A pair of trusty earplugs can be found in most musicians’ kit bag. And if they aren’t, they should be. Not only is your hearing very important, but it deteriorates with old age regardless of how well you look after your ears. Add in a handful of years performing and attending gigs and festivals, and your poor lugholes are going to suffer badly.
Traditionally, there are two lines of ear protection: Throwaway foam plugs, and more expensive silicone and plastic products. Flare Audio has widened those options with its Isolate earplugs.
Essentially, Isolate combines the comfort of foam plugs with the durability of longer lasting ear protection. But these earplugs aren’t made of silicone or plastic, they’re made of solid metal.
Now, solid metal is actually a very good conductor and so has previously been thought of as unsuitable for use in ear protectors. But what Flare Audio’s founder Davies Roberts has discovered is that, in order to conduct sound, metals need a direct connection. Without a direct connection solid metals ‘block sound perfectly’.
“Isolate earplugs are much lighter than the ‘solid metal body’ suggests. Perfectly portable.”
“When you isolate a small piece of metal or dense material in soft foam inside your ear, sound waves can’t penetrate from the flexible medium of air and it becomes the perfect isolator. Understanding this principle is what inspired us to develop the perfect earplug. We want to revolutionise hearing protection,” declared Roberts on Isolate’s successful Kickstarter campaign.
The firm promises that using Isolate ear protectors will still enable you to hear the music, but only through bone conduction, which is ‘safer and a much nicer experience than the muffled rumble you get with traditional ear plugs’.
So how well does Isolate work and is it ideal for musicians? Laura Barnes got hands-on (or should that be ears-on?) with a pair to find out…
The combination of a small, solid metal body and a springy foam bud is very clever. It feels nicer in your ear than plastic plugs, and because you can roll the foam tips, they expand in your ear to give you a more snug fit than I found with the soft silicone earplugs that I’ve been using for quite some time now.
They look good. They’re small and compact. It might not be the most important factor when choosing earplugs, but they just look, well, cool.
Isolate earplugs are also much lighter than the ‘solid metal body’ suggests. Perfectly portable.
The plugs come in two parts: the body, which has a finger grip for easy removal at the butt end and tip-locking ridges at the top where the ‘earfoams’ clip onto, and the removable earfoams themselves.
There are three different earfoam sizes included in the pack. I noticed these foams have a slight tacky quality (as in they’re a little waxy, not as in they’re cheap looking). I imagine this coating is so that they have a little more grip inside your ear, and it doesn’t feel uncomfortable.
The only slight issue I’ve found is – and it’s a little gross – unless your ears are in pristine condition, once you take the earplugs out, you’ll probably have a bit of wax stuck to them so you’ll feel the urge to go give them a wash before popping them back in. On the plus side, your earplugs will be super hygienic with all the washing, and it literally takes a few seconds to clean them underneath a tap.
The other slight issue that I have personally had with Isolate is that I have very small ear cavities. They are tiiiiny.
“They sufficiently block sound. More so than what I’m used to, in fact.”
Even with the smallest earfoams, I had to apply quite a bit of pressure to get them in as far as you’re supposed to in order to experience sound purely via bone conduction.
Flare Audio instructs that the plugs ‘should be inserted deep into the ear so that the end of Isolate is level with or slightly deeper than the small flap of skin in the middle of your ear’. While that’s difficult to achieve with my miniature earholes, I did get the knack of it eventually and found the earplugs to work very well.
They sufficiently block sound. More so than what I’m used to in fact.
Oddly, at first I almost saw this as a negative. I’m a drummer, and I’m used to my ears being blasted by sound – even with earplugs in. It turns out I was just not using very good ones. After a while using
Isolate, I started to realise the what I was hearing wasn’t ‘too damn quiet for drums’, but actually enabling me to hear the full spectrum of sounds coming from my kit. Instead of blocking out all the dangerous levels, everything was nicely levelled out, giving my ears the chance to hear all the tones throughout the drums and cymbals.
Overall, Flare Audio’s Isolate earplugs are fantastic for anyone looking to block out sound. Whether that’s at a noisy gig, working on a building site, riding a motorbike or going full pelt on a drum kit.
The really great thing about them is the great value for money, with the aluminium body models starting at just £24.99. there are also titanium, gold and rhodium models available as well, which offer even more protection.
For those with ear cavities on the smaller side, since this review, Flare Audio has launched Isolate MiNi, which are 33% smaller and 100% as efficient as the standard model.