Are Noise Cancelling Headphones Worth It? A Review
Music is big business in today’s world and that means that there is plenty of rivalry where personal electronics are concerned. While the MP3 player beat the mini-disk player and in-ear headphones cleared a path for more compact solutions to private listening, there are still some problems which listeners are forced to endure.
05 Nov 2013
Music is big business in today's world and that means that there is plenty of rivalry where personal electronics are concerned. While the MP3 player beat the mini-disk player and in-ear headphones cleared a path for more compact solutions to private listening, there are still some problems which listeners are forced to endure.
If you're a music connoisseur plugged into their favourite tunes morning, noon and night then no doubt you've encountered the trouble of noise disturbance. The world around us is noisy to say the least and when listening to music on the go, these everyday sounds can bleed into our music.
Noise cancelling headphones are designed to overcome this - but are they really worth it? Here we give the technology an honest review to find out!
What are they?
Noise cancelling headphones do exactly what they say in the tin - cancel noise. The crucial part is that they only block unwanted or background noise, meaning that your music doesn't have to compete with a screaming baby, a whirring lawnmower or the constant hum of traffic.
Many of them also double up as mobile phone headsets so that any conversation you have need not be disturbed by outside influences.
How do they work?
Without getting too technical, most noise cancelling headphones use a method called active noise control. Utilising digital signal processing or analogue circuits, active noise control can analyse the sound waves of the source (in this case, your music) and compare it to 'anti noise' (like a hoover).
When it has established the frequency of this anti noise, the system will create a new wave designed to interfere with that background noise and cancel it out.
Noise cancelling is ultimately a feature that can be switched on or off, according to your wishes. Most models need to be either charged from the mains or powered by batteries in order to block out background noise. Without that power they will function in the same way as ordinary headphones.
Are they worth it?
This ultimately depends on personal preference and the amount of use you're likely to get from your headphones. For those who listen to music on the go almost constantly, noise-cancellation may well be a vital feature. For the more casual user, the cost of such accessories will more than likely be prohibitive.
Top models: a review
Of course, to truly decide if noise-cancelling headphones are worth the money you must check whether they actually offer the results they claim to.
Here are our opinions on three of the top models so you can see how they measure up.
1. SENNHEISER MM450X Travel Bluetooth Noise-Cancelling Headphones
A combination of active noise-cancelling and passive noise-isolating systems make these headphones from SENNHEISER an ideal option for those who want superior sound quality on the move. Controls for the volume control and remote can be found on the ear cup for ultimate practicality with wireless and Bluetooth functionality added to make these the ultimate travel companion.
One drawback is the lack of noise-cancelling talk mode which means these units can be used in conjunction with smartphones, something which would really expand the scope of use when you consider that you can wirelessly connect to mobiles and laptops to complete Skype calls and other functions.
That said, they do utilise NoiseGard™ technology and the brand's own TalkThrough function which allows travellers to talk to flight attendants and other passengers without removing the headset by pressing a button that activates the external microphone. With a price of £219.99 they're cheaper than a number of other noise-cancelling models too which could be a big bonus for those looking to get as much for their money as possible.
2. BOSE QuietComfort 20i Noise-Cancelling Headphones
Bringing noise-cancelling technology into an in-ear design, these headphones are a great option for those after a compact solution. The purchase price of £259.95 may seem a little steep considering there is no wireless or Bluetooth functionality as found on some other models but the noise-cancelling technology is exceptionally high.
Along with active noise-cancelling there is also passive noise-isolation and a noise-cancelling talk mode which makes these headphones ideal for use with smartphones. This added functionality means these are a good option for those interested in regular use.
3. SONY Prestige MDR-1R Noise-Cancelling Headphones
These SONY headphones are a solid option when you consider they can block 99.7% of background noise to offer fantastic sound quality. Money hasn't just been invested in the noise-cancelling tech though and you get plenty of bang for your buck here.
Pressure-relieving cushions make the headphones comfortable to wear for long periods of time and they're also adjustable so you can get a firm fit. Grooved cables prevent tangling to help you get up and running quickly and a HD Driver Unit offers a deep bass sound that is matched with the balanced sound quality provided by the 40mm Liquid Crystal Polymer Film Diaphragm for superior sound.