Noise-Canceling Pioneers & Test Setup
Bose is one of the more prominent brands when it comes to noise-canceling headphones and it's not without good reason. In fact, they were arguably the pioneers of noise-canceling headphones, releasing the first active noise control headphones for pilots back in 1986. Allegedly, Bose’s founder, Dr. Amar Bose, was so displeased with the headphones provided during a flight, mainly because of the engine noise, that he decided to work on a pair that would significantly attenuate the incessant droning noise of the engines. And after a decade of research, the first pair of noise-canceling headphones were born. And because of Bose’s rich history in noise-canceling headphones, it is no surprise that theirs are amongst the best in the world.
The QuietComfort 15 is the latest addition to Bose’s stable of noise-canceling headphones, and it replaces the older QuietComfort 2 as the new entry-level model in Bose’s QuietComfort line-up. Crucially, the new QuietComfort 15 has more sophisticated electronics for active noise cancellation, and it even features microphones inside and outside the ear cups to better sense sound in the environment to produce an opposing canceling signal. The ear cushion has also been redesigned to use materials that have superior attenuation properties to passively block out noise. To add, Bose says that the QuietComfort 15 will block out more noise and provide a less intrusive listening experience.
Generally, the new QuietComfort 15 is very comfortable to wear. The padding is soft and feels luxurious and breathes well so our ears didn't feel stuffy from extended testing. Damping is also spot on as the headphones didn't clasp too tightly on our heads, and yet passive noise isolation is commendable.
Here’s quick look at the headphones.
Since the Bose QuietComfort 15 is most likely going to be paired with portable media players if not the plane’s in-flight entertainment system, we will be testing the headphones with our CD audio and MP3 testing material, as well as movies. Furthermore, we are also using an iPhone 4 as our source, with the CD tracks ripped to Apple Lossless to ensure no loss of musical fidelity and compatibility with the iPhone 4. As for the movies, they were ripped and converted to a format suitable for iPhone 4 using Handbrake. We also test the the noise-canceling abilities of the QuietComfort 15 by simulating an airplane cabin environment using several CPU fans in our listening station, which also produce an equally annoying droning noise.
Again, we must remind readers that different people have different musical and sonic tastes. Some are bassheads while others are treble freaks, so your preferences with headphones may vary. Nevertheless, we strive to be as objective as possible when describing the sound and rating the headphones.
The full list of testing material used:
- Pod Race Scene from The Phantom Menace?
- Tyrannosaurus Rex Sound Effects from Jurassic Park
- Theme from Jurassic Park
- Apollo 13 Lift-off Sound Effects
- Theme from Cutthroat Island
- Fanfare for Louis, performed by the Dallas Wind Symphony
- Hotel California - Eagles
- Sail on Soothsayer - Buckethead
- Melt My Heart to Stone - Adele
- Elements of Life - Tiesto
- Lord of the Rings - (Starting sequence, Balin's Tomb & Bridge of Khazad-dum)
- Swordfish (Starting sequence)