Hearing aids with noise cancelling headphones put to the test by a customer
Author Valco Laboratoriot
(Illustration: the picture does not show Mikko or even Mikko's headphones. But it could be)
This winter I got my Valco headphones. I tried them out in a variety of situations, mainly at work and in work-related situations. I promised to write down my thoughts and experiences about these. But first a little bit about my background.
I work as a manager in a commercial company and my work is hectic; sometimes in Tampere, sometimes in Helsinki or for example in Jyväskylä. On the worst days, there are ten or so changes of context. There are typically between ten and fifteen projects that I have to take a position on at any one time. Sometimes you work on the train, sometimes in conference rooms; sometimes you have the opportunity to work in a room with a lot of loud noisemakers next to you. Sometimes there's music blaring and things fly. So you could sum it up as quite disturbing and varied environments in which to work.
My own work requires a lot of thinking and I often long for peace and quiet, where I can concentrate on one thing until a certain part of the work is done. This used to involve telecommuting, but now that I have young children, working from home without distractions is not possible. For occasional tasks that require concentration, I have sometimes even gone to the reading rooms of the library or similar, but in practice it is not really possible as a continuous activity.
I got to test Valco's anti-noise headphones from their trial batch in winter 2018. I had previous experience with the first Sennheiser anti-noise headphones, so I have an understanding of good anti-noise headphones, even though I'm not a hifist.
The first experience was somewhat arresting, with the entire earpiece of the headphones already masking a large part of the surrounding noise. When you turn on the back noise, the rest of the world disappears. I was pretty impressed with the headphones for the ambient noise attenuation alone, but then I played some purely domestic Sibelius, some other classical and Waterscapes nature sounds as an experiment to help me concentrate while I was doing my process upgrade work over the winter.
Can't fault the soundscape though, it felt like being in a concert hall. Not to be all praise, I have to say that I wasn't used to headphones that covered my whole ear before. It took me a while to get used to it; on the other hand, the trade-off was pretty easy: I could work near the one open office basement in peace and quiet.
As I said above, my work is quite mobile and location-independent. So all winter and spring I've been carrying around headphones, which are a bit big by the way, everywhere I go. The size of the headphones doesn't matter as long as they come with a truly premium case.
I think the first test for the headphones was a lync meeting, where Valco headphones were connected to my mobile phone via bluetooth, when I had to walk from the Helsinki train station to Katajanokka, with Abie's bench-track rally going on next to me. The upshot was that I could fully hear the conversations in the meeting, and the mics in the headphones picked up my speech in the meeting, but the benchbell noise filtered out so that other people in the meeting couldn't hear it. Oh yes, the headphones were also acting as a hands-free device at the same time. I think you've deduced that already.
I've worn headphones almost all the time on the train. Lyncing doesn't work so well there, as you can't talk without the passengers hearing what you're saying. It's quite easy to fall into that trap, because when you're on the talk-back function, the train noise and the chatter of the mums sitting next to you disappears, and it's not easy to remember you're on the train. As a result of the above, I have been listening to more music on the train. The size of the headphones seems to give you a lot more capacity on the bass side compared to Apple's white earplugs. No wonder.
On a more practical note, the package includes premium noise-cancelling headphones that can be connected to the audio source and the mic (!) with a traditional cable, or alternatively you can use bluetooth. The second headphone has volume and track change buttons on the surface. They take some getting used to. Sometimes the directions get confused.
The battery life is good, as I have never run out of battery. I occasionally charge the headphones via USB, so I haven't really worried about it. A key factor in the fact that the headphones have been carried everywhere is also the good protective case I mentioned earlier. I had one of those in my first travel Senheisers. They always had to be folded in a complicated way, so their usability suffered. The BNCs can be thrown into the housing as they are when you turn the headphones and zip them closed.
All in all, I can highly recommend these headphones. By way of background, although I was asked to write about my user experience, I am writing impartially, i.e. I was not asked to write praise.
I am in the process of getting these headphones in bulk for us at work, as I let others test them and without exception the response was positive. So let the others work in peace with us.
- Mikko J.