One of the nifty and amazing things we got to experience up close last week at MacWorld and at the Apple SoHo store were the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones.

I am a big fan of noise cancelling headphones because I am convinced, in my own self-deluding way, that I invented them. I remember clearly during Mr. Moore’s physics class at Waterdown District High School thinking, during his description of how sound waves work, that you could effectively “neutralize” a sound wave by playing its opposite, and that if you could squeeze this into a headphone, you could eliminate all sound around you.

Of course I wasn’t the only person this occured to, and technology caught up with the idea and the result is these noise cancelling headphones (similar models are made by Sony and others).

The downside is that the Bose models are very expensive — $299US. During a search for alternatives I came across a great website from HeadRoom Corporation. Everything that most companies do wrong on their corporate sites, these guys do right: their site is well organized, well designed, and has got globs and globs of useful content about headphones of all varieties.

My favourite category of product is “Cheap Headphones” and my favourite piece of advice is:

Noise cancelling headphones are mostly a waste of money. These headphones use a small microphone mounted right next to the driver element in each earpiece to monitor the outside noise getting to the ear. A special electronic circuit then creates a signal perfectly opposite to the outside noise so as to cancel it out before it reaches the ear. Audio coming from your player is simply summed into the cancellation signal in the circuit and is then played through the headphones. The problem is that all these noise-cancelling headphones have their money in the electronics but use cheap headphones. So, in terms of the resulting sound quality, you have nothing better than a $20 pair of bad headphones.
I will buy my next pair of headphones from them.


Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on July 22, 2002 - 23:56 Permalink

I too am an amateur inventor (and those in the know will realize that ‘amateur’ doesn’t just mean ‘unpaid’, it is based on the Frech word for love). Pardon the self-link, but I started a reply to this post that took on a life of it’s own: the microwave freezer

Ann's picture
Ann on July 23, 2002 - 12:09 Permalink

When I was a little kid, I used to love to go into my room and pretend I had a microphone and sing along to my record player. I used to think “wouldn’t it be great if they had records with only the music to the songs and then sheets with the words. That way, you could REALLY pretend you were a singer.”
If only I had had the wherewithall at eight…

RL's picture
RL on July 23, 2002 - 13:14 Permalink

The NoiseBuster Extreme headphones from <href a=”http://www.nctgroupinc.com/nbe…“>NCT Group Inc. are, in my opinion the best deal on the market. They’re leaders in noise cancellation technology but you don’t pay for the brand, a la Bose or Sony. For US$39, you can’t go wrong. And the website is simple…

Andrew's picture
Andrew on July 23, 2002 - 14:17 Permalink

Apparently in a few years cities are going to be placing noise cancellation speakers along highways and air plane routes to “tone down” the noise levels. Very cool technology, I would not mind trying out a paid of them headphones… Any one know if Futureshop or some store in town has them on display?

Dico's picture
Dico on July 24, 2002 - 00:41 Permalink

Steven… I invented that back in high school physics class. However my name for it was the “Freezewave” and it’s advertising jingle went to the J.Giles Band tune, Freeze Frame.

Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on July 24, 2002 - 02:19 Permalink

Dico — I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask for a copy of your high-school physics paper, in a sealed and post-marked envelope. Also, I’ll need a copy of you singing the advertising jingle.