Cheap pretty good noise-canceling headphones

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[ Sorry for the lack of URLs, I am on a plane. ]

I had been wanting to buy noise-canceling headphones for a while now
because I was fed up with having to turn the volume to the maximum on
planes in order to get some poor quality audible music, but I had
always stopped because of their price.

The other day, I discovered some cheap ones: the Aiwa HP-CN5. I found
a place on Yahoo (Aaaprice.com) where they were at $35, with $8
shipping (I got the $14 2-day option since I was going to California
today). Who wouldn't give them a try at that price?

Before buying them, I had read 2 types of reviews:
- worst headphones ever.
- they work great! (from people using them in planes).

Since I wanted to use them in planes, I thought that they may work for
me.

And indeed, I am very pleased with them. They are somewhat bulky,
"plasticky" (that's probably why they're cheap), but I can listen to
music at a normal volume, and I hardly hear they AC and engines. The
quality isn't perfect, but considering the conditions, it is really
good IMO.

Even when I don't play any music, it's nice to have them on. They need
1 AA battery to work; I don't know what the autonomy is yet.

I definitely recommend them: for that price, you can't be disappointed.

--
Hugo Haas <hugo@larve.net> - http://larve.net/people/hugo/
Asleep at the switch? I wasn't asleep, I was drunk! -- Homer J. Simpson

Re: Cheap pretty good noise-canceling headphones

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On Sun, Jan 27, 2002, Hugo Haas wrote:
> I had been wanting to buy noise-canceling headphones for a while now
> because I was fed up with having to turn the volume to the maximum on
> planes in order to get some poor quality audible music, but I had
> always stopped because of their price.
>
> The other day, I discovered some cheap ones: the Aiwa HP-CN5. I found
> a place on Yahoo (Aaaprice.com) where they were at $35, with $8
> shipping (I got the $14 2-day option since I was going to California
> today). Who wouldn't give them a try at that price?

After reading Hugo's review, I went shopping in one of those huge
electronics supermarkets we have here in Tokyo, and found out that the
Sony MDRNC20 [1] (190$+shipping at amazon, but out of stock) was selling for
around 80$ here (bic camera, shinjuku[2]).

I had read a few reviews [3] about it before buying, and overall agree
with them : the sound isn't great, but it's a very nice thing to have if
flying often (though it can hurt a bit if kept on the head for
5+hours) or even in trains (but beware of the awful sound distortion
when entering a tunnel or passing next to another train): a very worthy
companion to my MDLP player.


If you're travelling a lot and stopping in Japan, you may consider
adding it to your laundry list...


[1] http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00000DMA3/qid=1017210451/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/002-5664745-1645603
[2] http://www.bicbic.com/wcsjapps/ProductDisplay.jsp?merchant_rn=1001&product=4901780353149
[3] http://www.audioreview.com/Headphones/Sony,MDRNC20,Headphones/PRD_122776_2750crx.aspx

--
Olivier

Re: Cheap pretty good noise-canceling headphones

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Parents:

Olivier Thereaux wrote:

> On Sun, Jan 27, 2002, Hugo Haas wrote:
>
>>I had been wanting to buy noise-canceling headphones for a while now
>>because I was fed up with having to turn the volume to the maximum on
>>planes in order to get some poor quality audible music, but I had
>>always stopped because of their price.
>>
>>The other day, I discovered some cheap ones: the Aiwa HP-CN5. I found
>>a place on Yahoo (Aaaprice.com) where they were at $35, with $8
>>shipping (I got the $14 2-day option since I was going to California
>>today). Who wouldn't give them a try at that price?
>>
>
> After reading Hugo's review, I went shopping in one of those huge
> electronics supermarkets we have here in Tokyo, and found out that the
> Sony MDRNC20 [1] (190$+shipping at amazon, but out of stock) was selling for
> around 80$ here (bic camera, shinjuku[2]).


I, on the other hand, bought the Sony MDRNC10 [2] for $150 at
J&R Computers here in New York. This model has ear plugs and
is quite portable.

About 1 minute after you start using the noise canceling feature,
the sound quality starts to degrade, until it becomes a horrific
buzzing annoyance. If you turn off the noise canceling feature,
the problem stops (it acts like an ordinary headset). If you turn
the noise canceling on again, after another minute, the sound goes
bad. And so forth.

I returned the headset over the weekend and got a replacement.
I took it home and found it does the same thing. I returned
that one and got my money back.

Conclusion: Don't pay 5 times the price for crap. Listen to Hugo.

 - Ian

[2]
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00005I9S2/qid%3D1017239308/ref%3Dsr%5F11%5F0%5F1/104-9206275-7748746



--
Ian Jacobs (ij@w3.org)   http://www.w3.org/People/Jacobs
Tel:                     +1 718 260-9447

Re: (not so) Cheap pretty good noise-canceling headphones

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Parents:


On Wednesday, Mar 27, 2002, at 15:41 Asia/Tokyo, I wrote:
> I went shopping in one of those huge
> electronics supermarkets we have here in Tokyo, and found out that the
> Sony MDRNC20
[snip]
> a very worthy companion to my MDLP player.

After a few months (and intensive travel), I still think it's a cool  
product, but I was not really satisfied with it.

Noise-cancelling phones have some inherent flaws:

- Even though the noise cancellation is "active", they need a good seal  
to prevent noise to get in. Most phones try to achieve this by having  
the cans press like crazy on your ears, which means you can't wear them  
for more than a few hours or your ears get very red, hot, and painful.  
I guess it's even worse with the sonys, because sony usually make their  
headband very tight anyway.

- They're not real phones. The sound is not really good, and they can't  
be used as "regular" phones, unless you really don't care about sound  
quality. I used to think this was OK, you can't get everyting for this  
price, and the sound isolation is not good enough anyway, so if the  
phones were really good I wouldn't make any difference anyway when  
using the phones as they should, ie for noise cancelling.

- they're not (very) portable. Good noise-cancelling phones need to be  
closed cans. in-ear phones just don't work well for this purpose (I  
think sony makes some of those), so you have to carry the big cans. Not  
very good for some travel gear.

Yet I thought that was the best I could get, pretty-good  
noise-cancelling, cheap sound. OK for the price.


Until some day, I went shopping for new "real" phones. I discovered a  
cool site with apparently knowlegeable advice, OK prices, and so I  
browsed their site:
headroom corp - http://www.headphone.com

They seemed to be crazy about a pair of "canal phones" (Etymotic  
Research ER4s[1]). Those are made by hearing professionals, and are  
aimed at stage or orchestra musicians, who don't want to have their  
hearing damaged (ever stood in the middle of an orchestra, or spent  
every night at concerts for some time?), but still want good sound.

It's a strange product. Take noise-cancelling foams (or rubber tips,  
swimmers and travellers may know those), and stick miniature (yet  
hi-fi) transducers in, and you have the etymotics canal phones.

Using those things is awkward, and can be uncomfortable at first, since  
you have to stick something inside you ear canal, quite deep actually  
(it doesn't get so deep it's dangerous, though), and have the tip seal  
your ear completely (the rubber tips made so good a seal that it caused  
me air pressure trouble in my ears for days, I switched to the foam  
ones). But once you get used to them (took me a couple of weeks), oh  
my, oh my.

I'm not an audiophile, but I listen to music all day every day, and I  
love music. And yes I'm impressed and drooling when I listen to some  
great audio gear in a wonderful listening room, not because of the  
price tag or the shiny tubes, but because the music is clear and  
detailed (many people say they don't make any difference, but when you  
can ear distinctly each instrument in a band, or hear and locate every  
instrument in an orchestra, you understand what this is all about...  
but enough digression already...). And that's what these phones give :  
~20-25 dB of phonic isolation, thanks to the good seal (note that the  
best noise cancelling phone are around 10-15dB...), and an oh-my-god  
great sound.

The noise cancellation is incredible. Compared to (active)  
noise-cancelling phones, you get a better isolation, and all across the  
freq range (whereas active ones only cover part of it). Where NC phones  
made the 15-hours-flights not-too-awful, these actually made me forget  
I was flying (my legs, back and butt reminded me of it, though, but  
that's a different story). Besides, the transducers are so close to the  
ear drums there is almost no distortion, and so all they had to do was  
to stick the response curves to the ear's one (did I mention they were  
ear specialists?)

The sound is incredible, too. Ugly at first, I must say, but once the  
transducers started breaking-in (a few hours), it became wonderful.I  
bought the "audiophile" high-impedance version (ER4s) because I wanted  
to try one of those mini-headphone amps headroom makes (an interesting  
product, too... they have some cross-feeding circuits, which means you  
hear some of the right channel in your left hear, and vice-versa, just  
like with real speakers. It does make the headphones-listening more  
pleasant and natural), but they also make "regular" ones (ER4p) at the  
same price.

Bottom line? Tiny, incredible sound, incredible noise cancellation.
Price tag? ah, well, yes, they're not so cheap. They're sold around  
250$. That's the price for top-of-the-line phones, except that with  
these ones, you get great noise-cancelling phones at no expense  
(neither price, space, or sound...).

[1]  
http://headphone.com/
layout.php?topicID=3&subTopicID=26&productID=0020100000

--
Olivier - no, no, I don't own headroom or etymotic shares...

Re: (not so) Cheap pretty good noise-canceling headphones

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Parents:

On Sun, 17 Nov 2002, Olivier Thereaux wrote:

> I'm not an audiophile, but I listen to music all day every day, and I
> love music. And yes I'm impressed and drooling when I listen to some
> great audio gear in a wonderful listening room, not because of the
> price tag or the shiny tubes, but because the music is clear and
> detailed (many people say they don't make any difference, but when you
> can ear distinctly each instrument in a band, or hear and locate every
> instrument in an orchestra, you understand what this is all about...
> but enough digression already...). And that's what these phones give :
> ~20-25 dB of phonic isolation, thanks to the good seal (note that the
> best noise cancelling phone are around 10-15dB...), and an oh-my-god
> great sound.

Usually people that say "having glowing tubes is just snobbish" are people
that never heard a real system. Every people that heard a real system,
even when they were complete newbies heard the BIG difference from having
some sound coming from square boxes and having  a music scene floating
around you with distinct position for the instruments and instruments that
sound what they are supposed to.
The pleasure of hearing music that way is not only to hear something
pleasing to the ear, and far less tiring and aggressive than regular music
systems, but you also discover far more things, little hidden details and
improvements to the feelings expressed by the music.

> The sound is incredible, too. Ugly at first, I must say, but once the
> transducers started breaking-in (a few hours), it became wonderful.I

breaking-in time is also mandatory for any good sound system, it took me
200 hours+ to have really something decent.

> Bottom line? Tiny, incredible sound, incredible noise cancellation.
> Price tag? ah, well, yes, they're not so cheap. They're sold around
> 250$. That's the price for top-of-the-line phones, except that with
> these ones, you get great noise-cancelling phones at no expense
> (neither price, space, or sound...).

Olivier was kind enough to let me test his headphones. They are actually
pretty good. The fact that the external noise level is low is very
helpful. However it doesn't match what I have at home (but can't carry),
as the detail and texture of the sound does not come only from the
loudspeakers/headphones.
By testing Strange Little Girls from Tori Amos, it was clear that the song
lacked the good and tight bass that is the base of the music, and the fact
that the frequency range is limited (but almost all headphones are) is
also not helping.

However for the price tag, and the size of the beast, and the fact that it
also reduce external noise by a huge factor. I can also recommend it.
A real test would be to compare it with a pair or stax or Jecklin Float,
but the use is completely different.

Also I have a subscription open to raise fund to buy Genesis II.5
loudspeakers. Any donation welcomed :)

--
~~Yves

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