It’s universally agreed these days that eye and ear protection should always be worn when you’re out shooting. Whether you’re out hunting, competing at a match, or just out goofing around on the range, keeping your sensitive organs protected from unnecessary trauma is important if you want to keep listening to “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton on your way home from the range (don’t lie we all know you do it). Wireless earbuds have become extremely popular these days but often suffer from a couple of core drawbacks. A lot of wireless earbuds lack sufficient battery capacity to last you all day and others aren’t all that durable when it comes to hard range use. The new ISOtunes Sport CALIBER wireless Bluetooth earbuds aim to correct a few of those drawbacks and provide shooters with another option for convenient hearing protection both on and off the range. ISOtunes was generous enough to provide me with early access to these new earbuds for testing and evaluation and today we’ll take a look at the features, pros, and cons of these new earbuds to see if they’d be a right fit for you and the type of shooting that you do.
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TFB Review: New ISOtunes Sport CALIBER Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds
ISOtunes Sport CALIBER comes with three pairs of ISOtunes TRILOGY Short Eartips (S, M, L), three pairs of ISOtunes TRILOGY Tall Eartips (S,M,L), 1 pair of silicone eartips, a charging case, charging case lanyard, and USB-C charging cord.”
• Tactical Sound Control™ Technology enhances your hearing by 8x while protecting you from high-impact noises in under 2 milliseconds.
• True Wireless Design
• 25 NRR tested and approved to ANSI s3. 19-1974.
• IP67 Durability for dust, sweat, and waterproof protection.
• Up to 13 hour battery life with 2 full additional charges stored in the rechargeable case.
• Automatic Power Off after 2 hours without Bluetooth connection for battery conservation.
• Bluetooth 5.2 connects, and dual-connects, devices 30+ feet.
• SafeMax™ Technology limits volume output to 85 dB for all-day, damage-free listening.
• Background Noise-Reducing Microphone for clear communication in loud environments.
ISOtunes Sport CALIBER wireless earbuds come in a small box containing everything you’ll need to head to the range with. A 25 dB noise reduction rating means that you can comfortably shoot common calibers like 5.56 NATO, 7mm Magnum, .308 Winchester, and nearly every handgun caliber out there without the need for additional ear protection. However, those numbers need to be tested with real-world experiences out at the range that we will discuss later. A 25 dB NRR is about 4 dB less than what you can expect to get out of regular disposable foam earplugs.
I tried out a couple of the different ear tips to see which ones worked best and I found that the medium-sized – TRILOGY Short ear tips fit my ears the best. If those don’t work for you, then as far as I can tell, the CALIBER earbuds are also compatible with any of ISOtunes other ear tips that feature their convenient and secure threaded ear tips.
The CALIBER earbuds are quite simple to use and require no outside hardware to use. If you don’t want to pair these with your phone then you don’t have to and you can still enjoy the benefits of ISOtunes’ Tactical Sound Control technology while still being able to protect your ears and maintain a conversation at the same time. I found that loud conversation or even your own speech can peak out the gain on the CALIBER’s onboard microphone. What this means is that loud conversation comes through your earpiece with some static. This isn’t a huge deal for me since being a foot or two away from someone eliminates this problem and the static that comes through when you’re talking is likely just a good indication that you’re speaking louder than you need to if someone else is wearing similar electronic hearing protection.
Other features like the 13-hour battery life came through like a champ and by the end of my first range session with them, they were back to a full charge in well under an hour so if you’re looking at these hoping for a pair of earbuds with a case that you don’t need to charge after every range session, then you’re looking at the right pair with the CALIBER earbuds.
Over the last few range trips, I have exclusively used the ISOtunes Sport CALIBER earbuds for my hearing protection and I found that as long as you’re outside you’ll find yourself comfortable shooting almost any caliber. Everything from unsuppressed 308 down to .22LR is made much more tolerable by the onboard electronic hearing protection and if the gunfire from the next lane over is bothering you, the ISOtunes Sport CALIBER earbuds also feature 3 different levels of outside noise that is piped into your ears. This means if you’re at a match and want to still be able to hear commands from the range officer, you can. If you’re by yourself and want a more silent experience, this is also an option. Either way, any noise piped into your ears from the CALIBER earbuds will be limited to a safe 85 dB so you don’t need to worry about blasting that Vanessa Carlton song too loud.
The ISOtunes Sport CALIBER earbuds carry an IP67 ingress protection rating which means they should (theoretically) be completely sealed off from outside dust and capable of handling some light exposure to liquids. Here at TFB, we like to try and push the limits of such claims, and following in the footsteps of the Florida man himself, James Reeves – I tossed them in a glass of beer. While I could have just tossed them in plain old water, beer is far more interesting and I just happened to be a bit parched at the time I decided to do the immersion test.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that after about 13 minutes of being submerged in the beer (a local brew from Memphis), the ISOtunes Sport CALIBER earbuds came out functioning just fine and were quickly returned to service. I will note here that while this means that the earbuds are probably indeed sweatproof, your foam ear tips will be quite nasty after being subjected to any type of moisture and it’s probably best to wring those out and let them dry before putting them back in the case. Furthermore, ISOtunes specifically directs users not to immerse the earbuds in water to prevent any potential damage – Sorry ISOtunes, I’m not very good at following directions.
In short, the ISOtunes Sport CALIBER earbuds are tough as nails and I’m confident that these lightweight earbuds can withstand heavy range use and even the occasional swim in a golden ale. For you folks that suffer from the gun range sweats in the summer, you can be confident that you won’t ruin your hearing protection if you decide to wear these arguably more comfortable earbuds over your over-ear hearing protection.
Pros/Cons and Final Thoughts
What I Don’t like
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. These earbuds still fall short where other similar classes of earbuds do – they aren’t the best thing to wear at an indoor range. Due to the increased pressure and reverberation, you’ll experience at an indoor range, I wouldn’t really recommend that these be used by themselves at an indoor range. I’d still recommend over-the-ear hearing protection for those types of range trips as they often carry a superior NRR and cover more of the ear than just the hole.
Second, I found the quality of the mic on these earbuds to not be the best. I attempted several phone calls with the ISOtunes Sport CALIBER earbuds and when compared to a dedicated set of Bluetooth earbuds meant to phone calls I found that people on the other end had a hard time hearing you through the onboard mics. The incoming sound quality was good enough for me although with an 85 dB limit some users may find them to be too quiet.
This is somewhat forgivable since I don’t plan on taking phone calls at the range and people usually hang up on me anyways after they start hearing gunshots in the background. However, it would be a huge positive if these featured a better microphone capable of higher call quality and would turn these into a truly universal pair of hearing protection.
What I do like
For starters, I like that the ISOtunes Sport earbuds don’t feature a proprietary app that unlocks extra features. In fact, I’d like it if no electronic hearing protection did this as extra apps on my phone only complicate things. Everything you need to control and adjust the CALIBER earbuds is already baked into the design and can be used with your iPhone or Android device.
I also really like that ISOtunes has included a wide variety of sizes and types of earbuds for different users to try out for the best fit. While earbuds aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, I find that many earbuds only ship with one or two extra sets of tips and oftentimes this isn’t enough variety in size to find one that is right for you – more options are always better and ISOtunes has delivered.
Lastly, I like battery life. A previous pair of earbuds I tested out only had about 6-hour battery life on one charge and this is fine, but if you’ve got multiple back-to-back days of shooting and no easy way to change the case then you’ll run into issues. With 13-hours of use onboard and an additional two charges stored inside your 500 mAh case, you’re set up for a full day of use with room to spare on a full charge.
For a pair of $200 hearing protection, I think the ISOtunes Sport CALIBER earbuds are a fine addition to the existing lineup that ISOtunes currently offers shooters. If you’re looking for a high-quality pair of Bluetooth-enabled active noise cancellation hearing protection, I can confidently recommend these to you for their battery life, sound quality, and feature set. In short, they are as close to a no-nonsense set of hearing protection that lets you listen to music at the range or up in the deer stand when you get bored.
If nothing else, these Bluetooth shooting earbuds come in at close to the same price if not a little bit less than comparable shooting earbuds. Long term if these continue to perform as they have over the last couple of range trips, I just might have found my new favorite pair of hearing protection.
As always, I’ll turn it over to you guys. What do you think of this new set of hearing protection? Do you prefer in-ear hearing protection, active noise cancellation, and Bluetooth capability or do you prefer more traditional hearing protection for your range sessions? Your thoughts and comments are always welcome and thank you as always for reading TFB.