I'm in a bit of a dilemma, and I really don't know what to do (don't worry, it's a first world problem). I am looking for the best headphone solution to give me peace and good sound on long flights. Long in this context means up to 11 hours of non-stop flight. There is in-flight entertainment, so I need a headphone to listen to music and watch a movie. Naturally, I am looking at over-ear headphones with active noise cancelling as an option to fade plane noises away while listening to some sweet music. The use of a headphone amp is an option I'd really like to avoid, so if we can do without, that'd be great.
I've had the pleasure to use the Bose Quiet Comfort 15 of a friend for a few weeks, and I found the sound and the mechanics to be just acceptable while the noise cancelling was nothing but superb. Since then, I have tried many other headphones with active noise cancelling, and while some sounded better than the QC15, the noise cancelling capabilities were always disappointing. As a result, despite its age, the Bose QC15 seems to be the best headphone currently available when ANC is the top priority. But here's the thing: I don't want to spend 300 Euros for a headphone which is just average in everything but noise cancelling.
The next best ANC headphone I found after some research is the Panasonic RP-HC700E-S. I never listened to it, but reviews say that it sounds better than the Bose while having average ANC. It costs about 120 Euros, which I would deem affordable. But I'm not convinced that it really delivers, because the reviews raved about all the other headphones I tested, too, and those were not good at all. I would be willing to spend Bose money on an ANC headphone, but then it has to have top notch ANC, good mechanics and good sound.
After some reading on head-fi, I intentified custom IEMs as an alternative. The lack of ANC is compensated by their excellent seal of the ear canal. I possess a few IEMs which I like very much, such as the Ultimate Ears triple.fi 10 Pro, the Shure E500PTH and the Sennheiser IE8. My favorite in terms of sound is the TF10P, however, I do not really find it comfortable to wear over longer periods of time. Thus, I am currently looking into getting custom molds where these IEMs plug into. I was previously thinking about getting the TF10 reshelled, but I am worried that it will spoil its good sound. Getting custom molds where the IEM plugs in has the advantage that the plug can also be used as ear protection while the IEM can remain in one piece and be used normally. There are several manufacturers in Germany that offer making custom molds for the TF10P, and at 150 Euros, it costs about as much as the Panasonic ANC headphone.
But I've never used an IEM with custom molds. Many praise them for the ultimate fit, but are they really comfortable when being worn for many hours during a long flight? Would I have problems with pressure equalization? Are they easily removeable when I need to talk to someone?
So I am looking for people with experience. People who have used ANC headphones and/or custom IEMs during flights and are willing to share their experiences with that. Also, if anyone knows of an ANC headphone which rivals the Bose QC 15, I'm all ears (no pun intended).
Thanks for reading the long-ish test and sharing your view with me!
Edited by the Interceptor - 2/23/13 at 3:05am