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Solitude Active Noise Cancelling HeadphonesTop-of-the-line active noise reduction headphones are aptly named
Ive often wondered why I get so tired after a coast-to-coast flight. After just sitting there, motionless for hours, I usually feel like Ive run a marathon. Studies have shown that a constant low-frequency noise will introduce fatigue. When I received the Solitude Headphones ($200) from a company called Outside the Box, I hoped maybe my days of feeling worn out after sitting inside a pressurized tin can for a half a day might be over. Beyond that, I wanted to hear some tight music through a pair of good-sounding headphones. These Solitude phones did not disappoint on either count.
The first impression of these headphones is very good. They appear to be well designed, but include a carrying case thats a whole lot bigger than necessary. In fact, I decided to leave that case at home as soon as I noticed that these headphones have a cleverly hinged top that allows them to fold into themselves, taking up about as much space as a large fist (see graphic below). They then fit easily into even the smallest carry-on bag.
|The Solitude headphones fold into a very small package that fits easily into a carry-on bag.|
Trying them on for size, the Solitude headphones fit comfortably on my oversized head. The ear cups fit snugly on the ears but not too much so, and I noticed that just putting the headphones on eliminated some outside noises. In order to enjoy the noise cancellation effects, you must insert a pair of AAA batteries; however the headphones can play music if those batteries go dead, too.
How do these Solitude headphones perform this miracle of quietude, anyway? They use a technique known as active noise reduction (ANR), an electronic trick that reduces constantly droning noises by 18 dB. They do this with tiny microphones on each ear cup that monitor ambient sounds, which then through some clever calculations manage to feed you those exact sounds, except 180 degrees out of phase. That has the pleasant effect of canceling out those sounds, and as a result delivers nothing but sweet, sweet silence to you.
Well, okay, its not complete silence, because you can still hear that droning airplane noise in the background, albeit drastically reduced from its full-blast volume. But lets face it, the noise on a typical airplane flight is a lot louder than you might think?its usually at around 80 dB and often even louder than that. Compared to the whisper-quiet 35 dB of our hushed Midwest Test Facility, thats a lot of noise to reduce, but lowering it by 18 dB has a profound effect on your state of mind. 18 dB is a lot. I have to say that after testing it on a quite a few medium-distance flights, this technology actually made me feel less fatigued at the end of each loathsome and lengthy journey.
There are limitations to the Solitudes noise reduction. For instance, they cant eliminate the nuisance of a baby crying behind you or diminish the impact of sudden noises nearby, but any droning noise such as a lawnmower or a jet engine will certainly be taken down a few notches. While testing the Solitude headphones on land, sea and air, I was highly impressed with their noise reduction capabilities, both while listening to music and using the headphones by themselves without music. One unusual effect I noticed at one point was that I could eavesdrop on a conversation between two unsuspecting flight attendants standing six rows behind me. With the airplane noise drastically attenuated, suddenly I could clearly hear them talking about what shifts they would be flying next and how they both admired the buns of one of the pilots in the cockpit.
On one flight I noticed a slight rhythmic noise through the left ear piece, a sound that was perhaps attributable to some type of interference within the aircraft. The repetitive sound, which I could hear about once a second, was enough for me to stop using the headphones at that point. About 15 minutes later, I tried the phones again, and the noise had gone. In all my testing, this was the only anomaly I noticed. The rest of the time, the headphones performed perfectly.
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