If you spend a lot of time on planes or the Underground, noise cancelling headphones are worth looking at. Even hardcore custom moulded IEM earphones struggle to compete with the noise reduction of the best active cancellers. The Tivolio Radio Silenz headphones offer this tech, and cost less than half the price of the market leader Bose alternative, the Bose QC3. £119, real wood finish and noise cancellation. A bargain?
A key attraction of many of Tivoli's audio gadgets is that they use real wood finishes. This has become the company's trademark, alongside good sound and a distinctive, retro-tinged look. And the wood is back once more in these Radio Silenz headphones.
The rear of each earcup is topped with a cap of real wood - either walnut, cherry or black ash. As neat as it may look, it's pretty clear that it's a surface-level thing, and doesn't look impressive as high-end wood-backed headphones like the Audio Technica ATH-W1000X. In part, this is down to the large grilles that sit atop each one.
These cover the microphones used to monitor ambient noise for the active noise cancellation feature.
Underneath the wooden caps sits an otherwise normal-looking pair of black plastic on-ear headphones with faux-leather padding and a metal-reinforced headband. Intended for use primarily out and about, rather than at home, the earpieces fold up into the headband for ultimate portability.
However, they're not quite as handy as some on-ear noise cancelling rivals. Aside from the microphones, the rest of the ANC gubbins is packed into a chunky housing 45cm down the cable, which hangs down from the left earcup.
It features a shirt clip to let you stop it from dangling annoyingly, but it's far less convenient that pairs that squeeze everything into one of the cups. A further inconvenience, the Radio Silenz headphones are powered by an AAA battery rather than a rechargeable unit, adding to the maintenance factor.
Aside from the battery, this not-so-little unit has an on-off switch, an old-fashioned dial volume control and a "defeat" button. This reverses the role of the microphones, using them to enhance outside noise rather than zap it - useful for when a spray-tanned steward offers you a cup of coffee on a plane.
During a flight is when ANC headphones come into their own, and Tivoli has sensibly included an airplane adapter, as well as a simple carry case. However, compared with several noise cancelling alternatives, the Tivoli Radio Silenz aren't particularly comfortable. The padding isn't all that soft and unless the battery unit is clipped to clothing, its weight is very noticeable.
Among on-ear headphones in general, comfort is pretty good as the headphones themselves are light, and the headband and rotating cans flexible enough to make fitting them on your noggin problem-free. ANC headphones are often unusually comfortable, though, and these aren't.