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Does Cabin Air Rot Headphones?

Does Cabin Air Rot Headphones?

Old Apr 6, 10, 2:33 pm
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Does Cabin Air Rot Headphones?

This will risk sounding like an ad for Bose so I'll start with the bad news.
My original QC2 headphones were bought in 2004 and served me well for a couple of years of SE level travel, mostly on AC and UA metal. I don't use them nearly as much now that I'm retired and they have always been transported in the semi-hard case.

I was really happy with the noise reduction but started to question the quality when the power switch started to go on me 2 years ago. Then the ear cushions began to disintegrate and I ended every flight covered in a mess of tiny black granules shed from the cushions. Not fine.
On my last flight the plastic pieces holding headband together totally self-destructed leaving me holding the brittle shards that didn't end up down the seat and all over the floor. Really not fine.

The plastic parts and cushions appear to have "aged" more rapidly than can be accounted for from the age and use of the headphones. Is it possible that the cabin air mix might be contributing to the premature failure? I do notice the smell of ozone on many of my AC flights, really pungent on a trip lately, and am concerned that if the cabin air is rotting my headphones, what is it doing to my lungs and eyeballs?

Bose notes that they have had "some problems" but normally failures happen in the first couple of month of use. To their great credit, they offered me a great deal on exchanging my QC2s for a new pair of QC15s. It was a bit more than half the new cost which is still a bit of coin so I looked around for better/cheaper. I didn't find anything. When I called Bose to accept their offer, they took a whack of money off the original replacement offer so I was a happy camper. ( is this "bait and hook"?)
I'm even happier now that I have received the QC15s. They are similar to the QC2 but lighter weight and the noise reduction is an order of magnitude better. (Sorry, I warned about the Bose spam)

This still leaves the question of how to protect my headphones from a fate similar to my previous experience. I expect that merely flying less will help but what say you all? Should I be cleaning the headphones more often or treating them with something?
All observations welcome!

Commander Bob
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Old Apr 6, 10, 3:04 pm
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From AC.com

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The disposable headphone preserving hood. Don hood when the seatbelt sign is switched off and enjoy your AVOD in comfort and style. The hood prevents noxious cabin vapors from harming your expensive Bose or Sennheiser noise canceling headphones from home. The hood is also compatible with Air Canada's complimentary headphones.
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Old Apr 6, 10, 3:28 pm
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This question is really better suited to the Travel Technology forum where there's a bunch of Bose NR headphone threads. My original (and my wife's) QC2s suffered a similar disintegration although the ear cushions weren't as bad as yours sound. I replaced them through Bose and my new ones have been much better so I don't think you need to worry about the "air up there".
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Old Apr 6, 10, 3:31 pm
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Has this affected parts that were in contact with skin as well as those that have not contacted skin? Many plastics as well as some metals have reactions with skin that can lead to discoloration or disintegration.
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Old Apr 6, 10, 5:33 pm
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The earlier QC2 headphones had serious quality issues that led to cracking of the piece over the head right where it joins the earpiece. It would seem that there's too much inward pressure from the metal against upper part of the screwed-on plastic that causes it to break.

My third pair (Bose replaced two of them) of QC2s disintegrated like you describe. Very unimpressed. As soon as I received the replacement, I sold it on eBay.

I now have a pair of Sennheiser PXC450s, which are phenomenal. Not only is the sound quality better, the build is like a (German) tank. Oh, and in case your battery dies on you, you can use them without the noise-cancelling turned on - a nice bonus.
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Old Apr 7, 10, 9:34 am
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Cabin air is really no different than air on the ground, with the exception of pressure and maybe a bit more noxious gasses emitted from your fellow passengers.

UV light can break down plastics over time, depending on the type of plastic. I wonder if Bose has done a failure analysis on window vs. aisle preferring passengers to see if it is UV coming through the window.

My conclusion is inferior materials/design in manufacture with more of a focus on marketing vs. quality.
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Old Apr 7, 10, 12:40 pm
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Originally Posted by tev9999 View Post
Cabin air is really no different than air on the ground, with the exception of pressure and maybe a bit more noxious gasses emitted from your fellow passengers.
If the humidity is 10-20 percent.
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Old Apr 7, 10, 10:11 pm
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Thanks for the feedback!
I didn't know about the "travel technology" forum since I normally only hang out @ AC.

CB
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Old Apr 10, 10, 5:51 pm
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I have a pair of QC3 since they came out (2-3 years?) and they are working perfect. I'm flying 150k per year with them and they are showing no issues, aging, or whatever.
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Old Apr 10, 10, 6:33 pm
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I have a very old set of Bose, more then 10 years old, and there is no sign of deterioration in them, although there is in me.
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Old Apr 10, 10, 9:36 pm
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Cool Airline air

Almost all commercial airlines have pressurized cabins. Only small local commuter flights occasionally do not.

There are two problems with pressurized cabins. The first problem is the air outside the airplane at 30,000 and up feet, is so thin that you will become unconscious within about 3 minutes if you try to breath the air. For that reason, airlines that fly above 12,000 feet have pressurized cabins. Pressurized cabins require one of several types of methods to pressurize the cabin. Cabin "altitudes" in commercial aircraft vary from around 10,000 feet to now lower standards of around 7,000 feet. This means, the amount of air in the cabin is the same density as a 7,000 or 10,000 foot mountain. Most people tolerate this with no problem.

The other problem is exchanging air. There are two methods for doing this. One is "scrubbing" the existing air by running it through filters, and the other is letting in outside air which is pressurized in a variety of ways. In order to bring in outside air, there must be an opening on the outside of the plane which requires expending additional fuel to keep the plane pressurized and is not aerodynamic - read costs more to operate the plane.

In order to keep costs down, most commercial airplanes do not exchange the inside air with outside air as often as you would like, resulting in breathing in other passengers used air (read germs, viruses, etc.) Also, the close packing of passengers on most flights means you are much more likely to catch whatever others on your flight already have, even if they are widely separated from you on the airplane because the air is redistributed all over the airplane.

There is nothing inherent in the cabin air that will cause plastic or rubber to disintegrate. Airlines do not add extra ingredients to the air - sorry no vitamins in airline air. It only gets a little more use by others than the air you breath on the ground.
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Old Apr 11, 10, 3:12 am
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My QC2's are doing fine since I bought them a couple of years ago. I'm a 120-150k flyer.
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Old Apr 11, 10, 10:51 am
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Originally Posted by cbob View Post
...
The plastic parts and cushions appear to have "aged" more rapidly than can be accounted for from the age and use of the headphones. Is it possible that the cabin air mix might be contributing to the premature failure? I do notice the smell of ozone on many of my AC flights, really pungent on a trip lately, and am concerned that if the cabin air is rotting my headphones, what is it doing to my lungs and eyeballs?
...
Generally speaking they don't use expensive engineering plastic in these kind of products anymore. UV light does more damage to plastic than anything else.
I the case of travel headphones, oil from you skin and hair likely did the most damage. I had to replace the ear cushions on my Sennhaisers but the QC2 was used less and it stood up ok.
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Old Apr 11, 10, 12:56 pm
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Interesting.

I have recently noticed that my QC2's have started to leave a similar deposit of little black spots on my skin. Nothing major - yet.

These QC2's are about 4 years old; my first pair bought in 2003 broke after 2 or 3 years as described above by others and were replaced at no cost by Bose.
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Old Apr 14, 10, 12:11 pm
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Since I discovered this forum I've also discovered the thread about Bose headphones that describes a flurry of replaced QC2s after a recent Bose offer on the QC15. Looks now that what I believed to be a "great deal" to solve my disintegrating headphone problem was merely an application of the previous offer. Not that this was not a "Good Thing". ^
It appears that they took the $US replacement price and just converted to $CAN at a really poor rate considering the CAD is now virtually at par and added a shipping cost.
I'm not complaining: the new phones are great but it does change my view of the Customer Service.

Re SAMT's comment about '"scrubbing" the existing air by running it through filters' : I'm thinking, because of the common smell of ozone in cabin air on many AC flights that they also run the air through UV "air cleaners" which would make a lot of sense since such devices are popular on home use filters to prevent recirculation of bacteria and other baddies.
No confirmation found from any AC source so I'm just speculating.
Extra ozone would certainly contribute to dry itchy eyes, noses and skin, dry throat and aging of materials such as seats, carpets ... and headphones.

CB
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