Noise-canceling headphones
#37 Henry, Tuesday, 19 January 2010 8:34 PM (Category: Gadgets)
(Tags: headphones noise)

A friend in Australia asked me to buy him some noise-canceling headphones and ship them back to him. He wanted Bose Quietcomfort 15s. I bought them. He wanted me to test drive them for a day and report back. I did that today at work.

I had them on most of the day. I thought my room was quiet, but now I know it is not.

I started my tests by keeping them turned off and just putting them on. They seal around the ears and initially it feels "wrong", especially while your hands are still on them. Then you remove your hands and you hear almost nothing. It's quiet. It's peaceful. They really cut the noise down and they aren't even turned on yet.

I then turned them on and learnt a good lesson. Don't turn them on while wearing them. Turn them on and then put them on. They generate a very loud click. I got the click and then I got ... nothing. Total nothing. Silence I didn't believe at first. Isolation. My ears felt strange, like a loss of pressure. But they quickly adjusted.

When the power is on and the magic is happening, the headphones remove almost all sounds. I have a Unicomp Model M superclicky drive-your-coworkers-insane keyboard. It's really loud. Through the headphones I could still hear the keyboard but very very muted. The sound was reduced to a really comfortable and barely noticeable level. Everything else in my room was gone. The airconditioning hiss was gone, my coworkers' noises were gone. If people came in my room and started talking, I could hear nothing. When I took the headphones off to talk, it was a physical shock to hear the sounds again.

The absence of so much sound has had one effect. I am on call this week and my phone usually plays horrible loud techno noise when it goes off, but with the headphones, I couldn't hear it. I had to switch to vibrate and put it in my pocket.

Then I played music. The sound quality was exceptional. I was tempted to wind the volume up to hear more, but that is a bad tendency. You don't need high volume to get the most out of the music. I think turning the volume up would damage the ears. I think you could even play music at quieter than usual levels and get more benefit from it. Music was fun with these headphones. I played some Dead Can Dance and heard stuff I hadn't heard before in that music. I played a bunch of classical and jazz and it sounded better than ever before, even to my old and abused ears.

I wore them for most of the day. Normally, surround-sound headphones chafe me and irritate me. These ones had no effect. They started comfortable and they remained comfortable all the way through the day. Every time I took them off, it was a shock to get the regular sounds back in my ears again. They did not overheat the ears.

Would I buy a pair? Definitely yes. Maybe not right now, but yes, they are in my future. And definitely before I travel to Australia again. I will have to buy two pair, one for me and one for Anne for the long air flights. These will make an enormous difference on a long flight where we are trying to sleep. I would definitely buy a pair before my next long flight.

Conclusion: I am seriously impressed.