Sony makes an awful lot of headphones. Ranging from the cheap-but-passable to premium and pro-level items, it's been in the personal audio game for a long time. Naturally, at a show like IFA, that might not be enough to hold the attentions of Engadget's official audio dilettante (me), so Sony made a faux plane fuselage, equipped with some lounge chairs, Sony's top hi-def audio players and those new cans. It also threw in some fake plane background noise for testing purposes. So my coworkers are right: These wireless headphones are pretty damn wonderful.
Sony is a respected brand in the mainstream headphone market, and deservedly so. But ask the average consumer about noise-cancelling headphones and they're apt to mention a different brand: Bose. And deservedly so--even if only because of the company's relentless marketing campaigns for its QuietComfort line (although to be fair, Bose founder Dr. Amar Bose was first to commercialize the concept). Sony's new MDR-1000X Bluetooth headphones aren't the company's first effort building noise-cancelling headphones, but they are a prime threat to knock Bose off its throne. They won't convince everyone of their superiority, but they are pretty great cans.
I've longed to find a pair of wireless noise-cancelling headphones worth of audiophiles, and I've found them in AKG's new N700NC Wireless. These headphones deliver a solid array of noise-cancelling features, but they really shine at reproducing music and engaging the listener. At first glance, the AKG N700NC don't call much attention to themselves. Think of them as a superhero hiding behind the guise of an ordinary citizen. These headphones sport a clean and functional design with a sharp gray-and-black color scheme, but I can't say the look is all that impressive.
If you're looking to screen out unwanted noise on the airplane or other loud environments so you can concentrate on the tunes, normal headphones won't cut it--you often have to crank the volume up so loud, it becomes unpleasant (and could damage your hearing). What you want are active noise-canceling (ANC) headphones, such as the TaoTronics TT-BH060 ($70 at Amazon). They're super comfortable, affordable, and while not they won't eliminate noise entirely, they do reduce the most tiring portions of the spectrum. But these aren't the best choice if you want great sound in addition to active noise cancellation. If you're not familiar with noise cancellation, here's how it works.
Noise-cancelling headphones are one of the most popular types of cans, and for good reason. They block out ambient noise that can distract from you enjoying your favorite tunes. While they're particularly useful for air travel and daily commutes--especially via mass transit--they're also great at isolating you from at-home noise pollution, whether that be the whoosh of your HVAC system, than whir of your computer's cooling fans, or your neighbor's lawn mower. Noise cancellation can be accomplished in two ways: Through active or passive measures. Our focus here is on the former.