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The incessant buzzing of plastic horns, called vuvuzelas, at the World Cup has driven some soccer fans to mute the sound on their TVs. I thought there was something wrong with the audio when I tuned in to ESPN on my mobile Flo TV. I figured I could read the play-by-play while watching the action in silence, but closed-captioning isn't available on Flo TV. So, I tested a set of noise-canceling headphones.
I plugged a pair of Sennheiser PXC-250 phones into Flo TV's earphone jack. (See "Hands On: Flo TV Personal Television.") Since the earphones can be used both actively or passively with the flick of a switch, I compared the two modes. There was essentially no difference. I should have known better, since the point of noise-canceling (also called noise-reducing) headphones is to filter out the noise around you—not the noise within the output from a broadcast.
I continued to wear the headphones, but I unplugged them from Flo TV, relying instead on the pint-size TV's stereo speakers. In active noise-canceling mode, there was a subtle improvement in the clarity of the announcers. But the new-found crispness was due to the phones canceling the low hum from the air ducts in the ceiling. The high-pitched buzz from the thousands of vuvuzelas (like the one above) wielded by attendees at the South African stadium continued unabated.
B&H offers a variety of headphones, including the forthcoming Sennheiser PXC-250 II On-Ear Noise Cancelation Headphones (pictured above). Active noise cancelation is most effective on airline flights where the quality of music or movie dialog is greatly improved minus the competition of the rumble inside the cabin. Other applications include listening to music while mowing the lawn, riding in a train or listening to Sergio Mendes and Brazil '66 during a rainstorm, under a tin roof. More than two dozen noise-canceling models from various manufacturers are currently in stock.
By the way, if you are planning to attend one of the soccer matches in person, an experience likened to lounging in a lawn chair on the tarmac of an active runway, you may want to bring along a good set of earplugs and a bottle of Aspirin.