I recently traveled to Australia and New Zealand to teach classes on
regulatory compliance, risk management, and the use of controls.
The flight from LAX to Brisbane was supposed to take about 14 hours, so I
took two main batteries and two auxiliary batteries for my Dell Latitude
D800, figuring on getting six to 10 hours of work out of them. I also
took two extended batteries for my Axim.
Lately, I had been toying with the idea of getting some of the new noise
canceling headphones to reduce the deafness I have in long journeys. Not
only do I battle the constant drone of the jet engines, but I have to
crank up the volume in the small in-the-ear headphones to the point that
I really question what I’m doing to my hearing.
After some research on the $299 Bose noise canceling unit and $199
Solitude headphones, I opted to go with the recommendations I read and
bought a Solitude set. They fold down substantially to take up little
space, the earcups are very adjustable, the two AAA batteries are
supposed to last around 35 hours, and the frequency response from the
40mm drivers was rated at 20 to 20,000 Hz.
I really didn’t know what to expect. I tried them on at home and while
there wasn’t much difference, the noise canceling on the plane is simply
amazing. They are rated at 18db of noise reduction and excel at
repetitive sound — especially at the frequencies that jet engines make
through the cabin.
The headphones are built quite solidly so even with the noise canceling
turned off, they reduce some of the noise. Turn the canceling technology
on and it is truly remarkable.
To add to the versatility, the headphones come with a nice nylon
softcase, a standard 1/8 inch by 1/8 inch cord, and then two adapters to
use audio plugs, as well as the dual-1/8 inch plugs you see on some
airplanes. In fact, one of the reasons for selecting the Solitudes was
the use of a standard audio cord. If I lose or break the cord that came
with the headphones, all I need is a male-male 1/8 inch stereo cord to be
back in business.
While I’ve been disappointed with airplane sound system quality in the
past, listening to movies on the Qantas in-seat entertainment system was
dramatically improved, as was listening to both sound files and movies
through my PC.
While in Sydney, I wandered around downtown going to CD and electronics
Up to then, I’d listened to MP3s on my PC and my Axim. The only beef I’ve
ever had with the Axim X30 is the really poor music handling it has, plus
I wanted something small and very portable. At any rate, I wandered
around from store to store and went in one shop with a great music and
player selection. I struck up a conversation with a knowledgeable fellow
who showed me a lot of models. They had the big iPods, stuff from
Creative Labs and all kinds of units.
Then, he showed me the iRiver T20MT with 1GB of storage. Wow! This thing
is the size of a USB memory stick of a year ago and plugs straight into
the USB port. Not only do you use the USB to move audio files around, but
it also charges the 14 hour battery!
Between the size, easy controls and great sound, he sold me on the unit
— very easily, too, I might add. I paid about $211 U.S. for the unit, a
small belt case, a set of Sony Turbo headphones and taxes. You may wonder
why I bought the Sony headphones, but it was for safety and it’s ultra
light when walking around urban areas.
I immediately took the unit back to my hotel, plugged it in, downloaded a
bunch of songs and let it charge. The disappointing catch some may
encounter is that this is an Australian model that iRiver isn’t marketing
in the U.S. If you go to the iRiver
site and look at MP3 players for Australia, you can see the specs. By
using Froogle, hopefully you can find places that will sell it to you
wherever you live. I am very impressed by the software used to manage the
songs and the audio quality. It’s a joy to use.
As I write this column, I am on a flight from LAX to Cincinnati, Ohio.
The Solitude headphones are working spectacularly with the iRiver — they
make are a fantastic combination.
As an aside, I am always amazed at how fast notebooks consume the
batteries even when set to low power. I wish I could get 14 hours with my
notebook. But beware of taking tons of batteries when you’re flying with
Qantas. The airline caps you at 7KG on domestic and international flights
originating from Australia and New Zealand. I wound up having to check
Bottom line… if you travel a lot, you absolutely need to check out the
noise canceling headphones. They are definitely worth the investment for
use with your MP3 player, notebook, etc.