Is this the strongest sleeping ear plug ever?
Introduced back in 2016, the original Flare Isolate was a revolutionary ear plug. Made with a metal body and soft foam tips, the aluminium core promised to block a wider variety of sounds than the standard silicone or foam, with superior performance particularly among lower bassier sounds. They developed a strong reputation as the highest noise blocking reusable plug but were still somewhat controversial, particularly among side sleepers. While many users loved how strong they were, others found them a little too rigid for comfortable sleep.
Since then, Flare have introduced successive generations of the Isolate, each preserving the same original sound performance, in new body shapes and sizes, with the goal of improving comfort. The Flare Isolate Mini and Isolate2 have had their time in the sun, and we’re now presented with a new generation in high performance hearing protection. In this review, we’re diving into the Flare Isolate 3 Aluminium, the newest model hearing protection for sleep, music, motorcycling, or any other situation where you want to dampen sound.
First Impressions and Packaging
Compared to the original Isolate, the Isolate 3 is much smaller. Making it far less conspicuous in the ear.
In each set of the Isolate 3, you get one set of each tip size (Standard and Large), the body for the plugs themselves, a mesh carry case and an instruction booklet. This model is available in three materials: Clear (injected moulded plastic), Aluminium, and a Titanium Pro model. In this guide, we’re going to be testing the Aluminium, as it’s the most likely choice for the widest variety of contexts.
In terms of design, the Flare Isolate 3 is somewhere between the previous generation Mini and the newest design for the Sleeep. A slightly wider and larger aluminium core is present, designed to block more noise, but the body as a whole is among the slightest and smallest that Flare has produced. In contrast to earlier models, each set comes with ‘Standard’ and ‘Large’ sized foam tips. This may seem like a compromise compared to the four sizes offered in the Isolate2, but the new model tips have a few benefits, including:
- They’re squashier memory foam than the previous gen. They hold their shape for a long time, inflating gently over ten or twenty seconds. We find that these tips fit a wider variety of ear shapes than your standard sets, meaning they should accommodate the same range of ears as the previous model.
- The tips are interchangeable with every other current set of Flare plugs. No more mistaken tip ordering. The memory foam tips are appropriate for the Isolate3 and the new Sleeep. Meaning Flare fans can simplify their purchasing and use the same sets across their units.
In line with Flare’s broader movement towards ecologically minded packaging, every element of the package is recyclable.
Fit and Performance
For first time users particularly, fitting the tips and the plugs themselves can be daunting. The Isolate 3 comes with an extensive fit and use guide. It runs you through how to set the tips onto the body (don’t leave any gaps!) and how to create a seal with the ear. It’s a really thoughtful little feature, and designed to avoid any mishaps with your plugs. The key thing to remember: the stem should be easily reached and softly removed. No sudden bulls or pressured insertions!
Once I’d unpacked my plugs and attached the tips according to the instructions, it was time to test them out. I found that my ears were best suited to the standard sized tips. Like other memory foam tips, the Isolate 3 requires you to squish them down with your fingers, allowing them to gently inflate in the entrance to the ear canal, creating a seal to block sound. They advise that this can take 10-20 seconds (and maybe I over-squashed!) but I found it took a little closer to 30 or 40 to feel like the seal was created.
In terms of performance, they block a lot of sound. Included in the instructions is an indication of performance at different frequencies. The aluminium model is rated to SNR 33, making it among the strongest reusable plugs on the market. It’s expected to block around 30-32dB when properly fitted on average, around 23dB at the lowest frequencies and up to 37dB at the highest. In my own subjective experience, the performance is slightly lower than that of the original Isolate, but it’s a necessary compromise for wearability.
The Isolate 3 is the most comfortable model in the Isolate series, drawing upon all the ergonomic improvements from the new Sleeep, but in a stronger body. I found them comfortable for use whether lying on my back or on my side. While the Isolate 3 is still a slightly rigid plug — it has a piece of metal in it — it’s far less noticeable than previous models. If you were on the fence due to comfort, but still want high blocking, I’d give these a go. (For those who are super sensitive, stick to Alpine, the new SleepDeep has an entirely flexible body).
The plugs are not just rated for sleep. They’re useful for motorcycling, worksite, backyard diy jobs and working from home, and also are popular among music fans. One thing to note: the Isolate 3 is a filter-less plug. In comparison to other brands of music plugs, they don’t include filters to pass the sound through. This might be too much for some, but for particularly percussionists they’re a popular solution.
Care and Lifespan
An underrated element of reusable plugs is the lifespan. Indeed, even the most hardy reusable plug has a finite life. The Isolate 3 is a robust plug and entirely washable. Flare recommends that you clean the body with warm soapy water and dry with a towel. The tips themselves can be gently cleaned with a damp cloth. The skin on the tips is not porous, but you still shouldn’t submerge them at any time. Allow the tips to air dry before reassembling — and don’t ever insert a damp plug into the ear!
The replacements for the Flare Isolate 3 are available here. They come in economical sets of eight pairs, more than the previous generation and at a lower price, allowing you to keep your plugs in order for longer with less outlay.
Flare guarantee each set of the tips for one month, and suggest replacing them shortly after that — particularly if you wear them every day/night. If you’re an occasional wearer, for concerts or short stints of work, then they will last longer — just make sure you’re cleaning them regularly. For some wearers, they’ll get longer than a month’s use out of their tips — we just recommend that the longer you wear them, the more care you have to ensure the tips and body are clean and secure when fitted.
Included in each set is a mesh carry bag. It’s the standard one we know and love from earlier models of Flare, a soft ventilated carry case with a drawstring to keep it secure. Great for putting your plugs in your backpack or keeping them safe in the bedside table. For a hardier carry case, we recommend Flare’s own storage capsule. It’s made of aluminium, with a keyring attachment for portability. Great if you’re using these at gigs or at work.
The Isolate 3 has been a long sought after update and Flare have not disappointed, delivering an even more streamlined plug that still has the strong sound blocking properties of earlier units. If you’re a regular ear plug user who finds silicone insufficient and wants a more economical version of foam, the Isolate 3 should be a strong consideration. You get the benefit of memory foam tips, with an aluminium body to further supplement the protection offered.
Check out the Flare Isolate 3 here! New Model coming soon