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Review: MacAlly Noise Reduction Headphones

by on July 12, 2005

Some iPod owners stick with their stock earbuds for one reason—they match their iPod the best in appearance. MacAlly hopes to change that with their Noise Reduction Headphones, a product that does exactly what the name implies. These headphones are white and grey with black ear cushions, and actually look okay on your head, unlike many of the other large, white headphones.

Although the $70 price tag might turn some away, you can find them discounted to about $50 from some resellers. Although true audiophiles might have problems with these headphones, we compared them to other regular headphones in the lower-end of their price range.

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MacAlly Noise Reduction Headphones + Cable

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MacAlly Noise Reduction Headphones + Case

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MacAlly Noise Reduction Headphones (Battery Compartment)

The Noise Reduction Headphones include quite a few accessories in the box. A zippered carrying case is the perfect size for storing the headphones, some cables, and an adapter or two. Also included is a 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio cable with a volume control. This connects the headphones to your audio source. An airline adapter is included so that you’ll save the $5 (is that how much it is these days?) to watch that in-flight movie.

The audio cable is an especially great idea, because unlike many headphones, these aren’t shot if the cable gets damaged. The only gotcha is that the jack on the headphones will not fit cables with lots of plastic around the connector, although most generic audio cables should be okay.

The headphones are quite comfortable, and can be worn for several hours with no discomfort. They weigh 6.5 ounces if you factor in cables, but not batteries.

The noise reduction capabilities are the key point of these headphones, and they do a pretty good job at it. This feature requires two AAA batteries in the right earcup, and will give you about 100 hours of listening time, so MacAlly’s estimates are pretty good. You can listen to the headphones without this turned on, or even without any batteries installed.

Noise reduction is a two-step process with these. First, the large earcups passively isolate your ears from some external sound all the time. This is pretty self explanatory. Secondly, the headphones themselves use noise sampling and reduction technology to actively cancel out noise in the lower end of the audio spectrum.

This makes the Noise Reduction Headphones ideal for use on airplanes, trains, buses, or just about any other place/vehicle where there’s lots of low rumbling. These won’t block out the person yelling at you, but they will cut out fans, or other kinds of white noise. There’s a air filter unit in the room where I do a lot of my work and the headphones cut it down to just a slight hiss—quite impressive if you could hear the thing. We tried these in a number of places and they seemed to do a good job of blocking out lots of excess noise (which means the volume didn’t have to be cranked up to drown it out, not the best idea).

The noise reduction controls are fairly simple. A switch on the left earcup turns the feature on or off, while a red LED indicates the status. A small dial adjusts the strength of the noise reduction.

So how do they sound?

With the noise reduction turned off, the headphones sounded good. The sound was comparable to the slightly cheaper, non-noise-reducing Koss set that we have: clear, but bass and midrange notes had the advantage. With the noise reduction turned on, it was an entirely different story. The audio, while still clear, had a richer feel to it and seemed more balanced throughout the audio spectrum. This is because the bass and treble are also boosted when the switch is flipped on.

As stated earlier, these won’t get rid of all outside noise, just low rumblings and constant machinery. What they don’t get rid of, they will reduce as best they can.

Two other positives that noticed during our tests were that the earcups have rubber bumpers on the ends. This prevents the earcups from scratching each other when they’re folded up. Also, the headphones can be used without any audio source to still reduce some excess outer noise.

Overall, we thought these are a great buy for the money. They sound good, come with a few nice accessories, and have a design that not only works well, but feels solid. Perhaps the best thing of all is that they’ll match your iPod or Mac better than some other alternatives.

The One-Sentence Verdict™

MacAlly’s Noise Reduction Headphones are perfect for people who want headphones that sound good, and cut down on outside noise, without spending too much.

Pros: Looks good, sounds great, price is reasonable, removable audio cable, included accessories are nice
Cons: Noise reduction feature does not get rid of all outside noises, headphones sound best with it turned on all the time
Rating: 8/10

The Facts

Product: Noise Reduction Headphones
Company: MacAlly
Platform: Mac/Win/iPod (1 2 3 4 5 M N S)
Price: $69 (list)

This post has been filed in iPod, Mobile Devices, Reviews, Speakers/Audio