One of the best NC21 Lightning Review on Xberts

Versatility, Well Fitting, and Economical. It all "sounds" too good to be true, but Linner's earbuds fill the bill.

Author: Charles Baumgartner

https://www.xberts.com/trials/685/reports/1158

 

Pros

  • Small, Lightening cable powered device, easy to use.
  • Quite effective at active noise cancelation, and is comparable to higher costing devices.
  • Very comfortable in ear fit/feel. The second point of contact (vertical loop or ear-lock) adds solid in-ear security and comfort.
  • Significantly lower cost for this advanced technology compared to long and well known branded products.
  • Ability to temporarily disable noise canceling and turn on sound enhancing feature to hear without removing headset.

Cons

  • Power must come from your iPhone, and once drained you have to wait for recharge, a painful flaw on long-haul overseas flights.
  • The Lightening Cable provided is a bit too short for my liking.
  • No User utility provided access or utility to customize and save frequency equalization for user preference.
  • The User Manual in the APP is lacking in the instruction detail that is found in the paper copy provided.

 

SUMMARY, USER EXPERIENCE:

     The truth is that the Linner Active Noice Cancelling Eearphone/Earbuds are a delight to use; They are quite comfortable and have a great feature in the earbud design that assists in keeping the earbud in the ear more effectively than standard earbuds that come with iPhone or other Android phones. The soft rubber "ear-tips" inserted into the ear canal are very soft, and can fit easily into any ear since Linner was thoughtful enough to include a variety of sizes (S, M, and L) of these replaceable "ear-tips" for ear-canal insertion. The nicely designed functional earbud includes a soft rubber structural part called an "ear-lock" whose curved tip fits into a section of one of the user's "ear-folds" so as to more securely keep the earbuds in place so you don't have to continually readjust positioning to keep the earbuds comfortably in your ear.  Sound quality listening to music is as good as any high quality earbud, I've used, so you can enjoy your music with or without Active Noise Canceling being on.  Published frequency response of the internal amplifier exceeds the normal hearing range of the vast majority of users, if not all humans, so sound quality is very nice.  Another nice feature, included in an App, is called "Burn-in".  This is a software tool that electronically activates and properly stresses the internal mechanical parts of a new headphone or earbud, which improves the sound, much like users wearing a new pair of shoes will break them in over the time by walking and stretching the leather to their comfort level..  

     Regarding the actual efficacy of Active Noice Cancelation, I must say the difference between the On and Off state is remarkably pleasant. . While the literature indicates that it removes 97% of background noise, I'd have to say that may be true, but it is hard to perceive that specific level of performance by a personal listen.  Sound measurement in dB or Decibels is a logarithmic scale of sound intensity, so it may be humanly impossible to metricize this claim, and better left to actual test engineers to measure. Clearly there is a significant and pleasant drop in background noise when Active Noise Canceling is turned on, and this is a must have for anyone flying for any distance without having to hear Jet Noise, or for those needing a bit more quiet to read or study.  As with any Active Noise Cancelling technology, the most effective cancelation seems to be associated with constant humming, hissing, or other "white" noise sounds, and is effective to a great degree on impulse or non-repetitive waveform sounds, such as crying babies, people talking, etc. That said, the Linner NC21 does reduce these unpleasant sounds to a much more comfortable level when not listening to music or a movie soundtrack.    When the user has music playing or user is watching a movie on the iPhone, you will hear nearly nothing of the outside nose but the music or movie soundtrack. 

     Comparing the Linner NC21 product to Bose Q25 Over-The-Ear phones, I would have to say the Bose product would win in the noise-canceling category but not by much. And I suspect that some of the additional noise reduction achieved by the Bose Q25 is due to the significant mass and padding required for an over-the-ear model that will undoubtedly reduce background noise simply by the fact you've got ear-muff over your ears that provide additional sound dampening or deadening ambient noise. The Linner NC21 device is an effective solution to noise reduction, and has features that the Bose Q25 Over-the-ear does not have.... such as the ability to turn off your music or movie soundtrack and listen to the ambient surrounding sound without removing the headset. This is done by using the input microphone that feeds into the Noise Canceling Active Components and amplifies the ambient sound, enabling you to actually hear things louder and more clearly without having to remove the earbuds, all at the press of a button. The positioning of the external microphone seems to be oriented slightly forward of the the human left/right listening zones, so that the earbuds seem to mimic the directional sensitivity that is provided by the structure of the human ear, thus giving you your near normal 3-D surround sound effect as you turn your head through various listening positions. In this regard, Linner's device beats Bose Q25. Now mind you Linner's price is in the 80 USD range compared to the Bose Q25 that comes in at a high 300 USD, so overall, I'd rate the Linner 21 overall a better value proposition.  

      Both Bose Q25 and Linner have advantages over each other in various settings or categories. For example the Bose product is powered externally with an on-board replaceable AAA battery. The Linner device I tested has power taken from the Apple Lighting Connector, thus from your iPhone, to power the noise canceling waveform and the additional amplification of sound when the "monitor" button is pressed enabling users to hear the outside world while the earbuds are in a user's ear.. Here the "Power Source" advantage goes to Bose, since you can easily replace the AAA battery in a few minutes and be back in your quiet bliss, while Linner's device requires the user to recharge the iPhone before power can begin actively reducing sound again. Here lies some opportunity for Linner to improve it's product, by providing either a connector adapter to allow USB power to keep the user in their peaceful quiet zone while the phone charges.  Other likable features in the Linner NC21product, is the ease and ability to control your iPhone, volume, track changes, and Siri activation, and the Monitor button that quickly allow users to chat with your neighbor or answer the phone without having to remove the headset.

      Other features with Linner, is the Linner earbud APP that allows you to configure the device to a small degree, and shows you the 4 to 5 possible sound position settings Bose does not have, for various sound conditions.  A chart shows the amplitude of sound reduction as a function of frequency, similar to a sound bar adjustment at about 5-6 frequency settings, much like the Equalization Slider Switches on a sound board.  Another improvement Linner might consider is to make a quick software changed to allow users to configure the level of noise reduction by the use of these sound equalization bars to set frequency setting sensitivity, then having a "save" button to archive that particular ambient noise situation. 

      Overall I was very impressed with the audio quality of both amplified sound of ambient surrounding when in "Monitor" mode (monitoring and amplifying the outside world ambient sound without removing the earbuds) and impressed with the Noise Cancelling ability.   Certainly I must express my pleasure by the extreme comfort provided by the design of the in-ear design the utilizes both soft rubber ear-tips and rubber ear-locks that tuck neatly into one of your ear-folds. This two point positioning fit securely fastens the earbud to the user much better than the standard one point positioning methods of standard in-ear-canal ear buds supplied in the Apple iPhone product. 

 

PACKAGING::

      The Linner Active Noice Cancelling Eearphone/Earbuds come in a neatly designed solid protective box that seems to be of the quality one would find in an Apple produced product. Printing and pictures on the box are not overwhelming, nor underwhelming, and just the right amount of Text to Photo ratio provides an inviting look that promotes interest. Clearly the artwork and layout is well-thought design that should appeal to anyone that sees the box on a shelf and has interest in Active Noise Cancelling technology.  The front is appealing to the eye, modern looking, and the back of the package shows some of the technical information and functionality in both Iconic form as well as clearly written with useful information.  The "eye" hook compatible boxing, is ideal for marketing the product in stores with on the wall store hangers to showcase products.   Refer to Fig. 1 and Fig. 2 for the various views of the box that shows the product and then the technical details.  

Fig. 1:  Front side of Linner's NC21 Lightning EarBud product

Fig. 2:  Rear view of Linner's NC21 Lightning EarBud product technical specification

Fig. 2:  Rear view of Linner's NC21 Lightning EarBud product technical specification

When you open the box you will find the product neatly presented in a plastic holder, see  Fig. 3, and then the remaining contents include a well-written Instruction manual and soft black carrying bag.  There are additional parts included that are a very nice-to-have as part of the product offering. These include additional soft rubber 'ear-tips" to replace the set that comes on the Earbuds or use the other sizes to customize your fit as you might like.  Depending on the user's ear size there are multiple Ear-tips included so your perfect fit is ensured.   Additionally, there is an additional rubber support that further secures the EarBuds into your ear by placing this "Ear-lock" loop under any ear-fold that fits.  This really helps to securely hold the EarBud in place.  Again another set of ear-locks are provided in the event you wish to customize the fit to user satisfaction.  multiple sizes are supplied to help provide a perfect comfortable secure fit.  See Fig. 4 for a view of the entire contents:  user manual, 18-month Warranty, replacement/alternate sized ear-tips, replacement/alternate sized near-locks, carrying bag, and the NC21 Active Noise-Canceling Earbuds with Lighting connector for Apple S5 and higher iPhone prouduct.

 

Fig. 3:  View of the EarBud Pair and Controller in the box upon opening.

Fig. 3:  View of the EarBud Pair and Controller in the box upon opening.

Fig 4.  Complete inventory in the Linner NC21 Active Noise Canceling Earbud package.

Fig 4.  Complete inventory in the Linner NC21 Active Noise Canceling Earbud package.

 The instruction manual provided is the best I'd seen in any product I'd been asked to review here for XBerts.com. The writing is clear and simple to the point that everything is explained in less then 5 pages, in a "to do 'this function' perform 'this step' " format. Any use of graphics showing the various part of EarBud are accurate and properly shown, and ties to the instruction.   Fig. 5 shows the large display of languages available for the user, which will be extremely helpful Linner's market strategy. Customers notice these things, such as great documentation, since getting a device to perform quickly without hassle makes users happy.   Linner NC21 succeeds here.. Too often these instruction manuals seem hastily produced and have many errors. Linner's manual is complete and as near perfect as i could expect. One minor flaw in the manual, is that there is no mention of the Linner APP that you download from the Apple App Store, which provides a variety of tools, such as Noise Meter, and Choice of frequency equalization for user preference.

Fig. 5:.  Instruction Manual, Carrying Bag, and  Additional Ear Canal Cups and Loops for secure comfortable fit into any ear

Fig. 5:.  Instruction Manual, Carrying Bag, and  Additional Ear Canal Cups and Loops for secure comfortable fit into any ear

APPLICATION DOWNLOAD.

    The Linner APP for the NC21 product is free and downloadable from the Apple iTunes store.  As mentioned before, there is no mention of this App in the User Manual, but it's obvious once you start to use the device, with the message below instructing user to download the App, and where to get it.  Reference Fig. 6. to see the reminder iPhone screen to fetch the App, and then Fig.7 shows the App details.

 

Fig. 6:  Notice to install the Linner App for NC21 Earbuds appearing on iPhone upon insertion of earbuds

Fig. 6:  Notice to install the Linner App for NC21 Earbuds appearing on iPhone upon insertion of earbuds

There are a variety of other  tools/features available in the Linner NC21 App , that I think are worth examining.  These  include a Noise meter (which works with a normal Apple headset/microphone combination), several Equalizer like frequency Sensitivity Adjustments for Voice, Bass, Treble and Flat (which are all preset with no user adjustments),  a mini-user manual to provide a quick intuitive instruction set showing use of the Control module in the wire opposite the microphone.  All are available in the App, accessible by pressing the menu icon on the upper left of the main screen as shown in Fig. 8, or the Tool Gear Icon in the upper left portion of a screen within the subsequent application pages, show in Fig. 9.  

Fig. 7:. Application "LINNER GO", designed to use with Linner earbuds.

Fig. 7:. Application "LINNER GO", designed to use with Linner earbuds.

Fig 8:  View of the main App page, showing the main Menu access icon in the upper left.

Fig 8:  View of the main App page, showing the main Menu access icon in the upper left.

Fig. 9  View of the tools/gear icon (upper right of screen) that provides access of addition sets of options and tools.  This screen accessible by pressing the NC21 Lightning photo show in prior Fig.8.

Fig. 9  View of the tools/gear icon (upper right of screen) that provides access of addition sets of options and tools.  This screen accessible by pressing the NC21 Lightning photo show in prior Fig.8.

Other features provide in the app include the following functional tools and screens, but do not include ALL the many options available.  They are listed here to give the reader a partial view into the great number of customizable and user friendly functional tools within the App.  See Fig. 10,   Fig.11., and Fig. 12..

Fig.10:   Screen Option Level 1 of LINNER GO  (accessed via the upper Left Menu Icon on the  Main App page)

Fig.10:   Screen Option Level 1 of LINNER GO  (accessed via the upper Left Menu Icon on the  Main App page)

Fig. 11.  Explanation of the Burn-in utility that exercises the internal mechanics of the NC21.

Fig. 11.  Explanation of the Burn-in utility that exercises the internal mechanics of the NC21.

Fig. 12:  One of the tool screens measuring ambient noise with reference indicating when use of Active Noise Canceling is effective and suggested.  

Fig. 12:  One of the tool screens measuring ambient noise with reference indicating when use of Active Noise Canceling is effective and suggested.  

SUGGESTED IMPROVEMENTS:

1.  The length of the Lightening Connector cord is a bit short for my tastes, not providing a comfortable "hang" when phone in pants pocket.

2.  Add customizable "Equalization" frequency option along with a Save option to hold user's preference they find optimal for their needs.

3.  Provide either an additional Lightning attachment or plug in the Control Module to enable charging (the iPhone) while listening so as to avoid a long downtime between uses while phone charges sufficient to power NC21 earbuds.

4. Add additional pages in the App, to include a complete set of instructions that come in the paper manual.

 

BOTTON LINE:

     The Linner NC21 Active Noise Canceling EarBuds are an effective tool to reduce unwanted background ambient noises, at a very affordable price, and with sufficient adjustment, parts to make a perfect and comfortable fit.  The NC21 is an effective substitute for the bulky Bose Q25 over the ear model, even though over the ear seems to reduce background noise more effectively (estimated to be achieved by an over-the-ear padding and extra dampening mass).  The difference in performance, to me, seems not to justify the higher price demanded by Bose.   Users will find this product useful for both noise reduction, and hearing enhancement when in Monitor mode, using the internal amplifier to increase the sound of ambient room sounds.   

 

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