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Testing Noise Canceling Headphones

This evening I tested some Noise Canceling Headphones (as described in my previous post [1]).

I first tried the ones on sale at Brookstone [2], they were the on the ear type so there was never a chance that I would buy them but they seemed like good ones to test. I wore them for about 10 minutes while I walked around the store looking at all the electronic stuff that’s on sale. I noticed that they were much more effective at filtering low frequencies and regular sounds. So for the Christmas music that was playing the music was mostly filtered just leaving the sound of the singing. Also I was able to talk to the guy who worked there and hear him clearly when the noise canceling was turned on – this can be considered a bug or a feature depending on your planned use. When I listened to electric fans the sound of the buffeting air was filtered just leaving the high pitched bearing noise.

It is well documented that there is a hissing sound from noise canceling headphones and sometimes a feeling of pressure. I didn’t hear any hissing but it did feel a little different when I turned on the noise canceling. After 10 minutes I didn’t feel in any way uncomfortable, so I could probably survive an entire flight while wearing such headphones. I can highly recommend the customer service at the Brookstone store in Menlo Park. The guy who was working there was totally helpful, even by US standards his customer service was really good. Sometimes when you make an unusual request (such was wanting to try the merchandise for an extended period of time) the staff aren’t particularly enthusiastic, but I had no problems at Brookstone!

After Brookstone I went to a Bose store and tried the Quiet Comfort 15 noise canceling headphones [3]. The Bose store conveniently had a device configured to emulate the sound of a jet engine to demonstrate how the QC15 stopped that. I was quite impressed with that. I did feel that the QC15 was a little light for my taste, I would rather have something bigger and heavier with thicker padding to improve the passive resistance to sound. But I expect that many people would like it to be small and light as it’s designed for travel.

I visited a Sony store a couple of times, but no-one seemed able to serve me. I’ll go there again some time when they are less busy.

Finally I have to note that I have received a significant number of comments suggesting ear-bud type devices. I suggest that anyone who doesn’t mind wearing such things should consider ear-bud type devices. But as I can’t stand such things I will continue my search for over-ear headphones. I may end up just buying the Bose QC15, they seem to be good enough and not really expensive.

7 comments to Testing Noise Canceling Headphones

  • Russell, you note that you are seeking only over-ear headphones. Have you worn this type for periods of hours before? I ask because I have worked with audio gear in capacities where I wore over ear ‘phones for hours and they hurt my ears and head a lot. Good for up to an hour – less good for longer. I too could not stand ear buds or canal ‘phones for long periods, but lightweight on-ear Sennheisers are most comfortable for me as conventional headphones.

    Of course each person is different and will experience the different types in different ways but in deciding on over-ear I just hope you have a chance to give a pair a long run first.

  • Branden

    Bose is apparently no longer selling them, but I have the QC2 over-ear headphones. They work quite well, and are possibly slightly larger than the QC15s that seem to be the replacement product. A quick Google search shows that there are still people selling the QC2s.

  • Benjamin Seidenberg

    You say that you can’t stand “ear-bud type devices”. I don’t know if you were including in-ear-canal phones in this. I can’t stand the stupid buds that just sit in your outer ear (like the kind that come with the iPhone), but I’ve been extremely happy with my Shure in-ear-canal ‘phones. I find them much more comfertable and usable for long term wear. They come with 3 different tip styles, 2 of which come in many styles, and they do wonders to reduce outside noise by just sealing off your ear.

    If you can stand earplugs, you’ll probably be able to use these. Consider trying them.

  • John Clarke

    I have the QC2s and they’re great. I used to listen to music through them at work and they did an excellent job of blocking out the low rumble of the a/c fans and the whine of computer fans, and they reduced the volume of any conversations going on around me so that I could keep the music at a volume low enough to avoid hearing damage. Battery life was excellent, with a single battery lasting for weeks, but of course that varies depending upon the level of ambient noise and how loud you like your music.

    I’ve tried the QC3s but found them uncomfortable when worn for longer than an hour or so. To help with noise isolation, they put quite high pressure on your ears, and it starts to hurt after a while.

    I find earbuds uncomfortable too, and I don’t think they do much of a job of noise isolation.

  • If the Bose products are too pricey, Able Planet has some headsets that you can get for under $100. Here’s a review of the NC300s:
    http://su.pr/1PjcEN

    Cheers!

  • I own DMX-NC300 noise canceling headphones from Maxfunusaa. These act as complete sound proof from outside environment. I am using it for a quite long and more than satisfied with it.

  • etbe

    Yoshi aka Ray, that is not the right way to promote your company’s products. The right thing to do is to say “I work for Maxfunusa and I think that your readers might be interested in considering our products, here are a couple of links to independent reviews”.

    It is possible that you actually own your company’s product and that you like it. But that doesn’t make you a regular customer.