By Don Lindich
Week 6, 2023
Q. You have written about noise-cancelling headphones for flying before and I hope you can help me with a recommendation. I am interested in headphones with good sound but most importantly, very effective noise cancellation that makes the sound of the airplane engines as unobtrusive as possible. My budget is up to $200, maybe $250 if it makes a big difference.
-J.M., Atlantic City, NJ
A. One of my top recommendations for great noise cancellation is the aptly-named Soundcore Space Q45 headphones, which reduce noise by up to 98% with their adaptive 3-stage noise cancellation system. I was not aware of the rated effectiveness the first time I tried them, but it seems accurate as the utter silence is almost creepy, akin to what you might expect deep space to be like. The audio quality rates highly in their price class and high resolution audio is supported. Playtime per charge is a very long 50 hours with noise cancellation and 65 hours without. The Soundcore Space Q4 headphones currently sell for $149.99 and they should easily satisfy your desire for very quiet headphones.
In the near future I will be writing about the Focal Bathys headphones, which emphasize good sound over noise cancellation. (It is pronounced foh-cal buh-teese, with the cal as in California.) The noise cancellation is adequate though not class-leading, but that “good sound” is absolutely phenomenal! When I travel I usually take two pairs of headphones, a noise-cancelling pair for the flights and another pair that prioritizes sound quality for use on the ground. With the Bathys I may have found one pair of headphones that does it all for travel, and could even be the only pair of headphones I own. They work wirelessly or with a wired connection, have a mic for phone calls, and feature a top-quality DAC for use with a direct digital connection with a computer, tablet or phone. You can find a lot of Bathys info and user reviews at headphones.com, and given the $799 price the site would be a good place to buy them as well given the 365-day return policy. That’s a lot of money to have tied up in a pair of headphones, and having such a long return window should build confidence that what you bought is going to be a keeper.
My columns about the Hifiman HE400se planar-magnetic headphones were extremely popular, and there seems to be pent-up demand for headphone coverage in these times when earbuds get all of the attention. You can look forward to more headphone coverage in 2023, including some highlights of interesting technology and accessories you may not have known even existed.
Q. I have a Rega P3 turntable with a Cambridge Audio Azur 640P phono preamp. I need a USB phono preamp to digitize albums for car listening. I am not as picky about car sound so have thought about just adding a USB turntable dedicated to computer use, especially since my current turntable is several feet away from my computer. What if I got another turntable for the same price as whatever preamp you would recommend?
-T.S., Moorhead, MN
A. You are on the right track because it would cost a small fortune to buy a USB phono preamp with comparable performance to your Cambridge Audio model. The $279 Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT-USB is fully automatic and will make digitizing your vinyl easy. If you look around on craigslist and eBay you can probably find the older AT-LP60USB for under $100 and it will do a fine job as well. Just put on a new stylus if you buy a used turntable.