Janine Elliot is keen to protect her hearing so she can continue listening to hifi and playing music for years to come…she think you too should be passionate about this too and so takes a “listen” to the new Flare Audio Isolate and Isolate Pro inner ear defenders priced from £23 to £46. 

Normally on HiFi Pig, we like to tell you what you can hear, particularly really good hifi components. So, to be sent a pair of earphones that aim to stop you hearing anything is a first. However, there are three reasons why this review is particularly important to everyone reading this. Firstly, we all really need to value our hearing whilst we have it. I am very lucky to still hear up to 15KHz through my ears (you also hear through your bones, and I believe top end improves if you take off your glasses!) Whilst a youngster might get up to that CD-important 20KHz, by the time you get to 70 that might well have dwindled down to just a few kilohertz. Therefore protecting your hearing throughout your whole life is so very important. Secondly, as a musician I am often placed in situations where the noise levels could well do damage, but all the inner-ear defenders I have tried have trade-offs, making their use more hassle than they are worth. Either the sound becomes muffled, with bass end still passing through, or else the sound is confusing. More than often they are just uncomfortable or impractical and I end up taking them out which is obviously not the best thing to do. What Flare has done is quite unique.COLOUR-ISOLATE-straight-row

The Flare ISOLATE® looks almost identical to their miniscule R2 and R2Pro IEMs which I and other magazines have commended in reviews. The isolators are 1mm wider at 8mm diameter. And, just as there were various versions of the R2, the Isolate come in either the basic Isolate (solid aerospace aluminium that is turned on a robotic precision lathe) or the heavier Isolate PRO (Solid Titanium), with Kick-Starter prices of £23 and £46 respectively. For the technology and good solid looks, these are extremely good value. I tested them out in the home and at rehearsals with my own band, and was quite shocked at just how effective they were. The patent-pending technology inside each minute metal capsule isolates, blocks and then reflects sound, whereas all other ear protectors try to adsorb it. I have spoken before about the beauty of reflecting sound ‘out of the listening area’; at the BBC in the old B12 basement studio at Broadcasting House before it was all demolished for the new broadcasting site, rather than absorbing sounds as in most studios and anechoic chambers, the sounds were reflected away from the listening area to give a clear unfettered sound where the monitoring mattered. My listening area at home does the same, sending reflections into a dead area of the room. In the case of the Isolate and Isolate PRO this enables more direct sound to be blocked from entering the ear so that you can only hear sound via bone conduction. Sound is not able to transfer into Isolate, and therefore it forms a barrier that is an ideal ear protector. What I heard in my tests whilst rehearsing with my band of 5 musicians in an 8 foot x 12 foot room was just everything, from deepest bass guitar to ride and crash cymbals, was reduced to miniature, as if all I had done was turn the volume down to almost zero. Now, as a musician that is very important, because I need to be able to hear what I and everyone else is doing so that I know that levels are correct as well as playing the right notes at the right time! In fact, the bass seemed slightly recessed, which in normal ear defenders is the opposite. Normally it is that bass-boom that gets through to your eardrums. Even the distorted ECC83 guitar sound became clearer. To give an insight into just how good they are at blocking sound I put them on whilst watching my 20” Teac TV at low level 8 feet away. After 5 minutes of wearing and then taking them off my ears, the sound from the 1W amp appeared shockingly loud until my own in-built automatic level adjustment brought it back to what I would normally hear it at. All I was hearing whilst they were in my ears was through bone vibration, which narrowed the “stereo” that my ears would have produced, proving just how effective they are. Also, by removing so much of the excessive bass that transpires at gigs and concerts, it means you can effectively improve the sound by wearing them! I also found that if I didn’t quite isolate the Isolates in my ears, the sound just got louder rather than changing its tone completely, meaning I was able to rehearse with one fully in and the other allowing a bit more audio in to my ear to hear a quieter instrument. Amazing! Official measurements for noise reduction from these Flare Isolates will be available from the end of July, but in my own testing I could not make out any sound from my ears, unless I turned up the hi-fi to levels that would annoy my neighbour, and worry my cat.ISOLATEs

Ear protection is vital. You shouldn’t listen to greater than 91dB (lawn mower/hoover) for more than 2 hours, 94dB (London Underground train) for 1 hour, 97dB (diesel truck) for 30 minutes and 100dB (motorcycle riding) for more than 15 minutes. Bearing in mind a rock band is typically 100dB and weighing in at 115dB is the noise of a police siren, which is dangerous for more than 30 seconds, you get my point! Listening to music too loud could mean permanent tinnitus (ringing in the ears) or premature hearing loss. Indeed, most will experience some ringing in their ears after listening to loud music which is a warning sign that they may be damaging their hearing. I firmly believe ear protectors should be provided by the NHS to everyone, since most won’t be bothered to read the literature that comes with headphones and earphones, or even realise just what damage loud music can do, including the 17 year-old  who drives his Vauxhallus Novus Bomblastus past my house, every night!  What makes these Isolates unique, then, is not only the fact that it blocks sounds so well, and I have tried numerous inner ear protectors, but that it doesn’t act as a tone control!  Bass was blocked which is impossible with traditional earplugs, and which therefore gave for a much better, flatter EQ when listening to music.  As Davies Roberts, Flare Audio CEO, told me;

“Isolate’s patent-pending technology uses the hardness of metal which is suspended into, and three quarters of the way through the soft memory foam tip, so that it breaks the conduction of sound travel. There’s been a lot of physics work on these as to break the connection of sound with such a small device and make it work”ISOLATE_2_s

I remember as a child listening to the sound of a train arriving at a station by listening to the weird noise coming from the rails. If there is a total gap in the rails, that noise no longer gets as far as the station (forget that the train derails!) The Isolate is like that gap, or as Davies put it, like double glazed windows, where that air gap acts as an impedance change. Traditional earplugs or defenders try to stop the sound by absorbing it rather than, in the case of the Isolate, blocking it.

Both versions of Isolate use the companies own brand of ear-tips called EARFOAMS®. They are rather like Comply tips but of a much denser material, and obviously with no hole in the middle. They will be available in small/medium/large size and replacements available when required. Flare have had to create their own memory foam composition that is really comfortable and soft, yet at the same time blocks your ear canal and is very strong, unlike Comply tips which can “disintegrate” after much use.

The Kick Starter campaign kicks off on 13th July and will include a number of variants of colours and special high end gold and platinum plated versions. The pre-production sample I had for review was the Solid Titanium Isolate PRO, and arrived as two discrete units. As a musician used to having the two earphones attached together via a length of plastic or string (so they can be worn around your neck when not in use, and so that you don’t lose one of them!) I am informed that a similar idea will be employed in the final product, which will clip onto the recessed part of the Isolate.ISOLATE_PRO_s

I have listened to many different ear defenders over the years, from the vices you put over your ears to the cheap foams that look like Haribo sweets. Only very expensive inner ear protectors come close in terms of comfort and isolation, but nothing has got this good. Their very small size and solid construction means that once fully inserted and with the metal end sitting against the flap of skin called the Tragus on the ear they will not dislodge, even with you jumping around or dancing (as I sometimes do when carried away with my music!) For the price they are a serious investment for your hearing, and I strongly recommend them, and maybe one day even your GP will prescribe them. Oh, and I almost forgot that third reason why this review is important, and that is if your partner snores in bed. Just a thought.


Build Quality:  Very solid feel and not likely to break, even with musicians using them. Solidly built memory foam EARFOAMS®. 

Sound Quality:  A no-brainer if you want to protect your hearing. These isolate better than other ear protection earphones/headphones I have used. They also reduce bass to a greater extent, meaning effective blocking of sounds

Value For Money:  From £23 to £46, they are not cheap, but these ones do actually work, and will last considerably longer than most ear defenders.


Amount of noise reduction
Equal decibel reduction across whole range with greater roll-off at bass
It could mean you enjoy your hifi for longer


That you don’t think protecting your hearing is worth the expenditure

Janine Elliot


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