Sennheiser CXC 700
With its soft, cosy ear-buds the CXC 700 provides a good sound-isolating start, which it builds on with extremely effective noise cancellation in three strengths to cope with different environments. Even the top level adds no obvious distortion. The ear-buds aren’t any larger than usual and there’s a compact control unit on the cable, including monitor and volume buttons, which takes a AAA battery. If you switch off power or run out of battery, the Sennheisers work as normal headphones. The audio is superbly balanced, with an evocative bass response and distinct high frequencies. Given the quality and features, with this model you genuinely get what you pay for.
Reg Rating 85%
More info Sennheiser
Sony’s new and unusually shaped in-ear headphones are nevertheless a snug fit, though somewhat rigid for extended sessions. The cable is a generous length while its clip-on unit holds a AAA battery and features a monitor mode – but no volume controls. As with most noise cancelling models, they become conventional headphones when powered down (though a shade less bassy too). Like the Sennheiser it has three levels of active noise reduction, however, the Sony sets this automatically according to the situation. Its suppression of external sounds – even on the London Underground – is among the best in this round-up. As headphones they sound enjoyably clean and dynamic. ®
Reg Rating 75%
More info Sony
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.