No matter how much you spend on a portable music player, the quality of sound that reaches your eardrums will always be dictated by your earphones. The problem is that most players, even expensive ones, ship with very poor earphones. And most of them, like Apple’s earbuds, require you to pump the volume up to unhealthy levels if you happen to be in a noisy environment. There are a couple of solutions to this ambient noise issue – active noise cancelling or in-ear noise isolating – but now Philips has taken things a step further and employed both.
There’s no denying that Philips has put a lot of thought into the design of these headphones, and to be honest I would expect nothing less from the Dutch technology giant. While Apple and Sony tend to grab most of the headlines for product design, Philips is generally up there with the best in this area, as well as the realm of innovation.
One of the major problems with active noise cancelling headphones is that they need power. This means that you usually have a big, heavy, battery compartment hanging from the headphone cord and generally dragging at your ears. Of course with larger headphones you can install the battery in one of the ear cups, but with smaller, more portable headphones, that’s not possible.
Philips has solved this problem by applying a somewhat innovative design approach. Basically, the electronics of the set up and the battery reside in a small cylindrical unit that hangs around your neck from a strap. But the clever part is that the earphone cables run through this strap to the control unit, so there’s no messy cabling hanging off your ears. Located at the bottom of the control unit is a standard 3.5mm headphone jack – you then plug the supplied cable into this and into your player.
If there’s one problem with this setup, it’s the excessive length of the audio cable. With the control unit around my neck, the 3.5mm jack hung just above my waist, so the last thing I then needed was a 1.2m cable to connect to the player in my pocket. I understand that you may have the player in your bag, or perhaps in a pocket down by your knee, but I’d wager that the majority of users will have their player in a pocket just below their waistline. This problem could be easily solved if Philips supplied two cables in the box, one short and one long – as things stand, I constantly seemed to have a mass of cable either hanging down by my legs or rolled up in my pocket.