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(Pocket-lint) - Active noise-cancelling (ANC) is officially in the mainstream. What was for a long time a niche feature sought after by business class travellers and audio enthusiasts who wanted to drown out the outside world's hum, is now well-known and almost expected once wireless earbuds pass a certain ever-falling price point.

Now, though, a new niche is opening up within the noise-cancelling market, in the form of earbuds that strip back the extras and do nothing other than dulling the world around you, to help you focus, sleep or whatever else you might fancy. Other than Bose's merely noise-masking SleepBuds, the QuietOn 3 are the foremost example, and we've been using them for a few weeks to see how they fare.

Design

  • Multiple foam tips to choose from
  • Weight: 1.8g per earbud
  • Sturdy charging case

Before we get into just how the QuietOn 3 earbuds actually work, let's establish how they look and feel. As an earbud that only has to do one thing, they're absolutely tiny, and weigh an incredibly low amount (around a fifth of the weight of an Apple AirPod Pro).

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This means that you can slip them in a forget about them in a way that's completely untrue of other earbuds that can actually, y'know, play music. There are four ear-tips to choose from, too, and once you find your fit you'll likely be impressed.

This means that, unlike any wireless earbud we've used before, sleeping in the QuietOn 3 'buds was not only possible - but something we did regularly. Since one of their stated uses can be to help deal with a snoring partner or loud sleeping area, this is a real boon for sensitive sleepers.

The plastic section of the earbud rests in your ear easily, and while we did find that certain sleeping positions could push it into our head a little deeply, this is still worlds away from other 'buds we've tried to relax in. If you want to use them to focus on a plane journey or in the office, these concerns will be immaterial.

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When you're not using them, the earbuds go back into their charging case, which is made of sturdy plastic and metal, and gives a clear indication of how much charge each earbud has when you open or close it, which is handy.

It's a nicely-made package, and a huge upgrade on the visuals of the last two generations of QuietOn's earbuds.

Noise cancelling

  • No audio playback
  • No adjustment

It's worth reiterating that these earbuds do active noise-cancelling, full stop. There's absolutely no audio playback here. You take them out of the case, pop them in your ears, and that's it - there's no on button or touch controls, because they're automatically on once you remove them from that case.

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The only feedback you can get is by using a quick test to double-check both earbuds are on - putting the case right next to them in your ear, then moving it away, will prompt a tiny "cluck" sound in the relevant earbud. It's a useful way to make sure.

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So, the value proposition is a unique one. These aren't for relaxing with music or a show, they're for tuning out noise, plain and simple. Thankfully, they're very impressive on that front. This noise-cancelling is right around the top bracket, dulling the outside world down nicely.

We were able to get rid of the sound of lawnmowers, microwaves, delivery trucks, and more in our time using them, and when you're trying to get to sleep that silence is like mana from heaven. You can't adjust the level of cancellation, though, but we didn't ever find ourselves wanting to - these earbuds are only really for moments when you want the closest thing to silence that you can get.

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Battery life stands at an impressive 28 hours on a charge, so you really won't find yourself waking up in the morning to loud noise. The earbuds have more than enough juice to get you through even the longest power nap.

Verdict

In many ways there's less to discuss around the QuietOn 3 earbuds than is true of most tech products we test. It's rare to come across a gadget nowadays that just focuses on doing one thing well. But we've found these zero-audio-playback earbuds, which are solely designed to drown out the outside world with active noise-cancelling - and nothing but that - to function really well for the job in hand.

If you're a sensitive sleeper, or just have moments where you need real focus for tasks, these 'buds could genuinely help - and they're more comfortable than any alternative in-ears we've tried. However, there are a few small drawbacks, chief among them being the steep price. After all, for this kind of money you could get a really impressive pair of earbuds that play music as well as offering noise-cancelling.

Also consider

Pocket-lintAlternative photo 1

Kokoon Sleep Headphones

Not a fan of in-ears? Kokoon is about the only other alternative if the idea of an over-ear headset makes more sense. You even get an eye-mask. But far more than that, the Sleep Headphones use EEG (electroencephalogram) brainwave sensors to scientifically measure your sleep in a way that you can investigate over time. Interesting!

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Writing by Max Freeman-Mills. Originally published on 28 October 2021.