Noise cancelling headphones that can sound like open-backed headphones?
June 27, 2016 7:30 PM   Subscribe

If I switch off the noise-cancelling feature on my noise-cancelling headphones, they become regular closed-back headphones. But I want them to sound like open-back headphones. And surely that's possible...

There are main 3 kinds of headphone...
- Noise-cancelling (minimal external sound)
- Closed-back (some external sound)
- Open-back (lots of external sound)

Noise-cancelling headphones have microphones on each ear. The microphones pick up external sounds, invert the signal, and mix that into your music. That inverted signal cancels out the external sounds.

When I switch off that feature, I can hear some external sounds, but not as much as I would from open-backed headphones. So... what if you could use those same microphones to deliver outside sounds (without inverting the signal)? Then it would sound like open-backed headphones.

Does such a headphone exist?
posted by pablocake to Technology (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Parrot Zik 2 have "Street Mode" that does this. I thought the 3s do but they don't mention it anywhere so I don't know.
posted by polyhedron at 7:38 PM on June 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

The feature you're looking for is called "talk through." It won't give your headphones the acoustical properties of open-backed headphones, but it will let you hear your surroundings better. I'm not familiar with any headphones intended for music that do this, but it's a feature on a lot of tactical radio headsets for the military market, and some sold to civilians too (3M Peltor is the brand, there).
posted by Alterscape at 8:37 PM on June 27, 2016

The Bose QuietComfort 25i earbuds ostensibly do this talk through thing (the "i" stands for something that refers to this feature), but god is the sound quality awful. You can hear every footfall you make. In general though, these aren't earbuds made for moving around much.
posted by tapir-whorf at 11:10 PM on June 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

2nding the parrot ziks 2.0s. Love them. Very comfy. Sound great. Good battery life. And the street mode (with adjustable level of outside noise) is excellent.
posted by chasles at 4:59 AM on June 28, 2016

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