To test the Linner NC50, I used the earphones as my daily driver for over a week. This meant using them for listening to music, watching videos and making phone calls.
During this time, I also flew to Las Vegas for CES 2018. Using the NC50 on a ten-hour flight provided an excellent test for both the ANC capabilities of the device as well as the battery life.
Starting with the actual sound quality of the Linner NC50, I must admit I did not expect much. Considering it’s a £50 Bluetooth earphone, I thought the bass would be bloated, mids would be recessed and the treble would be slightly boosted to give the impression of ‘extra detail’.
However, I am very glad to say I was very wrong – I judged the NC50 far too harshly. In actual fact, I had a simply lovely time using the NC50 for listening to music.
For me, the enjoyment came from the NC50’s very balanced sound. As I mentioned, I was expecting big bass, but that is not what you get – the low-end is clean, tight and punchy, but it is far from over-bearing and provides just the right amount of presence to keep the bass from feeling weak.
Building on that clean bass is the smooth and rich mid-range. The likes of Queen’s Freddie Mercury, Adele and Anchor & Braille’s Stephen Christian really shone with the NC50. It’s a full, rich sound without being overly forward. Naturally, this also helps for watching YouTube – speech sounds natural without being tinny, so I had no problem watching plenty of videos with the NC50.
In terms of the high-end, the NC50 doesn’t get much wrong here either. Initially, I did find that the treble would occasionally sound slightly ‘crunchy’ – ever so slightly distorted and unnatural. However, after about 20 hours of use I found that tendency had completely disappeared, leaving a natural treble which provides good detail without being harsh. Obviously, the NC50 is still a £50 earphone so its detail retrieval is not going to rival the Sennheiser HD 800, but music won’t sound veiled either.
All in all, the sound is balanced and natural. It is definitely a fairly lean sound, so bass-heads or those who like the ‘Beats’ sound signature may not find it too appealing, but I really enjoyed using the NC50.
Active Noise Cancelling
ANC is obviously a big feature of the NC50 – that’s why it is in the product name! As such, it is worth talking about my experience with it.
I first used the ANC sat in a busy Starbucks at Gatwick Airport. As you can imagine, there was music playing, the sound of various drinks being made and the loud hum of conservation – it was not a quiet and peaceful scene.
Putting the earphones on, I started playing some YouTube videos and turned ANC on. The effect was immediate and quite dramatic – all of the deeper sounds were completely cut-out, including the background music and the sound of the staff working. The only sound that was still audible – but still significantly reduced in volume – was the mundane chatter of the other customers. Those conversations came through almost like whispers – quiet, muted, but just about audible.
A couple of hours later, my plane took to the skies with engines roaring. In this instance, the NC50 also did very well – much better than I expected. The bassy rumble of the jet engines was almost completely eliminated, with the most audible noise being the gentle hissing of the recycled air being pumped into the cabin.
Using a small button on the right-hand side of the neckband, users also get to choose between ANC mode and monitor mode. Monitor mode essentially lets you listen to your surroundings by playing the audio feed received by the microphone through the earbuds – making it great for catching quick announcements on the train without pausing the music or taking off your earphones.
Overall, I was not expecting the ANC to be anywhere near as good was it proved to be. Obviously, for the best ANC experience, on-ear headphones like the Bose QC series or Sony’s 1000XM2 are required. But for £50, these earphones actually do a very competent job. I am impressed.
The last area to touch on is battery life. Linner hasn’t been too clear about what sort of battery life to expect, as the company only mentions 13 hours of ‘talk time’, but nothing in regards to using the NC50 with ANC whole playing music.
In my experience, I got about 10 hours of music playback ,with ANC enabled, before the battery died. I used the NC50 for the bulk of my flight to Las Vegas, and got about another two hours of use in at the hotel before the battery failed. Recharging takes another 1.5-2 hours.
Ten hours with ANC enabled is quite good, I think. If you were to turn ANC off you’d be able to get a bit more from the NC50, but as a noise cancelling earphone you would lose a major feature of the device.