If you've never listened to your music over high-fidelity 'phones, you
owe yourself a little leftover holiday budgeting to buy what could
well be the best-sounding headphones available.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983
Able Planet's top headphones immerse you in sound
By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2010, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2010, The Post-Standard
Sticking little white buds in my ears isn't my idea of cuddling up to my favorite music when I'm listening
to my iPod.
After 20 minutes, earbuds start to hurt, but I usually don't get a chance to complain because they nearly
always fall out long before then. I've experimented with earbuds that work better -- see my article at www.technofileonline.com/texts/tec080507.html for
my favorite ones -- but when I have a choice, I always forgo the tiny white earpieces. Instead, I listen to my mix of rock 'n'
Bach on a pair of serious high-fidelity headphones.
If you've never listened to your music over high-fidelity 'phones, you owe yourself a little leftover
holiday budgeting to buy what could well be the best-sounding headphones available. They're the Able Planet NCH1000CH, which list
for $300 but can be found at discount (try Amazon.com) for $250 or less.
The NC1000CH headphones are large and softly padded, cradling your ears with faux leather that could fool a
cow. There's an on-off switch on one of the earcups, so you can turn on a battery-powered noise-cancelation circuit.
The headphones' noise cancellation worked very well to eliminate most exterior (or "ambient") noise in
three locations I tested them in -- a noisy household, a vehicle with a growling diesel engine and a computer desk three feet
from my squawking Amazon parrot. (Bose, which popularized noise-cancelation headphones, advertises them as ideal for airplane
cabins. No airplane cabin is as raucous as a Yellow-Naped Amazon parrot in full cry.)
Blissful silence is easy to achieve, too. Simply wear the 'phones and turn them on without connecting the
cord. You'll be surprised at how noisy your typical environment is, even if it seems to be as quiet as a library. (Try 'em in a
library and see.)
Low-frequency performance was simply spectacular. My pipe-organ recordings never sounded better. Treble
sounds seemed too reticent, but overall balance was easy to restore with the tone controls in my music software.
As noise-canceling models improve, their overall quality is at last able to match the best standard
high-fidelity headphones. Given the advantages noise cancellation offers -- clearer backgrounds for all music and more restful
listening -- buying high-quality headphones that don't incorporate noise cancellation is probably a big mistake. This seems
especially true the minute you audition the NC1000CH headphones. They're at the top of their class.