Today we’re looking at some special Lightning headphones for the iPhone and iPad which offer active noise cancellation. There’s even a mode that amplifies the world around you so you can listen in without taking out your earphones — pretty sweet. Still, for $89 these headphones have a lot to prove. These are the Linner NC21, and our review begins right now!
Features & Specs
- Active Noise Cancellation – blocks up to 97% of daily noise
- Awareness Mode – amplifies nearby sounds so you can hear
- In Ear Comfort – interchangeable ear buds and hooks
- Made for iOS – Apple MFi certified
- Compatible with iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch (all recent models)
- 13mm driver up to 28dB, 10Hz – 22kHz
- 22.8 grams in black, rose gold or space gray
The headphones have a modern design available in three colours; you can see space gray and rose gold colourways shown below while the black model is the header image. Each version has a sleek design with shiny faux-metal used throughout. The headphones are a little bigger than I expected, and feel well made throughout.
Out of the box, the headphones come with helpful hooks to keep them in your ears, and other ear bud sizes are included to hopefully ensure that you’ll get a comfortable fit.
The headphones come with a stylish in-line remote, allowing access to the various modes in addition to the usual volume controls. A switch turns active noise cancellation (ANC) on and off, while a button below allows you to listen to the outside world. On the other side, a multi-function button can summon Siri or play music, while the slider below can adjust the volume.
The NC21 terminate in either a Lightning cable or a 3.5mm jack. We’re looking at the Lightning version, which suits recent iPhone models (2012+) plus the Lightning-equipped iPads and iPods.
We used these headphones for two weeks with an iPhone X in order to put them through their paces, listening to music, taking conference calls and ordering Siri to tell us another joke. Here’s what we thought.
First: comfort. The initial ear buds provided with the NC21 felt a little big, so we swapped these out for smaller buds that felt more comfortable. Once in place, we could listen to music for hours at a time without noticeable discomfort.
The headphones’ sound quality was quite good, with decent mid and high reproduction and slightly lacking bass. Spoken word content, like audiobooks and conference calls, were very easy to understand compared to Apple’s EarPods. However, some bassier songs sounded flat.
The built-in microphone seemed adequate for taking calls, although I’d be hesitant to record a podcast on it. Summoning Siri worked well, and she generally understood our queries through the mic without issue. Similarly, the in-line remote was easy to use by touch alone and worked well.
The active noise cancellation was very effective. On one occasion, I forgot I was wearing the headphones and was really confused as to why the bus was so quiet — had I been concussed? This makes it really easy to listen to an audiobook or watch videos without getting distracted.
If someone is actually trying to talk to you, you can use the monitor mode to hear what they’re saying. However, it looks like you’re not actually listening to them, so actually pulling the headphones out of your ears is more socially acceptable.
The NC21 are a nice pair of headphones, boasting reasonable comfort, decent audio reproduction and excellent noise cancellation for their size. However, they face a lot of stiff competition at the under $100 mark, and noise cancellation needs to be very important to you in order to make these the best choice available. Don’t be afraid to check out alternatives, but save a place on your list for the Linner NC21.