Review: Blackbox C18 Noice Cancellation Earphones

C18 EarphonesV Australia have recently joined the list of airlines (Singapore, Thales, Finnair) using Kiwi company Phitek‘s noise cancellation technology for their fleet. If you’re going to chose a noise cancellation product, wouldn’t it be a good plan to choose the one that includes this same technology that so many airlines have chosen?

Blackbox are a line of consumer audio products that incorporate Phitek’s noise cancellation system. And blimey is it good. I tested the M14 headphones a while back, and still use them for my day-to-day open-plan-office cone of silence. At the time, the C14 earphones were Blackbox’s only in-ear noise cancellation phones. They worked well, but were quite frankly really, really ugly.

Enter the new C18 earphones. Slimmed down, but with the same noise cancellation tech that you’ll find throughout the Blackbox range. The combination of snug-fitting silicone ear buds – the kit comes with 3 sizes – and the noise cancellation system really gives you that “head in a pillow” experience. With my regular in-ear phones (Ultimate Ears 5vi), I can still hear the background churn of air conditioners and other office mechanisms. With the C18’s I can only hear muffled irregular sounds (e.g. people speaking).

Sound quality is damn good for a pair of NZ$179 earphones. They are a little bass-heavy for my personal preference, but I imagine this would actually be a good thing in a noisy environment like an aircraft. They don’t have the separation of my Ultimate Ears, but then you’re saving $200 over the UEs and getting active noise cancellation.

The box that does the noise cancellation hangs, lanyard style, from the earphones. If you rest it on a desk or on your chest when lying down, this is no problem, but you wouldn’t want to be walking around with the box dangling. It runs for many, many hours on a single AAA battery, and has a volume control and on/off switch. Unlike some active headphones, the Blackbox C18’s will still work in passive mode if your battery runs flat. Whoops – it looks like there’s no passive option for the C18’s sorry. The existing M10 and M14 models do still have passive mode.

Given the price and the compact size (the included carry case is about a quarter the size of the M14’s case), I think the C18s are a great buy for a regular traveller, or someone who really wants active noise cancellation in the office.

You can purchase Blackbox products online from their New Zealand store website.

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  1. Hi there. The main "box" but of the C18 is about 3/4 the size of the C14 one, and lighter.

    The earbuds on the C18 are heaps smaller and a nicer fit than the C14. They don't look like some crazy alien contraption in your ear either.

  2. Ben,

    can you please comment on the relative cancellation of noise from the M14 and C18? It looks like the M14’s have more active canceling but the C18’s have more passive and therefore a higher total cancellation in terms of dB’s.

    I am less worried about the purity of the sound as I am with removing as much background noise as possible!


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