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Turtle Beach ENC-S review: Turtle Beach ENC-S

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MSRP: $49.95
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The Good Noise-canceling earbuds; comparatively low price; compact design for easy storage; included carrying case and airline adapter.

The Bad Ho-hum performance; loose earbud fit.

The Bottom Line The ENC-S 'phones have an impressively low price, but their noise-canceling performance isn't top shelf.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

5.0 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 7
  • Performance 6

Review Sections

Turtle Beach ENC-S

Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.

Like most consumer technologies, noise-canceling headphones are quickly moving from luxury items to run-of-the-mill accessories. Case in point: Turtle Beach's ENC-S noise-canceling headphones, which retail for just $49.95. Powered by a single AAA battery, the travel-friendly earbuds incorporate active noise-cancellation circuitry to dampen background sounds in environments such as airplanes, trains, and buses.

At first glance, the ENC-S headphones' black-accented metallic silver earpieces don't look much different than your standard earbuds. Look closer, however, and you'll notice each 'bud has a built-in microphone to detect ambient background noise. The headphones' approximately six-foot cord incorporates a wedge-shaped in-line controller module that houses the noise-canceling circuitry and the included AAA battery to power it. Turtle Beach rates the battery life at 50 hours. The module has a main volume wheel, plus an on/off switch for the noise cancellation effect. Thankfully, the control module can be clipped to your shirt or jacket so that it doesn't tug the headphones from your ears. A leatherette carrying pouch, a replacement set of foam earpiece covers, and a two-prong airline plug adapter are included.

The in-ear drivers proved acceptably comfortable but unsurprisingly tended to dislodge from our ears whenever the cord was accidentally tugged. Because of the loose fit, the 'phones are suitable for sedentary applications, such as air travel, but not for active pursuits.

In terms of performance, the ENC-S 'phones are passable but not impressive. Treble and midrange frequencies in Paul Oakenfold's track "Southern Sun" sounded somewhat grainy, and bass response was generally thin. During listening sessions on New York City's screeching subway and raucous streets, the headphones did take the edge off ambient background noise, but not as much as we would've liked. The 'phones were able to play adequately loud even when driven by our underpowered portable MP3 player, although they couldn't get as loud as our half-as-expensive, non-noise-canceling Aiwa HP-JS36 Swoops.

At the end of the day, you get what you pay for from the ENC-S set: entry-level performance and design. If you're looking for better noise-canceling performance in an earbud form factor, check out the Sony MDR-NC11 instead--but be prepared to pay almost double. If you're on a budget, consider Sony's MDR-EX71SL; it lacks active noise-cancellation, but the tight-fitting earbuds do a great job of blocking out external noise.

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