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Manufacturer: MacAlly
Min OS X: Any Version    Requires: Minijack Audio Port

MacAlly Noise Reduction Headphones
June 30, 2003 | Greg Gant

Iím quite an earphone aficionado so naturally, I was stoked to get a crack at MacAllyís new Noise Reduction Headphones. I wasnít sure what to make of MacAllyís move into the portable audio sector. MacAlly has traditionally been renowned for its exceptional peripherals but audio hardware is a whole different ball game.

It's apparent the Ďphones were designed to match the iPod - from its white plastic to the collapsible design for easy storage. MacAlly gets a bonus points for including a soft leather carrying case and a two-prong adapter for non-standard airline audio systems.

The most unique feature the headphones offer is noise canceling. They can reduce external noise by 16 dB (which isnít much). In order to perform noise canceling, the Ďphones require two-AAA batteries, but they can be used without batteries minus, which disables the noise canceling. MacAlly claims that a single set of AAA batteries will last over a hundred hours and they arenít fibbing. I estimated that I got in 90 hours before my fabulous Ravoc batteries lost charge and went to alkaline heaven. I did notice that when the batteries became very low that the volume will periodically fade in and out.

After about 60 hours with a pair of micro-speakers strapped to your head, you get a feel for them Ö literally. The MacAlly headphones werenít nearly as comfortable as I had hoped. Theyíre comparable comfort-wise to the classic circle shaped Sony headphones. Rather than fit over your ears, they slightly smash them. I noticed after about one or two hours, my ears started experiencing general discomfort. Even the best of headphones often suffer comfort issues.

How do they sound?
I didnít expect noise reduction to alter the soundscape but it made an incredible difference. MacAlly should rename the noise-canceling feature to suckiness on/off (suckiness off being noise reduction on). Itís not fair to review the headphones without the noise reduction enabled. The 'phones sound thin and feeble without noise reduction enabled. As soon as the noise reduction is turned on, they jump to life; the bass becomes defined and powerful, the midrange is more pronounced, and the stereo separation is enhanced. Strangely enough, the 16 dB of noise reduction is hard to notice. Simply cupping your hands and tightly placing them over your ears will provide around 10 dB of noise reduction. Itís hard to say if the noise reduction occurred because I was wearing the headphones or if they actually were reducing noise.

Regardless how well the noise reduction feature actually works, it still provides very noticeable results. I also discovered when putting on the headphones with noise reduction enabled, they can occasionally squeal loud enough to trigger my two-handed headphone toss reflex. It wasnít loud enough to cause any physical harm but itís far from pleasant. Best advice: turn off noise reduction before putting on or removing the headphones.


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