Fashion and Beauty

Testing Quiet Comfort: The Bose Quiet Comfort 2 headset

I have been intrigued by the possibilities of noise-canceling technology ever since Bose first released their Quiet Comfort line of headsets in 1989. However, it was just one of those things I had never got around to trying until a couple of weeks ago when I finally got my hands on a pair – just in time for an upcoming trip.

It took about 10 years of development before Bose released the first version of the Quiet Comfort headset. Now on the "second edition," or Version 2 (with Version 3 soon to be released here in the Philippines), the technology has come a long way in improving noise cancellation and eliminating the "hissing" acoustics that were so prevalent in the early days of the technology. Although other brands have released headsets with similar technology, Bose has become the de facto standard against which others are judged.

Needless to say, the most natural application for these headsets is on airplanes because the circuitry is most effective at canceling out low-frequency droning noises. However, the QC2 would work just as well in any noisy environment where you would like to have a little peace and quiet – such as in an office or canteen – or in any other application that requires a good pair of headsets, because the QC2 is very comfortable and delivers good quality sound. Just be careful if you decide to use it on a subway or in a bus because nothing says "mug me" more clearly than an expensive pair of headsets that are obviously wired to an iPod.

The technology that drives the Bose QC2 is actually quite simple. Sound travels in waves. So the QC2 circuitry generates equal waves that are opposite in polarity to the ambient sound, thus canceling out the "noise" in a process called destructive interference. This is why it works better with constant droning noises because the circuitry doesn’t have to keep up with rapidly changing sounds. For some reason, however, the technology works better with low frequencies than higher ones.

And it really does work! Although I have no scientific data or testing method to prove how well the Quiet Comfort 2 performs, suffice it to say that when using the QC2, I listen to my iPod at the same volume on the plane as I do at home, whereas when I use the earbuds that come with the iPod, I have to turn the volume all the way up in an airplane and I listen at about 50- or 60-percent volume at home. Even if you are wearing the headsets, you can still hear the PA announcements on the airplane – depending, of course, if you are relaxing softly with Mozart or head-banging with the Red Hot Chili Peppers – but you will have to take them off to carry on a conversation with anyone.

In addition, after using the QC2 for a couple of hours in an airplane, you will be amazed at how noisy the world seems after you remove the headphones. And unlike the earbuds, which are placed inside the ear canal and make my ears ache after just 30 or 40 minutes, you can wear the QC2 for hours with no problem.

Perhaps the biggest drawback of the QC2 aside from its bulky size is the fact that it doesn’t work without a battery. When the battery dies, so does the music, the movie soundtrack or whatever else you happen to be listening to. Bose claims that a single AAA battery can last 35 hours with the low-bat signal kicking in when there’s only five hours to go; but just in case, I would pack an extra AAA for long-haul flights (there is a little pouch in the carrying case that is perfect for one) so that your precious headset doesn’t turn into a really expensive headband somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.

Granted, people may look at you a little funny when you wear headsets this size – but it’s probably out of a mixture of curiosity and envy. People who recognize the Quiet Comfort 2 brand will probably also ask if they really work and may want to try them out for themselves. Now, if you are the kind of person who doesn’t really like lending your things out, perhaps you can pretend that you don’t hear them because their pleas have been "cancelled out." That is, until they decide to tap you on the shoulder. Then it’s best to pretend that you’re asleep.

Now, if it could just cancel out that crying baby…
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For comments, email me at [email protected].











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