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recommend noise-cancel headphones for college student?

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
My in-college son has a somewhat noisy dorm room (TV's in adjacent rooms, rattling pipes, etc). For his birthday I want to get him some practical, durable, effective noise-canceling headphones. Not too pricey so it's not a calamity if they're lost (and less attractive to steal).


post #2 of 8
Have you ever tied an in-ear canal earplugs? If so, you should give these Creative Labs EP-630 a try. They have pretty reviews online. Search online and you'll see. If you're into headphones instead, look for these PANASONIC RP-HTX7-K at your local Fry's Electronics if you got one. Here's a review from Headfi.org:

post #3 of 8
A friend of mine uses these everyday at work and has recommended them to me though I haven't bought them yet. I have tried them though and would agree with the review. Seem to be good value for money, come with a carry case they fold into and have reasonable battery life. Price is in Australian dollars in the link so would be cheaper US dollars.
post #4 of 8
Sharper Image. I think it's $70, but goes on sale for $35. Works great on planes. They have a $150.00 version as well. I highly recommend it.
post #5 of 8
good reviews on Audio Technica headphones (without all the marketing hype of another brand we love to hate....)

post #6 of 8
Thread Starter 
thanks guys. lots of good headphones out there, but I'm specifically looking for open-air noise-cancelling phones this time

post #7 of 8
Try the ANC7s from Audio Technica. I have them and they replaced my former Bose QC2. The midrange and highs are much improved over the Bose and the sound isolation is the same....which means great! Street price is is half of what you pay for Bose and better in my opine. I am frequentflyer and they work great on planes........I was surprised to see ANC7s being advertised in Skymall.....So I guess the secret is out on these headphones.
post #8 of 8
These are not open air, but I swear by them, and they are a bargain. I use them every weekday: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...=2ADJ4JN7KTTW0

Link doesn't seem to work - the model is JVC HANC100. Just do a search. AMazon has a great price, and they are returnable if you don't like them, I think.

Here is my review I posted on Amazon:

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful:
The End of My Noise-Cancelling Headphone Odyssey!, February 21, 2006
By Phillip Slepian "bondmanp" (Elizabeth, NJ, USA)

About a year ago, I switched from a commute by car to a commute via train and subway (from New Jersey to New York). I am an audiophile, so I wanted a good-sounding CD player/headphone combo. And since I damaged my hearing years ago with a Walkman that I played too loud (causing Tinnitus), I wanted as much noise isolation as possible. For various reasons, in-the-ear-canal ear buds don't work for me, so I set out to find a good pair of on or over the ear cans that offered good fidelity and a reduction in exterior noise. Note: I don't do reduced bit rates, so all of the comments refer to performance using standard "Red Book" CDs.

Although I started out with an iRiver CD player (which is a pretty good-sounding player), it was too picky about the CDs it would read, so I switched to the Sony D-NE320PSBLK Psyc player. This player reads almost all CDs, sounds OK, although the treble is somewhat rolled-off (but I actually prefer this when listening to headphones; it compensates for overly-bright CDs). It has great battery life and great features.

First, I tried the Sennheiser PXC-250, an on-ear portable design. Although neutral sounding, the Senns lacked good bass extension. Worse, the out-board noise cancelling module created a mess of tangled wires. After only three months of daily use, the wires went, and since everything is hard-wired, the Senns were now useless (quite a difference from my home headphones, Sennheiser 424X I bought new in 1976 and still work perfectly).

Next, I tried the Aiwa HP CN6. This is an open-air, on-the-ear design with electronic noise cancelling. The noise cancelling works well, and these cans sound fairly good. A little bright, but with extended, powerful bass and fairly neutral mids. The noise cancellation circuit increases efficiency to 106 dB, one of the highest efficiency ratings for noise-cancelling phones. This saves battery power on your player. However, the circuitry adds a significant amount of hiss. Battery life of the Aiwas was fantastic. Comfort-wise, they were only fair, and the thin foam earpads were beginning to wear out after about six months of use. Then, the noise cancelling function stopped working. Time to look again.

I visited the Bose Store with my player and tried the $300 Bose cans. The sound was OK, but not what you'd expect for the price. The electronic noise cancellation seemed to work well, with less added hiss, but the passive noise cancellation from the sealed, over-the-ear design was poor. I could clearly hear the Bose salesman talking on the phone a few feet away, almost as loudly as without the headphones. Plus, it was much less efficient than the Aiwas, which would have meant heavy battery use in my player (which takes only one AA battery). Just not worth the money (like most Bose products, IMO).

Then I tried two Koss noise cancelling models. The QZ-50 is an inexpensive, behind-the-neck, over-the-ear design. It was aweful. It's electronic noise cancellation added hiss but no apparent noise reduction at all. It's passive noise reduction was inneffective as well, since the ear pieces did not make a tight seal over the ears. And it was very innefficient, making it a poor choice for portable players. The newer QZPro was on sale on line, so I tried it as well. This padded over-the-ear design is comfortable, but passive noise cancellation was minimal. Active noise cancellation was OK, with some added hiss, but it was the least effecient design (90 db!) I have seen. Sound quality was fair, but I preferred the Aiwas, and I was ready to buy a new pair of them when I started reading about the JVC HANC100 phones.

Feature-wise, the HANC100 is nice. Unless you have larger-than-average ears, they are comfortable. The headband bothering so many hasn't bothered me yet. The ear cups fit over my ears, although I do have to partially fold my outer ear into them. They seem sturdy, although the cord is thin and I have gotten it caught on things a few times, without causing damage. I do not retract the cord, since I cary them inside a duffle bag when not in use. The only issue I have with comfort is that they are warm. In February, they double as good ear muffs, but I fear that in warmer weather they will make my ears sweat. After an hour or so, I do feel the need to shift them to relieve pressure on my eyeglass side-pieces. These comfort issues are half the reason for 4 instead of 5 stars. Like all of these electronic noise cancelling cans, you can't use the noise reduction feature in windy conditions, since the wind noise through the built-in mics is too loud. But at least you can shut that function off on the JVCs, and listen without it.

Efficiency-wise, the HANC100 is fine. Not quite as effecient as the Aiwas, but I suspect that the published spec of 103 dB with noise cancelling off and 100dB with noise cancelling on, is innaccurate. First, it's the only time I've seen a *decrease* in efficiency with the noise reduction on. Second, I hear no difference in level whether it's switched on or off.

Sound-wise, they are OK. They would benefit from a less resonant enclosure, since there is a little of the "cupped-hand" effect in the mid-band. I adapted to that quickly, though, and overall, they sound clean and neutral. Bass is a bit muddy and does not extend too deep, but the Sony player has numerous bass-boost features that compensate for this. When a CD is bass-heavy, the JVCs respond well to a point, but can be overloaded with extremely high levels of bass, and they then distort audibly. The highs are noticeably rolled-off, but I prefer this for headphones.

I have had no issues with uneven channel level.

One thing to be aware of is that they are not shielded from cell-phone interferance, and you will here buzzing (like an old morse code device) when cell phones are in use nearby. I can live with this, although I hear that Sony has added shielding to its noise cancelling phones. How about it, JVC?

Now the best part: The noise cancellation. Passive noise cancellation, which covers higher frequencies, is excellent. With all the other cans I tried, I used to hear conversation of other passengers clearly. With the HANC100, I can tell people are speaking, but at levels reduced so much that I can't tell what they're saying - awesome! They only thing they don't block out is the elevator music that the Port Authority plays - at fairly high volume - in its larger train stations.

The electronic noise cancellation is also quite good. If you commute by train or subway, then you know how loud trains and subways can be, both from outside and inside. With the HANC100, I can barely tell when a train car end-door has been opened while the train is moving. With other headphones, this made listening impossible. And the rumbling of the trains is almost completely eliminated when inside the train. Outside, the trains are very loud. While the HANC100 doesn't block enough of that noise to listen through it, it does reduce the noise significantly, and that's a good thing for my ears.

The one star was deducted for comfort, although I doubt they could be made cooler (with ventilation) without loosing some of the passive noise reduction, and for the lack of cell-phone shielding.

The HANC100 would be a good value at its list price of ~$90. At street prices, which are much lower (check Amazon's price!), they are an outright steal! I recommend the HANC100 over any other noise cancelling headphones I've tried.

EDIT (3/13/06): After a few weeks, and some unintended tugging at the cord, the right earcup developed a crackling sound which modulates both with the audio signal and amount of external noise. Sounds like something is loose within the earcup. I have ordered a second pair. If these last about a year, fine - can live with replacing them no more often than once per year. If not, I will have to look at something else. Oh, well.

EDIT (7/10/07): The second pair lasted well over a year. Even then, they failed because the wire got snagged on something, and frayed. So, this is due to being damaged by me, not because they failed with normal use. They still work, but the left channel sometimes cuts out. Overall, I have enjoyed these 'phones, and I will replace them with another pair. Strongly recommended.
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