Ten of the best... noise-cancelling headphones
World, shut your mouth
Round-up When we organized a round-up of noise-isolating headphones recently, we were able to get hold of a couple of models that cost as little as £10. However, noise-cancelling headphones are a different kettle of fish. Rather than simply plugging up your ear canal to prevent external noise from getting through, noise-cancelling headphones are packed with sophisticated electronics – including microphones that allow them to analyse background noise and then generate their own sound waves that are designed to counter and nullify that background noise.
Noise-cancelling headphones - ideal for the frequent flyer
This approach works particularly well with regular, consistent noises such as the drone of an aircraft engine, or the trundling wheels of a train. However, it also means that noise-cancelling headphones are a lot more expensive than conventional headphones. No great surprise that many of these headphones are aimed at well-heeled business users who travel a lot and can afford to pay a price that the average iPod owner would probably baulk at. The best models reviewed here all cost close to £300, although more modestly priced noise-cancelling headphones can be found for £100 or less, if you shop around.
Slipping the NC732 headphones on makes you feel as though your ears have been vacuum-packed in cling-film, so soft and clingy is the padding on the earpieces. They do an excellent job of cutting out background noise, and produce a nice warm sound with lots of detail in the higher frequencies. The bass could be a little stronger – as could the maximum volume level – but they’ll be great if you just want to lie back and relax to some soothing music on a long plane or train journey. We’ve seen online prices for these ranging from £85 to £250, but we’d snap them up for anything under £150.
Reg Rating 80%
More Info Denon
At just over £100, Audio-Technica’s ANC7 headphones sit at the lower end of the price range for noise-cancelling headphones, but we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the sound they produced. Less expensive noise-cancelling headphones sometimes have a slightly muffled sound that is caused by the internal sound-waves that they generate to cancel out background noise. However, the ANC7 produces a very clean and natural sound. Our only minor complaint is that a little distortion does start to creep in on the higher frequencies when you crank the volume up really high.
Next page: Sony MDR-NC500D
Nokia Bluetooth Stereo Headset BH-905, altough a lot pricier (?), would seem still to be the pair for me. It works with cable also. Shame you didn't review them here as well. They seem to beat all of your choices.. Atleast in pr-speek.. :P
Poor Quality Bose
If you go out and spend all that money on the Bose product, don't expect them to last. I spent the money on some Bose QC2s which fell apart at the cheap plastic part joining the headband to the cups. I'm not alone. See here http://getsatisfaction.com/bose/topics/warning_bose_will_not_repair_or_replace_broken_qc2_headphones. Bose will tell you that they have improved the design in this area - they won't repair my pair because they are the improved design!
How about passive cancelling?
Etymotic ER4p FTW.
Although, not everyone gets on with the inner-ear headphones.
But, amazing sound reproduction. Top-notch noise-cancelling. No bulky ear-pieces. And no batteries required.
The last round-up failed to consider...
...the more bearable over-ear types. And this one doesn't make it clear if these active ones perform any better at noise reduction, nor whether a single-cell MP3 player then has enough power to drive them.
Or why it's worth spending any more than some regular ear buds with a £10 pair of B&Q (or even cheaper Wickes) ear defenders over the top. Unless they're hugely effective at noise cancellation on an aircraft then sound reproduction quality is hardly an issue; you might as well use the free ones.
Various questions... and answers
A question to The Reg: Why not add the Bose QC2 headset? They are different to the QC3 in size and powering method.
Those asking about carrying cases, Bose ships a semi-rigid case for theirs that fits the QC2 and QC3 perfectly.
And the customer service you get from them is definitely worth the money... And yes, their headphones ARE worth that much for the quality of sound and quality of noise cancelling.