Here's your chance to join the fray and be heard. You can respond to my columns and share your own opinions and insight.
Mike from the internet writes : My adventures with ANR headsets seem to closely parallel your own experiences.
The first set that I purchased were the Brookstone units. I was reasonably impressed given that they were the first device of this type that I had tried. (Other than ANR aviation headsets which while more effective are MUCH bulkier. Also, you would certainly look silly wearing these on a commercial flight and would likely be interrogated by the fun folks at security).
Anyway, I purchased the Brookstones at the airport and flew to Orlando. I was fairly pleased with the level of noise reduction but less thrilled with the poor fit on my large head and ears. Shortly after arriving in Orlando I stopped by the BOSE store and saw the QuietComforts. They did seem much nicer and were much more comfortable but were they worth 3x as much? After some hesitation I decided to plunk down my credit card so I could put them to the test on the way home. Bose assured me I could try them for 60 days. The improved comfort and noise reduction was significant enough that I quickly decided that they were easily worth 3x the price. On my way home I again stopped at Brookstone and returned their product.
Three weeks later I visited Sharper Image and saw the NoiseBuster Extreme for about $35.00. What the heck, at that price I could pick them up to provide to any travelling companions. I did not expect what happened next.
Like yourself I was truly amazed by the NoiseBusters. I too found that in a quiet environment the lack of hiss was an improvement over the BOSE. They were also comfortable and very compact. Granted, the ANR was not as effective in an airplane but not bad either. While the BOSE units were certainly 3x better than the Brookstone units, I simply could not convince myself that they were almost ten times better than the NoiseBusters. I suppose that if I travelled weekly or more that the outcome might have been different but last week I returned the BOSE units.
David replies : It looks like we agree on all points here. The only issue I am struggling with is the cost differential between the Bose and Noisebuster units. We agree that the Bose unit is much better on a plane; and, for me, that represents almost the only place that I use these headsets. I now carry the Bose unit in its soft bag rather than in the larger carrying case, and in the soft carry bag, they don't take up a great deal of space. On a ten hour flight, the extra comfort and extra efficiency (at noise reducing) really does make a difference, and I find myself always reaching for my Bose unit rather than the Noisebusters when packing for a flight.
But, is it worth an extra $250? My answer to that came on my most recent flight between Seattle and Moscow. I had happily paid $500 extra at checkin to upgrade to business class for the flight, and I suddenly saw the cost contrast between $500 for ten hours of moderate improvement in comfort, as compared to half that price for very much longer improvement in headphone functionality, in a different perspective.
And so, as much as I profoundly admire and respect Noisebuster for providing so much at such a minimal cost, I do now agree with Bose that there is also a definite niche for a highest end product at an increased price.
Mike replies : Good point. As noted, if I were a true air warrior, as I once was, the Bose would have been keepers.
Barb from Atlanta writes : I use the noise reduction headphones made by AIWA, cost about $49.00 and they do a great job, at least as good as the noise buster. No box to contend with, on and off switch on the R headphone. I think they are a good product for the price.
Bob from San Rafael writes : How about reviewing the brand new Sony product?
David replies : I'd love to do this, but, so far, Sony have not responded to any of my requests for review copies of any of their range of noise reducing headphones. Sadly, writing this column creates no income for me, and that makes it inappropriate for me to spend my own cash buying review copies of equipment; if Sony don't want to follow industry standard practice and make a review sample available, then I'm unable and unwilling to review their equipment at my personal expense.
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Copyright 2001 by David M Rowell.