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Indurain Sep 2, 99 3:04 pm

Noise-cancelling headphones
I didn't find anything in the archives, and wondered if anyone else use them, and if there are any opinions about them. I find I'm often the only one onboard with it, and sometimes even the FA asks what they are.

I have one from Brooktree which has the electronics built into the headphones. It uses 2 AAA batteries. There's a stereo input, and I use it to listen to channel 9 on UA flights for ATC communications. I find them to be very effective, even in the upper deck of a 744, and more effective than the built-in noise-reduction headphones on UA business class. My only gripe is that it is rather bulky and makes packing a little awkward.

My girlfriend uses the one from Sharper Image, which is a two-piece unit - small headphones and an electronics unit the size of a matchbox. She found it awkward to wear the headphones at first, but now she brings them with her on all her trips.

RichG Sep 2, 99 3:49 pm

I have found the built-in noise-cancelling headphones on UA to be very effective - - - in fact, it's the only thing I like about their new gadget-cluttered seat.

The effectiveness of the headphones is much more apparent when taking them off after a long period, than when first putting them on.

Indurain Sep 2, 99 5:29 pm

You're right RichG, the headphones on UA is great, I was just comparing with the one I normally use. I would definitely use it if I forgot my own set. You can even tell the difference on the upper deck of the 744, which many have said here to be the quietest part of the aircraft!

Apparently the noise-canceling circuitry used is a very simple design. If you press your palm hard against the foam of the speaker, it will set off a high-pitched feedback. It also does that if you press the headphones too hard against your ears - that hurts!

Celestar340 Sep 2, 99 6:31 pm

I was on a flight once and when I pulled out my own noise cancelling headphones, I realised that the guys sitting next to me and across from me were also using the same one.

Mine's a SONY. I find it looks like any ordinary home stereo sized headphones and it sounds a lot better than the ones they use on Singapore Airlines or Lufthansa. There is only one AA battery and it fits on the right side of the headpiece. You'll never even notice it cos it's so light.

Retails for around US$130, I think. I also bought one from Sennheiser. Mistake. There is a seperate amplifier piece that is really annoying as I really didn't know where to put it. Sound quality too is inferior to the SONY.

RichG Sep 2, 99 7:43 pm

If you remove the foam cover on UA's headset (not always possible or easy), there is a tiny microphone at the outer rim of the speaker that feeds the ambient sound back into the system. The system is carefully balanced to feed the ambient sound thus picked up into the headphone amplifier out of phase. The acoustic path between the speaker and the microphone is part of this equation, so if you upset this path feedback may result. If you pull one headphone only away from your ear, it is possible for feedback to occur as well.

Sorry to be so esoteric... sometimes I can't help myself.

mgm Sep 2, 99 8:10 pm

I was thinking of buying my own set but after using them on CX and SQ discovered that they were too uncomfortable to wear while trying to sleep (which would be my main reason to have them). Do think they are good for watching the movies with though.

KenHamer Sep 2, 99 9:54 pm


You might want to try the Sony NC-10 noise-cancelling "ear-plugs." They are super effective, and I think they both work and sound better than my NC-20 headphones. (Sadly, I have a slightly malformed earlobe on my left ear, so they won't stay in. Violins, please....)

They are very small, and could probably be worn as easily and as comfortably as the foam "roll-your-own" ear plugs that most of us use. Bit pricey at CAD$200, but worth it if you fly a lot. I'm on my third pair of headphones in a year. I lost the first two, ;( and I still go back and drop another 200 bucks to replace them. This time, I put my name on them.


Ken Hamer

NJDavid Sep 3, 99 7:33 pm

I use the same two piece you mentioned....I'd never fly without them again....You can order from Skymall and get clickrewards miles.

mgm Sep 3, 99 9:38 pm

Ken - thanks for the info. I'm sure I will be able to track them down somewhere in Tokyo.

johna Sep 6, 99 6:20 pm

I'm always astounded by the useful information I can find here - thanks for all these postings. I got to try United's noise canceling headsets last fall in first class to Hong Kong & Japan & back, but most of my travel these days is in coach where we have to put up with the noise. Ya'll have provided the perfect solution, and a lot cheaper than paying for upgrades!

johna Sep 18, 99 7:42 pm

Here's a follow-up: During my week in New York, I had a free Monday afternoon (museums are closed) so I bought four of the models discussed here:

Sharper Image $70 (headphones)
Brookstone $80 "
Sony $100 "
Sony $200 (ear plugs)

I tried them all out sitting next to my friend's air conditioner(!!), and decided I liked the Brookstone model best. It and Sharper Image seemed to me to work better than either Sony (an opinion confirmed in the specifications list), but I preferred Brookstone because the headset was a bit more comfortable, and covered the ear more completely. However, I discovered on the flight home that the earpieces are a bit large, and kept hitting the seatback when I turned my head to talk to my friend. Not a problem flying alone, or on a (relatively) shorter flight. And I had no trouble hearing her conversation.

Sony has a 30-day return policy, and the others are 60-days.

Indurain Sep 19, 99 3:42 am

Yeah, the only gripe I have with the Brookstone is the size. I also like to look out the window, and always end up with the arc of the headphones hitting the cabin walls. I also found that its harder to sleep with them on longer flights.

Interesting that you can't hear conversations as well, because I seem to hear them much better, even those that go on around me.

I'm thinking about getting a set of tiny Sonys for longer trips.

jet Sep 19, 99 4:45 pm

I have the Sony MDR-NC10 earbuds, and I swear by them. I can't speak for the other models, but I think the Sony effectively reduces the noise while maintaining an acceptable level of audio quality. And being tiny they do not interfere with the seat, or sleeping or whatever... as long as you can put them in your ear and get used to that feeling.

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