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Headphones item created by , May 5, 2010
Pros - Class leading noise cancellation using digital signal processing
Cons - Slight bass roll-off, but negligible issue for an NC headphone.
I posted this as a long answer to the other review, but felt that I would post it as a review here too....
I bought a pair of the Sony NC500D headphones in Tokyo in 2009 - simply because they were the only ones that were using digital noise cancellation, and when trying them in a busy and noisy Tokyo electronic store, they really stood out as being uncannily quiet.
Frankly the NC circuit blew me away.
I'm pleased to report that they've been in frequent use ever since - mainly by me.
I have also used a pair of Bose QC3's and QC15's for a number of long flights and train journeys, since these are owned by family members too.
Probably the best comment I may make is that there is always a challenge in my "finding" the Sony NC500D's since they seem to be preferred by all here. I'll try and be as objective as I can in why I think that might be, but both the Bose QC's are very good too. We are talking fractional differences between the QC15 and the NC-500D in my opinion, bearing in mind that they are of the same over ear design...
The 'on ear' QC3's are OK, but cancel less external noise in my view, and are my least preferred.
Sound wise the QC15's are good, as are the Sony NC-500D's though they may be slightly lacking in bass punch in direct comparison.... My view on this however is that you don't buy NC headphones for audiophile quality - you buy them to isolate background noise and get as good a sound as possible once that's done....
This noise cancellation is where in my view the NC-500D's really excel. The dramatic reduction in external noises (there are two manual settings and an automatic) is eerily quiet, so much so that one of my family can't wear them since they make them feel uneasy/queasy with so little noise - especially in a relatively quiet environment. It is from that base quietness that the perfectly good sound quality can then come though. In my view and that of the 2 members of my family I've actually asked, we'd place the three NC headsets in this order:
2.Bose QuietComfort 15
3.Bose QuietComfort 3
To be clear, I tend to use these Sony NC-500D when I just need a bit of peace and quiet, or listen to something when other stuff/noise is going on. If I want to listen to audiophile quality, then I use the closed back Denons or the open Sennheisers depending on need.
The Sony's really get used with my iPad (travelling or at home) or the TV when I want to watch films, or listen to the 256k AAC tracks on the iPad. When briefly travelling away for a few days, I use the Sony NC-500D's with my solid state drive iMod (all Apple lossless tracks) for music. I tend not to use the Graham Slee Voyager with the Sony NC-500D's (more to carry) but if I'm away for a bit I'll pack the Voyager and the Denons in my checked baggage so I have half decent sounds in my hotel/base in the evening.
In short, I'd recommend both the Sony NC-500D's and the Bose QC15's - but if I could only have one, it'd be the Sony's - for the peace and quiet they bring.
Pros - Relatively good NC circuit, really nice upper-mids
Cons - Was expensive (notice 'was"), sounds a bit digital, treble rolled-off
For a headphone that is now celebrating it's 6th birthday (in the technology world, it is already outdated), it is surprising how well the NC still performs, even compared to today's standard.
When the headphone was first announced in August of 2008, it had a whopping MSRP of $499 in Canada. However, a few years after that, it was discontinued at a final sale price of $199.
I do share some disappointment with these headphones and it is that there appears to have a digital artifact in the bass region. Furthermore, the treble seems to roll-off which made the headphone lacked sparkle and detail.
With all the complaints that is said and done, I believe this headphone excelled greatly in the mid region all the way up to the upper mid region. And more importantly, I thought the NC circuit was very well done, especially how well the 3 modes compliment each other. I would argue that the MDR-NC500D's NC circuit is very well made, and I would place it above the Bose QC2, but not above the Bose QC15.
For a more detailed review, please take a look at my video review located here: