Sony Digital Noise Canceling Headset MDR-NC31EM Review

I tend to avoid device-specific accessories these days. My reasoning is simple. You see, I find myself changing my phone and tablet frequently, and I want accessories that will outlast any specific device. The Sony Digital Noise Canceling Headset MDR-NC31EM is an exception. They are specifically designed for the Sony Zperia Z2 phone and tablet, and I’m impressed. Here’s why.One of the standard features of the Sony Xperia Z2 is its built in noise cancelation technology. This technology means that the phone itself does the processing of ambient noise to cancel it out and deliver a quieter environment. Use them to listen to music, watch a video, or simply enjoy some quiet. They do a great job with all of it.

Sony Digital Noise Canceling Headset

Some versions of the Sony Xperia Z2 smartphone ship with the headphones included. (The tablet does not include the headphones.) Unfortunately my Xperia Z2 were imported and did not include them. I turned to Amazon and made my purchase.


These earbuds look like ordinary earbuds but they are specifically designed to work with Sony’s newest super-phone and tablet. The devices have the technology for noise cancellation built into them so that, with the right pair of headphones, (that is, the Sony Digital Noise Cancelling Headset MDR-NC31EM) the noise cancellation process takes place automatically without the need for overly bulky, battery-powered headphones.

The trick is that each of the earbuds has a small microphone that listens to the ambient sound, and then, from the device itself, the noise cancellation process takes over. It works incredibly well.

Here’s what Sony has to say about the Sony Digital Noise Canceling Headset.

No noise. Just music: When you’re travelling, the MDR-NC31EM will effectively block out engine and other noises around you and leave you with the best of your music. High-comfort fit earbuds complement your listening experience and let you enjoy your favourite songs video and other entertainment for hours.

Precision listening: Block out all the noise around you wherever you are and listen to your music in all its detail. This digital noise-cancelling headset will give you full-range audio with deep bass, a strong medium register and clear highs. Excellent audio for all types of music.

Hands-free calling: When a call comes in you can use your MDR-NC31EM to enjoy the call. Your hands are free and you have excellent call audio.

Video Review of the Sony Digital Noise Canceling Headset MDR-NC31EM

I shot this video a number of weeks ago, but waited to edit and post it until after I’d had the opportunity to use the headphones on an airplane. I just returned from a trip to Israel, and I have to say I am absolutely in love with this accessory. On the flight over, I initially used one of my dedicated noise canceling headphones, but I found them to be rather bulky and comfortable. Because these are earbuds, I was able to put them on and rest my head comfortably on the fold-down seat. (Yes, I had the good luck of flying business class.) On the way back they worked even better. Our plane didn’t take off until about 11:15 PM; I was already exhausted, and by the time the meal service had come by I was completely and totally shot. I put the chair down into its flat, sleep mode, plugged in the headphones but turned off the music playback, and suddenly I was in a quiet environment that was conducive to sleep. Eight hours later, I woke up and there was just an hour left in the 11 1/2 hour flight. That would not have happened were it not for these headphones.

That noted, I also need to point out that the headphones are incredibly comfortable and sound great. They ship with a number of inserts so that you can find the right fit and seal for your particular ears and the audio quality is excellent. Better still, if you’re not happy with the sound out of the box, both the phone and tablet include a number of settings so you can tweak the audio to your liking. Finally, it’s worth noting that when you look at these earbuds you won’t see anything different right out of the gate. A close examination of the plug however will reveal the fact that there are four different bands (5 poles). This additional band is where the noise cancellation technology steps into the equation. The downside of this is the fact that, as the product page reveals in the fine print, “… call handling is only possible when the MDR-NC31EM is connected to a device with a 3.5 mm 5-pole audio.” Right now those devices include the Sony Xperia Z2 and the Xperia Z2 Tablet.

I wish my phone had shipped with the noise canceling headphones in the box (Judie’s did), but I am certainly not unhappy about making a purchase since they are comfortable, sound excellent, and they do a phenomenal job of shutting out the world. This extra bit of technology is reason enough to buy this phone, if you are torn between it and another Android flagship model. Learn more here.

Source: Personal purchase of the Sony Digital Noise Canceling Headset

What I Like: Comfortable; Sound good; Noise cancellation works exceptionally well

What Needs Improvement: Only serve up the noise cancellation with the Xperia Z2 phone or tablet

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About the Author

Dan Cohen
Having a father who was heavily involved in early laser and fiber-optical research, Dan grew up surrounded by technology and gadgets. Dan’s father brought home one of the very first video games when he was young and Dan remembers seeing a “pre-release” touchtone phone. (When he asked his father what the “#” and “*” buttons were his dad said, “Some day, far in the future, we’ll have some use for them.”) Technology seemed to be in Dan’s blood but at some point he took a different path and ended up in the clergy. His passion for technology and gadgets never left him. Dan is married to Raina Goldberg who is also an avid user of Apple products. They live in New Jersey with their golden doodle Nava.