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Compact noise-cancelling 'phones or in-ears + lossless source for train travel


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I've started travelling to London by train a few days a week. I've never really got into music on the move but think I might give it another shot.

Thinking out loud below but here is the executive summary:

  • Lightweight
  • Compact
  • Noise-cancelling
  • Ideally wireless

Phones/IEM's: can't make my mind up here. I had some in-ears which were a tight fit (I have small channels); effective at physically blocking out background sound but not the most comfortable and no amount of ear washing can stop them needing a good wipe on extraction.

On phones, I like the open back Grados for home but these clearly aren't going to work on a train. I don't want my fellow passengers to hear my music, even the person sitting next to me. I did buy some Sennheiser HD650/HD6xx but quickly moved them on as they felt claustrophobic, but am unsure whether this rules out all over-ear 'phones or not.

Noise-cancelling: why not? This isn't for my main rig, SQ has to be good of course but these will not be my main rig.

Wired/wireless: no cables would be ideal but I'm only willing to compromise on SQ a little to get rid of the dangly bits.

I've been drawn to these initially: Sony WF1000XM3 and Sony WH1000XM3, both wireless and noise-cancelling, both around £200

image.png.153c880cd6a056d5f1eca5870ecb6e49.pngimage.png.3e0d78ea318146c2009489f1198d7e48.png

Source: this is a minefield. I want lossless CD quality not hi-res. Not sure about additional fuss and weight of an external DAC. I might even settle for streaming Radio Paradise from my iPhone, though the wifi on the trains is now heavily used as they've stopped charging for it...

Your top tips please. Particularly interested in personal experiences (yours or friends) good and bad rather than reviews which I can find myself.

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Not my personal experience, however my work colleague raves about his Bose noise cancelling in-ears. Cant remember model, I can find out for you. They cost him £160 from memory.

I trust his opinion... he has a very nice and not inexpensive setup at home and is very much into his music.

Unfortunately no first hand recommendation as I've never needed noise cancelling.

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I tried the Bose On-Ear Wireless headphones once. Very good, very comfortable and now only £109 (they were £169 at the time).

Not noise cancelling, but they are closed back.

Mentioned as a good, low budget option.

I use B&W P3 Mk2s (wired) on the train. 

Edited by chebby
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For me the most comfortable have been Bose QC20 in ears. They are not actually in ears they dont sit in the ear canal but just on it and the wing things go inside the ear. I find these much more comfortable that in ear types even though I do use those as well. Noise cancelling is a great feature as well but you can use them without with some loss in sound quality. They sound decent with music I can listen to them for hours even if they may not be super high fidelity it doesn't seem to bother me that much with these as they are very enjoyable. Unfortunately though they are not wireless, If they were I would probably never take them out, other than to charge of course :)

Leather type over ears just make my ears too warm after so long, even though the Bose QC35 have probably been the most comfortable over ear headphones I have ever worn.

The Sony ones are supposed to have the edge sonically but I cant comment on that, I never liked the look of the Sony's myself. Bose have changed their design now as well, I think the older type looked better.

Edited by eddie-baby
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Good Morning All,

Bought pair of the Sony WF-1000XM3 in ear thingies recently and find them to be OK. Possibly a bit bass 'heavy' but, from what I read, this is a trend nowadays. Listening mainly to Tidal FLAC downloads via my iPhone when out and about. 

Not too uncomfortable with a couple of hours wearing.

They serve the purpose I bought them for and a darn sight less faff than dealing with wired earbud things.

Regards

Richard

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Hello,

I dug out a little more info about the Sony WH-1000XM3 and decided to grab a brand new pair at a little over £200. I'll report back.

Nigel

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I use Flares Audio Pro, can be bought nearly new for under £100. They can be used wired or Bluetooth with a little balanced dac/amp that clips to your shirt/jacket.

The IEMs themselves are worth the money but with the amp they're a no brainer. Battery seems to last 2-3x longer than the ones with the little built in amps too.

Not noise cancelling but excellent isolation with the 3 different types of 3 pairs (S/M/L) of foams/plugs ie 9 pairs in total. I use additional Dekoni foams which are the best I've tried, inc those more famous well reviewed ones whose name eludes me.

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7 hours ago, Lawrence001 said:

I use Flares Audio Pro, can be bought nearly new for under £100. They can be used wired or Bluetooth with a little balanced dac/amp that clips to your shirt/jacket.

The IEMs themselves are worth the money but with the amp they're a no brainer. Battery seems to last 2-3x longer than the ones with the little built in amps too.

Not noise cancelling but excellent isolation with the 3 different sets of 3 foams/plugs. I use additional Dekoni foams which are the best I've tried, inc those more famous well reviewed ones whose name eludes me.

Good point about battery life Lawrence, anything that is majorly miniature will have limited battery life, or long life even. I've come across this with a few tiny Bluetooth earbuds I've bought, they start off OK but it's not long until the battery life becomes a concern. 

I have to say though the Bose in ears I have are by far the most comfiest things I've put inside/on my ears though and are so secure. I think the ideal ones for me would be the Bose sleep buds but at the moment they don't support music playback. But again as they are so tiny would the battery be an issue in time, it may be wiser to just stick to auxiliary amp/power like Lawrence says. 

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21 hours ago, linesrg said:

Good Morning All,

Bought pair of the Sony WF-1000XM3 in ear thingies recently and find them to be OK. Possibly a bit bass 'heavy' but, from what I read, this is a trend nowadays. Listening mainly to Tidal FLAC downloads via my iPhone when out and about. 

Not too uncomfortable with a couple of hours wearing.

They serve the purpose I bought them for and a darn sight less faff than dealing with wired earbud things.

Regards

Richard

I too found them bass heavy, in the end I went for some cheap chinese iems, that were a rip off of proper musician monitors.

amazinglygood and with the right ear buds I don't need noise cancelling.

I did have Bose in ears a while back but they didn't last long before one of the driver's have up the ghost and the cost to repair was more than new pair

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I used to travel to the States (mostly) about every 2 months and tried various approaches. I never got on with noise cancelling headphones - in the quiet passages and between tracks it felt as if my brains were being sucked out through my ears - not a good sensation at all. I also couldn't be arsed to mess around with on/over ear headphones - occupied too much space in my hand luggage. So what I ended up with was FLAC files on my mobile phone and various in-ear phones. My favourites were a pair of B&O H3 in-ear phones that came free with an LG G5 mobile phone, closely followed by a very modestly priced pair of Sound Magic E10's. I found that they did a good enough job of excluding external noise even on a plane.

You probably know this, but with in-ear phones the fit is critical. They usually come with 3 or 4 different sizes of rubber caps so you can pick a size that fits well - better to choose  the size larger than the ones that seem to fit, that way you get a secure seal. If they don't fit, they sound sh*t.

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8 hours ago, Tony_J said:

I used to travel to the States (mostly) about every 2 months and tried various approaches. I never got on with noise cancelling headphones - in the quiet passages and between tracks it felt as if my brains were being sucked out through my ears - not a good sensation at all. I also couldn't be arsed to mess around with on/over ear headphones - occupied too much space in my hand luggage. So what I ended up with was FLAC files on my mobile phone and various in-ear phones. My favourites were a pair of B&O H3 in-ear phones that came free with an LG G5 mobile phone, closely followed by a very modestly priced pair of Sound Magic E10's. I found that they did a good enough job of excluding external noise even on a plane.

You probably know this, but with in-ear phones the fit is critical. They usually come with 3 or 4 different sizes of rubber caps so you can pick a size that fits well - better to choose  the size larger than the ones that seem to fit, that way you get a secure seal. If they don't fit, they sound sh*t.

You're right (of course!). I have always used one of the smallest sets of caps/pads because I'm made that way. I've achieved a good seal but have never found them entirely comfortable.

I've never had noise-cancelling 'phones and am as concerned as you'd expect that they will be a bit weird... I am also not exactly comfortable with bluetooth connectivity as you know, but for my two hours a day on trains it makes huge sense.

I'm a little concerned about the portability of full size headphones but this pic reassures re doing everything possible to maximise portability:

image.png.306e3935b0c99ede83640d0b3dfd77fa.png

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Nigel just a suggestion for you Radio Paradise App allows you to use your home WiFi to downlaod and cache 12 hours in three seperate caches on your phone either to the phones ssd memeory or an added SD card . This means you have 36 hours of Flac Music to listen to more than enough for trips to London and you can clear and reload the cache each time you get home to ensure you never have to hear the same stream .

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On 05/12/2019 at 20:03, linesrg said:

Possibly a bit bass 'heavy'

You can use the control app to adjust the EQ and bass. Then you can store it as your preferred setting.

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Hey Flash ... the Sony is good. It’s got the carrying case and great battery life. I’m enjoying mine each time I get on the train or flight.

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Hi Flash,

A couple of years ago, I had to go into hospital for an extended stay (3 weeks+). I've never liked in ear buds (have around 6 pairs) so decided to look(as you have) for a decent pair of 'phones. Amazon, at the time had Sennheiser SHD4.5 BTNC - over ear, wired and wireless,noise-cancelling, closed back. I really liked them but they were a brand-new model and cost £200. After scouring ebay and online shops, I went back to Amazon and the 'phones had been reduced to £125! I bought them immediately. They reverted to £200 a couple of days later, then reduced to £155. Stayed there for about a year. They're now at £89-99.

I used them for my time in hospital, wirelessly and faultlessly' with my iPad and 'phone. The hospital in Dundee also had patient wi-fi - which was excellent. The 'phones also have NFC. I would thoroughly recommend these 'phones to anyone. I still use them nearly every day and at night, in bed.

Battery is excellent, it's a folding 'phone. Comes with a charging cable, pair of in-ear plugs, 3.5mm headphone cable.

Edited by locheeboy
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