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Noise-cancelling headphones and earphones reviews

These gadgets keep the music happening without driving your neighbours mad.
 
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01.Introduction

Noise cancelling headphone reviews

We review seven noise-cancelling headphones and six noise cancelling earphones, priced from $99 to $730.

We've tested them for:

  • Sound quality
  • Noise cancellation
  • Comfort
  • Ease of use
  • Leakage
  • Efficiency
  • GSM interference.

On this page

Findings

  • Noise-cancelling headphones reduce intrusive ambient noise such as the drone of a plane.
  • Both active and passive features in headphones contribute to the overall reduction of a noisy environment.
  • Some models are good for listening to music, but they are primarily for noise cancelling.

Brands and models tested

Headphones
  • AudioTechnica ATH-ANC7b
  • Bose QuietComfort15
  • Creative Aurvana X-Fi
  • Koss QZ900
  • Panasonic RP-HC700
  • Sennheiser PX360BT
  • Sony MDR-NC500D
Earphones
  • AKG K390NC
  • Panasonic RP-HC31 (A)
  • Panasonic RP-HC55
  • Philips SHN2500 (A)
  • Pioneer SE-NC31C
  • Sony MDR-NC13/M

(A) Not available in Australian retail stores, but may be available via online sellers.

How we test

Comfort

The following areas of comfort are appraised by three testers at 10 and 30 minute intervals, both wearing glasses and without them.

  • Fit and stability of the headphone
  • Pressure of the headphone on ears and / or head
  • Heat accumulation
  • Subjective weight of the headphone

During use the headphone is checked for any interaction with clothing, such as cable friction noise. Also the length of cables is taken into account where applicable.

Ease of use

The following areas of ease of use are appraised by three testers:

  • Charging or changing batteries (Noise-cancelling models)
  • Using the device buttons
  • Storing
  • Cleaning
  • Quality of left-right inscription
  • Using the device buttons
  • Sharp edges or other problematic parts
Technical tests

The following technical tests are performed where appropriate:

  • Noise reduction in passive mode (all models on test). This is done across frequencies from 50Hz to 10kHz, as well as an A weighted reading.
  • Noise reduction with active noise-cancelling enabled (only noise-cancelling models). The test is similar to the passive mode test, but with the active noise cancellation turned on.
  • Sound leakage is measured by producing a sound pressure of 90dB in an artificial test head (HATS). A reading is taken at 0.3M from the head. This is done in both active and passive modes for noise-cancelling headphones. 
  • GSM interference is only tested on noise-cancelling models. This indicates whether the headphone is likely to interfere with a GSM phone call.
  • Efficiency is measured according to the European Standard DIN EN 50322-2. This standard requires a maximum sound pressure level of 100 dB(A) with the maximum allowed output voltage of the player of 150 mV. There are players available on market that exceed this level and others which only have output voltages of 20-30 mV.
Sound quality

Three experienced listeners appraise each headphone for use with the following pieces of music played from a CD player via a headphone distribution amplifier:

  • Classic music: Händel - Mariengesänge - Sophie von Otter, Burmester-CD II
  • Jazz: Miles Davis - Freddie Freeloader - Kind of Blue
  • Pop / Rock: Red Hot Chili Peppers - By the way - Stadium Arcadium

This test is done in both active and passive mode for noise-cancelling headphones.

What else you'll get in this report

As well as the test results for 13 models you'll also get:

  • Prices and features for all models.
  • Invaluable buying information: Practical advice and tips. Read this before you buy!

CHOICE tests are different. We buy the audio products we test — no freebies from manufacturers. Companies can't buy ads on our site and our work is funded by people like you. 

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