If you need some active noise cancelling earbuds but don’t want to spend the world to get them, would the Decoka DK100 be right for you?
In the box
With the Decoka you get
- 3 pairs of eartips (S,M,L)
- 3 pairs of wingtips (S,M,L)
- Carry pouch
- USB charging cable
Design and Build
Style wise the DK100 are nice but all too familiar. I get that making earphones look different maybe a challenge but I do appreciate when companies try and make their product stand out. These though are all Black and look pretty much like a lot of other earphones I’ve tested. Their design is not a bad thing as its nice, but its nothing that I or you won’t have seen before. The only thing that does set them apart is the noise cancelling puck on the bottom of the cable.
Speaking of the puck (not its official name) it features a monitor button, power/ANC switch, an LED indicator, the charging port and the branding. The puck is finished is a soft touch material and feels great, its pretty solid feeling too with no flex, creaking or any other build issues. There is also decent strain relief for the cable too.
The 3.5mm also gets the nice soft touch treatment and feels sturdy and robust. Its a 90 degree L shaped style and it fits nicely, even with a fairly bulky case on my phone.
Further up the cable is a remote, this has two separate volume controls, a play/pause and answer/reject calls button as well as a built in mic to allow it to be used for calls. The remotes build isn’t as good as the puck and doesn’t get the same soft touch finish. So you can see that a few corners have been cut here. It still works great, just not up to the same standard as the rest of the earphones.
This is also backed up with the lack of strain relief in this area, this means that this could be the first point of failure on the earphones. I have yet to see any reports or reviews showing failure, but the earphones haven’t been on sale for too long.
The cable is good quality too, its nice and thick as well as being flexible but durable. It has that same nice coating too which makes it feel pretty great. Strain relief is mostly good, apart from the previously mentioned area around the remote.
Finally the actual buds themselves, these are made from a mix of plastic and metal and feel solid. They’re made in what looks like three parts but that should not be an issue as I can’t see any gaps or anything in the areas where they connect. There is some subtle branding on the back and other than that, they are pretty clean and unfussy.
As a whole they are very well made for the price of just £29.99 and although they are nothing new they do look nice too.
The bundled silicone tips are quite nice, the shape is as you’d come to expect from earphones. The finish is smooth and they are quite pliant meaning they flex really well and aren’t too rigid. They didn’t cause any fatigue at all whilst I was wearing them. The smallest size that comes with the DK100 are a little larger than normal so if you have a really tight inner ear then they could cause an issue. On the plus side you can always get some third party ones which are pretty cheap to pick up. Yes you shouldn’t really have to, but sometimes companies just can’t cover all the bases.
Onto the wingtips and these again are really soft and didn’t cause any problems at all. Again like with the tips you get three sizes but these are a little more forgiving as they are very flexible. I personally use the smallest size and they fit me fine, but you can always try them out and see which works best for you. Downside is that as they are specifically designed to work with the DK100, you may find it hard to locate ones that you can replace the stock ones with.
Back to the plus side and the wingtips do stay nicely in my ears, so if you do want to take them jogging or to the gym, they should be just fine.
Call quality is surprisingly good, the quality through the drivers is clear and you can easily hear what the other person is saying. The mic is decent too, its not as good as some more expensive earphones but again its fairly clear if a touch nazal sounding.
Using the remote is easy too, the positioning of it is a touch high and did take a bit of getting used to, but after a few days it was all good. The buttons are easy to press and the middle button has a small notch to make it easier to identify. Its a small touch, but it makes usability that much better.
There is one issue however and that is the puck placement, its located at the very bottom of the cable. This can be an issue in some cases. The first being usability. Because the puck is so far down its harder to use than the remote, this just makes using it a bit more of an issue than it ought to be. After a while you do get used to it, but the first few days it can be a bit bothersome.
Another example if you are wearing skinny jeans and your phone only just fits in your pocket then adding the extra bulk does not help and may not even fit at all. Normal or loose fit jeans with looser pockets are better as they can accommodate it, but even so taking your phone out of your pocket is more of a chore than usual. If you wear joggers a lot then its a little easier as their pockets are not as tight, but with jeans its an irritation.
To combat this I simply left the puck hanging out of my pocket which did two things. One was eliminate the tightness issue and two, it made using the puck a bit easier as it gave me quicker access to the controls. Still not the perfect solution but it did make things easier.
The quoted life with the ANC on is 20 hours continuous and my testing revealed that this was mostly true. In fact my testing at 75% volume provided a time of 24 hours 24 minutes, this is approximately a 20% increase over what is stated. Of course this will vary depending of usage but that is still very impressive.
The LED light also comes in handy too, you get a Green light when they are activated and this light will also turn off when the battery is depleted. Plus because they are wired you can continue to use them as normal, just minus the NC feature. This in my opinion makes them in a way superior to Bluetooth variants as once they run out, that is pretty much it.
Charging time is stated to be anywhere between 1 hour 30 minutes and 2 hours. My test showed that the DK100 charged in just 1 hour 33 minutes via my Anker Powerport 5. This is again impressive as for just that you get a full days use from them.
Whilst in the charging cycle the LED comes into play again, its Orange during the cycle and this will turn Green when the charge cycle is complete, so that means that there is no second guessing to when they are done.
Noise isolation and Leak
Active Noise cancelling is a term that does get attached to some products that often don’t deliver, especially at the lower end of the market, but do these? Well they are supposed deliver a reduction in background noise of up to 97% which equates to around 28dB depending on the situation. But does it work.
Well with the isolation with the ANC off is just below average for the price. During my public transport I could still hear the buses engine and tyre noise. These seem to be impacted more by lower frequency sounds than anything. I used my usual 75% volume to run the test and well like mentioned they performed below average. Of course your experience will differ depending on the volume you have them, how well they fit you and your surroundings.
But when you switch ANC on its so much better. The background noise completely goes and all I could hear was my music. The DK100 seem to do this in a few ways. The first is traditional active noise cancelling and the second was the slightly increase the volume. Again I ran the test at 75% and it was a night and day difference. I then tested some lower volumes and found 65% to be the sweet spot between volume output and isolation. It did still work at volumes under 65%, but that is what was comfortable for me. Again your experience will be different, but mine with the DK100 and their noise cancelling was a good one. For the most part.
My testing did reveal one flaw in the active noise cancelling and that is, whenever the bus went over a bump or pothole in the road that translated to audible noise in the sound. Basically I could hear the bump as well as feel it. This was not a pleasant experience and one I found all to often on our roads in the UK. I’m not sure why I experienced this, but it was something that needed mentioning.
Leak is pretty minimal and kept nicely in check. So if you’re next to someone on public transport they may just be able to hear what you are listening to. Its not distinguishable, so don’t worry, you won’t get caught listening to embarrassing Holiday music. But if you are worried you could always use NC to drop the volume which further reduces the leak and lessens the noise what other people can hear. Keep in mind your experience will most likely be different.
They also have a monitor mode which works really well. When the ANC is activated you press the M button on the puck and this activates two mics located on the back of the main housing. This then allows the background noise to be let in and you can hear it more clearly. You maybe thinking what is the point of this, well its designed to keep you aware of what is happening around you. For example if your on a train platform and you need to know if there has been any updates over the PA system, you could hear it, or if you are on a tram and need to know when you stop is coming up or even listening to announcements at an airport. You can more clearly hear them, so you won’t miss anything important, then of course you can switch back to NC mode and carry on blocking out everything.
Sound quality wise they are solid, they can go loud enough if needs be and a massive is there is no noticeable degradation of the quality when the active noise cancelling is activated. This is impressive as usually the sound profile does change, but hear they don’t seem to.
Bass is quite deep, its not the most impactful I’ve ever come across at the price but its good. It does pack a decent punch and its quite clear too. Some of you may like that the bass isn’t too much and for my preference its actually nice. Its never too overwhelming nor is it weak. If you really want to impressed by the bass, then these may not be for you, but if you want a nice clean and clear bass, these are good.
Mids are nice too, again they are clear and have a good amount of detail. Soundstage of course is limited due to the form factor but its not the worse I’ve ever encountered and its actually a bit better than some other I’ve tested at a similar price. In sound and instrument separation is admirable too, if you listen enough you can distinguish what is what. Although its not as instantly clear as others its there if you pay attention. The mids are also fairly neutral bordering on warm. Cool mids can often sound a little drab and overly warm mids can be too bright, these strike a nice balance between the two.
Vocals are pleasant as well. Again they have a nice clarity and are well judged. They are nicely present but not to the point where they become overpowering. They are lacking the power that I like, but again that is a personal preference and not all like a strong vocal. Tonal quality is a little lacking in the expression department and it doesn’t quite have the chops to do Adele and Rag N Bone justice. Its okay for most chart music, but doesn’t quite deliver for me. But again that’s just a preference of mine.
As a whole though these are some of the better earphones I’ve heard under £30. Only the Xiaomi Hybrid Pro sound better that I’ve heard recently. But as a whole package in the sound department, these don’t disappoint for the price.
The DK100 are a very likeable set of earphones with a few flaws. The positives are the nice design, build quality, comfort, impressive battery life, the noise isolation, minimal leak and the sound. The negatives are the placement of the noise cancelling module, the strange flaw in the noise cancelling, lack of strain relief around the remote and the cable management issue.
In reality the positives do outweigh the drawbacks which I wouldn’t call deal breakers. So should you pick some up. For £29.99 they are impressive and I’m not sure if there any many earphones at the price point which have active noise cancelling that actually works. Even taking the ANC out of the equation they are still solid earphones for the price and basically the addition of the NC is the icing on the cake.
Pick up a pair here via Amazon UK
DECOKA DK100 In-Ear Wired ANC Earphones (Black)