The original ISOtunes Link was one of the most popular releases of 2021. Finally, a set of worksafe Bluetooth ear muffs that were comfortable and reasonably priced, without compromising on sound. Still, there were a few complaints. What about an external microphone? Where are the hygiene kits? In 2022, ISOtunes have listened, unveiling the Link 2.0 — the new gold standard for off the shelf bluetooth hearing protection, suitable for the home DIY expert and the independent contractor alike.
First Impressions and Unboxing
Comparing the original Link to the 2.0 model, a few things are immediately apparent:
- The units are almost identically sized. All of the new technology in the Link 2.0 is included in a similar body. This means the same comfortable fit if you’re upgrading from the original, and also no extra bulk or weight. The Link 2.0 remains one of the lightest bluetooth sets on the market.
- A new padded foam strip over the headband ensures soft and comfortable wear for the user. One complaint for the original set was that the band could be discomforting at times. The soft foam comfortably cushions the head, allowing longer wear while at work. Even better, the foam is removable. No more sweat on hot days. Simply remove the foam and you get the same ventilated hole as on the original.
- The buttons have been slightly raised compared to the original units. This allows for easier operation as you can more easily determine which button is which without having to look at the unit, or slide your hand around the ear cup. It still is compatible with Siri and Google Voice, so hands free use is possible.
- The slot on the right muff has a new input jack for a microphone (sold separately). The external boom mic was one of the most requested features for the original, and ensures clearer conversation in noisy environments.
In terms of audio performance, we found improvements in volume and clarity when compared to the original model. While these may not compete with $400 or $500 dollar audiophile headphones, they provide a strong sound performance — great for listening to music or podcasts in an environment where you also want to keep your ears safe. As with other ISOtunes models, these include a built-in safe listening limit. They will NOT output sound louder than 85dB, which ensures protection from noises loud enough to damage your hearing. While the safe listening limit can be a controversial feature for some customers, it makes sense. If the passive muffs are protecting your ears from heavy machinery, the electronic component should also be protecting them from the worst extremes of your Spotify playlist.
You might also be surprised to learn, you don’t even need to play music that loud with these fitted! They’re rated to 25dB of hearing protection under the NRR standard, and the ear cups have a fleshy, malleable feeling. They shape nicely to the skin around the ear and ensure good sealing against noise. The ISOtunes family have always been strong performers with the various power tools of the home DIY expert: lawnmowers, drills, saws and the like are well sealed against. They’re also a popular choice among tradies and independent contractors on the tools. If you find you’re needing extra protection with them worn, whack a pair of foam plugs in your ears underneath. This will effectively boost the protection and ensure your own safe ears. (Don’t worry, you can still play music through them!)
Pairing the ISOtunes Link 2.0 to your Bluetooth device is easy. The unit is activated by a large button on the side of the muff, activating a voice which informs you that the unit is on and in pairing mode. From your phone, laptop or other bluetooth device, simply locate the ISOTUNES LINK 2.0 and click connect. Done. Your Link 2.0 will automatically reconnect to that same device each time it’s turned on (as long as the device is in range, with bluetooth activated). This is great when you’re always connecting to the same device; however, switching between devices is still manual and can be fiddly particularly when both are in range.
This is one of the most significant upgrades for the 2.0, one that’s so notable it deserves its own section. The original Link promised up to 14 hours of operation via the rechargeable battery, or an optional 28 hours of charge by inserting AAA batteries. The 2.0 now offers up to 50 hours (!) on the rechargeable battery or up to 100 hours (!!!) if you insert your own AAAs. There were not even enough work hours in the week for us to get these to 0. They were reliably working across an entire work week and then easily charged via the included USB cable. It’s one of the most important upgrades these sets have had, and ensures — particularly if you’re using these as a work set — that you’re not going to be left high and dry.
Accessories: Hygiene Kits and the Boom Microphone
In comparison to more expensive industrial solutions (which can run from anywhere between $300 and $3000 — or more!) the original ISOtunes Link did not have much by way of accessories. One of the biggest pieces of feedback we heard was the desire for replacement hygiene kits, to keep the ear cups in good condition particularly at the end of a long summer. Thankfully, ISOtunes have heeded the call. The new model Link 2.0 coincides with their releasing compatible hygiene kits for Link, Link Aware and of course the 2.0. These kits include new cups, foam inserts, and liners to indicate right and left ears — allowing you to refresh your set and have them running for longer. These inserts should be changed regularly, the moment you see the foam is no longer sealing convincingly against the ear, it’s time to refresh. By providing these hygiene kits, ISOtunes have taken a big step in putting their muffs in competition with the major international industrial providers. Particularly for individuals looking for an economically priced Bluetooth hearing protection solution, the Link 2.0 is now a set you can trust to last for a long time thanks to these replaceable liners.
Similarly, like the original Link, the 2.0 comes included with a built-in noise isolating microphone. The microphone performs well against a great deal of noise, but for some users — particularly in environments where noise is inconsistent and difficult to be filtered — there was a desire for a more robust solution. The new ISOtunes Boom Mic (sold separately here) upgrades performance in loud environments for crisp calls. In terms of performance, the boom is a clear, noise isolating solution. It does a good job even in the presence of variable external ambient noise and is a major upgrade on the built-in microphone. I'm even typing this current paragraph by patching the microphone through to my dictation software in a noisy room. It comes with a replacement windsock (and we’d like to see ISOtunes also sell some more replacement sets of these so we can replace them again down the track like the ear cups).
The Link 2.0 is a clear upgrade on the original model and should be the first purchase for anyone looking for a new set of economically priced Bluetooth muffs. Their performance far outweighs the price point. It’s a versatile set, as suitable for work in the backyard as it is on the shooting range, with a variety of useful accessories that ensure its longevity as a set. ISOtunes have really listened to the consumer with this set — it’s targeted a lot of the feedback on the original model, along with a variety of under the hood optimisations that ensure clearer sound without compromising on protection. The ISOtunes Link 2.0 is available here.