/ Adventure Travel
adventure — By Vawn on April 20, 2010 at 11:01 pm
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Review: Blackbox noise cancelling headphones

Once, while camping, I slept right through a tornado. Yet snoring – or even nasally breathing, for that matter – will instantly wake me from a sound slumber. So inevitably during a long-haul flight I’ll end up sitting next to someone who’s snoring like a grizzly bear. Or a screaming baby. Or a drunken passenger who won’t stop talking.

Ear plugs work quite well, but you can’t listen to music – and I’ve managed to perfect the technique of jamming them into my ears so well that I can’t hear anything at all, such as the food trolley coming down the aisle.

So on a recent flight from Toronto to Mumbai via Brussels – a total travel time of around 20 hours – I decided to test out a pair of Blackbox M10 Noise Cancellation Headphones from Phitek, a Kiwi OEM behind some of the industry’s biggest names in noise cancellation, including Audio-Technica’s ATH-ANC7 and Creative’s Aurvana X-Fi headphones. The M10s screen out 85 per cent (or 18 dB) of ambient noise across a range of frequencies, which is slightly below the industry’s best. But they also come in at a lower price point (US$179 MSRP) than its high-end competitors, such as Bose.

The biggest decision was choosing between the cans or the buds. While the M10s come with comfortable memory-foam padding, an adjustable headband and a collapsible design, they’re clearly more bulky than the buds – a consideration if you’re a business traveler with a single carry-on or a backpacker trying to keep weight to a minimum. But, for a 20-hour flight, I decided comfort outweighed the small form factor of the buds.

The M10s come with a nylon pouch for storage, which reduces weight but isn’t as durable as a hard shell (meaning it’s easier to accidentally crush them). They also come with detachable iPod cables and two headphone plug adapters. What sets these headphones apart, however, is you can listen to music with or without the noise cancellation turned on (a switch on the left turns it on). And for a pair of noise cancellation headphones, the sound quality is actually pretty decent.

While I could still faintly hear some guy snoring in the seat behind me, eventually the soothing white noise of the M10s put me to sleep – for about seven straight hours. That, in my books, is a success. And for the price point, it’s a worthy alternative to the higher-end Bose QuietComfort line.

Photo Credit: Phitek

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