ISOtunes Sport Hearing Protection
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- Last updated: 24/01/2022
It goes without saying that the use of effective hearing protection is mandatory when it comes to shooting. Personally, I like electronic hearing protection, as the technology allows me to maintain situational awareness while being protected.
ISOtunes are part of Haven Technologies, which is a US-based, global leader in Bluetooth hearing protection that has over 30 years of experience. This year they launched some ISOtunes Sport models, which are specifically designed for shooters. Their current roster of tactical hearing protectors includes their in-ear ‘Sport ADVANCE’ and their overear ‘Sport DEFY’. I was kindly sent the latter to review.
The contents of the box include a short, micro USB cable, a detailed instruction manual, a quick start guide and the ear defenders themselves.
My first impression of the Sport DEFY is that they are quite large, with each earpiece showing quite a boxy profile while sporting some thick and very comfortable memory foam ear cushions. I was surprised by the profile as a lot of ear pro manufacturers opt to shape the earpieces to prevent them from being lifted away from the ear by the rifle or shotguns cheekpiece, but more on that later.
The ear defenders weigh in at 439-grams, have an IPX4 rating for sweat and water resistance and show a durable, rubberised, flexible, vented headband with minimal padding. In the folded position they measure 17 x 13 x 9.5cm (W x H x D), so they do take some space up in the kit bag. The earpieces are linked by a cable and attached to the headband vid adjustable struts so that their position can be customised by the user for comfort and effective hearing protection.
The depth of the inner ear cups is around 2cm, which is nice and deep, and to help identify which side each earpiece is designed to go on, one cup includes the letter ‘R’ and the other ‘L’. Yes, it’s a small detail, but useful nonetheless! The approximate dimensions of each earpiece are 5 x 10.5 x 8cm.
So, the important bit, how much protection do you get? Well, the product info says: “This product has been tested and meets the European Safety Standard EN352-1:2002 and the ANSI & NIOSH standards for a hearing protector, with a Single Number Rating (SNR) of 30 dB and a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of 25 dB”. In short, they offer a good level of protection and I could only find a few sets of protectors on the market offering an SNR rating of 32. You can go higher of course, but the size of the earpieces follows suit!
To complement this protection, the ear pro features TSC (Tactical Sound Control). This microphone technology allows the wearer to hear what is going on in their surroundings but crucially, at a safe volume. When a sound at an unsafe level is detected, the tech responds in under 2 milliseconds and attenuates to a safe level. Another bonus is that the microphones can enhance your hearing by up to 8x and the SafeMax technology limits volume output to 85dB, to prevent hearing damage.
Next up, we have the Bluetooth technology. This allows the user to connect the headset to their mobile phone so that they can listen to music and take phone calls. But to be honest, doing either of those things while in control of a firearm is never a good idea. However, it could be argued that it is a useful feature if others need to get in touch with you in an emergency.
Power comes from a lithium battery pack that holds an impressive 14+ hours of charge. If it runs out at an inconvenient time, then it can be removed and replaced with three AAA batteries. Nice! It’s located in the left earpiece, under a battery cover that is secured by a finger manipulated latch. Just below this is a flexible rubber tab that conceals the micro USB charging port and LED charging indicator light. To top everything off, there is an automatic power-off feature that activates after 4 hours.
There are four rubberised control buttons located on the right earpiece. The central one is described as a ‘Multi-Function Button’(MFB) and as the name suggests, is used for a variety of tasks. It accepts single press inputs as well as holds from 1 to 7 seconds. Its primary function is as the power on/off button but it can also be used to skip music tracks and play or pause songs. It can also be used to answer, reject and end phone calls or even to activate Siri or the Google assistant! To the left of the MFB is a pair of buttons that controls music/ Bluetooth volume and to the right, a pair that adjust the volume of the TSC.
Straight from the off, I found the instructions easy to follow and the setup, including the Bluetooth, was a breeze. Charging was quick and easy and after a lot of use, I have yet to run out of power from the first charge. Once you learn to navigate the controls it is all pretty simple, though you would have to use some of the features regularly in order to remember what you need to press and for how long.
Initially, I was worried about the profile of the earpieces and the notion that a gun’s cheekpiece might contact the base and lift them away from my ear. I am pleased to report that this didn’t happen with any of the rifles I used.
In use, I found the ear defenders easy to adjust and the memory foam ear cushions extremely comfortable. However, the headband could do with a little more padding. I did like the fact the ventilation gap in the headband was wide enough to accommodate the top button on my cap, so it didn’t get pushed into the top of my head, which is a common issue with some ear defenders.
I had the opportunity to test the DEFY indoors and outdoors at the range. I used an unmoderated .223 straight pull and bolt action .375 Ruger as well as a moderated 6.5 Creedmoor. As expected, I still needed to double-up and wear plugs indoors when shooting the unmoderated rifles, but outdoors the Sport DEFY were spot on. I was particularly impressed by the TSC, which can be very sensitive if you crank it up. It provided brilliant 360° awareness. Overall, a great option for anyone looking for some decent hearing protection.