I've been wanting to post a review of my favourite headphones for a while now, but I never managed to get around to writing it. Sometimes it's so hard to start. I suppose, I could just start at the beginning:
A few months ago I finally felt the need to purchase some in-ear headphones. I got tired of my crappy Apple torture devices and I searched high and low, but I didn't find any that wouldn't make me feel like wanting to rip my ears off after a couple of hours of wearing them. All in ear-headphones are just uncomfortable as heck. And then the sound... it seemed weak and tinny, and I'd hear myself breathe. Annoying. I've been a fan of noise cancelling headsets for a while now, but they're big and bulky and I would feel so weird wearing them in public. Then, while browsing on one of my favourite tech websites, I stumbled across an article about new Bose in-ear noise cancelling headphones. Not noise-isolating, but noise cancelling. What's the difference? Well, noise isolating headphones seal your ears off from outside noise, basically, they're earplugs with built-in speakers. Noise cancelling headphones have tiny microphones built inside each earpiece, and a computer chip somehow generates a white noise that cancels out the noise that enters that microphone in real time. OMG my brain just exploded. It's hard to explain, but it works so well, it's fabulous. If you do not turn on the noise cancellation feature, you can use them like regular old headphones. But if you turn the magical button to green, the world just disappears around you. The music is clearer, louder, and more beautiful. And because you don't need to stuff them into your ear canal so deeply to drown out the noise, they are also way more comfortable. In theory. In theory.
How do they stack up in real life?
I have a list of essential items I would never want to miss. Like, my camera. My phone. My lip gloss. Tylenol. Tissues. My Fenix E-11 flashlight. My car. I would have NEVER thought that headphones would one day become part of my essential kit. The Bose QCi20 (affiliated link) have become part of that kit. I won't leave the house without them. I use them for my power walks in the evenings. I use them when I want to listen to music or the news for a few minutes during the day. I use them at work if the noise in the office gets too much. And the sound quality? Some think Bose headphones are over-hyped, but I don't agree. I'm no audiophile by any means, but for me these have some of the best sound I have ever listened to, bar none.
A few weeks ago I was finally able to put them to the test during a 7 hour flight with drunken tourists and cranky babies. Now I'm not saying that it will completely drown out ALL the noise that surrounds you. If your partner talks to you, you will hear it. If there's a baby screaming right behind you, you will hear that too. But it will seem all very, VERY far away, and not annoying at all. The airplane engines will be purring, you will be able to listen to your favourite tunes even during take-off and landing, and the whole flight experience will be a lot more enjoyable.
- Noise cancelling headphones need power to cancel out the noise that the microphones pick up. The Bose QC20 come with a tiny rechargeable battery with a mini USB port. I've never run out of juice, but I hear they go for 12 hours or so before you need to recharge them. Probably true. They will work even if they run out or are off, but then they sound like regular in-ear headphones.
- They have a little in-line remote with volume buttons, a microphone (for phone calls), and answer button and an "aware" button that turns off the noise cancelling feature. So if you're wearing them and you see someone speaking to you, you can press that button and you'll hear them better.
- They come with a tiny neoprene pouch where I keep the small charger cable and the headphones when not in use. They have three different sizes of silicone ear tips, so you can get the proper fit.
- They have soft little silicone pillows that sit on your ear canal (on, not in) and little silicone wings that lodge into your outer ear. And they do. Not. Fall. Out. Period. And they're so comfortable, after a while, you don't even notice them anymore.
Where's the catch?
The price. These puppies don't come cheap. You may have to sell a kidney to buy a them. But if you really enjoy music, no matter what kind, not matter how loud or how quiet, they are well worth the investment. They don't carry an audiophile brand name like Shure or Etymotic. But you also don't need a screw driver to pry them out of your ears when you're done listening. They simply do what they say they do: they let you listen to your music in quiet, and comfort.