The first time I tried on a pair of Bose Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones, I was on a cross-country flight with one of my graduate students, David Vawdrey. He had just acquired a pair for himself, and was so excited by the experience that he insisted on giving me a live demo in-flight. Turns out that 35,000 feet at the rear of a wide-body jet is the place to fully appreciate these things!
These headphones are noise canceling, not sound canceling, so you can still hear announcements, and most of the time carry on conversation, but the most annoying aspects of normal cabin noise more or less vanish. This is a case of genius on two levels. First of all, someone had to think of the fact that business travelers would kill for really nice, high quality noise canceling headphones. Second, someone had to actually pull off the technology of noise canceling headphones and package them in a great form factor. Mission accomplished.
Now a bit of personal bias. I have significant hearing loss in both ears, and I tend to hear most sounds somewhat poorly, especially midrange sounds where conversations take place. But a weird side effect of my hearing condition is that there are some sound frequencies that I actually hear more acutely than most people. Naturally these are high, shrill pitches, just like… um… the ones that pound you incessantly on airplanes!
Prior to this point in my life I had done a ton of business travel, and my experience with airplanes was that I had two options: 1) Use earplugs. Several problems. If you jam them in far enough to really block the sound, you arrive at your destination with a sore ear canal. When they’re in, you can’t hear the flight attendant when it’s time to select your meal, and you can’t carry on normal conversations with your travel companions. Of course, that can be a blessing or a curse, but that’s another topic. Finally you’re stuck if you want to watch the in-flight movie. 2) Do nothing and arrive at your destination with a throbbing headache. I had played it both ways, and neither was fully satisfying. But I generally erred toward the earplugs as the lesser of two evils.
That brings us to the cross-country flight in which David put the headphones on me, asked me if I was ready, and then threw the switch. Absolutely amazing. Seemed like 80-90% or more of the ambient noise (especially the most irritating frequencies) just vanished. Regular sound was reduced, but still audible. Plus the headphones were incredibly comfortable. From that moment my only question was how I would beg, borrow or steal a pair for myself. By my next trip, I had managed to acquire my own pair, and air travel has never been the same since.
Now, the second brilliant aspect: they double as super high quality music headphones. So take yourself back to the last time you tried to watch a movie on an airplane with the sound system on the plane (especially the now-antiquated air-driven headphones). In order to get past the background noise, you wind up cranking the volume, pounding your ear drums, and contributing to the arrival headache, not to mention contributing to permanent hearing loss. The Bose headphones simultaneously cut the background noise and provide an amazingly clear sound, so you can listen to the movie, the music or whatever, at normal volume. Just amazing.
Last touch of class: inside the case is a business card slot containing a set of courtesy cards. On the back, the card reads, “Our customers tell us they are often asked about their Bose QuietComfort 2 Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones. For your convenience, we are providing this handy courtesy card for you to pass along.” Contact information follows. That’s confidence! And yes, I’ve given them out on airplanes…
Retail Price: $299.00. Worth every cent.