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Use Headsets to Cut through the Sea of Sounds

Category: Hardware Published on Thursday, 26 December 2013

It's the day after Christmas. There are tiny paw prints on your roof, cookie crumbs near the fireplace and a cacophony of sounds coming from all of the new electronic and mobile devices. 

Want some peace and quiet? Read on!

We have been playing with four sets of over-the-ear headphones that will make your surroundings a bit quieter.

The gamers in your family may enjoy the RIG from Plantronics ($129.99). Although these weren't the best for handling music, they're definitely the most versatile of the quartet.

The RIG allows you to play games on your PC, tablet, Xbox or PlayStation while taking calls on your smartphone. There's no need to stop doing one thing to do the other. The key to this is contained in a separate "mixer" that allows you to switch between modes by hitting a toggle switch.

Although the audio is good, don't expect this set to rival the more expensive headsets, because they weren't designed exclusively for music. But, if you want mind-numbing sound from your games, while still being able to take calls from your girlfriend and play your favorite tunes, this is the way to go.

Other key features include:

  • Two interchangeable microphones. One's a boom mic for games and the other is an inline mic with mute and call control
  • There are three equalizer profiles: pure, intensify and seismic
  • It features 40 mm speaker drivers

The Street by 50 ANC headphones from SMS Audio ($279) were, by far, the best noise-cancelling audio headphones we've played with. We were delightfully surprised by the clarity and range of these over-the-ear headphones, which is usually lacking in noise-cancelling models.

It's obvious that great thought went into everything from the impressive packaging to the sleek style of the headphones., which features a removable cord and microphone for easy storage. They also come with a hard shell case instead of the usual leather-style pouch that is included with many of its competitors.

A few of the key features include:

  • An adjustable headband
  • They're foldable to fit easily into their case, briefcase or purse
  • An in-line microphone to take calls and adjust volume
  • A micro USB charging cable (although the active noise cancelling feature will still work (minimally) if not charged)
  • Soft leather cushions
  • 40 mm drivers

If you need great sound without breaking the budget, check out the new JBL WR2.4 headphones ($99.95).

This is basically a wireless kit with a transmitter hooked up to a sound source and the headphones becoming a wireless receiver. The ones we played with worked beautifully at distances up to about 70 feet. The folks at JBL say you can get crystal-clear sound at distances up to 100, feet, but we noticed a bit of static and a few breakups when we went over 70. It's also best if you use the headphones in the same room as the transmitter.

The sound quality was excellent without the usual pops and pings you hear with other wireless headset. Also, the transmitter has a charging dock for the headphones, so there's no need to plug them into a separate outlet to recharge the batteries or any extra cables to fuss with.

Key features of these headphones include:

  • A 3.5 mm stereo to dual RCA audio cable for connecting your audio system to the transmitter
  • 32-ohm impedance
  • 2.4 GHz digital bandwidth
  • Semi-closed back acoustics
  • 18 Hz to 20 kHz sound range
  • Padded ear cups and a fully adjustable headband

Last, but not least, are the Jabra REVO headphones ($199.99). We played with the wired and wireless versions of these headsets and, for pure sound quality, preferred the one's that didn't cut the cable. The wireless set, although delivering great sound within about 25 feet of our sound source, experienced a bit of static and drop outs when we moved farther away or went into the next room.

The wired version, on the other hand, delivered the pure, crisp sound we have come to expect from Jabra.  What makes these headphones different from the others is the ability to connect them to a second headset, so you can share your music without disturbing everyone else around you.

Key features include:

  • Full spectrum Dolby sound featuring the Dolby Digital Plus sound app
  • In-line controls for audio, track selection and answering phone calls
  • An ultra-flexible headband and reinforced, fabric cables
  • They're foldable for compact storage
  • Bluetooth and NFC compatibility and autoparing (for the wireless version)

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