If you’re a veteran earphone wearer, there’s a good chance you’ve used a noise isolating pair before, but the Digital Silence DS-101A’s noise cancellation is altogether different. It robs ambient noise of its strength, like an intense form of sonic liposuction that sucks-out all its fat and muscle, leaving only some reed-thin bones.
It’s very successful at removing drones and dins common to modern city life. The rumble of passing cars’ engines, the roar of the tube and – less common for most – the huge humming sound a jet engine from within a pressurised airplane cabin. Noise cancellation is more successful at getting rid of these distractions than noise isolation, but in other senses it’s slightly less effective. A rubber bung in your ear muffles sound reasonably well across the frequency spectrum, but noise cancellation is less effective at dealing with intermittent, mid-range and treble noise.
(centre)Here’s the alternative black version(/centre)
The Digital Silence DS-101A’s IEM-style design helps a little on this front, even with the sound ports on the back of each earpiece. However, they won’t completely block out some potentially-annoying noise, such as nearby conversations, the clattering cutlery of people eating and other such sonic treats. Most importantly though, they wipe out the need to turn up your player’s volume to combat the noise of the city. It tends to be the bassy burble of engines of one sort or another that hijack your listening experience around town – something that can still a problem with less-isolating IEM earphones.
The DS-101A are less aggressive in their noise cancellation than the market’s “reference” system, Bose’s. They don’t zap quite as much noise as the Bose QC3, for example, but this extra power isn’t an unmitigated benefit. The Digital Silence method puts lets pressure on your inner-ear, something that you can actually feel.
With a Bose set, the initial feeling you get is similar to many experience in an airplane when changing altitude, which can lead to classic ear-popping awfulness. The less intense noise cancellation of the DS101-A leads to a less intrusive sensation – although admittedly we got used to the Bose QC3’s more aggressive style pretty quickly.
The sonic effect can also end up sounding more natural too, though. We took a Bose set and the Digital Silence DS-101A out in London’s Underground system for a test drive, and while we found the Bose more effective, it sometimes resulted in some odd effects. While Waterloo Station’s bassy hubbub evaporated, the remaining higher-end ambient noise sounded like the cheers of a far-off crowd. Very odd indeed. The Digital Silence earphones’ cancellation was less complete, but came up with no such side effects.
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With noise cancellation engaged, there’s a slight hiss at all times. It’s not particularly noticeable when playing music, and is far preferable to outside noise in all but the quietest environments, but is there nevertheless.