By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Can QuietOn’s earplugs be a geek’s convention-going dream piece of travel equipment come true? This Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign has been extended by 20 days and I’m stepping up on my soapbox to scream, “Heck yes!”
Many of us can relate to the pains experienced when sharing a room with friends or traveling miles and not getting any nap-time due to the noisy environment around us. Come night-time, I’m sure a few us had the misfortune of dealing with a freaking loud snorer. Earplugs can work to block some noises, but they are not effective when the noise drops below a tuba. While riding in certain vehicles, some of us need blissful silence to nod off.
There’s plenty of commercial headphones which does the trick of blocking out the noise of either, but that depends on how low the rumble is or in how baritone the offending person can get as the sound echoes in the room. Bose’s QuietComfort series does the job quite well, but they are not designed for extended use. Because of its high cost, to break them will set anyone back $300 USD every time. Side sleepers are out of luck when certain materials used in the making of a headphone are prone to pop or break during sleep.
Another crowd-funded product, the Kokoon, is due to ship at the end of this year and it does more than offer noise-blocking in a sturdy design to roll around in. This device is a wireless headphone (using ONKYO technology speakers) and an EEG (brain) monitor. Not only does it detect when to best adjust the volume, it doubles as an alarm clock! But its $229 USD price tag may not be for everyone.
I have gone through plenty of cheap $25 phones over the years in my attempt to mute out noisy roommates only to find it broken the next day.
QuietOn caught my attention because of my home situation. I like to have the option of having silence so I can concentrate. Their earphones are designed for just that, to block out the world. I can not always have sounds distracting me, like the elephantine stampede from above in my housing complex. I could listen to the radio, television or music constantly with my QuietComfort, but even that gets tiring after a while. They were not designed for 24/7 wear. This new device is, and it is good for use over an entire weekend convention without recharging (50 hours).
When sleep time arrives and I’m still listening to a herd stomping about or the whining of a speeding TIE Fighter (I’ve holed up in hotels located next to major thoroughfares), I’m most likely going to be still awake. I could have a radio or television on all night, but they do not work as a source to focus my senses on. Also, I’m not helping neighbours in other rooms who might be facing a similar problem. Hotels and motels are not perfect; the walls are thin. Some of these heavy-set golems never sleep; as those people or vehicles go about their late-night or far too early morning routine, I’m tossing and turning. I tried Acoustic Sheep’s SleepPhones, and they can filter out some distant sounds when I have the volume loud enough. But they do not deal with all the noises out there. I will test pairing these two items together so I have a bit of music to listen to. My idea is counter-intuitive to how their literature describes how the technology works:
In full-size on-ear noise cancelling headphones the microphone element is located outside the ear. However, in QuietOn, the microphone that samples the sound is located right inside the ear canal! This means that QuietOn can more accurately produce anti-noise that results in good noise cancellation at the ear drum. By locating the microphone in the air volume of the ear canal, QuietOn is also able to reduce noise that is conducted by the skull into the ear.
At $130 USD for its crowdfunding price, what could go wrong? The price is right. Why this product did not come into existence sooner, like over 15 years ago, is in the micronization technology. It was not as advanced back then. I can fall asleep with nothing but silence at times, but when that’s broken by erroneous sounds like being given a room located either next to stairs or offered a couch on a party floor (it happened when I crashed at VCON‘s video suite). At home, where I live is a few hundred miles away from an air force base. Technically, I can hear the distant roar of jet fighters. Over time, I have come to tune that out but the odd helicopter on patrol gets annoying! My hours are crazy, and when I sleep, life around me wakes up and I do not get the silence I crave.
Prototypes have been tested on planes (namely Finnair’s Test Lab in the Sky facility), trains and automobiles and those users report near silence to allow sleep. In my arsenal of blocking out those broken chainsaws snoring four feet away from me, the investment sounds good.
The first QuietOns are expected to ship June 2016, and I hope they will arrive just in time before I go to Anglicon (where I’ll be sharing a hotel room with potential snorers). In the future, I’m hoping someone can make a pair of wireless headphones that not only does effective low-level noise cancelling but also is break-proof for side sleepers.
Update: This product has been reviewed. Please click here to read my thoughts.