Blackbox C18-RB review

£80
Price when reviewed

If you want to shut out background noise when listening to your music, you usually have a choice between active noise rejection (ANR) headphones, which use microphones and apply white noise to cancel out exterior hum and thrum, or noise-isolation in-ear canal phones, which use a physical seal to block out everything but the music.

The Blackbox C18s, unusually, use both approaches. The result is a rather cumbersome setup: an AAA battery-powered block hangs around your neck from a lanyard from which the earpieces also dangle. The block houses the on/off switch, a volume control and the electronics that process the ANR cleverness.

Another downside is that, when the battery runs out of juice (after a claimed 50 hours) you’ll have to replace it before you can listen to your music; you can’t use the C18s in passive mode.

The benefit, however, is class-leading noise reduction. Plug them into your laptop or MP3 player and everything but the music fades into the background. Without the ANR unit switched on they cut out as much noise as most ear-canal phones; with it turned on, the sort of low-end hum associated with air-conditioning units and aircraft drone just drops away.

Phitek blackbox C18-RB

They’re very comfy, with three sizes of ear inserts included in the box, and solid-feeling driver housings. We also like the fact that they’re supplied with a felt pouch and an airline adapter.

Sound quality is more hit and miss, however. It’s more bombastic than refined, with pop and rock conveyed with good energy. Bass is good and solid, and there’s a listenable mid-range too.

They aren’t perfect, though, the biggest failing being a rather annoying over-keen high end. In podcasts this manifests itself as a noticeable sibilance to every uttered ‘S’; in music it means high hats are more prominent than they should be.

This is a shame, because otherwise they’d be a rather good deal. Just £80 buys you highly effective noise cancellation that’s about as good as you can get for the money. But they aren’t as convenient as standard headphones, they lack a passive listening mode and sound quality isn’t the best. We’d advise you spend the same money on a pair of standard in-ear headphones instead; you’ll enjoy the music much more.

Basic specifications

Headphones type Ear canal
In-line volume control? yes
Noise cancelling? yes
Headphone connector type 3.5mm
1/4in adapter included? yes

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