Whenever you go on a flight these days, you're likely to see seasoned flyers reach for the noise cancelling cans as soon as the plane gets up in the air. Yes, they're trying to keep you and your family's racket out of their earshot. Fair call. Noise cancelling headphones are great, but they can be a little cumbersome to travel with. As a result, this week Bose unveiled the QuietComfort 20 Noise Cancelling Headphones – a set of small, in-ear phones which offer much of the power (and silence) of their bigger brothers.
Weighing just 1.5 ounces, the QuietComfort 20s are principally designed for local commuters, but with 16 hours of battery life (and passive listening available when the battery dies) work just as well for long-haul.
The magic happens courtesy of two microphones embedded in each earbud - one senses the sound approaching, the other measures the sound inside. Those measurements are pinged to a small control unit on the headphones which calculates an equal and opposite noise cancellation signal within a fraction of a millisecond, according to the company. A feature called TriPort uses ports to increase the effective acoustic space of the earbud to reproduce deep bass, and lifelike vocals and instruments.
To further aid noise cancellation, strange looking (but effective) StayHear+ ear tips sit at the entrance of the ear canal and provide a seal to the outside world – once in, they were very comfortable when I tried the headphones out this week at a press event in London.
Bose have also introduced a new Aware mode with the QuietComfort 20s – if there's a station announcement being made, or a fellow traveller deigns to talk to you during your commute, just hit a button on the control unit and noise cancellation is dropped, but your music continues playing. No need to rip out an ear bud when you just got it comfy.
As you'd expect, the QC20s includes an in line mic for taking and receiving calls – note that there are separate models for iOS (QC20i) and other devices (QC20) – Android, Windows phone, Blackberry and other devices should work fine with the latter model.
The QC20 headphones will be available this summer for £259.95