Active noise cancellation is meant to reduce unwanted sound--the drone of an airplane’s jet engine, the hum of your office air conditioner, that kind of steady background noise. A tiny microphone detects the sound waves outside your headphones, then the headphones play an opposite sound wave which cancels out the original noise. That’s why they need a battery to work.
The NC300 'phones come in white or black.
The NC300 ’phones have a removable audio cord, so you can use just the noise-canceling part if you don’t want to listen to music. But when you’re listening to music, you won’t hear much without powering the headphones on--everything sounds far away. This means you’ll be using the battery whenever you’re using the headphones, but a single AAA battery lasted for a few weeks of normal commuting. And the noise cancellation worked well, greatly reducing the drone of the subway and helping us get some shut-eye on a cross-country flight.
The headphones fit comfortably, encircling your entire ear. The soft ear cups don’t provide a tight seal against outside sounds, but they do keep your ear completely covered. The cord is a generous seven feet long, and we prefer the single cord over most headphones’ split-cord designs. The volume control wheel on the cord gives you greater control over your music’s volume without needing to dig out your audio device. But there’s no microphone or other iPhone-compatible buttons--these are just for listening, not for talking on the phone or controlling your iPhone’s playback from the headphones themselves.
AblePlanet included Linx Audio technology for clearer tones--the same technology is used in hearing aids to reduce distortion and improve clarity of speech. We found that more treble-heavy tracks--classic rock, classical, bubblegum pop, and podcasts especially--sounded clear as a bell, although tracks with thumping bass got a little muddy on the low end. Hip-hop and reggae suffered the most, but all in all, we were pleased with the sound. Quality does start to suffer when the AAA battery begins to wear out, so keep a spare handy for long trips.
Follow this article's author, Susie Ochs, on Twitter.
At half the price of Bose’s QuietComfort 15 ($299.95), the NC300 headphones are a great bargain for anyone looking for sturdy noise-cancelling cans, although they have a hard time matching the Bose’s full fidelity. Still, they deliver comfort and quality, not to mention quieter, more peaceful surroundings.
REQUIREMENTS: Audio device with headphone jack; one AAA battery.
Half the price of Bose noise-canceling headphones. Long-lasting battery life. Lightweight and comfortable. Volume control on the cord. Includes carrying case, 1/4-inch adapter, and airplane adapter.
You can’t hear the music unless the power is on. No mic or iPhone controls.