The EP-3NC is a pair of noise cancelling in-ear earphones from Creative. When I mentioned the noise cancellation feature, it’s not just because of the in-ear design, but because the EP-3NC really adds an extra layer of noise cancellation through its built-in microphone that synthesizes with a sound in the opposite phase to cancel it out, or at least reduce it significantly.
It’s specifically designed for busy commuters who would like to enjoy their music more, especially on a noisy background environment, such as a public transport or even inside an aeroplane.
Creative EP-3NC Review – Design
The EP-3NC, as mentioned on my introduction paragraph, has an in-ear design so it already provides some degree of noise cancellation by itself. The packaging comes with 3 earbuds of different sizes so you can make it as comfortable as possible by trying the different tips’ sizes.
EP-3NC cables are quite thick, in my opinion, compared to the standard earphones but not as thick as your headphone ones (those big headphone with the ear-cups model).
On the EP-3NC control unit, you can:
- Turn the noise cancellation feature on and off.
- Enable the “Monitor” feature that mutes your music and turns the active noise cancellation off temporarily until you let the button go. This is extremely useful when you are listening to your music and an announcement is made on the aeroplane or a public transport.
To enable the active noise cancellation on EP-3NC, you need to insert a AAA battery into the control unit’s housing. It doesn’t mean that you need a battery to make the earphones work though. So if you run out of battery while using the EP-3NC, you can still hear your audio like any other earphones. You only miss the active noise cancellation feature on the unit until you replace the battery over. Because of this, the EP-3NC feels heavy when you wear it, due to the weight of the AAA battery. However, the Creative team was smart enough to oversee this problem and countered it by designing the control unit with a clip. When I use the EP-3NC, I always clip it on my shirt (or sometimes on my belt, depends on the coat that I’m wearing). This way, the weight of the battery and the housing doesn’t pull it down.
It also comes with a nice travel pouch AND an aeroplane’s adaptor!! (two thumbs up for these).
I happily put my EP-3NC in the travel pouch during my travel to Microsoft Office 2010 launch in Sydney about a week ago. The adaptor also worked very well when I plugged it in on the plane and I could listen to the audio very clearly (in fact, clearer than the dodgy headphones they normally give you). Everytime I wanted to watch a movie, I had to crank up the volume to fight with the jet engine’s noise. EP-3NC has an in-ear design + an active noise cancellation. More than we ever needed when we travel on an aeroplane.
Creative EP-3NC Review – Noise Cancellation. Does it really work?
Since the EP-3NC is made for cancelling noise, let’s talk more about this in more depth. From Creative EP-3NC product page:
The EP-3NC measures external ambient noise, using active noise-cancellation circuitry with its built-in microphone and synthesizes with a sound in the opposite phase to reduce significant background noise by up to 90%.
It’s really an interesting concept and honestly this is the first time that I’ve ever tried a set of noise cancelling earphones. It basically analyzes the noises out of the other end of the ear tips and cancels them out (or at least reduces them significantly).The good thing about this is that you can use the active noise cancellation even without playing your music. So when you just want to chill out a bit or try to get some sleep on the aeroplane or busy place, chuck the EP-3NC into your ear and turn the noise cancellation feature on!
So in general, yes, the noise cancellation on EP-3NC works. I’ve tested the EP-3NC every day for about a few weeks straight, focused on hearing podcasts every morning and evening (while I’m travelling to/from work) so I can further notice the difference. When I switched the feature on, it’s like the whole world had been muffled. It basically feels like you are closing your ears with the palm of your hands. It’s hard to explain with words but ever watch an action movie when the fighting/shooting scene goes to a slow-mo for a few seconds and the sounds get muffled? It’s something like that. It also feels like there is a built-in software that removes the noise from an audio file and makes it somehow clearer when the feature is turned on.
I found from my own experience that EP-3NC active noise cancellation works best when:
- The background noises are constant (inside an aeroplane, a moving train, or as simple as eating in a food court with people chattering in the background).
- The noises are further than about 5 metres and not being very loud. When you buy the EP-3NC, don’t expect that the whole world will go in complete silent like when you are watching a concert. If a car passes by next to you or even when an announcement is being spoken through the speakers (on an aeroplane or a train station), you can still hear it, but as I said, muffled. Note that again, this is when I was hearing a podcast, not a music. When I tried listening to my music, I couldn’t barely hear a thing anymore when the music was on.
EP-3NC noise cancellation live examples and experience (NOTE: To make sure that the tests are genuine, I occassionally turned the active noise cancellation feature on and off to differentiate):
- On the road, walking during peak and off peak hours
The sound of cars and trams in the distance can barely be heard but I can hear the engine of a car passes by about 3 metres in front of me or when a tram horns. The overall wind and environment ambience are pretty much muffled except when the wind speed goes over 30 km/h straight to your ears.
- Walking underneath a bypass when train goes above me
I can still hear the train quite loud but this time, amazingly, I don’t need to pause my podcast like I used to do with my previous in-ear earphones! Even when I can still hear the train, I can still hear my podcast clearly without the need to crank up its volume or to pause it temporarily when the train passes by. This piece amazed me.
- In a train station and inside the train
In my both experience, background noises such as people chattering are pretty much muted, assuming they are not talking next to me. I can still hear the announcement pretty clearly unless when I’m playing my music on.
- Inside a plane
The EP-3NC really reduces that overly loud engine noise as advertised! It feels as if you are sitting in an airport lounge hearing an aeroplane’s engine noise in a distant.
Overall, it’s a great experience with the noise cancellation feature enabled. It does feel a bit awkward if you switch the feature on and off too frequently though. It’s as if my ears were being air pressured and there’s this uncomfortable feeling inside my head. Note that this only happens if I do this repeteadly for some seconds. So unless if you are doing this for the sake of reviewing it, it’s not really a recommended action to take :)
Creative EP-3NC Review Conclusion
Creative EP-3NC is a must to have if you travel frequently either on foot or on a public transport because the active noise cancellation really works – it’s as if the whole world has been muffled. With the perfect combination of an in-ear design and the noise cancellation technology, you’ll never need to crank up the volume on your media player to fight with the background noise anymore. Podcasts or audio can now be heard clearly even on the noisiest environment such as in a train station or even inside an aeroplane.
It might feel a little bit heavy because of the need of a AAA battery but thankfully there is a clip to easily attach the control unit that houses the AAA battery. The battery is only needed if you want to turn the active noise cancellation though so you won’t lose your music if it ever runs out (about 100 hours, according to Creative). Clip the control unit, plug the earphones in, and enjoy it. Haven’t tried that long but I often forgot to turn the feature off when I stop listening to my music. It’s still up and going so it’s a good indication.
The sound quality is not bad but certainly not the strongest point of the EP-3NC. Music somewhat feels quite bass-y and I couldn’t feel any significant difference compared to my previous in-ear earphones. However, the noise cancellation feature is what Creative EP-3NC was made for and it doesn’t disappoint. If you are only planning to use this in an office or at home, you’ll be better off by taking the Aurvana earphones instead (in the process of reviewing Aurvana Air at the moment).
Note: Review unit provided by Creative. Photos taken with Canon EOS 500D.