Customer Reviews: Sony MDR-NC60 Noise Canceling Headphone (Old Version)
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on July 1, 2007
First a few words about a noise canceling headphones in general. I'm a frequent traveler, flying about 50% of time internationally. I'm not a musician by any means, but I understand that having a pair of good "cans" sometimes is the difference between arriving to your destination wasted or completely relaxed. You owe it to yourself to have a pair of good quality noise cancellers if you travel internationally or coast-to-coast at least 3 times a year. I've owned my share of noise canceling headphones, starting from Sony "in-the-ear" MDR-NC11A, then graduating to Sennheiser "on-the-ear" RPXC 250. Finally, I borrowed Bose "over-the-ear" QuietComfort 3 to my conference flight to California and back to Ohio. If you are deciding which general design of headphones to choose - let me tell you up-front that "over-the-ear" design gives you the best comfort you can have on the long flight - hands down.

Now in the detail about this particular set. After experiencing the "over-the-ear" design of Bose, I decided to get a pair. But being burned by my previous experiences, I decided to do some careful comparison shopping. After a few weeks of research, I went to the actual store to compare 3 models that I've selected: Bose QuietComfort 3 ($299), Sennheiser PXC 350 and ($359) and Sony MDR NC50 ($199). The MDR NC60 Model was not even on my list then, and Sennheiser PXC 450 ($449) being as good as they are (canceling 90% of the noise) was simply too pricy for me.

I've tested Bose QuietComfort 3 first. Being so highly advertised, I was expecting it to be the top performer, but was extremely underwhelmed. It performed much better then any of my previous headphones, but it was no match for Sennheiser and it was even worse then Sony, that, may I remind you comes up to be $100 cheaper. On the top of it, I could not find the actual acoustic characteristics for the Bose pair anywhere in the manual. (Since then, I've done search on the WEB and I still cannot find them... amazing!). Then I moved on to the Sennheiser PXC 350, and was not disappointed. I almost left the store with that pair in the shopping bag. Cancelling up to 85% of noise, it was an excellent pair. When you turn the NC on - it fills like you suddenly went deaf. The BASS is very punchy and powerful even when the noise cancellation is off. Third on my list were Sony MDR NC50 and they were surprisingly good as well. Not so good with the BASS when NC is off as Sennheiser, and they felt a bit awkward on my head, but the sound quality was better then those of Bose. I was almost ready to leave, when a store clerk showed me a pair of NC60's and that's when I was sold - right then and there.

They are as good as they come, canceling up to 85% of noise, with excellent sound quality, and with a good BASS output when NC is off. I'd say that if Sennheiser PXC 350 is better - I could not determine it. After researching this model on the WEB for another week, I've purchased it from Amazon for $149.00. I've already had my first flight experience with it and let me tell you - I'm not disappointed. Here is the list of Pros and Cons from where I'm sitting...

- This is the most comfortable pair of cans I've ever tried. The overall fit is very comfortable - I was able to fall asleep on a 3 hour flight. There is absolutely no "suction" effect as I've experienced with another phones I've tried.
- Both, the cups and the bridge are wrapped up in very fine leather. I read some reviews that some people do not like leather on the headphones as it may cause sweating - I personally never experience that, not with this pair nor with any other headphones I've owned. So, even though I cannot say anything negative about that aspect, I might not be the best judge in this case - some people can be more sensitive then others. As far as leather quality and feel - they are as good as they come.
- The unique feature of this model is a "monitor" button that allows you to hear surrounding sounds without turning off the NC or taking the cans off. The only comfort comment I have about this model is that this button is hard to find for someone who's just beginning to adjust to this set. As I'm getting used to this pair, though, I'm getting much better at it - minor problem with a design in my mind.
- This pair runs on a regular AAA battery, illuminating the need to carry a battery charger and having to worry about how to charge it in Europe. This is a big plus in my books. 1 AAA battery gives you 30 continuous hours of NC; if you think that it is not enough - just take a couple of spare AAAs with you - it is still better then a charger, and sure will be enough for a trip to any destination.
- Overall build is very sturdy, yet easy to adjust to whatever position is desirable. Folds neatly into a carrying case, and as far as "over-the-ear" designed go - do not take much space when folded. Again, if the portability is your main concern - you might want to check out "on-the-ear" designs.
- Sound quality (again) is one of the best ones I've tried when it comes to NC headphones for travelers. BASS output is very good with NC on and just slightly worse with it being off (expect it on all NC headphones). I'm listening to all kinds of music and these NC's perform very good for everything from Cleveland Orchestra to Jimi Hendrix. That being said, if you do not plan to use the NC feature of the headphones and just need something to listen to your stereo at home - you'll definitely be able to find a better set for less money. Better yet - take this simple test: if speakers for your home theatre system are made by Boss, Sony, or Panasonic - this pair is going to be good for use at home, at work, or on the plane. If, on the other hand, you have Boston Acoustics hooked up to your stereo - you might want to keep MDRNC60 for travel purpose, and for home use pick up a higher end model without NC feature.
- Noise Cancellation feature works great - definitely better then on Bose QC3 (and I'm not kidding). In my opinion it is the best NC you can get for under $300 - as simple as that.

- There is only one negative comment that I have about this product. Carrying case that this model comes with is a softer kind which is a big minus in my mind. I like the hard case that comes with Bose QC3: having a harder case allows you to clip it to your laptop bag, for instance, and not to worry about smashing your headphones to pieces as you walk down the isle on the plane. This case I would not recommend to keep clipped to the outside of your luggage, as you can end up damaging your headphones. Also, as a future suggestion to a lonely Sony engineer who might read this review in his spare time - it would be nice if the inside compartment in the carrying case had enough room to accommodate iPod Video (just a suggestion)

- The airplane adapter is "foldable" - that is when you can fold one of two mini jacks "in". Is it really necessary to preserve 2 millimeters of space when you already have a carrying case? Fixed one would be just fine; instead another possible breakage point is being introduced. I'm not sure how this adopter will be functioning in 3 years if it is constantly "folded - unfolded", and I'm not going to test it, though, I'll just keep it "unfolded" all of the time.
- The cable that comes with these headphones connects the actual cup with the stereo mini jack. There is a plus and a minus in this feature for me. I understand the desire to make a cord interchangeable, and I guess some people might want to disconnect the cable so that they can sleep on the plane, but it might backfire if the connection becomes loose over a period of time. I read a lot of reviews and did not see people complain about it, but who knows if this becomes a weak point for me - will I write a review after 3 years of use, or just go and buy another pair?
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on January 18, 2008
I've used Bose's over the ear noise canceling headphones for a couple of years while traveling across country. On an overnight flight from LA with my wife along, I loaned them to her to watch the movie and never got them back. To make a long story short, I cast about and came across a review (here) that favorably compared this Sony model to Bose's, so I ordered a pair to have for those occasions my wife is along on trips. Guess what, I'm now using the Sony headphones and the Bose's are the ones sitting at home waiting for those occasions when she's along for the trip.

For those new to noise reduction headphones, don't expect miracles. They reduce noise, not eliminate it. Moreover, they react best to sound waves that are long; i.e., low tones. This means they take out a substantial portion of the noise on an airplane, which is a consistent roar, but will not remove intermittent sounds. It's still startles me to be able to hear the conversation going on in the seat behind me since the parties are talking loudly to overcome the airplane noise. You can still communicate with the stewardess or your seat partner, although somewhat muffled since your ears are encased. There is a mic switch you can press to activate the earphone mic if you actually want to make conversation. That may be the source of some of the problems encountered by negative reviewers. Myself, I've found these phones to be superb, especially in contrasting them to the Bose model, which is generally acknowledged to be the top of the heap. I doubt any headphones of this sort would pass audiophile muster, but that's not what they're designed for. What they do is make very long flights bearable, providing much less intrusive sound levels, and permitting actually hearing the plane's sound system effectively. The other crucial factor is comfort and these easily match the Bose's in that regard (try my 9 hour flight to Honolulu during which they were hardly ever off of my head).

The package includes things like an airplane jack and a protective carrying case. The case may not be quite as crush resistant as Bose's but it's plenty tough. I strap it across my lap top handle and it has yet to show any wear and tear, even with all the shoving under airline seats or in overhead compartments.

January 29. 2011: I am still using these after three years and a lot of travel, some of it really long flights ... I still have the Bose's for my wife, but the Sony model remains my preferred travel pair and is the one I take when on my own. The case is now a bit more beat up, but still OK, incidentally.
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on April 21, 2007
I got the new Sony NC60 base on reviews from the 2007 Las Vegas Electronics show. Took them on a recent flight to Japan so I could compare then directly with the American Airlines supplied Bose QC3 headsets.


Noise Cancelling: No perceptable difference between Bose and Sony

Noise Isolation: Sony the clear winner over the "On ear" Bose QC3

Sound Quality: No clear winner here, the Bose might have a slight edge at lower listening levels. When you crack it up the Sony sounds better to me. The only issue I had with the Sony is the bass response was a little buzzy if I used the bass boost EQ feature of my IPod.

Comfort: The Sony by a wide margin. For my 7 1/2 size head, the Bose QC3 padding was almost painful. The Sony I could sleep with.

Other Features: The QC3 is smaller and lighter if that is important. The cable unplugs from the Sony (which is nice when you try to sleep on the plane). Some people complain about the on/off switch on the Sony, it didn't bother me since I only turn them off when I put them away. I found the battery life for the Sony is about 20 hours (pack an extra AAA).
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on March 31, 2008
I purchased this today at Sony Style store for $150 (on sale) in San Diego. Testing it in my bedroom with the TV on, I was very impressed with the NC and fit with this headset-for about 10 minutes. Then this bass rumble started in the left side, and became overwhelmingly and annoying loud-completely unacceptable. I switched sides, and it's definitely coming from the left. If the NC is on, it comes on whether my iPod is hooked up or not. Then I muted my TV (so there's nothing to cancel), and the rumble is still there. Tried adjusting it many ways and fiddled around with it for the next 20 minutes (it goes away for a few minutes but then comes back) but to no avail. Very disappointed and will return it tomorrow.

Update: In the SonyStyle store, the salesperson said that 1 out of 30 (or so) headsets seem to have this problem. I exchanged this for a new one, and the new one works pretty well in the last several days (4 out of 5 stars now, but Amazon doesn't let me change the rating after the initial review) and does not have the bass rumble. Hopefully this is a keeper. In all, I would not buy this from a place that makes exchanges difficult, just in case you run into this problem.
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on January 17, 2008
After reading many reviews and owning the Sony MDR-NC60's for 6 months there seems to be some things people miss. Yes Sony makes great headphones at a reasonable price, but these are really more then headphones. I have 3 uses for the headphones, First is listening to music on the lawn tractor. Second is listening to music while running the snow blower. Third is listening to music while flying on a commercial airline. All three are very noise environments.

The MDR-NC60's where purchased to "replace" a pair of Sony MDR-V7 that I still own and use to this day, just not in the three aforementioned environments. As I have been getting older just blasting music over the noise just became unacceptable. The sound quality of the NC-60 is not as good as the V7 in a quite areas as the NC60's are a closed headphone and can not reproduce as accurately. However get in constant noise and the NC-60 really take out the background, not totally thus the 85% rating, but listening to music while snow blowing or lawn mowing is very enjoyable.

Noisy environment does not equal office talking and people walking about. I found that the noise cancellation works best on engine noise, that lower frequency constant hum. I have read bad reviews based on office environments however the frequencies in office noise is usually a higher pitch then that of engine noise. If they did cancel those frequencies you may hear it affect the music too, something to keep in mind.

I too have run into the background noise issue that has been mentioned in other reviews with no audio in only. If the headset is turned on and the headphones are not plugged in I have heard and felt the loop back noise mentioned by others, however plug the headphones into a device and turn the device on and it stops. The device does not have to be putting music out just powered on. I am sorry but I can not fault the active electronics down to a one star rating for this and fail to mention there really is a work around. Maybe some people just don't experiment or they really did get bum headphones, can only tell you what I have found.

True test = flight from New York to Hawaii, 11 hours of air time and used the headphones the whole time. I hate flying due to the earaches caused by the jet engine noise. Previous flights have been with nothing or with other headphones and drowning out the engine noise. These trips have been from New York to Florida or Texas, shorter flights and miserable results. I got off the plane in Hawaii and felt great these headphones really saved me this time.

I can not compare to other Noise Cancellation headphones as yes I admit I am a Sony headphone fan and just could not find any demos to work with. I bought the headphones on spec alone and have not been sorry.

Comparing headphones to headphones. I have 4 pairs of Sony's I can use and the following.

Sony MDR-V7 = 5 Stars
Sony MDR -NC60 = 4 Stars
Sony MDR-E828LP=4 Stars
Sony MDR-V150=3 Stars

Sony MDR-V7 = 3.5 Stars
Sony MDR -NC60 = 5 Stars
Sony MDR-E828LP=2 Stars
Sony MDR-V150=2.5 Stars
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on December 3, 2008
I am a traveling consultant with literally millions of miles logged throughout my life. For those who travel extensively, they know it's an accomplishment not worth bragging about - at all! Regardless, I have never purchased or used any form of noise cancellation headphones. It personally seemed more of a gimmick to me than anything elese. With that said my wife bought me a pair and I used them the next day from LAX to CVG. At first it did not seem to make a huge difference, but I managed to keep them on until we were about to land. Upon landing I took them off for the first time since the flight took off. I couldn't believe how loud the noise from the blarring engine whine was. It literally hurt to listen to the constant flight noise after 4 hours of near silence (a muted low hum is still heard). I'm actually amazed how well they minimize the noise from the plane engines and others around me. Relaxing and listening to a movie is actually an enjoyable experience.

Keep in mind that noice cancellation is a science based on wave theory, not concrete mathematics. These devices are tuned for the average person with average hearing potential, but at the end of the day - every one is different. No two people will experience the "exact" same sensation from any headset!

The Sony set works great for me but may not work for the next person who tries them on. The same goes for the Bose set. If a pair doesn't work for you replace them for a different pair or maufacturer. Regardless I will say that finding a pair that works for you is more important than determining if Bose is better than Sony. You'll never know what works best for you until you put them on and experience a few different environments.

Sony is a global multi-billion dollar conglomerate that has built incredible devices for all people around the world. If your set is defective (or doesn't work for you)simply return it, don't cry over it. The same goes for Bose. Expect one pair to work better for you based on your personal hearing configuration (i.e., age, gender, ear size, skin sensitivity, hair thickness and length, use and purpose etc.).

If I were in the market I would expect the following to happen:

1. Buy both the Bose and the Sony just prior to your next trip (or whenever you plan to use them)
2. Wear one pair going and the other pair on the way back
3. Return the losing pair the next day and refund your credit card before the bill ever comes.
4. Don't say the losing company is worthless and should be obliterated from the earth.
5. Relax and enjoy the silence.

problem solved...
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on December 1, 2007
First of all, when not oscillating, the headphones work very well-- noticably better than the earlier model NC-20 which I also own.

However, this particular design seems to have a flaw that other reviewers have also mentioned. It is possible to set up an oscillation between your ear and the pickup mic in the headphones. The result is a LOUD ~15hz oscillation that can be felt as much as heard. On the pair I recieved, the oscillation occurs only in the right headphone. It is not always present, but needs something to set it off. Once going, it doesn't stop until you lift the headphone off your ear.

I found by expermentation: Stand in a quiet room, with the headphones unplugged from any music input. Lift the right headset very slightly off the ear. I presume I am changing the distance between my ear canal and the pickup microphone. Once the oscilation starts, it is unmistakable.
It is clear the noise is created by the headset, and contained within the space between the headphone and your eardrum.

Since the same flaw has been mentioned by others, I assume it's inherent in the design. But perhaps it also requires an ear canal cavity of a particular shape, and therefore only some users may be effected. Or perhaps its due to manufacturing variability. Either way, you're taking a chance since you can't tell if your pair will work until you open the package and try them out.
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on July 6, 2007
Other reviewers already noted that the noise canceling feature creates a constant vibration and humming noise, kind of pulse that starts when the Noise Canceling button is switched on.
I get this vibration sound only on the right ear, not on the left side. I thought it might be my ear but after I turned the headphones around it moved to the left ear, so it must be coming from the right-side cup of the headphones.
It's true you can move the cups around and it might reduce the problem sometime but it doesn't go away completely.
I'm disappointed. I don't understand how Sony can sell such product. Don't they have quality control?
Not sure if the other reviewers experienced this problem on one side of the headphones or if they had vibrations in both ears. Anyhow, the product looks great, feels great, but it doesn't deliver.
It is impossible to use the headphones with the noise canceling feature turned on because the humming and vibrating background noise is bad and probably is more annoying then other noises you try to fade out.
I'll get identical replacement headphones, and see if that solves the problem. I hope so... for that kind of money it will be very disappointing to find this is a no-go.

7/22/2007 - a second pair has same problem, slightly less noticeable, and in the left cup. I'm returning these and won't try another pair because I think it is a design flaw.
I did more research and the older model MDR-NC50 is known to have same issues.
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on July 15, 2007
The noise-cancelling system ist very good: when you use the headphones in the airplane, listening to music and watching movies becomes easier and better. It also works without listening to music. The quality of the headphone is good, and I like the detachable cable which is normaly the first thing to get broken. The battery is integrated in one earphone. But: The sound quality of the phones is poor and the efficiency (dB/W) could be higher too.
All in all it's worth it's money on a flight, but I wouldn't use it everyday because of the sound.
(Sorry for my bad English!)
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on May 11, 2008
I've owned these since August of '07 and find Greg Reznik's review pretty much spot on. I, however, have only compared these to Bose's QuietComfort 2 headphones. While I love the Bose, there really aren't many differences between the NC-60 and QC2s. Both are comfortable, both are constructed well, and both offer similar levels of sound quality and noise reduction. Obviously the Sony's are cheaper making them a better buy in my book.

I also read all of the one star reviews here and I agree with everyone that there is that audible oscillation. However, I only hear it when the NC-60s are plugged into my computer (using onboard audio with no music playing and N/C on) and when they are plugged into an iPod Photo (4G) and iPod Nano (1G) with music on pause. I can't explain it (possibly poor DAC performance from the audio devices themselves?), but I can tell you that you cannot hear the oscillation when playing certain music, but it is slightly audible when playing lighter fare (ex. Maybe I'm Amazed by Neunning and Schallenberg).

Finally, sometimes depending on the recording, music will over-drive these headphones causing crackles. The easy fix is to turn down your preamp setting (and bump up the master volume), or alter your EQ setting - hence the 4 star rating. At this price point, it's these or the Audio Technica ATH-ANC7. I have nothing against Bose, but the NC-60s prove you can get similar performance for much less money. I'm very happy with the NC-60s.
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