Quiet NC-7 Noise Cancelling Headset
Plane Quiet's latest
NC-7 headphones are the smallest they've released yet.
But although they're
small, they provide excellent noise cancellation and high
If Plane Quiet's higher end
$200 Solitude headphones don't appeal, the NC7 alternative,
with a much more moderate list price of $80 are probably
exactly what you're looking for.
13 of a series on noise
reducing headphones -
click for Parts One
reducing headphone design seems to be evolving into three clear
categories - 'in the ear' type earbuds, 'on the ear' type
compact headphones, and 'around the ear' full size headphones.
Here now is
the latest 'on the ear' product from Plane Quiet - their NC7,
which is very much smaller and lighter than their previous
Plane Quiet NC6 headphones
(which the NC7 now supersedes and replaces)
much smaller and seemingly flimsier than the earlier NC6
product, the new NC7 is similarly comfortable to wear and
slightly better at both noise cancellation and sound
interesting comparison is with
Bose's new QC3 noise
cancelling headset. The NC7 tests to be almost as good
as the QC3, and its $80 price is massively different to the
ridiculous $350-450 price of the Bose product.
What You Get
The $79.95 headphones are
packed into an outer box. Inside the
outer box is an inner carry case.
case is a convenient and reasonably sturdy case made out of some
type of stiffened fabric. It unzips on three sides and
hinges open on the fourth side, and when opened reveals the
headphones in the bottom of the case and a zipper mesh pouch
velcroed to the inside top of the case.
Inside this pouch is the
patch cable to connect the headphones to an audio source, a 1/4"
gold adapter (to connect to eg a home stereo system) and a dual
prong airline adapter.
battery is also provided for the headphones. This is
claimed to give at least 14 hours of operation, and happily,
when the battery dies, the headphones will still play music
normally in 'pass through' mode; they just won't add the noise
instruction booklet explains the few things that one needs to
understand about operating the headphones.
headphones come complete with Plane Quiet's excellent lifetime
The headphones at first appear to be cheap
and insubstantial. Only a very thin headband with a couple
of strips of padding connect the two ear pieces, and the
earpieces swivel loose at the end of the headband arms.
There are three sets of folding hinges to
allow the headphones to fold very compactly for traveling - a
main hinge in the center of the headband and two hinges halfway
down each side of the headband. This degree of folding adds
further to the insubstantial feel of the headphones.
But when one examines the headphones
carefully, the initial impression of their insubstantialness is
replaced by an appreciation of their clever engineering and
minimalist design. The wobbly earpieces, for
example, use their freedom of movement to fit snuggly against
your ears, and the various hinges are held securely in their
open position when on your head.
One is still left with the feeling that the
headphones don't look as impressive as, for example, the
Solitude or Bose Quiet Comfort 3 headphones, but so what?
If you want large full sized 'around the ear' headphones, then
you'll choose the Solitude or QC2 headphones.
And if you
want the smallest possible 'on the ear' headphones, you'll find
the NC7 to be the smallest serious contender alternative to the
Bose QC3, and priced at less than a quarter the cost of the QC3.
The headphones are light as well as small.
Their 'on the head' weight is a mere 2.5 ounces, and the total
weight of the complete headphone kit, in its carry case, is only
Due to the very small size of the headphones,
the battery and circuitry are in a separate control box which is
at the other end of a 3½' cord. The
cord is hard wired into both the headphones and control box.
The control box has
space for the single AAA battery that powers the headphones'
noise cancelling circuitry, an On/Off switch with a power on LED
indicator, and a volume control. The volume control
adjusts the level of audio that is heard through the headphones
but does not adjust the noise quietening - that stays at maximum
whenever it is switched on.
Needless to say, you
should normally always keep the volume set at maximum.
Setting it lower just wastes battery power in your audio source
- it has to work harder to create unwanted extra volume which is
then diverted by the headphones volume control. So if the
sound is too loud, keep the headphone volume at maximum and
simply reduce the volume at the audio source.
You should only use the
volume control if two people are listening to the same audio
source and one wants a higher volume through their headphones
than the other.
There's a sensibly
designed clip for carrying the control box on your belt.
A 32" connector cable is
supplied to run between the control box and your audio source.
Although the cable has a regular 1/8" plug at one end (for
connecting to the audio source) it has a less common 3/32" plug
at the other end (for connecting to the control box). A
cable with this combination of plugs is harder to find in
electronics accessory stores, but unlike the connecting cable
for Bose products, is at least not an impossibility to obtain
and can also be purchased from Plane Quiet for $5 or $6 (rather
than the $15 that Bose seeks to charge for their replacement
The NC7 headphones are
easy to use and give good results.
Ear placement is fairly
critical. Because the pads which fit on your ears are
fairly small, it is important to get them so they provide as
good a seal as possible from the external noises, but once this
is done the headphones quickly become unobtrusive on your head
and even their noticeable hiss in a quiet environment becomes
The sound quality is
rich, although perhaps it favors the mid and lower (but not
lowest) ranges more than it does the higher ranges. The
sound seems to be better than the larger previous model NC6
headphones. Although with regular loudspeakers it is an
acceptable rule of thumb to say that the larger the speakers,
the better the sound, this does not apply with headphones, where
even minutely sized speakers can produce stunning sounds.
Noise cancelling is very
good. It is not quite as good as the around-the-ear
Solitudes ($200) or
Bose QC2s ($300), but is almost as good as
the similar on-the-ear Bose QC3s ($350+). For most of us, a
set of headphones that are almost as good as headphones costing
two and a half times as much - or more - has to be seen as a compelling
One thing to keep in
mind with noise reducing headphones is that many people break or
lose their headphones sooner than they would with regular 'keep
at home' headphones. Maybe you leave the headphones on a
flight; maybe you sit on them, or in some other way damage them.
For such people, it is vastly preferable to risk damaging/losing a less
expensive $80 set of headphones than a $200 and up set
of headphones, and a very small sacrifice in noise cancelling is
acceptable as part of this compromise.
Plane Quiet NC7
Compared to the Bose QC3
Amazing as it may seem, perhaps the closest
comparable product to the $80 NC7 is the Bose QC3, priced at
$350 and up.
The Bose QC3 headphones are considerably
larger and heavier than the Plane Quiet NC-7 headphones (on the
head weight of 5.2 oz compared to 2.5 oz), and so too is the
Bose complete kit in its carry case much heavier than the Plane
Quiet one (15.7 oz compared to 7.8 oz). As you can see, the Bose carry
case also takes up about two thirds more space than the Plane Quiet
These size and weight issues are not
overwhelmingly important, but are definitely a factor to keep in
mind. With airlines getting increasingly tough about the
size and weight of carry-on bags, anything that can reduce the
burden of things you already take with you is a valuable bonus.
In terms of noise cancelling, the Bose
headphones are slightly better than the Plane Quiet
headphones. They are appreciably better at passive noise
cancelling, and so even if their active noise cancelling isn't
quite as good, overall they edge slightly ahead of the
PQ headphones. Their background hiss when they are
switched on is also better than the PQ NC7 headphones.
In terms of sound quality, the two headphones
perform very similarly. There may be a slight difference
in favor of the Bose, but this is not something that would be
normally noticeable in usual listening environments. Their
sound level/efficiency is closely comparable.
In terms of comfort, the Bose headphones have
larger softer earpads. This makes them more
comfortabl to initially place on your ears, and also appreciably improves the passive noise
blocking of the Bose headphones compared to the Plane Quiets.
Both sets of headphones have similar pressure against the ears.
But on the other hand, the lighter weight of
the NC7 headphones means there's less sensation of having
something on your head, and during my time test wearing the NC7
headphones, I several times forgot I was wearing them. On
the other hand, although the initial sensation, when placing the
QC3 headphones on my ears was more comfortable than placing the
NC7 headphones on my ears, as time passed, the extra weight of
the QC3s became increasingly apparent and whereas the NC7s
became less and less noticeable, the QC3s became more and more
For short flights, the QC3s may be a better choice, but for
longer flights the NC7s will be equally comfortable.
The NC7 uses a single regular AAA battery,
which has a quoted life of a minimum of 14 hours. The QC3
uses a rechargeable battery with a quoted maximum life of 20
hours. The NC7 still plays music without a battery, but the
QC3 does not - a major weakness of the Bose design.
The NC7 has a lifetime warranty. The
QC3 has a one year warranty.
The other point of difference is, ahem, the
cost. The Plane Quiet NC-7 headphones are $80. The
Bose QC-3 headphones are $350, and if you add the recommended
accessories to the order, you're spending $450.
Overall, the Bose headphones are larger and
heavier, about the same in audio reproduction quality and
comfort, and slightly better in terms of noise cancelling.
Does this closely balanced mix of pluses and minuses justify the
difference in price between $80 and $350-450? Almost
certainly not. You can buy four or five sets of the NC7s
for the same price as one set of the QC3s.
Where to Buy the
The Plane Quiet NC7 headphones can be purchased directly either from Plane Quiet's
website - Pro
If you use the 'travelinsider' discount code
(ie the word travelinsider)
you'll get a 5% discount off the price.
Quiet's earlier products have won our annual Best Travel
Technology Product awards for three years in a row (2003,
$80 NC7 product seems like a strong contender for the 2006
title. The NC7 is better than its predecessor, the NC6,
and in almost every respect matches or beats the extravagantly
priced new Bose QC3 competing headphones ($350-450).
readers will prefer an around-the-ear design and so will choose
the Solitude ($200) or Bose QC2 ($300) headphones, but if you
want a small lightweight set of on-the-ear headphones at a great
value point, then you can't make a better choice than the Plane
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25 Aug 2006, 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.