Noise cancelling headphones for under 100 dollars?
July 1, 2004 8:03 AM   Subscribe

Good noise-cancelling headphones for under $100? I'm moving into new work quarters where I'll be in a cubicle-type environment. I need headphones that will dampen the noise from my amiable-but-loud co-workers. I'm used to just hooking up the ole IPOD to my stereo speakers, but that won't do in the new space where I have no door. I don't like the buds that come with the IPOD. Any ideas?
posted by answergrape to Technology (17 answers total)
 
Etymotic ER-4P. Highly recommended. In-canal takes getting used to.
posted by anathema at 8:08 AM on July 1, 2004


There are a lot of white-noise-injecting noise-cancelling 'phones that are expensive and not very good (more importantly, they don't sound very good). My first recommendation, like anathema's, is to invest in some Etymotic ER-4S os ER4-Ps. They are outstanding canalphones that provide more isolation than anything else you'll likely find. Better still, they sound terrific. It will take some time to get used to the fit, however, as they go into your ear.

If that idea makes you uneasy, then pick up some Sennheiser HD-280 PROs. These are very good sounding (albeit not at the level of the Etys, or of more expensive audiophile headphones), and provide the most isolation of any supra-aural (ie, over-the-ear) cans. You will still hear your co-workers, when music is playing, but only faintly. I find the 280s work wonderfully for bus/train/car trips, or for when I'm studying at a bustling cafe. I can just tune everything out. These senns are less than $100.

Before going out and paying for anything else, though (especially evil Sony or Bose rip-offs), be sure to do your homework by researching them at head-fi. It's the web's finest headphone community - a fantastic resource, and a tantaliziing introduction to an expensive hobby. "Isolation" is the technical term you'll want to use when doing a search.
posted by Marquis at 8:14 AM on July 1, 2004


I'm not a big fan of in-ear (an ENT specialist once advised me against them on health grounds). But I use Philips SBC HN100, purchased through Amazon, which are perfectly adequate.
posted by skylar at 8:32 AM on July 1, 2004


Skylar's headphones are the only noise-cancelling headphones mentioned so far. The Etymotic buds are perhaps the best buds ever made, but they're not noise-cancelling.

I'd suggest the Sennheiser PXC250, which you can find for about $100 if you look hard enough. They're wicked leet.
posted by Jairus at 8:40 AM on July 1, 2004


I use the Sennheiser HD212Pro. I can't understand noise-canceling headphones, the ones I've tried out just sound awful to me. The cans I'm using now block out enough noise that I routinely miss phone calls,
and they sound great for $60.
posted by dragstroke at 8:54 AM on July 1, 2004


The Etymotic buds are perhaps the best buds ever made, but they're not noise-cancelling.

But they are incredibly isolating. So, much so that I would never ride a bicycle or walk busy city streets with them in.
posted by anathema at 9:03 AM on July 1, 2004


I should mention noise-cancelling headphones only work with regular, sustained background noise. So if you're sitting next to an air conditioner or on an airplane, they are amazing. If people are talking near you, you'll hear it loud and clear, as they can't handle unpredictable sounds.
posted by mathowie at 9:40 AM on July 1, 2004


I use the Sony 20th Anniversary Earbuds. A bit tricky to find, but they cost less than $50 and provide great sound. Unless you're a hard-core audiophile, they'll probably suit your needs.
posted by mkultra at 10:51 AM on July 1, 2004


Sorry, didn't see the price requirement.
posted by anathema at 11:03 AM on July 1, 2004


"Active" noise cancellation works best with steady droning, like ona plane. It won't do much for ambient conversations or sudden noises.
posted by Fupped Duck at 11:09 AM on July 1, 2004


I agree with mkultra on this one, those sony earbuds kick butt,
and there are even white ones to match your ipod.
Minidisco has a huge selection, as well as other good choices.
(I don't work there, they are just a great resource)
posted by milovoo at 11:58 AM on July 1, 2004


I tried these at MacWorld and they were really nice. I'm no headphone afficionado, but the price is exquisite: $69.

however


"I should mention noise-cancelling headphones only work with regular, sustained background noise"

Matt is absolutely right. They will not tune out human voices nearby. I really think you'll be disappointed.

An alternate suggestion: a nice pair of conventional earbuds and worn underneath some industrial hearing protection. That sounds goofy as hell but it isn't. It will pretty much just look like over-ear headphones.

You'll have your cone of silence and your music, too. Or just the cone of silence. Wearing foam earplugs underneath some firing-range hearing protection is basically as close to being deaf as you can get. The only sounds you hear are the ones your body conducts up your spine to your skull. It's like being deep underwater.
posted by scarabic at 1:36 PM on July 1, 2004


sorry to piggyback on the question, but I was wondering if anyone could clarify something for me.

How do in-ear buds sound compared to regular headphones? Here's what I currently own, and I love the sound, but when I try wearing them all day while I work, my ears get sore from the headphones rubbing on them. I'd like to look into ear-buds, but can a little ear-bud really match a 50mm Neodymium driver for depth and clarity? Or when people talk about amazing sound with earbuds, is it only when compared to other earbuds?
posted by GeekAnimator at 2:03 PM on July 1, 2004


GeekAnimator: The Etymotic earbuds sound better than the V700DJs. A lot of people think they're more comfortable than most headphones, too.

Mind you, if you're looking at new headphones due to comfort issues, just get a good pair of Sennheisers or Grados. Those Sonys aren't very comfy.
posted by Jairus at 2:52 PM on July 1, 2004


GeekAnimator: Only isolating earbuds like the Etymotics mentioned above or the Shure E-series are likely to compare to enclosing headphones.
posted by jjg at 3:00 PM on July 1, 2004


I should mention noise-cancelling headphones only work with regular, sustained background noise. So if you're sitting next to an air conditioner or on an airplane, they are amazing. If people are talking near you, you'll hear it loud and clear, as they can't handle unpredictable sounds.

Why? Don't they just invert the phase of outside sounds? Shouldn't that work just as well with transients as with sustained noise?
posted by timeistight at 7:00 PM on July 1, 2004


they don't work that fast. the noise cancellation is predictive, based on the noise heard a second or two ago.
posted by rorycberger at 11:30 PM on July 1, 2004


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