Cars have it easy: air conditioning, surround sound, and those wonderful dashboard attachments that let you have Google Maps open while you drive. If you’re riding a motorcycle however, things get a little more difficult. A good pair of industrial Bluetooth headphones can be a great solution for motorcyclists: they protect your ears the same way a pair of foam ear plugs would, with the added bonus of allowing you to listen to music, podcasts, or directions from Google or Waze while you ride.
In this guide, we’re going to discuss two great Bluetooth earphones with noise protection for motorcyclists and under helmet wear. A few key pointers:
- These both provide passive rather than active noise protection. This means that the noise protection is not electronic, but rather provided through noise-protecting foam ear tips. In general, we find this is far more reliable and consistent than electronic noise cancelling solutions, ensuring your ears are kept safe.
- We have prioritised a pair of slim units for this guide, this is to ensure ease of wear beneath particularly narrow or slim helmets.
- If you are looking for simply passive hearing protection for motorcycle riding, look at our guide counting down the Top Five Motorcycling Plugs for 2021 or just take a look at our motorcycling range here.
Plugfones are known for their hard wearing industrial earphone ear plug hybrids that allow wearers to listen to music or podcasts while also protecting their ears from loud, damaging industrial noise. The Liberate 2.0 is a Bluetooth 5.0 ear plug/earphone hybrid that’s particularly useful for motorcycle riders through its flexible, slim profile that makes it an excellent choice for under helmet wear.
Starting with sound reduction: the Liberate 2.0 comes with two pairs of tips, one in foam and one in silicone. The Foam is NRR rated to 29dB, offering up to 29 decibels of noise reduction across all frequencies (the Silicone is NRR 27). This level of sound protection is competitive with the level offered by most passive motorcycle ear plugs, making it an effective solution for protecting your ears with additional Bluetooth functionality.
Since these plugs are optimised for industrial use, they are made of a sweatproof material, with a hardy cord that’s going to perform even over long rides or hot conditions. An in-line microphone has electronic noise isolation: it will detect and attempt to filter out loud environmental noise, making it possible to have phone calls when you’re out and about. The battery offers up to eight hours of play on a single charge, and these plugs have a fast charge functionality: five minutes of charging gives two hours of play, great for when you’re in a rush to ride somewhere.
The unit can be controlled through a control panel on the neck, including volume control, track changing, playing and pause. The in-line microphone can also be used to give verbal prompts if your phone or Bluetooth device has Siri or another voice-activated assistant in it. The Plugfones Liberate 2.0 are a great option for motorbike riders, offering a high degree of hearing protection while also making it possible to listen to music or driving directions while on the go.
The main competitor in the industrial Bluetooth space is ISOtunes, whose products offer similar degrees of functionality with a different form factor that can offer a superior fit. These have a memory wire that run around the ear, keeping the earphones in place particularly for bumpy rides. This is a significant advantage for individuals who find maintaining a fit difficult, and can mitigate the weight of the cord in ensuring your earphones remain in place all ride long. One thing to note, however, is that this plug is going to be a little more prominent outside the ear. For the slimmest helmets or if you find you’re already reaching the limit of what your helmet can hold, the ISOtunes Pro may be too bulky.
In terms of functionality, like the Plugfones, The ISOtunes Pro are a Bluetooth enabled set of hearing protection. They play audio from your Bluetooth enabled device and protect your hearing through industrial-grade memory foam tips. The Pro is a slightly older model, so it’s Bluetooth 4.1, though this is still more than enough for the majority of smart phones or Bluetooth devices.
One significant advantage of the ISOtunes over Plugfones is that they come equipped with four separate sized memory foam tips, each rated to block about 27dB of noise. (In contrast to the Plugfones, the included rubber double-flange tips do not offer hearing protection and should only be used for leisure use). Unlike the one-size-fits-all approach from Plugfones, the ISOtunes can suit all ears from large to extra small, ensuring the most customised fit and the best possible seal for your ear. They’re expected to last up to ten hours of playtime on a single charge and have a similar noise-cancelling microphone designed to facilitate calls in loud environments.
The audio performance is strong, though please note that the ISOtunes Pro has an 85dB safe listening limit. This is for work health and safety purposes: it will not play sound over 85 decibels. This ensures that your ears are protected from long term hearing damage, though some users may complain of their earphones being quiet. This puts us between a rock and a hard place: they play at the highest possible volume to avoid hearing damage, when people say that to us it’s usually a sign of existing damage. Looking at another feature, these are IPX4 sweat and waterproof, with a rugged cord that’s designed to put up with a lot. For individuals who complain about their ordinary earphones dying on them, an industrial hearing solution is likely to be the next step up in terms of hardiness.
Motorcycle riders are spoiled for choice when it comes to strong, passive noise blocking solutions to wear while they ride (and while you’re at it, check out our Top 5 Motorcycling Ear Plugs for 2021 here but there’s less diversity when it comes to a Bluetooth audio solution that also protects your ears. Plugfones and ISOtunes make hard wearing, high performing industrial hearing solutions that protect your ears while still letting you rock out. They’re a great option to consider if you’re looking for the best Bluetooth devices for under helmet wear.