Having done a few long haul flights recently I got rather bored of the incessant noise, and saw a couple of people wearing noise cancelling headphones. This summer I have flown from Shetland to Cardiff, flying on two different sorts of noisy turboprop planes and got these headphones for the journey. My uncle has a pair of noise cancelling headphones which he uses regularly whilst commuting into London and Switzerland, one piece of advice he gave was in-ear 'noise isolating' or 'noise reducing' headphones have a tendency to make the noise of eating, walking etc seem rather intrusive, not something I wanted.
Purchased on special offer from play.com these came in at a wallet friendly £29.99 with free p&p.
++++ Packaging ++++
The packaging was rather over the top, a lot could be done here to reduce the environmental impact of this product. First there was a plastic box, which was rather fiddly to get into, in this was a paper sleeve cut-out with branding, spec etc. then there was a moulded plastic section holding the headphones and airplane adapter. Behind this was a card section containing a soft touch vinyl drawstring bag, instructions, Pan European guarantee (75 pages!), and the loose ends of all the wires. This could have been done to the same standard with a card box with a plastic window, and then a moulded card insert to hold the headphones behind which would be the other bits. (Maybe I ought to be a packaging consultant?!)
++++ Features ++++
Swivelling and then folding out the earpieces gets them ready for use. Having active noise-reduction (NR) there is a small unit in the lead into which you put an AAA battery, an LR03 should last 54hrs (unfortunately one isn't included in the box), if you don't want the NR then you don't need a battery. On the unit is a switch to turn NR on and off, with an LED to show when it's on, a volume control which works when NR is on or off, a monitor button, and a clip to attach it to your shirt, jacket etc. When you press the monitor button the volume is muted and instead of cancelling the noise around you it plays the noise through the headphones, this is useful when an air hostess speaks to you on a plane, as you don't need to take the headphones off.
Apparently they will reduce noise by 83% (more than 15dB). The main reduction is to low frequency noises like those from planes, trains, buses, cars, air-con units etc. Telephones, voices, car horns are less effected. This seemed to hold true from my experience.
The lead is 1.4m long total (nearly 5 foot), with the battery/control unit in the middle, this is plenty long enough for most requirements.
++++ Comfort ++++
The padded earpieces are comfortable, sitting nicely on your ears without squeezing them too much. The padding is a ring of soft foam covered in a thin soft touch vinyl type covering, which conform nicely to the bumps and hollows of you ears helping block unwanted noise. I've been wearing them all afternoon and my ears feel fine. They are slim and comfortable enough that you can rest your head up against the side of your seat and sleep with them still on. The headband is adjustable for different head and hair sizes.
Whilst you can hear yourself eating crisps and other noisy food this isn't too intrusive. You can't hear your own footsteps thudding through your body either, and they are a snug enough fit that you can run and jump about like a fool without them flying off (I tried especially for this review, hopefully no-one saw me!).
++++ Sound Performance ++++
Having played a wide variety of classical, pop and jazz music on these I would say the sound quality is very good. Bass, mid and treble seem to come through fairly equally and there is a good level of clarity and detail. Bass is where most small speakers in laptops and headphones have most problems, and I have been very impressed by the amount of bass coming through these headphones. In quiet conditions these headphones do show up low bitrate mp3's which may have been hidden in lower quality headphones.
Having the volume set to max on the control unit I tested them plugged into my laptop and gradually turned the volume up. I did manage to get to full blast on some tracks, although I wouldn't recommend this, it was indeed very loud! The sound quality even at full blast was good, and I couldn't hear any distortion which is good to know. Fortunately the NR means you can play music quieter as it cancels annoying background so you shouldn't need to use them too loud anyway.
++++ Noise Reduction Performance ++++
The small turboprop aeroplanes are notoriously noisy, you're not very far from the engines and the massive propellers whirring around, and it can leave you feeling a little deaf. To start with these headphones didn't seem to make much difference; but after having them on for a while you do really start to notice their effect. While listening to music if you turn off the NR it is much harder to hear clearly, so you would have to play it louder for the same listening experience, so they definately do work. When coming in to land you have to switch off all electronic equipment, this is another time you really notice how much extra noise is around you.
Having just flown down to Cambridge again this time I flew on a conventional jet from Glasgow to Stansted. The noise reduction worked brilliantly with this type of aircraft, taking ambient noise almost to silence! It worked much better than on the turboprop planes where more 'drone' comes through.
++++ Conclusion ++++
For the price I don't think that these can be beaten. A great balance of portability, sound quality and noise reduction performance make these a great buy. I would certainly recommend them for listening to you music, especially when travelling, although if you just want things quieter for sleeping I would probably simply recommend ear plugs!