The market is getting really overfilled with headphones. Where have the times gone when you could buy only the big brands like Koss, AKG or Sennheiser. These days even the smaller manufacturers are getting into all manners of headphones but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have lower quality of design or sound. This review is going to be about headphones from a Chinese notorious manufacturer that is well known for us geeks. Yes, Elephone have produced their own headphones ELE Whisper. It’s not just about the headphones, but also about the active noise cancelling technology that should prevent background noise from interfering with the sound, while you are for example on the bus. The review of ELE Whisper is getting started!
The box is nothing special but definitely it’s not boring with the goods clearly on display. The headphones are visible through a transparent cover on the left side and on the right side there is a small box containing the of active noise cancelling tech. It is all wrapped in paper with plus, minus, play and pause symbols on it. On the back there are listed the specifications and some PR mumbo jumbo saying how awesome these headphones are.
When you pull the box out you will find some other extra accessories for the headphones. These are two sets of different sized silicon plugs, manual, USB-to-3,5 mm jack reduction for charging the noise-cancelling module.
That’s all what’s inside this big box. It seems a bit wasteful when there is literally nothing in the middle. Xiaomi with its miniature packaging of Xiaomi Piston 3 really pleased me with its compactness. On the other hand when I bought A-Jays Two, the box was almost twice as big filled with all different kinds of reductions, extensions and piles of writing and all of that was packed in very firm rubbered plastic.
The notice on the front “Whisper as your lover” sounds funny though.
DESIGN, CONSTRUCTION AND ERGONOMICS
As the first pictures have shown, Ele Whispers won’t be anything stylish or a design masterpiece at all. Actually they are quite boring and ordinary looking and not even the turquoise color, which I really dislike, won’t make it any better. Ele Whisper won’t catch your eye with anything, maybe the shape is a bit unusual but that’s all. There is also another grey color variant, which is not as extravagant, but in my eyes better.
If you expected a covered or somehow protected cable cord, you will be disappointed. The cable looks quite normal, but I’ve read somewhere that at least it’s made out of environment friendly materials. The end with the jack is gilded and has the usual straight orientation, I would rather see the “L” shaped connector, so the cable won’t be under so much stress. The metal module is also soundproof and so is the cylinder with the button. The body of the headphones is fully plastic and so is the button itself and the slider. The cable, being round, does not suffer from the microphone effect, which is good for the everyday use. I don’t have any real objections to the build, just to the materials used and generally to the cheaper look.
Ergonomics and comfiness are very important things for the headphones. The less important issue is for example the button for answering a call/switching music which should be much bigger, because I had a hard time finding it. By the button is located the microphone for the calling purposes. Then there is the noise-cancellation module which is located at the “Y” connection. It is flat and weighs only 17 grams. Of course you can feel, while wearing them, that the headphones are at one point slightly heavier and sometimes they have a tendency to get stuck, nevertheless thanks to the weight and dimensions it did not bother me at all. The module itself has a small slider for turning on and off the noise-cancellation and a small LED for displaying the status: blue indicates being “on”, red then “dead battery” and “charging”.
But the most important factor is of course comfortable wearing and that is great. Because of the oval shape of the body the headphones perfectly fit into the ears without sticking out. The necks, which might have been a millimeter longer, fit right into the horn and the cable is led precisely along the edge of the lobe. These are really comfortable headphones for every activity possible.
Charging is via either the provided USB reduction or by one of the supported phones. For the time being there are just a few models supported, certain Huawei and Honor phones.
ELE Whisper are not any super Hi-Fi headphones, although it´s said in the leaflet, but there are a few interesting numbers which could indicate a good product. Range 10-20 kHz is quite common, so is 32Ω impedance, band width 20 – 4 000 Hz and sensitivity 113±3dB.
The weight of the headphones is probably around 20 grams and unfortunately I did not find a way how to check it, because I don’t have a scale available.
I will write more about the active noise-cacellation module in the next paragraph, nevertheless the specification table states that it can filter out up to 32 dB, accumulator has 25 mAh capacity and hourly consumption is 0,96 mAh/hour. These are the only specification numbers available.
SOUND AND ACTIVE NOISE-CANCELLATION
Finally we are getting to a chapter that is covering possibly the only thing I care about when reviewing headphones. How is the sound quality, is it worth 99$ and how good is the noise-cancellation ?
I left the headphones running for +/- 20 hours. That should be enough to make the modulators start moving. After that I actually started using them and testing the sound. I’ve had most of the music in .flac or .mp3@320 format which sounded good using LG G4 as the player. Overall ELE Whisper sound output is darker, the mids are not so prominent and highs are very smooth. But despite the not so dominant mids and heights the vocals and instruments are coming forward pretty well, even though I’m still missing some edge to it. More dominant mids might be a good thing for the headphones. The same goes for the highs, their peaks are really dull and they sound like going through some kind of filter and listening to sharp metal guitars is just not cutting it; the bass guitar and kick drum are really stealing the stage.
The basses are stronger as you would expect from such plugs, but they are not exaggerated and can even go to really low tones. Sometimes they are melting together into a ball of sound rather than individual sound parts and they are interfering with the mids/midbasses. But with the right impulse they can be really clean-cut and crisp, which comes in handy in some electronic genres .
All things considered they are no Hi-Fiquality, even though they promise to be. It’s yet another member to the family of headphones with unbalanced sound approaching the modern style. But don’t get me wrong, certain qualities and perks are there and they don´t play like $10 headphones but more like for $40 ones, let’s say similar to A-Jays One or perhaps A-Jays Two which is not so bad. The “softer” sound with the stronger bass is quite good for the longer listening sessions, your ears don´t get tired so quickly. It’s more like riding on the wave.
Ok, so there we have the first half of the price justified and rhe other half is in the active noise-cancellation module. This can be turned on at the module, which is in the place of the “Y” fork and is active even when the headphones are not being used. I would like to mention that even when the battery is dead the headphones can still be used, just without this noise-cancellation feature.
And how does it actually work? The system is still the same for all headphones with this technology of active noise-cancellation. In each headphone there is a tiny microphone that scans all the background noises from the environment and sends them to the processor, in our case the military grade certified CASC863A . The processor will process the sound and send back the reverse sound phase that will cancel out the sound from the outside. In the ideal case the amount of noise is so small, that a human ear can’t hear it, it’s virtually fully elimated.
This principle is being used for much stronger transmissions than just headphones. When a Ukrainian giant satellite DUGA3 was secretly broadcasting, thousands of amateurs all around the world were trying to “blind” it using the same method. But not even so many radio-amateurs combined were able to interfere with such a big and powerful transmission source.
According to the table from the manufacturer the active noise-elimination can filter out noise up to 35dB. I don´t know exactly what that means, because 35dB is the silence, where you can hear the drop of a pin. Maybe this value is above the absolute silence but I wasn’t able to find anything about it. But let’s put aside the numbers. The important thing is the real benefit of this technology which can be usually found in much more expensive headphones.
To be honest I did not believe that the noise-cancellation will work or I thought it will be something crazy that will destroy the sound quality.
If I would put them on at home to filter out a crying baby or some noisy housework it wouldn’t do much. But in situations like riding the subway, tram or the bus it is quite different. Active noise-cancellation can quite effectively filter out sounds of the crowd or low humming noise in the subway. On the bus you can hear just the hissing turbo and screaming transmission. And when you are listening to some music, you can’t hear anything disruptive from the outside and the noisier the place is, the more intense the filtering becomes. The only thing you need to do is turning it on and you will be amazed how much work can ELE Whisper do. Listening to music in the subway feels suddenly almost the same like at home, but again the highs and mids will get more suppressed than the almost “turned-off” low tones .
I know that some of you might think that sending the reverse sound phase back to the headphones has to harm the original sound somehow. The truth is that you will be able to hear tiny buzz and the headphones will slightly change the sound style . They will get louder for roughly one step on the volume scale of the phone and gains more dynamics, but the difference is not that big. The buzz will fade away in the music and especially in noisy place one even doesn’t have a chance to notice it.
The manufacturer states that the headphones can operate for 25 hours on a single charge and without further ado I can confirm that the headphones lasted for one week of active usage without dying out.
Believe it or not, listening to music without any noise from the outside is quite addictive. Even though ELE Whisper doesn’t come close to my personal Audio Technica WS55 (I know I can’t compare, but still…), I became really fond of them because the noise-cancellation is really comfortable and handy.
Although ELE Whisper doesn’t catch up in terms of sound quality for 99$ with something like Soundmagic, Klipsch or Etymonic they still have a very practical feature of filtering out the background noise with an active noise-cancellation tech which is surprisingly good and effective. Sound output is a bit worse but the majority of customers will be satisfied and the performance is quite good when we take into account that they are meant for noisy places. The build is average, the cable cord should be covered or shielded with something and the jack should be “L” shaped. So, for those of you, who want some quality traveling headphones with good sound and great noise-cancellation and are not fans of big circum or supra-aural headphones, ELE Whisper is a very interesting alternative.
Headphones are on sale in here. We would like to thank the Elephone company for providing the ELE Whisper review sample for us, cheers !