This author has become a connoisseur regarding headphones due to studying in noisy classrooms, restaurants, and the occasional plane flight. Gleanings from the aforementioned experiences are as follows: passively blocking sound (i.e., such as ear plugs) is not sufficient and not all active noise canceling systems are created equally!
In terms of design, the NC exhibits an elegant minimalist design. The matte black, rectangular ear cups are highlighted by sandblasted steel that transitions into the interconnecting bow of the same material. The previously mentioned bows provide a “backbone” of support for the product with two sizes (small and large) included. This author needed the larger size and after following the included directional pamphlet for a few minutes was able to easily resize the headphones.
The headband consisted of a black leather strap that adjusted to one’s cranial curvature allowing for an additional level of fit. Leather-covered PORON® foam surrounds the internal edge of each ear cup with a textured fabric in the center. Under the left ear cup is the power switch and port (1/8-inch or 3.5mm) for charging/audio cables.
NC’s construction allows for the ear cups not only to rotate for comfort but, also, fold into a flat configuration. When flat, the NC headphones slide perfectly into the included supple, black leather carrying case.
The author’s initial skepticism of the rectangular ear cups was immediately assuaged after wearing the headphones for the first time. These earphones perfectly conformed around the pinna (visible, outer portion of the ear). The foam passively lessened ambient sound and also was exceptionally soft and comfortable.
NC headphones took approximately 3 hours to fully charge when connected via the USB charging cable to a laptop. Yet, a full charge of the internal battery lasted almost 40 hours for actively canceling noise. Plus, when the battery is depleted, the NC headphones still function like traditional headphones by continuing to play audio from a connected device.
The audio quality of the speakers is superb and provides a rich sound. The NC headphones feature a 1-5/8-inch (40mm) driver that impressively creates a frequency response that is slightly more than the bounds of human hearing (i.e., 16Hz – 20kHz). Moreover, these headphones are robust (at various volume levels) especially with the bass, as their design also integrates a bass tube to increase this low pitch.
In addition to the sumptuous sound, the NC possesses an excellent active noise canceling option that was tested by this author during several study sessions. In general, active noise canceling works by destructive interference according to Howstuffworks. In other words, these types of headphones create a sound wave that is “out of phase” (i.e., similar frequency and amplitude but with a half wavelength or 180 degrees shift) with the ambient noise. Therefore, when both of the previously mentioned sound waves are combined, the ambient noise is lessened. As reported by Harman Kardon, the NC utilizes a unique proprietary active noise canceling system that was originally developed for premium automobiles. Notably, with this system, each ear cup monitors and adjusts to ambient sound separately.
Harman Kardon’s NC headphones are a phenomenal bargain due to their exceptional physical fit paired with amazing sound quality plus active noise cancellation. Additionally, this product is accompanied by two 4’ 7” cables (one USB cable for charging and a second audio wire with a three button control with microphone) as well as an airline headphone earphone adapter. The NC headphones are highly recommended as an aesthetically pleasing, luxurious, and remarkably functioning product that lives up to being “beautiful sound.”
Rating: 5 out of 5
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