The sound of silence

Bose Quiet Comfort 20 offer great noise cancelling, but at Bose prices
Nandagopal Rajan | Print Edition: October 2013
Bose Quiet Comfort 20

Bose Quiet Comfort 20
Price: Rs 22,388
Rating: 4.5
Noise cancelling is a technology that has been there for a few years now. But it is seldom associated with in-ear headphones, as the microphone needed to hear the noises that need to be cancelled were hard to accommodate in small ear buds. That is changing now.

The latest in-ear noise cancelling headphone we tested is from Bose, the company that pioneered this technology in the 1980s. The Quiet Comfort 20 is an in-ear headphone which resembles the Bose SIE2, but has a more sober grey and silver finish. The StayHear ear tips are made of silicone and hold the headphones in place even if you want to work out with them on. But that might be a bit awkward as being noise cancelling headphones, and the end of the cord is a control module will dangle near the smartphone or iPod.

However, the controller is crucial for this entire technology as it is here that the noise, recorded by the microphones outside the ear buds, is sent to create a negating signal within the headphones. This entire process is undertaken in a millisecond so that you don't hear the engine of the 747 rev up for take up even though you are sitting just near the wing. The noise cancelling works excellently when the noise is cyclical like a jet engine or a train, even the ceiling fan. But it is not that effective in blocking the shriek of a baby. Still, the noise that comes in is just a fraction of what you would hear on average headphones.

If you get lost in the silence or the quality of the audio that this silence enables, the QC20 also comes with an aware mode that lets you hear some sounds, like someone trying to draw your attention to a pothole on the road. The aware button is placed on a small remote on the Y of the cord. On the QC20i that we tested this also has a microphone so that you can take calls like a regular hands-free set. And, I have to tell you that the noise cancelling is ideal for those who take a lot of important calls on the phone. You will never miss a word that is said.

The QC20 is also an amazing acoustic headphone with a full bodied sound range that we have sort of come to expect from Bose. As you head Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton play the blues live at the Lincoln Centre you can really imagine the size of the stage, the distance between the two artists and the approximate strength of the audience, even though you are sitting in a busy airport waiting area. That is the kind of acoustics this device packs.

The only flaw we experienced it that the weird feeling when you are plugged in with just the noise cancelling on and not the music. It's a bit like taking a deep sea dive, you ears constantly under some sort of pressure. Not all of us might be able to switching on just noise cancelling to catch up on sleep during an extra-long train journey.

Bag it or junk it:

Great noise cancelling, but at Bose prices.

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