The cheapest headphones in this round-up have one big failing. As with the Bose, there’s no ‘pass-through’, so they only function as headphones if the noise cancelling is switched on, otherwise they are silent. If you want them with you for general use, you’ll need extra AAAs or spare conventional headphones. A pen-shaped control unit has volume adjustment but no monitor switch. The earbuds don’t have the most snug or isolating fit, either, and it's something of a letdown at noise cancelling. While it removes some of the rumble, it still lets a lot through. At least its audio quality is reasonable.
Reg Rating 55%
More info Panasonic
Using the open on-ear design means an easy fit but there’s more leakage from the real world than with in-ear or over-ear models. Despite that, the headphones cut a fair amount of low and mid-frequency background noise. They’re less bulky than over-ear cans and the controls sit in a unit halfway along the cable – as with ear-bud types – featuring volume adjustment and talk-through. They run off a AAA and work normally when cancellation is off. Sound quality is good, considering the cost is no more than average, but its booming bass can be overpowering – depending on what’s playing.
Reg Rating 65%
More info Philips
Next page: Sennheiser CXC 700
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.