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Why does active noise cancelling make me feel uncomfortable?

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 

Hi,

 

I'm curious about something: I do most of my listening on Westone 4R, ATH M-50s, Grado SR80 and Hifiman RE0 heapdhones. This week a friend lent me some Bose QuietComfort 15 headphones, because I was curious about active noise cancelling. The sound is what I expect from Bose - a chunk of bass, some conspicuous high frequencies floating over the top, quite impressive upfront but not so coherent as a whole. Not bad but not brilliant. What does surprise me is that, for a while after I start listening, I feel a kind of discomfort as if there is a subliminal high frequency whistle or something - it's the same kind of discomfort I used to feel around CRT TVs with their high-frequency flyback tone. So my question is: does the active noise cancelling create a sound of its own? Is there any explanation for this discomfort in terms of what I am hearing, or am I perhaps just disconcerted by the lack of ambient rumble when these are turned on? The discomfort does seem to subside after a few minutes, although I still feel slightly weird with these things on, and if I focus on it I again feel like someone is doing something unpleasant to my ears. Is this a known phenomenon with active noise cancelling?


Edited by headwig - 6/16/12 at 11:24am
post #2 of 20
Lots of headphones hiss when you use notice cancelation.


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post #3 of 20
Thread Starter 

Yes, these do hiss. I wonder whether it is just the weirdness of high-frequency hiss without any low-frequency rumble to go along with it. I also wonder whether the hiss is something the noice cancelling introduces or whether it's just the bits of the background noise that don't get cancelled.

post #4 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by headwig View Post

Yes, these do hiss. I wonder whether it is just the weirdness of high-frequency hiss without any low-frequency rumble to go along with it. I also wonder whether the hiss is something the noice cancelling introduces or whether it's just the bits of the background noise that don't get cancelled.

 

It could be, but most noise that isn't cancelled is heard.  It could be that it's trying to cancel out 0 (zero) noise (EG, if you're in a quiet room).  There is no noise that you can hear, but there is constant background noise.  Many antennas also pick up static through background microwave radiations and output it as static (static television/radio).  My best guess would be that it is interference from background radiation (microwave radiation). 

post #5 of 20

I had a pair of active noise cancelling phones too. I can understand the discomfort, something about that hiss is just off-putting. I wouldn't worry about it, you're Westones should be fine for travel. If needed, you can look into some Etymotics. I hear they're very good at isolation.

post #6 of 20

IDK what causes it, but many sources say it makes your ears feel as if there is pressure on them.  That is probably causing the discomfort.

post #7 of 20
I feel most uncomfortable when...

I realize that, Two wrongs don't make a right.

Jim

PS Noise canceling is unnatural. Just my opinion.
post #8 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by AstroTurf View Post

PS Noise canceling is unnatural. Just my opinion.

 

+1, isolation all the way.  Much more natural, not added artifacts to your music. 

post #9 of 20
Thread Starter 

 

 

Quote:

 many sources say it makes your ears feel as if there is pressure on them.

 

 

Yes, it does feel slightly like pressure on the eardrums. Another friend who tried them said it felt like her ears were being sucked outwards.

 

Edit: I think this sensation is probably because when there is pressure on your eardrums (e.g. during takeoff or landing on a plane flight) you lose the lower frequency hearing more than the upper frequencies. The noise cancelling also seems to reduce the lower frequencies more, so it probably reminds us of that experience of having bunged-up ears.


Edited by headwig - 6/16/12 at 11:35am
post #10 of 20
I've used a pair of active noise cancelling headphones too and had to remove after less than 10 minutes. The hissing hurts my ears and gives me a headache and is simply unbearable, I also remember one time it was giving me such a bad headache that I started breaking out sweat! Rather just stick to my customs as they do a fantastic job blocking noise on my NYC subway commutes.
Edited by infam0ussteven - 6/16/12 at 1:21pm
post #11 of 20

If you are looking to buy noise cancelling headphones that don't hiss, you'd be best off getting Philips citiscape uptown, they by far have the best passive noise reduction due to their music seal technology, plus they are the most comfortable headphones you will ever wear, as far as the sound goes though, they are no m50's, but they are definitely tough competitors in the $100-$200 range and will cancel noise just as well as the bose

Philips-CitiScape-Uptown-Headphones.jpg

post #12 of 20

IME, the Uptowns are good at keeping music in, but not blocking out noise.

 

I think the better/stronger the NC is the worse it is on your eardrums. I have an ATH-ANC7 and they are bearable. Not great but bearable. Some Etys may be your best bet if you want some great isolation (and great sound).
 

post #13 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by roma101 View Post

IME, the Uptowns are good at keeping music in, but not blocking out noise.

 

I think the better/stronger the NC is the worse it is on your eardrums. I have an ATH-ANC7 and they are bearable. Not great but bearable. Some Etys may be your best bet if you want some great isolation (and great sound).
 

The Etys are just painful to wear period IMO.

post #14 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by linuxid10t View Post

The Etys are just painful to wear period IMO.

 

Not at all... Insert them just deep enough to get a seal, they are comfortable as ever.  Also make sure you insert them correctly.  Or get a pair of foam tips.

post #15 of 20

With the stock large gray tri-flanges, yes, I have a lot of discomfort with those too. But with a pair of Shure Olives on them, they are the most comfortable IEM I own that isolates well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by linuxid10t View Post

The Etys are just painful to wear period IMO.

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