While at MacWorld Expo, my fiancee’s goal was to find a good set of noise reduction headphones for her iPod Mini. She rides the Washington Metro to work every day and it’s a fairly noisy environment, where she found herself constantly raising and lowering the volume of the music. She wanted headphones where she could listen to her music at a consistent volume and block out the background noise.
At MacWorld, we found a couple of headphones that fit the bill and worked with our budget. (Bose’s noise reduction headphones were *waay* outside our budget, so we didn’t look at them.) The first one we looked at was Macally’s noise reduction headphones.
WARNING: The below description of active noise cancellation is partially based on what I remember from a Discovery Channel documentary on sound cancellation.
These headphones work on the principle of active noise cancellation, where the headphones detect incoming background soundwaves and silences them by sending out the appropriate opposite soundwave to collapse the incoming wave. When I tried them on, the background sounds were dramatically muted. I could still hear people talking directly to me fairly clearly. The price was also good.
The other one we looked at was Etymotic Research’s 6i isolator earphones.
Etymotic took a different approach to noise reduction than Bose and Macally did. They chose to use passive sound reduction, through the use of flanged earpieces. This had the advantage of allowing the size of the headphones to be reduced to the size of earbuds, rather than the ear-covering headphones that other manufacturers are offering with their active noise reducing headphones.
The 6i earbuds are more expensive than the Macally headphones, but don’t require batteries and are much smaller.
Both products we looked at did the job we wanted them to do, in different ways. In the end, she decided on the Etymotic 6i headphones based on their small size.
What surprised us most were the prices that these headphones commanded. Since Bose has been doing the most advertising for their product, we’d thought that noise reduction would cost a lot more than what we wound up paying. This is a good sign for those iPod users who want noise reduction, but don’t want to pay more than the worth of an iPod Mini for it.
Macally PODPRO Professional Head Set for iPod