Blackbox i10 earphones £79.99

6th Aug 2010 | 15:25

Blackbox i10 earphones

Active noise cancelling headphones that use the iPod dock connector

TechRadar rating:

4.5 stars

The Blackbox i10s bring noise cancellation tech to the iPod masses. These headphones are affordable, easy to use, comfortable to wear and sound great. Recommended.

Like:

Snug-fit earbuds; Comfortable to wear for long periods; Excellent noise isolation and cancellation; Brilliant sound quality for the money; Uses iPod 30-pin connector for power/audio input;

Dislike:

Not really iPhone compatible, despite makers claims to the contrary; No inline microphone; You'll need to use the inline volume slider instead of your iPod's volume controls

It's a truth universally acknowledged that Apple's white iPod headphones are crap.

Which is why a whole industry has sprung up around replacing the things, despite their iconic status on billboards and in TV adverts.

Joining the fray is electro-acoustics expert Phitek, which makes the noise-cancelling tech inside acclaimed headphones like the Audio Technica ANC-AN7 and Creative Labs Aurvana, as well as supplying most of the world's biggest airlines with similar technology for their passengers. Exciting stuff.

Philex has now applied its know-how to natty Apple earbud alternatives – and it looks like it's scored a home run with the i10: a pair of active noise cancelling headphones, which use unique technology to get your music singing loud, clear and free from unwanted outside noise.

Here comes the science bit

What makes the i10s different from other noise cancelling headphones is the way in which they work. Instead of using a bunch of microphones to monitor the ambient noise outside the headphones, Phitek's version listens to the sounds inside the ear canal instead.

TR blackbox i10

LISTEN HARD:The business end of the Blackbox i10 headphones include Active Noise Rejection – a Phitek technology which analyses and then suppresses unwanted noise inside the ear canal

Because the Blackbox i10's silicone earbuds isolate your ears from a good deal of outside noise already, the noise cancellation system – called Active Noise Rejection (ANR) – only has to deal with the remaining annoying noises that make it through to you ear.

This is not only brilliantly done, but it's energy efficient too. Many noise cancelling headphones require you to carry spare batteries around in case they conk out mid-flight. The Blackbox i10s simply draw power from your iPod, using its proprietary 30-pin connector instead.

Design and ease of use

The Blackbox i10 headphones themselves comprise a pair of in-ear buds with a shaped, but slightly bulky, drive unit box apiece, along with a generous 1.25m cable that incorporates a volume slider control and mute button, which you press to let the outside world in – handy for giving out your drinks order to the air hostess, or for crossing busy roads.

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CONTROL:The Blackbox i10 headphones include an inline remote control with volume slider and a mute button so you can let in sounds from the outside world

Also included in the box are small, medium and large silicone sleeves that ensure a snug, noise-isolating fit no matter how big or small your ears are.

In use, the Blackbox i10 headphones prove comfortable to wear for long periods and that noise isolation/active noise cancelling combo really works.

You can listen to your favourite tracks without them struggling to be heard above the sounds around you, with the added benefit that you can listen at lower volumes, so saving your hearing.

When it comes to outright sound quality, the Blackbox i10's equip themselves brilliantly. 256kbps AAC tracks ring out with incredible clarity, with enough bass on offer to satisfy even the most ardent drum 'n' bass junkie.

The only real drawbacks are three-fold. The first minor one is that the volume control on your iPod no longer works, so you have to rely on the inline slider instead.

The Blackbox i10s are also only really compatible with iPods: plug them into an iPhone and a compatibility warning message pops up on screen.

And because the headphones use a proprietary connector, you won't be able to use them with any device that relies solely on a headphone socket, so that stops you from using them any other kind of MP3 player or even a laptop or desktop PC.

But given sheer number of iPods out there – and the ubiquity of those crappy white headphones, that's not as much as curse as you might think.

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