Please recommend some noise-canceling headphones

Looking ahead with dread to my next few cross-country flights, I think I may take the plunge and buy noise-canceling headphones, so that I can listen to music or just, uh, cancel some of the engine noise in my ears. Up to now I’ve spent flights reading or doing crosswords, which is fine, but music or a movie would be nice too.

So, noise-canceling headphones. Which ones do you like? Inexpensive would be nice, of course, but I’m most interested in effectiveness.

Thanks in advance,

I’m quite pleased with my Bose QC 15 headphones.
I use them when mowing or blowing the yard.

My last flight coming from St. Croix to Atlanta, my wife and kids got seats up front and I had to sit back by the left engine. Literally. A Delta pilot in the row across from me pulled his set out just as I was getting mine out, and we just looked at each other and smiled.

Not cheap, but the cheap ones are utter crap.

Try Craigslist or Ebay.

Bose are the only good ones out there. Any other NC headphones break as soon as you open the package.

^ This is nonsense.

Sennheiser has plenty of headphones with a good quality to price ratio, and they definitely last.

Okay, perhaps I should clarify:

Of the 3 or four different brands I have bought, Bose were the only noise cancelling headphones I’ve bought that didn’t break immediately after opening.

I haven’t tried Bose yet, but I’ve tried several other cheaper versions…and while they worked well for the noise canceling, I’ve definitely had longevity problems. Given that NC headphones are usually used (and advertised) for travel, it’s important to look for some that will hold up, especially when in their travel case. The connections are the first part to go, I’ve found, so it might be a good idea to take a close look at how well the wires are protected and what sort of strain is placed on them when folded/etc.

So I too am very interested in what Blut Aus Nord and pedescribe have to say about sturdiness of the different models.

Decent objective testing was done by our consumer organisation last year. Basically, their top 5 (out of about 15 tested) were (overall)

Bose Quietcomfort 15
Panasonic RP-HC500
Bose Quietcomfort 3
Sennheiser PXC 450
BlackBox M14

and in that order but the averaging to arrive at the overall ratings hides some interesting differences. In terms of noise cancelling, the Bose QC15 was by far the best, then a drop to the Panasonic, then a drop to the others in the top 5. Interestingly though, on sound quality the BlackBox and Sennheiser were extremely good, the Boses were upper middle and the Panasonic was pretty average.

Personally if money was no object and you are mainly wanting quiet I’d be thinking of the Bose QC15, but if listening to music is the main thing then I’d be thinking of the Blackbox M14. About the same as the Sennheiser’s for noise cancelling and quality but way cheaper.

I have 2 sets of NC headphones, both Sony.

I should note that I try to keep the sound on my earphones low. I can still hear a bunch of the environment around me wih the NC and music on.

I’ve only used these a few times (got them for my wife to use). They are folding and the ear cups sit on the ear and are comfortable, but the plastic arch that goes over your head is not. I’ve taped a couple of foam pieces to the plastic so they are comfortable for long periods. They seem to work well and, on the flights I used them on, ended up wearing them without music on. The battery compartment is in the earphones so you only have the cord to worry about.

I use these daily. They are canal-phones so they stick in your ears. They come with 2 sizes of rubber cups to ensure proper fitting. Of course if you lose one or both cups, they are unusable. These are good for sitting. Any kind of activity or wind noise makes them worse than wearing nothing thanks to sound coveyed through the cord or wind blowing against the microphones. They are very portable and comfortable if you can get used to having them in your ears. The battery compartment is halfway down a long cord. I end up keeping the battery and MP3 player in a pouch together.

I tried the Bose for a few minutes and was impressed, but couldn’t shell out the bucks.

Overall, I prefer the size and convenience of the canalphones over the bulk of the headphones.

This is also the pair I have. I haven’t tried them on a plane yet (I bought them for a trip later this month) but I have tried them on a long bus trip and they’re pretty good. Really, for the price it’s a good deal. You’re not going to get the awesomeness of Bose, but they are also 10x cheaper than Bose.

About how long do the batteries last in the Bose headphones?

How well do any of the NCs work on variable frequency noise, such as background conversations? Or, more specificly, on loud, obnoxious conversations in adjacent cubicles?

Same test reckons 40-50 hours

Both of my headsets block out the low frequencies with the NC on. Higher frequencies are blocked by the passive noise reduction (foam pads or rubber ear…uh…gaskets). The headphones sit on top of the ear and let some noise in. The Bose have a ring that sits around the ear and will give better noise isolation.

On airplanes, the NC blocks out the droning noise, but you can still hear conversations and other cabin noises. Like I said, I keep my volume low. If you crank yours, you’ll probably block out everything.

I occassionally wear them in the office where it masks the white noise of the HVAC.

I find that a lot of environments have a constant background noise that are not noticed until you put on NC headsets. I will physically relax when I turn them on and realize that the background noise was causing me to tense my muscles.

Both the Sony headsets I have take a single AAA battery and last for a long time (30+ hours? I haven’t timed them). At least the AAA are small and easy to carry along. Carry extras in case you forget to turn them off, or if they get switched on when you put them away. The Bose don’t work at all with a dead battery.

If I had the money and space to tote the Bose then I would get them.

You have an option of just getting headphones with really good isolation. I’m not sure how it compares to the active noise cancellers, but my HD-280s have 32db of simple physical isolation, which is almost as good as the sort of hearing protection as you’d wear at the gun range, so it blocks out a whole lot of sound.

Active noise cancellation is less useful against transient sounds - the constant rumble of the engines gets blocked out pretty well, but people yelling or a baby crying or something would get through to a greater degree.

I use Audio Technica ATH-ANC23 QuietPoint Active Noise-Cancelling In-Ear Headphones.

They don’t work as well as the Bose headphones but they do work very well and they are tiny to carry. I rarely listen to music on them; I just use them for the noise cancellation.

I have the Bose QC15s, and I love them.

You do have to watch out for the cord - it will pull out of the headphones with very little pressure. If the cord is already disconnected at the other end, this could result in you losing it altogether. It hasn’t happened to me yet, but I’ve come close many times. (“Hey, Pal, is that your black wire lying here in the grass?”)

I use my Bose QC 3’s both at work in the plant sometimes, and all the time when cutting the grass. I’ve had them for several years now, and still love them.