DIGITAL SILENCE DS-321D
Carving a niche in the crowded headphone market is a challenging prospect to say the least and Digital Silence is attempting to do just that with the brand new DS-321D. Noise cancelling technology has been almost exclusive to over ear headphones, but Digital Silence have created the DS-321D to offer consumers an alternative, in ear solution.
Backed by noise cancelling technology specialists Wolfson Electronics, the DS-321D certainly has the pedigree, but can they transfer this expertise to the headphone arena?
I look at the small, understated white box sent to the BSF office & have to take a closer look to make sure we have been sent the correct headphones, as I have become accustomed to the unnecessarily large, brightly coloured boxes that rival brands have adopted in recent years. It is clear that the DS-321D’s selling point is the noise cancelling features, and the box proudly demonstrates that they can siphon out Planes, Trains, Automobiles and, er, road works.
The DS-321D comes with 3 sized silicone ear buds, leather case, mini USB charger and 3.5mm stereo jack adapter. You may ask why a pair of headphones would need a charging device, but all became clear when I opened the box and saw the Cadbury’s Roses sized battery pack attached to the headphone wire. After searching the manual, I found that the rechargeable lithium ion battery is the driving force behind the Ambient Noise Cancelling (ANC) technology. The headphones also feature a microphone, so can be used with phones as well as mp3 players. ANC works by funnelling outside noise into the headphones before reaching your ears and is an impressive technology; however the weight of the device is immediately noticeable.
The sound quality is fairly respectable, with a good amount of bass and sufficient volume range. My only criticism is that there could be a bit more clarity at the top end, as the 321Ds struggled with high pitched kicks and snares. The ear buds fit comfortably thanks to the angled design and there is a handy monitor function that cuts the sound at a touch of a button- handy when interrupted suddenly. I switched on the ANC function, but in a quiet office environment there was no noticeable difference, so I took the 321Ds for a road test on the loud streets of London.
Waiting at Clapham Junction Train Station, the busiest in the country, I took the opportunity to turn on the ANC- but disappointingly, I didn’t hear any difference at all. I tried the function out in various noisy locations, but with the same results. In fact, the best way I found of drowning background noise was to simply turn up the volume- which you could do with any headphones. I also found the battery pack to be awkward on the move as the earphones kept falling out due to the weight. On the brighter side, the microphone is works well with the iPhone even in noisy conditions, & the Call Answer / End button can skips tracks on the mp3 player. But again, I think Digital Silence have missed a trick by not including a volume control on the microphone, which shows their inexperience in this market.
Another thing I thought was odd was that a 3.5mm jack adapter was included when the headphones already had a 3.5mm jack attached. All became clear on day 2 of the test when I adjusted the headphones slightly and I began to hear some distortion. After consulting the troubleshooting manual, it stated that the adapter should be used to solve this issue, which seems to suggest this is a common problem. After fitting the adapter, it rectified the sound problem but if I am totally honest, such problems do not me great confidence in the overall build quality, even though there is a 2 year warranty.
I must admit that external noise has never been an issue when using headphones- I simply turn the volume up if some particularly noisy school children board the train, which is sufficient. I think Digital Silence have tried to come up with a solution to a problem that never really existed in the first place. The monitor button is a nice touch, but there is little else to get excited about with these. For £69.99 you could do a lot worse than buy the 321D, but improvements need to be implemented fast if Digital Silence hopes to have a long term presence in the headphone market.
For more information visit www.digital-silence.com, RRP £69.99