Lenovo ThinkPlus XT98 Earbuds

Continuing from my last post on the LP40 Pro Earbuds for only $15 (recommend a quick read) I continued my journey for cheap gym headphones/ear buds. This time due to the note I put in that review where I found myself increasing the volume to drown out the gym noise and discovering that it’s uncomfortably loud.

This time I decided I probably needed something with Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), like my Bose QC3s, as I usually run volume on its absolute lowest setting, and felt like I was probably doing damage having them on basically highest volume for an hour most days.

With that in mind I found the XT98s, which are the same vendor and brand as the LP40 Pros, but with ANC at a palatable $35NZD, more than twice the price of those but still exceptionally well priced (and leaps and bounds lower than any other set in NZ with ANC). But are they worth it? (Yes)

As a result I have also recycled some of the other review where there’s no change between the two models.


The XT98s are no $14 headphones and come in at more than double that at $35 but boast ANC, which I struggle to find in any ear buds for less than $99 plus shipping (more for larger headphones).

Technically $18.66USD+GST from AliExpress, which right now would be $34.65NZD.

So if purely being able to produce sound in the form factor is the limits of your requirements, then you may be better suited looking at the LP40 Pros, as I wouldn’t say I could perceivably notice a difference between the two with low ambient noise.

But as I was specifically looking for headphones that have ANC, to protect my hearing now and in the future, then the $35 price point is incredible.


I’m not a headphone reviewer, I haven’t tried a thousand different types, nor many flavours of ear buds. I have tried good and bad headphones, and I can hear the difference. I also now favour active noise cancellation (ANC) as found on my Bose QC3 corded headphones (for all intents and purposes I also prefer corded headphones).

So this review is VERY subjective, and some of the “features” I don’t even know if they make a difference (such as bluetooth versions). I’ll mention them, b ut I’ll also clarify that I have no real frame of reference to determine whether it matters. It is just a review from someone meeting the earlier criteria, cheap for the gym and whether I would recommend them for my purpose.


In line that with that disclaimer, I’m only going to mention features I actually think are relevant, why I think they’re relevant and I’m going to rewrite them in plain English.

  • Bluetooth 5.2, supposedly this should lower latency and improve the connection vs older versions. I have no way to verify this.
  • True Wireless Stereo (TWS), this is an actual benefit, both pieces independently connect over Bluetooth but report as a single device. This means you can use them both, one or the other separately in parallel. There’s no main device, which establishes the connection then forwards to the other.
  • Type-C charging, another real benefit as micro-USB is becoming uncommon.
  • 5-6 battery life and around 5 charges in the case, this I haven’t verified, since I wear them at the gym so they get about an hour use max, but in the month I’ve owned them I have charged them once and they’re now at 3 of 4 lights on the case indicator. So seems likely.
  • Bluetooth range >10M, this I would also believe. I have walked more than 10M away from my phone whilst at the gym and have never had signs of connectivity loss.
  • Touch controls, the controls respond well, but I can never remember what does what aside from volume so just use my phone/watch to control the rest. You’d probably get used to it.
  • Active Noise Cancellation at -28dB. Decibel measures are logarithmic, so I don’t really understand how the -28dB thing would work. I guess it’s probably meaningful if you use it as a basis for comparing different headphones with ANC.
  • External sound passthrough, basically it uses the microphones and feeds them straight to the speakers and is one of the modes on the ANC switch. The function makes sense, and the microphones are definitely more sensitive, so useful if you don’t want to have to take the earphones out of your ears to hear someone speak. Could also possibly double as cheap, makeshift hearing aids.

Other than that, there are plenty of offered specs around driver sizes, frequency response etc but honestly in this sort of form factor it’s unlikely they’re comparable. If you need to know that information you can find it in five seconds flat with a quick Google.

Active Noise Cancellation (ANC)

Just a quick primer on this technology, to explain WHY it’s better, and not to just be a meaningless jargon term.

Active Noise Cancellation (vs Passive Noise Cancellation or no Noise Cancellation) is an electrical function where microphones on the headphones are used to listen to the ambient noise, then a special design feature sends a sound wave of the same but opposite amplitude as ambient, cancelling it out. It’s “Active” because it’s actively listening and cancelling noise. This is also why there is a reasonable price premium, as it does require actual functional hardware to achieve.

It consumes more power when it is on, but also has a dual advantage of turning your device into a headset that can take phonecalls, since it is guaranteed to have reasonably good, stereo microphones. Often manufacturers will increase utility further by also having a “hearing aid” mode as well, which might be useful for older and hearing impaired users, where the headphones then pass through external sound to the primary speakers.

You may also hear of Passive Noise Cancellation (PNC), PNC is just using physical means to block sound, like a good seal for the earbuds.

And as a point of comparison, Apple AirPods do not have ANC, but AirPods Pros do. ANC is a Premium Feature.

Build Quality

The physical build quality is excellent.

  • The plastic feels good in hand
  • The case hinge is magnetised, which both keeps it closed and offers a satisfying snap
  • The charge port is easily accessed
  • The headphones fit well, and the headphone charging system doesn’t look like it would break
  • They do not feel like a cheap device
  • Extra plug sizes are included so you can get a good fit

The software works well, but the audio feedback for the controls has one fixed volume so can starkly contrast against music if the volume is low.

One annoying thing is that the ANC has to be switched on manually every time (double tap on the left ear and hear “ANC Mode”).

Also as mentioned I haven’t been able to wrap my head around the touch controls aside from the volume, that may just be me.

In usage, you can pull one from the case, or the other, or both and they both connect seamlessly to your device. No hesitation, no annoyances, no loss of pairing. Pull them out and they work, put them in and they stop. This is expected behaviour, and there was nothing annoying here as you would expect at the price point except for the fact that the ANC is off by default whenever the headphones start.

Looking at them, I find they’re a physically attractive device when compared to alternatives, unlike the LP40 Pros, they’re available in just monochrome black or white.

But all in all I would rate them highly for build quality.

Sound Quality

The XT98s have good sound quality. There’s a major limitation in the form factor, but the design of the buds give a good seal in the ears reducing leakage and giving a better full sound effect to your drum. So they won’t win any awards for sound reproduction, but there’s nothing fundamentally missing in the audio department either.

I wouldn’t be surprised if they were the same fundamental driver and system as the LP40 Pros.

But where the XT98s shine is the ANC, where previously with the LP40 Pros I had them about 70% volume at the gym, and they were still competing with the ambient gym noise. With these I have them around 40% volume and the gym is a mild blur in the background.

With ANC on, the full range is a lot more apparent and it does sound good, although the bass is still a bit lacking.

Update: I increased the size of the rubber inserts and now get an excellent seal and wow, actually the sound quality is really good. The bass is a lot more effective and the gym is now almost entirely gone at around 30% volume on my phone.

The only flaw with them, is that when you sweat enough running on a treadmill, the ANC can “break” when your sweat makes it into a microphone. Which seems to always happen on my right ear. The earphone continues to work well, but I have to shake it out to get the ANC to start working again.

With the ANC I would easily say that there is a massive improvement against ambient noise, but also that it significantly improves sound quality even though the drivers themselves are probably the same as the cheaper model.


When these arrived I immediately concluded with first use they were as good as I was hoping.

They were cheap, they were quality, they sounded great and the Active Noise Cancellation did not let me down.

Then I changed the rubber inserts and they improved significantly to hit way above their price point.

If you were to ask me if I would recommend them, 10/10 I would definitely recommend them. If you were to ask if they were a better buy than the LP40 Pros in my previous review? They are absolutely a better buy than the LP40 Pros. And if you were to ask which you should choose, the answer will be these unless you genuinely are extremely skint.

Finally if I were to compare these to any other option, due to the price point I would buy these before anything else from any other brand. I mean, Apple Airpods with ANC are $500!

Would recommend in a heartbeat.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *