Bose QuietComfort 3 HeadphonesI was preparing for a long trip to Ukraine. This involved both a very long initial flight, then a flight from Kiev to Lviv, plus many 3+ hr long van rides to various destinations and an overnight train trip between the main cities. I knew I would really need a noise cancelling headphone. With the Bose QuietComfort 3 just coming on the market, I was willing to pay the top dollar in order to maintain my sanity.
When I first received my headphone set - only days after it was released - I was thrilled. It was small, easy to carry in its slim case, and it had a rechargeable battery. This seemed like the perfect headphone for travel. I already had my 60 gig iPod ready with "sleep music". Now all I had to do was plug it in, and encounter pure bliss.
The headphones were really comfortable to "put on" - they fit on top of the ears rather than "around the ears" like the previous model. They were very light and non-intrusive. Lying sideways on a pillow didn't pose much of a problem. I waited the proper time to charge up the battery, and then I put them on and turned them on.
WHOMP. It wasn't a *physical* sensation. It's not that the foamy earcups pressed against my ears strongly. It was an INTERNAL sensation - the pressure of the waves of the speaker against my eardrums. It actually hurt. I turned it off. The sensation went away. I turned them on again and WHOMP, there was that pressure again.
This intrigued me so much that I did research and made a specific playlist of songs on my iPod that involved left-right sounds, i.e. songs like We Love You, Lightning Crashes etc. where songs only play out of one speaker or the other (left or right). The pain would definitely come more strongly out of the speaker that was not playing music. Whenever there was "silence" or soft levels of sound, the pressure of the "anti noise generators" would hurt my ears.
My boyfriend thought I was insane :) He did sense it when I played the left-right song set. We went into a local outlet where they had the demos set up of the QuietComfort 3 and the QuietComfort 2 (the older over-ear model). Both are rather good at blocking sound, to pretty much an equivalent degree. However even with their store models I could feel that same pain when the QuietComfort 3 headphone was turned in without a strong sound signal coming through. Of course their sample sounds are all loud, throbbing music, perhaps for this very reason. It's easier to mask an "airplane engine simulation" if you're listening to Santana blasting away on Smooth. I mentioned my ear pressure issue to the clerk, and he said he found the exact same thing.
Finally after about 30 days of testing, I called up Bose and asked to exchange this in for the QuietComfort 2. I would much rather have the around-ear headphone (which really, the case is about exactly the same size and the headphone itself is just as comfortable for me) and have far less pain. My thought is that with the around-ear shape they didn't need to blast directly towards your ear as much with the noise cancelling waves in order to counterbalance the ambient noise.
If you're looking at these, I would really compare the two side by side in a store. I tried my very, very best to stick with the QuietComfort 3 since I already had them in my house and they were smaller. I just couldn't do it - they bothered me too much to imagine using them for 2 weeks straight.
Quiet Comfort 3 Bose Headphones at Amazon.com
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