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Plane Quiet's latest model headphones mark a return to their earlier and very successful design.

A good and comfortable design is matched with average to good performance, making these headphones a good value choice for people not wishing to spend $300 on a top of the line product.

 
 
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Plane Quiet Platinum Active Noise Reduction Headset

The latest product from our favorite manufacturer

The new Plane Quiet Platinum headphones have an appealing clean design and are an around-the-ear type headphone.  This type of design, while necessarily bulkier, usually offers superior noise cancellation.

Part of a series on noise reducing headphones - click the links on the right for extra reviews and articles.

Outside the Box Group have been making noise cancelling headphones for almost six years now.  This is the eighth model in their middle priced Plane Quiet series; they've also occasionally offered high end units under the Solitude brand name, and for a while had an entry level unit also for sale.

The Plane Quiet brand is known for being good performing and good values and this product is no exception to that rule.  It offers good quality audio, and average to good noise cancelling.

Executive Summary

This eighth model variant of the Plane Quiet headphones harks back to the original models from a point of view of external design of the exterior of the headset.  Inside however is an appreciably improved set of electronics, giving much improved sound and noise canceling compared to earlier model units.

The design is better than the company's brief sidewards move to 'on the ear' rather than 'around the ear' type headphones and seems to be more robustly made.

In terms of performance, sound quality is good, but noise cancelling is only satisfactory rather than stellar.

Priced at $100, and sometimes with specials on Outside the Box Group's retail facing website, ProTravelGear.com, the headphones are priced in the middle of the range of headphone prices, while offering reasonably good audio fidelity and noise cancelling.  There are better headphones out there, but they cost three times more money, so for average/ordinary users, these headphones represent a good price/performance (ie value) point.

REVIEW UPDATED

A second version of the Plane Quiet Platinum headphones was released in September 2009, nearly a year after the original model was released.

The newer version has better noise cancelling and a volume control added to the battery box.

The review has been revised and updated to reflect the new model now available.

FURTHER UPDATE

Note that these headphones have been reduced in price (they now seem to list for around $55, down from their original $100 price), and have been joined by another product referred to by the rather clumsy title 'Plane Quiet Platinum Headphone Featuring New Solitude Technology' which now occupies the $100 price point.

Please see our separate review of the new Plane Quiet w/Solitude headphones for a discussion of this newer and superior product.

The Evolution of the Plane Quiet Platinum Noise Canceling Headphones

The evolution of the various products designed and developed by Outside the Box Group is an interesting story of American ingenuity combined with rapid change and enhancement based on marketplace feedback.

The first Plane Quiet headphones came out in May 2003, and between then and late 2004, there were five different models released, with minor internal tweaks and performance improvements each time while retaining the same exterior shell.  This is a new model every three months or so, which is an astonishingly rapid pace of development and enhancement.  If you're interested, you can see the history of earlier models here.

We then saw the company switch design strategies from the 'around the ear' type headphones to a smaller, lighter, more portable and also more affordable 'on the ear' type design, which first appeared in October 2004 as the Plane Quiet NC6 and then came out in an even lighter smaller form as the NC7 in August 2006.

The NC6 used the same design molds and had the same appearance as other brands of headphones, even though its internal workings were superior, and this proved a problem to marketplace acceptance.  And then the NC7 was perhaps a bridge too far in terms of being a slim thin lightweight design, and some users reported problems with the headsets breaking.  On the other hand, this isn't a problem unique only to lightweight NC7 headsets - we get feedback from people unhappy with the reliability and strength of even the top of the line Bose headsets, the Bose Quiet Comfort 2 (around the ear) and Bose Quiet Comfort 3 (on the ear) headsets.

Part of the reason for switching the design of the Plane Quiet headsets to the on-the-air type was the release of a second family of noise cancelling headsets, the Solitude series, which were very high end and directly targeted at the Bose Quiet Comfort 2 headphones.

However, we now see the company merging its two product lines back into one, with a design that looks very reminiscent of the earlier Plane Quiet headphones, back to a more solid and around the ear design.  Meanwhile its high end Solitude series of headphones have been withdrawn, with these new Plane Quiet headphones stealing some of the high end features of the $200 Solitudes (especially with regard to the ear cushioning pads, which are a subtle but vital part of the overall noise controlling design - better pads are not only more comfortable but also provide better passive sound blocking.

The Plane Quiet Platinum Active Noise Reduction Headset - What You Get

The Plane Quiet Platinum Active Noise Reduction Headset (yes, a bit of a mouthful but that is its official name!) comes in one of those terribly hard to open plastic display boxes.

Inside are the headphones themselves, two adapter plugs (one a dual pronged adapter for airline use and the other a 1/8" to 1/4" jack), two AAA batteries, a brief user manual and a warranty card.  There is also an unpadded nylon type bag (8" x 9") with a zipper over the top into which the headphones could be placed for carriage, and a small zippered pouch (2" x 4") which can be used to carry the two plug adapters and perhaps a spare pair of batteries.  A piece of Velcro on the back of this pouch mates with a Velcro strip inside the carry bag.

The warranty is for one year, and while it seems each headset has a unique serial number (in the battery box) the serial number isn't required on the warranty form.  If you need warranty service, you need to produce proof of purchase, a difficult thing to do for those of us with imperfect receipt filing systems.

Headphones Description

The Plane Quiet Platinum (ie PQ Pt) headphones are of an around the ear design, with the headphone earcups closely comparable in size to the Bose Quiet Comfort 2, the Solitude and the Philips SHN9500 headphones.

The foam that fills the surroundings of the ear cups is a type of memory foam that moulds closely and comfortably to one's head.  This is important so as to create the most effective passive sound block barrier possible, and when you first put the headphones on, you'll want to make sure that the foam lining is making a good seal with your head.

The 'on the head' perceived weight of the headphones is 5.8 ounces.  The total travel weight for the headphones and extra plugs, in their carry bag, is 10.3 ounces.  These are reasonably light weights for around the ear full sized headphones, which is of course a good thing.

The headphones have a nice padded headband, and aren't too tight on the head, and have more space inside the cups than did the Solitudes, so your ears are less likely to get squashed.  They are comfortable to wear for long periods of time.

The connecting cord is permanently connected to the headphones at one end, and after 36" it reaches a battery box with on/off switch.  A second 36" cord then runs from the battery/control box to the plug.  These are generous lengths of cord, but it is unfortunately that both lengths are permanently connected, meaning that if you get a problem in the cord wiring or plug, you need a new set of headphones rather than simply a new cord.

There is now a volume control on the battery box.  This is not a very useful feature, because the headphones are perhaps slightly less sensitive than some other models to start with, and it is hard to think when you'd want the volume control other than at maximum.  It is probably best to use a spot of instant glue to stick the control at maximum so as not to accidentally move the control down.

The headphones have the usual swivel joints, and no extra folding parts.  They seem solidly made and sufficiently sturdy for the stresses of regular travel.

The headphones use two AAA batteries for the noise cancelling, and will still send sound to the headset if the batteries die - you just lose the noise cancelling capability.  They are stated as offering about a 35 hour life.

Using the Headphones

Sound Quality

When the noise cancelling is turned off, the headphones have a pleasing sound that is full frequencied, but the volume level is fairly low - you need to turn up the volume on your audio device further than you do with other headphones, which can slightly reduce the battery life of the player and you should ensure the volume control on the battery box is always at maximum.

The sound, while good, is not excellent, and isn't quite as clear and transparent as other headphones, with some of the location information for different instruments in a recording also being less distinct.

When the noise cancelling is turned on, the audio level slightly increases, and the higher notes become a bit harsher and edgy (or is it the lower frequencies becoming less prominent?).

Comfort and Convenience

The headphones are perfectly comfortable with no issues or concerns at all.  Full marks on this point.

Noise Cancelling

In theory the noise cancelling should be great, and the manufacturer promises 'up to 18dB' of noise cancelling, although the 'up to' part of the phrase makes this a meaningless promise - even 1dB is covered by the 'up to' line.

Like other similar products, the noise reduction works unevenly across the audio spectrum.  Most headsets seem to offer a combination of passive and active noise cancelling so as to cut down on background noise one way or the other, and these headphones too offer a moderately broad range of noise reduction (be it through active noise cancellation or passive noise blocking).

The hiss introduced by the noise cancellation circuitry is very quiet - no worse than other similar headphones and better than many.

We took a pair of the headphones for a test flight and compared them side by side with the high end Bose Quiet Comfort 2 headphones plus two more moderately priced headphones - the lower priced Philips SHN9500 (also an around the ear design) and the higher priced Sennheiser PXC250 (an on the ear design reminiscent of the Plane Quiet NC7.  The $300 Bose QC2 headphones were of course better, the Philips and Sennheiser products were similar.  (Reviews of the Philips and Sennheiser headphones will be published shortly.)

Where to Buy

The headphones have a retail price of $100 but sometimes can be found on special, and can be purchased direct from the manufacturer, Plane Quiet, at their Pro Travel Gear website.

Summary and Recommendation

At $100 or less, these are moderately priced noise cancelling headphones that perform in line with their price, and better than expected.

They're not as good as the top of the line Bose and similar products, but they are also three times less expensive, making them a better and more prudent choice for most people.
 

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Originally published 17 Oct 2008, last update 02 Jul 2017

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 
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