Sunday, June 17, 2007

Audio: Noise Canceling Headphone Review

The NY Times (US, center-left newspaper) has a review of noise canceling headphones just in time for the summer vacation air travel peak. Two entries joined Bose at the top of the list - Panasonic and Audio-Technica. They didn't surpass Bose (which is relatively hard to do in this market niche), but equaled it on performance and beat Bose on price (relatively easy to do!).

Things to note:
  1. Over-the-ear designs provide better noise cancellation.
  2. On-ear designs are smaller (and therefore take up less room in one's carry-on bag).
  3. The article didn't review in-ear earphones, which, in my opinion, offer better noise isolation than noise-canceling headphones and are much smaller, but suffer from not being as comfortable for extended use.
Why should audio forensic professionals be interested, other than just because they are often audiophiles to begin with? The answer is because of their sometimes challenging work environments. Simply put, all audio forensic filtering doesn't occur in pristine laboratory conditions. Then again, if you've ever spent time in many police audio "labs", you know they aren't always pristine in an audio (or any other) sense! I remember being invited into the lab of a federal level audio forensic examiner, which doubled as her office also, by the way. She opened the door and we squeezed into what was obviously a converted broom closet. Talk about resonances right in the speech band! Sigh...

But I digress. Audio filtering sometimes even has to be done in the field, which in urban environments can be quite noisy. So, as you can see, audio forensic examiners and audio technicians both can benefit from noise canceling and noise isolating headphones and earphones.

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