I’m on a constant search for great active noise canceling earbuds that do more than just cancel noise. I want earbuds that blow me away. I want deep, rich sound. I want thumping bass. I want crisp and clear midtones that bring a warm sound to life. Oh yeah, and I also want them to have enough battery life to last on a flight from Fort Worth, Texas to Disney World, and preferably, from Disney World to Disneyland!
It turns out, that’s a very tough ask. Earbuds that have active noise cancellation typically have lackluster bass. If they have solid bass, their midtones are weak. If they manage to have a warm and rich sound with thumping bass, then their battery life is around 3 hours. It’s the triangle of Chinese food – you can have it hot, fast, or cheap, but never all three. The Between 3ANC from Status claims to be able deliver everything I’ve asked for and more. I was eager to put them to the test – could these be the earbuds I’ve been searching for?
The 3ANC represents the third iteration of these earbuds, with the ANC portion standing for Active Noise Cancellation. I’m skipping the “True” part, as all that means is that it doesn’t have a cord of any kind. I think we are beyond that marketing buzzword at this point. That third iteration also represents another aspect of these earbuds – the hybrid triple driver. Specifically, there are two balanced armature drivers and one dynamic driver in each earbud. If you are unfamiliar, balanced armature drivers vibrate a small reed inside of the small enclosure which transfers the motion to an aluminum diaphragm. This armature is centered in the middle of two coil-wrapped magnets. As electricity passes through these coils, it causes the reed to vibrate, causing disruption in the air to vibrate against the aluminum diaphragm.
When done in pairs, you can pull in two sets of frequencies, which is often the difference between good and “just ok” earbuds. When you get either solid mids but terrible highs or great highs and terrible lows, that’s because you are usually dealing with a single driver and a single diaphragm resulting in just one set of frequencies. Here we have two 10mm drivers pulling in two sets of frequencies to build a larger frequency response. As this diaphragm doesn’t pull in the sound directly from anywhere but this reed, it results in an incredible audio clarity in an extraordinarily small space.
The third driver in these earbuds is a dynamic driver. A dynamic driver is typically larger than the aforementioned diaphragm, housing a voice coil between two magnets instead of a reed. The voice coil vibrates, translating the sound directly, resulting in better bass. This dynamic driver, when combined with the two balanced armature drivers, results in what’s commonly called a “hybrid earphone” and is normally reserved for the in-ear monitors. These are used by musicians on stage when it’s important to hear the band clearly while also pulling the fans screaming down a notch or three. Sorry – if you thought Rush could hear you yelling, the answer might have been “barely”.
For those of us mere mortals who spend our time living on the lighted stage (approaching the unreal, for those who think and feel…) we get the benefit of all that incredible engineering, but we get to use it to drown out screaming babies and jet noise while flying, or the consistently-poor (and shockingly repetitive) music in our local gym. I’m going to make a comparison that may or may not click with you, but stick with me. If you’ve ever gotten in a luxury vehicle such as a high end BMW S-Class, Rolls Royce, or an Audi A8, then you know that they are something akin to an anechoic chamber. Sound doesn’t get muffled, it disappears. Like a sci-fi spaceship, you hear that door shut and it’s like the world around you disappears. These 3ANC buds are like that. If you pop into the app and turn on active noise canceling and then put these in your ear, all outside sound simply evaporates.
But how loud of a noise can it shut out? I had some specific tests that I’ve found are real system breakers for other systems: lawn work.
Pulling out my lawnmower and putting in the Between 3ANC earbuds makes that lawnmower completely evaporate. All I hear is my music, and zero lawn sounds? It’s hard to beat that! Finishing up the mowing part, I picked up my weed whacker. The high-pitched whine cuts through every other noise canceling headphones I’ve ever used, but not these. Still – silence. The final test is the leaf blower. It’s obnoxiously loud, or at least it is normally. Not here. The Between 3ANC has active noise cancellation of up to -38db, meaning it can pull a lawnmower at roughly 85db down to 47db – something less than the slight hum of a refrigerator (55db). My mower is electric (75db), which means that it pulls it down to around 37db. For reference, a whisper is 25db.
Not always do you want to completely shut out the world. Occasionally, you want to have some awareness of things going on around you. For that you’ll want Transparency Mode. Transparency Mode turns off active noise cancellation, allowing environmental noise to come through. This gives you the ability to listen to your music, podcast, or whatever, while still being able to hear voices clearly. In fact, it’s extraordinarily clear.
Let’s talk about microphones. Despite these earbuds being inordinately small, they contain a whopping six microphones located all across the unit. These take in sound from all sources and process them using a technique known as beamforming. Normally seen in boosting the speed of broadband, beamforming microphones capture your voice, but also pull in the environment around you. Then, an onboard digital signal processor (DSP) identifies any extraneous sound, digitally erasing any noise with counterwaves and similar techniques. Regardless of how you are using these earbuds, be it gaming, Google Hangouts, Zoom, Skype, Facetime, actual phone calls, or whatever else, the sound is remarkably clear.
The 3ANC are IPX-5 water-resistant. IPX-5 means it can handle “low pressure water streaming from any angle” – something very unlikely to happen directly at your ear. What it does mean, however, is that no matter how hard you sweat during your run, hike, bike ride, lift session, or do other gym rat activities, these earbuds aren’t going to have a problem shrugging it off.
You have two choices for color on these earbuds” Onyx and Bone. Both come in a charging case that I absolutely love. You slide the square part down into a channel to charge them, immediately and magnetically holding them in place. It’s impossible to accidentally place them in the wrong place, and when they snap in place you know they are secure. Charging the case is handled via the included color-matched USB-C cable.
We’ve talked about an absolutely staggering amount of technology packed into these earbuds, so you’d be excused for thinking the battery life would be short. The Between 3ANC has a whopping 12 hours of playback with ANC turned off, and 8 hours of continuous use with ANC enabled. I tested this from full to charged (about 2.5 hours for that) multiple times, and like clockwork, it’s 8 hours of use. That’s nearly double that of Monster’s best ANC, and 5 hours more than any other I’ve tested. These earphones officially hold the battery record.
Heading into the app (both iOS and Android are supported), a wide variety of adjustments and status indicators. The aforementioned Active Noise Canceling and Ambient Sound Modes can be toggled here, though they can obviously be enabled with a button press on the device as well. You can also see the firmware revision the devices are currently using, as well as something called “Sound Signature”. Sound Signature can make these devices sound like the Status Audiophile, or the original Between Pro devices. These are simple sound profiles, but if you want to really tweak the sound, you’ll want to avail yourself of the custom EQ. With eight individual frequency ranges to adjust, you can make the sound just about any way you wish. You can then save these as presets, keeping multiple for different listening cases.
The team at Status are confident in the Between 3ANC. They offer a full 30 day money back guarantee with a no-questions-asked refund, including free shipping. They really want you to like these, but if they aren’t a fit, they’ve got you squared away.
There is one area where I wish Status gave off a little more confidence: the warranty. The Between 3ANC has a 1 year warranty where the unit will be replaced in the case of defect. I find it interesting that their warranty has a clause for “user-inflicted damage,” which I can only assume means “I stepped on it” or something similar, to which Status will actually provide partial credit towards a replacement unit. That feels a bit above and beyond, as does the annotation that claims after a year will be handled on a “case by case basis at the discretion of Status Audio”, which suggests better service than the “a year and a day makes it your problem” approach you get with most other companies nowadays.
There’s no way around it, this much bleeding edge tech is going to cost, but I’m surprised to say not nearly as much as I expected. The MSRP for the Between 3ANC is $249, but it’s on sale for $199. This puts it well below noise canceling headphones, and far below some of the more name-recognized devices from players like Monster, Bose, and Sony which come in at nearly $300. Having tested those, frankly, they don’t stand up to what Status has pulled off here. These just popped to the top of the ANC food chain for me – nothing beats the Between 3ANC.
Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming.
Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter.
Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 27 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
Status Between 3ANC Noise Cancelling Earbuds
Status lives up to their name with the Between 3ANC. Filled to bursting with bleeding edge interconnected technologies, the sound quality is unparalleled. Everyone else needs to step up their game – this is the new standard.