Picking the right earphones for your music listening experience can be an amazingly difficult process. There really isnit a good way to test how different models will sound in the various environments you are likely to use them in without actually using them. And one of the worst environments you can possibly use your headphones in is on an airplane, which is why Iim glad I discovered Complyis NR-1 noise reduction earphones.
The NR-1 is an in-the-ear headphone set that includes built-in noise reduction technology. Unlike some other noise reduction headphones Iive tried, these were able to maintain a surprisingly constant level of protection from outside sounds.
I first tried them out on the floor during Macworld Expo 2007, and was really impressed at how much outside noise they blocked. The din of the expo floor simply went away. Completely. The NR-1 slowly faded out the external noise and ramped up the music from my iPod - which turned out to be a wonderfully pleasant and unexpected change from other headphones I have tried.
My next test was on the flight back to Denver from Macworld Expo, and I was equally pleased with the in-flight performance. My seat was a row or two behind the wing, and I could barely hear any of the typical airplane sounds. In fact, two alarms went off during the flight, and while the stress levels of the other passengers went up, I remained thankfully unaware in my Beatles playlist.
The NR-1 earphones and included carrying pouch.
I also spent some time using the NR-1 earphones in my kitchen while dishes were being washed and put away. Again, only the faintest of external sounds. Other headphones I have tried didnit do as well with the random sounds from the clanking metal and glass pots.
As great as the noise reduction capabilities of the NR-1 earphones are, it doesnit matter if the audio quality sucks. Luckily, they hold up there, too.
I always try to create as level of a playing field as possible when testing headphones. For these tests, I settled on two songs for my sound quality comparisons: LiInverno by William Orbit from his Pieces In a Modern Style album, and Speak to Me/Breathe from Pink Floydis Dark Side of the Moon. Both were played from my first generation iPod nano with the equalizer and sound check features turned off.
I could clearly hear the subtle parts of both songs that I often miss with lower quality earphones. The overall tonal quality felt just a little flat, but still really good. For someone that has only listened to the earbuds that Apple ships with the iPod, however, these are a monumental improvement. Of course, you can adjust the audio by changing equalizer settings.
For perspective, I usually use XtremeMacis FS-1 earphones with my iPod, which you can learn more about from Ricky Sperois amazingly comprehensive in-ear headphones Buyeris Guide at iPodObserver.com. The overall audio quality the NR-1 earphones offer isnit in the same league, but I wouldnit consider using them in the same situations. The NR-1 earphones are far superior in noisier situations where they let you clearly hear your music, making them my new choice for in-flight listening.
The Bottom Line
Complyis in-ear NR-1 noise reduction earphones offer a pleasant listening experience in noisy environments while letting you hear the more subtle parts of songs that could be lost while on an airplane, train, or in other sub-optimal audio conditions. The overall audio quality may not be in line with more expensive pro-level earphones, but thanks to the superior noise reduction sensors, they will hold up in listening environments that many of the higher end options canit manage.