Philips SHL3850NC/00 Noise-Cancelling Headphones

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Philips are not usually a brand you associate with budget products but this  £39.99 over-ear Bluetooth Active Noise Cancelling (ANR) headset is perhaps the most inexpensive I have ever used.

The headset was supplied packaged in a plain and down market box inside of which was just  the headset and User Guide.   The headset is quite compact, sits over the ears and  looks rather attractive but rather cheaply made compared to other Philips products.. The   User Guide is well written and easy to read if rather unnecessary.

The headset feels quite lightweight and comfortable to wear but  this is by no means a headset to go jogging in. It is padded, although not over generously so, on both  the cups and headband and is no strain to wear even for extended periods. The build quality seems fine they exceed my budget range expectations. The cup supports which swivel but not fold are extendable and do so do so with a smooth and  secure feel. The cups and frame are all robust and have a quality feel about them. On one earcup are the Active Noise Reduction (ANR) Off/On button and status LED, together with the compartment for the single AAA that powers the headset ANR circuitry.

The most important feature of any headset, the audio quality, and bearing in mind that this is priced as a low end device in fact I was  reasonably impressed by the sound. The ANR works fine for what it is but no ANR system will reduce sudden shrill noises or random sounds. The bass is full and detailed but not overpoweringly so. Mid tones are clear and detailed and the sound is very warm and comfortable. This is a distinctly  above average headset  for the price as regards sound quality even leaving aside the ANR features.  The headset can also be used with a as a normal headset and there is little difference in audio quality between the two modes of use.

What about the noise reduction? Well as with every ANR headset the emphasis should be on the word reduction. No headset can fully cancel outside sounds but this one does a decent job for the price  and when I tried it in several situations it worked pretty well. Like with all of them it coped better with low constant noise, the roar of a jet, car engines, traffic rather better than with sudden bangs or high pitched screeches. The light construction and on ear form factor (as opposed to larger over ear headsets) means that this headset misses out somewhat on  passive noise reduction – akin to putting your fingers in your ears – but the on board ANR system which generates noise to cancel out external sounds is very effective. Unlike with many rivals when switching on ANR there was no major degradation in audio quality, there was a difference in the bass response and mid tones were slightly muffled  but not enough to be annoying.

Since this headset is very likely to be used when travelling on airlines or buses it is a pity neither a carry bag nor an airline plug adapter was included.

This is a excellent sounding headset which looks OK too.  The budget price coupled with the sound quality makes it a four star buy for me bearing in mind the issues listed above. A few corners have been cut to achieve this price but nothing that impinges on the key functions of the headset or in their build quality.

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