noise-canceling headphones

Escape to the sounds of silence

I live in New York, N.Y., a place that's never quiet. It's not just traffic noise, people noise, music in the streets, or the cumulative effect of all the buildings' air conditioning exhaust fans. There's a low, deep hum that always throbs to the beat of a city of 8 million people.

Judging by the number of folks wearing headphones on the subway, I'm not the only one using music to mask the noise. The subway may be one of the loudest places you can be in this town, but restaurants can get painfully loud, … Read more

Selling the sounds of silence

It's a noisy world and getting noisier all the time. No wonder sales of noise-canceling and noise-isolating headphones are booming.

Dwight Garner's New York Times article, "Meditations on Noise" reports on three books covering the impact of sound and noise on our lives.

Noise is usually classified as unwanted sound, but one person's noise is another's bliss. I've always been fascinated by electric guitar distortion, which can sound beautiful. Musicians such as Link Wray, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, and Jonny Greenwood mastered the art of noise. Why humans like such unnatural sound is a mystery to me, but it appeals on a primitive, strangely organic level. That, or it's noise, ugly, nerve-wracking, unwanted sound. Indulging in loud music can be risky business; if you occasionally experience "ringing in the ears" after exposure to loud sounds or concerts, you may be losing your hearing.

Garner looks at three books: Garret Keizer's "The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book About Noise" (PublicAffairs); "Zero Decibels: The Quest for Absolute Silence" (Scribner), by George Michelsen Foy; and "In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise" (Doubleday), by George Prochnik.

I never thought about it until I read the article, but noise exposure has social and political aspects. Garner put it this way: "You can judge a person's clout--his or her social and political standing--by witnessing how much racket he or she must regularly endure." Right, money can buy whatever degree of solitude you need.

Technology may be the source of much of the aural bombardment, but it also offers remedies. We can block out some of the din with our iPods and such, but using music to mask noise can be dangerous. When earbuds and other headphones don't hush outside noise you have to turn up the volume louder than the noise to hear the tunes, so you're compounding the problem. That's why noise-canceling and noise-isolating headphones are such a good idea; they let you turn the volume down and still hear more of the music.

Reducing background noise, in and of itself, lets you hear more deeply into the music. It's not a small, audiophiles-only distinction. Noise masks the subtle stuff, so you can't hear the reverberation surrounding a singer's vocal, or the gentle strum of an acoustic guitar. When the background noise level is high you only hear the louder sounds in the music. Listening "through" noise is stressful and fatiguing; mute the noise and you hear more and feel better. … Read more

Audio-Technica headphones offer noise cancellation and affordable sound

Frequent fliers have a special challenge when it comes time to pick out headphones. Finding 'phones with a travel-friendly design, but that are also comfortable and provide great sound with some capability to block out ambient noise can be tough. Now add in a budget of $100 and you can forget about getting all those features in one package...or maybe not. Audio-Technica's ATH-ANC1 QuietPoint headphones may have an MSRP of $130, but they can be found online for $100, and they solidly address all of the above considerations.

Read the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC1 review.

The 404 Podcast 504: Where we'd buy that for a dollar

Wilson is supposedly out sick this morning and can't be on the show, but it's obvious to Jeff and me that he wanted a head start on Wednesday's Apple Event. Either way, we're happy to have CNET's Smartphone Senior Editor Bonnie Cha here to replace him. We casually discuss our weekends in the first half of the show, which include some serious headphone shopping and a viewing of the documentary "Anvil." Bonnie also tells us about her weekend run-in with the new cast members of MTV's Jersey Shore.

With the January 27 Apple Event just around the corner, speculation about the Apple tablet is reaching critical mass, but an interesting Call From the Public raises new questions about the possibility of an Apple gaming console.

Judging from the amount of gaming press in attendance, there's a solid chance that the hardware will be gaming-friendly, but the chance of Apple unveiling a gaming-only console is slim. If anything, we're predicting a strong push toward gaming development on the new platform.

Thanks to everyone who sent in photos of their strategically placed 404 stickers and tattoos! Keep them coming, or be sure to listen to the promo in the break for how you can get your own merch.

EPISODE 504 Subscribe in iTunes audio | Suscribe to iTunes (video) | Subscribe in RSS Audio | Subscribe in RSS VideoRead more

Listening test: Audio-Technica's new ATH-ANC7b QuietPoint noise-canceling headphones

Last year, we reviewed the Audio-Technica QuietPoint ATH-ANC7 noise-canceling headphones, and editor Jasmine France thought they were a good value, offering decent, but not great, sound for the money. Well, when we heard that Audio-Technica was releasing a new, improved version of these headphones with a "b" tacked on to the model name, we were eager to get our hands on a pair.

What exactly has the company improved? According to the news release, these 'phones are supposed to sound better, offer a more comfortable fit (the earcups have been redesigned), and deliver some additional design tweaks, including … Read more

Travel in style with the Phiaton PS 300 headphones

Phiaton edged its way into the headphone market last year with its MS 400 Moderna Series headphones, an eye-catching set that brought solid sound quality and comfortable construction to the table. Now, with the considerably more portable PS 300 Noise Canceling headphones, the company continues its tradition of sleek design and plush comfort. These on-ear 'phones pack in a slew of travel-friendly accessories and, at $299, cost $50 less than the competition from Bose. However, the set failed to provide great sound quality across a wide variety of music, making it most suitable for only a certain type of listener.… Read more

Do Denon's new noise-canceling headphones beat Bose's Quiet Comfort models?

Bose has managed to persuade thousands of people to spend large sums of money on the company's QuietComfort 3 and QuietComfort 2 noise-canceling headphones. That has emboldened companies such as Denon--which can leverage its own highly respected brand--to come up with its own pair of $300 noise-canceling headphones. Alas, Denon doesn't have the marketing prowess that Bose does, so its Quiet Comfort competitors don't have an easy-to-remember name but a somewhat hard-to-remember model number, the AH-NC732.

So, do they measure up to Bose's popular headphones? (Hint: Not quite).

Read the full review of the Denon AH-NC732sRead more

Denon goes after Bose with the AH-NC732 noise-canceling headphones

Denon entered the headphone game just last year, but for a freshman competitor, the company had a lot to offer. Most of the models we auditioned--both full-size home headphones and travel-friendly in-ear models--ranged from good to excellent. Now the company is expanding its offerings with a noise-canceling model. The AH-NC732 On-Ear Noise Cancelling Headphones offer a lightweight (160 grams), acoustic optimizer (said to offer deep bass), and compact hard case. A single AAA battery is needed for the active noise cancellation, which counteracts ambient noise with an inverse soundwave. In other words, the new Denons look to be targeted … Read more

JVC takes aim at Bose with more affordable high-end noise-canceling headphones

Every few weeks it seems someone's announcing a new pair of noise-canceling headphones that are designed to take on Bose's ultrapopular--and ultraexpensive--QuietComfort line of headphones. This week's entry is the JVC HA-NC250, the company's new top-end noise-canceling headphone.

The formula's pretty simple for creating--or at least attempting to create--a pair of Bose-killers. Make them sound good, look luxurious and comfortable, and then price them $100 less than the Bose QuietComfort 2 headphones, which sell for $300 (the smaller QuietComfort 3's go for $350).

This is what JVC has to say about the HA-NC250:

"… Read more