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Author Topic: Noise Canceling Headphones  (Read 1334 times)

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Offline awmeyertimmy

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Noise Canceling Headphones
« on: February 21, 2018, 08:39:29 PM »
I need to buy some nice noise cancelling headphones for monitoring in the field. Just looking for some advice. Thanks in advance!
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Offline ScoobieKW

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Offline awmeyertimmy

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Re: Noise Canceling Headphones
« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2018, 09:14:38 PM »
Wow! Those are beautiful. They would be perfect. Now, I just need to sell a kidney and I can go buy them lol
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Offline thatjackelliott

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Re: Noise Canceling Headphones
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2018, 02:53:55 PM »
Are we making a distinction between noise-isolating and noise-canceling headphones here?

Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Noise Canceling Headphones
« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2018, 04:55:47 PM »
Yes.

I haven't come across an active noise-cancellation headphone with sufficient headroom in it's cancellation circuitry to not clip on high level bass content.

That said, I'm still convinced the ultimate-quality isolation 'phones would use passive isolation combined with active low-frequency isolation to provide a better-tailored, natural sounding isolation response.  It's the only way to sufficiently counter LF leakage so as to achieve as much isolation down low as can be achieved at higher frequencies via occlusion.
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Offline earmonger

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Re: Noise Canceling Headphones
« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2018, 10:08:12 PM »
Color me ultra dubious about noise-canceling phones. Fully agreed that passive noise cancellation--earbuds in earplugs--is the way to go.

There are about a zillion IEMs out there now, but old favorites like Shure are still good and so are newer ones like 1More Triple-Fi (under $100) or RHA.

It's all about how they fit, though. Try every size of tips that come in the package--all but one will sound terrible and give you no isolation. If you have big ol' ear canals like I do, you can go even puffier and more isolating with Comply tips.

If you want to dive into the true madness, www.head-fi.org has all you need to know and so very much more. 

Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Noise Canceling Headphones
« Reply #6 on: February 26, 2018, 08:54:25 AM »
Color me ultra dubious about noise-canceling phones.

Please explain why.

The highest sound-quality reduction I've ever experienced was a combination of active+passive-reduction.  As mentioned the only issue was lack of sufficient headroom in the active circuitry at higher SPLs.  At SPLs which didn't overload the circuitry the sound quality was glorious.   This could also provide the potential of custom tailoring the reduction curve to whatever you want within the maximum-achievable reduction envelope of the system, non-linear variable loudness curves, etc.
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Offline Scooter123

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Re: Noise Canceling Headphones
« Reply #7 on: February 26, 2018, 09:56:17 AM »
Passive won't color the sound in anyway.

I was going to recommend Sony 7506 cans, but the link that Gutbucket gave you is the 7506 driver with additional insulation to make them more soundproof
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Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Noise Canceling Headphones
« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2018, 10:24:51 AM »
^ Scoob's link.  (probably the best available solution for monitoring in a noisy environment)

Passive most definitely colors the sound.  Hence the muffled effect from foam-plugs - which is the most basic form of passive-reduction.  More highly engineered passive-reduction techniques aim to shape the reduction response via various mechanical filtering systems in order to sound more transparent.  But all are essentially limited to no greater reduction than whatever the minimum reduction happens to be anywhere across the full bandwidth (which will be dominated by LF, hence the great potential advantage of active-reduction in that region) and none provide a reduction curve custom-tailored to the individual's personal hearing response curve.  The reduction curves of various products may be more appropriate in a general population sense, but we all know how variable personal hearing response is compared to average response.  It's very difficult to find a truly accurate reduction curve match which will sound transparent for each individual. And if you do it's only truly applicable to one SPL level (the curve varies with level as an inverse "loudness curve").

Practically, if you can find passive-reduction plugs which sound transparent enough for you and you are happy with, great!
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Offline rumbleseat

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Re: Noise Canceling Headphones
« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2018, 09:09:25 AM »
I agreee with Gut - Passive for HF, Active for LF.
The best solution I've stumbled into is to use a set of In-Ear Monitors for monitoring, and place a pair of Noise Cancelling headphones on top of them.  The IEMs feed you the signal and the NC headphones are turned on, but are not plugged in to your source.  I have an old pair of Bose NC headphones that work reasonably well for reducing the "whump whump whump" effect at EDM shows.  Better than earplugs/IEMs alone.  Take note that since the NC headphones will be pumping as hard as they can, the battery life will be drastically reduced.
BTW, this combo is a dream on long airplane flights!
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Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Noise Canceling Headphones
« Reply #10 on: March 02, 2018, 09:53:17 AM »
^ Can that Bose NC circuit handle EDM bass or does it clip?  That's the problem I've had with using this technique in a practical sense, but I've not tried it with any Bose gear.

Wondering if the passive-reduction provided by your IEMs worn underneath the Bose NC circumaural 'phones might be reducing higher-frequency distortion products from the active-NC circuit clipping, making any overload of the active NC circuitry less noticeable, or if the Bose circuitry actually has sufficient headroom not to clip.  The other possibility is that Bose implements some sort of limiting circuit which kicks in to minimize excessive distortion at high SPLs by reducing the level of the cancellation signal above a certain SPL threshold.

In other words- if you take out the IEMs used for monitoring and just use the Bose active NC circumaurals, do you notice any distortion corresponding with the heavy bass impacts?
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Offline rumbleseat

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Re: Noise Canceling Headphones
« Reply #11 on: March 02, 2018, 11:25:21 AM »
Those are all good questions and speculations about distortion.  I have not tried to determine if there's distortion or not.  With my already damaged hearing, I would have a hard time determining if the distortion was from the headphones or just my ears at that volume.
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Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Noise Canceling Headphones
« Reply #12 on: March 02, 2018, 11:59:41 AM »
I hear that.  No worries, just exploring the idea in more depth.  Glad it's working for you.
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Offline thatjackelliott

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Re: Noise Canceling Headphones
« Reply #13 on: March 02, 2018, 12:14:25 PM »
In other words- if you take out the IEMs used for monitoring and just use the Bose active NC circumaurals, do you notice any distortion corresponding with the heavy bass impacts?
I can't speak to rumbleseat's experience, but I use the Bose NCs at our music festivals and they do clip big-time with kick drum whacks and heavy bass hits. It's a "thwapping" sound that initially surprised me until I tumbled onto what was happening. I "listen around" that now, it's not normally a big problem unless the sound tech is deaf and turns things up too loudly for the active circuity to null out. I've learned to overlook it. I do need to cancel out as much of the ambient sound because what I want to hear in my 'phones are the stage-lip mics and sound board feed, and the live sound reaches my position somewhere between 40 to 80 milliseconds later (speed of sound), which can sound very muddled without NC 'phones.

That said, I love the idea of IEMs + overear NC cans. I may try that this music festival season.

Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Noise Canceling Headphones
« Reply #14 on: March 02, 2018, 02:24:32 PM »
^that parallels my experience with the AT in-ear active NC phones.  Except the distortion artifacts were too egregious to "listen around", making it impractical.

I don't generally done need to monitor live unless trouble-shooting a problem such as listening for obvious static or noise.  But the the best solution I found when I have tried to actively monitor was my old Etymotic ER4S in-ear monitors used with maximum reduction foam plugs (hole punched through them to fit the Etys) instead of the silicone flanges, plus passive-reduction circumaural noise-muffs (shooting range type ear-muffs) worn over them to further increase isolation.  Passable, yet remaining bass-leakage was the weak point.  And those shooting range style muffs are ridiculously large and bulky.

I've been wishing some manufacturer would make some IEMs with a really beefy active-NC circuit for a long time.
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Offline earmonger

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Re: Noise Canceling Headphones
« Reply #15 on: April 02, 2018, 03:44:49 PM »
Seems that companies are starting to make noise-canceling IEMs. Can't speak to whether any of them are robust enough for high SPLs.

https://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-noise-cancelling-in-ear-headphones/

As for passive vs. active, Gutbucket, first of all great respect for your incredible technical knowledge and willingness to share it here.

I'm just a music listener, and maybe active NC has improved a lot in recent years. I have to admit that my experience with active NC headphones was early on, and  limited to the ubiquitous Bose QC and to a Sony whose model number I forget. But with both of them the outside noise--airplane, subway--still came through and the phones themselves weren't as musical as my Shure IEMs (E4c at the time), much less my new fave RHA T20i. The Sonys had a pronounced buzz when the NC was on.

Specs-wise, IEMs usually do promise more dB of attenuation than over-the-ear active NC 'phones that I've looked at.   

At the time, people were going gaga over the fairly new Bose QC. Someone lent me a pair and I did a lot of A/B-ing with my Shures. Obviously it couldn't be a blind test but beyond Bose's amazing marketing, there was just no way the Bose had either the isolation or sound quality of the Shures. I've been skeptical ever since. 
« Last Edit: April 02, 2018, 03:47:55 PM by earmonger »

Offline DSatz

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Re: Noise Canceling Headphones
« Reply #16 on: April 11, 2018, 01:06:35 AM »
In general, active noise-canceling headphones are effective mainly at low and low-mid frequencies. The shorter the sound wavelengths, the less precisely/effectively this type of headphone can cancel them. To block out mid-high and high frequencies, you need (passive) acoustic isolation; active cancellation can't do it.

Also, I'm a dissenter about the Sony V6 phones despite their ~30 years of popularity. I tried switching to them at the end of the 1980s after years of using the Beyer DT-48 phones (the ones designed for audiometry, with very flat response) which were unfortunately painful to wear for any length of time. I think that both the mid-bass and the upper midrange response of the Sony is exaggerated to the point of danger: If you use them to judge your microphone positioning, you could easily believe that you're getting enough weight and clarity in your recording, when you're really not. I say that from sad experience with recordings that just didn't turn out as well as I thought they would. Despite trying for over a year, I was never able to adapt to the built-in "flattery" of the sound of those phones.

As an antidote, I've been using Sennheiser 280 or (more recently) 380 headphones for about ten or twelve years now. They're not beautiful sounding--I would never choose them for "pleasure" listening--but they don't overemphasize any particular region of the audio spectrum, and their overall distortion is low, so with a little practice you can get a pretty accurate idea of what your microphones are actually picking up. And they isolate you from room sound better than any other professional quality phones that I'm aware of.

--best regards
« Last Edit: April 11, 2018, 01:09:56 AM by DSatz »
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Offline weroflu

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Re: Noise Canceling Headphones
« Reply #17 on: April 13, 2018, 02:32:56 AM »
Sorry if this is a bit o/t. Dsatz mentioned the dt48, which I also had and loved, but similarly had to bin because they were too uncomfortable and also the replacement pads kept coming off.

Aside from what was mentioned what would you recommend as a dt48 replacement monitor type phone? Dt48 was light in bass to my ears but everything else was in a different league of transparency to anything else I have used. Currently using beyer t51p but they are underwhelming and mushy.

Offline DSatz

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Re: Noise Canceling Headphones
« Reply #18 on: April 16, 2018, 09:13:10 AM »
weroflu, I've been fairly well satisfied with the Sennheiser 280 headphones as monitors for location recording; I don't feel that they've ever led me to make wrong conclusions about mike placement.

Of course, it's like with a seeing-eye dog: The owner needs a period of training and familiarization, too--not just the dog!

The headbands and earcups on the 280 will get ratty and need replacement eventually, but they're built for that.
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