Pitch Perfect

The latest headphones give good sound,cancel outdoor noise,and fit the ears well

Written by Pranay Parab | New Delhi | Published: September 8, 2013 12:08:07 am

The latest headphones give good sound,cancel outdoor noise,and fit the ears well

A flurry of innovation has hit several product categories,except audio. It’s one field of technology where updates don’t come by at the speed of light. That’s because precision matters a lot more in this segment than anywhere else,and companies try to achieve the perfect sound before launching a product. The days of portable MP3 players are numbered,and hence Bose and Sennheiser have launched headphones that work very well with mobile phones and tablets. Here’s a lowdown on some of them:

Bose QC20

Bose’s QuietComfort series has acquired a legendary status among headphones. Its QC15 offers one of the best noise cancellations in the market. The on-ear pair has an “active noise cancellation” feature that allows it to measure the outdoor noise level and neutralise it.

The latest product in the series is the QC20,a pair of in-ear headphones. These are far more portable than full-size headphones and offer excellent noise cancellation,which is controlled by using a battery-powered module. But since this module is too close to the headphone jack,it might be difficult to access it if the music source is in a bag. You can turn on active noise cancellation using a switch on the module. You will have to charge the module separately to use the feature. The battery lasts over 12 hours,and the headphone works even when it has no charge.

Even when you don’t play music,the QC20 cuts out around 90 per cent of ambient noise. When I tested this pair in a crowded bus,I could hear someone talking in a low voice. I turned around to see a man shouting at the top of his voice over the phone. I could also barely hear sounds of horns,engines or other passengers. The only thing that disturbed QC20’s noise cancellation was the wind. I could hear a fairly loud rustling sound when travelling.

The QC20 also has an “aware” mode that allows you to hear some outdoor sounds (like people speaking to you or flight announcements). Remember to turn this on when you are on the road or waiting for a flight.

The QC20 is worth its price,Rs 22,388,thanks to its fantastic noise isolation. The sound quality is very good,and lets you enjoy a wide range of music at relatively low volume. The cable’s length is just enough to keep your music source in the pocket. But if you carry it in a bag,you might tug at the cable sometimes.



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Bose AE2w

The AE2w is Bose’s first wireless headset. One could call it the wireless version of the AE2,given the similar looks and features. At 150 g,the pair is light and comfortable. The soft earpads cover the ears completely,cutting out most of the ambient noise. But the AE2w doesn’t have active noise cancellation,and you can hear some outdoor noise while playing music.

The AE2w comes with a bulky Bluetooth module,which has all the controls. Attached to one of the earcups,it is removable and connects to the headphones using a 2.5 mm port.

The AE2w works on your iPhone and iPad simultaneously. If you are listening to music on the iPad,and you get a call on the iPhone,the music will pause automatically and resume once you end the call. The sound quality is great: each sound is clear and distinctive.

However,if you listen to music on more than two devices,go for wired headphones. Pairing via Bluetooth is not smooth,especially if you use the AE2w on laptops. Otherwise,the AE2w is a good buy at Rs 19,013.

Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear

The Momentum range is known for comfort,and compatibility with low-end music players and phones. The latest product in the range,Momentum On-Ear,is no exception. Earlier this year,Sennheiser launched over-the-ear Momentum headphones. The difference between that product and its on-ear variant is the fit. The older pair covers your ear entirely,while the newer one has smaller earpads that rest against your ears. Sennheiser has used a material called Alcantara for the earpads. Although the earpads are comfortable,users will have to take them off every two hours or so as on-ear design clamps the ears tightly.

If your playlist has a lot of instrumental music,this pair of headphones will not disappoint. It delivers neutral sound,and isn’t heavy on bass or treble. Vocals sound good,but noise isolation isn’t great. You will have to increase the volume in crowded,noisy environments.

At Rs 14,990,Momentum On-Ear is value for money. It’s almost as good as the over-the-ear Momentum,at half the price.

Sennheiser OCX 685i

The recently launched Rs 5,490 OCX685i by Sennheiser is one of the best exercise-oriented headphones in the market. An important criteria for exercise headphones is the fit. They should not fall off when you are running or stretching. The secure fit is the result of a design that loops around your ear. These earphones are comfortable to wear for long sessions and even when you are sweating. Sennheiser also claims these are water-and sweat-resistant.

The product is quite durable. During tests,the cable went through quite a bit of entangling and rough handling. In spite of that,there was no change in sound quality. The earphones felt sturdy even after rough usage.

The sound quality is up to the mark and the pair works well for most songs. The noise isolation is good,but it doesn’t cut out ambient sounds entirely. This is a good thing for exercise headphones because if you’re running outdoors,you would want to hear approaching vehicles or people.

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