Sony MDR-NC20 Headphones
One of the first iterations of noise cancelling headphones created by Sony, the MDR-NC20 were the cutting edge of technology. These over-the-ear headphones used an active noise cancelling system to cut down outside noise up to 70 percent (10 dB).
As soon as these were released I invested in a set for travelling. I used the term invest because these headphones had a suggested retail price of nearly $200. At the time I was a struggling software developer and these were definitely more than I really could afford if I was honest with myself.
I happened to be flying quite a lot between assignments and needed something to try and eliminate the background noise that is prevalent in air travel. I was skeptical that noise cancelling technology was capable of making a difference but after the first use of these Sony headphones I was convinced.
The noise cancelling circuitry uses a single triple-A battery which is located in a compartment over the right ear. There is a switch on the ear cup that will turn the noise cancelling circuitry on and off.
I found that the noise cancelling circuits were not only good for removing the background noise away from the music but were helpful for distinguishing the voices of flight attendants away from the engine noise when I wasn’t listening to music.
Although I have now moved to the Bose QC-3 headphones there are still features of the Sony that I prefer. For one the Sony headphones will still work if the battery happens to go dead. That is not the case with the Bose which do not work at all without a battery.
There will be some who do not like the over ear style but I found the ear cups of the Sony to be quite comfortable even for extended periods. The headphones fold up slightly to store easily in a carry-on bag. Even in their folded state they do take up some room so they are not the most compact item in your bag but for what they do, I would not leave home without them.
If you find a used pair or find someone closing these out to make room for the newer Sony models I would not hesitate to recommend the Sony MDR-NC20 headphones. They definitely saved my sanity for a long time until I had children but that’s another story.