More and more of us find ourselves polluted with the noise of others: the annoying cellphone from your cubemate, the noise of travelling on a bus, or the ramblings of the evil monkey in your closet. Either way, there’s lots of audible distractions out there that you can shield yourself from. Couple that with the fact that most of us have some sort of MP3 player and you can deduce that nearly every technology geek needs a good pair of headphones.
Several new “noise-cancelling” headphones have appeared on the market over the past year or so, taking the thunder from Bose (previously the only vendor with noise cancelling technology). Some of these new headphones do a good job of filtering out ambient noise, others have good musical acoustics, but not many do both very well. JBL has been making audiophile headphones and speakers for years, and have introduced their latest generation of noise cancelling headphones in their “Reference 510″ headset.
JBL chose an “on-ear” model for their Reference 510 set, which sit on top of your ears rather than surrounding them. This method makes the headphones more compact, but an “over-the-ear” design naturally blocks out more noise by providing a physical barrier between your fleshy nodules and the outside world.
The Reference Series 510 package is fairly straightforward: included in the box you get a single pair of foldable, padded earphones, joined by a padded, user-adjustable headband, and connected to your iPod with a black cable and L-shaped headphone plug. Also included is a carrying bag, an airline (two-plug) adapter, and a stereo phono adapter for older audio receivers. The major difference here is that 510 adds a noise cancellation system to the 410 design, in the form of ambient noise-sampling microphone hardware in the headset, plus a battery-powered on-off box.
The headphones are lightweight and of decent build quality. The main headphone material is a flexible plastic, and the earpieces and headrest are made from genuine leather. The earpieces hang from two metal pieces (which are tucked inside the headrest), which also have a hinge that allows the headphones to fold up in a nice compact little package. The noise-reduction module is awkwardly attached in-line between the headphone earpieces and L-jack. The plastic box has a red light to indicate the module is active, and also has a rear belt clip which can attach to your belt, seat belt, or airline food tray. Since this module is in the middle of the line, it effectively reduces the advertised 6′ cord length down to a mere 3 feet.
JBL Reference 510