Top positive review
1,108 people found this helpful
Best NC headphones on the market
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.