If you’re anything like me you’re easily distracted when you’re working, you listen to your iPod at dangerously high levels, and your attempts to remedy the former by opting for the latter prove pretty futile in most instances.
I’ve spent the last few weeks hunting for a pair of noise cancelling headphones that would help me get better sound quality than my existing Panasonic earphones on the one hand, and also drown out the office cacophony when I need to on the other. After some digging, I landed on a pair of Able Planet’s latest Clear Harmony Active Noise Canceling Headphones, which although primarily marketed for business travelers, also suit my own less itinerant needs.
The headphones, which retail for $300, are based on a proprietary technology called Linux Audio that was originally developed for hearing aids. This alters the audio signal to increase the intensity of higher frequency harmonics, which makes it easier to hear at higher frequencies which are sometimes less clear. It ensures that high frequency sounds are not smothered by bass tracks, and claims to increase perceptions of loudness without an actual increase in volume, thus minimizing the potential for ear damage. The latter is a pretty big consideration for me personally, as more and more people I know seem to be complaining of tinnitus or asking the same question way too many times for comfort.
The Clear Harmony headphones advertise themselves as disability friendly and can be worn with hearing aids due to a new technology that restricts electromagnetic influence. They are also supposed to be great for air travel, something I fully intend to test on my next excruciatingly long trip back to India.
A few caveats: the noise cancellation facility can make you feel like you’ve just taken an elevator up 25 floors- there’s some suction that can make the ears feel a bit pressurized. You get used to it however.
Additionally, the headphones are not foldable, pick up interference from cell phone signals, and have a gently perceptible buzz stemming from the noise cancellation feature. “Noise cancellation happens when the headphones emit a tone that spans the frequency spectrum of human hearing, droning out the sounds of the ‘outside world.’ The problem in this case is that since there is seldom high-end ambient frequency in any normal working environment, this leaves the high-end frequencies of the noise cancellation feature remnant in the audio spectrum of the headphone output,” explains Fast Company’s Associate marketing manager, Josiah Hendler (whose tech-savvyness stems from the fact that he also runs a professional recording music studio in Manhattan.)
All in all, after a few days of testing the headphones (and passing them around the office), the verdict is primarily positive. They sound great, block out a significant amount of ambient noise (in environments that aren’t home to too many cell phones,) and although expensive, could be well worth the cost for those who really need the peace and quiet.