A common criticism of noise cancelling earphones and headphones is that their prices are pushed up too far by the inclusion of additional tech. Consequently they cannot compete in sound quality with similarly-priced standard sets. The Digital Silence DS-101A mostly revert this trend thanks to their very keen pricing. Digital Silence knows it cannot rely on branding to sell its products, and we’re the beneficiaries, friends.
The DS-101A earphones have a warm and fairly punchy sound that has a cohesion we might compare to Sennheiser’s lower-end (but still darn good) CX-series models. Bass is powerful without expanding too far beyond its boundaries to muddy the rest of the frequency range. These aren’t high-end earphones, and the treble fidelity and insight in particular are limited, but when you consider the functionality included in this package, you can only conclude that the DS-101A represent excellent value.
Unlike many noise cancelling sets of headphones, the sound of the DS-101A isn’t hugely affected when cancellation is switched off. It isn’t difficult to keep the 30-hour, microUSB-chargeable battery charged-up in most situations, but being able to listen happily without power-guzzling cancellation is handy for long trips away from your AC adapter. The stamina of the battery means it’ll outlast many media players’ batteries anyway.
For all its positive points, the Digital Silence DS-101A aren’t earphones we’d recommend to all and sundry though. The noise cancellation unit irritates at times, they leak sound more than a standard IEM set and in some situations noise isolation is more effective than the cancellation on offer here. If you want to block out the conversations of co-workers in an office, you’d be better off with passive noise isolation. If you want an exercise set, this isn’t it either – even though it’ll mask passing traffic during a run very well.
To diminish the din of tube trains or aircraft engines while travelling though, they’ll do as good a job or better than a noise-isolating pair. That they let in higher-pitch intermittent noise too, which means you won’t miss the train announcer telling you that you’ve arrived at your stop.
The Digital Silence DS101-A offer a lot for the money – fairly effective active noise cancellation, a handsfree kit, good sound quality and a rechargeable battery pack. However, there are downsides to this deal. Thanks to a semi-open design, they leak sound more than a noise isolating earphone and the battery/control housing becomes an annoyance unless you always wear a jacket to attach it to. If you really need noise cancellation rather than isolation though, they’re stonking value.
Score in detail
Design & Features 7
Sound Quality 8