Sony MDR-NC300D noise-cancelling headphones

Sony's latest in-ear headphones offer great noise cancelling but are bulky

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Sony MDR-NC300D

Pros

  • Good frequency response, excellent noise cancelling

Cons

  • Bulky battery pack and large in-ear monitors, no rechargeable option, painfully expensive

Bottom Line

Sony's MDR-NC300D noise-cancelling headphones lack the main advantage of other in-ear headphones -- portability. They sound great though, and the integrated noise cancelling is a boon for office work or commuting. We just wish they weren't so expensive.

Would you buy this?

Sony's MDR-NC300D in-ear headphones are far bulkier than a normal pair of canal-phones thanks to active noise-cancellation circuitry and a power/control pack. Normal noise-cancelling headphones only offer acoustic (passive) noise cancellation, but the Sony MDR-NC300D's powered noise cancellation actively eliminates outside noise with inverse audio signals. This offers an eerily quiet listening stage.

Like Sony's other high-end audio products, such as the Sony MDR-NC500D headphones, the MDR-NC300D arrives in a sturdy and stylish box. Arranged inside are the headphones, a series of silicone ear-tips (colour-coded for different sizes) and a bevy of accessories including a leather carry case and an airplane plug adaptor.

We found inserting the Sony MDR-NC300D canal-phones relatively easy. If you have strange shaped ears you may find this difficult, as the body of the canal-phone is quite wide and flat. The rear of each monitor has a microphone to detect external noise (which is then equalised and removed by the noise-cancelling circuitry), but this didn't impede the ergonomics of the headphones.

Sound quality from the MDR-NC300D headphones is standard Sony fare. Like the MDR-NC500D, these in-ear headphones have the ability to equally represent treble or bass frequencies. Higher notes were sweet and slightly warm, with lower bass frequencies having a powerful feel to them. The integrated power pack has a toggle switch to adjust the tone of the sound, from normal equalisation to a flatter movie response and finally a more musical bass preset. The integrated noise cancelling works well, filtering out almost all ambient noise. We would have liked a way to switch it off for comparison's sake — as it stands you can only use the headphones with the noise cancelling activated, so if you run out of battery power that's the end of the road.

Our biggest gripe with the Sony MDR-NC300D headphones is the bulk of the battery pack. It reminds us of the chunky wired remotes Sony used to bundle with its expensive CD Walkman and MiniDisc products — it lacks the integrated shirt clip of these remotes though, so you'll have to find space in a pocket or put up with it dangling.

Battery life is 20 hours with a standard alkaline AA battery. This is reasonably long, so means you shouldn't need to change the battery too often, except if you accidentally leave the noise cancelling running overnight while not listening (like we did).

The Sony MDR-NC300D in-ear headphones are very capable and can provide immersive, musical sound and effective noise cancelling. They are a little too expensive for our tastes though and the bulk is a big minus.

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