Noise cancelling headphones are nothing new. There are a handful of brands that do the job for a range of prices. But what if you want the streamlined utility of in-ear headphones, so you can not only use them on planes and trains, but also while going for a run or walk? In addition, they take up far less room than those gigantic traditional headphones.
Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones, like their bulkier brethren, reduce noise so you can actually focus on your in-air entertainment instead of the conversation next to you. This is Bose’s first foray into noise-cancelling in-ear headphones, and after testing one against the other, I actually prefer them to the over-ear version.
The QC20i headphones are smaller and lighter, making them an ideal choice for traveling. The carrying case is not much bigger than a standard cell phone, and can be tucked in a pocket, rather than vying for space with your laptop and camera. The StayHear ear tips are far more comfortable than other earbuds I’ve tested, and my ears didn’t get tired after many hours of wearing them.
As for the noise-cancelling aspect, these impressed me over many other competitors, even the Bose over-ear headphones. Ambient noise on the airplane dropped to next to nothing. Street noise as I was walking through a busy city practically disappeared. In all cases, noise was dropped to the point where it was barely noticeable. If you’re worried that you’ll miss something, there’s an Aware mode that lets some noise in. These may not be magic, but they’re much quieter than any other headphones I’ve tested.
Other QC20i features help the user, such as the four-button remote (in the QC20 version, it’s only a two-button remote) that adds volume, music control and voice commands—so you don’t have to reach for your phone every time you need to adjust something.
There’s no price break between the Bose QC15 (over-ear) and the QC20i products, all at $299.95. With the QC20i, the need for carrying around batteries disappears, because there’s now a rechargeable battery that can provide up to 16 hours of playing time per charge. Just remember to charge it, though. It’s easy to get used to the noise-cancelling technology, and you really notice it when it’s gone.
The Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones list for $299.95 on the Bose website. For those of you who don’t have i-devices, there’s also a QC20 version for Android, BlackBerry and Windows phones at the same price. On Amazon, they’re priced at $299.