I spend a lot of time commuting and traveling to far away places so I spend a lot of time in trains, cars and planes. Especially in cars and planes I usually make good use of the time by reading or writing something, such as this blog entry for example. But there's one thing usually in the way and that's the noise made by the vehicle itself, frequent (useless) announcements and other travelers as well. Up to a certain level, I can ignore it and get on with whatever I do. But at some point, especially when people close to where I am start talking my concentration is usually gone. Earplugs help somewhat but only to a certain extent. I've long wished for noise canceling headsets to go further. I had some in the past but they had limited effect and when I lost the plastic ear plugs and couldn't get replacements I never ventured into this area again. Then recently, I read a number of raving reports in several places about the new Bose QC20 in-ear noise canceling headsets. To say they were positive would be an understatement so I couldn't wait for them to become generally available (looks like the Bose PR department has done their job well).
What's definitely not an understatement is the price. 300 Euros is a tough number but for real good noise suppression I was willing to spend the money. So I got myself a QC20 and swallowed hard when swiping the credit card through the readier, ah, no actually when clicking on the "One Click To Buy" button online.
Needless to say I couldn't wait for them to arrive and give them an instant test. Amazing, when pressing the silence button the external environment in trains, train stations and office just goes away. If a person nearby speaks loudly a little extra music in addition to the noise suppression makes that sound go away, too. Incredible.
The other thing that always bothered me about in-ear headsets is that they get uncomfortable after a while. The QC20 however is not an in-ear headset, however as its not held by pressing something into the ear channel. Instead, it fixes itself to the ear with a plastic hold that fits inside the ear cups. Perfect, I've worn them for several hours over several days now and it never hurt a bit, not even after several hours of wearing them.
And finally when not suppressing the nose the headset still analyzes the sound environment and compensates for the plastic isolation over the ear. This is great as without it, just like with other in-ear headsets, the external environment sounds artificial and I get a strange and uncomfortable feeling when I speak myself as that has a strange effect on a blocked ear canal. The compensation works great and it almost feels like not having earplugs in at all when switching to "listen to the outside world" mode.
I have high hopes for my next plane trips as well. On intercontinental flights, current 'over ear' headsets were of little use to me as one can't sleep with them when trying to sleep on the side. With the QC20 in-ear, or rather on-ear headset it might just be possible now.
Despite the super high price for the headset I am still full of praise for them, traveling and working in noisy office environments has become very different. Let's see how this story develops and what I think about the headset in a couple of months.