- Great battery life
- Removable cable
- So-so sound quality
- Unremarkable noise cancellation
- Review Price: £99.99
- 40mm neodymium driver
- 40hr battery life, AAA battery powered
- Removable 1.5m cable
- Active noise cancellation
- Carry case, airplane adapter
The Creative HN-900 headphones are some of the cheaper noise cancelling cans around. They look a bit like the Bose QuietComfort 15, but cost less than half the price. Like the Goldring NS1000 or similar BlackBox M10, these headphones are here to offer a way to get hold of high-quality headphones offering genuine noise cancellation without decimating your wallet
Noise cancellation uses microphones to monitor ambient noise and remove it from the sound waves heading into your ear before they reach your eardrum. How? An inverse wave of the unwanted noise is piped-through, cancelling it out. It’s not new, but it is still clever.
With in-ear headphones, noise cancelling results in an ugly, annoying control housing hanging on the cable. But with over-ear headphones like the Creative HN-900, you’d barely know the tech was in there from a quick glance.
The clues take a bit longer to reveal themselves. There are little recessed metal grills on the back of each earcup, under which the monitor microphones live, and there’s a power switch on the left cup. This switches noise cancellation on and off, with a blue LED above telling you its status.
The power source for the Creative HN-900’s cancellation is behind the right cup. Its top layer swivels around to reveal a single AAA battery. There’s no means to charge-up a rechargeable unit within the headphones, so you’ll have to either stock up on standard batteries or use a separate charger.
However, battery life is excellent. Creative’s official numbers say an AAA will last for 40 hours, and our testing held this out. At one point, we left the Creative HN-900 on over the weekend, and it was still soldiering on come Monday morning – suggesting power consumption is lower when there’s less noise to cancel. Sound continues to play when cancellation is switched off too.
The performance of the noise cancellation is less impressive. While it successfully removes hums and a fair bit of low-end noise, it’s not as good as Sennheiser’s Noisegard 2.0 and not a patch on the quite eerie silence the Bose QC3 and QuietComfort 15 can maintain. As such, in practical terms it’s not all that much better than a good set of isolating IEMs or closed back over-ears headphones in many conditions. In situations where low-end noise dominates, such as an airplane cabin, they’re still preferable to other types, though.
Comfort and fit
The Creative HN-900 headphones use a circumarual or over-ears design. Faux-leather lined foam pads cover your ears entirely. Most people find this design easier to live with than smaller on-ear sets, which can cause ear discomfort and are often much harder to get a good fit with.
These headphones exert a little more pressure than their popular Bose counterparts, the QuietComfort 15, but are nevertheless very comfortable. Light weight, soft padding and avoiding the head-vice clamp feeling of some sets, they’re headphones you can wear for hours on end without discomfort. The headband is also fairly well-padded, which helps.
Creative packs-in a few neat extras that will come in handy for frequent travelers. There’s an airplane converter and a soft fabric case. It won’t protect the HN-900 from anything but scratches and scrapes – unlike the semi hard case included with the Bose and Able Planet noise cancelling headphones – but is a welcome inclusion.
To make them easier to transport, the earcups swivel through 90 degrees, so they happily sit flat on a surface. The headphone cable is also removable. A standard stereo 3.5mm jack plug slots into the left can, and the other end of the cable is finished-off with an angled 3.5mm jack. There’s a small single-button handsfree housing on the cable, letting you take calls when plugged into an iPhone, and control music with an iPad or iPod.
Using a standard 3.5mm stereo connector makes it very easy to replace the cable, or snag a much longer alternative. Head over to eBay and you can get a 5m 3.5-to-3.5mm cable for under two quid. Headphone nuts among you may cry that you can’t subject a £100 pair of headphones to a naff £1 cable, but the truth is these aren’t really high end-sounding headphones.
They’re bassy and warm, but in trying to be fun and bass-happy, the sound becomes a bit congested. There’s a reasonable amount of top-end detail, but its hamstrung by the over-emphasised low-end. It’s certainly not an offensive sound, and doesn’t have the highly problematic “wall of sound” presentation of the lower-end Beats by Dr. Dre headphones, but you can do much better for £100. Mid-range texture is also poor, making vocals sound a bit lifeless. To start with, we noticed a difference in tone between the two ears too, but this appeared to subside after a “burn in” period.
The impression these headphones leave is not that far off that of the admittedly-better-sounding, and more balanced, Bose Quietcomfort range. And of course, you can much get better sound for the money from any number of non-noise cancelling headphones like the Cresyn C720H, Lindy Premium or Shure SRH550D.
We were able to forgive middling sound quality in the Bose models because the noise cancellation is so spectacular, but here – where it’s just so-so – we can’t be so merciful. You’re better off either spending a bit more, opting for something like the Sennhesier PXC 310 at around £140, or at this price forgetting noise cancelling altogether.
The Creative HN-900 are noise cancelling headphones that undercut several other big names including Bose and Sennheiser. They’re comfortable, offer excellent battery life and a handy removable cable with a remote control and handsfree calling. But performance elsewhere isn’t so hot. The noise cancellation feature can’t match the best and sound quality is unremarkable. You may save some money compared to better-known solutions, but you lose a lot too.
Score in detail
Design & Features 8
Sound Quality 5
|Number of Drivers (Times)||1x|
|Frequency Range||20 - 20,000|