At the plush end of the market, Denon’s over-ear headphones have luxuriously soft cushioning and pivoting adjustments for comfort and folding. Weighing only 180g (including AAA battery), it hardly feels like you’re wearing them. There’s an additional processing mode on top of noise cancelling called Restorer, which aims to improve compressed audio, though it isn’t very noticeable. Built-in volume and talk-through controls are absent but the AH-NC800 functions as normal headphones if cancellation is off. When on, this works meticulously, however, its claim of 99 per cent noise reduction is stretching things a bit. Overall the headphones deliver a bold, open and expansive performance.
Reg Rating 75%
More info Denon
Digital Silence DS-321D
These in-ear headphones by Wolfson Microelectronics are decent value if your budget doesn’t reach treble figures. In terms of comfort, they are also midway between cheaper and luxury models. Instead of the usual AAA, a built-in battery is charged from a micro USB, giving about 30 hours, slightly less than a removable cell. Its advantage is the tiny, featherlight control unit but you’ll need a mains connection to recharge. Sensibly they also work normally if noise cancelling is off. Features include a monitor button and mobile phone mic. It has a emphatic sound, packing plenty of bass and crisp higher frequencies, though vocals are not as smooth as the Sennheiser or Sony.
Reg Rating 70%
More info Digital Silence
Next page: Panasonic RP-HC55
Errm, why spend
upwards of £150 on these, when you can get a Sony NWZ-A845 16GB walkman with the exact same functionality...
Surely the real test
Is how any of these compare on noise reduction to just a simple pair of over-ear ear defenders from B&Q for under ten quid? I use a pair of those over some fairly decent Sennheiser earbuds and it works a treat on flights, even against screaming children. They seem to survive a lot more abuse than any headphone set I've bought, too.
I've had at least 5 pairs of noise cancelling headphones in the last 5 years, including Sennheiser, Sony, Bose, Philips and Koss.
None of them ever came close to beating ear plugs + over ear std headphones. I used to do around 150k miles of air travel a year, and that combination left me much less tired after longhaul flights than anything else I tried.
Oh, and the type of ear plugs makes a difference. If you can find them, Hearos are fantastic, with an NRR of 33db+ and very comfy. They are also very useful to block those noisy hotel HVAC units so you can get a decent nights sleep....
As an aside, I find that wearing headphones in public places just bothers me, I feel less in control. It's alright while sitting down for a while, but I tend to take them off as soon as I stand up.