Adventures in brine

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Finding a pair of headphones

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When looking for a pair of headphones, it was important to me that they shut out as much outside noise as possible and be comfortable for long periods of time. I've never spent more than £15 on a pair of earphones (typically in ear), so when you type in those requirements into a search engine, you should expect quite a shock!

I'd read on a couple of developer blogs, that "around ear" design was the way to go for comfort. Also, that Audio Technica ATH-M50Xs were a good choice for the money, at around £100. I'm a long time fan of Sennheiser, and came across the Momentum range under my own steam. The "around ear" Momentum's are around £200 and are far and away the most gorgeous looking headphones I've ever seen.

Feeling out of my depth though, I asked around a couple of friends. The response was unanimous. If you want to block out sound, it has to be the Bose Quiet Comfort range. The QC25 model is the latest and cost £270! Holy floor Batman, that was not going to be an off-the-cuff decision!

What makes a pair of headphones cost almost £300? The QC25 has acoustic noise cancellation, which I think is basically a series of microphones that detect outside noise, which the headphone then counteracts with a reverse wave, cancelling out the sound. It sounds cool, but I was also concerned the cancelation might work against me, I'm quiet sensitive to electrical noise.

Working on the assumption that Bose aren't the only company capable of such feats, I also found the Sennheiser MM 550-X, which purport to do the same as the QC25s, but with bluetooth and surround sound for the same price! At this point the prices were more like monopoly money in my head.

I'd seen these headphones online, but no way was I going to spend dollar until I'd tried them on! I set out to two city centres and a shopping centre, where I found two Bose shops and a third shop that only had Bose headphones for you to try. Not a snifter of the other headphones!

The QC25s were incredible! The sound was beautiful and crisp. In the busy shopping centre, I switched the noise reduction on and the world slipped away. Wow. The "anti sound" wasn't noticeable to me in the shopping centre.

I wanted to make sure I was making the right choice though, so I hit the internet reviews. I needed noise reduction now, I wasn't going to spend a £100 on a pair of earphones that didn't disconnect me from the world. So the question was, how good are the MM 550-Xs? Even the most glowing review of these headphones, that cited them as the best bluetooth headphones on the market, suggested that surround sound was best turned off and the noise reduction was not on par with the QC25. I was really attracted to the bluetooth, but noise reduction was becoming very important to me.

Fast forward a lot "first world" agonising and several attempts to find a shop that would allow me to try a decent selection of headphones. I conceded though and bought the QC25s.

In the silence of my home, I was initially stuck by two disappointments:

  1. The "anti noise" is audible if you're in a quiet environment. To me at least.
  2. The headphones leak more noise to the outside than I'd like at moderate volumes.

Then I told myself to get a grip. Why would you use the noise reduction in a quiet environment any way. The headphones do leak more noise than I'd like, but I am exceptionally picky in this area.

I've been using them for about two weeks now and I'm entirely satisfied. At work I am blissful ignorance to the world around me. At home, Gravity Rush on the PS Vita is a completely new experience with these bad boys on.

I cannot overstate how comfy they are to wear and the case is invaluable as I am always lugging stuff around in my man bag.

I still have reservations over spending that amount of money on a pair of headphones, but the headphones themselves, I'm doubtless are worth every penny.