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Noise Cancelling Headphone Dilema

  1. weemaddox
    Ok so don't shoot me...
    I'm not not well versed with portable hi-fi equipment and technology. I have a small predicament and am not sure how to proceed...
    My piece of crap Dr. Dre StudioBeats that I bought  from a colleague for $160 broke down and I plan on replacing them with a decent pair of cans with noise cancelling. I really don't want to spend more than $350 CAN, at least my wife doesn't want me to... [​IMG]
    My source is my IPOD touch. I own a  pair of  Denon ADH2000 cans that I use at home with my CEC HD53R V8 or my Rogue Audio Cronus amplifiers.  I don't really want to commute with my ADH2000s. I currently use AAC files on my iPod Touch, and will be buying an app to play FLAC files. 
    I commute everyday to work by train, and I want to buy a pair of noise cancelling headphones to use with my iPod Touch. The one feature that I enjoyed about the Beats headphones was the voice cancelling functionality that distanced the other cellphone using, and obnoxiously loud talking commuters.
    My original plan was to first buy the AKG K495 and then discreetly purchase the ALO National amp with the Cricket LOD in a couple of months; however, I learned that noise cancelling headphones do not benefit from portable amps. Are there other closed headphones that offer a better than average noise isolating capability that you guys could recommend? I'm thinking perhaps the AKG K550? I'm thinking that I will have to compromise sound quality for good noise cancelling capability. And no, I'm not buying any BOSE QuietComfort headphones...
    By the way, I love this site... My wife called it a money pit. 
  2. AstroTurf
    Welcome Aboard...

    Have you considered a noise isolating IEM?

    Otherwise have a look at the Sennheiser website.

    They have a cool wireless headphone with Apt-X Technolgy, a speak thru feature, and iPhone controls.

  3. weemaddox
    Thank for the input.
    The darned problem is that I have Buddha like ears. Earbuds never stick in my ears. I once tried an Apple's own brand IEM and they refused to stay lodged in my head as well.  So I'm somewhat apprehensive about that option. The wireless option is intriguing, but not necessary.
    What I need is something that is a bit rugged which I why I was drawn to AKG K495 model, because truth be told, I'm a tad rough with my gear. Does noise cancelling always equate to inferior sound quality?  I hear the Bose QuietComfort 15 is great for commuting, but it chafes to buy overpriced gear.
  4. AstroTurf
    Noise canceling technology introduces frequencies into the sound stream thus altering the true audio that you would like to hear.

    Noise isolation is the better choice.

    Good Luck with your search, Jim
  5. bubsdaddy
    Bose QC15 is the gold standard for noise cancelling. Even though I own a pair, I have settled back to using IEMs for travel. Your fitment problem with the Apple In Ear was caused by the included rounded tips that seem designed to pop out. You could probably achieve a decent fit with Sony Hybrid tips (available online or at Best Buy for $8) or a foam tip. Someone will probably recommend the Audio Technica ANC7B but I returned those as the sound wasn't great, the noise cancelling was ineffective, they leak sound badly and they are somewhat uncomfortable.
    Honestly, I recommend giving IEMs another try with decent tips or buying Bose (maybe used).
  6. weemaddox
    I want to thank you both AstroTurf and bubsdaddy for sharing your input.  
    My daily train and subway/metro commuting prompted my initial desire for noise cancelling cans. As previously mentioned I often have to deal with annoying loud people and cellphone chatter
    After having consulted ljokerl’s multi-IEM review at the link below, and weighing everyone’s input, I’m strongly considering pursuing IEMS that offer good isolation instead of noise cancelling. Not purchasing the BOSE QuietComfort or AKG AK495 NC, will save me some cash, because I will be able to use the same pair of discrete headphones at the office as well. 
    I now have my heart set on the Etymotic Research ER-4S, and upon failing to acquire them, I will set my sights to the Westone 3. The only problem will be finding the Etymotic line in Canada, and I’ve also noticed that the ER-4S model seems to be more or less discontinued. The ER-4PT appears to be the most accessible model in the 4 series in Canada. I will also cross my fingers and pray that they fit in my ears. I keep hearing nothing but good things about the noise isolation of the Etymotic brand. [​IMG]
    Thank you!
  7. AstroTurf
    You could also purchase a used set of ER-4 from ebay.

    They average about 150 - 175.

    Good Luck, Jim
    I've used many both cancelling headphones & IEM's of all kinds for many years, so would like to share my experience with these two very different types of product, especially when considering their noise cancelling (active) / reduction (passive) effects. One thing with most "Active" noise-cancelling headphones is that they normally don’t reduce the frequency of the voice. So while you can lessen jet engine background noise, the rumble of a coach on the motorway, or the general clatter on the tube (subway), the annoying yakking drivel emanating from your fellow travellers still reaches your lugholes! I'm not aware of a powered product that can effectively reduce people’s voices. The stock answer from manufacturers is for safety reasons; in-flight announcements etc. I suppose there is truth in that but the one thing most people want from noise cancelling headphones is to cut out the incessant chat-chat-chat!
    The cheaper type of NC headphones often produce more of an audible hiss from the integrated circuitry & are more susceptible to interference from mobile phones. Probably not a consideration when flying but on a train it can make the product unusable as everyone’s phones are constantly reacting with the network resulting in that annoying dit.didit.didt.didit interference, just like when a guest in the radio station hasn't turned their phone off & that wretched noise is then transmitted countrywide!
    The background hiss can be very noticeable on quieter passages of music and especially when listening to Audio Books. Probably one of best over-ear models I’ve used is the Sennheiser PXC450. I think they are based on one of the company's standard headphone products the HD 280 PRO, so a good & proven place to start. They have a "TalkThrough" function which opens a mic so you can have a two-way conversation without taking the headphones off, useful when ordering your in-flight drinks!  The cable is detachable, handy if you accidentally damage it as replacements can be purchased. Also you can use the headphones without sound input & cable detached (if you want) to reduce ambient noise. Rated reduction in ambient noise is 90% or 23dB, they are fairly large but do fold up making them easier to travel with. All the electronics are built into the earcups, rather than a cable mounted control unit, which can be very inconvenient.
    What I would say to you is please try one of audio's greatest products, Comply memory foam tips. More & more manufacturers are supplying them with their earphone products, as an alternative & upgrade to those standard slippery silicone tips. They can also be purchased on-line from many on-line retailers to use with your existing earphones. Have a look at their site http://www.complyfoam.com/ The site shows product compatibility by manufacturer, so as long as you know your brand and model of earphone you should be able to buy the right tips.
    I stopped using "Active" noise cancelling some time ago in preference to Comply. They have a patented type of memory foam; yup it's a bit different to memory foam bed pillows! The secret is that that Comply tips react to body heat so can form a near perfect seal in the ear canal, whilst silicone tips; although available in different sizes don’t have that capability. The effect is astounding; in my opinion they can easily do the same job as a £300 pair of active noise cancelling headphones. They are much more comfortable to use than silicone tips, they reduce ambient noise (including voices!!) & actually improve the sound of your earphones because of the improved fit & seal in the ear. Bliss!
    Just a tip, if you do decide to try them, it's necessary to gently roll the fixed tip between thumb & forefinger, to generate heat & reduce the size before swiftly inserting in the ear. The reason I mention this is that I’ve seen people try to squash the living life out of the tip, remember they are foam, so look after them!
    Good luck!
  9. AstroTurf

    Great first post.

    Welcome Aboard.

  10. bubsdaddy
    Your wife's opinion is spot on.
  11. weemaddox
    Wow KSDCSM, that was a very informative post that nailed all my concerns and priorities, thank you! So yes, within the next two weeks I’m pulling the trigger and ordering the Etymotic ER-4S headphones with the Comply ear tips without any further reservations.
    Alas, Ebay prices are near $300 bucks. I might as well get them brand new online. I’ll also order the Comply Foam Tips p-Series that offer the highest isolation. I tried in vain to find a pair at the local audiophile shops in Montreal today. One vendor even looked at me quizzically, and asked why I’m pursuing an unknown brand. He added that opting for a fringe brand, instead of a locally available product, will prove problematic should I ever have to return it or require support.  [​IMG]
    Gents, I want to thank all of you again for helping me save some cash while achieving my goal. I'll tell my wife how much money I saved, and... that I now have a valid excuse to pick up a portable amp! Money pit indeed! The baby doesn't really need milk formula...
    Best regards,
  12. Doc-holliday
    Hey there. Also (and you think im kidding) but try the Able Planet NC100CHA. They are on sale at Buydig.com for 65 bucks!

    I returned my Sennheiser M550s (B&H on sale for $310). The APs shocked me with a good balanced sound and nice soundstage. If you owned Beats I assume you like bass and these APs don't lack in that department at all. Hooked direct to my ipad3 they had nice full bass and better than average mids and highs (not so good direct out of my itouch 2nd gen.).

    For 65 bucks I don't think you will regret them. Especially if you were able to endure listening to beats for that long :D

    Two things -- One, you have to listen to them with NC turned on or they sound dreadful. Two, the NC worked very well tested sitting next to a loud AC unit. I haven't tested them in subway conditions.

    Oh yea, also they lack a bit in the comfort department.

    Won't sound as good as the IEMs but IMO certainly better than the beats (not to mention you can buy 5 pairs for the price of the beats).

    Good luck.
  13. Doc-holliday
    Oh yea, one more thing.... save 20% on those comply tips on their website with coupon code "20offcomply"
    weemaddox likes this.
  14. weemaddox
    Thanks Doc! Sorry for the late reply. I caught my son's weird little sickness. Until a couple of days ago, I would have thought that something call Hands, Foot & Mouth disease to be a something associated with livestock, but I digress...
    Thanks for the two tips, I'll definitely use the Comply codes soon enough.
    In regards to choosing the IEMS, I'm convinced that the Etymology ER-4S is the way to go. I'm not really a bass head; as a matter of fact, I found the bass on the Beats to be somewhat exaggerated. The soundstage was also significantly smaller than my Denon AH-D2000 cans. The only reason I picked the Beats as travel headphones was because I purchased them at a ridiculously low price from a colleague. I also didn't know any better...
    My current challenge is buying a pair in Montreal, Canada at the right price. I've checked Ebay and Amazon and will try to soon figure out what my best options are. With the baby and one income, I figure that I should be patient and prudent, especially since the wife thinks that I'm nuts spending so much money on IEMs.
  15. Doc-holliday

    What else would you spend ur money on? Food? Rent? She needs to get her priorities srtaight!

    Well gald u r feelin better.

    Ive heard good things about those ety's. I wanna audition them one of these days.

    Loving my triplefi 10s compared to my old shure e4c but i need to expand my horizons.

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