In Thursday’s State of the Art column in the New York Times, David Pogue offers a (mostly) positive review of Bose’s new QuietComfort 15 headphones. These noise-canceling models are an improvement over Bose’s previous model, he writes, due to a “second set of microphones on the inside of the earcups” that provides “much, much better noise cancellation.”
They cost $300, not unreasonable for a pair of high-end headphones. I’ve listened to $500 sound-isolating earbuds and believe me, I wouldn’t stop you from buying them. But I’ve never tried Bose, and that annoys me.
Bose rarely provides loaners for review, unlike every other audio products maker. Pogue writes: “A lot of your $300 or $350 pays for the Bose name and the ubiquitous ads, and everybody knows it. So it didn’t take long for Panasonic, Audio-Technica, Creative, Sony and others to start selling equally effective headphones for half the price.”
I can write with authority on many brands, so I’ll offer another alternative if you want an earcup-style headphone: Shure’s SRH840 Professional Monitoring Headphones.
Here’s what I wrote about this new model from Shure on the Affluence.org blog:
“The $200 SRH840 Professional Monitoring Headphones were introduced over the summer and designed for studio engineers, who demand precise sound. For discerning music fans, who want to enjoy precise sound, these more than satisfy. The sound is clear and you’ll hear details in the music, such as a drummer’s subtle hits on the cymbals, that are often obscured. Also, because the cup style of headphones envelope your ears, the music surrounds the listener.
“I generally prefer earbuds when listening to music, but these headphones are so comfortable (as well as flexible, surprising for their size) that I’ve instinctively started to reach for the Shure SRH840s instead of earbuds.”
Further, “the sound is so crisp, even at extremely low levels or bracingly loud, you will hear little else when wearing these. That makes these headphones great for long plane trips when you want to relax and not hear a crying baby.
“The headphones include an expandable cable that works well when you have your audio source close — like an iPod in your pocket — or for when you want to rest on the couch and plug the headphones into the audio receiver 12 feet away. More companies should ship headphones with such a cable; it’s very convenient.”
I’m listening to them now as I write this post.
You might say $200 is not much different than $300, particularly for ear-cup headphones that do not include separate microphones to cancel external noise. True enough. But $200 is the list price; I just spotted the Shure SRH840s on Amazon for $145. Bose doesn’t have many sales.
As for noise reduction, these models surround your ears so thoroughly that you don’t need noise reduction assistance. And, as Pogue wrote, turning the Bose pair on — they require batteries — led to “uncomfortable pressure.” Bose responded that other customers “occasionally” have the same issue.
Perhaps one day I’ll provide a first-hand perspective. For now, Shure sounds pretty good to me.