Monthly Archives: June 2009

Sony MDR-NC500D Digital Noise Cancelling Headphones – Review

I have been in the market for a pair of noise cancelling headphones for a while but didn’t make the jump and buy a pair until about a month ago. I had been looking for a while at the Bose QuietComfort 2 and 3 and had tried them out briefly several times (I preferred the Over the ear QuiteComfort 2 to the on ear QuiteComfort 3) but each time while I was impressed by the noise cancelling and sound quality I just couldn’t justify the price. Then Sony released the MDR-NC500Ds which I got to try out while waiting for a flight in JFK, I liked the over the ear design, was impressed by the passive and active noise cancelling and the build quality but these were even less likely to attract my attention seen as they were initially priced at about 400 euro.

A couple of weeks back from the states I had another trip coming up and I decided to have another look on the web to see if anything got my fancy, initially I was only looking at the Bose but by accident I looked on Amazon to find that they were selling the Sony for 200 euro. Shall we just say my credit card didn’t stand much of a chance.

A month after receiving my shiny new Sony noise cancelling headphones and I have to tell you they are probably one of the best gadget purchases I have ever made. On flights they work as you would think filtering out all the background low level noise (Sony claim 99% but I would put it closer to 90%) you can still hear someone if they are talking directly to you and you will know when the captain is making an announcement but everything else becomes much quieter. It only becomes obvious how loud air travel is when you take the headphones off after wearing them for a while, all that low level noise comes back instantly and just makes you want to put the headphones on again.

While the use of the headphones on flights is what finally prompted me to buy, it’s their utility in the office that has prompted me to write a review. My job as a programmer requires me to be able to concentrate on difficult problems for considerable lengths of time, unfortunately I like many others work in a pretty noisy office environment surrounding by ringing phones, talking colleagues and noise servers which kind of hampers any kind of serious concentration. Maybe someday the programmers of the world will unite and demand personal offices as a prerequisite on all contracts thus consigning Dilbert land to the wastebasket of software history; however, until that day I have found a solution in the MDR-NC500Ds.

I am not overstating the case when I say that these headphones have changed the way I work utterly, my productivity has gone up by about 20%, I can cut out most of the rest of the world and I can concentrate for much longer periods allowing me to get into a state of flow which I could really only achieve previously by working from home. I used to say that dual monitors were an absolute must have for any programmer, I must now amended that to say that dual monitors and a pair of these headphones are the most valuable tools you can have in your toolbox. A quick summary of the good and the bad;

Good Points;

  • Cost has come down significantly
  • Excellent noise cancellation (both active and passive)
  • You don’t need to listen to music to enjoy the noise cancelling so reading etc is much improved
  • They are a perfect fit for me (see below)
  • I can wear them all day without a problem
  • The built quality and look is I think much better than the Bose
  • The sound quality is I think excellent (you will find some audiophile reviews that have some things to say about it but given where you will be usually using these headphones you won’t notice)
  • You get a raft of accessories
  • It’s got a large internal rechargeable battery I get several days use out of a single charge.


Bad Points;

  • Cost has come down but they are still not cheap
  • You need power so that you can listen to music, if the headphones run out then you can’t listen to music
  • The headphones are not small, and the case that comes with is very large (telephone book thick and about half the size)
  • They might not fit everybody, if you have a small head they might fall off.
  • Some people don’t like the over the ear headphones (I prefer them)
  • Some people don’t like the sensation produced by the active noise cancelling


In summary if you work in a noisy office environment these will help you get work done, but try and get a demo before you buy I found that about 50% of my friends either couldn’t wear them because they were too large or didn’t like the sensation produced by the noise cancelling.

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