in Projects, Programming, Technology

Comparing noise cancellation headphones

I finally decided to take the plunge and buy a pair of Bose noise cancelling head phones. Here’s why.
I’ve tried three different kinds of headphones which do noise cancellation or attempt to block noise. The first were Shure in-ear headphones. These are the kind that musicians often use on stage. You stick it in your ear and the headphone pads block sound just like ear plugs while delivering your music through a thin tube. These worked pretty well for blocking noise – about as good as a pair of ear plugs. The sound quality was also good. The downside – if you’re using them daily –  is that you have to change the covers because they get dirty after a week or two. The headphone parts are expensive to replace, and it’s difficult to find exactly the right ones for your model of headphones.

Another annoying thing about this type of headphones is you can’t jog or walk with them. This is because it sounds almost like you’re underwater. For some reason, having your ears plugged amplifies the bone conducted noise. Having your ears completely  plugged can be a distracting sensation in itself.

Ultimately the problem for me with the Shure in ear headphones was that the external place where the wire meets that headphone was weakly reinforced. After about two years of daily wear, the wire broke right where it meats the earbud.

For a while I was able to get along with just normal ear buds, but eventually the noise became too much. What really drives me crazy is when the noise in the room escalates and I have to keep turning up the volume to block it out. Before you know it you’ve been blaring music for four hours at a time. That can really add to your stress level.

After the Shures, I tried another type of in ear headphone. I tried the Apple in ear headphones. They were stylish and had a nice integrated microphone/button that would work with my iPhone to control the music. They have silicon covers that come in different sizes. So, the fit is adjustable and they are easier to clean.

The downfall with the Apple in ear headphones was that a couple times the headphone cover came off in my ear. It was stuck in my ear canal. I couldn’t get it out with my finger, I had to have my coworker extract them with a pair of pliers (tweezers would’ve been good enough, but pliers were all that we had on hand).

So this week, I’ve been trying my coworker’s Bose Quiet Comfort 15 headphones. According to many reviews, they are the headphones with the best active noise cancellation. That means they actually play sound into your years that cancels out the the sound coming in. They’re very good at cancelling out background noise like air-conditioning systems, and are apparently great on airplanes. They are less good at filtering out conversations or any sort of loud, abrupt noise. The noise canceling hardware can only predictably filter repetitive noise. I found that in my experience with them they were very good at muffling all noise. The best thing about these headphones is that you can listen to your music at a avery comfortable level. So the problem of ever increasing volume is solved.

Over the years, I’ve tried every type of headphone (and headphone brand) imaginable. I’ve had normal ear buds, some with a microphone or button on the cord. Ear buds that wrap around your ear to stay put while running. I’ve had those old-school original walkman headphones with the big foam pads. There are the hard plastic ones that stick into your ears. I’ve had USB headphones with a microphone attached. I also do a little bit of DJ’ing as a hobby I’ve had a couple pairs of big “can” over the ear headphones.

I work as a computer programmer so it’s really important to be able to concentrate to get your work done.  I also work at start ups where it’s important to be near to your coworkers – since programmers introverted people. It’s also important that start-up organizations have transparency. Employees should hear what other team members are working on because collaboration is really important. However this can make for noisy environments.

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