QuietOn 3 review: The world's smallest ANC earbuds for side sleepers
QuietOn's latest set of active noise-cancelling sleep earbuds are absolutely tiny, suitable for side-sleepers and extremely simple to use – although there's a couple of odd design decisions here. I've spent a few weeks sleeping in "nordic quietude."
Not to go pointing any fingers here, but somebody sleeping very close to me makes some pretty weird noises through the night, and I'm not a great sleeper at the best of times. This somebody, mind you, would probably level similar accusations at me, and this is far from a problem unique to us.
It has not been a problem lately, since Finnish company QuietOn sent through a set of its QuietOn 3 earbuds for testing. These minuscule sleep buds weigh just 1.8 grams per side, and QuietOn claims they're the smallest active noise cancelling device in the world.
They sure are tiny, sinking mostly into your ear canal, with a small tab poking out that faces backwards, nestling into the folds of your ear. These are the first earbuds I've used that are comfortable enough sunk into a pillow for side-sleeping, and into their itty-bitty housings, QuietOn has stuffed all the necessary microphones, speakers and ANC processing units, along with an all-night battery and charging apparatus.
Mind you, that's all the company has stuffed in there. There is no Bluetooth, for example, so you can't connect these to a phone or an app. There's no selection of soothing white noise sleep sounds, or control buttons, or lights or beeps or audio prompts. They're here to do one job, and one job only, and that job is cancelling noise.
They do this job well. Perhaps a little too well in some circumstances; the first night I wore them, they placed me in such a cocoon of silence that I got a bit freaked out listening to the sound of the blood rushing around my body and ended up taking them out. I've since grown accustomed to them.
Do they block out street noise? Yes, well enough for me. Snoring? Yes, no complaints. Screaming toddlers demanding a 3 am glass of milk? Yes, these too, and I won't lie and say I miss that particular bit of parenting bliss – although my partner is less appreciative.
The elephant in the room here is that there's another device that blocks these things for me perfectly well enough: a pair of foam earplugs. Total cost for these? Less than a buck, and you can run 'em through the wash in your pants pocket and use them until the dog runs away with them. A set of QuietOn 3 earbuds is a tad more on the premium end of the scale at US$269, considerably more than some of the better-sounding Bluetooth earbuds we've tested lately.
QuietOn says they beat the pants off foam earplugs in the low frequency range, and back-to-back, side-by-side testing with low frequency sweep videos on YouTube would appear to corroborate this claim. They're good, then, for sleeping on planes, next to nightclubs or in areas where a rumbling noise keeps you up.
Mind you, it's also really quite hard to tell whether they're on at all. You can't hear the ANC turn on; it's on by the time they're in your ears, by which point it more or less sounds ... Well, like you've got something stuck in your ears.
Indeed, the only way QuietOn gives you to figure out if they're switched on is to hold the magnet in the lid of your charge case up to each ear, touch it to the earbud, then move it away and listen for a very quiet little clicking sound to indicate that they're working. This is a bit tricky, and the fact you need to do it at all is pretty annoying. I'd prefer if they hard-switched on their ANC 10 or 15 seconds after coming out of the case, so you could hear it working.
The charging case is a little odd as well, holding the earbuds up magnetically on their little charge points, but they always sit at a jaunty little angle, so you're never quite sure if you've put them in correctly.
Still, these points aside, the case does look suitably stylish, and it offers about four nights' worth of ANC before you need to stick a USB-C charger in and top it up, and the earbuds have delivered me some good nights of peace, even if I don't sleep next to a nightclub, a train line or an all-night truck stop.
Are they worth the money? Well, I'd say they're a touch less comfortable than foam earplugs and more or less equally effective in giving me a good night's sleep under my own circumstances. But they're clearly more effective with low-frequency bass noise, so if that's your nightly bugbear and buck-a-pop earplugs aren't doing enough to help, a set of QuietOn 3 earbuds may well pay dividends.
I certainly look forward to the day when earbuds this small can do a decent job of Bluetooth connectivity as well, because a bit of white noise or a boring audiobook does a better job of putting me to sleep than straight silence, but if peace and quiet's what you're after, these are well worth a shot.
Check out a video below.