Blocking noise and getting to sleep mightn’t be easy, so technology has a solution, as the QuietOn 3 earbuds add ANC to foam plugs.
Sleep is important, but for many of us, sleep is also hard. It can be far too difficult for some of us to shut our brains off and descend into the bliss of slumber, and too often, sound plays a part in that.
You might have tried repeatable calming sounds to get to sleep, and you might have tried noise, but if what you really crave is total absolute unmitigated silence, you might also need to look to a recent gadget in the world of sleep tech, as noise cancellation comes together with foam plugs for the QuietOn sleep buds.
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What are the QuietOn sleep buds?
Another entrant in the growing category of sleep tech, the QuietOn sleep buds are more or less what the name suggests: a pair of earbuds designed to help you sleep.
In short, they’re a pair of active noise cancelling earbuds connected to a passive noise cancelling foam tip that when worn cancels out sounds to help you sleep. Designed in Finland, QuietOn has seen three generations of the concept, with the model we’re reviewing the latest of the bunch, the QuietOn 3.
The earbuds come in a small white box with a rechargeable battery, much like any other pair of truly wireless noise cancelling earphones, and the box charges through USB Type C. QuietOn suggests up to 48 hours of battery life is possible, which roughly translates to four to five nights of use, though these aren’t like your regular earphones at all.
Open the little white box of the QuietOn 3 up and you’ll see something akin to truly wireless earphones, but also that clearly isn’t. Offering the foam tip like expensive models paired with a tiny little piece of plastic covering the electronics, the QuietOn 3 can block out the world, but that’s it.
Unlike other noise cancelling earphones, they won’t replace the world with anything else. No music, no podcasts, no sound from your phone, nothing.
Rather, the QuietOn 3 are designed to block all noises out and then just let you focus on the nothingness of silence, or the sound of your tinnitus, whichever you end up hearing first.
The whole idea is to give you silence to get you to sleep, and that technically makes these earbuds “sleep buds”. To do what they do, there are two parts, using foam tips to block your ear canal and then an active noise cancellation system with microphones to listen to the sounds and generate the inverse, blocking out the noise in the process.
Do the QuiteOn 3 sleep buds help you sleep?
At the crux of the QuietOn 3 is the very nature of how noise cancellation works itself: record a sound, generate the opposite sound, combine, and all of a sudden, there’s no noise anymore. This is how the concept works on noise cancelling headphones in flight, and how the technology can work inside your own home, as well. Nothing new here.
What QuietOn has has tried is to take the concept of noise cancellation and apply it to sleep, blocking out the world and letting nothing else in.
Instead of concentrating on music or white noise or generated sounds, QuietOn’s approach to sleep buds is to let you hear the silence if that’s what you’re into, and it does work.
Fit the QuietOn 3 earbuds in, shifting the position slightly and letting the foam expand in your canal, and they will passively block out noise. After the foam has expanded, the active noise cancellation kicks in, though it can be hard to tell.
For the first few nights, we wondered if there was any hardware at all, if the QuietOn earbuds were using psychological trickery to cancel the sounds. You can gradually hear it, as the passive turns to active, but it’s not as obvious as when you switch on a pair of great noise cancelling headphones. It’s not like the experience of going from life to ANC bliss like with any other pair. There isn’t a light on the side to tell you, though we suppose that’s useful given it won’t keep you up.
The size is beautifully small, so much that you mightn’t even realise you’re wearing them. As Flanders says, it’s like wearing nothing at all, so you don’t really have to deal with the burden of weight as you move your head from side to side.
As to whether they work, that’ll depend on what you’re used to sleeping with.
We play rain noises to help sleep, and these were all of a sudden muted quite heavily by the QuietOn 3, reducing to a light background thud we could easily ignore, even if other noises weren’t.
The baby monitor nearby could still push out the sounds of a Bub babbling to herself every so often, and then crying later, beckoning us to get up. The alarm from a phone telling us early in the morning that hey, it’s time to get up and be a journalist again, reinforced by the sound of a vibrating watch buzzing as we held inadvertently held our hand on our forehead. Things did get through, but they were the sounds that needed to, not necessarily the ones that didn’t.
At times, the silence was possibly too clear in the QuietOn 3, and we longed for the rain noise once again. If you long for silence, you’ll find something that more than works.
What does it need?
However, they can be a little difficult to argue for, mainly because they’re made for one purpose: sleeping in silence, and nothing more.
That’s not a dramatic difference to how earplugs normally work, and the logic is much the same here. Rather than use five or ten buck malleable foam on a string, you’re plugging your ears with something a little more heavy duty. That’s great, but also expensive, given they serve one purpose: sleep, and nothing more.
You can’t help but want that phone connection, even if it was to load it with sounds to help you sleep. The isolation is one aspect, but for some, isolation only works with a backing track. And then, there’s the issue of cost.
Are the QuietOn 3 sleep buds worth your money?
At $359 in Australia, the QuietOn 3 are unusual because of what they do, or even what they don’t. The QuietOn 3 are noise cancelling earbuds, but they may as well be earplugs with a little bit of noise cancellation technology thrown in for good measure.
Anyone who has ever slept with earplugs will know the importance of how something like this can help you sleep, and these just step it up a little bit. The concept is roughly the same — plug your ears with some foam — but then also engage a noise cancellation system to let your ears block out repeatable noises.
But because noise cancellation doesn’t block out everything, the sounds a pair of QuietOn will block out are things like fans, a hum of traffic, and maybe even snoring, dependent on just how severe a case of sleep apnoea can be. Seriously, if you’re sleeping with someone who sounds like they may suffer from the condition, consider having them try the Withings Sleep Analyser, given it might just tell them to see a doctor and get it looked at.
The problem is $359 seems like a lot of money for what ostensibly amounts to earplugs with noise cancellation technology thrown in. And yet, that cost may be more than fine for anyone struggling to get a good night’s sleep, because you can’t put a price on a good case of shut-eye.
Comparatively, Bose’s Sleepbuds II aren’t much more, costing $380 in Australia, lacking noise cancellation and replacing it with sleep sounds. They’re not the same, of course, and QuietOn might have itself an edge, especially given the active noise cancellation could prove quite effective on a flight.
Frankly, if you’re okay with spending near $400 and don’t want the extra sounds, what the QuietOn 3 offers is more than adequate, though you might want to try a ten buck pair beforehand, or even one of the more exotic earplug options such as the Sleeep models from Flare, as that test could save you more than a few bucks in the process.
Yay or nay?
If, however, you can’t get some sleep and prefer the silence to everything else, there’s some logic to considering the QuietOn 3. They’re pricey, sure, but they basically amp up the idea of earplugs.
We’re not sure we can comfortably argue for the $359 price set out by the QuietOn 3, but if you’re not fussed by that, these could just get you the sleep you’ve been craving, whether on land or in air. Rest ain’t cheap it seems, but the QuietOn 3 can get you there.