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Looking for new Noise Cancelling Headphones

Well I'm preparing for another overseas trip, this time to London - Kath is presenting at a conference and I'm just a passenger!

But my Sony MDR-NC5 noise cancelling headphones are a little the worse for wear. The (non-replaceable) outer foam cover has all but disintegrated which makes them a tad uncomfortable. The noise-cancelling intermittently cuts out in the left channel and I need to jiggle the cable where it comes out of the right ear (where the battery is).

So I'm starting to look around. Obviously the Bose units would be great, but too expensive for me. I found a reasonable collection of reviews on this CNet page. Based on the user feedbacks it sounds like the Panasonic RP-HC100 (review) units are a good option. The reviewer specifically compares them with my Sony model quite favourably. Reading the user reviews for the various headphones, it seems that the CNet reviewer was placing more of a premium on absolute sound quality rather than the noise cancelling and practicality so much. The user reviews (ie. people who actually use the headphones on planes and in noisy environments) seemed to rate the Panasonic higher and the Seinheisser PXC 250 (review) lower (which was another option I considered alongside the PXC 150, which is presumably worse).

Does anyone have any recommendations? I'm sure one or both of the Tram Town boys have an opinion on noise cancelling audio equipment :)

Update: Unfortunately the RP-HC100 is a superceded product.

Update: It seems the updated Sony model (the MDR-NC6) has the same comfort issues as my old NC-5 (see user review on the Apple Store).

Update: The mid-range Sony MDR-NC20 cans are nearly universally loved (wheras most of the models get mixed reviews) - see the Amazon customer reviews.

Helpfully, Digital City here in Sydney has 10% off headphones at the moment, but Australian prices are inexplicably higher than overseas prices. The MDR-NC20s sell in the US for $USD77-119 (which translates to $AUD102-158), but even including the 10% discount we're talking $AUD269. That's 70% ON TOP! Sheesh.

I've emailed some outlets in Changi Airport to see what price they can do on the Sony MDR-NC20, JVC HA-NC100 and Panasonic RP-HC100 (since some online retailers are listing it as still in stock).

04:04 AM, 11 Aug 2005 by Mark Aufflick Permalink

NC phones

My Sony MDR NC20's stopped working in one ear about three years ago and at the time replacement ate into beer money so I got a set of Jaycar phones which look very similar to what Penis Smith is selling as creatives for ~$70. They work but are nowhere near as comfortable as the Sony product. When you are looking at sound quality for these things you should remember that messing with the signal messes with reproduction accuracy and much of the reduction is achieved through masking (boosting source signal around frequencies where ambient noise is detected). That's why they don't appear to work as well with no signal present. My understanding is that some cancelling through phase inversion is done around 300Hz and below. The point is that rather than test these devices against hi-fi benchmarks you should be considering whether they make their targetted use a mose pleasurable experience. Semi from TramTown

by Unregistered Visitor on 08/14/05

I ended up with a pair of JVC NC100

I thought I should update with what I actually bought (since quite a few people seem to stumble on this page). I *really* wanted to buy the Sony MDR-NC20s, but I couldn't find them anywhere in the UK or Singapore. After being told that they didn't exist, I did actually find the JVC NC100 Noise cancelling cans in a duty free store in Singapore. They were super cheap - $80 SGD from memory. They aren't amazing, but I think they are a shade better than my old Sony NC-5s. And the JVC folding design is also somewhat more comfortable after prolonged use.

by Mark Aufflick on 09/18/06

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