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A new version of noise-cancelling technology from Bose: the Quiet Comfort 20

bose-quietphonesBose has released its Quiet Comfort 20 with sound-cancelling technology.  Each earbud features a microphone to record incoming noise which is then ‘subtracted’ or cancelled from what you hear.  Your high quality Bose music will come through minus the other noises going on around you.  That is the aim, at least.

When I was a student I used to postulate inventions I wanted to see developed.  My wish list included adjustable sunglasses that reacted to changing light intensity and ‘process colour’ to liven up movies shot in black and white.  It also included what I called a ‘sonic interrupter,’ a device that would put out the opposite of incoming sounds to cancel them.  Technology to do a limited version of this has been around for ears.  I bought a headset over 20 years ago that gave some peace and quiet.  It was good at dulling rhythmic and low frequency sounds such as machinery or aircraft engines, but no good at shutting out random higher frequency sounds such as people talking or babies crying.  When I lived in the country next to a large lawned estate, every fine day saw a motorized mower keeping the grass tidy, but making it difficult for me to concentrate on my work.  The ear-phones made a huge difference by dulling the noise of the mower to a faint throb.

I’ll have a look at the new Bose ones, but my guess is that they’ll be excellent for listening to music, but less good when you simply want silence.  These days I use a white noise app on my phone to block out inconsiderate people.  I’d prefer ear-phones that gave me silence for thought and contemplation, though, and I hope that one day someone will be clever enough to produce some.



One Response

  1. Nothing new here except possibly the cost, Bose isn’t cheap. I have had a pair of noise cancelling headphones for over 8 years. They take a couple of AAA batteries which last for ages and external noise is reduced to a very low level. They work on the principle that any external noise picked by our ears whilst wearing the headphones is also picked up by the headphones and electronically re-phased. In simple terms this means that each positive cycle of audio is fed an instantaneous negative cycle electronically, which cancels out the offending sound. This isn’t perfect but a large reduction of the external audio/noise is achieved. Works well on a nice day when you open the room windows if exterior noise invades. Wear the earphones, switch on and have a snooze. They work without being plugged into the hi-fI/ipod but you can listen to your favourite music at the same time if you desire, minus the external noise.

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