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back to article Ten of the best... noise-cancelling headphones

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 …

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Carrying cases?

Hi there, great review. My headphones broke (again) from me being too rough with them and I am in the market for a new set.

Was wondering if you could quickly list the carrying cases that come with these? As a frequent business traveller I have broken so many bulky headphones (I HATE the ones that stick directly in the ear canal) due to the fact that either the carrying case was just a leatherish bag offering no real protection, or it was lacking any sort of case at all. Also do any of these come with any sort of volume or track controls on the chord? So that I can keep my PMP in my pocket or rucksack and still be able to adjust the volume/track without removing it?

Many thanks.

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Can I congratulate the author

I would like to congratulate you on the funniest picture with an article yet - this made me laugh, thanks.

I'll now go and read the article, my trusty old foldable Sony is so old the foam has split.

Two things I learned over the years:

1 - never buy a noise cancelling headset on a flight - you'll have a headset, but the batteries don't come with it which makes it mildly useless until you land. DUh.

2 - realise that the improved sound quality comes at a price: the moment there is a cabin announcement you will hear this as through a megaphone as the volume is pre-set. A bit of planning ahead is thus advisable to avoid having your eardrums meet in the middle of your head due to sound pressure.

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You dont give any figures

but a set of 60db ear protectors and a bluetooth headset or a nice mp3 radio player, 10 minutes with a stanley knife and some tape and glue - et voila blood everywhere...

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Heart

bose

surprised to see bose in there with the best... perhaps they don't deserve the reputation they have...

(disclamier, i've never ever bought or used any bose products)

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Stop

99% (surely that's a "title")

It doesn't seem like you understand the logarithmic nature of sound perception, which is exactly what Sony is hoping for in its mission to bamboozle you. No engineer uses percentages when talking about such things. A 99% reduction is 20 decibels - doesn't sound so impressive now, does it?

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Happy

Creative HN-700

I bought a couple of pairs some years ago and for £25 they're blinding, they've stopped making them now but you can still pick them up for around £30. First time I used them on a flight it took me a while to get past the obligatory need to talk at an increased volume but now I wouldn't be without them (and yes they take batteries but we went to NZ and back on a pair of rechargeable AAA's).

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Glad to see the Sennheiser 450 won

I have a pair and they are excellent, although as the review stated they aren't small. They are however very comfortable, and even sound great as "normal" headphones without the noise-cancelling switched on (by using the "bypass" switch).

Only issue with your review is the price you state - I bought mine online 6 months ago for £175, so unless prices have risen dramatically your quote of £300 sounds a bit high.

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Cheaper Sennheiser

I personally have these:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B000NDGNCI?ie=UTF8&tag=spoavetstu-21&linkCode=as2&camp=1634&creative=6738&creativeASIN=B000NDGNCI

They're the lesser (in number and most importantly in size!!) version of the 450's... significantly cheaper, a fair bit more compact and to my ears work extremely well.... airplane adaptor is a useful purchase too!!

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Bigger is better I reckon

The bigger the headphone, the more effective you can make the good old-fashioned passive insulation without relying on electronic gimmickry to get you out of trouble. The exception I guess is in-ear headphones.

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Help! I'me being driven crazy.

Will any of these headphones work to remove the dreadful noise of thud thud thud produced by modern stereos with those bass boxes? We live in a block of flats and when other occupants start playing that thud thud thud music (prolly drum and bass) it drives me f***ing CRAZY!

P.

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Anonymous Coward

Didn't look very hard

For in-ear active noise cancelling headphones:

JVC HA-NCX77

Maxell HP-NC18

Panasonic RP-HC55

Philips SHN2500

Sony HPM-88

All available on that well known auction site for under £50 new.

So come on Reg H/W, please do a review of these in-ear ones.

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Unhappy

In ear

Would love for them to figure out a way to get decent in-ear versions. My year old Sony ones are rather good, as you say, for background steady noise. Unfortunately what it actually does is allow you to hear what everyone is saying with crystal clarity. I'd rather the background noise to drown them out. Not to mention if you're walking with a cross-wind.

Bloody useful on the Tube where no-one talks to each other though.

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Dead Vulture

Bose? Recommended?

Really?

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Anonymous Coward

Goldring NS1000

Got Goldring NS1000 earlier this year for about £50 (normal price £100ish) and rather happy with them, though I feel too self-conscious to wear anything that large on a bus.

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Jabra C820s?

These are my current ones - came with a very good clamshell hardcase that also included spare leads and converters.

Pictures at: http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Jabra-C820s-Active-Noise-Cancelling-Stereo-Headphones_W0QQitemZ230348158695QQcmdZViewItemQQptZUK_AudioVisualElectronics_HomeAudioHiFi_Headphones?hash=item35a1d1f6e7&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14&_trkparms=65%3A12|66%3A2|39%3A6|72%3A1683|240%3A1318|301%3A1|293%3A1|294%3A24

Not the cheapest (nor the most expensive by a long way), but I was also looking for headphones that had a single, detachable, cord since I find that having two cords rather fiddly.

Shame the pictures didn't show what the cordage was like.

Still, I use mine on trains and the tube and they make a real difference in comfort terms - even if I'm not playing music.

ttfn

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Missing the best

You didn't cover the Sennheiser PXC range, specifically the PXC 250 which cost under £100 and strike a fine balance between portability and performance, and are made by Sennheiser so clearly a winner in the sound stakes. D'oh.

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250 quid ? Having a laugh !

I got a pair of Philips SHN2500 noise cancelling (i.e. their powered and everything) for only a few tens of notes in my local Tesco, and their fab.

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Sennheiser 450

It's always the case that prices for any product will vary a lot online. In the case of these headphones we either went with the price charged by the manufacturer on their own web site, or - where the manufacturer doesn't sell direct - the price charged by the manufacturer's preferred retail outlet.

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YP

PXC 300s

Had a pair for a couple of years and have to say they are execellent. Surprised to see that they are not in the review especially as they are <£100

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Stop

ANC-7s

Some important points missed for the Audio Technica ANC-7 - and probably for other headphones reviewed to....

1) the ANC-7s are a single detachable cord design - more convenient

2) Can be driven by an iPod without turning on the noise cancelling (Can't do this with the Bose 'Winners' - no power, no sound). However, it is quieter because the impedience is much higher when unpowered - so turn up the volume.

3) Powered by single AAA battery, so no need to worry about rechargable. Changed the battery twice in 12 months ownership.

4) Carry case provided, it's not just a simple floppy bag, so offers reasonable protection

5) There is a lot of noise leakage for those around you on the ANC-7s which might not make you popular on a flight.

6) If you're worried about being deafened by announcements on flights then get a noise attenuator. I got one with my Ultimate Ears Super-fi 5 pros and it works well at protecting your hearing. Presumably you can get them elsewhere. Or if you can cope with Canalphones just the UE5s; up to -27dB noise cancellation (allegedly!).

I have ANC-7s and ruled out the Bose because - they stop working if the battery dies. They are too bass heavy - I prefer a natural sound. They're much more expensive. Subjectively they didn't seem to be that well built. I wanted over the ear headphones, not on-ear. They rely on rechargable batteries rather than simple disposables and I don't want to carry *another* charger around. Bose refuse to publish technical information on their products, whereas I want to see the numbers and pretty graphs :)

I suspect there is much omitted from the other reviews to save space. If you want Bose you could do worse than visit their outlet stores, e.g. McArthur Glen near York. Try before you buy - I did having been convinced by reviews like this I would buy Bose, and bought the ANC-7s instead.

Disclaimer - I don't have any affiliation with any of the above companies.

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Anonymous Coward

beyerdynamic

Would be interested how the HS 600 DANR is doing because even the non-cancelling closed systems are pretty good in an airplane (like the DT 770 PRO 80Ω).

http://www.beyerdynamic.de/en/aviation/aviation.html

http://www.thomann.de/gb/beyerdynamic_dt770_pro80_ohm.htm

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And yet

Most people out there are probably going to use them to listen to a load of MP3's ripped at (best) 192kbs. Pointless?

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Anonymous Coward

Thanks

Some very useful reviews there, thank you.

Only question - are there any with advanced active noise cancelling? Built in mobile 'phone jammers? ;-)

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@Alex Walsh

Actually, on planes, trains or automobiles noise cancelling earphones are worth wearing whether listening to anything or not.

They really cut the background engine/wind/tyre/rail noise and mean that your ears aren't being constantly assaulted by the noise.

I still enjoy taking mine off momentarily mid flight just to remind myself of how much noise I'm not hearing and thats with them not even plugged into anything.

There is of course the option of ear plugs but i can't stand stuffing them down my ears

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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.

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Anonymous Coward

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.

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Stop

Great!

"Actually, on planes, trains or automobiles noise cancelling earphones are worth wearing whether listening to anything or not."

That´s my point. My tube is really loud (something moving at 80km/h through a wall-to-window narrow tunnel.)

The windows on the tube open (narrow reverse hatches, open towards inside of train), and cause an ear-splitting high-speed high-pitch wind noise, due to close proximity of the tunnel walls (less than 30cm for sure.)

It is almost the noise for milk-boiling whistles. An Ipod cranked to maximum doesn´t match the ambient noise, it is that loud.

I would gladly have one of those on, but not actually listening to anything.

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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.

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loz

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!

Beware.

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Alert

Nokia BH-905

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

http://www.allaboutsymbian.com/news/item/9812_Nokia_BH-905-noise_cancellatio.php

http://europe.nokia.com/find-products/accessories/all-accessories/headsets/bluetooth-headsets/nokia-bluetooth-stereo-headset-bh-905

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