on April 6, 2008
Update 12-3-2014: If you're reading this review now, be advised that it is 6 years old. You should check out this review of the PSB M4U 2 NC headphones: http://www.amazon.com/review/RNFCGA4RI70O3/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm
I compared these headphones side-by-side with five other noise cancelling headphones: Bose QC2 & 3, JVC NC250, Audio Technica ANC7, and Sennheiser PXC-250. I was in the market for a noise cancelling headphone because I travel a lot and I wanted to be able to watch movies or listen to music in relative isolation. With the ipod earbuds, you have to blast your ears in order to compete with the airplane's engines and I want to preserve my hearing. My main criteria were sound qualifty, noise cancelling, and comfort. All three were very important and I didn't really want to compromise on any of those categories. The only headphone that excelled at all three was the PXC-450. I disqualified all but the PXC-450 on the basis of out of the box testing.
The JVC was disqualified right away on the basis of its cheap build quality. It does not fit snugly on your head, it is very loose. The slightest movement of my head and the earphones would slide around on my ears. Because of that these headphones offered zero passive noise cancelling. Sound quality was okay but nothing special. These headphones never really merited serious consideration.
The Audio Techicas are one of the most popular headphones on Amazon. I read the reviews of this headphone extensively, and most people rave about these headphones. The only criticism of them I saw was sound leakage. People complained that when you listen to these headphones, people around you can hear what you're listening to. They were right. It really is a shame because other than that flaw, these are very good headphones. The sound and noise cancelling is amazing considering the price. However, as I was buying this for use in very close quarters (airplane travel), I didn't want to have to worry about bothering people around me.
The PXC-250 sounded amazing. I couldn't believe such small headphones could sound so good. However, the battery wand I felt got in the way a bit and I just didn't think the noise cancelling on these on ear headphones was as good as the other more expensive headphones. The 250s had another odd problem in that very slight movements would cause the earpads to rub slightly on your ear. This rubbing created a noise that would reverberate inside your ear that was very noticable if you were watching a movie or listening to softer music.
When I was testing the Bose and the PXC-450, comparing them to the other headphones I tested, it made me realize that noise cancelling technology must just be expensive which is why if you want a quality noise cancelling headphone, you have to be willing to shell out some cash. The Audio Technicas are by far the best of the cheaper NC headphones, but the Bose (particularly the QC3) and the 450 really stand out from the pack.
The Bose are very good headphones, but they have some issues that I just couldn't get over. First, I don't like the way Bose headphones sound. They push the bass into your face and the mids and highs sound muddy. Most of the reviews of these headphones mention these issues. The QC2 got very warm and I could feel the heat radiating inside on my ears and it was not comfortable.
The QC3s are really amazing. They are on ear headphones, yet they had the best noise cancelling of any of the other headphones I tried. The earpads are made of a material that just kill sound. Without even turning the earphones on, you are immediately immersed in silence. However, in addition to the sound quality issue, there is something about their noise cancelling function that creates a pressure on your eardrum. This pressure bothered me enough that it was hard to ignore. If the PXC-450 did not exist, I would have gone with the QC3 and just sucked it up, but I was glad that I didn't have to.
Finally, the PXC-450. For me, these were the perfect headphone and I just fell in love with them and didn't have to think very hard about which ones to keep.
Bass. I read a lot of reviews and a lot of people complained about a lack of bass on these headphones. When I first put these headphones on, I admit that I was a little let down because it seemed to me like they were very weak. Then I realized that I needed to adjust the volume control on the headphones. I basically turned the volume on the headphones all the way up and just adjust the volume on my ipod. With the volume issue fixed, my concerns about the bass went away. These headphones do not have as much bass as Bose. However, that's because Bose changes the sound from the way it was intended to push the bass forward. If you like a lot of bass, these headphones might not be for you. However, the bass is definitely there. Just listen to Pon de Replay (Rihanna) or Pass that Dutch (Missy Elliot) for a demonstration of how good the bass is on these headphones.
Sound Quality. Moving past the bass to sound quality as a whole, these headphones are in a different league. I mean, I am hearing details in songs I have heard dozens or even hundreds of times and never noticed. Background singers that before were lost with all of the other sounds can be heard clearly on these headphones.
Noise Cancelling. These headphones have a tight fit, which gives them a lot of passive noise cancelling. They are not so tight, however, to become uncomfortable. Combined with the active noise cancelling, and these headphones are *almost* as good as the QC3s. I feel like the QC3s were a little better at cancelling the higher frequencies, but I think that is why they have the pressure on the eardrum problem. I didn't feel any pressure with the 450. The slight advantage the QC3s have on noice cancelling is more than outweighed by the 450s superiority in sound quality and comfort.
Comfort. Despite being snug, the 450s are very comfortable. The material that the earpads are made of is very soft and I quickly forgot I was wearing them on my flight. The headphones are very big--much larger than the on ear QC3s. However, because they are snug they don't slide around and they really do melt into your head after a while. Also, they don't get hot like the QC2s did.
Portability. Because they are bigger, they are slightly more difficult to manage than the Bose. However, they fold up quite nicely and their case, though larger than both of the Bose cases, is still rather small (and light!).
In the end, once I tried the 450s, there was really no way I could settle for any of the other headphones I tried. All of the other headphones had too many flaws and the 450s were near perfect. Oh, I should mention that I listened for the "ticking sound" that other reviewers complained about in the right earpiece and there was absolutely nothing. Either those reviewers had defective units or Sennheiser has fixed the problem.
I can't believe it's been three years since I bought these headphones. They still work great and I have no plans to replace them. I only use them when I travel, so they're not getting wear and tear every day, but I was travelling A LOT when I first got these. I have not tried the Bose QC15s, so I can't compare the 450 to those.
Someone in the comments suggested that I work for Sennheiser -- I do not.
I didn't mention the Talkthrough feature in my review. After a lot of use, I have found this feature to be very handy. It's nice when the flight attendant comes by to be able to just press the button and talk to them without having to take the headphones off.
on November 12, 2009
I bought both the Bose QC-15's QuietComfort® 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling® headphones and Sennheiser PXC-450's Sennheiser PXC 450 NoiseGard Active Noise-Canceling Headphones to compare them side by side before plunking down ~$300 for headsets.
The Sennheiser PXC-450 headset is built much better than the QC15's for durability AND comfort. The quality difference can be seen in the wire gauage, battery compartment hardware, adaptor finish quality, and ear cup cushion. Sound quality was also richer and seemed more encompassing/fuller. I'm no audiophile by any means, but that is my best subjective judgement.
The QC15's however had far superior noise cancellation. This my main determining factor between choosing which headset to keep. The noise cancellation isn't nearly as good as the demonstration unit found at retailers would lead you to believe. (those are likely configured to generate test noise at the precise frequencies of the noise cancellation circuitry of the headphones). My test was simple, I used a couple of air purifiers (not fans) running on high that reasonably simulate the white-noise like droning sound of being on airplane. Again the QC15's were much better than the Sennheiser PXC450's with respect to this non scientific test.
Bottom line, if noise cancellation is your top priority and your willing to sacrifice a little on build and sound quality, then buy the QC15's. Otherwise, if you can live a little bit more ambient noise intrusion and want greater sound and build quality, buy the Sennheiser PXC-450.
Hope I can help anyone out there.
Bose QC25 vs. Bose QC15 vs. Beats Studio (by Dre.) vs. Sennheiser PXC 450 vs. Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7b
Disclosure: I have tried all these on an airplane. I am not an audiophile. Noise Cancelation is the most important attribute to me.
The Carrying Case: All four are quite durable and stiff.
1.) Bose QC25- Very small, compact, and just big enough. Does not really have room for anything else. Could fit in a briefcase.
2.) Bose- QC15- This case is bigger than the QC25 (Which could be a good thing. Doesn't feel much bigger, and still has room for ipod, Gameboy, batteries, whatever).
3.) Sennheiser- Square shape, low profile, however not a lot of room for anything else in case.
4.) Audio Technica- Nice big case if you want to carry extra stuff (Nintendo DS, ipod, etc).
5.) Beat case is very elegant and hip, but very wide and skinny. Maybe room for an ipod and that's about it. Caribbeaner Clasp.
1.) Sennheiser- you can tell this is built VERY well. Strong plastics, good components, thick cord. Top notch. You feel like you are getting something really high quality.
2.) Beats appears to be extremely well made. Heavy duty industrial plastics, metal fasteners. High end box, thick cord, great packaging, solid construction. Only concern of mine is that the battery compartment seems a little fragile.
3.) Bose25 is a step up here from the 15. Detachable cord. A little more substantial feeling. Touches of aluminum on the headphones, and some nicer quality padding. While not as substantial at the Sennheiser, they do feel more luxurious and a little more solidly built than the QC15.
4.) Audio Technica- Nice solid construction, appears durable. Mostly heavy duty plastic.
5.) Bose15- If this had a Sanyo logo on the side, I would not have flinched. How can something $300 be so incredibly cheaply made.
1.) Bose25- A step up from the Bose15. A little more sleek. Not as dorky looking. Fold flat.
2.) Beats- These are a little bigger than the others, but that are also meant to stand out and be seen. Probably the hippest looking, but a little bold for business users.
3.) Bose15- as far as over the ears go, these are pretty small.
4.) Audio-Technica- mid-sized.
5.) Sennheiser- These are big. No question, but they store flat.
1.) Sennheiser- Very comfortable, will fit almost any size ears. Keep on for hours.
2.) Bose25- A stepup here. More comfortable than QC15, more flex, better padding. Less hot. Could be tight around some larger ears. Can press a little tight after some time, so test them. After a few hours, my ears hurt from the pressing, but some adjustments can be made.
3.) Beats seemed to be a little tight on my head and I didn't see a way to make them less "compressy." I don't think I (personally) would like to wear these all day. Too pinchy for my head. The earphone part is also a little small for me. These became hot and uncomfortable after time for me.
4.) Bose15- Also comfortable. I did not experience "highs" discomfort.
5.) Audio-Technica- Perfectly satisfactory. Larger opening than previous AT model. Gets warm and tight on head on long flights.
Disclaimer. This is a tough category, as they all had very different sounds and need to be used personally. The Sennheisers helped me hear parts of songs I had never heard before, but so did the Beats (baselines were much stronger).
1.) Sennheiser- I actually wore these at home too, simply to hear parts of songs I had never heard before. Astounding. My 10yr old music collection sounded totally NEW.
2.) Bose25- A step up from the QC15. Music more evenly balanced. Bass is hard hitting, but not as annoying as in the QC15. Some break-in is required. A more 3D sound than QC15. The QC25 closes the Sennheiser gap much more than the QC15. Be aware, some mp3s might feel a little flat.
2.) I put the Bose25 and Beats in the same category. The Bose seemed more evenly balanced. The Beats sounded great, but were EXTREMELY bass heavy. You will hear complexity of base lines that you never noticed. Drums tracks will sound like drums, bass guitar will be noticed for the first time on songs, but the highs are VERY weak. Pop music will sound very muted, rap and hip hop will pop and you'll feel like you have a Kicker Bass speaker in your car. I can't compare Beats to the others. It's a totally different sound which you will either love or hate.
3.) Audio-Technica- Well balanced, good sound.
4.) Bose15- Great clear sound, but very heavy on the bass. I listen to a lot of rap and pop, so it was mildly annoying. I ultimately had to turn my treble settings up on my ipod to balance the sound.
1.) Beats- Great packaging. Two cords with different connectors. Nice Case. Cloth. They do a good job of making you think you bought a nice product (and it is). Only concern is the headphones don't work without batteries. The headphone creates a pseudo noise cancellation.
2.) Bose25- Nice new case. Removeable cord (so it won't rip out if you jerk it accidently). Passive headphone (if battery dies, headphone still works - albeit without noise cancelation). Choice of white color.
3.) Sennheiser- nice cord, push to talk button (temporarily mutes NC and sound which is great for interruptions on airplanes).
4.) Bose/Audio Technica- just the basics. Bose simply an on/off switch.
1.) Audio Technica- $125 depending on how you shop.
2.) Beats Studio- $175-$200
3.) Bose QC15- $200-$250
4.) Bose QC25- $300 (hard to find discounted)
5.) Sennheiser- $200 to $400 (how are these going up in price- 5 yrs later)
1.) Bose- No question here, far surpassed the other two. Best Noise Cancelation. I did not notice a significant change in QC15- to QC25 on planes, however did notice a little difference in office.
2.) Audio-Technica- Good Noise Cancelation.
3.) Sennheiser- Not sure what happened here. Incredible sound, less than satisfactory noise cancelation.
4.) I don't think the Beats are official noise cancellation, but the headphone part is great at isolating outdoor noise, and they are very tight on the head. When you put them on without music, they offer decent noise cancellation.
Please understand, noise cancellation will not drown out a crying baby, slamming doors, or people talking. They will help out with repetitive noises like airplanes, air-conditioners or soft noises. If you don't listen to music, these might isolate sounds even more and be counter-productive.
The QC25 are a nice step up from the QC15. I do not feel they are overwhelmingly better or worth an upgrade if you were happy with QC15 (but some people like the latest and greatest). If I were buying new and the price difference was only $50, go for the QC25, if you have QC15 and you like them, it's not a huge jump (or buy them and return if you don't like). The QC25 sound a little better, are better built, and a little more convenient. But not sure they are 5 years of R&D better. If the difference in price is >$100, QC15 looks more attractive.
Audio Technica and Sennheiser don't seem to have any new offerings either, so this segment has been kind of stagnant. I will say that Bose seems to have listened and addressed most of the complaints of the QC15. They've improved the size, sound, build quality, and maintained their quality Noise Cancelation.
The Sennheiser Noise Cancellation is a real disappointment. Great headphone, horrible noise cancelation headphone. The Audio Technica is a great entry price point-value item.
The Beats are kind of their own product with their own demographic. Like the Sennheisers, they made me hear parts of songs I had never heard before, but on the bass side. If you like heavy, heavy bass, go for the beats.
Audio-Technica- best balance of value for money
Sennheiser- Best sound and comfort
Bose- By far Best Noise Cancelation.
Beats- Best for bass. More of a hip hop bass then the Bose though.
I use these for airplane travel only, so I ended up keeping the Bose.
I spend a great deal of time in a computer lab where there is literally over 1,000 running systems. In this environment, ear protection isn't absolutely necessary but without it there's some discomfort with which to deal because of all the fans in these systems and the requisite air handling units. I already have a pair of Bose QC-15 headphones but I am not a huge fan, so I recently purchased a pair of Sennheiser PXC-450 headphones for use in this environment. After an initial break-in period, I have come to really appreciate them.
This is going to be a comparative review, though primarily about the Sennheiser phones. Bose is generally regarded as the gold standard when it comes to ANC headphones, so matching the Sennheisers to the Bose is a good match-up. I'll break it all down into categories: Noise Canceling, Comfort, Sound Quality and Build Quality.
Active noise canceling is THE primary feature of these phones and each has its strengths. Bose is, without question, the more capable ANC set when it comes to removing noise. This supremacy comes at a price though - because of the aggressiveness of their ANC, the wearer often feels a "pressure" on the ears when using the phones, something not present with the Sennheiser set which is close to Bose's level of canceling. Where Bose went to extremes to eliminate noise, Sennheiser went with the thought of "good enough for most". To be sure, both sets do a nice job of eliminating low frequency noise, enough to make air travel more pleasant if you dislike the rumble of plane engines.
They work in the car too (if you're not driving). I tried both sets in a moving vehicle and all do a fine job of eliminating road and engine noise. In fact, it was quiet to the point of eerie in the car. So, if you're a passenger on a long trip, either of these will work to suit your needs.
For the Sennheisers, you don't have to use ANC to listen to music as they provide the ability to override ANC and work like normal headphones. Bose, on the other hand, is an all-or-nothing deal and requires ANC to be on when listening to anything at all.
And that brings up a nice little feature on the Sennheisers - the "talk-thru" function, which allows a listener to cut off all sound and turn on a small microphone so that one can carry on a conversation without having to remove the headphones. No other headset I have ever used has this feature and it has already proven to be a handy tool.
Both sets require a single AAA battery to provide ANC. The battery life is definitely better with the Bose - mine last about a week between needing new batteries, whereas the Sennheiser set needs a new battery every other day.
The Sennheisers are the most comfortable headphones I have ever worn - period. The padding is buttery soft and they fit over my ears with no issue. Other reviewers have said that it seems like they just melt into your head, and that's a very accurate way to describe them. The Bose are nearly as comfortable, though they are slightly smaller.
Where the Sennheisers have a slight comfort disadvantage is actually in their size. These are big headphones and when they are worn around the neck instead of on the ears, they tend to rub on the neck and sometimes (depending on what you're doing) they can get in the way. If you take them off, or don't wear them around your neck, there's nothing about which to complain.
Sennheiser has always had premium sound, and the PXC-450 headphones demonstrate why they are the champs when it comes to quality sound. Though not audiophile phones, the PXC-450 brings awesome sound quality even at low volumes, with very full midrange and decent bass. The Bose sound great, except that the bass is too rich and without an equalizer in the mix the bass is enough to give me a headache over extended periods.
I have not had the Sennheiser set very long but so far I have had no trouble with them. They feel rugged and sturdy, though they are mostly plastic so they do scratch and twist easily. The cord is heavy gauge wire, a welcome improvement over the cabling on Sennheiser sets I have worn in the past. The Bose set is a little more flimsy, with lesser gauge wire.
In summary, I find that the Sennheiser PXC-450 headphones are a better product than the Bose QC-15 headphones. They sound great, feel comfortable and they do a fine job of canceling noise. Bose does have better ANC and if that is the main thing you need and you don't mind the sensation of pressure they put on the ears then Bose is a better choice, but in almost every other aspect the Sennheisers bring more to the table.
on August 30, 2008
These are absolutely the most comfortable, best made, best sounding noise-cancelling headphones on the planet. I listen to my iPods a lot, and take a few long airline flights a year...but the stock iPod earbuds are terrible in terms of sound. So, I bought Shure and M-Audio earbuds, which are fantastic in terms of sound and isolation from external sound(i.e. airplane engines)...but, they hurt my ear canals after 30 minutes or so. So, I bought a pair of Sony noise-reduction headphones...they worked pretty well, but they are flimsy, and they sit on the ear, not around it. Next, a trip to the Apple store to try out the BOSE units (QC2 and QC3)...I actually preferred the QC2 sound and comfort to the QC3, although I felt that it was more flimsy...this was due to the fact that the QC2 goes around the whole ear, wheras the more expensive QC3 sits on the ear itself.
Which brought me to the Sennheiser PXC 450...I usually don't buy stuff untried, but a LOT of internet searching led me to believe that this is the best pair of NR earphones on the planet. Well, I was definitely NOT dissappointed...in a nutshell, WOW. Pricey, but definitely worth every penny, especially with the low price that I got on Amazon.com. The bass response is really excellant, but not boomy...the high end is smooth and strong without being shrill...and the response seems to be pretty flat to my ears (meaning that you can EQ to your hearts content...the iPods are really good about that). And they are comfortable for HOURS on end (I just wore them for 3 hours straight with no discomfort whatsoever). They will also work when the battery goes dead sans the N.R. (something the QC3 will not do), and they have a button on the end which allows you to hear outside conversation from your wife, the flight attendant, etc...very cool. And finally, they are made like a expensive headphone...a thick cord, not the flimsy thin cord of the Sonys/Boses. TRES COOL !!
Finally, I decided to go back to the Apple store, and A/B my new Sennheiser with the Bose QC2 and QC3. Overall, I thought that the QC2 came close soundwise, but was lacking in the midrange slightly compared to the Sennheiser. Perhaps due to the fit on the ear, I felt that the QC3 didn't come close...the noise reduction didn't work nearly as well in that noisy store. I came away from the store convinced absolutely that I made the right choice.
So, in conclusion, if you don't mind spending a little more, go with the Sennheiser PXC 450...you sure won't regret it, especially if you are a audiophile like me (actually, a musician). If money is a deciding factor, check out the Bose QC2...it also gives excellant sound, albeit being more inexpensively made as well. ONE THING TO KEEP IN MIND, THOUGH...for some odd reason, I found that the Sennheiser could be purchased on Amazon.com or eBay with a better discount than the Bose...so I didn't pay that much more for the Sennheiser...very strange.
Sennheiser PXC 450...listen to the best !!
on February 4, 2009
In a low ambient noise environment the NC function is superb delivering a most pleasing quality. It is at a cost of slight pressure on the ear drum. At times the pressure is not equal causing an imbalance perception. The major drawback of the 450 is that it has limited application. It cannot be used on small aircraft or loud environments. This includes jet engine reversal when landing. The headset rumbles equally loud to the ambient noise. I am forced to use my older generation Bose NC headphones when travelling on smaller aircraft. The Sennheiser engineer I spoke with states that the 450 cannot be used in an environment with heavy vibration. While accoutically and structurally superior to the older generation Bose, the 450 is less functional.
on August 11, 2007
The Sennheiser PXC 450 NoiceGard Active Noise Cancelling Headphones are a significant investment, but I believe you get what you pay for. I purchased them in order to listen to my 80GB iPOD. I do not like the ear buds that came with the iPOD. On a scale of 1 - 5 (5 highest), my ratings for these headphones are:
Sound quality: 5
Noise cancellation: 5
Ease of use: 5
Carrying case: 3
Explanation of lower ratings:
Carrying Case (3): For the amount of money, I would have preferred a leather carrying case rather than the balistic materials used.
Construction received a 4 out of 5 simply because with the folding required to put the speakers in the case, I am very concerned something plastic will snap. I feel that rather that a tougher material could have been used in the construction of these headphones.
I compared the sound to Bose and my ears liked the Sennheiser headphones much better.
Amount paid: $449.95
Would I purchase them again? Absolutely!
Any regrets? Not even one.
on February 29, 2008
For the past year or so, I've tried to get by with much less expensive noise reduction units-one was the small Sony earbud unit, the other was a small Phillips around the ear for about 80 Euros. Both extremely disappointing, the Phillips was absolutely useless and didn't do a thing for noise reduction.
I narrowed down the choice to the Sennheiser PCX 350 or 450 and sprung for the 450 because of the 90 percent noise reduction claim. I am going on a few very long business trips from Europe to Asia and need to arrive fresh for meetings.
I finally got the 450, and it is wonderful. Good sound, excellent noise reduction, very glad I got these. Build quality much better IMHO than Bose but I have another Bose non canceling set and cannot knock them, they make good products.
I got very scared after using it for an hour or so-the pass through stopped working. Nothing I did would help. Finally called customer service in the US and a fellow Eric solved it. Apparently, if you have pass through on and you raise or lower the volume, whatever you set it to becomes the default 'pass through' volume from now on. It is in the manual but you really have to read it closely. So, be careful.
Also, one disappointment but it's not the headset. There is only so much amplification you can get out of an iPod without a headphone amp. So, don't expect these to shake you with deep decent sound if your inputs are weak in the power department. This is NOT the fault of the headset but the inevitable limitation of power in a small package.
Update---after business trip---real life experiences
I did get myself a headphone amp for the ipod and it makes a world of difference, day and night, just about a 'must' if you really want to enjoy your music on the go, well worth it. [...]
Worked flawlessly on the plane however be very careful when getting out of your seat I lost the two pronged airline connector that way. It reduces the low rumble to a higher pitched and quite manageable high humming sound. On a 14 hour flight from Australia to Los Angeles, it paid for itself.
on November 26, 2014
The cheap glued-on noise-canceling switch fell off of my barely used PXC-450 headphones. The Canadian repair service quoted $150 + shipping to fix it. You be the judge on if these headphones are worth the price.
Pure rip-off after sales support with cheap glue assembly of critical parts.
My expensive headphones are now garbage.
on April 22, 2008
I bought these at London Heathrow just before embarking on an 11hr direct flight back to LA. Despite the hefty price - these were the perfect companion for a long haul flight with Virgin Atlantic's awesome in-flight entertainment system.
Really comfortable - I had these on almost the entire time and they were snug, cosy fit. None of the "ear-hotness" that other 'phones have given me. Build quality is superb - really top notch materials and construction. Noise cancellation and sound performance were above expectations. Usually I have to blast the volume up to compete with the engines - but with these puppies on I was able to have them on *much* lower levels and get treated to crystal clear sound and subtle noises that would just have been lost with ordinary 'phones.
The "talk through" button is a great feature and means you can clearly hear cabin crew talking to you without having to either turn them off (or remove them completly).