Coby CV190 Noise Cancelling
noise reducing headphones
Unsurprisingly, the cost for noise reducing headsets
seems to be reducing, and what formerly cost $150-300 can
now be found for as low as $80.
But a set of on the ear noise reducing headphones for only
$15? If these really work, they would represent a
breakthrough in price/performance.
Part 7 of a series on noise
reducing headphones -
click for Parts One
The most impressive feature of
these headphones is their $15 price tag. With competing
models stretching up to as much as $300, and our current favorites,
the Plane Quiets, costing $80, the thought that a pair of active
noise cancelling headphones could be found for only $15 was
So what does $15 buy you?
What You Get
The Coby CV-190 headphones are
packed into a clear plastic display box - one of the type that require strong
scissors to cut open.
Inside the box - in addition
to the headphones themselves - is a thin fabric carry bag, an
airline double prong adaptor, and, yes, the battery is also
included ( the unit uses a single AAA battery). For $15,
this is a very complete kit of accessories.
The headphones have a one
year warranty. However, because you have to ship the
headphones back to
Coby in NY at your expense, and include a $6
payment to have them returned to you, many of us would probably
prefer to simply buy a new pair if the first pair failed.
It probably costs no more and is much simpler.
There was no instruction
booklet (although one is not really required) or anything else -
but this is not necessarily a criticism, because there are no
other essential accessories, other than those already included.
The Coby CV190 headphones
are of an 'on the ear' type design, with the ear cups resting on
your ear (like the Noisebusters), rather than surrounding the
ear (as is the case with the Bose and Plane Quiet units).
The ear cups are
considerably larger than the Noisebusters. This seems to
help them physically block more sound out.
They are not very
comfortable to wear for an extended time. The headband
holds the earcups quite tightly against your ears - this is
necessary to achieve a good 'seal' to keep the noise out, of
course, but makes them less comfortable to wear for many hours
at a time while on a long flight. It might be possible to
reduce the tightness of the headband by stretching it out and
open, but then the quality of the passive noise reducing seal
will be weakened.
Perhaps slightly adding to
the discomfort - and the need for more pressure - is the earcups
do not move in two dimensions, but only one. They swivel,
but do not tilt. A better and more comfortable fit
requires earcups that both swivel and tilt.
The headphones don't seem to
be built to a high standard. The adjustable pieces were
sticky to move up or down rather than smooth, although perhaps
repeated sliding of them in and out might improve this.
The on/off switch, mounted
on the left earcup rather than on the separate battery box, was
also sticky to slide on and off rather than smooth.
A single cord runs from the
left earcup to a standard mini-stereo jack. About half way
down the cord is a battery box, inside which is the single AAA
battery. There is no belt clip on the battery box,
although a belt clip would not make much sense, because the
battery box tends to hang above your waist.
The cord is fairly short in
length - only 4'3". This is almost too short (in
comparison, the Plane Quiet cord length is 5'4").
There are no controls for
volume or other purposes, just an on/off switch on the left
earcup, alongside which is a red LED that indicates when the
unit is switched on.
The headphones are very
light - they weigh only 4.5 ounces. The earcups can swivel
around to fold flat, making for a small compact unit to pack and
carry in your bag.
The box claims the
headphones have a frequency response of 20Hz - 20KHz, but fails
to indicate within how many dB range this is, making the claim
In actual listening tests, the sound quality is poor.
The mid-bass is exaggerated while the treble is attenuated and
When one first listens to
them, one is struck (almost literally!) by what seems to be a
strong bass response, but this quickly becomes offensive because
it is not an accurate reproduction of the music, and one
realizes that not only is the bass artificially boomy, but it is
further exaggerated by the lack of treble.
Although the sound
quality is poor, the headphones are very sensitive, and create a
high volume of output with even a low volume setting on your
also work perfectly well, for playing music without noise
cancellation, with the noise cancellation circuitry switched
off, so if the battery dies, you can still use them for normal
No information was given
about the expected life of the AAA battery.
Turning on the active noise
cancelation increases the volume somewhat - they suggest by 6dB
and that seems about right.
And now for the perhaps most
crucial factor. Their ability to reduce noise.
The earcup padding works
quite effectively to passively reduce sound merely by blocking
the path the sound would otherwise travel into your ears.
They are slightly better at this than the Noisebusters, and
comparable to the Plane Quiets.
Switching on the noise
reduction, alas, makes very little improvement. Tellingly,
one of the reviews on
claims that the headphones
don't have any active noise reduction built in to them at all!
This reviewer is wrong - there is indeed some active noise reduction, but
very little, and a casual listener could be forgiven for
not noticing the difference in background sound.
One positive observation is
that the noise cancellation circuitry seems to be quite silent.
It doesn't seem to add appreciable levels of electronic 'hiss',
but maybe this is just because the background noise remains at a
high level, drowning out the quiet hiss that is more readily
apparent on better quality headphones!
In terms of noise cancelling,
these headphones perform worse than any others reviewed.
Although their passive noise cancelling is slightly better than
the Noisebusters, when the active canceling is switched on, all
other headsets provide better total noise reduction.
Cost and Comparison
The Coby CV190 headphones
are lightweight and compact, and are the very cheapest
noise reducing headset we've ever seen. Their low cost is
their best feature.
Alas, the active noise
reduction performance is so weak that one Amazon reviewer
claimed they do not include active noise canceling at all!
All other tested units offered better noise reduction.
Their sound quality is poor,
and overall they are the worst performing set of headphones reviewed to
$15 buys you a set of
headphones with poor sound quality and not much noise cancelling.
If this is of interest to you, they are available on
$14.99 and at various other places, sometimes for a dollar or
Update September 2006
It appears these headphones
have now been superseded by the CV192, which
Amazon are selling
for about $27. Are the CV192 headphones any better?
Perhaps, but chances are they're still not a good buying choice.
Summary and Recommendation
These headphones are priced
at an extraordinarily low $15, but they prove the adage 'you get
what you pay for'.
You won't be happy with
their noise reduction capabilities, and neither will you be
happy with their sound quality.
Not recommended. Buy a
set of the $80 Plane Quiets instead.
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7 May 2004, last update
28 Nov 2012
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.