Quiet Noise Reducing Headset
This product has now been replaced by a totally different
product - the Plane Quiet NC6 - see review on the right link
A simple design, comfortable to wear, and good noise
reduction combined with decent sound reproduction, all for
only $80, make these our current favorite out of the five
units reviewed to date.
Part 4 of a series on noise
reducing headphones -
click for Parts One
Some airlines now provide
noise reducing headphones as standard in their first and
business class cabins. But if you're not as lucky as to have
them provided on your flight, or if you want to use them in
other environments as well, you should join the increasing
number of people who are buying their own noise cancelling
The Plane Quiet noise
cancelling headphones are new on the market, and set a new
standard for affordable performance.
Summary - Which Model
Reportedly, some people are paying
up to $150 to buy a pair of this earlier model Plane
Quiet headphones, wherever they can find them, second
hand, now that they are no longer being sold new.
This is foolish and a waste of
money. The Mk5 headphones (the last in this series
of headphones) are simply not as good as the newer NC6
And, if you absolutely must have
an around the ear rather than on the ear design for your
headphones, then the new Solitude headphones are
definitely your best choice, by far.
We're preserving the rest of our
review, below, for reference, but our recommendation is
simple : The
Solitude or the
are better than the earlier Mk5.
What You Get
The $79.99 headphones are
packed into a sturdy box for shipping, and come complete with
the single AA battery they need, already installed. They come
complete with a draw string protective bag made out of a
moderately thick leatherette type material to protect the
headphones while stored in your carry-on bag, and an illustrated
Also supplied is a two to
one adapter which allows you and another person to share the
same audio source (eg MP3 player or whatever).
The headphones come with an
extraordinarily generous limited lifetime warranty. If
purchased direct from the manufacturer, you get a 15 day money
back guarantee (from when you receive the headphones) but with a
15% restocking fee.
As you can generally see
from the illustration above, these headphones look very
similar to the Bose headphones. They have an adjustable headband
with padding on the top part, and the individual ear cups swivel
and tilt to give you the most comfortable fit and best seal to
block external noise.
The ear cups can rotate a
full 90° enabling them to lie flat, taking up as little space as
possible when stored in their protective carry bag. The
headphones weigh about 7.5 ounces, of which about 5.5 ounces is
'on the head' weight and the balance is for the cord and control
Unlike some of the other 'on
the ear' type products, these are of an 'over the ear' design.
This is a superior design for noise reducing headphones for two
The over-the-ear design
provides a complete physical barrier that passively reduces all
external sounds much better than an on-the-ear design
Most people find the
over-the-ear design is more comfortable for long periods of
wearing the headphones (such as on a lengthy international
The electronics for the unit
are in a compact and stylish box half way down the cord between
the headset itself and the plug. The box has an on and off
switch, a volume control, an LED to indicate if the unit is
switched on, and the battery compartment.
I was pleased that this unit
takes an AA battery - I always seem to have spare AA batteries
with me, but don't so commonly have AAA or 9 volt batteries.
The cord is permanently
connected into the headphones and the box, so you don't need to
worry about leaving the cord behind. Having forgotten the cord
once with the Noisebusters, I'm now a definite convert to the
built in cord concept.
This unit also has a
wonderful and very clever feature. Its plug has two sets of
prongs on it - one for normal stereo outputs on, eg, CD/MP3
players, and the other to be used with the connectors on
airplane seats. Other units provide you with a separate adapter,
and it is a small little item easily lost. With the Plane Quiet
unit, you never lose anything; everything is together in one
A slight negative about this
connector which some people have commented on is that it sticks
out a long way due to its 'in line' design. If this is a
concern, you can use the supplied splitter connector to plug
into, eg, the socket in an airline seat. The splitter has
an 'L' angled connector and so does not stick out nearly so far.
How well do the headphones
work? They work very well is the short answer. They are
comfortable to wear - I have worn mine for up to six hours at a
time with no problems.
The noise reduction is
generally better than the Noisebusters, and about the same as
the Bose, as best I recall. The Plane Quiet headset also reduces
noise across a broader spectrum than do the Noisebusters, due to
a combination of active noise reduction and passive sound
blocking caused by the over-the-ear design.
The earlier Mark 2 model tested in
June did not work very effectively with low frequencies, but the
newer Mark 3 (September 03) model is incredibly improved in canceling out
the lower frequencies, and listening tests now reveal excellent
noise cancellation at all frequencies.
Some hiss from the
electronics could be detected if there was no noise in the
background (or music playing), similar to the Bose headphones.
The background hiss was slightly lower in the newer model than
in the original model, and now is almost not noticeable at all.
The Noisebusters remain the quietest of all the headphone units
tested to date, perhaps making them best for use in a relatively
quiet environment (such as an office). But, of course, with a
positive Catch-22 type situation, you wouldn't be using these
headphones in a perfectly quiet environment, would you!
As soon as the environmental
noise increases, so as to obscure the hiss in the headphones,
the Plane Quiet set becomes superior in overall performance to
the Noisebusters. The Plane Quiet claims a maximum of 17 dB
noise reduction at 300 Hz, and lesser amounts of reduction the
further away from this frequency sounds move.
With only a single on/off
switch, plus a volume control (to adjust the music volume), they
are very easy to use.
When playing music through
them, the headphones proved to have good clean response, making
listening a pleasure rather than a pain. The latest version of
the Plane Quiet (the fifth version since initial release) had
even better sound compared to the earlier versions I'd tested
(Mark 2, 3 & 4), with much cleaner clearer sound and better high
and low frequencies.
A word about sound quality
If you're listening to most MP3s or to airline sound systems,
you're not getting good quality sound to start with, and so
there is perhaps less need for 'studio reference quality'
headphones to play back these imperfect sound sources than there
would be if you were in a hushed studio and listening to a very
high sampled rate digital playback. As such, it is fair to say
both that the PQs are more than adequate for all normal uses and
environments as well as that they provide an acceptably good
quality sound for almost everyone, almost all the time.
Battery life depends on
whether you're just using the headphones to quieten background
sounds or if you're also playing music through them. A typical
battery life, using them to play music, is 35 hours.
The unit will play music in
a 'pass-through' mode if the battery is dead, but when turned on
and with a live battery, it not only passes the music through
but also offers some additional amplification. I have found this
useful - when playing my Archos Jukebox Recorder 20 MP3 player
through the Noisebusters or the Bose, even on maximum volume,
sometimes the sound level is insufficient. When playing through
the Plane Quiet headphones, it is possible to boost the volume
up a bit further and always have plenty of sound to enjoy.
In earlier versions of the
Plane Quiets, the left and
right sides of the headphones, as marked, were incorrect.
Listening to orchestral music, where one would normally expect
the first violins to be on the left, consistently has them
coming from right of center. This has now been corrected for
the Mark 4 and 5 models.
The belt clip on the control
unit is weak and immediately snapped out of its socket as soon
as I clipped the unit to my belt. It was relatively easy to
re-affix the clip to the unit, however, and gave me something to
do on the otherwise boring flight!
Updates (please be sure to read
the latest September update)
I first reviewed these
headphones in June 03, and was pleased with them at that time, but
passed some comments back to the manufacturer about potential
Less than three months
later, all my suggestions have been acted upon. The Mark 3
Plane Quiet is appreciably improved in terms of sound quality
and noise canceling, as well as in minor areas such as the
ergonomics of the control box and plug.
Best of all, the price has
not increased. Indeed, the manufacturer has agreed to offer a
5% discount to Travel Insider readers - simply type in the
coupon code 'travelinsider' (without the quotes) to get a 5%
Update again, December 2003
: These headphones just keep getting better! The manufacturer
has now upgraded their warranty from a one year warranty to a
lifetime warranty, have added a very convenient 'two to one'
adapter, and have replaced the earlier flimsy carry bag with a
much sturdier one that does a much better job of protecting the
headphones. I refer to these as the Mark 4 model
Update again, March 2004
: I received a new pair of these headphones, which can be
considered as the 'Mark 5' version. The first pair I
reviewed, back in May/June 03, were a Mark 2 version, then I
subsequently reviewed their Mark 3 and Mark 4 versions.
Now they have released yet another 'silent upgrade' to the Mark
Differences between the Mark
4 and 5 are subtle, but present. In particular :
The Mark 5 has slightly less
residual electronic hiss than the Mark 4. This is definitely
a good thing.
The Mark 5 also offers a
slightly higher sound level than the Mark 4 - perhaps 3dB
There is a noticeably
different sound coloration to the Mark 5 compared to the
Mark 4. The Mark 5 is much brighter, with stronger
The Mark 5 is more
comfortable to wear for an extended time. The tension
in the headband is not quite so strong, making them feel
lighter on one's head.
The best news of all?
The price remains at the $79.99 price point, and the Travel
Insider 5% discount remains on offer if you click through the
links on this page direct to the Plane Quiet website and use the
discount code TravelInsider when ordering.
An already great product has
become even better.
Summary and Recommendation
This set of headphones -
in its Mark 5 configuration - ranked
as my favorite, out of all the headphones reviewed, in terms of value for
money. The Bose may be a little more luxurious, and a little
better built, but they also cost nearly four times as much,
while giving almost no perceptible improvement in comfort or
The new lower cost model
NC-6 is an unknown, but two readers have raised troubling issues
and the manufacturer is worried that a review of them may be
negative. Join those dots and it is fairly obvious what
the implications are.
It is conceivable that you
may, sooner or later, leave your headphones on a plane, or break
them, as I did with my own Bose set. With an $80 cost (now
reduced to only $70), the Plane
Quiet unit can be replaced with no massive financial hardship,
whereas shelling out another $300 is a much less convenient
situation. Bose's $300 price point for something that, for some
of us, is not a long lived product, will become increasingly
impossible to justify as these new competing headphones become
If you're on a tight budget,
the $40 Noisebusters would be your best choice, but they have
been out of production for over a year. Accordingly, the Plane
Quiet headphones are not only the least expensive, but also, in
nearly all respects, the best.
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20 June 2003, 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.