Too dangerous on the bike? but long flights , wau

Oct 17, 2006
Has anyone tested them in hissing wind ???
Would they completely block out, all street noises, honking ???

quote.....the noise-canceling Bose headphones started to become popular a few years ago.

Unless you try them, you won't believe what a difference such headphones can make.

As tiny microphones monitor the mind-numbing roar around you, circuitry in the device creates a sound wave 180 degrees out of phase with the original sounds. Presto: the roar of the engines is magically subtracted from the sound that would otherwise have ground away at your well- being for six hours.

You can wear them just to be more peaceful, or you can connect them to a music player, DVD player, laptop or the plane's audio system. Because the engine roar is missing from the mix, you can enjoy enormously improved audio quality at substantially lower, safer volume levels.

Nobody disputes the quality of the market- leading headphones from Bose. But wow — $350 a pair?

No wonder rival companies are attempting to bring you similar peace in the stratosphere without dragging the price up there, too. Panasonic, Sennheiser, JVC, JBL, Audio-Technica, Logitech and Able Planet have now joined the noise-canceling marketplace, with hopes of canceling a few of those Bose sales along the way.

There is only one good way to test these headphones: Wear them on planes, trains and automobiles.

So when a three-leg trip loomed, I grabbed a carry-on bag and crammed it with 10 pair (two Bose models, plus their eight rivals).

Airport security personnel probably thought I was a little unbalanced, and my seatmates thought I had some kind of attention-span disorder. But in the name of science, I shrugged off the humiliation and proceeded with my A/B test. Or, rather, my A/B/C/D/E/F/G/H/I/J test.

Most of these headphones are powered by a single AAA battery. Each comes in a carrying case that keeps the headphones together with their accessories: the miniplug cable for your music or DVD player, for example, and the adapters for quarter-inch phono jacks and dual-pronged airplane armrest jacks. Most of these cases exude elegance but take up a huge swath of your carry- on bag.

Another note: the "active noise reduction" technology used by these headphones generally cancels only lower frequencies. Higher ones are difficult to stifle electronically. Whatever upper- register noise cancellation you get from these headphones, therefore, comes from the seal they make with your ears, or "passive noise reduction."

Finally, none of these headphones can touch the sound quality of high-end audiophile headphones. Some people say, for example, that they can hear a faint hiss when music is not playing, although my 44-year-old ears could not detect it.

Here are the contenders, from least to most expensive. I did not test earplug-style 'phones, which earring-wearers may prefer; my trip wasn't long enough.

Doug says no boldface here: JVC HA-NC100. There are three refreshing points to note about the JVC entry. First, the street price is only $40; you could buy seven pairs of these for the price of one Bose set. Second, these rest on your ear instead of surrounding it. As a result, they're so small, they come in a compact drawstring bag, rather than in a hard-sided clamshell. Finally, the audio cord is self-winding and retractable — a brilliant, obvious and extremely handy feature.

You can probably feel a "but" coming, and here it is: The circuitry cuts out only a chunk of the lower frequencies, leaving much of the engine roar unabated. And the music quality is only average and weak on bass.

Panasonic RP-HC500. The pleasantly smushy- edged earcups on this new model do an excellent job of isolating your ears. That may be one reason the noise cancellation works so well; all but the highest frequencies are subtracted. Better still, the music reproduction is stellar, especially in the crisp, clean higher registers.

I waited to look up the prices for these products until after I'd tested them. So I was astonished to discover that you can find these online for $100. You get quality that nearly is indistinguishable from the Boses — for one-third the price.

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7. Here's another winner, with another surprising price: $132 for these comfy, solidly built, absolutely great- sounding headphones. The circuitry cuts out a huge swath of engine, road or train noise, and the music is crystal-clear, sweet and finely textured.

It is "Bose" without the marketing campaign.

Logitech Noise Canceling Headphones. The noise-canceling circuit is superb, cutting out both the low roar and most of the middle frequencies. Inside the gigantic case labeled loops keep everything, including jack adapters and even an iPod, in its place.

Music sounds pretty good for the price, though it cannot keep up with the Boses.

JBL Reference 510. You cannot accuse JBL of designing with the herd. Instead of putting the circuitry and the battery in the earcups, JBL engineers offloaded them to a little box that dangles on the cord. You can clip the box to your clothing.

Thus relieved of that extra weight and bulk, these on-ear headphones are positively microscopic compared with their rivals. They fold down into a little pocketable stretchy bag.

Unfortunately, these $150 'phones are the least comfortable of the lot; those tiny earcups feel like tongs trying to grip your head. The external-fob approach means a lot more wiring to fuss with, too. And you can't detach the cords when you want to use the headphones for noise cancellation only.

Music sounds terrific, but beware: With 125- decibel peaks, these cans will blow out your eardrums if you are not careful.

Able Planet Solitude with Linx Audio. These look great and feel great. They sound pretty good, and the noise-canceling is only so-so.

On the bright side, there is a volume control on the audio cord, which you can use to mute the music when the flight attendant is asking for your drink order; and the volume, as with the JBL set, goes all the way to 11. For $300, though, you can do better.

Bose QuietComfort 2. Mmm, nice. Bose may charge a lot, $300, but you have to admit that they know their acoustics. The noise cancellation is amazing: When you throw the switch, the world just falls away. Music sounds fantastic — wicked bass, clear highs.

Unfortunately, you cannot use these as regular headphones; when you turn off the noise-cancellation, you turn off all sound. You cannot detach the audio cord, either.

Bose QuietComfort 3. This $350 pair are smaller than the QuietComfort 2's; they're on-ear rather than surround-ear. There is no room for a AAA battery. You get a snap-in rechargeable battery instead, which means that you have to pack and track its charger.

The 3's are incredibly comfortable, and again, both the circuitry and music reproduction are outstanding — but again, they can play music only when the cancellation circuitry is turned on.

Sennheiser PXC 450. If these headphones were any bigger, they would be called torsophones.

They are loaded with unique features, like a Talkthru button that cuts out all the music and the noise-canceling when someone is trying to talk to you. There are also volume buttons and a bypass switch that turns the Sennheisers into regular headphones.

The noise cancellation works well. But you cannot detach the audio cord. And despite "adaptive baffle damping and Duofol diaphragms," music reproduction is not where it should be for $450.

So what's the verdict? Nobody has yet knocked Bose off its pedestal, but Panasonic and Audio- Technica have climbed up onto the pedestal beside it. These headphones sound amazing, but cost one-half or one-third as much.

Then again, any noise-canceling technology is better than none. Now all we need is technology that gives us overbook-canceling, delay-canceling and cancellation-canceling.


If any one sees Panasonic or Audio-Technica, can you share the knowledge please



Mar 5, 2006
I sue the Bose on flights and they really make a difference on long-haul routes.
I also have a set of Sure 500s, these fit in the ear, and I have yet to notice their noise cancelling properties - had hoped to use them on long bike rides.
The one thing I do use is an Ozzie gizmo called a Boostaroo [made in China] which amplifies the sound with 3 output jacks. This was marketed in response to the Euro imposed volume limiters on iPods - dropped from 4G onwards. Its use may explain my lack of appreciation for the Sure 500.
The interesting development is that more helmet manufacturers are bringing out Bluetooth helmets - great for GPS Phones[tho there really is as safety issue here - vide BMW driving Mamas at BKK intersections] also their are bluetooth fitments for iPods.
But re noise cancelling headsets the Bode are still the DBs. You really do need to encapsulate the ear for them to truly work.
For biking IMHO total noise cancellation is not too good, as its important to hear what is going on around you.