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Digital Silence DS101-A review

Andrew Williams

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Reviewed:

1 of 5

DS101-A 3
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  • DS101-A 1
  • DS101-A

Summary

Our Score:

8

Pros

  • Good sound quality
  • Decent noise cancellation

Cons

  • Chunky remote unit
  • Not quite Bose-level cancellation

Key Features

  • Active noise cancellation
  • Handsfree kit
  • 3 sets of rubber tips included
  • Carry case
  • Belt clip
  • Manufacturer: Digital Silence
  • Review Price: £38.99

Noise cancelling earphones face several difficulties. Not everyone realises the difference between them and noise isolating earphones, a misunderstanding that's compounded by the premium the technology incurs. Digital Silence is here to try and bring this noise-busting tech to a whole new budget audience with these DS-101A earphones.

Digital Silence is a relatively new brand, conjured up by audio stalwarts Wolfson Micro to show off their noise cancellation in the mainstream market. The Digital Silence DS101-A sell for around £39, a fraction of what some better-known solutions retail for.

DS101-A 1

Their design invites confusion, because they look just like a standard IEM pair - which use noise isolation to keep out external sound. Noise isolation in earphones involves using either silicone or foam tips to turn your earphones into earplugs, physically blocking out noise. Although the Digital Silence DS-101A also use rubber tips, they're not the most active part of this isolation equation.

On the back of each earbud are sound holes, which naturally let sound in and out. Without having noise cancellation enabled on the remote housing, noise isolation isn't too good here. Switch it on and things improve though.

The Digital Silence DS-101A earphones have microphones on each earpiece that monitor ambient sound. Sound waves the inverse of this ambient noise are then pumped through the speakers - along with any music you might be playing - to cancel out this unwanted noise.

This entry-level model uses an analogue circuit to create the noise-nullifying signal, within the chunky housing that sits roughly 1m up from the jack plug. There are no settings to pick from on this front - just an on and off switch.

DS101-A 2

A rechargeable lithium battery powers the noise cancellation, and offers up to 30 hours off a charge - stamina comparable with the best sets available. The battery is charged over microUSB, which is mighty convenient when most new smartphones use this connector. Also on this housing is a call accept button, although the microphone itself is further up the earphone cable - around 10cm or so from the right earbud.

As handy as this control box is though, it does weigh down the cable in a way that other earphone hands-free units don’t. The Digital Silence DS-101A earphones offer up a strong belt clip, but having to consider somewhere to put it is a pain. If you’re wearing a jacket it’s no biggie, but during those (admittedly short-lived) T-shirt-wearing summer months it’s sure to irritate. It’s a little bit too heavy to comfortably leave dangling, and the weight could lead to wear on the connection between the bud and cable before too long. There’s not enough cable between the earpieces and housing to let you clip it on a trouser pocket either.

This difficulty is one reason why many noise cancelling units use an on-ear design rather than an in-ear design – it allows all the tech gubbins to be stashed away in the headphone itself. Here there’s just not room.

Rod Dalitz

February 5, 2013, 3:02 pm

I have tested them carefully, with all three sizes of rubber, and I reqlly can't detect any significant noise-cancelling effect. I sent the first set back as I thought they might be faulty, but the second set was the same. Sound quality is good, and mine were cheqp with a good discount, so I am keeping them anyway. I am not impressed.

Steven Hirschorn

May 19, 2013, 8:25 pm

I also can't detect any obvious noise cancellation. The switch seems to increase the volume a notch, but background noise is as audible with the switch off.
The headphones aren't bad sounding, and it's handy to have the call answer/hang up button, but as Rod said, if you need noise cancelling, I'd try something else.

Misty

September 5, 2013, 1:30 pm

Hi Andrew,

Thanks for the informative article on the device. I was planning to use it on Skpye after making the microphone to record on Vista first. A audio file was created, but my voice was not recorded. I must have missed something along the way, could you help me? Thanks.

Alexander Quitzau

September 9, 2013, 8:10 am

I just got a pair of these.

Sound quality is pretty good - not audiophile but certainly not shabby. Bass is there and isn't too muddy. Highs are a little sharp but not painful to listen to. Overall I'd give them an 'OK'

The call button worked fine for summoning Siri and people I called said that they could hear me loud and clear. What would have been great is if they had added volume controls - even an old school analogue one would've been cool.

The noise cancelling actually works pretty well. I tested them outside near a highway and in front of my speakers playing a YouTube video of cabin noise (LOUDLY). In both cases it blocked low and mid range noise really well, but it falls short when trying to block higher pitched noise out. It also introduces a slight hiss, but to be honest you can only hear it in a noise free environment ... there is some irony here, I'll let you find it.

Honestly, I didn't think they were doing a good noise cancelling job until I turned the circuitry off and suddenly there I was, surrounded by all this sound. Whilst sitting in my little airline simulator (yes, it was awesome in case you were wondering), I selected Of Monsters and Men's Little Talks on my iPhone, set it to the minimum audible volume and hit play. All the extra high noise from before was effectively removed and I could hear the song perfectly well.

Pros:
- Very good NC for the price (not Bose levels but they don't cost $300 either)
- In-built battery with Micro-USB charging
- Good sound quality (again, not audiophile quality, but good value)
- Light and small

Cons:
- I wish they had put volume controls on it, that would have been AMAZING
- The battery pack would be better placed at the end of the cable (like the QC20's)
- The ear bud tips are only so-so, a little inflexible for me
- Sound quality is only good. Could be better but hey, there's that price again...

I don't know why people are complaining about these, the key word everyone seems to forget is value. The NC does it's job, the sound is fine and the call features work surprising well. I got mine for $24 shipped to my door and for that price, they rock.

Johan Nyström

October 5, 2013, 9:35 am

I wonder how the microphone noise cancelling works, I work in a welding industry and its pretty loud . And i like to answer my phone at work =)

birdy

December 1, 2013, 11:24 am

This thing rocks! The noise cancellation work very well. I just use it for my trip to Asia, 15 hour flight and I can have a 15 hour low noise flight, the sound is excellent compare to most earphones, there's no need to think overboard, I think it give you a sound that is clean and even musical. That's true that you can hear some sound but it's not annoying and it's helpful for you to be aware of your surroundings. my seat is by the wings but my entire flight is so comfortable. I highly recommend!

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