I've been looking for a pair of noise cancelling headphones for working out at the gym. As much as I love my $20 Koss KSC75 portable stereo headphones, I find it hard to hear my own music over the gym's music. (And since the gym basically plays the worst songs of every genre over an ancient loudspeaker system, I had no intention of giving up and just listening to their music.) Also, the sound of treadmills, clanking weight equipment, and people talking compete with my MP3 player for the attention of my ears. I have wanted to solve the problem for a while, but the reviews saying the 'hissing' sounds of most noise cancelling headphones were more distracting that the actual sounds they block made me very hesistant to invest in a pair. And unfortunately, most in the ear headphones don't actually fit in my ear (I have very small ears, I guess) and the ones that do are extremely uncomfortable (one pair made my ear canals bleed they were so tight). So, as much as people have been raving over the Shure's and the Etymotic's in the ear headphones, I have to have over the ear headphones.
So, I visited a Bose store recently and they told me I could try out a pair of their noise cancelling headphones for a month, and then return them, no questions asked. Of course, I jumped at the chance. I've been using them for two weeks so far and here's what I think:
Noise cancelling: I've never used any other brand of noise cancelling headphones before, so I have nothing esle to compare it to, but I must say that my expectations were more than exceeded. Actually, I was totally blown away by how much noise they blocked out. I could hear no hissing sound at all, for one. I also expected that just the low, droning noises would be blocked--that I would still be able to hear about fifty percent of the noises around me. It is actually more like ninety percent of the noises were blocked out. At my very noisy gym, their very loud music sounded like a distant hum with just the noise cancelling on. With my own music on, I couldn't hear it at all. The air conditioning system, the drone of the exercise machines were completely blocked with just the noise cancelling on. I could only hear the chattering of the people closest to me, and I couldn't understand a word they were saying. The only thing I could still hear was the occasional clinking of the weight machines. With just the noise cancelling on, it felt like the gym had only two other people in it instead of twenty. With the music on, I felt like I was virtually by myself. It works well at home too; my very noisy fridge was silenced and for the first time I could listen to music while vaccuuming (which was impossible with my other ear phones.) I can still hear the vacuum, of course, but it's only a humming sound in the background instead of roar right next to me. Actually, I find the noise cancelling feature so handy that I find myself using it for other things too--like reading and gardening. I am EXTREMELY impressed with noise cancelling feature. I don't know if all noise cancelling headphones work this well, but they definitely should.
Comfort: I was expecting them to be heavy and uncomfortable, since my only experience with headphones close to this size were my Dad's full size Aiwa headphones from 1972 (they still work and sound terrific, but they weigh about fifteen pounds and they're very uncomfortable.) Actually, despite their size, they are very lightweight and comfortable. They are maybe a little heavier than my Koss headphones, but not by much. The fake leather earcups didn't make my ears sweaty, nor did they press very tightly on my ears. The only thing that was maybe the slightest bit uncomfortable was the 'pressure' in my ears when I turned the noise cancelling on. After a while though, I became used to it.
Sound quality: Since I've never bought headphones for more that thirty dollars, I expected the sound to be at least ten times better than my Koss headphones. Actually, the salesperson at the store said I would 'throw my old headphones away after listening to these'. Uhh...not exactly. The sound quality is good, don't get me wrong, but it wasn't a good as I expected. It was definitely not $350 good, that's for sure. A lot of the other reviews describe the sound as muddy or like listening to music underwater. I definitely agree. The bass was a lot better than on my other headphones, but it was so strong, it drowned the other sounds out. It was sort of like listening to one those stereo systems in one of those 'pimped out' cars--except it's right next to your ears. I like bass, but not that much. So, on this count, I was pretty disappointed. So I'm definitely not going to be throwing my old headphones out, which overall, sound much better.
Price: Well, what can I say, they're definitely overpriced. Most of the noise cancelling headphones are in the 100-200 dollar range. I doubt they're THAT superior to the Sennheisers or the Sony's. Actually, this is my main turnoff to them. If they were 150 dollars instead of 350, I'd probably keep them. But 350 is WAY too much to spend on headphones.
Other features: Another thing I don't like is that if the battery dies, the headphones die--you can still use the other noise cancelling headphones even if they battery wears out. You also can't use the headphones without the noise cancelling on--whereas other headphones you can. I like the case it comes with though--nice--and how streamlined the battery is.
Overall, I'd recommend these headphones if you prefer the noise cancelling over the sound quality, and are willing to drop 350 dollars on a pair of headphones. If not, I'd try other noise cancelling headphones first, before deciding on these.