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Creative EP-3NC Noise Cancelling Headphones
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Average Customer Review:
( 39 customer reviews )
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13 of 14 found the following review helpful:
Tiny Noise Cancelling earphones.Oct 20, 2011
By N. J. Simicich
I have owned about 5 sets of noise cancelling headphones over the years. I owned a folding Sony, another folding set, Phillips, I think, and another noise cancelling headset. It might have been another creative. I paid $90 for the Sony (the tech was new) but since then I have not paid more than about $35/pair, I buy them on sale or clearance. There are plenty of noise cancelling headphones in that price range on Amazon. Honestly, all the headsets I've seen work about the same. I have borrowed a friend's Bose, and thought it was a waste - they would be worth the $35 I paid for the Phillips but the Sony had much better sound than the $300 Bose.
Let me explain briefly how noise cancelling headphones work. The headphones are powered, they have a AAA battery. On this headphone, the battery is attached to the wire and it could clip to your collar or pocket - but it needs 4 more inches of wire on that line.
They have a microphone, somewhere, and it is best if the microphone is co-located with the earphones. The circuitry listens to ambient noise and then generates "countersound" - the ambient noise is reproduced in frequency and amplitude, but the phase is backwards - so the sound is "erased" in the area just above your ears. You can listen to your stereo or whatever in a noisy environment, but you don't have to turn it up as much because you are not having to drown out the noise. The noise works best on the sounds a jet makes, or a car makes, the wind noise is most attenuated.
They call this "active noise cancellation", countersound, or something else that implies the same thing. This is as opposed to noise isolation headphones. The fact that there is a circuit and a microphone that measures the sound, and that extra sound is added to what is coming from the stereo to actively cancel the ambient sound, well, that is what you want. It makes a world of difference.
Now, I used to put my headphones on as soon as I got on the airplane. When the flight attendant would signal me to take it off, I would show her that it was not plugged into anything - as if I was just parking it on my head. But they would be turned on, just generating the countersound and making the ride quieter. I stopped getting headaches from the noise, I loved these things. I recall once my little triple A battery went dead and I walked around begging for one from another passenger - a kid sold me a half dead one out of his gameboy for $10 and I thought I got the best of the bargain. One bad point is that if I wanted to nap, any conversation, even two rows away, a conversation that would normally be drowned out by the airplane noise, would be clear. The countersound worked in the white noise and pink noise frequency of the rumble and woosh, but sound of conversation would come through, sometimes too loud. It was great when you wanted to have a conversation, though, and sometimes someone two rows away who was sure that their conversation was covered by ambient noise was surprised to have me answer them.
Finally, (with the old equipment) when the noise suppression was switched on, there was a heavy HUSH - like a loud quiet, a heavy feeling that was, in its own way, bothersome - it let you know that the QUIET circuit was ON, damn it! It is hard to explain, if you have never heard it, but I remember letting people put my Sony's on, then reaching out and switching them on and they would sort of be amazed. It was heavy handed and obvious, even when there was not a lot of ambient noise.
That was then, this is now: They are tiny compared to any other noise killing headset I've ever used. Lightweight. The box on the wire is needed, there has to be someplace for the AAA battery.
They are comfortable, very comfortable. I've slept in them several times, and they are very comfy. You need to try the different sized plugs and use the largest that are comfy so that you get a good tight fit.
There is a tiny bit of the heavy soundkilling effect, but they don't have the overwhelming HUSH!, it is actually very light, not heavyhanded at all. If you know what you are listening for, you get it, but I'll bet if you get these as your first pair of sound cancelling phones, you won't notice it.
You just get a minor subdued feeling that the noise is being suppressed. In a car, I was able to nap briefly. They actually block the ambient sound in two ways. One is that they make a good mechanical seal in the ears. The rubber plugs come in three sizes, (I take the largest, they are fairly easy to switch). The mechanical seal of the earphones stop much, if not most of the ambient noise.
This is completely different from the usual sound killing headset, so let me repeat: Much of the ambient noise is stopped by the mechanical seal. There is a button you can push on the case that allows you to hear outside noise - none of the others I've used needed this button. Unlike the typical headset, you CAN'T hear those conversations two rows away. You actually get mechanical quiet as well as electronic quiet, and that combination makes these work better for killing ambient sound than any of the others I've owned, (and, as I mentioned, I've owned several). I believe that this is partially due to the in-the-ear design. I do not believe that these would work as well without the in-the-ear design.
Now underneath the level of mechanical sound blocking, there is a level of electronic blocking. You can hear it - but it is not OBTRUSIVE like it is with open headsets, there is just less noise. Turn it off, the rumble and woosh comes through, turn it on, and the rumble and woosh is attenuated. But the feeling is light. My guess is that some of that is physical - the microphones are closer to where the countersound is released, and so the countersound is more accurate in amplitude and phasing. Some of it is tuning - the people who built these used the least countersound that was effective rather than the most, and it works really well. But there is an argument that the people at Creative understand sound. I have no idea if this is an off-the-shelf design that Creative repackages or if it is Creative's design, but I do know that it works.
And some of that is clearly because the seal is better, so you are not almost solely dependent on the countersound to kill the ambient noise.
They come with a little leatherette bag with a drawstring, and an 1/8" stereo jack. There is an airplane adapter. There are three different sized rubber ear plugs. The leatherette bag does not seal well, I used one of the twist ties that was used to pack it to tie the airplane adapter to the extra ear plugs and the end of the drawstring. I expect this not to last. They claim 120 hours on a AAA battery and I have no way to tell, I am still on my first one after using it for days.
One thing that they have that I've never seen before is that there is a "listen" button on the side of the battery case. If you push it, well, I am not 100% sure, but I think it uses the microphones that usually are used to generate the countersound, then it suppresses the path from the device it is plugged in to, and it turns off the countersound, and you can hear whoever is talking locally. Because of the device's effectiveness at isolating you from the surrounding world, this button is a good idea.
If you are a traveler who can stand earphones, and who wants a small, light device, I think this is a winner. You won't be disappointed - unless you find earphones uncomfortable. But I can't imagine being a traveler without some kind of sound cancelling headphones.
9 of 10 found the following review helpful:
Great sound quality,Apr 09, 2010
By Gary Mickel
The sound quality is great in all ranges even the bass which with the the Noise Cancelation is as good as I have found with any earphone, to get an even better bass response would require a very expensive speaker set with large woofers. I am completly satisfied with the sound quality and comfort of these earphones, you just have to remember to turn off the noise cancelation when not in use so you don't run the battery down. When the battery is worn down the sound is actually better without the noise cancelation on.
3 of 3 found the following review helpful:
poor active noise cancellationApr 01, 2011
I have a pair of Sennheiser noise canceling on-ear phones which work pretty well but the on-ear style are sometimes uncomfortable for me on a long flight, plus I wanted something more compact. These certainly fit the compact criteria, the part with the battery takes a single AAA and is quite small with a clip - and well, they're ear buds. But I just tried these on a plane and unfortunately the active noise canceling was very minimal. Not much difference between when on and off, way too much plane drone left. The majority of any noise canceling comes from just having them in your ears - it was quieter if I jammed them in my ears just so and held them there - but these come with a similar set of ear tips as several other pairs of earbuds I have and don't seem designed with passive cancellation in mind like some "passive cancellation" earbuds are.
3 of 3 found the following review helpful:
A worthy new entrantNov 11, 2011
By M. Wang
I have always liked the in-ear design for its natural noise-isolation. Active noise cancelling capability can make it even better in noisy environments such as trains, planes or data centers, but packing the additional circuitry into tiny earplug-sized unit can be a challenge.
I have used Panasonic RP-HC55-S Noise-Cancelling Earbud Headphones (Silver) for over three years and considered it the best in the category. But this new entrant from Creative Lab is a strong competitor. In terms of sound, the Panasonic remains the one that packs an incredible bass, but this Creative is quite balanced, with more emphasis on mid-frequency sounds. In ergonomics, the Panasonic's weakest aspect, the EP-3NC has the clear advantage. Its earpieces fit better and are less likely to fall out. Its Y-junction can be adjusted and tightened, thus ensuring a secure fit.
In terms of features, the most important would be the noise cancelling capability. The Panasonic filters out only low-frequency noise, while this Creative unit blocks out mid-frequency background also. Both brands leave the high-frequency sound through, but the Creative seems to introduce a little hiss in the process. Once the music is piped through, however, the hiss is no longer noticeable. Other than the power on/off switch, the Panasonic has a slide for volume control. The Creative does not. This is usually not an issue, however, because most signal sources, e.g. smart phones or laptops, have their own volume sliders. On the other hand, the Creative has a monitor button, which the Panasonic lacks. This button shuts off all active circuitry including music signals and is pretty much equivalent to shutting off the power in the Panasonic, so I can't call it a real advantage either.
Overall, I like this Creative even better than my old favorite Panasonic for its better noise filtering and greater comfort. The Panasonic has become quite inexpensive however, and remains a good value.
1 of 1 found the following review helpful:
Great on airplanes & nice ensemble w long battery life, not as good with other soundNov 14, 2011
By Gadget Fan
After using these on some overnight flights, I am revising my rating up from 2 stars to 4, because they worked really well at minimizing airplane noise and made the flights much more tolerable. (It helps with hearing the movie soundtrack, but the movie was still too stupid for me to tolerate watching it.)
In addition, it is clear that these earbuds are very efficient, because the battery lasts for ages. After much use on airplanes and to protect myself from my husband's piano pounding, the battery still tests in the "good" range and sound cancellation is still working. Also, with practice, I have discovered how to put them in my ears just so that the cushions are getting a good seal, without having to jam them in hard. The only reason I am not giving 5 stars is because they don't cancel as much noise in non-airplane situations.
My original review before airplane testing:
I've used noise-cancelling headphones in noisy situations for a few years, so I was looking forward to noise-canceling earbuds. While the little earbud cushions do a good job of blocking ambient noise, when noise cancelation is turned on, the difference is minimal.
Testing against a running garbage disposal convinced me that there is some tiny bit of noise cancellation performed, but nothing close to my noise-canceling headphones. However, when tested against a non-continuous sound, such as my husband pounding on the grand piano, less cancellation was detectable. Fortunately, even just the earbud cushions are a big help in blocking all those noises. I look forward to trying them on my next airplane ride.
The ensemble is a nice one, including three sizes of ear cushions, a storage pouch, and an airline stereo adaptor (2 mono jacks to 1 stereo jack), and a battery. (I have had problems with the battery door opening on its own too easily.)
p.s. J. Campbell's review is correct, you do have to make sure you have a good seal in order to detect the noise cancellation at all.
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