Blackbox C18 Noise Cancellation Earphones
It's not difficult to get your hands on a good pair of full-size noise-cancelling headphones, but if you prefer earbud-style 'phones, finding this technology built in is a bit more of a challenge. Such sets do exist, though. One example is Phitek Systems' Blackbox C18 Noise Cancellation Earphones, a $129 pair that combines passive sound isolation with active noise canceling. The headphones offer very good sound quality and superior noise-hushing capability, but the lanyard-style design may not appeal to all users.
The Blackbox C18 Noise Cancellation Earphones have a bit of a unique design. First off, the earpieces are shaped unlike any we've seen. They are hard to describe, but they look like a chunk of rock or rough cut diamond. This, combined with the fact that they are covered in a rubbery coating, gave us a super comfortable and secure fit (although this may not be the case for everyone). Phitek also includes a plethora of silicone eartips--three sets each of small, medium, and large--for fitting and (one assumes) hygienic purposes. We do have to say that the large does not seem that large, so those with larger ear holes may not be able to wear the C18s comfortably. In addition to the tips, the package contains an airplane adapter, a quarter-inch adapter, and a nice--though large--zippered carrying case with two internal mesh pockets.
Continuing down the Y cable for about 20 inches brings you to the noise cancellation module, which measure 2.5 inches tall by 1.5 inches wide by 0.5 inch deep. The face of the unit is glossy black plastic stamped with the Blackbox logo, while the remainder is wrapped in neon-green plastic. A flap on the back conceals a battery compartment that accepts one AAA cell (included in the box), while two switches on the side control power and volume. The C18 earphones cannot be used without the noise cancellation turned on, so make sure you always keep an extra battery on hand. Also, the module is fairly heavy and pretty much necessitates the use of the lanyard attachment that is included in the box; we would have preferred a shirt clip design. A single cable measuring 27 inches and terminating in a gold-plated L-plug descends from the bottom of the module. Something of note about the cables: they are quite thin and do cause some concern for durability.
On the performance side of things, the Blackbox C18 earphones don't disappoint. We were immediately impressed by their overall noise-hushing capabilities. Not only do they offer up to 18dB active noise cancellation, but because of the earplug-like design, they also passively block out up to 35dB. Put to practice, we definitely noticed the difference. Overall sound quality is quite good: nice, clear highs with plenty of detail; smooth mids; and decent bass response. Our one complaint is that we noticed some low-end distortion in a couple of tracks that were heavy on the bass. We weren't blown away by the audio, but the earphones are certainly pleasant sounding and the excellent noise-hushing makes them a solid investment and an easy recommendation.