Short Version: The first time you put on noise canceling headphones, you can’t believe your ears. When you flip the noise canceling circuitry on, it’s like hitting a mute button on the world (note: does not work on significant others, only constant noise. And no, your SO’s blathering does not count as a constant din.) I never realized how loud my office was until I put on these JVCs. Now it’s hard to sit at my desk without them.
These are different from the earbuds that you jam in your ear to block out the sound. These headphones listen to the ambient noise and generate sound waves that are 180 degrees out of phase with the background noise to effectively cancel it out. They can do this without effecting the sound you want to hear.
The audio quality of these headphones was very impressive. The sound was full and undistorted. The bass was prominent without being overpowering. They are also very comfortable. The foam cups are worn on your ears as opposed to completely covering them. This makes these headphones a bit smaller for travel, but also means they won’t physically block as much noise as larger headphones will. The ear cups rotate flat for storage and to enable a comfortable fit on your ears. The band holds these headphones in place without pinching my rather large head (not Sputnik sized, but close). The JVCs ship with a semi-hard case with a zip pouch for the included cable, airline plug adapter, and 1/4″ adapter. John has been using Bose for years now but these are on par and considerably cheaper.
The Bose Quiet Comfort line is probably the most well known active noise canceling headphone on the market. I was curious about how these JVCs would stand up to the Bose. My boss lent me his Quiet Comfort 3 (retails for $349) so I could compare. While there are some noticeable differences, you need to be doing a side-by-side comparison to notice them. The Bose do block out slightly more noise and has a slightly fuller mid-range. The bass is tighter in the Bose and more emphasized in the JVCs. This is more a matter of taste to me than quality. Both are very comfortable to wear.
Another smart design decision is that the cable is completely removeable from the headphones. This allows you to use the noise reduction function without connecting it to an audio source and not have the cable dangling in the way. The real benefit is that if the cable wears out or if you want a longer cord, any Radio Shack cable will do. That’s smart design.
The JVCs retail for $199 but can be had for ~$110. Given how close they are in performance, I would recommend the JVCs at a fraction of the price of the Bose.
Bottom Line: Great sound, great value.