MeFites, Countrymen, lend me your ear(phones) (suggestions)!
August 31, 2010 10:42 AM   Subscribe

If money were no object, what are the best noise canceling headphones I could buy?

I need new pair of noise canceling headphones, I am not interested in $35 crappy ones from Brookstone, I've had them, I hate them. I am willing to fork over essentially any amount of money to find the perfect pair - my only requirement is that they be over-ear (no in-ear or earbuds).

These would be for air travel and music listening.
posted by banannafish to Shopping (15 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Mrs MM is pretty fond of her Audio Technica headphones.

I think the correct answer is probably going to involve Bose or Sennheiser, though.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:57 AM on August 31, 2010

My wife swears by her Bose Quiet Comfort headphones.
posted by TedW at 10:59 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

If money is truly no object, you are looking for the Ultimate Ears UE18 Pros. They require a trip to an audiologist to have an ear impression taken, as the monitor is embedded into a custom-fit shell that blocks ~26db of ambient noise.

More reasonable might be the Etymotic ER4Ps, used with the black foam tips for maximum isolation. Note that these cans are not for you if you cannot handle things being inserted fairly deep into your ear canal. But they're hard to beat for isolation, and sound as good or better than cans costing twice as much.

(oh, and while they sound phenomenal, I cannot recommend the Westone 3s, as (despite what you may read to the contrary) their isolation flat-out sucks, especially as compared to the ER4Ps.)

and remember folks, as always BOSE stands for Buy Other Stereo Equipment.
posted by namewithoutwords at 11:00 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

(I totally would've suggested the er4ps too except that asker didn't want in-ear/earbuds. Please reconsider! Can't beat er4p for noise isolation.)
posted by yeoz at 11:02 AM on August 31, 2010

Best answer: These are pretty incredible. And yes, they are Sennheiser, and not cheap.
posted by bearwife at 11:04 AM on August 31, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far, but just to reiterate my request, I DO NOT want earbuds or anything that would be inside my ear cannel, I just can't do 'em.
posted by banannafish at 11:05 AM on August 31, 2010

If you want actual active noise cancelation then the Sennheiser PXC range are about as high end as you can get.

If you just want closed headphones then Denon AH-DX000 range are expensive and very good. Ultrasone Edition 8's are about as expensive as you can get, unless you would rather they were made of some sort of exotic metal, which they also do.

Anyway, as usual, Headroom are where I generally go to when starting the hunt for a new set of headphones.

Personally money is a factor for me so my sealed headphones of choice are not made of palladium. I have a pair of Denon DH-1001's and a pair of Sennheiser HD280 Pros. Both of which are very good. The HD280's have a much better seal though.
posted by public at 11:09 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Mrs. Grotesk swears by those Sennheisers as well. Is there a place* nearby where you can try multiple pairs and see how well each works for you?

*I guess I mean "high-end audio shop," but I don't really know, because I never go into those lest someone attempt to sell me a $500 interconnect cable.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 11:10 AM on August 31, 2010

bah, I totally missed the "no ear-buds" directive. to be fair, that is going to pretty severely limit his choices.
posted by namewithoutwords at 11:11 AM on August 31, 2010

I cannot say which ones are the best, but I can assure you that they will not have Bose written on them.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:11 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You might also find Headrooms handy graph comparer thing useful if isolation is a strong factor for you.
posted by public at 11:18 AM on August 31, 2010

Similar to bearwife, I've been using an older version of the PXC 250s for many years. They're not as good as the fully enclosed PX 450s, but they fold up small and are much easier to travel with on airplanes.
posted by bonehead at 12:04 PM on August 31, 2010

I have the Sennheiser PXC-350, which is a nice middle ground between the 250 and the 450. As near as I can tell, the differences between the 350 and 450 are (1) color, and (2) whether they have the "talkthrough" mode to allow you to hear someone talking to you without taking them off. That didn't seem to be worth the $100sih difference, but that's just me.
posted by JMOZ at 12:33 PM on August 31, 2010

Best answer: I recently purchased the Sennheiser PXC-450's as I wanted a good noise-canceling headphone so I wouldn't have to pause or crank up podcasts and music in/around Manhattan - particularly the subway system. I was stuck between those and the Bose QuietComfort 3 series.

In my opinion, after trying both on in stores, the Bose QC3 clearly won on the noise canceling front. Once those went on, the rest of the world faded out pretty nicely. I would have gone with them excepting that they entirely rely on battery power to be used at all. That is, once the battery goes, there is no unpowered usage. Also, they seemed a little skimpy in construction - not bad, but not amazingly solid. For $350, I wanted to make sure they didn't break easily.

The 450's don't have the same degree of noise-canceling but it was still present and the difference with it on and off was noticeable. However they can be used without a battery (1xAAA) and they seem to be VERY solidly built. The cups really reach around the ears and press around the face with some authority. I don't mind this except when the weather goes over 85 or so 'cause then around-the-ear sweating can be annoying. They also fold up smaller than I would have expected. The talk-through button is nice (although it does not pause iPhone/iPod music) in that you can hear very well when people think you can't hear anything at all. This can be somewhere between useful and amusing at times. They are supposed to be of a much better audio quality that the Bose, but honestly, I am not positive I have the ear to tell the difference.

What really sold it for me was the store I was trying them in - BH Photo - had (and apparently has once you add them to a cart) them for $100 off list, making them ~$254. That changed my comparison strategy from "pluses and minuses at the same price" to "is it worth $100 more for the Bose?"
posted by Moonster at 1:26 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone for the great suggestions - I went with the Sennheiser PXC-450's, and at the EXCELLENT advice of Moonster, I checked out BH Photo and they were priced, including overnight shipping to Los Angeles, $287. Amazing advice all around!
posted by banannafish at 6:49 PM on August 31, 2010

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