ISOtunes sent over a test sample of their LINK Bluetooth hearing protection earmuffs, and I have been working with it for a couple of weeks now.
To my knowledge, this is their first over-the-ears Bluetooth hearing protection product, and there are major differences between this and their previous in-ear models.
Hearing protection products can be difficult to review, as everyone has different preferences and priorities. If you have any questions you think I can help you with, please be sure to ask away!
If you’re looking for something that doesn’t have Bluetooth connectivity and cannot play music or other audio, be sure to check out the hearing protection section in our best workshop safety gear buying guide.
One Line Verdict
I’m not a “hearing protection that plays music and takes calls” kind of user, but if I were, I believe these would be an excellent choice.
I went through several takes before realizing it’s not really productive to attempt a video review of earmuffs. There’s not much that can be shown, and there’s only so much hand-waving and earmuff-shaking you guys could tolerate.
Still, if you want a quick rundown of the good and bad, here’s the video review to start things off.
ISOtunes LINK Key Features & Specs
- 25dB NRR (noise reduction rating)
- 85dB safe max volume
- Built-in rechargeable Li-ion battery
- 14+ hrs runtime
- AAA battery option
- up to 28 hrs runtime
- USB charging port
- Bluetooth 4.2 wireless connectivity
- IPX4 water resistance
- Sweat resistant
Update 4/27/2021: ISOtunes has informed me that the LINK was retested and is now rated with a 25dB NRR. The former rating was 23dB NRR.
ISOtunes LINK Build Quality
To put it frankly, I was very impressed with ISOtunes’ build quality. The LINK is well-built, and the earcups have a premium feel to them, at least compared to most other hearing protection earmuffs I have used before.
The earmuffs are quick to adjust and comfortable to wear. I wear corrective glasses and earmuffs can sometimes apply too much pressure, but not these, at least not compared to the brands and models I typically wear.
The ISOtunes are a little heavier than ordinary hearing protection earmuffs, but not significantly so, at least not in my opinion.
ISOtunes LINK Battery Options
The LINK comes with a built-in Li-ion battery that ISOtunes says provides 14+ hours of runtime.
You also have the option to remove the battery to reveal a 3x AAA battery holder. With AAA batteries, you get up to 28 hours of runtime.
The battery latch was easy to open, and it seems quite secure.
There’s a charging port underneath a rubber flap, along with an LED indicator light.
The opposite earcup also has a rubber flap, but there’s nothing underneath it. I’m guessing this is just an extra flap in case you rip the charging flap off. Or maybe it’s there for some other reasons?
ISOtunes LINK Bluetooth Controls
The central button is your main on/off, pause, and voice command button. Holding down the button activates Siri on an iPhone, for instance, allowing you to make a call without having to handle your smartphone.
You also get volume buttons and next/previous track buttons. It takes a little time to get used to finding and pressing the buttons by feel.
ISOtunes LINK Sound Quality
On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being a $5 headset from a city street vendor, and 5 being $150 studio monitoring headphones (Audio-Technica M50X via Amazon), I’d rate these a solid 4, which is very good for a product like this.
Keep in mind, these are hearing protection earmuffs, with music or audio playback as a secondary function.
Music and voice playback is crystal-clear with no distortion or static,
Bass sounds good – full, maybe even a little bit punchy.
Compared to higher-end audio products, such as the aforementioned wired Audio-Technica headphones, or Apple AirPods Pro, there’s something lacking from the ISOtunes, but I can’t put my finger on it.
I’m extremely pleased with the fidelity of the LINK, at least when listening to my test music sources. For most of the testing period I listened to my Amazon Music playlist, which is a mix of rock, hard rock, pop, and classic rock sounds.
Calls come in relatively clearly, and nobody questioned what device I was using, which is always a good sign when testing Bluetooth mics, headsets, or related products.
I did have ONE issue – if you could call it that.
When testing the ISOtunes in a quiet room, I’ll hear a humming sound from the right earcup. The same thing happened with the ISOtunes FREE earbuds I tested previously.
I cannot get to the bottom of it. If I’m in a quiet setting, there’s a good chance I’ll hear the humming/buzzing sound. If I’m listening to music or making a call in a quiet setting, I might hear it. If I’m working where I need hearing protection, or working and playing music, it goes away. It’s not that I don’t notice it as much, it’s simply not present.
Here’s my theory – ISOtunes has “noise isolating” microphone tech. My assumption is that this cancels out background noise to ensure your voice is clear during calls, and that if there’s nothing to filter out, it doesn’t know what to do.
I hear similar buzzing whether I’m connected to my iPhone or Windows 10 PC, and so it doesn’t seem to be something the LINK is doing and not the connected devices.
This bothers me – a LOT. BUT, I only hear the buzzing sound in usage environments I normally wouldn’t wear the ISOtunes, such as a quiet room. If there’s machinery or work noises and I’m listening to music, the sound usually goes away or is drowned out to similar effect.
What About the Noise Reduction?
While not quite as comfortable as lighter hearing protection-only devices (keep in mind my comment about wearing glasses), these work great at blocking out noisy machinery and equipment.
My test sample is rated at 25dB NRR, but ISOtunes’ website currently says that the LINK provides 25dB of noise reduction. It’s not clear if they updated the product at all, or if it was retested to a higher rating.
ISOtunes LINK Bluetooth Earmuffs Review Summary
I found myself really enjoying the testing experience. I had reasonable expectations with respect to sound quality and comfort, and ISOtunes exceeded them.
The build quality is great.
The LINK is fairly comfortable.
Sound quality is excellent. While I’m sure audiophiles will find specific attributes to complain about, the sound was clean and clear to my ears.
There’s the audible buzzing/humming sound, but it goes away in usage environments where these would typically be worn.
Call quality isn’t as good as music/audio playback quality, but I usually don’t take calls if I’m working around noisy (and often dangerous) machinery, or I move to a quieter location.
To be frank, I’m still not one for Bluetooth-connected hearing protection, but if I were looking for great quality protective earmuffs with Bluetooth connectivity and music playback, I wouldn’t look any further than this model.
You Should Buy This if…
If you want hearing protection that plays music or podcasts, or allows you to make or take phone calls in noisy environments.
As a reminder, we are not a safety authority. You need to do your due diligence in determining the suitability of safety products and related accessories for your use. If you’re unsure, consult with a health and safety expert.
Pricing & Where to Buy
Buy Now via Amazon
Buy Now via Home Depot
Buy Now via Tool Nut
Thank you to ISOtunes for providing the review sample.
ISOtunes FREE Wireless Noise Reduction Earbuds – Early Review
Koko The Talking Ape
Does anybody know if listening to music or podcasts is a safety hazard? I was all into getting something like this so I could listen to the news while working, but it occurred to me that when I’m really concentrating on my work, I don’t hear anything at all, not the machines, not people around me, etc. So if I’m listening to a murder mystery or whatever, will that keep me from concentrating on my work?
Also, how would these compare functionally to wearing BT earbuds and wearing hearing protection earmuffs over them? I don’t need hearing protection 100% of the time. It’s usually an hour or two on, then an hour or two off. If I could use regular earbuds under the hearing protection, that would be more convenient (assuming it’s safe to do so, see above.)
It can be.
My policy is “no active listening.”
Music to me is passive. Podcast would be active.
Dangerous work, such as guards-up cutting, and no music at all.
Plus, my wife or kids could always come knocking. Work + music increases the chance I’d be startled.
I watched a YouTube video last month – guy was cutting something on a table saw while listening to a podcast, no blade guard, and he sliced his fingers. I’d say proper guarding would have helped avoid the injury, but he wondered aloud whether the podcast distracted him.
I cannot comfortably wear earbuds under standard earbuds. Earplugs, yes, music earbuds, no.
It depends on what you are doing.
If you are working with other people then yes, you always need to be able to hear a cry for help or “Watch out!”.
If you are working by yourself painting, drywalling, tiling, etc. Not really a work hazard unless, again, you’re around people.
I use to be an EMT and people would block us on the road even with our sirens blaring if they had loud music on and weren’t paying attention. So it’s wise to always be paying attention even if it doesn’t affect you directly.
Now, where these could be dangerous in a work-by-yourself situation, is in a woodworking shop where you have a planer, table saw, router etc. that you forget to turn off, or you decide not to because you’re making a bunch of repetetive pieces and then you forget, and the normal noise (that would have reminded you) is drowned out by your jamfest and whoosh, there goes a finger or two.
Personally, I turn off music, or turn it down around others. I turn it off completely when I am trying to focus on complex or difficult tasks.
Music is nice, and totally appropriate in many situations, but it only takes a second for a serious mistake to be made.
Very good points, is that not how one of the Perkins brothers lost a some of his fingers?
Iirc he did not hear that the jointer was still running and got his fingers in there using the tool bed for work piece storage.
I find the opposite–if the work I’m doing while listening to is too engaging, then I discover that I have no idea what was said for the last bit of the podcast I was listening to, so I save the most interesting and involved podcasts for the most mundane tasks (yardwork, cleanup, etc.) so I don’t miss out on details. Something like local sports radio podcasts work great when I might “zone in” on the work for long stretches at a time, as I don’t care if I miss what was being said.
I suspect everyone’s brain works a little differently, and I agree that dangerous tasks don’t need any added distraction at all!
I use earbuds under my hearing pro when mowing my grass. My only complaint is that my ear pro squeezes my head and loosens the fit of the ear buds in my ear and only gets worse over time.
I have had the 3m worktunes for 2 years now, love them! Nice to listen to music from my phone, and can hear the phone ring. Half the price of the isotunes one. Noise reduction seems to work pretty well.
According to amazon, been out since 2017.
I’ve been using these as well and have been happy with them. I do wonder about the sound and mic quality on the isotunes though.
I had used the 3M for a couple years before upgrading to the ISOTunes. The fit of the ISOTunes is different and works better on my big head. I also like the replaceable battery. My wife prefers the 3M fit. I think the audio quality is slightly better on the ISOTunes but nowhere near my Bose or other better grades of headphones.
These are great. Audio quality is good. Even the mic. Comfortable. Excellent battery life.
Stuart are these more comfortable then 3m? Those really start to hurt after an hour or two.
Regarding 3M earmuffs, what do you typically wear now? If you don’t need maximum noise blocking, consider these: https://www.amazon.com/3M-Peltor-Earmuffs-Chartreuse-X4A/dp/B00CPCHADQ/?tag=toolguyd-20
The X4A’s have lower NRR than my typical workshop earmuffs, but they’re smaller and more compact. I don’t know how they do it, and when mine wear down and need to be replaced I’ll take it apart. The X4A is rated at 27 dB NRR, and the same-size X1A is rated at 22 dB.
If I’m going to wear a headful of PPE for longer sessions, I tend to switch to ear plugs.
I ordered a bunch of different earmuff products, but the X4A still seems to be in the lead.
This is what I wear most of the time due to convenience: https://www.amazon.com/3M-Peltor-Optime-Earmuff-H10A/dp/B007JZCVAQ/?tag=toolguyd-20
I’m using 3M WorkTunes currently. They have been great mowing and wood splitting but they do start to hurt after wearing them for 2-3 hours straight. Maybe any of them will hurt after that long.
Just a Medic
NRR 23dB isn’t impressive. The best earmuff-only devices advertise NRR 28 or 30. Anybody know of a higher-rated Bluetooth earmuffs?
For shop use, I prefer a lower NRR. I like to be able to hear things around me, but 23 is enough to knock loud noise down to acceptable levels. I’d feel very differently if I worked in a continuous, extremely high decibel environment.
But really, I’m just trying to get my miter saw, impact gun and hammer down below the “cause damage” threshold.
Isotunes products functionally work well in my experience, but I’ve also been bitten by been reliability issues. I’ve owned two pairs and both mysteriously stopped holding a charge right after the warranty period expired.
I reached out to see if there was anything that could be done or if I could replace them and both times the answer was no repair and they have to stick to their warranty policy but here’s 15% off a new product.
I don’t begrudge them for not budging on the warranty but at these prices (vs regular headphones with compliant tips) they really should have lasted longer.
I did like it enough to buy a new one after the first one died, but can’t say I was fooled a third time.
Working years at manufacturing I tried many different earmuffs but none of them worked for me because of the pressure they creates to the head to isolate the noise. The only solution I found for myself, besides earplugs, is my Bose Q25 with noise canceling. I have Bluetooth adapter which I connect to the headphones wire and hide it under the shirt, so it is not hanging on me. Q35 is a Bluetooth model and I will eventually get those if this one will die one day. I don’t know if there is anything as comfortable as Bose headphones, so if you have a long shifts at loud facilities, you can consider get them, even used ones, just buy new ear foams.
I’ve seen some comparisons between noise-blocking and noise-cancelling products, but it’s inappropriate.
For safety, you need noise-blocking earmuffs. Noise cancellation is more of a comfort product, such as giving you some peace on a noisy train.
To be honest, I can never find a definitive answer as to the safety of noise-cancellation products, but I also don’t want to be the guinea pig.
With noise blocking earmuffs or earplugs, they lower the amplitude of noise that can travel into your ear. With noise cancellation, they monitor the sound and emit opposing frequencies to destructively interfere with the signal, resulting in a net amplitude of null value – in theory.
But noise-cancellation is an active technology, and it’s designed around certain usage environments that don’t include machinery, workshop equipment, or tool use. There could be lapses in cancellation that allow harmful amplitudes to reach one’s ear.
Until there are OSHA-approved noise cancellation tech, I can only recommend that approved noise blocking products be used.
I also wouldn’t advise using any music-playing products where “you have a long shift at loud facilities.” Noise-blocking earmuffs still let some sounds in, such as nearby communications and signals. Noise cancellation might not, and music-playing devices might drown out sounds that shouldn’t be drowned out.
Stuart, have you tried something like the Walker Razor behind the neck hearing protection ear buds? They target the shooting market, mostly because I think the ear buds target on those frequencies. I was skeptical till I tried them. You can carry on a normal conversation as if you were using ear buds for a phone conversation but as soon as there is a loud sound (gun shot, hand clap) it cancels out the sound. When they are off they behave like normal earplugs.
I don’t think they would work the best in sustained loud environments, but I did find the tech interesting.
Not yet, although I’m familiar with the tech behind firearm hearing protection. (Are you referring to this one?) I believe that this type of product blocks out everything and then selectively amplifies conversational sound.
Looking at Walker’s Razor products, most appear to have a noise reduction rating. You can hear what’s around you because of the “sound enhancement” microphones that are presumably designed to pick up certain frequencies, limit volume, and block out high amplitude gunshot noise. While not designed for workshop use, they still have a noise reduction rating, although it’s unclear if that’s their rating or independently verified.
Yes, those are the ones. I think the tech is I threshing, but I definitely wouldn’t use them in a workshop environment.
The ultimate would be these mixed ability to hear quieter noises around you, like many of the better earmuffs geared toward shooting, like the Howard leights
Timely post what with springtime here and yardwork to be done with always noisy power tools. I’m generally content wearing just regular hearing protection but I would like to be able to hear my phone ring which I can’t do with hearing protection on and mower, trimmer or blower in operation.
I’m glad to see this product offers the option for using AAA cells was well as a rechargeable battery. As least this means it won’t become trash for inability to replace the batery.
So is anyone aware of an earmuff that has both AM/FM radio (or at least FM) AND Bluetooth? I have 3M Worktunes with just the radio, and I don’t really like the controls. So I’m not sure I would like their Radio/Bluetooth model.
I have a pair of Howard Leights that I love, as you have a nice LED display for your radio and presets, but it is Aux only and I haven’t seen a bluetooth.
I *love* that battery solution.
Built in rechargeable batteries are fine, until they fail and the company doesn’t support it any more, or you can’t remove it. Being able to easily replace the existing one or switch to regular batteries is fantastic. If I was shopping for BT muffs, this model would go to the top of my list because of that feature.
I use Eneloops, and always have a stack of AA & AAA ready to go. Flashlights, remotes, laser level, everything.
A replaceable rechargeable battery is sorely lacking across hundreds of product categories.
Phones, tablets, laptops, speakers, headsets, vacuums, toothbrushes, shavers, flashlights, lamps, cameras, … products which in NA ( and likely many other nations unless they’re educated about the environment and have an easy to use recycling program in every city ) pretty much all go into landfills.
Any modern product brand that has end user replacable batteries should be applauded and rewarded with sales.
Smartphones and laptops used to have user-replaceable batteries. But, more users were replacing their devices rather than simply upgrading the batteries.
Now that users are accustomed to daily smartphone charges, most will replace their device with the latest tech every 2-3 years rather than change out the battery.
If given the choice between a slimmer product or one that’s thicker with a replaceable battery, and possible more expensive, which direction do you think most would go in?
My cameras all have swappable batteries. Even a GoPro has a removable battery even if you charge it in the device itself (unless you buy the add-on charger).
Sure, Dyson vacuums have built-in batteries, but you can replace it, although most genuine batteries appear to be out of stock right now.
I am all for replaceable batteries, but where it makes sense. I avoid products with built-in batteries unless it’s something that sees very regular use. And when products fail or are otherwise to be discarded, I recycle them in hopes they don’t just go straight to a landfill.
Have you seen how modern laptops are configured with custom battery shapes? These can only be built into a laptop body. Older models had hardshell batteries that could be swapped if needed, but power consumption and battery capacity was a lot different more than a decade ago.
My second smartphone had an extended battery option and a replacement back panel that bulged out a little to fit it. I bought it, and I kept the original battery but never used it. By the time the battery wore down, I was ready for an upgrade and it was discounted to where a new phone wasn’t much more than a replacement battery.
Here, this is a great design decision by ISOtunes, and one that really impressed me. But this was also possible because these are earmuffs. With cordless ear buds or a neck-wrap design, there’s no room for battery cells – you get a built-in non-replaceable battery and that’s it. But what’s the alternative?
If I had not spent on a disappointing 3M bluetooth set ( very shallow cups that press against the ears, not enough cushion to contour around glasses / safety glasses letting a ton of noise in, zero audio controls ) – and I had not bought an IsoTunes plus or such in ear set last year – I would be all over this.
Looks like decent cups and cushion bands. Removable and replacable battery. Volume controls.
PS: AM / FM radio inclusion would be five star … for when you don’t can’t or don’t want to burn through cell data or are in a poor reception area.
Are they am/fm also? I use the 3m am/fm headphones but have been disappointed in the sound / volume quality while runing my zero turn mower or tractor brush hogging. I lisen to talk radio alot but with loud machines like thoses I cant follow a conversation. And have to listen solely to music.
There’s no built-in radio.
I used to use the original AOsafety AM/FM headphones. But I had too many close calls or I didn’t hear something I should have.
Now I wear a pair of shooting ear muffs. They allow me to hear what’s going on until there’s a loud noise and they cut out. I have a Google Nest Mini that I can stream radio or music too. I like being able to yell “hey Google, stop/mute” when needed.
I find every isolation bluetooth headphone set I have used to be a dissapointment. At 85db you can’t hear audio clearly with the 23-25db passive reduction. Music isn’t too bad, but audio-books are hard to hear with loud ambient noise (lawnmowing, woodchipper).
I keep hoping for a decent 28-30db reduction set… or one that allows 87-88db sound
Question, is there a reason that there are very few 30db reduction sets?
It’s hard to say. I tested the entire line of 3M earmuffs and the one that blocks the most noise is huge, even compared to models with 1 or 2 dB lower NRR.
I’m thinking that higher NRR requires a lot of material. One of my 3M earmuffs is slimmer and with better reduction than like-sized models, but it costs quite a bit more. Either there’s a build quality difference or pricier damping materials must be used.
I have had this product for 3-4 months and use them quiet frequently, however I think they need a few revisions for the next model if Isotunes keeps this in their product line. They are far too heavy and HUGE compared to other hearing protection. They are not comfortable for long wear times, but I do wear glasses as well. I also don’t find the top strap comfortable longer term, but this may be due to baldness. Bottom line, these have a lot of grab, so they squeeze your head more so than other hearing protection.
The battery life is really good, but the warnings of low battery could be a little sooner. The warning will be received and it just cuts off a few minutes after. I typically resort to AirPods under standard ear protection, however this is not very comfortable either due to the sticks digging in your ears from the pressure.
I realize safety isn’t a fashion show, but these IsoTunes units just look stupid when you are mowing the lawn – they are that huge. They are just missing the antenna like the old AM/FM headsets from the 80’s.