Denon AH-NC800 Noise Canceling Over-Ear Headphones Review
Why do you want or need noise canceling headphones? Well they serve at least two purposes. First is for ambient noise reduction. That means if you are sitting in a place where there is a lot of annoying ambient noise, noise canceling headphones will reduce or entirely eliminate the noise.
They work by emitting a sound frequency that while hard to detect by your ears, helps mask other noises. They seem to work best for low frequency noises and hums. For example, the hum of an airplane engine can be masked out, though a baby's cry will be merely dampened. Noise canceling headphones also create a close to air-tight barrier around your ears that prevents vibrations and noise from getting to your ears. this is particularly convenient for over-the-ear headphones that work via this same principle to get quality sound into your ears. Denon uses two methods of noise-reduction in each speaker. One helps reduce vibration in the unit itself, and the other method as I said, works on reducing external ambient noise.
The AH-NC800 are relatively light, and they are really comfortable. The biggest problem most headphones have is comfort. This relates not only to agitating the skin on your ears, but also squeezing your head. Denon cleverly designed these to sit very securely on the head, but not make you feel as though your head is in a clamp. Because the speakers go entirely over your ears, there is really no ear agitation. The padding is plush and soft. While you notice the headphones are on your head, Denon really did a nice job making them acceptable for prolonged use. There is one small caveat to that given that these are noise canceling headphones. Because they trap in air, your ears can get a bit sweaty if it is warm enough. This means you'll have to let them air out each hour or two for a moment. This really can't be remedied as the system requires a relatively sealed environment.
Noise canceling requires energy, so these headphones require a single AAA battery. Denon rates them for about 40 hours of use, but I found it was a bit less than that. When the unit is turned off, the sealed environment around your ears does keep noise out, but the system really starts to work when they are turned on. When on, the headphones also amplify the sound a bit - which is nice. Though I would have likely a dedicated volume control on the headphones (which I tend to find useful).
The headphones also have another mode called "Restore." Unless you read the manual, you'd have no idea what this is. At least the term in this context wasn't familiar to me. Denon claims that this mode helps restore sound fidelity in compressed audio (such as an MP3). Compressed audio is a sound file that has some of the data removed so that the file itself takes up less space. An MP3 file of a 5 minute song is much (much) smaller in size than one done in say .wav used for a compact disc. This compression reduces the sound range than audiophiles listen for. The "Restore" setting on the headphones attempts to correct this. It isn't a perfect system, but can really help a lot of audio sound better.
As the AH-NC800 headphones are meant for travel, Denon includes two cord lengths (0.7 meters and 1.5 meters). This is nice as sometimes on a plane you don't want excess cord all over the place. Then again, it is a very minor thing. I think most people would much rather prefer audio cables being longer rather than shorter. Denon also includes a handy two prong audio adapter. In order to prevent stealing, lots of airlines uses headphone jacks that have two prong connectors. If you want to use your own headphones in instances on planes with this connectors you are often out of luck. It is quite handy to have this adapter - which can also be used with any other 2.5mm headphone plug.
Aside from wanting a dedicated volume slider, i would have liked for there to be an easier way to remind yourself to turn off the headphones. We aren't used to doing this, and the switch is not placed in a spot you'd normally be looking. Denon does place a small blue light to show you the unit is on (and that the battery works), but I have a feeling that too much of the time people are going to forget to turn the unit off. This will drain the battery pretty quick. The best solution for this? Not sure. The clever minds at Denon will think of something in the future I am sure. I would have also liked the labels for the "left: and "right" side of the headphones to be labeled a bit more easily to see in the dark.
These issues are however small, and do no effect the performance or comfort of these excellent noise canceling headphones. They certainly compete with Bose (who is one of the leaders in the noise canceling headphone market), and offer a smaller, more portable design (that still goes over your ears. An impressive unit, those wanting a nice pair of good-sounding headphones with a noise-cancellation function have a great choice with the Denon AH-NC800. Retail price is $349.99. Learn more or get one here.
Ariel Adams publishes the luxury watch reviews site aBlogtoRead.com.