back to article Noise-canceling headphones with a DO NOT DISTURB light can't silence your critics

The Register's Sydney eyrie will soon be demolished, so Vulture South needs a new office and we're probably going to nestle into a shared workspace. Which is why I decided to try out the Jabra Evolve 80, a pair of noise-canceling headphones that feature red lights on the earpieces designed to warn people you do not wish to be …

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  1. LaeMing Silver badge
    Devil

    Do not disturb notice.

    You don't want a little red ring to come on. You want a small rail-gun turret with visually-obvious razor-blade magazine to pop out of each ear cup and point menacingly at anyone who gets too close! Ideally with a little rising-pitch whine.

    1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      Re: Do not disturb notice.

      While I like that concept, letting my coworkers Darwin themselves out of existence is fine by me, but I'd start with a simple desktop sign on a folded cardboard plaque that read "If the red lights are on I'm busy. Please leave me a note or come back later when the red lights are off. Thank you."

      This would let them know I'm hard at work, "in the zone", & if they disturb me it might prove more than they bargained for (like me pulling a Milton & reaching for my red Swingline). But if they simply leave me a note on the pad I'd leave for that purpose on the side of my desk, then I'd get back to them once I come up for air. Unless it's something critical (unlikely) or an emergency (not impossible) then it can wait.

      But I still like the idea of an R2D2 style AEGIS Point Defense System sitting atop my monitor & programmed to ignite the flamethrower at anyone that can't take the hint.

      *Ominous cackle*

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Do not disturb notice.

        "If the red lights are on I'm busy. Please leave me a note or and don't come back later when the red lights are off. Thank you."

        FTFY

        1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Do not disturb notice.

          I remember often being busy and getting disturbed by someone coming to moan that he's always getting disturbed when he's busy....

          Seriously.

          The irony was lost on him.

      2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Do not disturb notice.

        I'd start with a simple desktop sign on a folded cardboard plaque that read "If the red lights are on I'm busy. Please leave me a note or come back later when the red lights are off. Thank you."

        Or just "I aten't listenin" ?

        1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

          Re: Do not disturb notice.

          and ps “I are‘nt dead”

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Do not disturb notice.

            ITYM "I aten't ded"

            1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
              Mushroom

              Re: Do not disturb notice.

              The problem is, a self cleaning version requires a LOT more megawatts than the usual office outlet allows. That and the constant risk of it being detected by seismic warning systems.

              So while a sign is a lot less effective, it is a "cleaner" option, morally too.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Do not disturb notice.

      Hehe he he heh yeah that would be handy.

      If it also primes a "TASER" with same high pitch whine and some artfully placed white LEDs and speaker to imitate a spark.. :-)

      Maybe someone can get one ready for ze spook season?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Do not disturb notice.

      You want to get a Rolf Harris mug for drinking tea out of, nobody in the office talks to me for some reason.

      1. handleoclast Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Rolf

        People stop talking to me after I do my Rolf Harris impersonation.

        I unzip my fly and then say "Kin ye till whit it is yit, kids?"

        1. ps2os2

          Re: Rolf

          Hope there is no shrinkage because of the noise cancelling earphones.

        2. handleoclast Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Rolf

          I see I have four thumbs down on my post about my Rolf Harris impression. I understand why. My Australian accent is atrocious.

      2. paulf Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Do not disturb notice.

        @AC Re: Rolf Harris mug

        I'm impatiently waiting for my Tobias Funke* mug (somewhat NSFW) for office use. I suspect (and hope!) it'll have the same result in deterring people from bugging me during the day.

        *For those who haven't seen Arrested Development

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Do not disturb notice.

      Do Not Disturb. The legendary status.

      "I know you're busy, but could I quickly..."

      Yes, we've all been there.

    5. Public Citizen
      Facepalm

      Re: Do not disturb notice.

      Thanks to an accident caused by a Drunk Driver I suffer with Hyperacusis.

      In order for me to function outside of my home I have to wear Noise-Canceling Headphones and quite often industrial grade earplugs as well.

      Before I started wearing a little hand made sign in a plastic conventioneers ID badge holder people would come up to me and start shouting, assuming I was listening to music or some sports broadcast. Since I started using the sign very few people speak before reading the sign, saving me considerable annoyance and them the ensuing embarrassment of being asked to please talk at a normal level, I can hear you just fine.

      A simple "Please Do Not Disturb" sign should have a similar effect on your co-workers.

  2. jake Silver badge

    Shared workplace?

    For WRITING? That dog didn't hunt at uni, never mind in the real world!

  3. Sampler

    May I recommend WeWork Pyrmont?

    Having bounced around a few offices in the city (started at Market Street, been in the Rocks, Surry Hills and now Sussex Street) I found WeWork Pyrmont to be rather nice, price wasn't too bad for the co-hab spaces (I ended up with a dedi-desk as I didn't fancy moving all my crap everyday in the freerange desks).

    They have ping pong tables, lots of cool meeting rooms that scale to your needs and, oh yeah, free beer on tap..

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: May I recommend WeWork Pyrmont?

      So you can turn the red lights on then drink beer and play ping-pong without any interruptions?

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: May I recommend WeWork Pyrmont?

        So you can turn the red lights on then drink beer and play ping-pong without any interruptions?

        There may necessarily be some beer-induced interruptions, unless you're suitably prepared.

  4. TReko

    Lower frequencies only

    All the active noise cancelling headphones I've seen only cancel the lower frequencies, below 300Hz.

    For higher frequencies, which includes most of voice's spectral power you're probably better off with some earplugs or well insulated cans.

    Here are the results of a scientific review:

    https://www.lifewire.com/measure-noise-cancelling-in-headphones-3134548

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Lower frequencies only

      Thanks for sharing, I've learnt something new.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Lower frequencies only

        Earplugs - unless sold specifically for music gigs - don't attenuate all frequencies equally. That said, I've used them with some big Sennheisers over the top when sleeping on busses - the music sounded a bit murky and distant, but was fine to fall asleep to.

        The above link is good, but I'm not sure I'd paraphrase as the OP above did. A lot of reviews are hailing the Sony MDR 1000X noise-cancelling headphones as the supplanting Bose as the new king.

        https://www.whathifi.com/sony/mdr-1000x/review

        1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

          Re: Lower frequencies only

          Best bit of kit that I've used is Shure SE215 noise isolating earphones. They combine ear plugs, which knock just short of 40 dB off the background noise, and some good quality headphone drivers. All for change out of £100. They've made my life in a noisy open-plan office far more tolerable

    2. Brenda McViking

      Re: Lower frequencies only

      That lifewire link shows the cancellation characteristics of some fairly terrible noise cancelling headphones though, as an awful lot of them are.

      The gold-standard has been the Bose QC series. They just happen to have a lifewire test on the in-ear QC20s - showing significant attenuation in the usual low frequencies, but also above 300Hz all the way to about 5kHz.

      The reason no one else comes close is because bose have significant patents regarding noise cancelling, filed between 2001-2010 which have plenty of life left in them, and in the real world, mean if you're buying anything other than bose for noise cancelling, you're more than likely wasting your money because nothing else comes close - they did some innovation in the noughties and have the market stitched up for the next few years.

      Of course, it's a pity for audiophiles as they have the old adage - no highs, no lows? must be bose.

      1. Public Citizen

        Re: Lower frequencies only

        Sennheiser PXC 450

        Come reasonable close to the Bose in terms of noise cancellation and they have bigger cans - something of importance when you have big ears and need to wear them for extended periods of time [as in 6 plus hours at a time for several successive days at a time].

        I've been using the same pair, my second in the last 7 years for nearly 3 years and they are still going strong with only a fresh set of foam pads about once a year to keep the seal tight.

        They have a removable cable so don't have to deal with the aggravation of a dangling wire trying to strangle me when I just want the noise canceling.

        Excellent battery life as well, operating for circa 20 hours on a single AAA alkaline cell.

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    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. Ralph the Wonder Llama
    Happy

    "the low-flying aircraft that keep my neighbourhood affordable"

    lol

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: "the low-flying aircraft that keep my neighbourhood affordable"

      I find this kind of noise is "blankable", it's the constant talking and people moving that I find distracting.

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Re: "the low-flying aircraft that keep my neighbourhood affordable"

        I find this kind of noise is "blankable"

        It depends on the type of aircraft. When I'm in the office, we get some aircraft noise from jets flying over to/from the nearby airport, but that's something I seem to have got used to.

        At home, on the other hand, I'm quite close to a military training range. A Typhoon screaming overhead at 200' (or the occasional Hercules or Atlas flying low and tactical) is far from blankable...but they look cool, so I don't mind so much.

      2. SkippyBing Silver badge

        Re: "the low-flying aircraft that keep my neighbourhood affordable"

        'I find this kind of noise is "blankable", it's the constant talking and people moving that I find distracting.'

        Unfortunately I have this terrible condition where I have to try and identify any aircraft I hear, although I agree people talking is a distraction from that.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    noisy neighbour

    I had a pair of these - great noise cancelling - too good .... couldn't really modulate my voice very well so the whole office ended up sharing my wisdom. Perhaps that's the plan - then everyone needs to buy a pair ....

  8. imanidiot Silver badge

    I prefer the Bose QC

    I might be biased since I bought the Bose QC30 myself, but I prefer the noise cancelling on the Bose headphones. When testing against the competition in stores it just seemed miles ahead of the competition in terms of actually cancelling noise.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: I prefer the Bose QC

      For a long time the Bose QC have been reviewed as the best at cancelling noise, but recently the wired/wireless Sony MDR 1000X have been compared to them. For a similar price the Sonys have more features, and will still function as wired headphones with a flat battery. They also have a mic for calls, and can use LDAC - a high resolution Bluetooth audio codec that Sony has donated to the AOSP and is included in Oreo.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I prefer the Bose QC

        The QCs do all of those things, to be fair. The thing I really like about the Sonys is the clever touchpad on the side, letting you temporarily "un-mute" the world, skip tracks, pause and a bunch of other nifty things. Plus it has real cancellation profiles and decent EQ, with Bose and their godawful app are sorely lacking.

        If the MDR-1000Xs had been out when I got my QC35s I'd probably have gone for them instead.

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: I prefer the Bose QC

          I straight up compared the MDR-1000X to the Bose QC35's and still went with the Bose, despite the lack of "bells and whistles". They're more comfortable for me for one thing, and given that I've bought them mostly for long haul air travel that's a must.

  9. Def Silver badge

    That eight hour flight...

    When I flew to Melbourne via Singapore, many many years ago, the flight time was almost exactly seven hours.

    Which got me thinking... are planes slowing down for environmental/economy reasons?

    And apparently they're not. The A330's cruising speed is 21km/h lower than the 777 I flew in. So my take from this is always fly Boeing for long haul flights. ;)

    1. Brenda McViking

      Re: That eight hour flight...

      Yes. Unsurprisingly airlines have figured out that running their engines at peak efficiency burns less fuel, which is now required given the huge competition in the airlines business.

      Thankfully gas turbines tend to have peak efficiencies at high-end of their power range, so we're not pootling around at 56mph like your average Prius hyper-miler, but we're going slower than we did 20 years ago.

      1. Steve the Cynic Silver badge

        Re: That eight hour flight...

        "Thankfully gas turbines tend to have peak efficiencies at high-end of their power range"

        This is because the compressors consume terrifying amounts of power over almost the entire range, even at idle. At cruising thrust levels, something like two-thirds of the output power of the engine core is consumed by the compressor.

  10. Chronos Silver badge
    Linux

    DND

    Expression of wild-eyed, maniacal insanity, responding to every query with "What was that, Mr Flibble? Two hours W-O-O? Yes, that will teach him for being a bread basket" and filling the spaces with mumbled rants. They don't even have to be coherent, just make sure they sound ominous.

    Worked for me for years, headphones optional. It's all spare cycles anyway.

  11. Joe Harrison Silver badge

    Half-apologies? Please use the correct technical terms

    I believe "unpology" is more correct ☺

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    me wearing pretty headphones

    oh, those headphones look fab! Just saying!

    well done, mate!

    look, why is that red ring on, is it, like, a feature?

    you what?!

    nah, nothing, just wanted to take a piss!

    I don't know why you're so popular today, but I thought I should let you know!

    I don't know if you heard this, cause you're wearing those phones, you know, but...

    ...

    (muffled) humming sound (vacuum)

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: me wearing pretty headphones

      The red ring means that the unleaded solder has misbehaved so the GPU isn't connected properly, surely? ;D

  13. PhilipN Silver badge

    Warning

    Pete Townshend sees major problems coming for kids who live with earphones stuffed in their lugholes. He blames his hearing loss at least in part on using headphones throughout his career*.

    I hope today’s technology is better but the advice is:

    Get the best phones you can.

    Have them professionally fitted if the manufacturer offers such a service.

    Use noise cancellation avidly when necessary so you ..,

    .... DON’T PLAY EM TOO LOUD.

    *’Course, Keith Moon setting off explosives in lifts didn’t help. Nor did playing in the band which for many years held the record for the loudest in history (Charlton Athletic football ground if memory serves - 1974?) BUT his warning should still be taken at face value.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Warning

      Even without active mouse cancelling, passive mouse blocking earbuds (professionally fitted, or try different sized tips or Comply foam tips) will still reduce the ambient mouse so that music doesn't need to be played so loudly. As for closed-back over-the-ear headphones, try some til you find a good comfortable fit that reduces mouse.

      Most music venues these days are better at having PA systems that don't damage hearing as easily - medical science and PA design has advanced since the eighties - but I wouldn't go to a festival without some cheap earplugs. More expensive earplugs (made for gigs) attenuate all frequencies equally, but that doesn't matter for all genres of music.

      1. ibmalone Silver badge

        Re: Warning

        I need some of that active mouse cancelling. Caught two of the little blighters recently and not certain there aren't any more.

      2. Steve the Cynic Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Warning

        "active mouse cancelling"

        "passive mouse blocking"

        "reduce the ambient mouse"

        "fit that reduces mouse"

        Using autocorrect does not reduce the need for proofreading. ;)

        1. ibmalone Silver badge

          Re: Warning

          Ambient mouse is the worst.

          1. Public Citizen
            Trollface

            Re: Warning

            Somehow I found the mental image of the "professionally fitted mouse" to be the most discomfiting.

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