An underwhelming pair of headphones that fail to excel in any particular field. While these earbuds boast true wireless connectivity and are very lightweight, the sound quality and noise cancellation is poor, and there are issues with achieving a secure fit in the ears. There are better models available for the same price.
- Relatively inexpensive
- Active Noise Cancellation
- Reliable Bluetooth connection
- Poor sound quality
- Weak noise cancellation
- Cheap-feeling construction
- Loose fit
- Active Noise CancellationThese earbuds diminish background noise with ANC
Nokia is best known for its mobile phones, but with this new offering, the brand has dipped its toes into the audio market with its Noise Cancelling Earbuds.
At a relatively affordable £99, can these headphones beat the specialists at their own game?
- Very lightweight
- Plasticky, cheap feel
- Prone to slipping out of the ear
Nokia’s Noise Cancelling Earbuds have obviously taken inspiration from Apple’s AirPods, looking like long-stemmed tadpoles that are housed in a rounded charging case (which handily displays the battery level every time it’s opened or closed). But once you pull them out, however, the similarities end.
Cast in plastic with a matte finish that feels cheap to the touch, they certainly don’t give the impression of being a premium bit of kit. Of course, that doesn’t matter as much as the practicality – but here again, I found them underwhelming.
Despite the fact that there are three different sizes of silicon tips in the box (which I did make use of in order to get the right fit for my ears), these buds just wouldn’t sit snugly in my ears. All too often I found myself readjusting them in order to stop them slipping out altogether. In fact, after forcing myself to not fiddle with them, no matter how precariously placed they appeared to be, the right-sided bud dropped out of my ears twenty minutes into a walk. I dared not go for a run with them in my ears.
If the buds do take a tumble into a puddle, however, there’s a chance they’ll survive, since they apparently offer IPX5 moisture- and dirt-resistance (although the charging case does not).
- Strong Bluetooth connectivity
- No associated smartphone app
- Fiddly touch controls
- Relatively poor ANC performance
- Weak battery life
Moving beyond their appearance, I was satisfied with the reliability of the Bluetooth connection established by these buds. It was quick to connect and didn’t fail or flag, even in busy locations.
Once you’re connected, you’ll note that any changes to the settings are fairly limited; there isn’t a dedicated app for these headphones, so operation is through the on-board touch controls that are accessed via a small touch-sensitive panel on each earbud.
When I say “touch” controls, that’s exactly what I mean. You can’t slide your finger up and down the stem to control the volume; a volume increase is managed by tapping the right bud once, waiting to hear the associated clicking, then waiting for it to be increased by one discrete interval (to decrease the volume, you go through the same procedure on the left bud).
This isn’t a particularly smooth user experience; I much preferred turning to my phone to change volume – because, if you tap too long or too quickly in succession, then you can inadvertently pause the music or change other settings. Adding to the already existing danger of the buds falling out of the ears as a result of being tapped repeatedly.
ANC, too, is activated by a two-second press of the touch panel, whereupon you can toggle through noise cancellation, ambient sound, or standard settings. Frankly, though, despite being the titular feature of this device, it made very little difference, with passing vehicles overwhelming the sound being played through the buds, plus I could still clearly hear surrounding conversations.
With ANC enabled, Nokia claims that the earbuds offer “Up to 5 hours of playtime”. This wasn’t my experience, however; I would receive an audio notification of low charge following just a couple of hours of listening.
- Muffled sound
- Faint bass
One may manage to forgive shortcomings in design or features if an audio product delivers a fantastic sound. Unfortunately, the Nokia Noise Cancelling Earbuds fall short on that marker, too.
All sound that comes through these earbuds is somewhat muffled – not only music, but dialogue in podcasts, too – and that greatly hindered my enjoyment. From the crack of a snare drum to the sound of each instrument in an orchestra, clarity is needed to bring music to life. Sadly, here it was lacking.
The bass is also weak, which isn’t particularly surprising given the low price of these true wireless earbuds – but it does of course further detract from the listening experience. Even the treble sounds weak and reedy, with the overall sound lacking any real depth at all.
Should you buy it?
They’re lightweight and relatively affordable However, there are better options available at this price.
Poor audio performance, and insecure fit The quality of audio and the failure to achieve a snug fit makes it difficult to recommend these earbuds.
The Nokia earbuds underwhelm. While they are very lightweight to wear, the sound quality and noise cancellation is poor, plus there are issues with achieving a secure fit in the ears. For the price, there are better models available.
How we test
We test every headphones we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
Find out more about how we test in our ethics policy.
Used as the main headphone for the review period
Tested with real world use
Tested with music streaming services
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The earbuds have an IP rating of IPX5, but the case does not have a rating