iPod Accessory Reviews: headphones
Sony MDR-NC6 Headphones
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Review posted April 2007 by Jacob Spindel
In the middle of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, a traveler who finds one of the others’ tales to be unbearable and annoying simply screams at him to stop. Agent Maxwell Smart, on the other hand, had an advanced Cone of Silence. Unfortunately, for iPod owners who find that a bus, workplace, or other location is just unbearably noisy, these ideas probably won’t work. The good news is that advances in antisound technology have led to noise-cancelling headphones, such as Sony’s MDR-NC6. Although they don’t block all ambient noise, the MDR-NC6s are impressive in their ability to isolate the audio you’re listening to from background noise that could otherwise interfere with your audio device.
The MDR-NC6s follow the conventional headphone design, consisting of two adjustable, padded earpieces connected by a band that goes over your head. The cable connects to one side of the headphones (rather than splitting into two cables and connecting in two places, as some cheaper headsets do) and is compatible with any standard 3.5 mm minijack.
On the right-hand side of the headphones, a small cylinder snaps in a single AAA battery, which is required to power the active noise cancellation feature. An switch on the right earpiece turns noise cancellation on or off. Sony rates the battery life at 30 hours, and after hours of testing, the headphones were still going strong from the first battery I used.
I have long wondered if noise cancellation is just marketing hype, or if it can actually work. Sony says that the MDR-NC6s can reduce ambient noise by up to 10 dB. I’m pleased to say that the feature really does work, as long as your expectations are reasonable. Normally, if there is ambient noise in your current location, pretty much all you can do is increase the volume of your device, but with the MDR-NC6s, enabling the noise cancellation feels like you are actually decreasing the volume of other noise. The headphones decrease the amount by which other noises interfere with your listening and provide more emphasis to the audio that you are trying to listen to. I did find that in some circumstances, there was a bit of an “overcancelling” efffect, such as when there was no audio playing or when I was walking through windy areas, which can potentially make outside interferences worse rather than better, but this did not happen in most situations, and since you can easily switch the noise cancellation off, you can use the MDR-NC6s, one way or another, in just about any setting.
Active Boredom Cancellation
Obviously, it doesn’t do much good to cancel out background noise if the audio produced by the headphones isn’t worth listening to either. Fortunately, since the MDR-NC6s are designed well and also have more physical space available to them than compact earbuds do, they produce quality audio with relative ease.