Within a hobby dedicated to the pursuit of sonic perfection, the importance of protecting one’s own hearing is sorely underappreciated. And beyond finding sound quality, sometimes it’s just as important to find some peace and quiet. QuietOn caught my attention with their Kick-started earplugs that boasted unrivalled silence through a combination of passive isolation and active noise cancellation. However on the flipside, I was also cautious, the earplugs come with a whopping $200 USD asking price and effective noise cancelling within their minute form factor seemed unrealistic; it wouldn’t be the first time a product has failed to meet the manufacturer’s claims on Kickstarter. With that said, I contacted QuietOn with an apprehensive excitement, keen to hear whether their new earplugs deliver.
I would like to thank Annie from QuietON very much for her quick communication and for providing me with the company’s new earplugs for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the earplugs free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.
The QuietOn’s come within a small box that is well presenting nonetheless. Peeling back some sealing tape allows the internal tray containing the earplugs and accessories to slide out.
QuietOn provide buyers with a micro-usb charging cable and three pairs of tips; 1 set of T200 Comply foams and 2 pairs of dual flange silicone tips. I usually prefer silicone tips due to their convenience and longevity though the included tips were of terrible quality, collapsing in my ear and failing to provide an adequate seal; I would posit that a lot of the negative reviews for these earplugs are due to the quality of the included tips, fit and seal are imperative when achieving any kind of isolation.
Luckily, the earplugs use a pretty common bore size, accepting Spinfit CP100’s and Sony Hybrids which both provided a flawless experience in my testing. The earplugs come within a nice charging case that also functions to power on and off the earplugs. It is of pleasing quality with a nice look and finish.
The whole package is also incredibly compact, easily pocketable without being too losable. Of note, the rubber compartment within the case can be removed, the bottom has two holders to store a pair of extra ear tips.
I found this to be a really handy feature, allowing me to keep silicone tips on the earplugs for convenience while keeping a set of Comply foams on standby for longer trips and air travel.
The QuietOn’s have a simple, unassuming design that deceptively hides the complex electronic wizardry within. They are predominately plastic but feel quite solid and well assembled with no comfort compromising forming errors or seams. Their design isn’t flashy or gaudy, rather they are the embodiment of function over form. Their white colour scheme also ensures that oil and scratches are mostly invisible on the earplug’s gloss plastic surface though their small dimensions enable them to be easily plucked from the ear. Their smoother finish also minimises noise when rubbing against a surface. For instance, my matte finished earphones are practically unusable for sleeping since they produce a loud noise when rubbing against my pillow, the QuietOn’s have no such issue.
On the outer face is the QuietOn logo with two gold plates that contact with prongs on the carry case to power on/off the earplugs and charge their internal cells. The inner face is very smoothed off for ergonomics and the orientation of the earplugs is denoted in large and easily legible text. The nozzle is short and slim with a fluted front that helps to hold on ear tips. The stem isn’t long but the earplugs achieve a moderate fit depth through their small dimensions, enabling greater passive noise isolation. While I would personally prefer a slightly longer nozzle, their shallower fit produces higher long term comfort and essentially guarantees a flush fitment for use when sleeping.
In terms of comfort, the QuietOn’s are quite exemplary, their small housings enabling minimal ear contact. I had no issue wearing the earplugs for hours at a time with either the stock Comply foam tips, Spinfits or Sony Hybrids. They are also a slim device with a very low profile fit. As a result, the QuietOn’s work perfectly for walking, running and sleeping with minimal wind noise and abrasion on the ear when lying on the side.
They are also quite stable due to their light weight, during the aforementioned uses, I was never required to adjust the earplugs. Overall, I am pleased with the design of the earplugs, they are ergonomic and practical and their design doesn’t draw too much attention. Considering their asking price, I would like to have seen a nicer housing material like aluminium since denser materials provide better noise isolating properties, but the QuietOn’s provide a comfortable and stable fit that few will have issue with, just be sure to replace those stock silicone tips.
The earplugs are as simple to use as one would expect, I’m especially fond of their case which doubles as a charging dock and controls. As soon as the case is opened, the earplugs turn on, QuietOn have also built in an audio prompt to ensure that the earplugs are functioning and have sufficient charge. This is activated by placing a finger over the sound tube which causes the earplug to emit a high-frequency chime similar to a hearing aid. I noticed a little whine when inserting the earphones but never did the prompt unintentionally go off during wear. After use, simply placing the earplugs back into the case and powers them off to conserve charge.
Unfortunately, the case itself doesn’t contain any kind of charging mechanism to keep the QuietOn’s topped up, instead, users are required to charge the earbuds through the case using a micro-usb cable. Two blue LEDs illuminate to denote that the earplugs are charging, one for each earpiece, the LEDs shut off once charging is complete. It’s a very simple and user-friendly design, the earplugs themselves also possess exceptional battery life so I’m not overly concerned the lack of case charging.
If you were hoping for some additional features beyond basic noise blocking, you will be disappointed to hear that the QuietOn’s are unable to reproduce music or differing noises like the Hush earplugs nor are they able to pair with a smart device for any kind of customization. But in return, they offer vastly improved battery life over competing models, rated at an astonishing 50 hours, that’s over 6 times that offered by the Hush earplugs and easily enough for a business week worth of use. In my testing, they achieved just over 48hrs of constant use, matching QuietOn’s claims. While they will inevitably require a charge, the earplugs have great longevity that should never feel strained even during the longest of plane trips.
Noise Cancelling –
Being a simple product with the sole intention of blocking noise, the effectiveness of the QuietOn’s over a more conventional foam plug hinges upon the effectiveness of their active noise cancellation (ANC). To describe that in a little more detail, the earbuds sample noise in the environment using inbuilt microphones and produce an opposing noise to reduce the volume of external noise or cancel it out entirely. Generally speaking, active noise cancelling headphones work best with repetitive low-frequency noises making them perfect for activities such as air travel, sleeping and lawn work. However, a lot of ANC devices really struggle with higher frequency noise, failing to effectively cancel out voices and higher tones. Some see this as a positive, allowing users to hear important announcements during travel, though in many circumstances, fully sealed passively isolating in-ears can create a more noise free listening experience than an active noise cancelling headphone. The QuietOn’s are quite interesting in that they combine the traits of both, cancelling out low frequency droning while blocking higher frequency noise with their sealed design.
Of course, in real world usage, the effectiveness of an ANC system is heavily reliant on the manufacturers particular implementation of the technology; Bose and Sony’s exceptional noise cancelling systems both do a terrific job at cancelling almost all noise, but a lot of noise cancelling headphones, especially cheaper ones, are barely functional at all. So I was nervous about the QuietOn’s given that they are a relatively new company and that a lot of products on Kickstarter simply don’t deliver. Interestingly, my unit actually came with no charge, allowing me to test the earplugs with active noise cancellation disabled (since there are no buttons or controls to manually disable it) and assess the effectiveness of the actual ANC.
As basic earplugs (with NC disabled), the QuietOn’s have a fully sealed design that partially fills the outer ear. With comply foam ear tips, they isolate just a little less than 3M earplugs despite their more ear filling design. And charging the earplugs up using the included case revealed pretty decent active noise cancelling too; I’ve found the QuietOn’s to provide a pleasing silence and their implementation of noise cancelling technology is effective and well-judged for the device’s intended uses. In particular, the QuietOn’s ambient noise detecting microphones are placed within the sound tubes rather than externally like most ANC headsets. This is similar to the approach used on Bose headphones though those supplement this with an additional external microphone. Though this design, the QuietOn’s manage to effectively sample and cancel noise and as a result of their internal microphone design, they don’t pick up wind noise or noise when sleeping on the side. By comparison, both my Bose QC20’s and QC25’s struggled with wind noise and produced a loud fizz when the external microphones rubbed against a surface. I’ve found the earplugs to pair really well with the foam stuffed Sony Hybrid isolation tips which provide a really nice seal and isolate noticeably more than regular silicone tips. I took the earplugs on a long train ride and a run along the highway with these tips installed and the earplugs did a fine job attenuating horns and the squealing of train wheels while cancelling the constant drone of distant traffic and air conditioners. Compared to the Campfire Audio Jupiter, which is probably the most isolating earphone I’ve used, the QuietOn’s provided similar overall isolation. They do struggle to block midrange frequencies, voices are attenuated but remain audible while high and low-frequency noise is practically silenced. I’m not sure whether this was intentional on QuietOn’s behalf, but if you’re looking to block out voices, a regular earplug may actually do a better job. On the contrary, the QuietOn’s hold a notable advantage lowering the intensity of low-frequency noise while retaining the strong high-frequency attenuation of a high-quality traditional earplug.
As for the downsides, when their internal cells do run dry, they are reduced to basic earplugs; in fact, they’re actually less isolating and less comfortable than regular dollar store 3M plugs. The QuietOn’s also produce a noticeable noise when active though it’s a soft, low-frequency whoosh rather than hiss. I doesn’t draw too much attention, I actually found it quite soothing when studying, reading and writing and the noise is easily drowned out when in a louder environment.
QuietOn’s snazzy earplugs don’t quite suck the noise out of the room like the Bose headsets but the combination of strong passive noise isolation and moderate active cancellation produces some great results. Moreover, they effectively block noise without the sense of pressure exerted by the more aggressive ANC solutions I’ve come across, creating a more comfortable environment. Combined with their exemplary battery life and hyper-portable case, the QuietOn’s make for effective noise relief wherever and whenever. If you are comfortable with their steep entry price, after all, they are quite a feat of miniaturisation, the QuietOn’s conveniently combine active and passive noise attenuation to produce a much more comfortable if not perfectly silent environment.
Verdict – 7/10, What’s most impressive about the QuetOn earplugs to me is that they feel like more than just a proof of concept and rather a technology that’s convenient and practical to use in daily life. While the price is honestly too high when considering the inherently limited functionality of an earplug; if you are a frequent traveller, they do offer class leading battery life and a great combination of portability, convenience and functionality.
The QuietOn’s are available from Amazon for $199.99 USD, please see the link below for the most updated pricing and availability:QuietOn Active Noise Cancelling Ear Plugs up to 40dB