The slightest noise tends to wake me up. That makes traveling really challenging. Especially if I need to sleep on the plane flight, it’s quite rough. So when started doing a lot of travelling in 2006 I did a lot of research into noise canceling headphones.
Ironically, while most people buy a version 2 before they buy a version 3, I bought the Bose QuietComfort 2 *after* I had purchased the Bose QuietComfort 3 newer headphone set.
At the time the QuietComfort 3 were the brand new version, they cost more, and they were “smaller and lighter”. They offered pretty much the exact same noise cancelling quality, but they fit on top of your ear vs being a larger, bulky around the ear style like the QuietComfort 2.
However, when I tested out the QuietComfort 3 for a month, I found them to be quiet painful. Not in a “pressure on the ear” sense – they were quite comfortable to wear. Rather, when you turned them on, the pressure they exerted on the actual eardrum in order to “cancel noise” hurt. It was a physical sensation, when you turned them on and felt that WHOMP of wave energy pressing against your eardrum. Anybody who thought the QuietComfort 2 is uncomfortable in that sense probably hadn’t tried the QuietComfort 3.
Yes, I realize that in order to cancel out ambient sound waves, there has to be an opposite sound wave to cancel them out. It’s simple physics. However, because the QuietComfort 2 is an around-the-ear design, it doesn’t have to blast that cancelling wave right at your eardrum. The larger “air area” being encapsulated by the ear cups gives you more area to work with, and you can block out the sounds without bombarding the ear canal with signals. I did numerous tests with the QuietComfort 2, with my set of playlists that had left-only and right-only sounds, and even during the quiet parts, it was quite comfortable.
Also, as much as people might say that the QuietComfort 2 has “large” ear pods, I really didn’t find them bad at all. I was able to sleep with them, wear them without feeling silly at all. The case, in fact, is about the exact same size as the QuietComfort 3 case.
In all, I am EXTREMELY happy that I traded in my QuietComfort 3 headphones for the larger but “kinder” QuietComfort 2 set. The noise cancelling ability is pretty much exactly the same, and the long term comfort is FAR superior. Plus, since the QuietComfort 2 takes batteries vs rechargeable plug-in items, it means if I drain the battery, I simply plunk in new ones. With the QC3 I’d have to wait for a recharge, assuming of course I had the appropriate charger (and outlet access) for whatever airport or country I’m in.
I’ve now had that QuietComfort 2 headphone set for over thirteen years. They are still going strong. They work beautifully. I use them whenever I travel and adore them.
If you’re looking into noise-cancelling headphones, first, I highly recommend going with Bose. Second, I highly recommend an around-ear design rather than an over-ear design. And third, I recommend one that takes batteries. If it has a built in recharge system, chances are it’s going to go dead just when you need it most. With pop-in batteries, you’ll always be set as long as you carry extra batteries with you.
Bose headphone image used in fair use with product link.