With the active noise cancelling in mind, Philips is pushing the idea of using these earphones on an aeroplane where the constant drone of the engines can seriously spoil your listening pleasure. It’s therefore a good thing that these earphones are extremely comfortable – I found that the silicone cups fitted my ears very well, while the earphones themselves are also extremely light. The end result is that these are among the most comfortable earphones I’ve used, even if you keep them in for hours on end.
But these earphones aren’t just comfortable when you’re sitting around doing nothing, they’re also brilliant for the active user. I went for a run wearing the SHN750s and they were definitely the most comfortable earphones I’ve ever used for running. The reason for this is that all the weight is dealt with by the neck strap, so there is nothing tugging at your ears as you run. By contrast, running while listening to my Shure E500s, results in constant tugging, since all that heavy cabling is hanging directly from my ears.
Another issue with active noise cancelling is that it can often muffle the sound, giving it a slightly unnatural trait. Of course it depends on the quality of the headphones, with units like the Sennheiser PXC 450s managing to maintain excellent fidelity, even with the active noise cancelling switched on – but then when you consider the price of those Sennheisers you’d hope that they sounded good! The good news is that the Philips SHN7500s don’t suffer from the sound muffling problem either, mainly due to the fact that the active noise cancelling is extremely subtle, perhaps too subtle in fact.
I find that one of the best tests for active noise cancelling is to stand under the office air conditioning unit, which simulates the drone of aircraft engines quite well. Without any music playing, I then switch the active noise cancelling on to evaluate how well it deals with the ambient drone of the fans. While most active noise cancelling headphones will almost completely filter out the sound of the air-con, these Philips phones didn’t. What they did do was cut out the most annoying hiss, but the background rumble was still there.
Another problem is that if the earphones are plugged into anything connected to mains power, you get a low frequency background buzz as soon as you turn on the active noise cancelling. I experienced this problem on multiple PCs and notebooks, and even with my iPod nano when I attempted to listen to it while it was charging. Listening to anything on battery power is not a problem at all, but it’s still worth considering what devices you’re likely to be plugging into before buying.