Experience with noise-cancelling headphones

Anyone have experience with noise-cancelling headphones to share? Do they really work well, and what exactly should I expect?

I’ve picked up a pair at Brookstone a few times, but they never seemed to be doing much. I expected some kind of magical sound blocking so I couldn’t hear everything around me, but all I got was some white noise. But maybe they weren’t working properly.

Two things here. One is that you get what you pay for; the Brookstone headphones are fairly low end; still they do cancel out noise and I would use them for things like flying on an airplane as the white noise is more bearable than the low rumble droning sound of jet engines for 8 hours. More expensive brands employ more circuitry and improved feedback techniques to provide a cleaner sound; one that you would choose to use for listening to music.

These things basically cancel sound by two methods. One is by measuring the sound near your ears (with microphones) and generating opposite sound through your headphone speakers to cancel it out. This really only works effectively for low end bass sounds and not for higher level sounds like human voices due to the physics of the wave lengths involved. The second way they cancel sound is by magically covering your ears with either a cushion that physically surrounds you ear or with a speaker that sticks into your ear channel. Think ear plugs.

The quality ones like those made by Bose and others work but they may not do what you are expecting. They generate an inverse sound wave to cancel out continuous background noise like that of an airplane or an air conditioner. They don’t cancel out acute sounds like voices except passively (by covering your ears with headphones) and they aren’t supposed to. If you want something to make your airplane flight more peaceful, they work fine while still letting you hear the flight attendant. They aren’t meant to silence every sound however.

Yep, that’s pretty much it. Active noise canceling does “work”, but you’ll perceive the white noise and audio quality is reduced. If you want to avoid this, you can get “closed-back” headphones, sometimes called sealed headphones. They do not completely block out external sound, but they greatly reduce it.

Okay, so no magic. I’ll stick with the white noise app on my phone.
Thanks for the info.

What you really are looking for is this.

I’ll reinforce the learning expeience. What they do is block a lot of the low-end rumble, making airline flights much more pleasant; and that blockage means that when you use the headphones to listen to music, movies, etc. you can actually things without having to crank up the volume. The high frequencies are not downed out any more by the rumble.

If you’re looking for the stuff of jokes - “Sorry, I can’t hear you…” - you have the wrong equipment.

I’ve had a couple of sets of the Bose headphones. Most reviews rate their noise cancelling technology as probably the best. I like to wear them on an airplane flight. I feel that I arrive feeling fresher.

They are pricey and that’s my problem with them. For what they are charging they should use better quality materials. the cords are about as cheap as the cords on the throw-away phones. Why not have a quality no-tangle cord? They feel kind of “cheesey” for phones that expensive.

I have a pair of Sony MDR-NC7 headphones - inexpensive on-ear phones with active noise cancelling.

Like those above, I’d describe them as noise reducing, not cancelling. They reduce the background noise of aircraft engines enough that I can comfortably listen to an audiobook. With standard Apple earbuds, even with the volume way up I’d still miss words here and there.