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When is adequate good enough? (part deux)
Jul 27, 2009 (Updated Jul 27, 2009)
Review by Saxguy
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Decent noise cancellation and sound
Cons:The sound without the noise cancellation is not competitive; noise cancellation effect is subtle
The Bottom Line:
They are ok at noise cancellation. Look around for the best price.
Last week, I did a Saturday/Sunday flight pairing from Chicago to New Orleans, to sit in with the House Band for the ELCA Youth Gathering and to help with the Sunday Offering count. Of course, I was looking forward to doing arena rock. That was special and I will comment more on it in my next Epinion.
Recommend this product?
Since I rarely travel by airplane, I thought this would be a good opportunity to check out noise cancelling headphones. I had identified this set, the Sony MDR-NC7, as having a good feature set for the money. Sony claims that it reduces 87% of surrounding noise. The $49.95 plus tax I paid at Best Buy was higher than the $33.99 at buy.com and B&H Photo Video web site. Still, I was pretty close to the flight date and didn’t have time to wait for shipping. I figured that if they worked ok, I would end up giving them to my sister-in-law, who flies in from Italy annually (sometimes twice) and also flies around Europe a lot. If they did not work ok, back to Best Buy they would go.
Well, I’ve decided to keep them and give them to my sister-in-law.
Going in, I had read a lot about active noise cancelling headphones. I understood that they work by detecting the surrounding noise and emitting a frequency that basically neutralizes it. The wearer can then concentrate on the music. The active phone require a battery, this one used a AAA battery which was supplied.
In the box was the folding headphones, a carry bag, one battery, one adapter for an airline seat connection and instructions. The headphones have a swivel cup for the ear pieces, which cover the ears, and are folding. They are adjustable to make them longer by a couple of inches on each side. I was able to put the battery in less than 10 minutes. The battery life is estimated at 40 hours of continuous use. The phones have a 5 ft cord, single to each ear, jointed together and connected to the a mini plug. Frequency response is rated by Sony at 30 – 20,000 hz. These are dynamic, stereo headphones.
Noise cancellation is invoked by pressing a button on the outside of one of the ear cups. It is easy for the user to notice as the section below the button glows red when it is on. The button cannot be seen when the phones are on but it can be once the headphones are removed. Plus, the sound of the headphones is noticeably different between the noise cancelling off and on settings.
The phones are comfortable on the ear, fitting over the ear with soft, vinyl-esque pads. Some of the hinges for folding were a little uncomfortable on my head but the feel was fine when I lengthened it.
I tested these using my Sansa Fuze 8GB MP3 Player and compared them to my Skullcandy Earbuds, for which I had paid less than $20. I compared with and without noise cancellation on both flights and during a bit of “chill time” while in New Orleans
My first impression was that noise cancellation could be more accurately described as noise neutralization. With the cancellation button on, I noticed that two things were happening. First, the volume of what I was listening to was boosted a bit. Next, there was an underlying hum, for lack of a better word, that kept the plane noise from distracting me form the music. The hum was at a moderately reduced volume from the outside noise, but it wasn’t anywhere near zero.
So, while it wasn’t cancellation. I was able to listen to the music and enjoy it. As for performance, It was ok. I was listening to songs I downloaded from Rhapsody To Go, using my preferred custom equalizer setting, which boost the bass a little and the middle more, with no boost on the top frequencies. Adequate is a good description. They ware nowhere near the quality of my Bose Triport Consumer Headphones, which cost 3 times as much. With the cancellation, I was havng to turn uip the volume to hear the music well enough. The need to adjust volume higher was more pronounced with the noise cancellation. Sound-wise, I felt like the middle frequencies were not as clear as they could be, and the bass was muddy as well. The subtle disappointments were more noticeable without the cancellation button on.
In comparison, the Skullcandy Earbuds provide passive reduction, basically plugging the ears to prevent noise from getting through. I use them fairly regularly, although I do have trouble positioning them in the ear sometimes and I have to remove them after 45 minutes or so. On the plane, I notices that these were much louder than the Sony MDR-NC7 phone, whether cancellation was on the Sony or not. The sound quality of the music itself was better, not tremendously better, but better than the Sony on both settings. However, there was enough background noise getting through on the airplane to make the Skullcandy buds not as pleasant. The Sony unit with cancellation on was an easier listen.
Now, off the airplane, I thought the Skullcandy sound was better than the Sony. I wasn’t surprised since I’ve read lots of opinion that active noise cancelling headphones do not sound as good as similar models that do not have active noise cancellation. The buds had a louder, brighter sound. They’re buds and not as comfortable but, without the noise cancellation needed, the buds are better.
With the noise cancellation, the Sony MDR-NC7’s are good enough to be better. I can give them a very mild recommendation. They do provide adequate noise cancellation. So, I will gift my sister-in-law with these when she heads back to Italy
Thanks for reading. God bless!
I have a new, live CD out. Samples are on my profile page.
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