Author Topic: Noise cancelling - worth it?  (Read 756 times)

citoyen

  • Occasionally rides a bike
Noise cancelling - worth it?
« on: 06 May, 2022, 03:09:01 pm »
I have a voucher to spend at John Lewis, which seems like a good excuse to treat myself to some new earphones. Two main features I'm interested in are "true wireless" and ear hooks to stop them falling out while running. But I'm also interested in noise cancelling.

JL have these own-brand ones that look like they tick the boxes, and they do them in both standard and ANC flavours - ANC is the key difference between them (the only other difference, as far as I can tell, being that the ANC ones come with an extra set of ear buds).

So the question is: will the ANC ones be worth the extra £30?

Non-ANC, £69.99:
https://www.johnlewis.com/jlab-audio-air-sport-true-wireless-bluetooth-sweat-weather-resistant-in-ear-headphones-with-mic-remote-black/p4283466

ANC, £99.99:
https://www.johnlewis.com/jlab-audio-epic-air-sport-anc-noise-cancelling-true-wireless-bluetooth-sweat-weather-resistant-in-ear-headphones-with-mic-remote-black/p5089269

The voucher is for £85, so I don't want to go too much above that but I don't mind paying a little extra if the benefits of ANC are worth it - and will the ANC in these particular earphones be up to scratch, or do you need to spend a lot more to get really good ANC? Main use will be listening in public places, eg on the train.

I'm not an audiophile, so I imagine the sound quality is likely to be good enough for my needs.

The other question is: does ANC wear the battery down quicker?
"The future's all yours, you lousy bicycles."

Re: Noise cancelling - worth it?
« Reply #1 on: 06 May, 2022, 04:24:01 pm »
If they’re primarily for running I’d not bother with the ANC.  Otherwise, yes. 
We are making a New World (Paul Nash, 1918)

citoyen

  • Occasionally rides a bike
Re: Noise cancelling - worth it?
« Reply #2 on: 06 May, 2022, 05:02:24 pm »
If they’re primarily for running I’d not bother with the ANC.  Otherwise, yes.

Not primarily for running, I just want ones with ear hooks so I can use them for running.
"The future's all yours, you lousy bicycles."

citoyen

  • Occasionally rides a bike
Noise cancelling - worth it?
« Reply #3 on: 06 May, 2022, 05:03:36 pm »
Noise cancelling seems like a bad idea if you are on roads.  You would want to hear approaching cars, etc, no?

I’m not really interested in having that conversation, tbh, but I don’t usually run on roads anyway.

Plus I *think* most ANC headphones allow you to turn it off, and/or have “ambient” mode that lets such sounds through.
"The future's all yours, you lousy bicycles."

Re: Noise cancelling - worth it?
« Reply #4 on: 06 May, 2022, 05:06:43 pm »
If they’re primarily for running I’d not bother with the ANC.  Otherwise, yes.

Not primarily for running, I just want ones with ear hooks so I can use them for running.

Well if you’re going to use them indoors etc, then yes, it’s a useful addition IME. 
We are making a New World (Paul Nash, 1918)

Re: Noise cancelling - worth it?
« Reply #5 on: 06 May, 2022, 05:07:42 pm »
NC is great for running (not on road) as well as noisy environments like trains, gyms etc.

citoyen

  • Occasionally rides a bike
Re: Noise cancelling - worth it?
« Reply #6 on: 06 May, 2022, 05:08:37 pm »
If they’re primarily for running I’d not bother with the ANC.  Otherwise, yes.

Not primarily for running, I just want ones with ear hooks so I can use them for running.

Well if you’re going to use them indoors etc, then yes, it’s a useful addition IME.

Useful enough to be worth an extra £30? This is the bit I can’t make up my mind on… I need someone else to decide for me!
"The future's all yours, you lousy bicycles."

Re: Noise cancelling - worth it?
« Reply #7 on: 06 May, 2022, 05:09:10 pm »
I don't have noise cancelling now, but in the past its been good for the background noise on a train. I think it does less well against people talking in an office.
Hooks seem like a good idea to me. My ear buds have been known to come out pushing a trolley down the cereal aisle.
Yes, it will drain the battery faster. I've no idea how much faster though.
For that price i wouldn't expect the best noise cancelling - but for close to free I'd be tempted to try - presumably it switches off.

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ElyDave

  • Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society member 263583
Re: Noise cancelling - worth it?
« Reply #8 on: 06 May, 2022, 07:46:29 pm »
I've only ever thought noise cancelling to be worthwhile on a long haul flight.  I use Shure in-ear with good noise isolation and find that sufficient
“Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.” –Charles Dickens

Re: Noise cancelling - worth it?
« Reply #9 on: 06 May, 2022, 07:51:28 pm »
If they’re primarily for running I’d not bother with the ANC.  Otherwise, yes.

Not primarily for running, I just want ones with ear hooks so I can use them for running.

Well if you’re going to use them indoors etc, then yes, it’s a useful addition IME.

Useful enough to be worth an extra £30? This is the bit I can’t make up my mind on… I need someone else to decide for me!

Ok, depends on your environment. If your wife rattles around when you’re working, or you don’t want background noise to disturb you on calls, then yes. Otherwise no. 
We are making a New World (Paul Nash, 1918)

citoyen

  • Occasionally rides a bike
Re: Noise cancelling - worth it?
« Reply #10 on: 06 May, 2022, 09:04:36 pm »
Thanks for the thoughts, everyone. I’m starting to lean towards the “not worth an extra £30” end of the spectrum - probably don’t have enough of a need.
"The future's all yours, you lousy bicycles."

Re: Noise cancelling - worth it?
« Reply #11 on: 06 May, 2022, 09:26:38 pm »
Over ear headphones would be more effective for blocking sound
In ear headphones will depend on how snug fit they are in your ears.

So I'd go for a pair of each type. In ear for running, over ear for sitting on a train.
Ear hooks are a good idea, though can be less comfy if wearing glasses.

citoyen

  • Occasionally rides a bike
Re: Noise cancelling - worth it?
« Reply #12 on: 06 May, 2022, 09:48:14 pm »
I have some over-ear headphones and they are actually quite good at blocking out external sound. Annoyingly, the headband snapped (entirely my own clumsiness) so they no longer stay in place unless I wear my buff over the top of them, which looks ridiculous!

They were also a John Lewis purchase - their own-brand H1 - surprisingly good for the £20 I paid for them. But of course they have now discontinued that line, the sods, or I would buy a new pair with my voucher.

My other earphones are a set of Sony wireless - but not "true wireless", ie the ear buds are linked by a wire. I hate them - the sound quality is good but the weight of the inline battery and remote means they fall out of the ears very easily, especially if you don't keep your head upright. And they don't stay in at all when running. This is the main reason I'm keen on the "true wireless" type.

Good point about the glasses.
"The future's all yours, you lousy bicycles."

We are making a New World (Paul Nash, 1918)

citoyen

  • Occasionally rides a bike
Re: Noise cancelling - worth it?
« Reply #14 on: 06 May, 2022, 09:59:12 pm »
H1 headphones can be had…

Yes, I know, but eBay don't take John Lewis vouchers...
"The future's all yours, you lousy bicycles."

citoyen

  • Occasionally rides a bike
Re: Noise cancelling - worth it?
« Reply #15 on: 09 May, 2022, 01:13:14 pm »
Well... in the end, I went for these ones, which were reduced to clear and looked quite decent:
https://www.johnlewis.com/lg-tone-free-hbs-fn7-true-wireless-bluetooth-active-noise-cancelling-in-ear-headphones-with-mic-remote-uvnano-cleaning-black/p5465629

They arrived this morning. First impressions are good but it's quiet at home today so no opportunity to judge the noise cancelling yet.

I'll probably just get a cheapo non-ANC set with ear hooks for running use.
"The future's all yours, you lousy bicycles."

Re: Noise cancelling - worth it?
« Reply #16 on: 09 May, 2022, 03:26:34 pm »
It's too late to chip in, as I see you're sorted, but for the record I use a pair of AfterShokz bone conduction headphones for everything.  Very secure when running, and since the ear canals are left clear I only need pop in earplugs to reduce background noise if required.  I gather from more discerning reviewers that the sound quality has limitations for audiophile use, but I generally stick to podcasts and radio dramas for which I can detect no difference against posh over-ear jobs.  :thumbsup:
Life is too important to be taken seriously.

Re: Noise cancelling - worth it?
« Reply #17 on: 11 May, 2022, 09:47:25 am »
Noise cancelling works best with constant droning sounds, like plane engines, trains on continuous welded rail, or your partner  ;)  It works less well with transient sounds such as the neighbours' gangsta rap, building work, or a babble of voices.
And Darkness and Decay and the Coronavirus held illimitable dominion over all.

citoyen

  • Occasionally rides a bike
Re: Noise cancelling - worth it?
« Reply #18 on: 11 May, 2022, 11:03:33 am »
PhilO - I've tried Aftershokz and I don't like them. My wife has a pair and is a big fan, but they're not for me.

Noise cancelling works best with constant droning sounds, like plane engines, trains on continuous welded rail, or your partner  ;)  It works less well with transient sounds such as the neighbours' gangsta rap, building work, or a babble of voices.

The ones I've bought have a "Listen to ambient sound" mode. I accidentally activated it while I was in the kitchen, with the mixer chugging away making bread. Basically, it replays external sounds directly into your ear. It's horrible - could make you feel nauseous quite quickly.

But switching to ANC did a pretty good job of cancelling out the noise, which I guess is exactly the kind of thing it's designed for.
"The future's all yours, you lousy bicycles."

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Noise cancelling - worth it?
« Reply #19 on: 11 May, 2022, 08:20:58 pm »
Noise cancelling works best with constant droning sounds, like plane engines, trains on continuous welded rail, or your partner  ;)  It works less well with transient sounds such as the neighbours' gangsta rap, building work, or a babble of voices.

There is a point where a large enough babble becomes approximately constant, and it starts to do a decent job (to the point where it makes it easier to have a conversation with someone close by, in spite of the attenuation - as long as you remember to speak loudly enough for the person without noise-cancelling headphones).  Especially in acoustically awful spaces.  Think supermarket, rather than office.


The ones I've bought have a "Listen to ambient sound" mode. I accidentally activated it while I was in the kitchen, with the mixer chugging away making bread. Basically, it replays external sounds directly into your ear. It's horrible - could make you feel nauseous quite quickly.

This is why people with acquired hearing loss don't wear their hearing aids.  As soon as you bypass the subtle acoustic mangling from the shape of the pinna, the brain loses most of the directionality of sound.  Without the so-called 'cocktail party effect', where you can concentrate on or disregard sounds according to their apparent direction, you hear *all* the noise at full volume.

There's probably some dynamic range compression going on too.  Something which is well-known to cause fatigue.