The test of a hundred euro noise-cancelling headphones
Author Valco Laboratoriot
As for my background, I have a hi-fi system in almost every room of my house, including the garage, and each of them, including the children's speakers, is relatively good sounding. In addition, the set in the living room (Marantz + Bowers & Wilkins), which is the main listening area, has been measured and adjusted quite precisely.
There are also a few headphones in the set. Akg, Bose, Sony...some studio level, and some tried and tested china straps etc. However, all the former ones are wired. Each with their own pros and cons.
So there is a point of comparison.
This story, however, starts with my employer, Bitfactor has been using Bose QuietComfort series noise-cancelling headphones in the workplace. This way, when you're at work, you get to do a bit of escapism when the noise gets loud or the chatter from your colleagues gets good enough (i.e. when the level of chatter gets low enough and listening to it can take your concentration away from you).
Otherwise, noise-cancelling headphones are pretty much a must for any team room or open office.
But the Bose weren't really appealing - neither in terms of looks nor practicality. The Bose are battery powered and always ran out of batteries when you needed the feedback function. In addition, the sound changed unnecessarily radically with the feedback function on. Otherwise, the sound of the Bose is okay, but not phenomenal - not even when adjusted, despite the high praise.
Well, luckily there are options for everyone.
I looked and tried a replacement for the Bose and the Sony handsets, for example, seemed to offer little improvement over the Bose except for looks, and the price still seemed a bit salty. At the same time, the office was also thinking that the previous set of headphones was running out, and the price/quality ratio of those Bose ones was not quite right, at least in my opinion.
Then, while looking for different headphones, I accidentally came across these affordable headphones and previous blog posts about them on Valco's website. However, they seemed to be out of stock, so I messaged Valco via Facebook.
I got a reply that "all are already sold out, but we might be ordering more". When I asked when it would be possible to try them, the retailer sent me his own personal pair for a test run on a "buy if you like, send back if you don't" basis. They arrived as quickly as the postal service could deliver them.
By the way, it was really cool that the dealer took the trouble for one customer!
The first impression was surprisingly high quality for a hundred euro slides. Several colleagues were also surprised by this. Even those who I would have expected to be a little disappointed by the "unremarkable" handset praised the feel and appearance. A big plus is that the headset has a built-in battery, so you don't have to be constantly changing batteries.
The only thing that really gave me pause was how the padding would work with the glasses during extended use over a working day or so. That's something I'm not yet in a position to say, as I don't own the glasses and the office order has only just left the factory.
The sound works nicely, too. The sound is a bit bassy, but by no means stuffy, and nothing in the "Beats Audio Super Turbo Bass" category. In the higher frequencies, there was the normal headphone bounce that most people don't even notice. You can find similar ones from Bose and AKG in slightly different ranges - although the latest Bose are quite flat in their frequency response, which is really good. They then cost closer to 400€ when the headphones in the test were 100€.
I have Spotify installed on my laptop. Equalify plug-in, which is really handy for adjusting the frequency response and creating profiles for different audio systems, whatever you're playing music from. In other listening, you don't really even need that. In movies and games, the slightly pronounced bass of Valco's headphones doesn't really matter and in video conferencing and other business calls, these have played very nicely.
For some reason, the seller does not really just notice to advertise it, but these have a built-in microphone, so they work very well e.g. handsfree or Skype -palaverenissa.
I then used Equalify to adjust the equalizer on the earphone with test tracks (links at the end) and these 100 euro headphones now also deliver excellent music without any major distortion. Now that's good enough! The adjustments are not big and a similar adjustment had to be made for Bose and AKG headsets, among others.
When I presented these at the office, it was decided to order a set of headphones for the next victims of noisy work environments - i.e. for those who need a pair of headphones, and a few colleagues also wanted to order their own to take home. Although I was able to test a pair of used headphones, I have no fear of returning them back to Valco and starting to wait for new ones or thinking about alternatives.
I would highly recommend these at this price to anyone who wants a good pair of wireless noise-cancelling headphones for the home or office. You might get a slightly more realistic frequency response with the latest Bose, for example, but in practice it makes little difference.
Also, everyone's ears and hearing are slightly different, so if you want to get a good hi-fi experience, you'll need to adjust the frequency response a little more to suit your own hearing.
So the effect of expensive branded loudspeakers is probably mainly an image effect, and the question is: do you need a self-esteem boost and do you really need those branded loudspeakers? Or would you rather take these handsets and save the remaining hundreds for something more sensible? For me, the choice was pretty much a no-brainer :)
Juha Karjalainen / Bitfactor
Here are the Equalify settings I used:
The plugin mentioned in the story:
ps. I have a hobby car, which is sometimes a bit louder on the cabin side, so with headphones on it is more comfortable to drive, if you can stand the beak... It's a pretty silly looking job :D