The ISOtunes Sport Advance Defy and Advance are some truly fine hearing protection.
Any firearms enthusiast who spends a decent amount of time on the range needs a good set of earmuffs or earplugs. Because loud environments like a range can do some serious damage to your hearing. Ask anyone with hearing problems, and they will often state they wish they had taken hearing protection more seriously.
We recently got the chance to test out two different sets of tactical hearing protection from ISOtunes. The Sport Defy earmuff-style, and the Sport Advance, an earbud style Bluetooth hearing protection that flattens out loud gun noises while still allowing you to converse with others around you without removing your protection.
These truly do feel like the next generation of hearing protection. This is what we thought of both variants and which one may be best for you.
Both variants of the ISOTunes Sport use what the company calls "SafeMax Technology." They utilize an electronic form of hearing protection the automatically suppresses loud, damaging sounds like gunshot noise. Both forms of protection take the technology to take things down to 85 decibels or lower, which is about the level where OSHA compliant standards for hearing protection come into play. ISOTunes says these earbuds and earmuffs can do this in less than two milliseconds, which I'm inclined to believe based on how fast and responsive they were. It was not as noticeable with the Advance earbuds, but with the Defy earmuffs, I could clearly hear the audio take a slight dip every time the technology limits a louder noise. This was on top of both sets of protection doing a fine job even without being powered on.
At the same time, ISOTunes' sound control technology will enhance your hearing of voices thanks to a noise-isolating microphone. Normally when I am at the range, I cannot hear any of the other shooters' conversations with my old cheap, earmuff hearing protectors. This time around, I could clearly hear the conversations of the guys on the other end of the shooting station nearly 50 feet away. I could hear this clearly over the sounds of the guy next to me, who was doing draw from concealment drills with a .40 S&W, and the guy next to him who was banging away with an FN 5.7. The guys on the far end had an unsuppressed AR, and I could hear them too. Oh, and I barely noticed the bangs of my Glock 19 as I put several magazines downrange. First with the earmuffs and then again with the buds. Consider me impressed.
If you are looking for specifics on the protection levels, according to ISOTunes' website, both sets of hearing protection are ANSI s3.19-1974 approved and have a noise reduction rating of 26 NRR for the Advance and 25 NRR for the Defy.
The interesting thing about these forms of hearing protection over others I've used in the past is the fact that ISOTunes built in Bluetooth 5.0 that allows you to connect with your phone or smart device and pump in music while using the headphones to protect you from the louder sounds of your environment. It also means you can hear and receive phone calls, although you will probably have to move away from the range for the person on the other end of the line to hear you. I was not expecting much of this aspect of these devices. However, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the high-fidelity sound thanks to aptX wireless Bluetooth audio technology.
Even though I would not normally use music when I'm at the range, that does not mean others would not. That is okay, because I see additional uses. Either would have been perfect for a factory job I used to have. We were allowed to listen to music when standing still at at our stations, but it was always a pain because I'd have to pull the buds out to talk to anyone. I could see these as being perfect for while you are mowing the lawn too. I have a press trip in a few weeks that will require a lengthy plane ride, I'm already planning on taking at least one set of these with me to hopefully muffle the plane engine noises. The quality is that good. I also used the Advance on my morning walk one day. Not only did I get my tunes, I also could still hear traffic approaching behind me on the road. I did not expect this much functionality and additional uses beyond the gun range.
I should also mention that the Bluetooth paired up seamlessly with my Samsung Android phone. I have had some issues connecting some devices to Bluetooth in the past. Not with the ISOtunes. It was a breeze, and I had music pumping through both sets of hearing protection in less than 60 seconds when I went to connect them.
Which one is best for shooting?
Everyone is going to be a little different here. However, my own personal preference between these two tactical sound control systems is the ISOtunes Sport Defy. Simply because I like the over-the-ear aspect of the earmuff style over an earbud. I liked that little bit of extra foam and the padding with the ear cups. For me, it is slightly more comfortable than wedging the foam ear pieces into my ears. Your mileage on that may vary. They are heavy at 15 ounces, but it feels extremely manageable compared to some of the other forms of hearing protection like this I have used in the past. I am also probably less inclined to misplace these as compared to the earbuds.
The lithium-ion battery of both units offers excellent battery life and hours of damage-free listening while out on the range or undertaking other tasks in a noisy environment. The rechargeable battery was at full power in less than a couple hours using the included cables with both. They are standard USB-style cables, so they are easy to replace if you do misplace them.
One clear advantage the Defy has over the Advance here is the fact the Defy can also operate off three AAA batteries. In case the supplied battery is dead, and you do not have quick access to a charger. I must extend a bit of extra kudos to ISOtunes for adding that functionality to the unit. Because I am one of those guys that always forgets to recharge his electronics before a day of adventure. The Defy also has larger buttons that are easier to use. If you have problems with arthritis, or you just have larger hands in general, you may have harder time operating the Advance's tiny button interface.
The Advance does have a clear advantage over the Defy in one aspect. The lightweight design comes in at just 23 grams and is much easier to store. ISOtunes also included a compact case to store it and the extra ear foam pieces when not in use. That means no worries about misplacing anything. It also means it will take up less space if you are travelling for hunting or your next big shooting competition.
One other aspect I completely forgot to mention is the fact they are built with ip67 durability. That means both forms of tactical noise control can handle all the dust and smoke from the gun range that you can throw at them. They just feel solid and extremely well-made in the hands. Nothing feels cheap with either option.
The bottom line
In the end, thanks to the identical price point, the decision really comes down to which style suits you best. They are a little pricier than something you can grab off the shelf for cheap at your local big box store. However, they are totally worth the price of admission. And protecting your hearing is always going to be worth the extra investment. If you prefer earmuffs, they have that, if you prefer a more compact earbud style, they have that too. We love that they built both so you do not have to pick and choose. We also love the fact they back them with a one-year warranty. The fact that you can use them beyond the range for listening to music just adds more functionality than you will usually get from your hearing protection.
Both do a fantastic job of muffling gun shots while making it easy to communicate with your friends at the range. No more pulling your hearing protection out momentarily just to hear what they are saying, which is the biggest selling point of both units. Both also have the battery life for a full day at the range, no matter how much lead you are throwing downrange. At the same time, they offer excellent volume output that makes them useful beyond just the typical range uses. You really cannot go wrong either way.
For more information, see the ISOtunes website.
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