After nearly a month plus of photography equipment it is a nice for a change to look into audio equipment. With me are two noise cancelling headphones, Bose QuietComfort 15 and Ferrari by Logic3 Scuderia R300.
As the box cover says, these are noise cancelling cans. That means there is active noise cancelling mechanism where the headphones takes the noise from the environment and introduce a counter sound wave to cancel out the noise. This work for noise that are continuous and repetitive, something like the hum of an engine.
Bose QuietComfort 15
Those who are in the know about BOSE would understand the type of sound they produce. A fairly well balanced headphones/earphones that BOSE is well known for and the QuietComfort 15 (QC15) continues to be that with good base, a good supporting mid for the clear vocals. The sound stage presented to the listener is also pretty wide as my test track of The Eagles live rendition of Hotel California in their Hell Freezes Over Album was joy to my ears while piping through the NAD D3020. And they are comfortable to wear for long periods of time, a good thing to have while you are on a long haul flight.
Between the two, the QC15 is definitely more subdued in terms of look and wouldn’t look out of place for those in suits or in your casuals.
What I really find puzzling is that when you unplug the wire from the headphone, there is a ‘hi-lo’ switch, which I think is Bose way to help users to keep the volume down. Something like old Sony walkman’s AVLS (Automatic Volume Limiter System). After all these while, I guess some of us couldn’t help but to increase the volume and I did switch off the AVLS and did the same too for this headphones.
That got me thinking too. What if I accidentally pulled on this wire and have to find a replacement? I did try to use an alternative wire but it did not connect that well and the sound did suffer so that would mean expensive replacement should anything happen.
The Bose QC15 info: http://www.atlasestore.sg/products/quietcomfort-15-acoustic-noise-cancelling-headphones
Ferrari by Logic3 R300
If you are loud both in look and your taste in music, the prancing horse on your cans certainly beats (pun intended) those earphones embossed with a certain English letter. These are much bigger than the QC15 so bringing these cans for your daily commute would take a bit commitment in terms of bag space and effort to put them on. Even hanging them on my neck is very uncomfortable.
The sound signature when going through the same tracks with the NAD D3020 shows a slightly less powerful base but a much better voice separation between the main and back up singers. Odd coming from a maker that is more or less into loud heavy thumping tracks since they are into game audio and accessories.
Ferrari by Logic3 Online shop: http://store.ferrari.com/en/home-office/logic3-audio/headphones/scuderia-ferrari-r300-audio-headphones-white.html
The simplest way to compare these two cans is that both have different sound signature. The Bose is base heavy with a slightly less treble so vocals are not as distinct as those found on the Logic3.
In the end, the headphones are projecting images that doesn’t quite match the songs they should play – QC15 for their base performance is great for pop, dance tracks and the Logic 3 with lesser base, good mid and trebles great for instrumentals and vocals.
As for noise cancellations, both did their job pretty well but one ought to understand that noise cancellation are only applied to repetitive noise and not applied to irregular sound such as conversations or keyboard clickings. Since the headphones are well padded, I find myself isolated from the outside world for both cans with the Logic3 less so with a slight hiss sound whenever the playlist stops playing. Once the headphones are on, the kids crying will be filtered (sometimes I wonder if that’s a good thing).
Do note both cans won’t produce sounds if you don’t switch on the noise cancellation function. The QC15 only uses 1 x AAA battery and the bigger R300 would need 2 to do the same and both lasts throughout the flights to New York and Melbourne.
In terms of portability, I would go with the QC15 any time. Although both are noise cancellation cans and ought to be portable for trips but the Logic3 just don’t fit that description of a portable gadget. The Logic3 did try to make it more portable by making it flatter by folding the speakers but it still takes up too much space in my bag.
Creative Sound Blaster E1
If I happen to bring out the cans, the amplification of the headphones is anything but great if one just relies on the tablet or smartphone circuitry. What’s worse is that the battery juice on the smartphone is already quite precious for daily use and if we use it on headphones, battery power is going to take a hit.
Enters the Creative Sound Blaster E1. I bought this because it was on promotion and even if it is not, at $49 it is a steal. And the Logic3 ear cans just came into my possession so it needed a bit of boosting in the base department.
Of course, this is not going to replace the more expensive, audiophile quality headphone amplifiers in the market like the Sony PHA-2 or the FiiO that costs hundreds and even thousands of dollars.
Still the E1 did shine enough to question my desire to get one of those expensive amps. It is not just an amplifier but also an enhancer through its SBX Surround (Sound stage), Crystalizer (treble), Bass, Dialog Plus (vocals) and Smart Volume (E1 can equalise volume between songs).
I always go by the ‘good enough’ mantra. Although I understand things like FLAC, bit rate etc meant good things for music enjoyment, to me if the MP3 sounds great and I can basically enjoy the music without being disturbed by the muffled sound or missing base, I am a contented person (Remember that godliness with contentment is the first step to GREAT gain). Again, I like good stuff too such as the NAD D3020 so you will know my acceptable level of sound reproduction.
And for that the E1 sound blasted (pun intended) the base and even separate the treble even more and the whole track, without sacrificing the sound stage, got a good boost even helping the Logic3 to have a different sound signature that makes the headphones sound much more expensive than it already is (not saying the Ferrari by Logic3 is cheap but the E1 made it sounds 2 to 3 levels better).
Since this is going to be plugged into your phone, the E1 do have a microphone so your headphones becomes an expensive hands-free headset. It does have CrystalVoice to make it clearer to hear vocals over the phone and my phone conversation was pretty good actually.
Seriously SGD49 for all the above. What more can you ask?
As a matter of fact I can. Can’t Creative come out with an app that is somewhat similar to the PC/Mac driver-decoder, using digital input as source instead of analog signal via stereo wires? That would improve the source material greatly and maintain sound quality as much as possible. If they can do that, it is exactly what a portable device such as the E1 should have. Guess what, that would get you the E3 that is 3 times more expensive.
AND, I am sure the Lithium Ion battery is going to last for quite a while but what if it conks out in the middle of a trip? I think AAA battery is a better option in the end even if it makes the unit a bit bigger.
More info: http://sg.creative.com/p/sound-blaster/sound-blaster-e1