Brookstone Foldable Noise Reducing Headphones
The Brookstone unit
design is reminiscent of the Bose Quiet Comfort 2, with the
batteries and electronics in the headphones rather than in a
box at the end of a cord.
But quality-wise, it is
3 of a series on noise
reducing headphones -
click for Parts One
More expensive than the Plane
Quiet headphones, but not nearly as good. These headphones
are neither good quality nor good value.
What You Get
Do you want something a bit
better than the $40 Noisebuster noise reduction headphones, but
less expensive than the top of the line $300 Bose unit? If so,
you might choose to consider the Brookstone product, priced at
$99 (plus another $3 for batteries).
But, unfortunately, although
Brookstone has a good reputation for up market gadgets, this
product does not seem to represent as any improvement over the
Noisebuster unit, while not being nearly as good as either the
Plane Quiet or the Bose unit. Sadly, the Brookstone unit is not
sufficiently better than the Noisebuster to justify its extra
cost, while not being nearly good enough as the Plane Quiet and
Bose units to appeal to people wanting the best.
The unit comes complete with
a soft zippered case to carry them, a cord to connect to a CD
player or airline sound system, and a plug adapter to connect to
airline systems with two plugs rather than one. A very brief
instruction sheet is also included, but if you're expecting
batteries as well, you'll be disappointed. Although the $40 unit
includes free batteries, and of course the Bose unit also comes
with batteries, the Brookstone unit does not - a petty meanness
for an expensive product from an up-market company.
The cover on one of the two
headphone pieces lifts off to reveal a place to put two AAA
batteries. The battery cover seemed flimsy and 'cheap'. The
other side headphone piece contains the controls - an 'on/off'
switch and a misleadingly labeled 'volume' control - in actual
fact it varies the amount of noise reduction rather than the
volume of any music being heard!
Due to all the electronics
being contained within the headphones themselves, if you just
want to use them to quieten your surroundings, you don't need
any cords trailing out of them, and the unit is free of special
control boxes at the end of such cords. But the downside is that
the headphones themselves are heavier than the other two units -
more than twice the weight of the Noisebusters and slightly
heavier than the Bose.
Of course, as soon as you
wish to listen to music from any source, you then need to plug a
cord into the headphones and into the music source. Brookstone
supply a very basic cord that also has a volume control in the
middle of it. One end is red (the instruction sheet says to plug
this end into the music source) and the other is black (to plug
into the headphones). Neither end is labeled, but fortunately it
doesn't seem to make any difference which end is plugged into
what (I'll guarantee there's no way you'll remember which end
goes where!). The headphones will play music without the need to
turn on the noise reduction, so if the batteries go flat
(claimed life of 80-120 hours) you can still use them to listen
to music (the Bose unit needs batteries even just to play music
- if the batteries die, the headphones become completely useless
until you replace the batteries).
The headphones are much
larger than the Noisebuster unit, but they still rest on the
ear, squashing your ears in the process, and I found that this
made them very quickly very uncomfortable, so much so that I
chose not to continue the extended usage testing that I've given
to the other two units. By comparison, the large Bose unit fits
around the ear, not compressing the ears at all, and remaining
comfortable, even for extended (10+ hour) flights. The
Noisebuster units are smaller and lighter and so don't press as
uncomfortably on the ears.
The headphones also lacked
any pivot points to allow them to sit more comfortably and
closely on the ears. I also noted that, although with the other
two headphone units, I extend the headband adjusters about
midway for them to be comfortable on my head, with the
Brookstone units I had them closed to minimum size. If your head
is much smaller than mine, then the chances are that these
headphones may prove to be entirely too big.
Because the headphones are
both heavier than the other two units and also don't sit as
securely on one's head/ears, I found that I was unconsciously
keeping my head still and rigid, and soon got a sore neck
because of that while wearing these headphones.
Dissenting opinion : A
friend advises that she finds the Brookstone unit more
comfortable than the Noisebuster unit, but she has not worn them
for more than a couple of minutes. So my own opinion needs to be
balanced with hers - maybe the difference in comfort level is
more subjective than absolute.
The larger size of the
headphones did cause them to give better passive sound reduction
than the Noisebusters, but not nearly as good as the Bose unit.
In terms of overall noise
reduction, they seemed to work better than the Noisebusters at
higher frequencies (due to the blocking effect of the headphone
surrounds, I suspect, rather than any extra active noise
reduction), but they did not seem to work as well as the Bose
To summarize, every time I
return to the Noisebuster unit, I am astonished at just how much
value they provide for a mere $40. But, when I look at the
Brookstone unit, instead of marveling at how much value one gets
for $40, instead I sadly reflect on how little value one gets
for $102. And, of course, the Bose unit remains the league
leader in terms of quality, and the
Plane Quiet the absolute best 'all rounder'. However, if you
do choose to buy this unit, you can do so at the
Brookstone website, or possibly at their retail stores.
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15 Feb 2002, last update
28 May 2011
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.