Completely Worthless

Nov 1, 2006
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Collapsible. Physical design of ear-cups blocks more ambient noise than normal over-the-ear style headphones.

Cons:"NOISE CANCELING" DOES NOTHING. Sound quality is MUCH worse than cheaper headphones.

The Bottom Line: Buy something else. Noise canceling doesn't work; produces a hiss-and-crackle. Sound quality is worse than cheaper headphones.


This is my first pair of noise canceling headphones. I was looking for something to help block out some of the ambient office noise while at work (other people's phone calls, conversations, etc.). I purchased them after reading consistently decent reviews from "audiophile" websites. I certainly wasn't expecting miracles, and yet I'm still extremely disappointed. These things were a total waste of money. I did a side-by-side comparison with a pair TDK MP100's (normal, over-the-ear style headphones) that I purchased for $19.99 at Rite-Aid a couple years ago. Here's what I found:

On the plus side...

1) Just the physical design actually seems block out a bit more ambient noise than my other headphones. With noise canceling off, the sound of my fingers on the keyboard is probably about 30% quieter than with the TDK's.

2) They fit completely over my ears rather than just smooshing against them, so they're a little bit more comfortable than the TDK's in that regard.

3) They fold down, making them reasonably compact for over-the-ear style headphones. Still, I would probably always choose a good set of ear-buds when traveling.


Now for the complaints...

1) The headphones themselves create an overwhelming "seashell" effect. Just put them on (unplugged, with noise cancellation off) and the roar is so loud I'd swear I was cruising in a jetliner. I have never had a pair of over-the-ear headphones do that before. After about 30 mins of wearing them, it started to drive me nuts. Probably an effective form of torture.

2) Turning on the noise cancellation eliminates much of the seashell roar, but replaces it with an equally irritating and more shrill 'hiss and crackle'.

3) Turning the noise cancellation on also produces an immediate and lasting sensation that can only be described as an "increase in pressure" on the ear drum. (This is most noticeable in a quite room with the headphones unplugged.) It feels like you just dropped about 200 feet in elevation instantly, and it never goes away. It's a bit uncomfortable and distracting. (Combined with the 'hiss and crackle', it produces another highly effective form of torture.) I'm actually a little confused by this sensation. Given my cocktail-napkin understanding of noise cancellation theory, it seems like the energy of the wave striking your ear drum should be very close to zero. If everything works perfectly, all you should notice is dead quite. The only thing I can imagine is that this particular noise cancellation system is emitting extraneous frequencies beyond the range human hearing and that I'm perceiving the intensity of these inaudible sound waves as "pressure" on my ear drum. Somewhat unsettling. If that's actually the case, I imagine it can't be good for you. Since this is my first experience with "noise canceling" anything, this complaint might not be unique to this product. However, it makes the noise canceling mode unsuitable for any sort of prolonged use, in my opinion. After about 30 mins in this mode, I was ready to tear my ears off (again).

4) Sound level is low. With noise cancellation on, I had to increase the volume by about 50% to get the same sound level that my old headphones produced. With noise cancellation off, I had to increase the volume by 70%. The TDK's seem to be exceptionally responsive though. In the overall scheme of things, this may not be a big deal.

5) Sound quality with noise cancellation off is atrocious. Everything is muted and muffled. It's like listening to your car stereo from outside the car with all the doors closed and the windows rolled up. I would almost consider them unusable in this mode. Turning noise cancellation on improves things, but the high's are still noticeably muted. Better bass response than the TDK's, though.

6) THE NOISE CANCELLATION EFFECTIVELY DOES NOTHING. I might have taken everything else in stride if the noise cancellation had performed anywhere close to what was advertised ("75% reduction in ambient noise"). In essence, the only thing the noise cancellation does is (somewhat) cancel out the "seashell" effect that the headphones themselves create. Turning the noise cancellation on does actually decrease the intensity of the ambient noise by an extra 10% or so. However, since it also cuts out the seashell 'roar' it actually has the effect of making the ambient noise MORE NOTICEABLE (i.e., the intensity differential is greater, even though the overall intensity is lower).

7) I expect this is going to be a general complaint about any noise cancellation system... but anytime there's a incoming or outgoing cell phone call within 10 or 20 feet of you, the noise cancellation system produces a very distinct "tick, tick, tick...". The fun part is, the intensity of the ticking varies with the distance of the cell phone to the headphones. So if it happens to be your phone that's getting a call, the "ticking" will be (literally) loud enough to shatter your ear drums. It strikes without warning just a few seconds before the phone actually begins to ring. Neat!


Conclusions...

In my opinion, using these headphones to listen to anything for any amount of time is tantamount to torture. The noise cancellation feature is worthless. The physical design of the headphones did decrease ambient noise more than normal headphones, but produced an "ocean-in-your-ear" roar that was unbelievable. The resulting sound quality was so poor that I would never choose them over my normal, less expensive headphones. I would certainly never buy them again. In fact, I've already sold them at a 50% loss just to get rid of them. If someone gave them to me for free I wouldn't refuse them, but I wouldn't use them either.


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