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I am another happy user of the Sony NWZ-A17. I like the interface and it holds a tremendous amount of music. With it I use the Bose QC20 noise cancelling ear buds. Ingenious design, great noise canceling, comfortable and good sound. And I can carry everything in one pocket. About $600 for both.
From the pictures, it looks like the Bose may be in-ear, but there appear to be some small projections to keep them on the outer ear, as would befit earbuds. Are they in-ear, or more earbud-like?
Also sounds like one can turn on or turn off the noise-cancelling - is that right?
My experience with noise cancelling has been that it was usually not very effective and produced unwanted artifacts; I have tended to prefer the isolation of true in-ear (like Etymotics). Do you find the Bose noise cancelling is acceptably neutral?
I'll attempt to answer your questions. I have the QC20 and have spent quite a bit of time listening to them.
They do not insert fully into the ear canal. Rather, the cone-shaped piece sits at the entrance to the ear canal and by virtue of its shape, ensures a good seal. The curved 'wing' portion presses against one of the folds in the ear (I'm sure there is an anatomical term for this) and when the whole earpiece is rotated slightly, locks in place. This is the best earpiece by far of anything I have tried. You get good bass without having to insert anything into the ear canal or make an airtight seal, It is very comfortable and can be worn for hours. And it stays in the ear very well.
I give Bose a 10 out of 10 for this design. You do have to select the proper size. Three different sizes are included, the medium size installed out of the box was the right size for me.
Yes you can turn the noise canceling off, but this also turns off the amplifier and the earphones are operating in passive mode (no battery needed). They definitely sound better (more dynamic and alive) with the noise canceling and amp turned on (there is just one on/off switch).
I can't hear any undesirable artifacts caused by the noise canceling, EXCEPT for a slight 'hiss', not unlike tape hiss or a tube preamp that has a small amount of high frequency white noise. This noise in the QC20 is minimal, and in my opinion does not detract from the music. It is easy to 'listen through' the noise to where it isn't noticeable.
In summary I find the QC20 to be a very musical sounding system with good bass and midrange and somewhat rolled off highs. The noise canceling works well, and completely cancels the sound of things like a room air conditioner in the same room. It also largely but not completely cancels the low-frequency roar inside of a jet airplane so you can actually hear the bass in music. The music always sounds better with a silent background. Considering the sound quality, noise canceling and the great fitting and comfortable earpieces I think these are actually worth the asking price.
Thank you, kh6idf, for the thoughtful and comprehensive response - very much appreciated!
I've noted that 'hiss' from other noise-cancelling systems, too. It wouldn't be noticeable in a noisy environment, such as an airplane, but in an office where one might want to cancel the A/C sorts of noise, it can be noticeable.
My primary listening environment for earphones such as these would be on airplanes, though, where it's unlikely one could detect the hiss over the tremendous ambient noise level.
You're welcome! The hiss is really not a concern at all. The benefit of the noise canceling in creating a silent background is much more important than a barely-perceptible layer of high frequency white noise. Don't let this discourage you from trying these earphones, they are very nice sounding.
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