The smallest device with active noise suppression comes from Finland. The QuietOn Sleep are a combination of cuddly earplugs and noise-canceling headphones. We tested the €220 earbuds.
A novelty on the tech market saw the light of day this year and I didn't want to miss the chance to test it for you. The new edition of the small earplugs from QuietOn have exactly two functions: passive and active noise suppression or noise amplification. The earplugs have neither Bluetooth nor an audio chip. Instead, they offer active noise reduction (ANC) and a microphone, making them ideal for sleeping, working, or traveling, according to the manufacturer.
As small as the earbuds are, as tiny is the packaging in which they are packed together with their accessories. The two devices are in a small charging case, as many will be familiar with from the likes of Apple and others with their true-wireless headphones with ANC. Three sizes of foam attachments are included, which behave very similar to normal in-ear hearing protection that you can buy in stores. The difference is that the small earplugs have a hole in the middle, which is put over the holder for the electronic part, including the speaker, by means of a flexible rubber ring. A short manual and a short Micro-USB charging cable are also included.
If you flip open the magnetic charging case of the QuietOns, the two earplugs on the left and right appear in matching recesses. The minimalist design reveals the two top charging contacts, a tiny switch, two small holes for the microphone, and two very legible letters that identify the left and right earpieces.
The noise-canceling earplugs are not really tiny, I had imagined them to be smaller. In direct comparison to some fake AirPods Pro, only the lower elongated part is missing. Due to the size of the earplugs I was rather sceptical about the test, because my ears are not made for in-ear headphones simply because of my strangely shaped crus helicis. They were hurting after a few minutes already, and to lie on rigid headphones and find blissful sleep is unthinkable.
The QuietOn plugs come with the memory foam in size M attached by default, which I tried out first. The difference to ordinary earplugs becomes very clear here: the QuietOn can't be squeezed very hard because of the rigid bar in the middle, which contains the loudspeaker for the hearing function and also implements the active noise suppression. Nevertheless, with a little practice, the earplugs can be easily inserted into the ear canal. The manufacturer recommends a rotary movement from front to back, whereby the electronic part of the device is pressed tightly to the antitragus. This technique has given me the best results with a comfortable fit in the ear canal.
ANC in its simplest form
Since the earplugs have only a single push button, you can switch between two modes: noise reduction or the amplification of ambient noise. Out of the box the noise suppression is already switched on according to the manufacturer. Only in the second mode does one really feel that this is a technical device, because the feeling when wearing them is no different than with normal hearing protection, which already naturally attenuates the penetration of noise.
Because of moderate noise tinnitus, I can't tell if the quiet noise in my head is caused by the technology, or if it is always there. When I tap the button, which has a pleasant pressure point, the outside world immediately penetrates my ear canal. I would almost say that the noises and voices are even amplified enormously. This makes sense, because simply switching off the noise suppression would not allow ambient noise to pass through because of the closed ear canal. Nevertheless, the level is set at the factory to a very comfortable one.
At first, I tested the QuietOn during my daily work. As soon as I am in a writing flow, I hammer merrily on my keyboard. The QuietOn could not eliminate these noises completely. But they are also not designed to bring the outside world to a complete standstill. Rather, the manufacturer advertises that low frequencies such as machine noise, traffic, or even the snoring of the partner can be reduced.
I could confirm this in my test. Most noises still come through, but appear muffled. The passing train, noise from the nearby airport, or other background noise are reduced well, but not completely, with the earplugs. In my test, the earplugs do not manage to block out noise better than normal earplugs and worse than expensive headphones with active noise cancelation.
I did not feel any light or strong pressure while wearing them, as one can perceive with very aggressive ANC. Because of the missing possibility to switch on the ANC, you have to trust the manufacturer's information and the detailed product patent. According to this, the integrated microphone measures the ambient noise, while the loudspeaker inside sends a neutralizing frequency into the ear canal.
One advantage over ordinary hearing protection, however, is that it allows you to hear ambient noise, which you can actually perceive actively. Because while at festivals or in the office with hearing protection, you are clearly restricted and somehow always fiddling around. The QuietOn can let voices and noises through again at the push of a button. This works very pleasantly.
Another use case is certainly a snoring partner. With permanent sleeping noises or with cold and flu it can get uncomfortable in bed. QuietOn wants to put an end to the nightly nuisance. The manufacturer does not advertise with the suffix Sleep for nothing. From a purely technical point of view, the small plugs can filter out snoring and breathing noises. But the size of the earbuds is a problem for my ears. While I can comfortably wear the hearing protection in an upright position for hours without any problems, they press into my ear at night so that I wake up every morning without the plugs in, having thrown them out during the night. I already know this behavior from analog earplugs, which I take out during sleep, and on weekends I am woken up by loud neighbors or lawnmowers. But that is probably a very subjective assessment.
Battery and charging time
The manufacturer promises a battery life of up to 20 hours. With a healthy portion of sleep, the QuietOn should, therefore, last two to three nights. I suspect that the active activation of the noises eats up most of the electricity, so I was able to use the earplugs in my home office for three working days without having to recharge them in the charger. I didn't find any information about the battery capacity on the manufacturer's website or the packaging. By the way, you cannot charge the plugs in the charger without power. The case does not have its own battery. Instead, the Micro-USB cable is connected and the QuietOn are fully charged again after 45 minutes. This is indicated by two blue LEDs on the lid of the charging case.
The idea of hearing protection with ANC is in my eyes brilliant. For those who don't want to spend half a fortune on expensive headphones with active noise suppression, such products could be a real alternative. The problem is the price of QuietOn earbuds, which are said to cost a proud €220 euros (currently available for €200) on the manufacturer's website. In return, the headphones offer me too little for the advertised applications to combat office and aircraft noise. But if you already like natural noise suppression with hearing protection in these environments, you will probably find a great feature when you switch on the ambient noise in the QuietOn. Those who have been spoiled by ANC from big manufacturers like Bose, Sony, or Sennheiser will not be satisfied with the technology in this product.
If you still want to find out whether the earplugs fit you anatomically and technically, you will benefit from a 14-day money-back guarantee from the manufacturer. After that, owners have a one year manufacturer's warranty on the product.