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There're different questions posted relating to the use of headphones: on-ear/in-ear pros and cons, several headphones suggestions. However nothing has been said about using noise-canceling headphones in the booth (Bose, Sennheiser). Are there any colleagues out there using them or have anybody tried them at work? Would you recommend them? Thanks!

Best, Conrado

Addendum: I use Bang & Olufsen. However, I've noticed a "heavy ear" after long and tiring working days so I am thinking of buying new headphones. On-ear headphones are probably better (as explained in different answers posted in this forum). As I travel regularly for work, I was considering buying Bose noise-canceling and use them also for work in the booth instead of traveling with some of the recommended on-ear headhones AND noise-canceling headphones. It's about avoiding double buys and "light traveling". Cheers

asked 02 Dec '14, 11:28

Conrado's gravatar image


edited 02 Dec '14, 13:21

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck

I know (only) one colleague using active noise cancelling headphones.

But I'm not sure what the point is blocking out the sound on your left ear if you will be using the right (or vice versa) to monitor your rendition and thus hear ambient sound?

Unless it allows to listen to the original at a lower sound level? But in my experience, the OR sound level will depend on the ambient noise heard by the other ear, i.e. the one not using noise cancellation.

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answered 02 Dec '14, 11:39

Gaspar's gravatar image

Gaspar ♦♦

Thanks, Gaspar. I work with my left ear, leaving the right mostly uncovered. The noise-cancellation feature is not that important. It's rather a practical question relating to the quality of these types of headphones (see addendum). Has this colleague you know ever shared his experience with the noise-canceling headphones? Best,

(03 Dec '14, 05:43) Conrado

Hello Conrado!

What really worries me most about noise-cancelling headphones is the extra connection you have to worry about. Regular earphones go from your ears directly into the console; as far as I understand it from my very old Bose headphones (1st generation!), noise-cancelling headphones go from your ears into something that cancels outside noise and gets what you want to hear into your ears, and only then attach to the console. What happens when this intermediate box stops working for any reason (including running out of power)? My old headphones just stopped working entirely - no noise-cancelling, and no sound at all. Have they changed the mechanics of how these headphones work in later generations?

Beyond this worry, the headphones all seem to be much more bulky than any regular headphones we use. Sorry to throw a wrench into the works (or a spanner, if you insist on UK names for things...).

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answered 02 Dec '14, 18:17

JuliaP's gravatar image


Hi Julia, thanks. You're right: old noise-canceling headphones (Bose) used to stop working altogether whenever you ran out of battery (sometimes a proprietary one). The new generation of noise-canceling headphones use 1 regular AAA battery that allows for 30 hrs power. You can always have a replacement battery with you and if both ever die, the headphones won't stop working, however the sound quality would be diminished because the built-in, sound-enhancing equalizer only activates when the noise-canceling feature is on. They are not that bulky nowadays, they are light and foldable for easy transportation. What was your personal experience when you used them? Were you satified with the sound quality? Was the noise-canceling feature rather uncomfortable/cumbersome or a bonus once you got used to it?

(03 Dec '14, 05:55) Conrado

Well, if you take into account that it was first generation, the sound was good, but they were so bulky and as they covered your ear entirely (as well as half the side of your head!), you had to wear the other one completely off your other ear, so I really saw no benefit. Plus I worried so much about te batteries running out that the stress wasn't worth it. Nowadays I tend to use ear buds (yes, I have read and understood what the expert opinions are on that), but not "in-ear" models, so I get lots of feedback.

(03 Dec '14, 06:11) JuliaP

Was the noise-canceling feature rather uncomfortable/cumbersome or a bonus once you got used to it?

It might be an added value to have a clearer original sound if there are some disturbing noises in the booth. But there shouldn't be. Colleagues typing loudly in the booth or whispering can be (politely) told off and it's not the colleague on mic who should be adapting technologically to cope with such an issue.

I don't see an added value personnally, but no downside either if you want to have only one headset for travel and work.

(04 Dec '14, 05:58) Gaspar ♦♦

I have a pair of B&Os for work, and I have Bose over the ear headphones for traveling by plane or working out. If you fly a lot, the Bose headphones are a great way of blocking out noise and relaxing on the flight. Otherwise, in the booth, my headphones of choice are the B&Os.

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answered 05 Dec '14, 17:53

Anyuli%20In%C3%A1cio%20Da%20Silva's gravatar image

Anyuli Ináci...

I'd definitely recommend noise-cancelling headphones if, for whatever reason, you occasionally find yourself in a booth with less than adequate sound insulation. This can be a problem in certain markets where PA systems are turned up high, walls and floors are generally hard (and don't deaden sound), and ISO-compliant booths are the exception rather than the rule.

I use Sennheiser PX250s (since replaced, I think, by the PX300), and the sound keeps coming out even if it runs out of battery. They're not enough to block out noisy announcements every 5 seconds in the Beijing metro (so it's back to earplugs and a book, no podcasts for me!), but sufficient to stop you being distracted during conferences. Sound quality as such is also very good, as has historically been the case with Sennheiser which is a specialist headphone company. I don't know anything about Bose - they used to be a loudspeaker producer, but that's not such a big business any more.

Another little benefit with many noise-cancelling headphones is that they're foldable, and that means that you can change the angle of the headphones to make them sit on your ear more comfortably. Traditional on-ear headphones, I find, end up digging into your earlobe by the end of the day.

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answered 20 Dec '14, 05:48

William%20White's gravatar image

William White

Thanks William, you make them sound very appealing! Do you wear them in both ears? If so, do you get enough feedback on your own voice? And if not, is the benefit of the single ear with noise canceling worth it?

(20 Dec '14, 18:30) JuliaP

I do wear them on both ears - because they can adjust their angle to the contours of the head, I wear the left one half over the ear, and it doesn't hurt if you do that all day. So I get feedback on the left - as long as noise levels entering the booth are not excessive, of course.

(20 Dec '14, 19:37) William White

There are several consideration here:

1) Modern noise cancellation headsets usually work by outfitting the outer sides of the cups with battery powered microphones. They pick up background noise and transmit the opposite phase into your headset. The phases cancel each other and that reduces (partially) the background noise for the listener. The battery is in the headset (usually AAA size) and can be easily replaced. No additional box or attachment is needed.

2) If you choose to use a noise cancelling headset in the booth, you must chose the kind that will continue to work without the battery if the battery runs out. Otherwise you headset will stop working completely as it used to happen with earlier models.

3) A noise cancellation headset is mandatory for noisy environments. I use Bose QuietComfort 25 when I travel on aircraft all the time. It is great for low frequency engine noise and even occasional yelling kids (just add a bit of music for kids). Hearing loss happens because of continuous noise (even below the “safe” threshold of 85dB, it depends on exposure time) not necessarily because of loud noise so all interpreters must use noise cancellation headsets when traveling for hearing protection. Here is a review of the Bose headset from a professional headset site I trust. It is #3 in the Noise Canceling Category However, I think the headset distorts sound quality too much to do good simul both with noise cancellation on and off.

4) Never EVER use any type of headset that goes into your ear such as ear buds or in ear headphones. The sound emitting membrane is too close to your eardrum and in case of acoustic shock in the booth (microphone feedback, dropped microphone) there is a significant chance to damage your hearing.

5) I personally prefer “on ear” headsets and not “around ear” headsets. On ear feels more comfortable and with around ear I feel like my outer ear is not sufficiently grounded and “hangs in there” in the earcup. Note that ISO standards for simul equipment define an acceptable headset as on ear not around ear so, technically speaking, around ear headset is not ISO compliant. However, it is a personal preference. I feel that on ear gives better sound quality because there is less sound dissipation in the ear cup.

6) I always recommend my students to listen to the original with both ears. There is an unfortunate (and incorrect in my opinion) trend to use only one ear or shift one ear. One “expert” even claimed that it was/is the official policy of the European Parliament and European Commission training manuals to use only one ear. Listening with one ear actually reduces speech intelligibility and makes you raise volume unnecessarily which may lead to potential hearing damage. According to a medical professional: it is safer to listen to with both ears than with one ear with all other conditions being equal. I can refer you to my new book on voice training: there is a detailed chapter on the topic

7) Value of noise cancellation headsets in the walk in booth is marginal. They are best for noisy environments and the full booth is not. The only scenario I can think of is when your boothmate uses a laptop and you get distracted by button clicks. For table top booths they may be more useful, but you need to remember that table top booths are not ISO compliant i.e. substandard in the first place. If you use a transceiver for chuchotage with equipment, noise cancellation headset may be more useful.

8) Another issue is that monitoring own voice volume may be more difficult with a noise cancellation headset because it will partially cancel your own voice too. The only acceptable type of the headset for SI is semi open or semi closed headset. Closed headset will isolate you too much and nose cancellation may be closer to the closed headset, however, it may depend on the model too. Monitoring for own volume in my opinion must be done more by monitoring the position of the speech organs and level of vibrations than actually listening to your own voice though that latter should be there as well.

9) Finally, you should consider not just any headset but a headset specifically designed for simultaneous interpretation. It amplifies frequencies used in human speech and has a number of other advantages. For example I own 2 such headsets though I have discovered they have a few microphone grounding issues. The microphone is also not compatible with every console. Sound quality and speech intelligibility though are amazing in particular when a delegate holds the microphone too close. See my review here:

10) In my opinion a noise cancellation headset might allow you to speak softer as Gaspar noted but the gain is very marginal and distorted sound quality obliterates it. keep in mind that most such noise cancellation headsets are consumer not professional quality and the marketing goal is to awe you with the noise cancellation function and not necessarily deliver good sound quality.

11) I cannot recommend wireless headsets – too many possible failures: battery, transmitter, connection.

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answered 28 Jun '16, 17:25

Cyril%20Flerov's gravatar image

Cyril Flerov

Hi Conrado, I just came across this article in the Wall Street Journal looking at wireless noise canceling headphones - probably not a route you want to take, but the comparisons were interesting, and some could also use a physical cable.

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answered 22 Jun '16, 17:14

JuliaP's gravatar image


...great article, many thanks for flagging it, Julia :-) !

(23 Jun '16, 09:29) msr
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question asked: 02 Dec '14, 11:28

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