Can you recommend a pair of headphones which will cancel out human voices?
November 17, 2007 7:51 PM   Subscribe

Can you recommend a pair of headphones which will cancel out human voices?

I'm after a pair of headphones for the office which effectively cancel out, or significantly quieten, human voices (particularly female). I know you can get good noise-cancelling headphones but they apparently only work well on constant sounds like engines, not on changing sounds like human voices.

I also have a pair of Senheiser studio headphones which are built for noise-reduction and completely cover my ears, but they can only mute human voices a little.

Do you know of any headphones that will actually cancel out changing human voices? Or is there a "next best thing"? Any and all suggestions would be very very much appreciated, thank you :)!
posted by katala to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
As b1tr0t suggested, Etys are the gold standard, really. If you have the cash, spring for the 4P instead -- they sound even better.

The one draw back with these in-ear cans is that they hurt after a while as they expand against the canal. I have a pair of Ety 4S, and while they sound absolutely brilliant even by audiophile standards, after about three hours the pain gets to be too much, and I have to take them out and let the ear canals rest.
posted by NucleophilicAttack at 8:03 PM on November 17, 2007

Yeah, you should check out IEMs.

Here's a comparison table including isolation level.

I have super.fis and I am pretty much out of reach while listening. Sadly I don't have the option of muting the world at work but I imagine they would work okay.
posted by selfnoise at 8:07 PM on November 17, 2007

lifehacker had a suggestion where they used a set of passive noise canceling headphones and put buds inside. This would help attenuate ALL noise as opposed to the active noise canceling headphones which block out just the background noise. May be helpful for you.
posted by royalchinook at 8:25 PM on November 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

I normally hate in-ear stuff because I have inner ear problems so I worry about putting things in them. But I just bought these and so far I must admit I really like them. First off, they're very comfortable. But also, I was on the BART today and it was the nicest, most peaceful ride I've had on there in months. And I was sitting next to four kids. I could still hear noises if I needed to but it cut out voices surprisingly well.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:35 PM on November 17, 2007

And BTW, they're $20 less on Amazon than they are at the Apple Store where I was stupid enough to buy them.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:36 PM on November 17, 2007

I went through about 3 pairs of the cheap Sony ones linked to above before I bought Shure E3cs. I don't go anywhere without them. BART and MUNI, as well as airplanes, would be insufferable without IEMs. I still use Sennheiser HD280 Pros at work, but they're just easier to get on and off when I'm semi-mobile.
posted by kcm at 10:43 PM on November 17, 2007

I had Shure E3cs, and they work really well at blocking sound. I wouldn't wear them in the office though; they muffle footsteps and polite coughs enough so that people would have a hard time getting your attention, other than physically tapping your shoulder or waving something in front of your face. This gets annoying for both sides.

Also, they're not really fun to remove and reinsert. Remember that they go inside of your ear canals, and form an airtight seal. Yanking them out of your ears really hurts. Doing it several times a day might get painful on the eardrums.

You might want to consider earphones that have a worse seal (and block less sound) like the above-mentioned Sony Fontopias or Creative Lab EP-360s.
posted by meowzilla at 11:07 PM on November 17, 2007

I think on a past question someone linked to DIY in-ear phones, created by making a mold of each ear, drilling a sound hole through and attaching some sort of driver. Don't have the link but it was awfully cool and probably would eliminate some of the pain associated with standard in-ear types for longer wearing.
posted by 6550 at 1:20 AM on November 18, 2007

I have the Shure E4c's - and I researched them and Ety's as well as a few others in the passive and non-passive noise canceling market pretty extensively before buying. I was able to find them for about $200 online, and they're the best investment I've made in the last few years, hands down. Use the foam attachments for comfort, and you won't hear anything but what you're streaming in through the cord.
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:05 AM on November 18, 2007

For what it's worth, I have a $300 pair of Ultimate Ears (much like the Etymotics) and a $50 pair of Sennheiser in-ears.. and I tend to just use the Sennheiser. If the UEs are a 8 sound wise, the Sennheisers are a 7.. and they're smaller and easier to put in.
posted by wackybrit at 5:58 AM on November 18, 2007

In-ear, definitely.. I use Sure E4c's and they are a godsend.

The foam attachments are the best.. the only downside is if you have to constantly take them in and out.

Also, they isolate so well you won't hear the phone, or anything else.
posted by TravellingDen at 6:15 AM on November 18, 2007

Another vote for the Shure in-ear models. If you can afford it, go for at least a step up from the basic models, as they're smaller and less likely to hurt. What really made them work for me was the triple-flange silicone sleeves - they've been very comfortable, and they come in packs with 3 pair. With a little fiddling, the seal is quite good, and I can pull them in and out all day without it hurting the canals.

Also, I bought my headphones from Amazon, and when I asked their customer service if I could return them if they didn't fit, I was told that it wouldn't be a problem, even though I'd stuck them into my ears. Grain of salt and all that, but it was enough assurance for me.
posted by averyoldworld at 8:21 AM on November 19, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you so much for all your responses, I really appreciate it :)!!
posted by katala at 4:07 PM on December 14, 2007

Response by poster: Just thought I'd update this thread for future readers - I ended up purchasing a pair of in-ear monitors and a pair of Jabra C820's.

I find the in-ear monitors are good for the bus but too uncomfortable to wear for more than half hour or so (for me anyway). I use the Jabra's for work and, although human voices still get through, between the active noise cancelling technology and the beautiful sound quality it becomes very very easy to ignore them.

When I'm wearing my Jabra's at work I can concentrate so much better and effectively ignore any external sound that comes through my headphones much easier because so much of it is already blocked out.

The Jabra C820's are a knockoff of the Bose QuietComfort series of headphones, but at a fraction of the price (I picked mine up for $80 including shipping from in Australia) they're a very good deal. They're also super comfortable and I can happily wear them for 8+ hours straight. The sound quality is also excellent.
posted by katala at 8:03 PM on April 26, 2008

« Older Such a headache! Must have been something I ate!   |   Exterior House Paint Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.