One of the most hyped sleep accessories of 2021, the QuietOn3 ($359.00) is one giant leap for active noise cancellation sleep plugs. But how does it measure up? In this guide, we’re going to outline our experience with the QuietOn3 as a high performance sleep, study, and work solution.
Unboxing and First Impressions
Included in box is the QuietOn3 charging case, the ear phones, and four tip sizes — XS, S, M, and L — as well as a USB charging cable. Comparing the charging box for the QuietOn3 to the previous model, it’s a slightly larger, though flatter, box — with a substantially higher build quality and look. The QuietOn logo is embossed into the box, with an LED illuminated charging panel to help you quickly eyeball your level of charge. It’s a great improvement, looks far nicer, and fits more comfortably into a pocket or bag for those commuting users.
Left: the QuietOn2 Charging Case; Right: The QuietOn3 Charging Case. The new model demonstrates superior build quality including embossed logo.
The QuietOn3 no longer has a toggle between ‘hearing’ and ‘quiet’ mode. They’re active the moment they’re removed from the case and can only be deactivated through removing them from the ear. For those who valued the ‘hearing’ mode in the QuietOn2, this may seem like a downgrade but for us we found very few situations where it was necessary to hear when wearing them, that couldn’t be solved by just removing one plug.
Comfort and Fit
Compared to the QuietOn2, the new model QuietOn3 is a substantially smaller unit. Approximately 30% thinner at the widest point, and about 15% shorter in height. Taken together, the QuietOn3 is a substantially comfier fit for the ear, placing less pressure on the exterior of the ear — particularly for side sleepers.
The new model QuietOn3 (pictured left) is thinner on all sides compared to the QuietOn2. It fits comfortably with a wider variety of ear shapes.
One of the main complaints for the earlier model was that the body of the plugs could become uncomfortable, particularly over longer periods of wear. This is the most noticeable improvement in design, the phones are almost identical in size to many non-electronic reusable sleep plugs and should fit comfortably in the majority of ears.
About Active Noise Cancellation
So how does the QuietOn3 work? The ear phones work on a principle of ‘active noise cancellation’ (ANC). While ‘passive’ noise cancellation — used in standard ear plugs — works by simply ‘blocking’ sound, active noise cancellation uses electronics to monitor and suppress external noise. In the case of the QuietOn3, this works in two levels: first, the foam tips passively suppress noise; second, the active noise cancellation monitors and targets external noise, increasing the level of sound suppression.
One of the most noticeable features of the QuietOn3 is the absence of the ‘shushing’ noise associated with active noise cancellation. If you have a pair of ANC ear phones, you’ll recognise this. It’s a sound similar to white noise you hear when nothing is playing. By contrast, the QuietOn3 has no, or very little, evidence of the ANC when activated. Things just seem quieter with them in — a substantial improvement in performance.
In trialling the QuietOn3, I found that the active noise cancellation activated in a gradual way. Once I found a set of tips that was suitable to my ear shape, I noticed first the passive sound dampening from the foam tips and then a slow increase in the amount of sound blocking. It happened gradually, I almost didn’t notice it increasing, but when I removed the plugs — woah! The room suddenly became LOUD.
The tips for the QuietOn3 run, in my experience, slightly smaller. I take a ‘medium’ tip in most plugs, but for the QuietOn3 found best performance with Large. For ANC sleep plugs, it’s best to spend a little bit of time trialling each included tip size and experimenting. This is the best way to find the most appropriate size for your ears.
So… how is it?
We trialled the QuietOn3 over a week in a few different contexts: for sleep and for study/work.
In terms of fitting these plugs, I found them easier to place in the ear. The easiest way of getting them in is through pressing down on the foam and screwing the unit into the ear. This way, the body comes to a comfortable position in the ear, allowing the foam to decompress and fill the ear canal — activating the active noise cancellation. You can distinguish right from left with a small logo imprinted on the inside of each plug, though this is not super visible — particularly in low light settings. For future models, I would prefer this visible from the exterior of the plug, to quickly identify which is which.
For people expecting a sudden fall into deafness, this is not possible. The Active Noise Cancellation activates gradually, and in my experience I found strong performance in terms of sound suppression—and improvement over the performance of the previous model. We found increased performance at bassier sound levels, the kinds of sounds that ear plugs struggle to contain, making this an effective solution for snoring. I notice a gradual increase in the power of the ANC the longer I wear it: I could even hear my heartbeat when set!
The greatest upgrade, however, is reserved for side sleepers. Sleeping on your side, you really notice how light and small the QuietOn3 is compared to its predecessors. I found it tucked easily into the cone of my ear, with none of the jabbing discomfort that invalidates so many ear plugs for the side sleeper. If you’ve been disappointed by cheaper reusable plugs, the QuietOn3 could be the solution.
As a work and study plug, I also found the QuietOn3 an effective upgrade. For instances where you want quiet, without necessarily using music, the QuietOn3 was able to dampen external noise — allowing me to focus on my work even in a busy public environment. The subtle/small size of the bud is effective for inconspicuous wear — they look just like another set of ear phones.
The QuietOn3 targets the main criticisms of its predecessor, improving comfort, wearability, as well as the conspicuousness of the ANC. In sum, it’s a marked improvement, providing a high degree of sound suppression in a comfortable body. Alterations in design for the charging case and plugs are elegant and far more indicative of the quality of the unit. If you’ve tried ordinary reusable ear plugs and found them wanting, the QuietOn3 is an effective upgrade for sleeping or work.