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Noise Cancelling Headphones - part II.

5. října 2007 v 11:00 | Petr, OK1RP |  Technical topics
Hi all,
as I promised in preview article about the noise cancelling headphones there are another informations about the different types and performances as it was published on some of web pages...
This article aims to help you buy those snazzy noise canceling headphones, by answering common questions, and offering a detailed review of the most popular headphones.
What is active noise cancelling?
Active noise canceling is the process of detecting an annoying low-frequency sound (like an engine hum) and producing a sound wave that is the complete opposite of that sound. When the annoying sound and its complete opposite meet, the annoying sound is reduced by 80% or more. The other type of noise canceling is called "passive" noise canceling which is nothing more than utilizing materials that simply dampen sounds. Foam ear plugs are a good example of passive noise reduction.
How much noise do they really eliminate?
Active noise canceling is the process of detecting an annoying low-frequency sound (like an engine hum) and producing a sound wave that is the complete opposite of that sound. When the annoying sound and its complete opposite meet, the annoying sound is reduced by 80% or more. The other type of noise canceling is called "passive" noise canceling which is nothing more than utilizing materials that simply dampen sounds. Foam ear plugs are a good example of passive noise reduction.
What is the difference between around-the-ear, on-the-ear or in-the ear type?
  • Around-the-ear headphones are typically a large padded oval that completely surrounds your ear. These are the largest sets, but often provide very good sound dampening.
  • On-the-ear headphones are typically oval or round speakers that don't cover your entire ear, but instead rest on your ear itself. These sets are a little smaller and are often more comfortable for sleeping.
  • In-the-ear headphones, also known as "ear buds", are headphones that rest in your actual ear canal. These are the smallest headphones to carry, but many find them uncomfortable when wearing them for long periods.

Headphone Testing Results

There was purchased 6 of the most popular noise canceling headphones on the market and rigorously tested them. It was lugged all 6 pairs with us on multiple airlines, multiple aircraft, and used them in multiple seating locations. In the end, was compared them on four criteria: Noise Canceling, Comfort, Size, and Price. The table below can be sorted by any column. Simply click a column header (i.e. Comfort) to re-sort the table.
Headphone ModelNoise CancelingComfortSizePrice
Bose QuietComfort 31st1st2nd6th
Bose QuietComfort 22nd3rd3rd5th
Sony NC503rd-Tie5th6th3rd
Sennheiser PXC 3003rd-Tie2nd1st2nd
Panasonic RP-HC3005th4th4th1st
Solitude 26th6th5th4th

Overall Ranking and Recommendations

For our overall ranking and recommendations, we used a weighting system of Noise Canceling (40%), Comfort (25%), Size (20%), and Price (15%).
Bose QC3
1st Place - Bose QuietComfort 3: Quite simply amazing. The Bose Engineers successfully created a smaller on-the-ear headset that offers better noise canceling than the previous generation. The build-quality is very high and the leather they use is incredibly soft. The only drawback, a minor one, is that the unit uses a proprietary rechargeable battery which makes an in-air battery change impossible (unless you buy an extra battery from Bose and remember to charge it too). The headset does not pass-through music when the battery is dead. When fully charged, the battery will last for 20 hours.
Sennheiser PXC 300
2nd Place - Sennheiser PXC 300: Our editors choice for combining good noise reduction with a very small case, light weight, and reasonable price. This on-the-ear headset folds down to almost half the size of all other units tested. This headset was also very comfortable for sleeping, again, due to its smaller size. There were only two drawbacks, first, the noise canceling electronics are in a separate corded unit that cannot be disconnected from the headset, and second, the noise canceling performance on extremely loud propeller planes was sub-par. The headset requires 2 x AAA batteries for noise canceling, and allows music to pass-through even when the batteries are dead.
Bose QC2
3rd Place - Bose QuietComfort 2: For the last few years, this set of around-the-ear headphones has been the gold standard in noise canceling, and in our tests was only beaten by its newer generation sibling. The oval shaped around-the-ear design was the most comfortable around-the-ear unit in our tests. While the case is a little bulkier than others, an iPod fits nicely in the center of the case between the headphones. With the next generation of these headphones on the scene, it might be a good idea to look for a bargain pair of these on eBay. The headset requires 1 x AAA battery but does not pass-through music when the battery is dead.
Panasonic RP-HC300
4th Place - Panasonic RP-HC300: These were the cheapest set of headphones in our test and they offered adequate noise canceling. The design of these around-the-ear headphones is comfortable and they are very light yet don't feel cheap. There is a slight echo in the headset probably due the use of less dampening material. The cord offers a unique twist-lock feature to keep from becoming accidentally unplugged. The headset requires 1 x AAA battery but does not pass-through music when the battery is dead.
Sony NC50
5th Place - Sony NC50: These were the largest and heaviest headphones in our test, but the extra size certainly produced quality noise-canceling. The heaviness of these around-the-ear headphones became a little uncomfortable during long periods of time, and the ear cups weren't quite as comfortable as the Bose 2 pair. These headsets do offer a "monitor" button that when pressed allows you to briefly hear noise from the outside world. This feature allows you to keep your headset on when the flight attendant or your seatmate asks you a question. The headset requires 1 x AAA battery for noise canceling, and allows music to pass-through even when the battery is dead.
Solitude 2
6th Place - Solitude 2: We were excited to have a lesser-known competitor in our review, especially one that claimed to beat the Bose headset in head-to-head testing. That initial excitement however quickly turned to utter disappointment for these around-the-ear headphones. The plastic feels cheap, the square headband shape is very uncomfortable, and the noise canceling was the worst of the bunch. The only positive we could find was that the case has a molded center spot that was designed to hold an iPod. The headset requires 2 x AAA batteries for noise canceling, and allows music to pass-through even when the batteries are dead.
73, Petr OK1RP
(Orig. material published on http://www.seatguru.com)
 

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