A solid set of extras, USB-C charging, and a decent build are offset by a tight fit and a sometimes-confusing connection scheme. Audio quality is a little better than you'd expect for this price but the active noise cancelling is exactly what you'd expect for R1,000. Still, if that's your budget, these are a decent choice.
Active noise-cancelling headphones are the standard now but not everyone can afford to place the tech in or on their ears. Until now, that is. South Africans will be familiar with Volkano, a budget brand that makes audio tech and other odds and ends. The VolkanoX Silenzo is from the company’s more advanced lineup but these over/on-ear headphones don’t move beyond budget pricing.
There is, of course, a reason for this. They absolutely are budget headphones but this comes across mostly in terms of performance. The VolkanoX brand has its look, feel, and features down so well that you’ll be surprised that you’re paying just R1,000 for this set of headphones. The price point is worth forgiving the issues these cans have.
Box of surprises
Right from the beginning, the VolkanoX Silenzo headphones were surprising. They’re packed into a high-quality box that belies the price tag. Inside that box is a hardshell travel case that zips closed. Within are the headphones themselves and they’re… remarkably sturdy. That works both for and against them. There’s enough weight that you’ll feel like you’ve got your money’s worth but it also means that the fit can be an issue. More on that in a second.
Inside the case is also a little velcro pouch containing a backup cable (for when the battery is flat), a USB-A to USB-C charge cable (yes, these use the newer port to charge), and an aeroplane adaptor. The Silenzo shows a surprising appreciation for presentation that VolkanoX really didn’t have to go to for this price. It’s about this time that you’ll start asking yourself, “What’s the catch?” Don’t worry, we did too.
There is a catch
The VolkanoX Silenzo (not to be confused with the Silenco) consist of ear-cups that are a little too tight for comfort. They’re solid and well-built, but they, along with the padded headband, can get a little compressive. That won’t be a huge problem unless you’ve got a huge melon, but it’s certainly a factor when it comes to comfort.
The controls, along the right-hand earcup, also reflect that you’re holding a budget headset instead of a premium or midrange model. The buttons are comparatively difficult to work and their layout isn’t exactly intuitive. The area we kept mistaking for the power button actually controlled noise cancelling, for instance. This layout also contributed to the connection issues (that and the battery) we experienced during our review. These might support Bluetooth 5.3 but it’s a slightly stupid version of it. Or maybe our MacBook Air was just being snobby.
Speaking of power, despite these headphones twisting flat, they won’t turn off automatically to preserve battery. That’s… less than ideal in a R5,000 pair of headphones. When you’ve only spent a grand on the VolkanoX Silenzo, remembering to turn them off seems like a small price to pay. We never remembered. We blame muscle memory for that. Ah, well.
Sounds about right
Provided you’ve remembered to turn them off between uses, you’ll get between seven and sixteen hours on a charge. That’s the official tally, of course. In reality, you’ll get a little less than that. The top end is with noise cancelling disabled, the bottom is with ANC on. Your results will vary with regard to the cancelling, too. Activate it in a silent room and you’ll experience a sense of pressure in your head. They’re not subtle about it, at all. Noise will still intrude, so don’t go expecting miracles. The incoming audio is just softer. Pair that with your music and it’s a decent little cocoon of isolation, but any quiet spots may be marred by the outside world.
Audio quality is fair. There’s no real option to set the EQ for the headphones themselves so you’re stuck with whatever your source device is capable of. Don’t expect any subtle auditory nuances. You didn’t pay for those. The VolkanoX Silenzo headphones will pump out a fairly neutral representation of whatever you’re listening to. Distortion will eventually creep in at higher volumes but someone will whack you on the shoulder before that.
That’s because the VolkanoX Silenzo is very familiar with the concept of noise leakage. As in, other people wearing noise-cancelling headphones will be able to hear what you’re listening to at higher volumes. Maybe it’s best to save the Oxygen Destroyer marathon for when you’re at home alone instead of in an open-plan office.
VolkanoX Silenzo ANC verdict
We really weren’t expecting much from this set of super-budget noise-cancelling headphones. In terms of build and features, it’s hard not to be impressed. It’s unfortunate that these Silenzo cans can’t carry the quality all the way through but there’s a reason why a premium set of headphones are priced around the R10,000 mark. Audio quality isn’t bad here and the noise cancelling is about what you’d expect for a grand. But a few simple changes and fewer connection issues would have made the experience far more pleasant. You’re not buying ridiculous quality for R1,000 but that’s always been the case. These will outperform their price point.