* Prices may differ from that shown
I've been meaning to get some different headphones for my Creative Zen Vision M MP3 player for a while now. The ones that came with it are uncomfortable in the extreme and have to be held in place deeper into the ear canal to achieve anything like a bass note. Without such manual attention, they sound tinny and worse still, keep falling out!
Just about the only time I listen to them for any length of time is on a train or plane journey, and so I was interested to see a pair of Philips 'noise-cancelling' ear-bud style phones reduced from about £28 to £14.95 in Tesco.
Noise-cancelling phones are intended to cut out background droning sounds such as that encountered on a plane ride - the engines, not your travelling companion. They don't tend to have much effect on other outside influences, such a emergency announcements (thank goodness) or my wife nudging me and prompting me to take them off just to hear some pearl of wisdom relating to the pretzels that came with her complimentary drink. If you want that kind of noise-cancelling, you need the same kind of ear-defenders the guys with the batons use on the tarmac, or pick seats in a different row.
How do they work? Well, even if you're not scientifically-bent, you'll no doubt know that sound is a pulsation of air pressure that radiates from a sound source, and is translated back into something you hear by causing the ear-drum to pulse in sympathy with the to-ing and fro-ing of air in your ear.
Find a way of nullifying this pressure pattern and you hear nothing.
It's also why they tell you to make sure your stereo speakers are 'in phase'. Wire one up the wrong way round and whilst one speaker is 'pushing out' bass, the other will be 'sucking it' back in again with dire effects on the bass, or lack thereof, actually heard at yer lug 'oles.
Therefore, noise-cancellers take a repetitive drone, say from a plane engine, and reverse its wave form so that as the original noise 'pumps' against your ear-drum, its 'anti-phase', created electronically (and inserted into the stereo signal that you WANT to hear) 'sucks' at the same time, the overall effect being zero movement of the ear drum, leaving it fully available to listen to the music being played. Thus you don't need honking great ear-muff style phones to keep out the outside world, and a further knock-on benefit is that you don't need to play them so loud which will delight your fellow passengers too no doubt.
This is very clever technology, and up till recent years has been the domain of firms like Bose, who notably NEVER publish the full price for anything, preferring to let you have free trials and monthly easy payments.
How things have moved on. OK, there's no way these are as good as the Bose £200+ offering, but at 14 quid, it's hardly that surprising.
Since they are of the ear-bud variety, the electronics and their single AAA battery have to be contained in a separate box at the confluence of the ear phone wires. A single on-off switch is the only control. They do actually work without this switched on, but somewhat fainter and without the advantage of noise cancelling.
This battery box prompts my major criticism of these phones. Why oh why didn't they give it a pen-clip to put into a top pocket. Without it, it drags the earphones out of position unless you have its weight support on your lap for instance. Having ALL the wires go in at one end would have made it more convenient to stow in a pocket too, instead of 'passing through' as they do at the moment.
Sound-wise the phones are fine, and the three sizes of rubber pad help me make an excellent fit without holding both hands to ears like a folk singer at a ceilidh, who's sick on the sound of his own voice.
I'm not entirely sure that the noise cancelling is that effective. For one thing it can only lessen the effect of constant monotones, and for another, as you switch the power on, the phones get louder, so you're none the wiser as to whether the back ground noise really is lessened. The only real way would be to take a plane ride without anything plugged in, and switch the phones on to see if they can drown engine noise in the presence of no other signal.
This I haven't yet been able to do, although early attempts to drown out Radio 4 have only met with minimal success!
According to the blurb, which incidentally is all on the packaging*, noise reduction of >10db can be expected at 300 hz, but I've no idea if that's anything like the frequency of a typical turbofan aircraft engine. The noise cancelling works to some degree or other over a range of 50 to 1500 hz, again meaning nothing without some examples of what falls into that range. A sticker on the packaging claims a "70%" noise reduction, but I suspect part of this is being able to fit them very snugly into your ears, preventing a large part of the extraneous noise from entering the ear canal.
(*What you thought was a set of instructions was in fact recycling details - what so soon? Is it me, or are comprehensive instructions about what to do once they've stopped working ominous?)
The actual frequency response range of the phones themselves is 40-20,000 hz.
You get 1.2 metres of cable, a neck-strap that can be adjusted to be thrown jauntily over both shoulders, presumably to help with holding up that bloody battery box, a twin-plug airline adapter for those in-arm sockets that still crop up on some planes, and a larger step-up adapter for use with full blown stereo systems. The rubber caps are soft to the touch and hold on quite well in my ears, despite my moan about the control box. As a result, they are streets ahead of what I had before.
According to the packaging, the AAA battery was NOT included, so after shelling out a not inconsiderable sum for 4 of the blighters, I was trifle miffed to find that a battery WAS included - you just couldn't see it from the front of the packaging!
OK, THE ACID TEST
To my ear, pun intended, they sound fine, with much richer bass than I'm used to, and decent treble without producing scratching noises. Of course, I also know that factors such as age, whether you need your ears syringing and so forth all play a part in how you perceive any sound equipment, but to me they're fine, which is just as well as there's no way you'd be allowed to try them before you buy them - not with 'bomb-proof' plastic bubble packaging there isn't!
There's a very faint hiss from the electronics when there's no sound being played, but this is minor in the extreme.
For the price, whether the noise reduction works to any great extent doesn't matter too much. They are comfortable, and sound pretty reasonable, which for £14.98 is about all you'd expect from any low-priced upgrade for mp3 purposes.
I've no idea of battery life yet - that will have to wait for a long-haul flight, which will be some time around when hell freezes over if I get my way. I'll probably be searching around for those 'recycling instructions' by then!
These headphones are a little disappointing. There is nothing about them that is terrible they just vary from mediocrity to slight irritation.
The sound quality is fine for the price but that is about all than can be said for it as it is indistinct at extremes and rather bass heavy. The earbuds are uncomfortable and while I usually plump for the medium size tips supplied with headphones I always used the largest ones supplied with these. This probally means that those with larger ears will struggle to get a good fit. The sound cancelling works although it means there is an irritating hissing noise which may get on your nerves. A further problem with these haeadphones and their sound cancelling is that there is a large block of plastic which must always be carried around in a hand or pocket or else it will pull the earphones out in an alarming fashion.
DO NOT BUYTHESE HEADPHONES MAKE MORE NOISE THAN THEY REDUCEI feel giving them a "1" for sound quality is still overly-generous.
I spent a long time researching whether to buy this product and found numerous reviews from rubbish to excellent.
Having a cheap pair of noise cancelling earphones, which had similar reviews but were in fact excellent, I thought that opting for a well known brand would be a sure thing. Many people do not realise noise cancelling does not magically block-out all noise but removes a lot of the irritating stuff and I thought this was why there were bad reviews.
I had heard that these earphones do not have any noise cancelling and that Philips give no customer support - well that is what I found myself.
They just hiss and amplify the music - not block background noise the way my cheap EV headphones do. I contacted Philips to see if they backed their product and could perhaps explain if there was a reason they did not work - maybe I was not using them correctly. They replied with company blurb which was no help at all. I asked again if they worked and, if so, could they explain what I was doing wrong.
Philips never replied, so I can only assume that these things really do not work and they cannot defend them.
Believe me, I am used to this type product and researched this well - do not get caught-out - these earphones are useless.
These headphones are the best I have ever owned. Initially I was worried about purchasing Philips as a previous set (of a different model) had spontaneously melted one day. The Philips SHN500 headphones have been perfect from the day I them.
The earpieces have an earplug type bud that blocks out a fair amount of noise. They come with a variety of sizes for big ears and small ears and are quite effective at dulling noises sharp or high pitched noises. They are comfortable and don't feel awkward to me even if I'm laid on then or have my ears stuffed in a hat.
For lower pitch noises and drones such as engines and traffic or other background noise, these headphones have an effective active noise cancellation system. The ear buds contain microphones that listen to outside noise reaching your ears, they then send this noise to a smallish unit built into the cable. This unit sends a quiet hiss to the headphones configured to cancel out the noises outside. This is powered by a single AAA battery and can be switched off. The battery lasts for a long time even if left switched on. However, this setting isn't for everyone and all occasions as the hiss it produces is quite apparent at first. The combination of these two noise cancellation methods is very effective and will block out or dull most noise. A slight drawback is that the noise processing block is really a little heavy to be in the middle of the cable and might have been better as part of the socket.
Lastly, the headphones have a standard 3.5mm headphone jack which will fit most audio devices including iPods, TVs, computers.
It can be very annoying for other people to hear your music with other types of headphones, and that is a long-complained about issue; but from the other side, your enjoyment of music can be totally ruined by loud sounds around you (voices, laughing, public transport announcements, crying babies). These headphones go a long way towards dampening these intrusive noises so you can enjoy your music in peace, plus they keep noise in, so allow you to comfortably turn up the volume without disturbing other people, which in turn goes even further towards drowning out those irritating noises around you.
I have used these headphones and they have very good noise cancellation properties. They are particularly good if you like a bassy sound to your music.
You can sit on a train, in a bus, or another crowded place and have your music fairly loud, before it can be heard by other people. Even at maximum volume levels, the most other people would be able to hear is a very faint, almost indistinguishable music noise emanating from the headphones.
If you are a serious music lover who wants to escape into your sounds whilst in public, plus care about how what you listen to affects other people, then do try these headphones. Everybody will be happy with the results, and you can say goodbye to annoyed sidelong glances from other people because they don't like hearing your music through your headphones. With these, the won't be able to hear it.
The headphones are very lightweight and can be tucked inside a handbag, pocket, carrier bag or similar. They are very easy to use, and are as far as I am aware, compatible with most, if not all types of portable and non-portable playback equipment.
These Philips headphones are very cheaply priced yet of high quality, and are excellent value for money.