery life, 24 dB NRR of noise reduction, and IPX4 water resistance.
- Memory foam ear cushions and headband
- ANSI-certified 24 dB NRR | CSA Class A
- CSA/OSHA Compliant hearing protection
- SafeMax tech limits the volume to 85 dB
- Up to 60 hours battery life
- Powered by 2x AA batteries
- IPX4 water and sweat resistance
- Radio station memory function
- Aux input
The IsoTunes Air Defender AM/FM looks to be a low-frills solution for users who want hearing protection with the option to listen to over-the-air radio.
It also has an aux input, which might appeal to traditionalists or users with highly specialized application needs.
Air Defender with Bluetooth
IsoTunes has a Bluetooth version of the Air Defender as well, with 24 dB and up to 40 hours of battery life.
The Bluetooth version has a microphone for taking calls and is powered by a built-in rechargeable battery.
Street Price: $60
Compare to 3M WorkTunes
3M’s WorkTunes hearing protector seems like a good standard for comparison.
The specs are similar – the WorkTunes Connect + AM/FM radio delivers up to 24 dB NRR.
The 3M has a radio with memory, but also features Bluetooth wireless connectivity for streaming from a smartphone or similar device. With IsoTunes, you need to choose between Bluetooth and AM/FM radio models.
The 3M WorkTunes has a microphone for taking calls, something the Air Defender Bluetooth hearing protector also features, but the new AM/FM version does not.
I have the 3M older model, AM/FM only. Works great around vac trucks and breakers. Only issue is not waterproof. I will be checking out the Isotunes.
3M. Avoid IsoTunes. Its like you are the beta tester. I’ve had every single product of theirs. And once you buy them, in a year, another 2.0 or better is released. ISO Tunes xtra, would beep on track changes, IsoTunes Free have bright flashing LEDs that light up a room or let everyone know you have earbuds. IsoTunes Pro, the ear foam are uncomfortable (3 sizes don’t fit all) and if you have phone in a pant pocket, turning drops the BT signal. Airdefender has bright obnoxious LED and awkward buttons (press 2x for this, 3x for this…) and ears sweat from that pads. The LINK were the worst- heavy, clunky and poor sound protection.
Granted I still use the Pro since they last long enough to cut my lawn. And the Free I wear inside my 3M Peltor non-blue tooth/radio head set (28dB protection).
If these work for you, great. But I honestly feel that ISOTunes might be a great family company, their customer support is great, but they are using customers to test and make subtle improvements in next or 3rd gen.
If you can’t make a headset that muffles a riding mower no matter your head direction (looking, tilting, bouncing) then you need to start over.
These look disappointing for my use case, knowledge, and experience of hearing protection. I’m not saying the product overall is bad, but it seems like unless you invest in an ultra premium brand like David Clark, the mounting of the ear cups to the headband is the same style plastic mount that 3m and the no name Amazon brands use. Back before I switched to David Clark for my mowing, I was going through 1-2 pairs a season because the brackets holding the cups to the headband would fail. For the average person using these, they should work fine for years of use but when you use these 6 days a week and 8 months a year it gets to be a lot of wear and tear on the hearing protection.
These things need to come with around the neck springs. Wearing these with welding helmets or face shields just don’t work, and they make over the ear headsets that have the neck spring setup. I switched to shokz earphones because of this and the allow ear plugs and sound better with them in.
Just looked those up. Do you use something along with these for hearing protection?
Regular ole foam earplugs. They’re great, I wear my shockz pretty much the entire time I’m awake.
First thing I do when I enter the workshop is put in earplugs and put on “these safety glasses”.
So… Do these have any real improvement over 3Ms offering (that is still cheaper)? IPX4 is largely meaningless in my experience, there’s very few products that can’t take a splash of water, whether they pay for the testing or not.
I’m sure we’ll see everyone on YouTube and Instagram get a free pair, but I just don’t see how these are meant to actually compete.
Air defender Bluetooth comes with micro USB. The radio takes AA batteries. What next, transistors and tubes?
*shrug* Some people prefer AA batteries.
Transistors are still very much used in modern technology…
And they aren’t reusable and just create a lot of waste. Lithium ion batteries are recyclable. Transistor radios haven’t been used since the 80s with the big antenna and a 9 volt. Mine was brown. Sorry. Micro USB is outdated technology and disposable batteries should only be used when necessary.
I would argue that in low drain devices like headphones, AA/AAA Eneloop NIMH batteries are superior to lithium ion in virtually every way except mAh, which doesn’t really matter since they are reusable and you can keep extra on hand.
You are right that the mAh is not as good on NiMh batteries. I have never used Eneloop’s but other NiMh batteries I have used also suffer from “memory” issues, even if they say they don’t, and also do not last as long as Lion…and I do not mean per each use, but life expectancy, they don’t last like Lion.
I have the 3M worktunes basic with radio and aux input and no matter what I do that thing drains my rechargeable double AA batteries if I leave them in there so I have to take out the batteries every time if I don’t want to have to keep swapping in batteries. I hate that thing. It’s a constant parasitic draw.
If you want noise reduction, use a product with active noise cancelling. That technology works great with the sound of dust collectors, saws, routers, etc. but still allow you to hear telephone bells or nearby speech. Conventional ear muffs like 3M or IsoTunes just don’t cut it when held up against today’s electronic tech.
Noise reduction and noise cancellation are two very different things.
Consumer products with active noise cancellation are designed to block nuisance noise for leisure purposes. Hearing protection products are designed to protect your hearing.
I have yet to see any consumer products with noise cancellation being advertised with official NRR (noise reduction rating) specs, or for use in environments with hearing-damaging noise levels.
More premium electronic hearing protection products have microphones that allow pass-thru of conversational speech and other everyday sounds.
I see what you’re saying Stuart, but noise reduction is noise reduction no matter how you look at it. The purpose is to reduce sound pressure at the ear drum.
I just bought the 2nd Gen Apple AirPods Pro which have some genuinely good protection features even though they are not marketed as hearing protection. They seal into the ear canal so there’s no open path to outside.
They have two operating modes; transparency and noise cancellation.
Transparency mode is cool; it’s an electronic pass-through which is convincing enough that it seems you’re not wearing anything at all in your ears, yet it limits the transmission of loud sounds. This protects your hearing even though they are very careful not to advertise them that way.
The noise cancellation mode is really good. Even sharp sounds like nail guns and hammers are reduced significantly, enough that I can listen to music or a podcast at a pretty low level and still follow along.
I recently had my water well drilled and the drilling rig was extremely loud. I don’t know what the actual dB drop is with these, but I could stand next to it and comfortably watch the guys working even though the sound of the rig was loud enough I could feel the vibrations in my chest.
Compared to bulky over-the-ear, properly rated ear protection, do these work as well? I don’t know, and maybe the answer is NO. But, compared to my 3M Worktunes, the ear buds are less bulky, not sweaty, and I ACTUALLY WEAR THEM. My 3Ms have zero dB of noise reduction if I’m not wearing them.
That is incorrect.
There’s noise reduction and noise cancellation. They are NOT the same.
There are many scenarios where noise cancellation will NOT prevent potentially damaging levels of noise.
Hearing protection devices should provide a testing-verified noise reduction rating, with measurements across different frequencies. Consumer noise cancellation products designed for leisure purposes might provide some noise reduction, but are unproven, untested, and not recommended for use as hearing protection.
You can wear sunglasses from the dollar store, but they won’t provide the same protection as ANSI-rated safety glasses or goggles.
The fact remains that noise cancellation devices are not valid forms of noise reducing hearing protection unless explicitly designed and advertised as such – which they’re not.
There are many scenarios where noise cancellation products will not protect users’ hearing as well as actual hearing protection products.
For nuisance-level noise levels, it doesn’t matter. At damaging levels, it does.
Hearing loss is cumulative and permanent.
I am not dismissing your opinion – you do make some valid points. My intent is to make it clear consumer noise cancellation products designed for leisure products are not designed as hearing protection products, do not provide rated noise level reduction, and are not comparable to noise reduction products.
Noise cancellation products are priced as low as $21 on Amazon. Are those products going to perfectly cancel out all manners of potential hearing-damaging noise? Is this guaranteed? If not, there’s the potential for harm.
Your personal experiences, however much I appreciate your sharing, are still anecdotal opinions rather than fact. When it comes to safety gear, facts and testing-backed protection ratings are paramount.
Again, the difference is in how hearing protection products provide testing-verified noise reduction, and how consumer noise cancellation products *might* provide some unmeasured level of noise reduction by consequence.
Yes, it would be great to be able to use noise cancellation products as hearing protection, but they cannot be relied on for such purposes.
Stu you missed it. I can yell at my kids with those stupid ear buds in and they are oblivious. But if I clap or snap my fingers next to their ears they jump out of their skin!
Perfect noise cancellation means receiving sound via a perfect microphone, delaying it by 180 degrees (frequency dependent), then playing it back matching the timing and amplitude perfectly. Granted there are some feedback tricks to self tune this.
With a perfect system the initial “crack” of a gunshot passes right through followed by a noise “cancelling” but nonexistent “crack” from the noise cancelling system making it twice as bad. Real systems recognize the problem with percussive sounds and let them pass right by (clap your hands).
This problem has been the subject of active noise cancellation since it started. It cannot be “solved”.
There are very good gun range ear muffs. They seem to give you perfect noise cancellation. They simply noise reduce to the point where you can’t hear anything then use microphones and speakers to play safe (non gunshot) sounds.
That’s a great example, but not the only condition for failure; there are other scenarios where loud noise can lead to imperfect timing of frequency response.
Once again, I get it; unless something is tested and marketed specifically to protect your hearing they should not be sold as hearing protection. Got it.
BUT, my point is the AirPods Pro DO provide hearing protection. They seal in the ear canal like earplugs. They reduce sound pressure at the ear drum. This is not disputable.
You CAN dispute how much protection they offer, of course! No debate there. But make sure you are not misunderstanding me. Two separate points:
1. Noise reduction. They seal off the ear canal. Even when they’re powered off and no electronics are functioning, they REDUCE the SPL in the ear. There is no NRR for these as they are not rated, nor claimed, but there is a noise reduction due to sealing the ear canal.
2. Noise cancellation. This is the electronics producing an out of phase waveform to cancel noise that gets to the ear drum. This is less useful as its effect on sharp percussion-type sounds is limited.
The combined effect of both 1 and 2 above is dramatically better than not doing anything to protect your hearing. As I noted above, these AirPods Pro are infinitely more effective at protecting your ears than wearing nothing. Compared to my bulky 3M Worktunes which are not very pleasant to wear, these are comfortable and easy to leave in for hours at a time. They won’t pass for hearing protection on a job site, but for most other situations they’re much better than the protection you’re not wearing.
To be clear, I’m referring specifically to the Pro model that seals in the ear canal, not the other AirPods that just sit in the ear.
One last point; fingertips are not rated as hearing protection either, but for centuries they have been effective at preventing hearing damage.
Whether they are better than nothing is a very different question than whether they are a suitable substitution for hearing protection, which is what I’m arguing against.
In a private conversation, I might agree there’s a huge gray area between yes and no. In public discussion, there should be 0% chance any reader might leave here with the idea consumer earbuds could be considered a valid form of hearing protection.
It’s like sunglasses from the dollar store vs tinted safety glasses with certified ANSI protection. “Better than nothing” doesn’t count in the field of PPE. If it’s not certified or tested to meet or exceed requirements, it’s not a safety product.
I completely understand your position. Cheers!
Here’s a Wirecutter test of several earbud brands and earplugs:
In noise cancellation mode the AirPods Pro 2 tested at -23dB with a source of 105dB. Again, completely agreed that these are NOT rated for hearing protection, but I will keep using them and my ears will be better for it.
My 3M Worktunes will only be deployed if I’m doing some seriously loud work in a cool setting to keep the sweat factor low.