For a very long time, the only way we could listen to music or radio was via dedicated players like radios or the legendary Walkman and later on, the iPod. You only needed to plug in your 3.5mm jack on these devices and listen to your favourite songs at ease.
However, mobile phones changed all that. They are now capable music players too and probably the only music players that you have in your immediate vicinity. That is why the manufacturers usually bundle earphones in the box you bought the phone with and they are usually the basic ones (or in some cases really good ones).
Earbuds are not equal: they differ in sound quality and features and this is usually reflected on the price. There are also many ways you can categorize earphones and one way to do that is by placing them in these 2 categories: those that have noise cancellation and those that don’t offer that.
This is where the Infinix XE-02 noise cancellation earphones come in.
Generally, noise cancellation earphones are more expensive than traditional earphones thanks to the extra components that are needed in noise cancellation.
I’ve been testing these budget noise cancellation earphones for over two weeks now and it was quite interesting!
Unboxing and Design
The earphones come in a well packaged box that is relatively large. The presentation is actually quite good and the black box underneath the white cover exudes this notion that you are opening something expensive.
In the box, you will find the actual earphones which are presented in a stylish manner. Underneath, you will find a pouch which you can use to carry the earphones in your bag and it contains extra silicone tips so that you can have a pair that fits best with your ear canal. Also, there is a manual that gives you more information about the product.
Now for the earphones themselves. The drivers themselves are large and have shark fins that have been fitted by default. (You can remove them if necessary) and also feature those prominent noise cancellation microphones. At the back, we can see an aluminium casing with drills for the noise cancellation which feels rough to the touch. It is not a standout design by any measure but it works in this regard.
These earphones also have inline controls which let you control the volume or stop the playback (which is great) and further down, we have the star of the show and that is the ANC (active noise cancellation) module.
The housing for the ANC circuitry wizardry is enclosed in a plastic case with a rough texture with a toggle and an indicator light on one side and a micro USB female port on one side for charging. There is also a lithium ion battery included in the casing which is critical for noise cancellation which I’ll explain later on.
For noise cancellation to work, it needs a combination of the microphones that you saw earlier on the drivers, power provided by the lithium ion battery and a whole lot of physics. The basic principle is that the microphones capture the sound waves that are generated by your environment. These sound waves have crests and troughs (they are represented like a hill range) with a certain amplitude (height) and frequency (number of waves passing by in a second.
What the ANC system does is that it will generate a counter wave that is of the same amplitude and frequency of the sound that is generated from the environment but the troughs and crests are polar opposites of one another so they end up cancelling each other. This system thereby cancels out the ambient sound of your environment so that you can listen to your music, radio or podcasts with minimal interference from the environment.
How the active noise cancellation works in real life
When the earphone is fully charged, the light indicator turns green (red means it’s charging and yellow means that it is about to die). To perform its noise cancellation duties, the earphone’s ANC needs to be charged and that means plugging it in. It is quite interesting that they didn’t supply a micro USB cable in the package to charge the earphones but it is not a deal breaker since you can do that with your phone’s charger.
From my tests, it charges quickly, around 30 minutes or less and its endurance was amazing. I continuously used the active noise cancellation for 10 hours before the battery died on me which means that if you listen to music 2 hours daily, it will last you the whole working week.
In my testing, the earphones did not fit properly in my ears even after changing the tips that were included in the box. This could be thanks to how wide the earbuds are and not as pointy as my trusted Sony MDR NC31EM (which are also noise cancellation earbuds).
However, when the ANC switch is on, you will hear the suppressed ambient noise and it can be jarring at first for a rookie. In my case, it worked rather well for sounds that are of low frequency like an idle engine rumble or a water pump that is far away from you. There is also a definite “shhhhh” sound when the ANC is on which is the result of the noise cancellation but it is not too distracting.
Just like any other earphones people buy on the street or on designated shops, these Infinix noise cancellation earphones’ basic purpose is to let people enjoy those digital files they have saved on their music players.
I’m rather sensitive to audio quality and I like having a good pair of earphones that give a reasonable audio quality at a good price. I tested them with high bit-rate mp3s and FLAC files (higher quality than mp3s) with music from diverse genres (rock, jazz, hip-hop.)
For the price, they performed rather well. The vocal range is wide, bass is sufficient and the treble is not as crispy as I would like. The stereo effect with the earphones was uninspiring as there was quite a bit of stereo cross-talk (that instance where a sound that is only supposed to be heard in one earbud ‘leaks’ to the other side). The poor stereo cross-talk can be observed in songs like In the Dark by Flyleaf. If you want to test how they perform, test them with this 5D virtual barbershop sound effect audio clip on YouTube and compare with other earphones.
The above observations were noted when the ANC was off. My review set (not sure if it is an endemic characteristic) had the tendency to boost up the amplitude (volume) of the sound when it was turned on. This was rather weird and I’ve never noticed that with my Sony’s. Thanks to the boosted volume in ANC mode, it further drowns the background noise which is not a bad thing in practice but still a quirky way to improve its efficacy.
- The earphones are very well packaged and that is a win by Infinix in the presentation department.
- They are quite long and it is handy for tall people but could be inconvenient since they will hang about precariously.
- Do not expect miracles in sound quality in this price bracket but most people don’t care and the sound signature that is presented here would be acceptable to most people.
- The noise cancellation works well, especially for low frequency sounds. Don’t expect everything to be drowned in the background though and this depends on how the ear tips fit in your ear canal.
- The battery that powers the ANC system is quite good and can last you a week with 2 hours of continuous playback in a working week easy. It also charges quite fast.
- The inclusion of inline controls is great for controlling your volume level without necessarily removing your phone.
- These earphones are quite durable. I was not been worried at any given time that they might become loose at the various weak points like near the audio jack, bottom of the drivers or around the inline controls.
Infinix is selling these headphones for Kshs 3,500 which is actually a bargain in the noise cancellation world of earphones. My Sony MDR NC31EM for example cost north of Kshs 7,000 and they offer the same features although they don’t have inline controls. The best in the game as touted by reviewers worldwide are cans made by Bose (the QC 35) and are sold for $350 a pop (before tax).
Are they a good buy? Yeah definitely! Once you dive into the noise cancellation game, you will never go back and since these work with all phones, they are an excellent purchase as you acquaint yourself in the world of drowning the world around you.