Noise Cancelling. It’s such a wonderful thing. Instead of blocking your ears shut to cut out noise (which will still get in because any sound traveling into your body has a way of making it to your ear canal), active noise cancelling uses a microphone to listen to the sounds around you and plays out frequencies that help cancel them out. Probably one of the latest ground-breaking movements in consumer audio technology, noise cancelling has a device of its own now.
The QuietOn are earplugs with some serious tech in them. Designed to completely outdo any other ear-plug or earmuff you’ve seen or used, the QuietOn not only block sound from entering your ear, but they also work towards cancelling any sound that may still leak in. A lot like the Here One earphones by Doppler Labs that are designed to modulate the sound entering your ear, the QuietOn are designed only to cut sound out. Perfect for while traveling, meditating, while at work, or especially while sleeping, the QuietOn actively cuts out all sounds up to an impressive 40 decibels… including but not limited to noisy workplaces, annoying neighbors (and their dogs), car sounds, and serial snorers! The earplugs also do a marvelous job of providing 50 hours of usage time on a single charge!
I’ve long been on the hunt for a pair of noise reducing headphones with good audio and build quality, and that are wireless as well. I’ve tried some pairs from Bose before, but both pairs I owned ended up cracking irreparably. So when the guys at Phiaton offered to send me a set of their new BT 330 NC headphones, I was pretty stoked.
These lightweight headphones offer everything you could want in a pair of headphones. They’re wireless, they sound great, and they offer active noise cancelling. Since they’re built with small on-ear style pads, they’re extremely comfortable, though that design does allow others to hear more of your music than they might with earbuds.
The design of the BT 330 NC is clean and modern, and they can be folded in the middle to save space when traveling. Phiaton includes a nylon drawstring pouch for storage, which comes packed with two cables. One is a microUSB to USB for charging, the other is a microUSB to 3.5mm which lets you keep listening in the event that they run out of battery.
Connecting them to your Bluetooth device is easy – when you first power them on they’re automatically in pairing mode, so it took about 10 seconds to get up and running. Of course, the most important thing about any headphone is how good it sounds, and Phiaton has done an excellent job in this department.
I tested them with a variety of tracks from my testing library, ranging from the wide dynamic range of Hall and Oates’ I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do), to the complexities of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, and the deep bass and drum passages of Regina Spektor’s All the Rowboats, which is one of those tracks that really tells if your bass is muddy or clean and punchy. The BT 330 NCs handled every track I threw at them equally well. Everything is in its right place, without overemphasis or distortion – even at high volume levels, and with the noise cancelling active – an impressive feat. Audio imaging is also excellent, offering an expansive soundstage that gives you a true sense of depth and dimension.
After my sound quality tests, I moved on to checking out the noise cancellation feature. Phiaton advertises that the feature can reduce ambient noise by up to 95%. While I don’t have a scientific way to measure that, I did test a variety of pre-recorded background noises, from jet engines to ceiling fans and even rainfall, and with the active noise cancellation activated, those sounds were dramatically reduced. Some frequencies still snuck through, but the annoying ones were all but gone.Since the ear pads are small, they’re not as noise isolating as bigger headphones, but it’s a small tradeoff for comfort and size. My ultimate test was to vacuum my house with them on, and listening to music first noise cancelling off, and then with it on went from a headache inducing cacophony to a pleasant listening experience, even at lower music volumes. Like all noise cancelling tech, there’s a tiny amount of hiss introduced by the process, but Phiaton has done an excellent job minimizing this, and I defy anyone to notice any hiss while music is playing.
Battery life is also quite good – you can get 30 hours of playtime with noise cancelling turned off, and 18 hours with it enabled – more than enough for all but the longest international flights. And if for some reason, they do run out of juice, you can still listen to your music with the included cable.
I have nothing but good things to say about the Phiaton BT 330 NC headphones. They’re as close to perfect as you can get in a wireless headphone, offering excellent sound, imperceptible distortion, and the added benefit of noise cancellation. They’re available now over on Amazon, and retail for $199(USD). That said, the last time I checked, they were on sale for just $179 – a bargain if you ask me – especially when a pair of wired Bose QC25s will set you back $299.
If you find yourself in noisy environments often, you might have considered earplugs. They can be a great way to give your ears a little break, but they can also be overkill and prevent you from hearing things you need to hear. Say you want to drown out the noise of traffic in a busy town center, you may not want to also block out the sound of the car honking at you to warn you they’re about to hit you. The DUBS Acoustic Filters Advanced Tech Earplugs are specially designed to lower the overall noise levels by 12dB, all while preserving sound fidelity so you can still recognize what’s going on around you. Your ears won’t hurt as much, and you won’t lose the use of one of your senses when it matters most. It’s currently unavailable, but normally costs $25.
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