2006 / march / 28

Noise cancelling headphones

I am so very, very happy with the noise cancelling headphones I bought in the US a few months ago. They really make a difference: flying becomes just about bearable. It baffles me that they are virtually unheard of in Europe. Friends in the states have been raving about these things for years, you'd think that they would be available over here, too. Before my last trip stateside (a conference in Phoenix, AZ, involving twelve plane hours broken by three hours waiting in Minneapolis) I wanted to buy them here. But in all the brick and mortar stores I tried, from the MediaMarkt hypermarket to small specialist shops, nobody had even heard of them. Not even in the huge shopping area of Schiphol Amsterdam Airport! Two aisles of choice in headphones, at least a hundred types, but none of them with noise-cancelling circuitry.

I didn't want to buy them unseen online, and anyway time was running out for the trip, so I decided to buy them in the US. In a Phoenix Best Buy, noise-cancelling headphones came in two price ranges: $40-60 and $250+. I settled on a Philips SBC HN050 at a Best Buy's in Phoenix for about $45. There were some other brands in the cheap range, but they all seemed flimsier - the Sony even more so than the no-names.

I'm happy with it so far. Good quality, good fit, and still hasn't drained the included single AAA battery yet, no complaints about that either. It's not a Sennheiser, but it does the trick, and does it well.

While flying, it's actually frustrating that I can hardly hear it when I switch the circuitry on or off - I notice it takes some of the drone out, but it seems peanuts compared to the amount of noise that's still there. However, it makes it possible to listen to the sound of the movie or music without having to crank the volume up, and even when I just wear them unplugged, with just the effect of the circuitry, I feel my ears are less strained. And the best thing is that the terrible headache I tend to have after flying, lasting hours, sometimes days, is no more.
If you're thinking about getting a noise-cancelling headphone for use on flights: I recommend them wholeheartedly.

BTW: the flight I used them on was back and from Fuerteventura, where we had a short holiday. Some photos on flickr; more to come.

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